Literature: A Little Bush Maid

A Little Bush Maid written in 1910 by Mary Grant Bruce, is a work of Australian children's fiction and the first in a series of fifteen novels, collectively known as the Billabong books.

The books, set in outback Australia, are about the adventures of Norah Linton, her father David, her brother Jim, and Jim’s friend Wally Meadows, who reside on the family station "Billabong".

The stories present an idealistic view of life on a station (that’s the equivalent of a ranch, for American tropers) in rural Australia in the early twentieth century. Norah is twelve years old when the first book begins, is in her late twenties at the close of the fifteenth, and remains convinced throughout that there is nowhere in the world like her father’s station Billabong, which continues to be her true home, even after she is married. (She moves no further away than next door.)

The series is characterised by fierce adherence to the Australian way of life, vivid descriptions of the beauty and dangers of the Australian landscape, and humorous and colloquial dialogue. By holding up quintessentially “Australian bush” values such as independence, individual free will, hard physical labour (for women as well as for men), mateship, and hospitality, against more selfish and decadent “urban” or stolid “British” values, the books contributed towards a growing Australian identity in the years before and after the First World War.

The series was also notable for its strong, sensible, competent young heroine, and her close relationship with her father and brother, who never treat her “just like a girl” but rather as a mate with an opinion to be valued. It is also very unfortunately notable for its distinctly racist views of indigenous Australians, and Chinese immigrants. Recent editions have altered offensive content or removed it entirely.


This work contains examples of:

  • Have a Gay Old Time: a recurrent one is 'knocked up', used to mean 'exhausted' or 'worn out'. "Norah, dear, are you quite knocked up?"
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sir John in Jim and Wally
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jim and Wally
  • House Fire: happens at least twice in the series.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Jim and Tommy.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Wally. Related to:
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Wally leaves Billabong because he thinks Norah can't return his love and he wants to get out of the way of her happiness.
  • Large and In Charge: Mc Gill in Billabong Gold.
  • Love Triangle: Averted in ''Billabong's Daughter. Wally is in love with Norah, but thinks that Norah has feelings for Bob. He's wrong.
  • Missing Mom: Norah and Jim's mother died when Norah was a baby. Tommy and Bob Rainham's mother also died when they were young. Rob Flynn in Billabong Riders is mourning the recent loss of his mother.
  • Old Retainer: Brownie and Murty O'Toole, to name a few.
  • One of the Boys: Within the context of the time period Norah fits into this trope, particularly in A Little Bush Maid and Mates at Billabong.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. Jim Linton and Jim the Hermit. David Linton, Dave Boone, and Davie Meadows. Bob Rainham and Rob Flynn. Bill Blake and Billy. This last is commented on by Dick Yorke in Billabong's Gold.
  • Parental Abandonment: Bill Blake's parents spend more time travelling and socialising than they do with their child.
    • Wally's parents both died when he was very young, and his older brothers (not to mention other relatives) seem to have little desire to parent him. Although his family all live in Queensland, he's sent to Melbourne to school and his relatives don't seem to care much that he spends all of his holidays with his friend Jim Linton.
    • Tommy and Bob's mother died when Tommy was born, and their father was only too glad to surrender the responsibility of their care to an aunt.
    • Rob Flynn is another orphan.
  • Put on a Bus: In the last book, Bob Rainham and Bill Blake are not even mentioned.
  • Rescue Romance: This is the incident in Billabong's Daughter where Norah and Wally start to become more aware of their feelings for each.
  • Resentful Guardian: Rob Flynn's uncle. Tommy's step-mother.
  • Scenery Porn
  • Spoiled Brat: Cecil Linton. Also Momma's Boy, Sheltered Aristocrat, and Upper-Class Twit.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Male characters such as Jim, Wally, and Mr Linton consider it only right to protect their female friends and relatives from harm.
  • Survivor Guilt: Wally when he thinks that Jim died saving him
  • Team Dad: Jim, by way of being the steadiest and eldest
  • Tomboyish Name: Cecilia Rainham is known by her nickname "Tommy" but this trope is subverted here as Tommy is actually a very feminine character.
  • True Companions
  • Unfortunate Implications: The 'taking a child from an aboriginal woman' plotline of 'Norah of Billabong'.
  • Utopia: Billabong
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Norah and Wally.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Tommy and Bob's stepmother.
  • Unableto Cry
  • World War I: In From Billabong to London, Jim and Wally, and Captain Jim.
  • Write What You Know: The author grew up on her grandparents' station in Victoria, after going to live there when her mother died. She lived in England and Ireland during World War One, as did the Linton family.