Yowies and Bunyips and Drop Bears, Oh My
aka: Aussie Mythical Beasts
Australia has a number of cryptids and mythical beasties allegedly lurking out in the forests and outback (because Australia's natural wildlife just isn't interesting or dangerous enough). This page covers the four most common creatures found in Australian folklore.
- The Yowie is supposedly a large, humanoid creature covered in dark brown or black fur. They also have a lot of fangirls. The first reports of the creature come from Aboriginal folklore, although there have been several alleged sightings over the past few decades. See also: Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti. note
- The Bunyip is another creature originating in Aboriginal folklore which has crossed into mainstream Australian culture. However, unlike the Yowie, there is no definitive definition as to what a bunyip actually looks like. Most accounts describe it as some sort of large carnivorous, aquatic creature that dwells in billabongs (seasonal lakes) and rivers, preying on unsuspecting travellers. Some variants claim that it can become invisible, or take the form of a beautiful woman to lure in victims.
- Drop Bears are large, carnivorous creatures closely related to koala "bears". They hunt prey by climbing tall trees and then ambushing them from above. Certain techniques can be used to deter drop bears, such as smearing Vegemite behind one's ears. Unlike the first two beasties, the drop bear does not have any reported sightings or basis in folklore, and the myth was created solely for the purpose of scaring gullible tourists. Interestingly, however, the drop bear has an extrordinary resemblance to a now-extinct creature known as Thylacoleo or the marsupial lion — a prehistoric, tree-dwelling ambush predator whose closest known relatives are wombats and koalas. However, this is obviously just an eerie coincidence. ...
- Although, another version of the Drop Bear's origins stem from an Aesop, teaching children not to sit under Eucalyptus and Gum trees (A Koala's natural habitat). Since the sometimes 100-kilogram-plus branches of Gumtrees have a nasty habit of breaking off suddenly...
- It should be noted that, although it quite seriously does have claws to rival the knife glove worn by Freddy Krueger, (which it needs in order to climb trees) the Koala is not, in fact, a genuinely dangerous animal. They are nocturnal. During the day their activity level is thus minimal, and even if they weren't half asleep, they would still be far too stoned on eucalyptus oil (from the gum leaves that are the basis of their diet) to be bothered attacking anyone anyway.
- It's also worth noting, however, that when you do manage to tick one off, Koalas can be extremely aggresive defenders of their young, territory, and personal space. The fact that they can get this angry while perpetually blitzed suggests that denying a koala its favored diet would be a very bad idea. Wild koalas are also some of the meanest, stinkiest, and nastiest animals in the country, and don't take nicely to annoying humans.
- Hoop Snake, a special type of snake, able to tuck its tail into its mouth and roll down hills and slopes like a hula hoop, when reaching the bottom of the hill it un-tucks the tail and bites the nearest unsuspecting person. Much like the Drop Bear, this was created to trick tourists.
- Hoop Snakes have also been sighted in North America.
- A variation of the Hoop Snake is the Stick Snake which looks exactly like a twig, and strikes lightning-fast. It is incredibly deadly and the only hint that you have been bitten is the sound of a twig snapping that the snake makes when it strikes. So if you're walking through the bush and you hear a twig snap... you have to call the emergency number right away! *wide-eyed expression*
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- A Bundaberg Rum advertisement features Australian male campers using stories about drop bears to lure attractive female backpackers into moving their tents close to them. The blonde backpackers are incredulous until the Bundy Rum bear (a large talking polar bear often featured in the company's advertising) drops out of a tree near the edge of the lake, destroying one of the girls' tents.
- There was a Cadbury's product sold in Australia and the UK called "Yowie", which were hollow chocolate Ugly Cute Cartoon Creature versions of Australian fauna. In the story, the Yowies were all guardians of different kinds of wild habitat, and were ruled by a Bunyip king. They came with a small toy of an endangered animal and a little booklet talking about them and why they should be preserved, and some of the money from sales of the chocolate was donated to rainforest preservation.
- Nextwave fought against drop bears, which were deployed against them by H.A.T.E dropping the little guys out of an airplane. The Drop Bears survive the several hundred foot plummet.
- Bunyips appear in the Snake Tales newspaper strip.
- Bunyip is allured to in mythology as a tidal wave monster in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck where it floods the black bird in order for the platypus to find his sacred egg.
- Star Wars Downunder. On the planet Oradongia (which seems entirely populated by Australians) the evil Darth Drongo uses "unyips" (genetically engineered bunyips) to track down supplies of beer.
- The Twilight Child: Toward the end of the story a just released Discord decides to make it rain drop bears over Canterlot. A Canterlot under siege from an army of suddenly very confused Changelings. He has them rain by creating giant hovering salt-and-pepper shakers filled with the little things, which shake them out onto the city. The writer confirmed in the notes that this was a deliberate Shout-Out to Nextwave.
- In The Last Continent, the protagonist (a visiting foreigner) has a run-in with a flock of drop bears, but when he tells people about it nobody believes him because they all know for a fact drop bears are a myth invented to mess with visiting foreigners.
- The short story "Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies" by Lucy Sussex is purportedly the true story that inspired the song "Waltzing Matilda", as told by the bunyip who haunts the billabong where it happened.
- The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek is a picture book well-known in Australia about a bunyip who doesn't know what kind of creature he is, and sets out to find somebody who can tell him. (At one point he encounters a proud rationalist who tells him confidently that he doesn't exist.)
- The Temeraire series features bunyips as dragonlike burrowing animals that lurk near bodies of water and pick off unwary travellers. Nearby Aborigines try and fail to convince the protagonists not to camp near a billabong, with predictably terrible results. For extra horror, they are shown to be lightning-fast, and if you're by the water and your friends take their eyes off you for just a second...
- In one of the books in The Tomorrow Series, an Australian prisoner of war in a work party tells the supervising soldier to watch out for the drop bears and hoop snakes.
- One of the best known bunyip characters in Australia is Alexander Bunyip, who appeared in a series of children's books starting with The Monster That Ate Canberra in 1972.
- While it's not set in Australia, in Winnie-the-Pooh Pooh and Piglet believe in the existence of a creature called the "jagular", remarkably similar to the Drop Bear. Jagulars, according to Pooh, sit in trees and shout, "Hallo!"—"and then when you look up, they drop on you."
Piglet: I'm looking down!
- Aces Abroad, the fourth Wild Cards book, features something identified as a bunyip
Live Action TV
- Alexander Bunyip (see Literature above) had his own TV series called Alexander Bunyips Billabong.
- The bunyip was featured repeatedly on Charmed, most notably the episode "Nymphs Just Wanna Have Fun".
- There was an educational kids TV series called "Shape Shape Shape" featuring a bunyip and a magical swagman.
Table Top Games
- d20 Modern features drop bears in its Menace Manual.
- The Call of Cthulhu supplement Terror Australis has statistics for quite a few mythological Australian monsters, including the yowie and bunyip (but alas, no mention of drop bears).
- Dungeons & Dragons. The original Fiend Folio (1981) had statistics for a bunyip.
- Shadowrun not only has drop bears, they're vampiric!
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Bunyip were a werewolf tribe that went extinct in the 1920's along with the thylacine. The other werewolves helped things along as well, which remains a sore point.
- Mentioned in this Australian production of H.M.S. Pinafore, in an added stanza to The First Lord's Song (referring to Pauline Hanson, a commonly-mocked Australian politician from Ipswich).
I learnt some tricks from the Ipswich Witch:
If you want to win a vote, scratch a bigot's itch.
Said the Oxley moron, "Let's breed bunyips!"
They say her face had launched a thousand fish and chips.
- In the early 2000s, the (then) British chocolate company Cadburys had a hollow chocolate treat called a "Yowie", each of which contained a small "collectible" plastic model of an antipodean animal. Yaoi Fangirls gave them out at anime conventions down under.
- Chrono Cross featured a boss fight with a Bunyip. It started the fight as a fire-elemental, vaguely salamander-like thing. Then it opened its mouth... and kept opening its mouth... and a giant cyclopean shadow monster grew out of its body.
- Ty the Tasmanian Tiger features bunyips. There's also drop bears in the third game.
- Runescape has a familiar called the bunyip. Its special ability allows you eat raw fish (when the scroll is used, you see the bunyip eating some fish). It's actually a pretty vital summon for people doing slayer or bossing if their summon level isn't high enough, since it also heals you 2 hp (20 lp) every 15 seconds, which adds up.
- In Escape Velocity: Nova, the player will sometimes fall victim to "Drop Bear" attacks on Auroran worlds, but they stop happening once far enough into the plot to set an Event Flag. Drop Bear Repellent, however, is Schmuck Bait.
- Two enemies in Final Fantasy X are named Yowie and Bunyip, though they bear little resemblance to their inspiration.
- Schlock Mercenary: "Smart Drop-bear" was used in reference to Petey.
- Manly Guys Doing Manly Things: On a visit to Australia, it's revealed that drop bears are real, and that the Australians spread the rumour that they were a myth to scare tourists so the tourists would keep coming. One attacks Jared.
- User Friendly: The team get a contract job in Australia. When they arrive, they're warned by a local to be careful of the gum trees out the back of the office building — "With gum trees come drop bears, mate. The most foul, cruel marsupial you've ever set eyes on." Meanwhile, Stef is walking up to the building past a gum tree with a drop bear in it, and it drops on him. Apparently, the local bears have a thing about eating brains, so this one is very disappointed.
- In Spacetrawler the unclamped Eebs create drop bears to tear apart the Dustin (an Australian) clones for their own amusement.
- "Bunyip Moon" from Dot and the Kangaroo.
- Scooby-Doo has the Yowie Yahoo prominantly featured in Legend of the Vampire.
- A bunyip was featured in an episode of Mona the Vampire, having been accidentally transported to the main character's town in a large amount of special Australian mud meant for a spa.
- Bunyips were featured on The Secret Saturdays, in the episode "Into the Mouth of Darkness". Here, the bunyips were depicted as small, furry, mischievous cryptids that resemble the Tasmanian Devil of Looney Tunes with small antlers.
- A bunyip appears in an episode of The Wild Thornberrys.
- Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating once accused an opponent of being from the "Bunyip Aristocracy", meaning he had fanciful notions of belonging to an aristocracy that didn't exist.
- The phrase comes from an early speech ridiculing plans to set up an aristocracy in Australia. The idea was that Australia's wealthy landowners at the time would become aristocrats with an unelected place in a local version of the House of Lords. Daniel Deniehy's speech was the most memorable slamming of the completely unegalitarian concept (the only noble titles adopted in Australia were knighthoods, which were not hereditary).
- Thylacoleo carnifex, the marsupial lion, liked to drop from trees onto its prey. Then again, it was four feet long.
- A possible Bunyip candidate is Diprotodon.
- The Australia Museum has a page on Drop Bears. Members of the museum receive free Drop Bear Immunisations!