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Literature / A Little Bush Maid

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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:

  • Abusive Parents: In Back to Billabong Tommy's step-mother is emotionally and financially abusive towards Tommy, while her father is indifferent. In Billabong Riders Rob Flynn's guardian, Sid Flynn, is physically abusive.
  • Aesop: Averted for most part. This is lampshaded in Bill of Billabong when a surly-tempered Bill is given a book to read about a very good little child, which he throws out of the window of the train he is travelling in.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Wally calls Norah 'Norah asthore', which is actually the name of a song from 1885.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Used a few times, such as when Wally sees Norah riding in the stampede in Billabong Riders, and when Jim confronts Tommy about selling her car in Billabong's Luck.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Jim. Can occasionally turn into Knight Templar Big Brother, to the point that Norah conceals Cecil's bad treatment of her, because she doesn't want a brawl.
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  • Best Friends-in-Law: Jim and Wally, after 'Billabong Adventurers
  • Beta Couple: Arguably Jim and Tommy, although the relationship did take centre stage in Billabong's Luck.
  • Boarding School: Jim and Wally and Norah all attend these at various points.
  • Break the Cutie: Tommy's two years in her father's home prior to finding the courage to walk out and go to Australia. The more time that passes after going to Australia, the more assertive and self-assured Tommy becomes.
  • Broken Bird: Kate Benton in Son of Billabong.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Miss de Lisle, the cook the Lintons hire to work in the Home for Tired People.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: Tommy goes from living with her wealthy Aunt Margaret in Paris to being an unpaid governess and maid in her step-mother's home.
  • City Mouse: Snobby Cecil Linton, who despises his Country Mouse cousins.
  • Daddy's Girl: Norah
  • Dance of Romance: Between Norah and Wally in Billabong's Daughter; "looked as if they were made to dance together".
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The Hermit in A Little Bush Maid has one of these.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mrs Walker.
  • Death by Childbirth: The implied cause of death for both Norah and Jim's mother, and for Bob and Tommy's mother.
  • Death Notification: The telegram announcing Jim's supposed death in battle.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Bob and Tommy attempt to conceal their financial difficulties from the Lintons.
  • Dreadful Musician: Tommy's step-mother.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Wally's dream of his brother Edward in Billabong's Daughter, and Norah's dreams in Norah of Billabong and Bill of Billabong.
  • Driven by Envy: Cecil Linton in Mates at Billabong.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Bill's first name is Percival, which he hates. Similarly, Cecilia Rainham goes by her nickname "Tommy".
  • Everybody Smokes
  • Fiery Redhead: Bill Blake
  • Friend to All Children: Norah
  • Friend to All Living Things: Norah in particular loves all animals (except for sheep).
  • Friendship Moment: Plenty of them.
  • Freudian Trio:
    • Wally (Id) "he's more highly strung than the rest of us put together"
    • Jim (Superego) the solid, calm one
    • Norah (Ego)
  • Funetik Aksent
  • 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: McGill 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 other.
  • 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
  • Utopia: Billabong
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Norah and Wally.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Tommy and Bob's stepmother.
  • Unable to Cry


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