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Literature / Bottersnikes And Gumbles

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Deep in the bush there live some very strange creatures

Bottersnikes and Gumbles is a short series of books by Australian children's author S. A. Wakefield.

Set in the distant wilderness of the Australian outback, the books tell the story of the conflicts between two groups of weirder-than-average Australian Wildlife; the Bottersnikes, fat, cantankerous, scaly, tip-dwelling slobs with cheese-grater noses, wire-brush tails and long pointy ears that glow red and get hot when they are angry, which is most of the time, and their polar opposites the Gumbles; good-natured, cheerful creatures that resemble lumps of dough both in appearance and malleability; they can be squished or squeezed like putty without doing them any real harm, though they may require help to return to their original shape.

The series contains four books, each covering an arc of conflict or circumstance; Bottersnikes and Gumbles the original book, Gumbles on Guard wherein the Gumbles take it upon themselves to help defend a Lyrebird's nest from a local fox, Gumbles in Summer where everyone's trying to avoid the heat and Gumbles in Trouble which sees the Bottersnikes try to escape the breaking of the drought by moving into an old barn. Hilarity Ensues.


The books where eventually collected into an omnibus in 1996.

Bottersnikes and Gumbles provides examples of:

  • Bizarre Australian Biology: And how! These might be some of the strangest creatures in children's fiction.
    • Bottersnikes have ears that turn red and get hot when they are angry, tufts of wiry hair at the ends of their tails and short squat noses shaped like cheese graters. They routinely eat garbage and rusty metal, even going so far as to barbecue mattress stuffing. They also shrink when wet.
    • Gumbles by comparison are relatively straightforward; they are flexible and malleable like chewing gum or bread dough, with bones (and presumably internal organs) that accommodate this somehow. They can work together when necessary to form self-tying ropes or even a much larger single creature.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Downplayed because it's a children's book but it's a good rule of thumb that the Gumbles are good and kind while the Bottersnikes are bad and mean.
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  • Green Aesop: The core conflict essentially comes down to those who want to destroy the bush versus those who want to care for it. The Gumbles are on good terms with most of the bush animals and compassionate to the needs of the scrub in general while the Bottersnikes see the bush as an unpleasant obstacle at best and something to be gotten rid of at worst.
  • Reality Ensues: The ears of the Bottersnikes can get hot enough to start fires; not only does this become a serious problem in summer but the 'Snikes have developed a taste for cooked rubbish as food. They also seem to be more resistant to fire than most.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: It's downplayed but the Bottersnikes are explicitly trying to enslave the Gumbles largely out of laziness and indifference for their well being.

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