Ruby looked at her curiously. "What are they like?"
Blake snorted. "Depends on how much the storyteller had been drinking."
Like most countries in the world, Australia has a number of cryptids and mythical beasties allegedly lurking out in the forests and outback (because actual Australian Wildlife just isn't interesting or dangerous enough). This page covers the most common creatures found in Australian folklore.
- The Yowie is supposedly a large, humanoid creature covered in dark brown or black fur, sometimes said to have huge fangs and a pungent scent. They also have a lot of fangirls. The first reports of the creature come from Gamilaraay religion (see below) 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 Gamilaraay folklore (again, see below) 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 travelers. 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 (which, in fairness, would probably deter even the most determined predator). 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 extraordinary 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 stems 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 gum trees have a nasty habit of breaking off suddenly...note
- 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 normally aggressive if left alone. They are nocturnal. During the day their activity level is thus minimal.
- It's also worth noting, however, that when you do manage to tick one off, Koalas can be extremely aggressive defenders of their young, territory, and personal space. Wild koalas are also some of the meanest, stinkiest, and nastiest animals in the country, with claws covered in septic bacteria, and don't take nicely to annoying humans.
- A variation on the Drop Bear story is that normal koalas - which only eat oily eucalypts - are extremely flammable or explosive. For this reason you should never light a campfire under a gum tree. In reality koalas are no more flammable than any other mammal, but there are still very good reasons not to light a campfire under a gum tree.
- 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. Upon 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; see Fearsome Critters of American Folklore.
- 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!
- Burrunjor, from Antiem Land, is often described as sounding an awful lot like a Tyrannosaurus rex (Of course Australia would have one of those), although in truth (as much as you can be with mythical creatures) it's apparently just a large lizard monster from local Aboriginal mythology.
- There's also the fabled Kangawallafox, which is exactly what it sounds like: a cross between a kangaroo, a wallaby, and a fox. None of which is known for being vicious, but A) there you are, and B) are indeed so.
- There is also a related species—the Kangawallabat: a cross between a kangaroo, a wallaby, and a numbat. Which, if anything, is even less terrifying. But some of them can fly.
- 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. "Yowies" are now virtually impossible to find in Australia.
- Digimon: Phascomon are demonic drop bears, who hang around in the forests of the Digital World's hell and attack anyone who passes by with their paralyzing claws.
- Bunyip is alluded 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.
- 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. They don't survive Nextwave.
- In an untold tale of Spider-Gwen, she takes on Koala Kommander and his trained killer koalas. The Kommander acquires them through an old Australian saying that anyone who catches a falling koala is responsible for raising it, so basically he's using dropped bears.
- Bunyips appear in the Snake Tales newspaper strip, despite several characters insisting that they don't exist.
- In Boldores And Boomsticks, conversation turns to the legendary Grimm of various regions, and Blake reveals that Menagerie supposedly has Bunyips and Drop Ursas.
Ruby: What are they like?
Blake: Depends on how much the storyteller had been drinking.
- The Peace Not Promised: Xenophilius Lovegood brings tales of Australia when he's present at James and Marlene's wedding; he initially assumes that Severus' silver prosthetic hand is infested with "Fluorescent Bushwongles", which he's seen in a mossy Australian cave (probably glow-worms), and later goes on about the Drop Bears that several Australian wizards swore they had seen. Note that the author is Australian.
- 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.
- The Australian horror film Carnifex has some ecologists running afoul of the Thylacoleo Carnifex, openly citing the thought-to-be-extinct creature as uncannily similar to the drop bear.
- Frog Dreaming (also known as Go-Go Kids and The Quest in some markets) is about a young American boy whose family has relocated to Australia, and who becomes obsessed with finding out about a Bunyip-esque monster called "Donkegin" that is supposed to live in the local lake. It turns out that Donkegin is in fact an old Donkey Engine (a type of excavator or steam-shovel) used in construction work, and the pond is in fact a flooded quarry.
- The Bunyip is among the Titans monitored by Monarch in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, located around a containment outpost in the middle of the Outback. We never actually see it though, and even its name appearing is a bit of an Easter egg.
- In the Star Wars movies, just as Wookiees strongly resemble the North American cryptid Bigfoot, the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi are man-eating teddy bears that live in trees and ambush unsuspecting intruders, not unlike drop bears. But while some of them are seen pouncing on foes from above, they're also fond of Bamboo Technology-based weapons and booby traps, which they ultimately use to take down The Empire in a distinctly Rock Beats Laser fashion.
- Aces Abroad, the fourth Wild Cards book, features something identified as a bunyip.
- 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.)
- In The Last Continent, the protagonist (a visiting foreigner) has a run-in with a flock of drop bears, surviving because he's wearing a pointy hat. 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.
- 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.
- Ology Series: Bunyips feature in Monsterology, in the chapter on aquatic creatures, and are described as amphibious, mammalian ambush predators native to Australia.
- 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.
- The Temeraire series features bunyips as large, disturbingly intelligent burrowing reptilians (strongly implied to have evolved from dragons) that lurk near bodies of water and pick off unwary travelers. Think trapdoor spiders the size of wolves. Nearby Aborigines try to convince the protagonists not to camp near a billabong, but this gets lost in translation, 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...
- 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!
- Alan Marshall wrote Whispering in the Wind as a fairy tale with an Australian twist, including the obligatory princess having to be rescued from a bunyip instead of a dragon.
- 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".
- When Tucker starts his Roaring Rampage of Revenge in Danger 5's second season, he begins by proclaiming "I've got some bunyips to hunt!" This is not only a reference to Tucker's Australian heritage (and one of his few Awesome Aussie moments), but also a reference to an Australian idiom: to hunt the bunyip is to take on an impossible task.
- There was an educational kids TV series called ''Shape Shape Shape" featuring a bunyip and a magical swagman.
- Yowies and Bunyip specifically come from Gamilaraay (also spelled Kamilaroi) religion. The former is an evil hairy man from the forest (not much deeper than that), while the latter essentially meant dark spirit until colonisers derailed them into specifically water monsters. In spite of what the claims in the Real Life section below say, there is not much in the way of plausible equation between these critters and extinct megafauna due to A) being fairly vague generic monsters, B) having specific symbolic reasons in Gamilaraay religion.
- Analogues to these things exist across Australian's various cultures. The Dulagal from Yuin mythology is technically analogous to the Gamilaraay Yowie, but much more well "developed": is an evil red eyed hairy man who lives in Mount Gulaga and walks sideways for some reason.
- 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).
- d20 Modern features drop bears in its Menace Manual.
- The Discworld Roleplaying Game, acknowledging the appearance of drop bears in The Last Continent (see above), includes game details for the species and their attack.
- Dungeons & Dragons: The original 1st Edition Fiend Folio had statistics for a bunyip, with the art presenting a seal-like monster with thick black fur and large teeth. The accompanying text describes it as a freshwater predator that, despite its playful demeanor, is powerful enough to tip over small boats and can severe limbs with its powerful bite. Additionally, it can unleash a Mighty Roar that causes lower-level players to panic.
- Exalted: Bunyips appear as hulking, herbivorous marsupials native to grasslands in the East and in the Western islands. They depart from their mythological origins rather starkly, with the mythical aquatic predator becoming a terrestrial grazer.
- Pathfinder: Bunyips are described in Bestiary 2 and given further detail in Mystery Monsters Revisited, a book featuring cryptids and "hidden" animals. They're large, aggressive seal-like creatures and voracious ambush predators; they prefer to inhabit swamps, murky lakes and rivers, and sea caves, and are skilled enough at avoiding their prey's notice to remain elusive and mysterious creatures even in a High Fantasy world.
- Bunyips are immense marsupials with large noses and a keen sense of smell. They're bearlike omnivores, chiefly feeding on plants and small creatures but quite capable of tackling large prey should they feel like doing so. They also have envenomed claws that make their targets hypersensitive to sunlight.
- Drop bears are Awakened koalas that have gained sharp claws and a taste for meat, although they still need some eucalyptus in their diets, and hunt by dropping on prey from high in the trees. They're also carriers of HMHVV-II, the virus that causes lycanthropy in humans; they're not infected themselves, but survivors of drop bear attacks often contract the condition.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, a werewolf tribe that managed to make it to Australia and mated with the local thylacine called itself the Bunyip. They went extinct in the 1920s 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.
- One character in The Adventures Of Down Under Dan mentions trying out his animal translator on a "hairy-nosed, duck-billed kangawallafox". One could be forgiven for assuming this is something the developers made up, given how utterly ridiculous everything else in this game is.
- 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.
- 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.
- The game Path of Exile, from New Zealand developer Grinding Gears Games feature an enemy in the forest zone called Plummeting Ursa. You guess what they resemble.
- Runescape has a familiar called the bunyip. Its special ability allows you to 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.
- Ty the Tasmanian Tiger features bunyips. There's also drop bears in the third game.
- El Goonish Shive has a koala-like aberration who likes to attack by dropping on people. The character in question is a bit of an Australia fanboy, so it's likely a deliberate nod to the drop bear legend on the character's part.
- One Girl Genius strip mentions drop bears as being a documented threat, but none have appeared in person.
- 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.
- Schlock Mercenary: "Clever Drop-bear" was used in reference to Petey.
- In Spacetrawler the unclamped Eebs create drop bears to tear apart the Dustin (an Australian) clones for their own amusement.
- User Friendly: The team gets 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.
- Family Guy: There is a gag where Peter visits Australia and starts poking a sleeping crocodile with a stick. The crocodile opens its eyes and glares at him, then after a Beat... a koala bear suddenly falls onto Peter's face from offscreen.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "PPOV (Pony Point of View)", the ponies accidentally summon a "three-horned bunyip" by dropping cucumber sandwiches in the water. It, in turn, accidentally capsizes their boat.
- 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.
- The bunyip was referenced 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 un-elected place in a local version of the House of Lords. Daniel Deniehy's speech was the most memorable slamming of the completely un-egalitarian concept (the only noble titles adopted in Australia were knighthoods, which were not hereditary).
- It has been speculated by some that many creatures detailed in the myths and legends of the Australian aboriginals were based on (or possibly even direct descriptions of) extinct megafauna present in Australia during the Ice Age, all of which vanished around the same time the first humans arrived in Australia and were ultimately preserved in the Aboriginals' oral traditions (which themselves are believed to be among the oldest surviving non-written forms of history in the world, dating back to the Stone Age). It should nonetheless be noted that many mythological depictions do not closely resemble living animals, so massive grains of salt are to be taken.
- Thylacoleo carnifex, the marsupial lion, liked to drop from trees onto its prey. Then again, it was four feet long...With thumb claws that could make a raptor crap itself. Even worse, Thylacoleo used those thumb claws just to hold onto its shrieking prey while Thylacoleo's uniquely evolved (and incredibly strong) jaws sheared off chunks of meat the size of a child's head. "Shit You Didn't Know About Biology" explains in more detail (about halfway down the page) just why Thylacoleo is so damn terrifying despite its small size. Not surprisingly, one of Thylacoleo's nicknames is the "Drop Cat". Funnily enough, it wasn't related to other carnivorous marsupials like Thylacines or Tasmanian Devils but was actually a part of the same family of herbivorous marsupials as kangaroos, wombats and yes, koalas. Due to these similarities, some speculate that it may have been the original inspiration for the drop bear myth, with the Aboriginals themselves having legends about a monster called Kadimakara (more frequently spelled kardimarkara in literature) whose description is remarkably similar (even detailing how it eventually vanished after the disappearance of the gum trees it lived in forced it to hunt on the ground, matching a common theory scientists have on the extinction of Thylacoleo).
- A possible Bunyip candidate is Diprotodon, a hippo-sized Ice Age wombat that often lived near sources of water. Australian aboriginals, to this day, will present Diprotodon bones, saying they came from a bunyip, describing it as a very aggressive animal. The "Shit You Didn't Know About Biology" page that discusses Thylacoleo carnifex also goes into more detail about this. However this is by no means universally accepted; for instance Brandt 2017 proposes an origin in cassowaries, and the 1933 incident that brought Bunyips to pop culture is thought to be a stranded leopard seal. In general, Bunyips are generic dark spirits in oral traditions, so narrowing them down to Diprotodon is not supported by anthropological evidence.
- In 2018, cultural historian Paul-Michael Donovan claimed he had tracked the bunyip down. The word originated among the Aboriginal tribes of the Murray River basin in what is now the state of Victoria. But of those who, at the point of colonial contact, spoke of the Bunyip at all, the Wathaurong nation around Melbourne were unique in that they described it as an actual animal, albeit a dangerous one, rather than a monster. They described it as about 5 meters in length, and able to move on land and in water. If there is one thing that unifies all stories of the Bunyip, it is that it is found in billabongs, or ox-bow lakes, the slowly drying remains of meanders cut off from their river. In Australia, it is a not-infrequent event that seals travel up rivers, which, once they dry out, strand them in billabongs. The oldest confirmed geoglyph of a Bunyip, which reportedly attacked two Aboriginal children, has been speculated to be a seal since the 1950s. Unfortunately, while the Wathaurong people still exist, their language does not, having been systematically destroyed over the course of the 19th century. However, an unpublished compilation of their language, drawn from the word lists compiled by early settlers, revealed that the Wathaurong had two different words for "seal": one for most types of seal, and one for the leopard seal. Their word for the leopard seal was "bunyip." If you've never seen a leopard seal before, do not imagine a cute, doe-eyed sea-puppy. Leopard seals are gigantic, voracious apex predators that can and do kill people. They're essentially intelligent, amphibious sharks. So. Imagine the scene: a leopard seal, already far from its usual hunting grounds, travels up the Murray during the wet season. A dry spell cuts off its path back to the ocean, leaving it trapped in a foetid, dessicating billabong. It's alone. It's starving. It's likely suffering from sunstroke and hyperthermia, and it's in a completely alien environment from its home. No surpise the first thing people recall of it would be its scream. If you've never seen a seal before, let alone a leopard seal, you would see a monster.
- The Burrunjor mentioned above is believed by some scientists to have perhaps been based on Varanus priscus, aka the Megalania, a gigantic goanna that dominated prehistoric Australian ecosystems as the apex predator, or possibly its chief competitor Quinkana, a large terrestrial crocodilian. Similarly, the ubiquitous Rainbow Serpent, described by the Aboriginals as a giant snake associated with water, is speculated to have been based on one of the enormous primitive snakes living on the continent at this time, such as Wonambi or Yurlunggur, whose fossils are frequently found near waterholes.
- Another legendary Australian creature called the Mihirung, described as an emu of monstrous size, is commonly believed to have started off as a description of Genyornis, a huge flightless cousin of ducks and geese, that is thought to have been hunted to extinction by Australian aboriginals. In fact, "mihirung" is often used as a nickname for this extinct bird.
- The Australia Museum has a page on Drop Bears. Members of the museum receive free Drop Bear Immunizations!
- Lying to foreigners is something of a national sport. It has the added amusement that Australia's wildlife is weird anyway, so the poor marks have trouble sorting the factual from the mythical.
Debi Edward: Fucking Australians. Oh my god, I like totally bought it. Hook, line and sinker.
- Mid-January 2020, a Scottish television reporter was given a koala to hold, although was told it was a drop bear, in a report about the effect of the devastating bushfires on wildlife. The reporter was dressed in motocross chest armor, with paintball goggles, and did her best to not show fear after being told how dangerous drop bears were. She got increasingly nervous through-out the segment she was filming, and only started to panic when one of the koala handlers said that they were going to get the dart gun. The koala was taken by the handlers, and it was only when she noticed that three people were handling the animal without any protective gear that she realized she'd been pranked.
- The Australian Quidditch team is called the Drop Bears.