Folklore of Australia

The myths and legends of Australia are entwined with the rich cultural heritage of the land's first people: the Aborigines. These first Australians have the longest continuous cultural history of any people on Earth.

Australian Folklore

Learn About The Mythical Creatures Of This Vast Country

From carnivorous koalas to man-eating river monsters, out of the vast landscape of Australia come tales of truly terrifying strange and mysterious creatures. The myths and legends of Australia are entwined with the rich cultural heritage of the land's first people: the Aborigines. These first Australians have the longest continuous cultural history of any people on Earth. So, most of the cryptids of Australian folklore are connected to the traditional beliefs and creation stories of the land's first people.

Other legends are tied to the country's unique landscape, environment and ecosystems, which range from bone-dry desert to lush grassland. Such variety in geography and climate means that the strange creatures of Australian folklore are some of the most varied and fascinating in the world.

1) The Dreaming

Two parallel timescales exist in the mythology of Aboriginal people. One is the daily time we all experience of birth, life and death, but the other is a spiritual cycle of time, which is infinite. It is called the Dreamtime. This was the time when the universe was created, when spiritual beings came to earth to create the land, plants, animals, and humans. Once the Spirits had completed creation, they transformed into trees, mountains, stars and lakes. These places are sacred to Aborigines and they form a timeless link between our world and the Dreaming, binding the past, present and future of people and the land together. Much of Australian folklore springs from stories of the Dreaming.

2) The Rainbow Serpent

The main Creator being in Dreamtime mythology, this guardian of the land and its people is the source of all life. The Rainbow Serpent slept deep in the earth, with all creation contained in her belly. When the time was right - the serpent pushed up through the earth and gave birth to the land and the skies and everything in them. A benevolent creator to most, the Rainbow Serpent can be a terrible enemy if you mistreat her world by abusing its natural resources.

3) The Bunyip

This fearsome beast lurks in swamps, creeks and riverbeds waiting for unwary travellers to pass by at night so it can devour them. Descriptions of the monster vary - from it having dark fur with a horse-like tail to it having savage tusks and scaly skin. It's likely these terrors derive from stories of avenging water spirits from Dreamtime mythology. So the original purpose of these entities may be said to punish the wicked, rather than indiscriminately gobble down any human. It has been suggested that Bunyips may be distant memories of long-extinct dinosaurs that once roamed the planet.

4) The Yowie

The Australian cousin of Yeti and Bigfoot, this hairy ape-like creature is may be the continent's answer to the elusive 'missing link' between humans and apes. Much like their better known counterparts, the Yowie is described as a big beast, standing on two legs, about 7 ft in height and with dark fur covering their entire bodies. First recorded in 1876, the Yowie has always been part of Aboriginal folklore. Sightings of the Yowie have been reported from New South Wales, Queensland, North Auckland and the Moehau Range.

5) The Hawkesbury River Monster

Along with its more famous monstrous relatives, such as Nessie in Scotland or Champ of Lake Champlain in the USA, this Australian water monster is described as resembling a prehistoric plesiosaur, with flippers and a long, snakelike neck topped with a small head. Ancient Aboriginal drawings on rocks seem to depict this monster, indicating that the monster - or its ancestors - have been lurking around the river for at least a couple of thousand years. Terrifying stories of attacks by the creature have been handed down through generations of Aboriginal people. But just like its fellow monsters, this lizard is elusive.

6) The Drop Bear

Enough to give you nightmares, there's nothing cuddly about this bear. The Drop Bear gets its name from its method of attack - literally to drop down from a eucalyptus or gum tree onto its victim's head, before eating the unfortunate person. They have been described as giant carnivorous koalas, with sharp teeth and savage claws. Luckily, nobody has ever claimed to see one because Drop Bears are firmly rooted in fantasy. So don't have nightmares!


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