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Australian Legendary Tales

AUSTRALIA makes an appeal to the fancy which is all its own. When the first white settlers arrived in Australia, all was novel, and, while seeming fresh, was inestimably old. The grey gum-trees did not resemble any European forest, but were antique, melancholy and featureless. In a continent of rare hills, infrequent streams and interminable deserts nothing was concealed within the wastes, yet a secret was promised. The birds and beasts--kangaroo, platypus and emu-are, like the continent and all that is within - ancient. The natives were seemingly a race without a history, far more antique than Egypt and closer to the beginnings of mankind than any other people. The manners and rites of the natives seemed to be by far the most archaic of all. They did not have Kings and nations; they were wanderers, houseless, but not homeless. The mysteries of the natives, the initiatory rites, a little of the magic, a great deal of the social customs and fragments of the myths had been recorded. But, till Mrs. Langloh Parker compiled this book, we had but few of the stories which Australian natives tell by the camp-fire or in the gum-tree shade. These, for the most part, are Kinder Marchen, though they include many atiological myths, explanatory of the markings and habits of animals, the origin of constellations, and so forth. Children will find here the Jungle Book of Australia, but there is no Mowgli, set apart as a man. For man, bird, and beast are all blended in the Aboriginal psyche. All are of one kindred, all shade into each other; all obey the Bush Law. Unlike any European Marchen, these stories do not have the dramatic turns of Western folk-lore. There are no distinctions of wealth and rank, no Cinderella nor a Puss in Boots. The struggle for food and water is the perpetual theme, and no wonder, for the narrators dwell in a dry and thirsty land. We see cunning in the devices used for hunting, especially for chasing honey bees. The Rain-magic, actually practised, is of curious interest. In brief, we have pictures of the hard life of the Aborigines, romances which are truly realistic. Parker has some odd connections with modern popular culture. She was rescued from drowning by an aborigine at an early age. This incident was portrayed in the film 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'. The song They Call the Wind Mariah was based on a story from this book and the pop singer Mariah Cary was reputedly named after this song.
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