Tuesday, July 21, 2015


‘Is there an Australian fairy tale? That is the question.’
One of the matters raised by this conference, in its call for papers, is:
Is there an Australian fairy tale?
This is a deep and serious question concerned as much with what is called ‘national identity’ as it is with what is called ‘fairy tale’. Where to look for national identity, for national sensibility? What is meant by fairy tale in this context? Should Australia have a particular fairy tale anyway? Do other countries have their own? Germany has the tellers, Grimm, and Denmark has Andersen, another teller; and Russian tales have their own characteristics, Chinese tales have theirs – and so on. The tellings reflect and reveal national character. Is there an Australian way of telling, perhaps? It is a truism to say that the same motifs and plots turn up in different cultures across the world, and that the ways in which the stories are expressed mark the nationality of the tale.
I have found it necessary, in the composition of a response to the question posed, to keep carefully defining my terms. Quite frequently I have found this difficult to do. I am still not sure what is meant by ‘national identity’, and could discuss the words here at some length. I am going to leave it vague. Likewise ‘fairy tale’ – I am prepared to let this term merge, perhaps unfashionably, with such terms as folk tale and myth and so on. What I am seeking is a narrative that has the reach and grip of – well, of Cinderella, for instance. A powerful archetypal narrative – I will come back to it shortly. (The Oxford dictionary has an entry under Cinderella. I don’t know how many fairy tale heroes and heroines make it into the dictionary. Very few.)
The history of this continent must be implicated in the search for a story. It seems reasonable to begin, maybe, by asking who or what comes to mind as a locus of heroism in Australian culture and history, for the hero narrative is a key narrative in folk lore, and folk lore is close to fairy tale in many respects. Who are some heroes then – could be Ned Kelly, Don Bradman, Phar Lap, Burke and Wills, the Anzacs, Caroline Chisholm, St Mary McKillop, Truganini. What are some common images associated with Australia? The kangaroo (one of them flies) the koala, the Opera House, Uluru, the Southern Cross, the Tasmanian devil, the beach, the wattle, the bush. But there is nothing there with any hope of accumulating the power of Cinderella – which is I think now the uber-fairy tale of western culture. I suppose I am setting the bar high. And remember that nobody had to go looking for the Cinderella story, and no country can really claim her as its own.
When, in Australia, you see a book titled ‘Classic Fairy Tales’ you know to expect certain stories – basically those from Perrault, Grimm, Andersen – with maybe a smattering of Greek myths. In these stories are found the variations of the family drama, the quest, the triumph over adversity, the elements of fear and joy and magic and so on. They are stories that articulate in various ways what it is the human heart seeks – that’s happiness – the promise of everlasting happiness. There were adventures and ups and downs. And then they lived happily ever after. It’s the promise of everlasting life. There are deaths and the fear of death in fairy tales, but the narratives of the heroes and heroines stop short at the moment of bliss, seeming to defy and deny death.
Even little children know that this moment of bliss is a fantasy – and that is what a fairy tale must be, at its level of entertainment – a fantasy. Truth is articulated there, but fantasy is the poetry, the bait, the drug, the beautiful costume dressing up the truth, the detail that takes the reader, the listener, back to that story again and again and again. Seeking to touch the magic, and seeking wisdom.
A three year old recently said to me: ‘Cinderella will die in the end you know.’ Yes, I know. But within the parameters of the story Cinders signs off on everlasting bliss. And the child knew that too. She knew what a story was. Everyone knows that little children move easily and naturally between fantasy and reality. They must do this. And adults do it too, to a degree. The motifs and meanings of those ‘Classic Fairy Tales’ and their ilk, as Jung and Campbell and company have explained, are somehow lodged in human nature, are part of the human response to the mystery of being alive. The motifs and meanings are not contained within national boundaries. The details of a story will be local – in China Cinderella has, instead of a fairy godmother, the bones of a magical fish. But the centre of the business will be – dare I use the word – universal. So I suppose an Australian fairy tale would have its local details and motifs, its universal themes. But historically and culturally, Australia is not well placed for the development of such a narrative. You may know a book called World Tales, edited by Idries Shah. It’s a collection of sixty-five old stories from many different countries, tracing what the editor calls ‘the extraordinary coincidence of stories told in all times and all places’. I noticed at the time of publication, 1980, that Australia was not one of these places. I remember thinking this was sad, but probably to be expected. Perhaps if Idries Shah or his equivalent were to collect world tales today, there just might be a place for an Australian story of some kind. Perhaps not.
If you look at some accepted synonyms for the term ‘fairy tale’ – you find fable, fiction, fabrication, figment, fantasy. You can also get a myth, a yarn, a legend, a parable, a romance, a dream, a make-believe – and a lie. There’s the ugly word for it. A lie.
The blissful trick of the fairy tale in its powerful classic form is that the lie – with its lovely fantasy and poetry and music – the lie is telling the truth. This is the magic – at one level – of the fairy tale – the lie and the truth are working in unison to beguile and to inform. Fairy tales thus exert their grip on the people who tell them and on the people who hear them.
I live in rural Victoria, and in the local street there is a video shop and a bakery and a pub, and a shop called Cinderella’s Fairytale Wedding. They sell and rent out bridal wear. Cinderella’s Fairytale Wedding. The name is self-explanatory – here is the star of fairy tale completely embedded in popular culture. I don’t need to tell you this. Everyone here is conscious of the grip that princesses – thanks partly to the marketing of Disney and Big W and so on – have on the minds and imaginations of – well probably children just about everywhere. And not just children. Of course Disney and the marketers have great material to work with. They have the fairy tale, for heaven’s sake. The versions of Cinderella they sell are specific to a particular kind of western paradigm, being based on the French story collected by Charles Perrault in the eighteenth century. His story was modeled on a pre-existing folk tale, and was later translated into German by the Brothers Grimm. But as you well know, the story of Cinderella is not confined to any national archive. The first recorded Cinderella story, as far as I know, was located in China in the ninth century AD. There are many hundreds of Cinderella stories spread throughout all cultures. It is truly transnational, and, perhaps thanks to Disney, its narrative and motifs now dominate the fairy tale landscape – even in Australia.
A blogger called Becky Morales of online KidWorldCitizen is compiling a collection called ‘Cinderella Stories Around the World’. One of the versions in her collection is Cindy-Ella, an Australian Cinderella by Tom Niland Champion. It’s a kind of satire of popular Australian clichés. Cindy-Ella lives with her cruel step-mother and step-sisters Rochelle and Sheryle. Her tasks include cleaning the dunny, feeding the budgie and hanging the undies on the line. The romance of fairy tale seems to have gone missing somewhere. When Cindy-Ella is forbidden to go to the local dance, she consults her fairy god-nanna who uses a magic branch of wattle to conjure a new denim skirt and thongs – meaning footwear. Cindy-Ella rides to the dance in the pouch of a kangaroo, dances with the top sheep-shearer, and has to leave when the kookaburra laughs. Not midnight I guess. As she runs off she drops a thong. Sheep shearer finally matches her up with her thong, and they live happily ever after. This is a lot of fun. I do query the use of the thong, however. I would argue that the glass slipper was a special (even impossible) piece of exquisite footwear that existed nowhere else, and that marked Cinderella as the one who is uniquely beautiful and ideal. Although perhaps the thong, conflating as it does the idea of a shoe and intimate apparel, is quite witty in its way, for the shoe in the Cinderella story sends a powerful sexual message which is one of the keys to the story’s fascination.
This humorous telling does in no way amount to anything that could be seriously called an ‘Australian fairy tale’. It’s an Australian version of an old story.
A very early Australian folklorist, Joseph Jacobs who died in 1916, collected stories from European, English, Jewish, and Indian cultures, but didn’t ever publish a collection of Australian narratives. Of course writers and editors who came after Joseph Jacobs have written and collected Australian stories, but nothing really stands out as a lasting, powerful, magical narrative that could be classified as a tale with the power of a Cinderella or a Snow White.
In seeking an Australian fairy tale, I am seeking a narrative that might be lodged somehow deep in the heart, the soul, maybe I mean the psyche of Australian culture. That’s a fanciful way of putting it, but I felt I must say it thus. I speak of fairy tales, I speak of make-believe, I speak of lies.
Is there some huge LIE bugging the Australian soul? Yes there is. You know it; I know it; and I am going to tell it now. I will tell the lie, and the lie will tell the truth because you and I know the truth. That’s how they work, fairy tales.
So here perhaps is the Australian fairy story so far. Gather round. Here is the lie.
Once upon a time there was a great and powerful King who ruled over a vast empire, the greatest the world had ever seen. His ships went out across the oceans exploring new lands. They discovered a Great South Land, a land so inviting, and a land that was – marvelously – without human inhabitants. It was a country ready to receive civilized people, and was destined to become a part of the King’s great empire. It was a strange and beautiful place, free for the taking, where the King and his counselors realised they could build a wonderful new outpost, a rich and glorious colony that would strengthen the power of the King in that distant part of the world.
To help bring this paradise into being, the King selected from among his own people a company of slaves, men and woman and even children who had disobeyed the King’s laws. As a punishment they would sail in chains across the seas, and they would be the builders of the new paradise. These people would clear the land and grow the crops and make the roads, and build handsome buildings for the Governor of the Great South Land and for the officers and the soldiers. And the bounty of the land would return home to the King. So the ships set out, and after many long days and weeks at sea, they came to the shores of the Great South Land. Nobody had ever owned this land before the King’s men came. And so the Governor raised the King’s flag and claimed the land for the King. And the King sent out more men to be farmers and explorers, and there was great peace and prosperity.
Now the Governor and the officers had white, white skins, and they wore fine jackets and boots; and the slaves also were white-skinned, and they wore rough dark garments that marked them for the slaves they were. Imagine the surprise of the Governor and his company when there appeared before them on the shore tall dark naked people, speaking in a strange, strange tongue. These people had lived in the land for many thousands of years. They had a particular relationship with the land that was completely different from the way the King’s men thought about it. They were people of an ancient race, untouched by the civilizing ideas of the King and his soldiers. The newcomers soon made it clear to these native people that all the land now belonged to the great white King who ruled it from far, far away. His rules would be enforced by the Governor and the soldiers.
Now, on learning of the existence of the naked people, the King’s instructions to the Governor said that the lives of the ancient peoples must be protected and that the King’s men were to befriend those people. However no mention was made regarding the ancient peoples’ ownership of the land. It was obvious to the King that the land had belonged to nobody, and that it now belonged to him.
How was it possible to be friendly towards the people while denying them their own home? Wait and see.
Gradually the newcomers moved out to live in places all over the Great South Land, and as they moved, they were able to persuade the naked people, of whom there were many many different tribes speaking many many different languages, to follow the King’s laws. These rules would protect them. This was friendship. Sometimes the people tried to resist, sometimes they even attacked and killed the King’s men, but eventually they realized that the newcomers were right, and they agreed that the land belonged to the King. And the King was pleased with all his people. The tribal people were placed below the slaves in the hierarchy of the land. They were like the strange animals and flowers, part of the natural bounty of the empire. The King’s men believed it was obvious that the tribal people would quietly die out. And some did.
But as it happened, the two groups, the newcomers, and the tribes, who had lived in the land for many thousands of years, mostly lived happily ever after in the Great South Land where the King’s men became more and more rich and powerful as time went on.
Not the end. To be continued.

This fairy tale, this travesty of truth, is still in the process of being re-written, but for the time being I would propose it as the great Australian fairy tale, or the great Australian lie. It attempts to conceal the dark history of Australia; it is a breathless bare-faced lie that cloaks an atrocity, a terrible horror story of theft and murder, and it has been the underlying myth for two hundred or so years.
As I was telling it, I found it weirdly impossible to insert women into the narrative. It really is a boys’ own story, the old story of Australia. The old lie. No wonder, what with one thing and another, that a satisfactory Australian fairy tale remains elusive. Well, it’s still unformed, and 1788 is not so very long ago in folklore and fairy tale time. Perhaps Australia doesn’t need and won’t get a real fairy tale of its own. Perhaps national fairy tales are a thing of the past, in a society that can probably be described as global. What I have told you is not a particularly engaging tale on any level apart from horror – it has no real characters, no real drama – with the exception, perhaps of the King and the theft of the land. Powerful fairy stories usually foreground a character the listener can identify with. In the story, at least as I told it, the native people and the King’s men are distinctive, but there is nobody who could be called a character.
The final paragraph of the story I told you – the happy ever after part – presents a particularly shocking and untruthful account. For there has been no consolatory closure to the tale. The invaders and the tribes did NOT and do not live in harmony. There are several ways of describing in more detail what happened – there’s history, politics, anthropology – but one way of doing it is by looking at how the literature, the fiction for children and the fiction for adults, has transcribed the story of black people and white people in the Great South Land. This literature was until recently almost exclusively written by non-Aboriginal people.
Then, there is the vast story-telling tradition that has forever informed the lives of Aboriginal Australians. Like the Aboriginal understanding of the land, the stories are of a quality so different from the stories of the western tradition, that they are problematic for a western sensibility to approach. I believe that it is in the stories of Aboriginal Australians that a truly Australian fairy tale may be located. To call these narratives fairy tales is also problematic. They are I believe sacred stories that go to the heart of Aboriginal culture. Their sacred nature gives them a quality that is generally absent from the accepted fairy tale paradigm.
The terms I intend to use now, to designate the two Australian groups, are mainly ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘non-Aboriginal’. The use of terms for the two groups changes quite often with fashion and politics – indigenous, non-indigenous, First Peoples, invaders, settlers, colonists, the blacks, the whites, the natives. I have decided today to go for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – unless I am quoting another writer who uses different terms.

Non-Aboriginal writers have longsince tried to render Aboriginal stories in English, following the western models. I suppose it is a noble endeavor. But the results have been invariably I think, travesties of Aboriginal stories. It seems, on the surface, a reasonable thing to do, to discover the stories and to tell them in English, using an English model. But you will have seen these retellings, and they are usually strangely lifeless – because the stories simply don’t translate. Can non-Aboriginal storytellers really know and mediate Aboriginal culture? I don’t believe they can. For one thing, there is so much that is specific and local in Aboriginal stories, and so much that is sacred in a way that bewilders western minds.
But the real problem is the gulf between the purpose of storytelling in non-Aboriginal culture, and the purpose of it in Aboriginal culture. I believe that simply to put Aboriginal narratives into the service of non-Aboriginal structures is to betray, dishonor and misrepresent the Aboriginal narratives. It is cultural colonization if you like. The stories so produced are detached and impoverished by virtue of their removal from their custodians. Such storytelling – Aboriginal sacred myths told as English narratives – is on the one hand theft, and on the other, a stifling, a kind of killing. Reducing a sacred oral text to a page of English with colourful illustrations.
How to reconcile the storytelling traditions in Australia? One avenue of hope lies in the strength of the Aboriginal publisher Magabala Books which has been producing Aboriginal literature since 1990, working to help engage non-Aboriginal readers with Aboriginal thinking. Another is in the appearance of the form of narrative told by an Aboriginal elder, Elsie Jones. This is The Story of the Falling Star, published by the Aboriginal Studies Press in 1989. That’s ages ago now – and I’m sorry to say that the work is not really very well known. It tells the story of the origin of a rocky outcrop in the Darling River near Wilcannia, and speaks of a bad character who warns of the catastrophe of the falling star. It is a beautiful and remarkable document, and could possibly provide a template for the production of Aboriginal stories. It isn’t simply a hybrid text; it somehow succeeds in conveying something of the sacred nature of the story in its singular design – photographs, drawings, interactive text, speech bubbles – where the image of Elsie Jones dominates the pages. It speaks of the vitality of Aboriginal stories, and it ought to be in print. Please look at it in a library. And it’s worth considering the fact that this tale which sets out to explain the existence of a particular rock formation is a very different kind of tale from a western fairy story, or a Greek myth, or a Persian legend. Its local nature and its utter simplicity, as well as its sacred quality, mark it, I think, as not really a contender in a search for a story that could express or grip an Australia psyche – supposing there is such a psyche.
From the early nineteenth century onwards, Aboriginal characters have appeared in Australian texts for children, and gradually Aboriginal narratives have also been produced. But there remains a sense of unresolved discomfort. I know I keep saying there is a long way to go – but I do think this is the case. I recommend you read Clare Bradford’s book Reading Race published in 2001 – read it for a scholarly overview of the history of Aboriginal matters in children’s books to that time. There is a very long way to go before the problems initiated in 1788 can resolve in society, and also a long way to go before they can resolve in literature.
Adult literary texts from way back have also gradually moved from white colonial narratives with Aboriginal characters to what are called post-colonial treatments of the issue.  Many non-Aboriginal writers, novelists and poets have given a lifetime’s thought attempting to reach into the imaginative world of Aboriginal sacred stories. The brutal consequences of non-Aboriginal intrusion into Aboriginal Australia are sometimes foregrounded, sometimes ignored. My point is that they are more or less always present, and they are part of the fabric of an Australian narrative – fiction or non-fiction.
From the early works of the nineteenth century, through the novels of the twentieth until today, there has been a development to the point where Aboriginal writers as well as non-Aboriginal writers are foregrounding aspects of the story that might one day emerge as an Australian fairy tale to tell to everybody, a fairy tale of which Australians can be proud. It won’t resemble traditional European stories.
This brings me to the most recent novel by Alexis Wright – ‘The Swan Book’, published in 2013 – a novel that sweeps into the reader’s mind with an astonishing grandeur. Alexis Wright is an Aboriginal writer. ‘The Swan Book’  is concerned with big issues – Aboriginal land rights, changes in climate, refugees, and the power of stories. Yes, the power of stories could be described as an issue in this novel. To attempt to describe ‘The Swan Book’ is to reduce it and mangle it  – but essentially it is this:-
The grass plains of the Gulf of Carpentaria are Alexis Wright’s ancestral country. This is where the novel opens. ‘The Swan Book’ is set in the future about fifty years on from 2014, when the effects of global changes in weather and climate have ravaged the country. The scene is a filthy dry swamp that is filled with useless rusting warships and is fenced off by the army – it is where a group of Aboriginal people lives, and it is also populated by thousands of black swans. The swans have come north as the climate has changed.
Bella Donna is an old storyteller woman from the northern hemisphere, one of the homeless nomads who now roam the seas. Her life was saved by a swan, and her imagination is informed by all the stories of white swans. Stories go viral in this novel, stories are in fact viruses. As a refugee, Bella Donna has invaded the swamp, and one day in a tree she finds a mute Aboriginal girl whom she calls Oblivia. She tells Oblivia all the stories, poems, legends and songs about swans. Leda, Lohengrin, Swan Lake, The Wild Swans – these are only a few of the scripts that are built into the narrative of the novel. This is a story of the mind and of the imagination – and it is vast in its reach, and is told in layers of simultaneous different dimensions. Languages mingle – Aboriginal, English, Latin, French – to form a layered, sinuous, vigorous, athletic prose in a style all its own.
Oblivia and the Aboriginal president of Australia, Warren Finch, are the central love interest of the novel. You can tell that it’s satirical and funny. Warren belongs to an Aboriginal group that has essentially sold out to non-Aboriginal values. As wife of the president Oblivia goes south where she lives as a prisoner in a tower. She will ultimately leave the tower to return to the north with the black swans.
The apparent simplicity of the plot – and I haven’t told you everything – you must read it – belies the glorious complexity of the telling. This is political satire as grand lyrical epic, told with wit and shock and eloquence and charm. As the stories are enacted, it becomes clear that stories – in their ability to move across the world, to weave in and out of each other –  stories may have the power to ensure the future of life on Earth. Faith in stories turns out to be allied to faith in the land itself – and the Aboriginal people living among the old wrecks in the swamp understand this. Stories will save everything.
There is much that fascinates me about ‘The Swan Book’, but If I can foreground one aspect here: the coming of the white swan stories, via the European storytelling refugee to the Aboriginal compound in the swamp where all the swans are black. The metaphors built into this are so powerful and obvious that it is amazing nobody has done it before. Well, maybe they have, I don’t know.
I do know that the telling of the coming of the swans and the swan stories reminds me of the story of the library at Borroloola. It is the Story of Three Thousand Books.
Once upon a time in a far hot country there lived a man called Cornelius. He was a fine horseman, a man of heroic optimism. He could tell stories, and his stories always ended with the words: ‘And one day we might be happy.’
And one day Cornelius had a dream. Listen while I set the scene. And then I will tell you of his dream.
In this far hot country, lived wonderful animals and curious fish. There were insects that built miniature cities from tall mounds of earth mixed with their digested and undigested food. And there lived also many people of an ancient race. Their skins were dark because they lived close to the sun. They hunted for food on land and sea. They sheltered in caves and huts and wore light clothing made from the skins of animals. They carried their food in baskets woven from reeds and leaves, and they decorated themselves with necklaces of shells. They lived in separate groups spread across the vast land, and they spoke many different languages, drew marvelous pictures on the rock walls, made music and dances, told many sacred tales.
One day, from the sea, came men of another race. These men were covered in bright clothing, and they carried terrible weapons and brought with them strange foods, curious ideas, peculiar animals. These men were soldiers, and their skins were white. They discovered diamonds and minerals buried in the land, and they began to build shelters from wood and stone, and they took the land with all its treasures, for themselves. Many of the dark people were killed, and a great and terrible sadness descended on the land. In the far north of the country, a little town grew up on a river, a hundred miles upstream from the sea, and in this little town there were some people of the ancient race, as well as soldiers, and other white men who came in from the surrounding land, bringing cattle on their way to the cattle stations. The little town was a lonely place. There was a store and an inn and a prison.
Now one of the lawmen was the horseman Cornelius – you remember Cornelius – and Cornelius had a dream. He looked at the town and remembered life in the place he had come from far, far away. He remembered a beautiful house where his uncle lived. At the heart of this house there was a magical place. It was a library filled with shelves and shelves of books, books telling all the stories of the world.
In his dream Cornelius was transported back to that library, and then he saw, in the prison in the town a hundred miles from the sea, a wonderful room where all those books, all those old stories were kept. A library – in the lonely town far far from home.
The dream took hold of his imagination, and Cornelius wrote a letter to the Governor of the land, asking for books. And a ship was sent, carrying the stories of Plutarch, Aristotle, Homer, Virgil, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Perrault and the Bible and Omar Khayyam and more. Many more.
When the dream had come true, and three thousand books, leather-bound and covered in grey canvas, were all on the shelves in the prison, Cornelius invited all the people of the town, white and black, to come and read, and to take the books away, and to pass them around among themselves. There were public meetings where stories were read out loud, and where stories were discussed, and where arguments often broke out about what the stories meant. Years went by and years went by, and many of the books were lost, never to be seen again. But the stories were told, and the stories became part of the story of the land. And time went by and time went by, and Cornelius himself grew old and died.
Then – into the cracked old library came marching thousands and thousands of blind white ants who joyfully devoured the remaining books, and used them to construct their strange tall homes, mixing the chewed pages with their saliva and their excrement and the mud. Only one book remained. The story had been eaten away, but the words on the very first page said, in blood red ink: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.
The stories – the stories of Plutarch and Virgil and Kipling and Dickens and Perrault – they had all made their spoken way out out into the far corners of the far hot country. And they lodged in the hearts and the imaginations of the people all over the land, while more and more stories came and mingled with them. And alongside those stories, quietly, ran the stories of the ancient race, like a shadow, perhaps, like a mysterious cousin, like smoke.
Time went by and time went by, and if this is a fairy tale that I am telling you, it must be a story of heroic optimism. The beloved storyteller of beloved stories wants to tell you that one day the people might be happy. As time went by the stories of the ancient race grew in substance, until they came forward across the far country as stories to mingle joyfully with so many other stories, until that far country could look into its heart, could call upon its imagination and could say: ‘These are the stories we understand, these are the stories by which we can live, these are our stories.’
The tale – but not the happy ending – I have told you is a version of what I believe is a true story of the library at Borroloola. Borroloola is a small town 50 kilometres upstream from the Gulf of Carpentaria. The ending of my tale is wishful thinking. The stories of Aristotle and Perrault and the Bible and all the other books have filtered out into the culture and the literary language of Australia. They have really changed little over time and place, but the stories of the Aborigines still occupy a separate chamber of their own. They are stories that have been classified in European parlance as stories of ‘the Dreaming’. But what is the Dreaming? One of the most satisfactory discussions of the Dreaming is in Robert Kenny’s 2007 book ‘The Lamb Enters the Dreaming’. There Robert Kenny writes: ‘The Dreaming explains how the world is formed, and how ancestral beings took their present shapes, and how and why particular peoples are linked to these forms as their totems (or dreamings).’
Robert Kenny further clarifies all this when he examines the image of the lamb in the Christian story. An orthodox Christian knows that Christ is the shepherd and the people are his flock, and also knows that Christ himself is the sacrificial lamb, and has no problem with this metaphoric and symbolic language. The Christian doesn’t consciously associate the religious imagery with the sight of a flock of merinos crossing the highway. The holy story is set apart from the shearing shed. However, in the Dreaming, the metaphor, for want of a better word, works differently, so that the totem animal or object is inextricable from the person and also from the land. The essence is not in the kangaroo totem, for example, or in the person, but in the mutuality of person and totem and land.
The dream of Cornelius was the construction of a library of stories; if there is a dream now waiting to be fulfilled, however long it takes, and whether it is possible – this dream is that one day it might be possible to tell, maybe, in some new language of storytelling, a fairy story with a happy ending – from Australia’s heart and soul. A fairy tale that enunciates an Australian national identity, that speaks to and from the psyche, to and from the Australian soul. It is a dream for the future.


Bradford, Clare: Reading Race; MUP; 2001
Champion, Tom: Cindy-Ella; Scolastic; 2011
Bruce: The Songlines; Picador; 1987
Dunkle, Margaret: Black in Focus – Aboriginality in Literature for Young People; D.W.Thorpe; 1994
Gammage, Bill: The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia; Allen&Unwin; 2012
Gilbert, Kevin: Living Black; Penguin 1977
Gorman, Clem: The Larrikin Streak; Sun Books; 1990
Gwynne, Philip: Deadly, Unna?; Penguin; 2002
Healy, J.J: Literature and the Aborigine in Australia; UQP; 1978
Hughes, Robert: The Fatal Shore; Pan Books    1987
Jones, Aunty Elsie: The Story of the Falling Star; Western Regional Aboriginal Land Council; 2000
Keneally, Thomas: Australians – Origins to Eureka; Allen and Unwin; 2009
Kenny, Robert: The Lamb Enters the Dreaming; Scribe; 2010
Les Contes de Fees – A history of fairytale – Bibiloitheque Nationale de France
Meredith, Louisa Anne: My Home in Tasmania; Glamorgan Spring Bay Historical Soc, Swansea, Tasmania; 1852
Pascoe, Bruce: Dark Emu; Magabala Books; 2014
Reynolds, Henry: The Other Side of the Frontier; UNSW; 1981
Roberts and Mountford: Legends of the Dreamtime; International Limited Editions; 1975
Shah,Idries: World Tales, Penguin; 1979
Victorian Reading Books; Government Printer; 1928
Warner, Marina: From the Beast to the Blonde; Random House; 1994
Wright, Alexis: The Swan Book; Giramondo; 2013
Wrightson, Patricia: The Nargun and the Stars; Hutchinson; 1973

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