Sunday, June 26, 2016

Early Australian Fairy Tales excerpts as presented at The Australian Fairy Tales Society Conference

AND why not fairies in Australia? Why should not our innumerable ferny glades, romantic valleys, mountainous passes, and lonesome glens, be peopled with fays and elves? Why should not Robin Goodfellow be found sitting jauntily astride the gorgeous waratah, or chasing the laughing jackass from its favourite bough? But all in good time. In the generations yet to come, unless the State schools make the little ones too learned, we shall have Australian fairy tales, stories in which goblin, kangaroos and emus, graceful sprites, and bearded magicians, will be found on every Fairyland in Australia. (1880, December 18, Illustrated Sydney News and New South Wales Agriculturalist and Grazier, p. 3)
Excerpts presented at The Australian Fairy Tales Society Conference, 2016

KING DUNCE. Australian Fairy Tales by Atha Westbury                             
Noel Biffin, son of a tinsmith, wants to be a king, and neglects his schoolwork but is chosen to be a king by the fairy Sir Guy Fawkes Popgun. Together they speed away from school on emus.
Only a careless, stupid boy, perched on a high stool within the schoolroom, trying to learn his lesson, long after his companions had been dismissed to their several homes. Only the biggest dunce at Slate-em's Academy, who wouldn't try, like other boys, to master his tasks—not because he hadn't the ability to do so, but because he wanted to be a King. Yes, dear readers, Noel Biffin, son of Jack Biffin, the tinsmith, wanted to be a King. Nothing less would satisfy him. No, not even the rank of Duke or Prince; so instead of minding his lessons, young Biffin drew kings on his slate and in his copybook, and was therefore compelled to ride the wooden horse after school hours.
It was a beautiful evening this, with a grand sunset glow flooding. Slate-em's Academy, and wrapping the Dunce round and round, as with an amber-colored mantle, orange tinted. The old master, nodding in his chair, was quite unconscious of the halo which played round and about his bald, venerable head, and made him appear for one brief moment like one of the Apostles: the good, patient old man was tired with the heat, and weary with the incessant chatter of the boys, and so he dozed in comfort, and saw not the wee, shapely creature, who entered at the window, and approached the boy as he stood upon the stool, and bent his knee before him. Although small, the stranger was very handsome, and decked from head to heel in bright, glittering armour, with a crimson plume adorning his helmet.

"May it please your gracious Majesty," he said, doffing his helmet, "my name is Popgun—Sir Guy Fawkes Popgun, Knight —one of your Majesty's subjects from the realm of Shadowland." The Dunce nearly fell from the stool in amazement at the strange words. He looked towards the still-sleeping master, and from him to the armour-clad knight at his feet, and replied in a low tone, "Hush! Don't speak so loud, I haven't learnt my lesson yet; if he wakens he'll, thrash me. Now, what do you want ?"

Troll Mukka and Dwarf Treblekin by Charles  Marson  (1891)
MUKKA is the youngest of the Hill Trolls—he is only a few hundred years old. He never kept a school, and roves about a good deal. He likes to hear the chink chink of the miner’s pick near his cave, and then to flood him out with dirty water, or to bury him in loose earth. He always goes afoot, not like Wirra; Wirra rides a big black horse, at full gallop on the moonless nights, and the winds shriek when he rides over them and hits them with his stirrup; but Mukka has got an air raft and can sail on a black cloud if he gets one thick enough. He might sail on a thick white one, but then the sun would touch him and he would burst in pieces. He can drink up all the water in the creeks and waterholes and wells, and when the sheep come to water they find only grey mud, and then Mukka laughs. He likes to drink the tanks dry while the station hands are asleep on hot nights.

The Two Fairies by Ernest Favenc (1900)
SHE was a melancholy little Australian fairy, and was sitting on the leaf of a water-lily bemoaning her loneliness. All her friends and relations had gone away, frightened by the noise of quartz-crushing  machines, dust from travelling sheep and cattle, and all the annoyances of civilisation. But the little fairy was very fond of this cool lagoon, with its fringe of water- lilies, and, as it was in a quiet part of the country, she stayed there after all her companions had left, and very miserable she felt.
She was a pretty little fairy, although quite black, and as she sat there rocking on the big leaf, she wondered what she could do to amuse herself. Looking wearily around, she was aware of a strange figure advancing towards her. It was about her own size, but quite white, with beautiful gauze wings and bright golden hair. Although the Australian fairy did not know it, it was an English fairy. The two fairies looked at each other for some time, then the English fairy skimmed across ‘the water and seated herself beside her black sister. “Do you belong to this country? she said.
The Australian fairy nodded and asked in her turn where the other came from.“A long, long way from here, from another country, was the answer. “I went to sleep in a flower, and a littlegirl picked the flower and pressed it between the leaves of a book. So there I was, a prisoner, for the book was never opened until they got out here. Then I escaped.”
“Do you want to go back?” asked the Australian. The English fairy sighed. “Because,” went on the other, “you might stop here with me —I’m all alone.” The English fairy looked around. “It’s a pretty place,” she said, “but what are we to do with ourselves?”“Oh, we’ll have lots of fun. We will go and stir thepossums up; they get so mad at being awakened in the day-time. Then we’ll catch locusts and make them fly about with us; and there’s a bear up that tree; we’ll throw sticks at him until he cries—he can cry just like a baby.”
The English fairy looked rather scornful. “In England fairies don’t play those tricks; the elves and sprites do sometimes.
Favenc, Ernest & Fotheringhame, Josephine & "Mab" & Fotheringhame, James (1900). Tales for young Australia. Empson & Son, Sydney

Rara Avis or The White Emu: An Australian Fairy Tale (1887)
Some years ago there lived in Queensland a man and his wife who had three little daughters but no son. The children's names were Kennedi, Feronia and Amaranth, and very good obedient children they were, and dearly loved by their father and mother.
They travelled in the day time and pitched their tents at night, where they slept soundly under the stars, lulled by the music of the waving boughs. In the early morning the children would be wakened with the singing of the magpies calling thorn to get up. They carried a little canoe in case there were any rivers to cross. Of course, nobody lived there then, at least no human beings, I should say, for at that time there were still a few fairies left in Australia. You must know that fairies are a very timid race, and they always disappear when the railway comes to a place, for they cannot stand the screeching whistle of the train. It makes their heads ache. So you have now to go a long way from the haunts of men to find fairies in Australia, and even there they are now very scarce, and will, I fear, soon be gone altogether. Claude and his family jogged along very happily all this time without any adventure to speak of.  They went many, many miles looking for nuggets, which Claude's father had told them existed in great abundance in a certain part of West Australia, hidden in a cave on the side of a big mountain, but as water is very scarce in West Australia, they did not use the canoe much, neither did they use the fishing lines they brought with them. But they was very happy, for there are lots of beautiful wild flowers and all children love them, so the pleasant days went on. One spring day when their camp was pitched decide the largest watercourse they had yet
come across, their father went out in the morning to see if he could catch a young parrot, which the children wanted for a pot. He was so tired and just about to retrace his stops homeward, when a large emu as white as snow, and with feet of gold suddenly appeared  in the glade before him, and walked leisurely towards him. Claude was very astonished at the sight of a White Emu, he had never seen before, and certainly not one with golden feet, but he was still more astonished when the emu addressed him, "You have sought long for me, but now, O, Claude, that you have at last found what you sought. I am a king in this my dominion, and my name is Rara Avis. I have much to say to you.”

Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends by Beatrice Wilcken (1890/91)
Wilcken created fairy queens and sprites of traditional fairy beauty. Her tales are filled with romance and the tensions and consequences created by human men and their love of female fairy creatures. Wilcken speaks of the folly of love and her fairies are cautioned that ‘Men are a false race. They rush in at a moment’s pleasure and break the hearts of those who trust them’. In ‘The Jenolan Caves, N.S.W’, Wilcken’s hero discovers a traditional fairy, a ‘beautiful girl…her hair a mass of golden curls; her eyes of the deepest blue’.  Falling in love, ‘passionate thoughts overtake him and though the fairy does not reciprocate, when he steals a kiss she is turned to stone.  The consequences are a warning and a lesson to all maidens in the colony to be guarded and wary of men and their lust.

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