Do monsters suffer from cultural cringe?


I found out recently that once upon a time, here on the Gold Coast, there used to be a great big swamp from Merrimac to Burleigh (I’m talking 50 years ago here people) and that it was notorious for a mythical inhabitant – the Merrimac Bunyip. Now, I’m a big one for history and I think it’s kind of cool that right where I am sitting, right now, there once stomped (at least the idea of) a bunyip.

But, it’s also kind of sad, because I feel that bunyips don’t have quite the cultural cache of other ‘real’ monsters – Sasquatch and the Yeti, Nessie and the Ogopogo, or El Chupacabra of Puerto Rico – let alone the notoriety of monsters like vampires, werewolves and Cthulhu (and bunching those three together like that makes me realise what an opportunity was lost in the Twilight series by not having Bella’s love triangle adopt non-Euclidean geometrical proportions with the inclusion of one of H.P. Lovecraft’s Elder Gods.)

I know they started out as terrifying, swamp dwelling monsters but I’m afraid I think of bunyips as kind of warty and faintly comical. Is this just another example of Australian cultural cringe, where the monsters of other cultures are automatically seen as better than ours?

Any monster fans out there with a view on this?


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2 Responses to “Do monsters suffer from cultural cringe?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    There is a long history of Bunyips in Australian literature and theatre. In fact the National Library of Australia curated an exhibition back in 2001.
    Check out the Imagination section of the site. It is a bit of fun.

  2. Timothy Says:

    I think it’s because we have two different monsters called bunyips. It blunts the effect to have the walrus bunyip and the lizard bunyip.

    There are some really cool Australian monsters, but, a lot of authors don’t want to use them as monsters in fiction, because they are worried that they may offend people with traditional views.

    You can talk about werewolves all you like, and no Slavic taltos (shaman) is going to write to his member of parliament, but there’s a sensitivity around, say, using the ice men of Mount Connor to play the same role in a story.

    If you like Aussie monsters, try to find a copy of The Wrightson List. It’s a book of traditional Australian monsters and spirits, put together by Patricia “The nargun and the stars” Wrightson. It rocks.

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