"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Moving on to Australian myths and folktales: Sun Mother Wakes the World

As you know, I am interested in learning about folktales and myths from all over the world, and for the purposes of this blog, especially illustrated ones for children. I am quite familiar with many English, French and German tales and have looked here at picture books about folktales from Russia, Africa and Japan. I would now like to look into the mythology and folk tales of Australia, particularly the Aboriginal stories of the Dreamtime. I am eagerly looking forward to reading up on them to assuage my ignorance.

Sun Mother Wakes the World: an Australian Creation Story adapted by Diane Wolkstein, Illus. by Bronwyn Bancroft, 2004.

From the information preceding this story, we learn that The Dreamtime is a continual process of  the creation of the world. Indigenous Australian people believe that each person's birthplace is sacred and their own Dreaming, and they go on walkabouts to look after their birthplaces and keep the earth alive.

Author Ramsay Smith attributed the original tale of the Sun Mother to a Karraru woman of the West Coast of South Australia. His collection, Myths and Legends of the Australian Aboriginals, was published in the early 1930s. Diane Wolkstein considered this, and also visited Australia three times to research the story of Sun Mother while she was creating this book.

In this story, the Sun Mother is awakened by a quiet voice, and then she wakes the sleeping earth, bringing to life vegetation and animals. After time passes, the animals begin to quarrel, so Sun Mother allows them to choose the shape that they desire. She then births her children Moon and Morning Star, so that the creatures will be comforted by their light. Together, they birth the first woman and man. Sun Mother instructs them to always return to their birthplace to look after it, and to walk the land as she does, to keep it alive.

 Indigenous Australian artist Bronwyn Bancroft provides bold visual accompaniment suitable to this tale. She uses vivid colors that provide strong contrast on each page such as yellow and orange that pop against deep blue and purple. Her abstract Sun Mother variously suggests a fetus, golden  Madonna in a stained glass window, snake woman, tree woman and pregnant bellied, radiant sun.The bright goddess contrasts the black silhouetted animals and people around and inside her. The borders that Bancroft uses on some pages teem with fish, snakes, lizards and butterflies. The lively art matches this story of the creation of all life.

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