The Whowie was a colossal crocodile-like monster with six legs. Its eyes were huge and wide and it had the head and wide mouth of a frog.
By dragging its tail, it could create riverbeds as it walked. That's why, in many ancient tales, the Whowie is credited with the creation of the River Murray, in the Riverina district of Australia.
Despite its large size, the Whowie was an ambush predator, often sneaking up on its prey in the dead of night, able to drag away and consume its victims in total silence. While very slow in his movement, he had no reason to be fast, as his silent ways make it almost impossible to detect.
The Whowie was always hungry, and its favorite prey was humans, children in particular. At night it would crawl into villages and silently swallow up thirty, sixty people, if not more, carrying anyone it didn't eat on the spot to its den. Often, watchmen were placed to guard against the monster. At first, the Whowie avoided them, but later, as it got bigger and bolder, it began to feed on them, too.
Insatiable as it was, Whowie’s s night hunts soon took a toll on the communities near the river, until one night the creature consumed an entire village, all but one little boy escaped and he went to warn his relatives, who were water-rat people.
The water-rat tribe was first to convene, as they had suffered most from the Whowie’s hunger. The chief solemnly announced that they had no choice but to flee to a safer land or face certain extermination. It was an elder man who stood up and implored his people to stay and think of some other way by which they may be rid of this menace.
Night guards were posted, and the aid of several other tribes was called for. The water-rats searched for the Whowie, and found footprints leading into a cave down the river. As the whowie’s cave was many miles long, they knew it would take more than a week for him to return to the outside, and so they had all the time they needed.
Soon help had arrived, men and women from all the tribes came to help, the kangaroo, platypus, eagle, magpie, cockatoo, lizard, snake, opossum and crow tribes, and many more besides. After holding a corroboree (i.e., Australian Aboriginal dance ceremony and sacred ritual), and spending an extra night in celebration, dancing, and storytelling, all of them busied themselves gathering sticks. The sticks were collected into bundles and piled up halfway at the entrance of the cave. Then, as the Whowie woke from his slumber and started to move, they set the wood on fire.
Smoke and flames filled the cave, and the Whowie roared and coughed angrily but his teeth and claws were nothing against smoke and fire. For six days, it struggled walking along the cave, to appear at the entrance on the seventh day. It was burned, blinded, and gasping for breath. That was when the tribes descended upon him with spears, axes, and nulla-nullas (also called waddys, there are superbly crafted hunting cubs), inflicting mortal wounds on the beast.
The monster could only drag himself back into the cave, to never be seen again.
Nowadays, the Whowie can still be heard sighing from deep inside the cave on the Murray River. He is dying, or perhaps his spirit has survived underground in some form. But either way he is harmless, and has become nothing more than a bogey with which parents frighten their children into good behavior.
Molnar, R. E. (2004) Dragons in the Dust. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
Reed, A. W. (1965) Myths and Legends of Australia. A. H. and A. W. Reed, Sydney.
Smith, W. R. (2003) Myths and Legends of the Australian Aborigines. Dover Publications, Mineola.
Unaipon, D., 2001. Legendary tales of the Australian aborigines. Miegunyah Press.
Campbell, A.H., 1967. Aboriginal traditions and the prehistory of Australia. Mankind, 6(10), pp.476-481.