How Koala got His Stumpy Tail: An Australian Myth

Once upon a time there were two friends, Koala and Tree Kangaroo. They were very good friends and both were very proud of their beautiful long tails. One day, the rains did not come as usual, and the waterholes and rivers all began to dry up, until eventually they were completely gone. Koala and Tree Kangaroo both began to get very thirsty, and Koala asked his friend what they should do. Tree Kangaroo told Koala he remembered long ago, when he was very young, another time when all the water was dried up. He also remembered that to get him water his mother had gone to the middle of a creek bed and dug a very deep hole until the water had begun to seep back through.

Koala said he thought this was a very good idea, but he was too tired. So, they agreed that Tree Kangaroo would start to dig while Koala slept, and once he was rested he would take over so Tree Kangaroo could take a break. When Koala woke up Tree Kangaroo had dug a big hole, and he was exhausted, but still he hadn’t reached the water. He called out to Koala and asked him to come and take over, but Koala refused, saying he was too hot and wanted to stay in the shade until the weather had cooled, and Tree Kangaroo must keep digging.

Tree Kangaroo dug all day until the hole was as deep as he was, and the sun had started to move lower in the sky. He called out to Koala and told him it was his turn to dig, but Koala told him that he was too parched from lack of water, and couldn’t possibly dig, so Tree Kangaroo must do it. Tree Kangaroo continued to dig, until finally the soil grew damp, and he whooped with joy as the water started to form a puddle. Koala woke from the noise, and Tree Kangaroo called to him to tell him that he had found water. Koala jumped down from his tree and ran over to the hole Tree Kangaroo had dug. He pushed Tree Kangaroo aside and began greedily drinking up all the water. Tree Kangaroo became angry, the water he had worked so hard to find was being drunk by the lazy Koala. Tree Kangaroo grabbed hold of Koala’s long tail and he pulled and pulled, trying to drag Koala from the hole before he finished up all the precious water. Tree Kangaroo pulled so hard that suddenly Koala’s tail came off, and sent Tree Kangaroo tumbling backwards. Koala yelped in pain, and ran back up to his tree. That is why Koala no longer has his long tail, and why he and Tree Kangaroo are no longer friends.

Note: This is an Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime Story that I was told in my youth and recounted from memory.

Image: WikiCommons

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