Why the Platypus is such a special Creature
Traditional Aboriginal people from all parts of Australia regarded the platypus as very special. It was taboo, and therefore not hunted for food as most animals were. This Dreamtime legend explains why. It comes from the folklore of the Wiradjuri people, who lived in traditional times in the area known as Central New South Wales.
In the Dreamtime, the Creator made three different types of animal. First, he created Mammals. He told the Mammals they were to live on the land, and he gave them fur to keep them warm.
Next, he created Fish. He told the Fish they were to live in the water, and he gave them gills to help them breathe.
Then he created Birds. He told the Birds they were to live in the sky; he gave them wings to enable them to fly, and he gave the mother birds the ability to reproduce by laying eggs.
When the Creator had made these three different types of animal, he found there were a lot of bits and pieces Ieft over. So he joined these bits and pieces together, and created Platypus.
Platypus are like no other creature on Earth. They have fur, like a mammal. They can swim underwater, like a fish. And the mother platypus lays eggs, like a bird.
At first the Mammals, the Fish and the Birds all lived happily together. But after a while they began to quarrel and fight. For each group thought it was the best and most important.
The Mammals held a meeting. Big Bagaray, the Kangaroo, thumped the ground with his tail. “We Mammals are the greatest!” he shouted. “We are special. Only we have fur.”
"What about Platypus?" said his wife. "He has fur."
The Mammals thought about this. And they agreed to visit Platypus, and ask him if he would join them in their fight against the Fish and the Birds.
Platypus listened very carefully to all the Mammals had to say.
Then he replied, “Thank you for asking me to be one of your family. I’ll think about it.”
A few days later, the Fish held a meeting. Goodoo, the big Murray Cod, leapt out of the water and came down with an almighty splash. “We Fish are the greatest!” he shouted. “We are special. Only we can swim under water.”
"What about Platypus?" said his wife. "He spends most of his life under water."
The Fish thought about this. And they agreed to visit Platypus, and ask him if he would join them in their fight against the MammaIs and the Birds.
Platypus listened very carefully to all the Fish had to say. Then he replied, “Thank you for asking me to be one of your family. I’ll think about it.”
Next, the Birds held a meeting. Bungil, the Eagle, spread and flapped his wings. The sound was like a tree falling. “We Birds are the greatest!” he shouted. “We are special. Only we can fly and lay eggs.”
"What about Mrs. Platypus?" said his wife. "She lays eggs."
The Birds thought about this. And they agreed to visit Platypus and ask him if he would join them in their fight against the Mammals and the Fish.
Platypus listened very carefully to all the Birds had to say. Then he replied. “Thank you for asking me to be one of your family. l’Il think about it.”
Platypus thought and thought about what he should do. But no matter how hard he thought, he couldn’t decide which group to join. After a while the animals got tired of waiting for him to make up his mind. They gathered outside his home on the bank of the billabong. The Mammals shouted, “Join us. We are the best!” The Fish shouted, “Join us. We are special!” The Birds shouted, “Join us. We are the best and special!”
At last, in the cool of the evening, Platypus came out. And all the animals fell silent.
"I’ve made up my mind," Platypus said. "I am part of each of you, and part of all of you. And that’s how I want to stay. So thank you very much for asking me, but I’ve decided not to join any of you."
The animals didn’t like this.
So Platypus went on, “Please let me explain. When the Creator first made us, he made each of us different. So each of us, in our own way, is special. But special doesn’t mean better. None of us is better or worse than his neighbor. Only different. So we ought to respect each other’s differences, and live together without fighting.”
When the animals thought about this, they agreed that Platypus was very wise, and had made a good decision.
This story has been told to generations, and aboriginal people of all areas, century after century, have continued to respect the platypus.
In traditional times, whenever people saw a platypus scurrying around the creekbank or swimming in the river, they regarded it as an omen of good luck. Perhaps that is why most of us feel a special thrill when we see one nowadays.