Australia’s forgotten fairy tale: Alan Marshall’s Whispering in the Wind

Danielle Wood


While Alan Marshall’s (1902-1984) contemporary reputation as an author of ‘classic’ Australian children’s literature rests on a book he wrote for readers of all ages (the 1955 memoir I Can Jump Puddles), a peculiar silence surrounds the works that Marshall wrote specifically for children. His 1969 children’s novel Whispering in the Wind was largely ignored at the time of its publication, and has so far been overlooked by the contemporary Australian publishing houses that are currently involved in repackaging and re-presenting the ‘classics’ of Australian children’s literature to a 21st century audience.
Long out of print, Whispering in the Wind is a rollicking quest narrative that draws heavily on European fairy tale traditions while very deliberately and self-consciously situating itself in the Australian bush. The hero, a young man called Peter, gradually transforms himself from the de-facto son of an outback horse-breaking larrikin (Crooked Mick) into a prince worthy of rescuing a beautiful princess from the beast that guards her: not a dragon, in this instance, but a bunyip. This study considers the narrative strategies Marshall uses as he attempts to transplant the European fairy tale tradition into quintessentially Australian setting. Particularly, it observes the somewhat convenient compartmentalisation of an Aboriginal Australia that is adjunct to, though in important respects separate from, a mid-twentieth century version of Australia populated by the mythologised figures of white settler culture.

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680