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Klassic Koalas: Ancient Aboriginal Tales in New Retellings
By Lee Barwood
Koala Jo PublishingCopyright © 2007 Koala Jo Publishing
All right reserved.
PrefaceWhen one contemplates retelling of stories that belong to an ancient people, there are many things to be considered. How much of the original structure does a writer keep? How does that writer find the voice to tell new versions of something far, far older than herself?
And above all, why does a writer tell a story not her own?
The books and websites cited in the bibliography have all helped me to find the structure of these tales ancient before the sailing of Cook or even of Columbus or Leif Ericsson. Some of these sources contain retellings, too, that brought the voices (and in some cases, prejudices) of their authors, along with some non-Australian elements, to stories that guided original Australians in their quest for wisdom and their desire to explain the wonders of the world around them. I chose to keep the bones of the stories, in some cases paring them of elements that did not seem to belong, and in others adding elements that would make the tales my own interpretation-as has been the tradition in oral storytelling since there have been stories and tellers to tell them.
The voice is my own, developed through years of telling other stories-many based on folklore and traditions of various nations, but all made of the whole cloth ofimagination.
And the desire to tell these stories comes from one thing: A love affair with the koala.
When I was perhaps a year old, I was given a stuffed koala sent from Australia during World War II by my father for one of my sisters. While stationed there, he had met the gentle koala; he brought back photographs of himself, in his Navy uniform, holding these living treasures. And he'd bought two of the toys to send to his young daughters in America, along with copies of a book telling of the adventures of Aborigine children.
Both my sisters' koalas eventually became mine, and in time my father bought me my own, also sent all the way from Australia-as well as my own copy of The Way of the Whirlwind, the story of Nungaree and Jungaree and their quest to rescue their baby brother from the great wind that had carried him off. Although at this writing I have not been to Australia, my earliest understanding of the magic of storytelling is colored by Australian stories; my earliest memories of the animal there to comfort me on the darkest of nights are all of the koala.
Now, however, the koala and many other wonderful Australian animals are in trouble from global warming, habitat destruction, and the incursions of predators not native to Australia. Their time may be coming to an end, as drought and fire and deforestation take their toll. So I offer these tales to try to remind us all that animals and birds have as much of a right to a safe and continued existence as we ourselves do-and in an attempt to preserve the wonder that I knew as a child when I first met that most magical of Australian animals, the koala. Each purchase of this book will make a contribution to the welfare of the animals in Australia-so this is my chance to give back in gratitude, in however small a way, for the joy, comfort, and magic that Australian animals, most particularly the koala, have given me since my earliest memories.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do this, and please be mindful of the needs of all the creatures of this earth. In 1854, in another wisdom tradition, Chief Seattle spoke from his heart when he reminded us that we are all part of the web of life, and we are all connected. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
Lee Barwood New Jersey Christmas Eve, 2006
Excerpted from Klassic Koalas: Ancient Aboriginal Tales in New Retellings by Lee Barwood Copyright © 2007 by Koala Jo Publishing. Excerpted by permission.
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