Blinky Bill. Australia’s favourite lovable larrikin. You may know him from this cartoon …
… or from the 2015 movie …
… or perhaps you have no idea what I’m talking about because you’re not a 90’s kid from Australia who watched too many cartoons. Either way, you are probably not familiar with Blinky’s dark origin story from the 1930’s …
I was given this book (which is a collection of three stories) as a child, and now that I have a kid myself, I’ve been gifted it again (though I suppose, technically it’s for my child, not me). You would think that seeing that same cheeky koala on the cover would send waves of nostalgia through me – but mostly it just made me think of how disturbing I found the book when I was younger.
Don’t believe me that a story about a koala could be full of unimaginable horrors? Well read on and find out for yourself.
1. Blinky (Maybe) Kills the World’s Nicest Frog and Doesn’t Even Care
Let’s start with the part I found most troubling.
In the first story the little koala runs away from home to explore the bush, and stumbles upon a school for frogs. Apparently the school has a “No Bears” policy but the teacher, Mrs Spotty, decides its okay for Blinky to join in – because she’s either really nice or she just understands that koalas aren’t actually bears. She even invites Blinky to join in on a game of leapfrog.
And that’s where everything goes horribly wrong.
Yes, Blinky’s turn results in him squashing poor Mrs Spotty into something resembling a pancake. Thankfully the story points out that she’s not dead. Yet.
“‘Oh I’ve killed her!’ he cried in a frightened voice … She certainly did look flat; but her throat was puffing and one eye moved a little.”
Blinky then pushes her into the water, which you’d think might be the right thing to do (frogs do like water after all). Except that it clearly wasn’t.
“He gave her a push with his paw, and in she went, head first. ‘Now you’ve done it!’ called the frogs in cries of horror. ‘We’ll tell the policeman.'”
With the reader left to think that Mrs Spotty may have met her watery demise, Blinky hightails it out of there. Still, Blinky apparently doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong – because the frog he may have killed was kind of ugly anyway.
“‘I’m not sorry for Mrs Spotty, she had such googly eyes.'”
And if you’re anxious to know that Mrs Spotty was okay – bad luck. The reader has to wait 40 pages for the next story, which has one off-hand, slightly ambiguous comment in a discussion about a bush bazaar.
“Last year Mrs Thrush sang for us … and Mrs Spotty Frog’s pupils gave an exhibition of jumping.”
Not entirely reassuring but I guess it’ll have to do.
2. Mrs Snake and Granny Goanna Die in Agony Under Blinky’s Command
In the second story, Blinky colludes with an army of bull-ants to launch an ambush attack on an elderly goanna and her snake friend. Here’s an excerpt from this charming moment in children’s literature …
“‘For heaven’s sake save me, save me!’ moaned Granny Goanna, as she hissed until all her hisses had gone.”
And another …
“Oh! Oh! I’m dying!” groaned Mrs Snake, and she fell with a thud to the ground. In another second plopped down Granny Goanna, as dead as a door nail.”
The ants bite the pair to death and then feast on their flesh until only bones are left, and Blinky watches the whole thing with glee.
To be fair, the goanna and snake were planning to eat the children of Miss Possum, so they kind of deserved it. Still, it’s not exactly the light and fluffy, child-friendly material you’d usually associate with cuddly koalas.
3. So Much Corpse Desecration
One of the moments that sets the surprisingly macabre tone of the book, comes right at the beginning when Mrs Rabbit is talking about her dead husband …
“‘Poor Mr Rabbit was shot, and I found his skin nearby; but I managed to bite off the tail and bring it home.”
Yes, innocent Mrs Rabbit actually bites off a body part of her deceased lover to keep as a souvenir. To make it worse, the tail is then promptly eaten by a snake who thinks it’s a baby koala – because these stories are also full of attempted infanticide.
The carnage isn’t over though as, not long after, the body of another dearly departed bunny is tampered with. Again it’s as a decoy for a would-be predator but this time the whole corpse is stuffed full of prickles and propped up as if it were alive – making it look like something from a rabbit version of Hellraiser.
4. A Cute Joke Ends With Someone Buried Alive
Crickets playing a game of cricket. Adorable, right? Especially when it’s coupled with this illustration …
However, things take a dark turn when the crickets start savagely beating one of their own then burying him alive. Of course Blinky is not phased by this and simply leaves the crickets to their business.
“They pounced on him and gave him a terrible kicking; and as Blinky turned to walk away he saw them piling earth on top of the bowler.”
And what was the victim’s crime that made him deserve such a punishment?
He broke the cricket ball.
5. Blinky Traumatically Injures an Elderly Rabbit as a Prank
At one point, Blinky ends up at a party for rabbits. He has no business being there but, once again, he is allowed to hang around due to the kindness of the other bush animals. So how does he repay this kindness?
He yanks the tail of elderly, Madam Hare.
At first this doesn’t seem so bad. Madam Hare is depicted as a bit mean anyway, and Blinky does get rather severe comeuppance when he is found out (he is literally kicked out of the rabbit burrow). But there’s one passage that changes everything …
“She looked a sorry sight with her stumpy tail showing bone”
He ripped the flesh off her tail all the way down to the bone! Suddenly it’s clear that this wasn’t just a harmless prank – it was an attempt to inflict maximum pain and maybe even cause sickness …
“‘My poor tail has been pulled again, and you all know it’s moulting time. I’ll catch a dreadful cold is I lose any more fur.'”
And at this point one thing is as plain as day.
This is the face of pure evil.
If you’d like to traumatise your own children with Blinky’s adventures, the three stories are available for free online here, here and here. Or for more overanalysis of kids’ tales, check out my Happy Feet or Winnie the Pooh rants.
Nice to know that I wasn’t the only child who was disturbed by Blinky Bill’s exploits. The guy was a psycopath! 😛
It’s crazy huh? I suppose it was a different time and the war was (almost) on but still! And I even left out a bunch of stuff like the mouse being killed and the Dad being shot. I wonder if Dorothy Wall got complaints even back then though, as the 3rd story (Blinky Bill and Nutsy) seemed to tone things down. I didn’t end up using any examples from that one.
Also, did you know she wrote a follow-up where he joins the army?!
No, I didn’t know that at all! Yikes! It might be best if I never read it either. The other stuff was bad enough. 😛
I don’t think Blinky’s well known here in the States, so this is the first I’ve heard of him. But this is a good example of the changing values in our society and the culture shock of looking back at what was acceptable kiddie lit at the time. I wonder what the people of the late 21st century will think of what we consider to be normal and appropriate now…
True. Maybe in the future, putting your arms out wide will be seen as a lewd gesture. Then ‘Guess how much I love you’ will be like pornography!