Man-eating teddy bears of the scrub: exploring the Australian drop bear urban legend

Livingston, Catherine, Goldfinch, Felise, and Morgan, Rhian (2017) Man-eating teddy bears of the scrub: exploring the Australian drop bear urban legend. Etropic: electronic journal of studies in the tropics, 16 (1). pp. 79-95.

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Abstract

Urban legends are contemporary forms of folklore that are often used to provide lessons in morality or explicate local beliefs, dangers, or customs. In Australia, one such tale describes fiendish, carnivorous, blood-sucking koala-like animals that launch themselves from trees at unsuspecting tourists in the Australian scrub. The drop bear (also known as Thylarctos plummetus or Thylarctos plummetus vampirus) is an urban legend common to tropical Australian scrub regions that serves as a cautionary tale intended to warn against the dangers associated with traversing the Australian bush. As such, the figure of the drop bear represents a uniquely Australian manifestation of the vampire motif. This article examines representations of the drop bear urban legend as provided in contemporary pseudo-scientific, satirical, and popular media sources by means of critical discourse analysis, in addition to exploring how archaeological evidence has been mobilised in support of drop bear narratives. Through a critical review of drop bear tales in accordance with established folklore typologies the paper posits a categorisation of drop bear narratives as urban legend, while also explicating the impacts of social media and the internet on the perpetuation and dissemination of the drop bear legend.

Item ID: 51331
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1448-2940
Keywords: drop bear; urban legend; Australian folklore; digital legend cycle; vampire
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2017 03:11
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4401 Anthropology > 440107 Social and cultural anthropology @ 80%
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430103 Archaeology of Australia (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) @ 15%
45 INDIGENOUS STUDIES > 4501 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, language and history > 450101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander archaeology @ 5%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 70%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9599 Other Cultural Understanding > 959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified @ 15%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 15%
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