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1001 Stories Collection

The Rainbow Serpent

1001 rainbowserpent Mathieu Cheze
Added on 06th October 2020

Oral tradition Dreamtime story from Australia

Australasia Animals


Far off in dreamtime there were no animals, no trees, hills or humans. The country was flat when Goorialla, the great Rainbow Serpent stirred and set out to look for his own tribe. As he moved he made great gouges in the land. He woke the animals and created humans. Water filled the gouges and grass began to grow and the people and animals flourished. One day it started to rain and the rain carried on for days and weeks until the land was flooded with water. During the storm two boys came to him and asked him for shelter. Goorialla opened his mouth, they ran in and he swallowed them. Not wanting to be caught he hid in the sky and when he saw how sad the people were at the disappearance of the boys, he turned himself into a great arc of beautiful colours. And so, after rain, you will see the rainbow, Goorialla’s spirit in the sky.

Why we chose it

A Dreamtime creation myth.

Where it came from

The Rainbow Serpent or snake is part of the philosophies of Aboriginal people in various parts of Australia, but is best known in Arnhem Land. The great Rainbow Serpent is an immortal and creating God in Aboriginal mythology and a popular image in Aboriginal Australian art. The connection between snake and rainbow suggests the cycle of seasons and the significance of water in human life. It is used to explain why some waterholes never dry.

Due to its connection with water, The Serpent is the giver of life but it can be a destructive force if enraged. It is a symbol of regeneration and reproduction for both nature and humans.

The Rainbow Serpent or Snake is portrayed as a long mythical creature made of different parts of animals such as a kangaroo’s head, crocodile’s tail with a huge snake body.

Associated stories

Other dreamtime stories in the 1001 collection are Rainbow Bird, Tiddalik, How the Kangaroo got her Pouch and Finding Australia.

Added on 06th October 2020

Oral tradition Dreamtime story from Australia

Australasia Animals