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Mutant Message Down Under
by Marlo Morgan

Published: 2004-05-25
Paperback : 224 pages
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Mutant Message Down Under is the fictional account of an American woman's spiritual odyssey through outback Australia. An underground bestseller in its original self-published edition, Marlo Morgan's powerful tale of challenge and endurance has a message for us all.

Summoned by a remote ...

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Mutant Message Down Under is the fictional account of an American woman's spiritual odyssey through outback Australia. An underground bestseller in its original self-published edition, Marlo Morgan's powerful tale of challenge and endurance has a message for us all.

Summoned by a remote tribe of nomadic Aborigines to accompany them on walkabout, the woman makes a four-month-long journey and learns how they thrive in natural harmony with the plants and animals that exist in the rugged lands of Australia's bush. From the first day of her adventure, Morgan is challenged by the physical requirements of the journey—she faces daily tests of her endurance, challenges that ultimately contribute to her personal transformation.

By traveling with this extraordinary community, Morgan becomes a witness to their essential way of being in a world based on the ancient wisdom and philosophy of a culture that is more than 50,000 years old.

Editorial Review

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Honored Guest

It seems there should have been some warning, but I felt none. Events were already in motion. The group of predators sat, miles away, awaiting their prey. The luggage I had unpacked one hour before would tomorrow be tagged "unclaimed" and stay in storage, month after month. I was to become merely one more American to disappear in a foreign country.

It was a sweltering October morning. I stood looking down the drive of the Australian five-star hotel for an unknown courier. Contrary to receiving a warning, my heart was literally singing. I felt so good, so excited, so successful and prepared. Inwardly I sensed, "Today is my day."

A topless jeep pulled into the circular entrance. I remember hearing the tires hiss on the steaming pavement. A fine spray of water leaped over the bordering foliage of brilliant red bottlebrush to touch the rusty metal. The jeep stopped, and the driver, a thirty-year-old Aborigine, looked my way. "Come on," his black hand beckoned. He was looking for a blond American. I was expecting to be escorted to an Aboriginal tribal meeting. Under the censoring blue eyes and disapproving manner of the uniformed Aussie doorman, we mentally agreed to the match.

Even before I made the awkward struggle of high heels into the all-terrain vehicle, it was obvious I was overdressed. The young driver to my right wore shorts, a dingy white T-shirt, and sockless tennis shoes. I had assumed when they arranged transportation for the meeting, it would be a normal automobile, perhaps a Holden, the pride of Australia's car manufacturers. I never dreamed he would arrive in something wide open. Well, I would rather be overdressed than underdressed to attend a meeting--my award banquet.

I introduced myself. He merely nodded and acted as if he were already certain of who I was. The doorman frowned at us as we propelled past him. We drove through the streets of the coastal city, past rows of veranda-fronted homes, milk-bar snack shops, and grassless cement parks. I clutched the door handle as we circled a roundabout where six directions merged. When we exited, our new heading put the sun at my back. Already the newly acquired, peach-colored business suit and matching silk blouse were becoming uncomfortably warm. I guessed the building was across town, but I was wrong. We entered the main highway running parallel to the sea. This meeting was apparently out of town, further from the hotel than I anticipated. I removed my jacket, thinking how foolish it was not to have asked more questions. At leastI had a brush in my purse, and my shoulder-length bleached hair was pinned up in a fashionable braid.

My curiosity had not subsided from the moment I received the initial phone call, although when it came I couldn't say I was truly surprised. After all, I had received other civic recognitions, and this project had been a major success. Working with urban-dwelling, half-caste Aboriginal adults who had openly displayed suicidal attitudes, and accomplishing for them a sense of purpose and financial success, was bound to be noticed sooner or later. I was surprised; the tribe issuing the summons lived two thousand miles away, on the opposite coast of the continent, but I knew very little about any of the Aboriginal nations except the idle comments I heard occasionally. I didn't know if they were a close-knit race or if, like Native Americans, vast differences, including different languages, were common.

What I really wondered about was what I would receive: another wooden engraved plaque, to be sent back for storage in Kansas City, or perhaps simply a bouquet of flowers? No, not flowers, not in one-hundred-degree weather. That would be too cumbersome to take on the return flight. The driver had arrived promptly, as agreed, at twelve o'clock noon. So I knew, of course, I was in for a luncheon meeting. I wondered what in the world a native council would serve for our meal? I hoped it would not be a catered traditional Australian affair. Perhaps they would have a potluck buffet, and I could sample Aboriginal dishes for the first time. I was hoping to see a table laden with colorful casseroles.

This was going to be a wonderfully unique experience, and I was looking forward to a memorable day. The purse I carried, purchased for today, held a 35-mm camera and a small tape recorder. They hadn't said anything about microphones or spotlights or my giving a speech, but I was prepared anyway. One of my greatest assets was thinking ahead. After all, I was now fifty years old, had suffered enough embarrassment and disappointments in my life to have adopted plans for alternative courses. My friends remarked how self-sufficient I was. "Always has Plan B up her sleeve," I could hear them saying.

A highway road train (the Australian term for a truck pulling numerous full-sized trailers in convoy style) passed us heading in the opposite direction. They came bolting out of fuzzy heat waves, straight down the center of the pavement. I was shaken back from my memories when the driver jerked the steering wheel and we left the highway, heading down a rugged dirt road, followed for miles by a fog of red dust. Somewhere, the two well-worn ruts disappeared, and I became aware there was no longer a road in front of us. We were zigzagging around bushes and jumping over the serrated, sandy desert. I tried to make conversation several times, but the noise of the open vehicle, the brush from the underside of the chassis, and the movement of my body up and down, made it impossible. It was necessary to hold my jaws tightly together to keep from biting my tongue. Obviously the driver had no interest in opening the portals of speech.

My head bounced as if my body were a child's cloth doll. I was getting hotter and hotter. My pantyhose felt like they were melted on my feet, but I was afraid to remove a shoe for fear it would bounce out into the expanse of copper-colored flatness surrounding us as far as the eye could see. I had no faith the mute driver would stop. Every time my sunglasses became filmed over I wiped them off with the hem of my slip. The movement of my arms let open the floodgate to a river of perspiration. I could feel my makeup dissolve and pictured the rosy tinge once painted on my cheeks now streaking as red trails down my neck. They would have to allow me twenty minutes to get myself back in order before the presentation. I would insist on it!

I studied my watch; two hours had passed since entering the desert. I was hotter and more uncomfortable than I could remember feeling in years. The driver remained silent except for an occasional hum. It suddenly dawned on me: He had not introduced himself. Maybe I wasn't in the correct vehicle! But that was silly. I couldn't get out, and he certainly seemed confident about me as a passenger.

Four hours later, we pulled up to a corrugated tin structure. A small, smoldering fire burned outside, and two Aboriginal women stood up as we approached. They were both middle-aged, short, scantily clad, wearing warm smiles of welcome. One wore a headband that made her thick, curly black hair escape at strange angles. They both appeared slim and athletic, with round, full faces holding bright brown eyes. As I descended from the jeep, my chauffeur said, "By the way, I am the only one who speaks English. I will be your interpreter, your friend."

"Great!" I thought to myself. "I've spent seven hundred dollars on airfare, hotel room, and new clothes for this introduction to native Australians, and now I find out they can't even speak English, let alone recognize current fashions."

Well, I was here, so I might as well try to blend in, although in my heart I knew I could not.

The women spoke in blunt foreign sounds that did not seem like sentences, only single words. My interpreter turned to me and explained that permission to attend the meeting required I first be cleansed. I did not understand what he meant. It was true I was covered with several layers of dust and hot from the ride, but that did not seem to be his meaning. He handed me a piece of cloth, which I opened to discover had the appearance of a wraparound rag. I was told I needed to remove my clothing and put it on. "What?" I asked, unbelieving. "Are you serious?" He sternly repeated the instructions. I looked around for a place to change; there was none. What could I do? I had come too far and endured too much discomfort at this point to decline. The young man walked away. "Oh, what the heck. It will be cooler than these clothes," I thought. So, as discreetly as possible, I removed my soiled new clothing, folded it neatly into a pile, and donned the native attire. I stacked my things on the nearby boulder, which only moments before had served as a stool for the waiting women. I felt silly in the colorless rag and regretted investing in the new "making a good impression" clothing. The young man reappeared. He, too, had changed clothing. He stood before me almost naked, having only a cloth wrapped around in swimming trunk fashion and barefoot, as were the women at the fire. He issued further instructions to remove everything: shoes, hose, undergarments, and all my jewelry, even the bobby pins holding my hair. My curiosity was slowly fading, and apprehension was taking over, but I did as told. The foregoing is excerpted from Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan. All rights reserved. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

From the Publisher:

1. Mutant Message Down Under opens with an ominous prediction: "I was to become merely one more American to disappear in a foreign country." What were your expectations as you began reading this book? When the narrator leaves her hotel and goes off in a Jeep into the Outback, what did you imagine would happen to her? Were you surprised by her willingness to relinquish her clothes and all of her material possessions?

2. Who is Ooota? How does he mediate between the narrator and the Aborigines? When he tells her that they are going on walkabout, how does the narrator respond? What explanations does Ooota give for why she must follow?

3. What did you think of the palm reader's revelation that the narrator was destined to come to Australia to meet someone who was born at the same instant as she was? "The pact was made on the highest level of your eternal self." How is this fortune borne out in the narrator's experience? Who is the person she was destined to meet, and how is this same destiny foretold by the Aborigines she accompanies on walkabout?

4. What aspects of discrimination against Aborigines does the narrator witness prior to her adventure? How does the narrator strive to improve employment opportunities for young, urban Aborigines? To what extent do her good works gain her recognition in the Aborigine community at large?

5. Why do the narrator's Aborigine companions call her Mutant? How do the members of the Real People tribe treat her at the beginning of their journey? Were you surprised by the living and traveling conditions the narrator describes? How would you characterize the relationship the Aborigines have with nature?

6. How do the Real People communicate with one another when they are separated by long distances? Were you impressed by the sophisticated techniques they have learned over time for healing? How was their collective healing knowledge put into practice in the case of the injuries sustained by Great Stone Hunter?

7. The narrator writes of the Real People: "They believe how you feel emotionally about things is what really registers. It is recorded in every cell of the body, in the core of your personality, in your mind, and in your eternal self." Did you find this vision of human experience resonated for you? What other aspects of the Real People's spirituality appealed to you?

8. The narrator writes of the Aborigines: "It is truly amazing that after 50,000 years they have destroyed no forests, polluted no water, endangered no species, caused no contamination, and all the while they have received abundant food and shelter." What are some examples of the way in which they respect their world? Were you surprised by their knowledge of life outside of the Outback?

9. When the narrator is escorted into the sacred underground area, what does she experience? How does her exposure to the history of the Real People reveal her own role in their development as a people? Why do the Real People conclude that they must leave the Earth in order to save it? What is the narrator's responsibility for securing their legacy?

10. How does the narrator change over the course of Mutant Message from Down Under? Which of her attitudes change? What kinds of experience is she willing to embrace? Would you describe her transformation as total?

Suggested by Members

Why do the Real People think their culture is superior to others?
Why haven't they been assimilated into Australian society?
What aspects of their philosophy can we apply to our lives?
by patchilds (see profile) 08/30/09

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

The life and beliefs of an Aboriginal tribe
by patchilds (see profile) 08/30/09
An American woman is invited to walk with an Aboriginal tribe in Australia for four months, learning how they have survived in the Outback for thousands of years.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Tracy H. (see profile) 04/19/24

by Maryann J. (see profile) 05/31/17

  "Mutant Message Down Under"by Patricia C. (see profile) 08/30/09

I thought the book was great. It gives you a lot to think about and appreciate another culture. Even if you believe it is purely fiction, there are many ideas worth discussing.

  "A Book to Ponder On"by Barb F. (see profile) 06/07/09

When reading the book, you get the distinct impression that the writer experienced in real life what she portrays as the fictional character. And maybe because no one would believe her, she fictionalized... (read more)

  "Interesting Story"by Bee H. (see profile) 11/23/08

If you can get past the horrid writing, the story is fascinating to discuss.

  "The story of one woman's walk with the Aborigines and the lessons we can all learn from it."by Elizabeth N. (see profile) 02/07/08

An amazing, inspiring story full off life lessons.

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