Rejecting Waltzing Matilda

Have to laugh at this tongue-in-cheek rejection letter for the iconic and much beloved Aussie ballad Waltzing Matilda by Banjo Patterson.

Here’s an excerpt:

Dear Ms Paterson,

Reference: your manuscript Waltzing Matilda
We regret that it has taken us two years to get back to you on this but we did want to give your manuscript every consideration. Twelve editors, the postman and the cleaner have now appraised it and we offer these comments:

You did well to get the hero on stage as quickly as possible, within the first four words in fact. This is commendable but we have reservations about your description of him as ‘jolly’. This is hardly a heroic image and having him camp (admittedly by a billabong) can have unfortunate connotations, given our readers’ preference for demonstrably heterosexual heroes.

The location, under the coolibah tree, is fine, provided you supply clear definitions of such terms for our overseas readership. While the hero’s name, Andrew, is acceptable, we find your repeated usage of the diminutive, Andy – as in Andy sang, Andy watched, Andy waited while his billy boiled – tends to demean him as a hero. We would advise usage of his full name in future drafts.

While you do not make his occupation clear, you describe him as singing beside the billabong. We should point out that musicians and performers in general are not popular hero figures with our readers.

Portraying him as an outdoors man is fine, but your use of the term ‘swagman’ is worrying as it connotes lower economic status. Suggest you make it clear that Andrew is the scion of a wealthy family. Perhaps, some indication of his true status should be foreshadowed, such as a gold-plated billy.

We do feel your heroine, Matilda, should make an appearance a good deal earlier than at present as readers are anxious to see the hero and heroine get together. As it is, there is a distinct lack of conflict between the two. In fact, Andrew gives little thought to Matilda until almost the end of the story when he invites her to a waltz.

This leads to an unfortunate lack of emotional depth which needs to be addressed. You could consider making the jumbuck the centre of a property dispute, for example, or have your characters enter into a marriage of convenience – always popular with readers – with the intent of providing a stable background for the jumbuck.

Read the full “letter” — and review the original lyrics — at Valerie Parv’s blog

Click here to listen the first recording of ‘Waltzing Matilda’, recorded by the Queensland-born tenor John Collinson in London in 1926 with pianist Russell Callow.
(The link takes you to the Australian Screen website; “Australia’s audiovisual heritage online”.)



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