The Rainbow Serpent

A Story from Oceania
In Australian folklore, the rainbow serpent represents a deity, responsible for giving life and creating nature. Read the story and play as part of Big Heart World's focus on global citizenship!

A very, very long time ago in the Dreamtime, when the Earth was still sleeping, everything was still and quiet. The Earth was flat and nothing grew. Nothing blew. Not a creature stirred.


One day, the beautiful snake awoke from her long sleep underground. She was the Rainbow Serpent. The Rainbow Serpent pushed her way up from deep underground to the Earth’s surface and went looking for her tribe. She traveled for a very long time, and, as she traveled, her enormous body left deep tracks. Her body formed deep valleys, tall mountains, and riverbeds. She searched and searched for her tribe, shaping the Earth as she moved.

 At last, she was tired from her travels and curled up to sleep. When she woke up, she returned to the place where she had first emerged from the Earth. The Rainbow Serpent called out to the frogs: “Come, frogs, come!” she called.

Slowly, slowly, the frogs emerged from underground.

The frogs moved slowly because they carried so much water in their bellies. The Rainbow Serpent tickled the frogs’ bellies, and when the frogs opened their mouths to laugh, out poured the water. The water filled the tracks that the Rainbow Snake had left behind, creating Earth’s rivers and lakes.

When the rivers and lakes were filled with water, plants began to grow. Trees, bushes, and grasses covered the Earth. Once the Earth was lush and green, all of the animals began to wake up from their sleep and emerge and follow the Rainbow Serpent. The animals lived in the rocks, plains, trees, and air and for a long time they were all very happy together.

The Rainbow Serpent made rules for the animals to follow, but some animals started to cause trouble for everyone. “Those who follow my rules,” said the Rainbow Serpent, “will be rewarded. I will give them human form. Those who do not obey will be punished and turned to stone.”

Even after her warnings, many animals continued not following the rules and became the Earth’s mountains and hills. The animals that closely followed the rules became human and were given the totem of the animals they once were: kangaroo, koala, emu, and many, many more. These became their tribes.

The tribes lived together happily on the land that the Rainbow Serpent had given them. They knew that they could stay on the land as long as they followed the Rainbow Serpent’s rules and always took care of the Earth. 

Adapted by Dana Stewart from multiple sources, including this and this.

Parent/Caregiver Tip: The Rainbow Serpent is a creation story that is told by the Aboriginal people of Australia. The various tribes across the continent use different names for the Rainbow Serpent, and each tribe tells the story a bit differently. By some estimates, the story dates back 65,000 years!


Tickle a Frog

Age Groups: Babies, Big Kids, Little Kids, Toddlers
Skills: Perception, Trust


  • None


  • Let's read the story of the Rainbow Serpent.
  • In the story, the Rainbow Serpent tickles the bellies of frogs to create rivers and lakes.
  • I can tickle your belly just like a frog. What words or sounds will you make when you laugh?


Tickle - to make laugh
Belly - stomach

Sculpt the Earth

Age Groups: Big Kids, Little Kids
Skills: Connection-Making, Curiosity, Fine Motor


  • Sand, Clay, or Playdough


  • Let’s read the story of “The Rainbow Serpent.”
  • The Rainbow Serpent sculpts and shapes the earth by moving her enormous body along the ground.
  • Let’s use wet sand, playdough, or clay to sculpt the Earth just like the Rainbow Serpent.
  • Let’s use our fingers, hands, and arms to carve out deep valleys and tall mountains. Let’s make rivers and lakes.
  • We can use toys or paper to represent trees, grass, and animals.


Sculpt - to shape by carving, casting, or other shaping techniques
Carve - to cut out of a hard material in order to produce an object, design, or inscription
Shape - to form