Only that the famous Katoomba landmark is not really that sacred or considered as an object of ritual and adoration, save the Aboriginal respect for nature and for the divine spirits inhabiting the land and influencing the lives of the people, animals, and plants.
On stories and legends
Stories are as old as language and human imagination. They provide a sense of meaning, cultural identity, and moral compass to a people. To some extent, according to Benedict Anderson, a political scientist and historian, stories serve as a foundation for nation-building, with the nation as an “imagined community.”
Of course, whatever the interests of the community behind the invention of stories, those interests are no longer questioned. What remained is the narrative that gives the place identity and origin. The stories then, in the form of myths and legends, are passed on from one generation to the next.
The Three Sisters
This might be the case of the iconic Three Sisters, a strange sandstone formation in the Blue Mountains of Australia’s New South Wales. It was located on an escarpment north of Jamison Valley, near the highland town of Katoomba.
The three rock pillars that stand towering above the valley are named Meehni (922 m), Wimlah (918 m), and Gunnedoo (906 m). Land erosion formed these pillars through thousands of years of weathering. Wind, rain, and rivers caused the mountains to erode.
Due to the strange shapes and formations of the rock pillars, they are subjected to stories.Stories are passed through myths and legends. Indeed, each pillar has its own name. And the name of the landmark implies, obviously, people made up stories where it got its name.
The story of the three Katoomba sisters
One common legend, which is the most popular, is this: Meehni, Wimlah, and Gunnedoo are sisters living in Jamison Valley, they’re members of the Katoomba tribe.
The three women fell in love with the three men not from their own tribe, but from their neighbouring Nepean tribe. Their complex tribal laws would not allow intermarriage between the Katoomba and Nepean which led the latter to forcibly get the three sisters.
The action of the three men caused a major tribal battle. A Katoomba elder and medicine man sought to protect the sisters from the fierce fighting. He turned the women into stones and promised to turn them back after the battle. But the elder was killed, leaving the three sisters petrified until today.
A made-up story
The legend was held as indigenous until found out it was a made-up story. The story was created by a Katoomba local who was not an Aboriginal. The legend started to circulate only in the 1920s and 1930s. Mel Ward, the story’s fabricator, must have had in mind a story that would add interest and curiosity to the landmark.
But there sure are older indigenous stories about the Three Sisters, stories that inspired and aroused the imagination and curiosity of a people.
What makes the landmark iconic?
Today, the iconic Three Sisters is one of the most visited scenic attractions in the Blue Mountains.
What makes the landmark iconic is the strangeness of its beauty that’s mystifying, and charming. Visitors to the place easily recognise the sandstone formation.
Millions of tourists, both local and international visitors, come to see the iconic Three Sisters to have a unique Blue Mountains tours experience.