Finding Jiwarli stories

This blog contains a growing number of stories in the Jiwarli language told by Jack Butler with English translations by Peter Austin and Jack Butler.

The stories are now categorised into types, so if you’re interested in a particular sort of story then you can find them by clicking on the links under Categories on the right-hand side of this page (scroll down to see the list).

The main types are:

  • Stories about animals, that tell about gurrbirli Plains Kangaroo, madhanma Hill Kangaroo, wiyanu Rock Wallaby, jiribarri Echidna, birrbilyanggura Rock Python, and migalyaji Bat
  • Stories about birds, that tell about gajalbu Emu, jindijindi Willy Wagtail, gabagurda Spotted Nightjar, dharrarrayilba Western Bowerbird, ngalyardangura Mountain Butcherbird, jilinbirrira Mudlark, bilyarndi Galah, ngarnawarra Little Corella and bardurra Turkey
  • Reminiscence stories, that tell about events in Jack Butler’s life
  • Traditional stories, that describe what happened ngurra bularalaburra ‘the time when the earth was soft’

Please feel free to leave a comment if there is any particular story that you enjoyed reading.

Stories in Jiwarli 15

Today’s post presents a personal reminiscence story in Jiwarli with English translation, told to me by Jack Butler on 3rd November 1983 and explained on 16th May 1984. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.


This story is about jiribarri Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), a spiny ant-eating monotreme. When disturbed, Echidna curls up into a ball, using its spines to protect itself. Echidnas were traditionally hunted for food, and Jack explains that if they found an Echidna the old people would talk to it, and tell it to uncurl so that they could give it chest cicatrices. These are scars cut across the chest of initiated men as a sign of knowledge. Notice that there is a story similar to this Jiwarli one called Text 18 “Anteater’s Law” on pages 53-56 of Carl Georg von Brandenstein. 1970. Narratives from the North-West of Western Australia in the Ngarluma and Jindjiparndi Languages. (Australian Aboriginal Studies, 35) Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.


Echidna curled up

Nhuguramardudhu ngurrunyjarri julyumardu ngunha nhanyaardu jiribarrinha buniyanha. Jiribarri ngunha jagubarlarrirarru. Ngurndirarri jagubarlarru barnajibi ngunha warrirru nhanyabuga. Ngurrunyjarrilu yarnararnilaardu ngurndabuga ngunha jagubarla. Wanggirarringu. Yarnararrima nhurra. Ngadha nhurranha murrurrba manara. Ngadha nhurranha murrurrba manara. Gunyarnurru ngunha gumbanhu. Jiribarri ngunha gurlganyundhurru yarnararrira. Yarnararrira barnarru dhanggalbuga wurunggu wirndubinyangurru birrurru yanararri dhigaru.


The knowledgeable grey-haired old men used to see Echidna going along. Echidna would curl up now. He would lie curled up and you can’t see his head. The old men used to turn him over onto his back so he would lie there curled up. They would say: “Lie on your back. I’ll get you cicatrices. I’ll get you cicatrices”. They would tell him lies now. Echidna would open up and lie on his back pleased. He would lie on his back and then they would hit him on the head with a stick, and kill him to go and eat the meat.


Stories in Jiwarli 14

Today’s post presents a personal reminiscence story in Jiwarli with English translation, told and explained to me by Jack Butler on 18th May 1985. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.

The Bowerbird

This story is about dharrarrayilba Western Bowerbird (Chlamydera guttata). The male builds an elaborate bower out of sticks in order to attract females. The bower is decorated with white and green objects, including fruit, berries, pebbles, shells and bones. Post-contact objects like buttons or pieces of glass may also be collected. The male advertises his bower with a range of calls, imitating other birds and animals, as well as various other sounds, and performs dances for females who come to inspect the bower.

The story begins with some brief remarks about traditions associated with the Bowerbird, who is said to have been hit on the head. Jack says that the Bowerbird builds a bingu ‘hide for game’ and shows his children how to stalk game from it. He then goes on to reminisce about a time when he saw a Bowerbird. He was hunting and killing dingoes with a white man when they heard a sound like pups whimpering; on investigation it turned out to be a Bowerbird exercising its extraordinary imitative powers.

Western Bowerbird looking out from his bower

Dharrarrayilbanha nhaalu ngulha barna budhirninyja. Ngadha ngarlarrinyja ngurnuba biyalgu. Barnadhu ngunha guwardi gumbinha malhumanda. Guwardidhu ngunha gumbinha warrirru warndija wamburradhu barnanggadhu. Ngunhaba barlgarrarru yirraradhu barna. Nhanyaardu ngunha. Barlunyjarriyi ngunha gumbirarri manangu yirranguwu yajinanyjarriyi. Yajinawu gumbirarri manangu ngunhirruba wandharrgarringu barnumbaladhu bingungga. Ngunha bingu wandharninyja. Bingu wandharninyja wirlga ngurndira. Yanararri ngunha ngunhibadhu. Ngadha nhanyanyja bingu wangginiyala madhangu gurrbirliyi wardawardirarringurru. Binyararringu gurrjardajaga bingunggangurulu. Yanararringu ngunhaba nyumburru ngurlubanhanyanggu bingungga wardawardinggu ngunhiba bingungga wirlgangga gurrbirliyi binyararringu madhangu. Barrundhu ngurnuba gumbirarringu gurlgayirnu gumbiniya birdibinyangu yirranguwu wurndalgarringu birruwu. Jumardidhu ganyararringu barnumbala ngunhiba nhugurarniru nhugurarniru ngunhiba. Nyumburru ngunhi yanararri. Garndindi yanararri ngarramarri. Nyumbudhu yananyjarru barlunyjarriyirru wandamalgarringurru nhugurarnirnu jumardiyi barnumbawu. Ngunhirru ngurndira ngunha mardamarda yajinanyjarridhu gayanugujila juwirijagarru barlunyjarridhu wanda manararringu. Ngunha wilybu ngunha yanyjadhu barlgurninyja ngurndabuga gayanuguji. Ngunha gumbirarri wandamarnu wandamarnu. Barlu wandamalgarri ngunhaba ngurndira. Gayanurru gayanurru ngurndira. Ngurnubarndibadhu yanararri ngulagayi. Ngunhaba barrundhu barlirrirarringurni bundhurrbarnilgarringurru. Bundhurrba ngurndira gayanura barlunyjarri. Yanararri ngunhaba wandhala ngulha. Ngadha gumbaja ngurndanhu malungga windmill ngurndanhu malungga dinnerwu dhigarninyjalu. Ngurndanhu gumbaja ngadha gurlgayilgarringu you gnow wandhagala yinha waya madhanma or gurrbirlidharrbayi wayangga. Waya ngunha galarrirarri [liiin]. Ngadha warndija nhanyanggu. Warri gajalbu. Bambandhi gumbayi gurningu. Nhaanha yinha wayangga gumbinha dharrbanhu. Ngurndirarri barrundhurru. Barrundhurru ngunhaba waya [liiin] galababaju waya wandhagala ngunha waya gurrbirli dharrbiniya wayangga. Ngurndirarri. Ngurndirarri barrundhurru. Barru ngadha gurlganyurringu gumbaja nhanyangu yirraragurrira yarnara ngurndanhu. Nhanyanyja bayalba yinha dharrarrayilbagumbiniya wangganhu. Yanyjadhu. Ngaliju walybala dhudhuwu gurningu nhambarawu. Yananyja jinamarnu jinamarnu barlungga gurlarnu yirrabirdila warrgalarringurru gurlarnu. Ngunha walybala ngadhala wanggaja. Have a sbell made. All righd. Ngadha gumbaja all righd. Dharrarrayilba ngunha yirrarabarndi yananyjarni ngunhirruba wurungga gumbayi. Ngalijuru warri nhanyanyja ngunha dharrarrayilbanha. Gurlgayilgarringu jumardi ngunha nhambara ngadhidharriya galarringu [nnnn] dhurndarnu barluwu. Yinha walybala ngadhala wanggaja. Whad’s dhad? yinha jumardi nhambara gumbinha yirrara ngunha. Yinhaba ngalijuru gurlgayirninyja ngadhidharriyawu jumardiyi nhambarawu dharrarrayilba gumbiniya ngararajarnu nhambarawu jumardiyi. Ngadha wanggaja ngunhilaba walybalala. Yinha ngalila dharrarrayilba wangginha. Ngunha yirrarabarndi yananyjarni. Ngaliju gurlarninyja ngaanygurrirarringu yirrara. Bayalbandhurru gurlgayilgarringu nhambarawu ngadhidharriyawu jumardiyi. Yanararri ngaliju nhanyanggu. Bayalbandhu mulgurlarninyja jumardinha nhambaranha. Walybaladhu ngunha dharrbanyjarru walhungga jumangga. Wiinggarnurru gumbirarri jumardiyi nhambarawu barna gujirnurru.


Something hit Bowerbird on the head. I forget that story. His head has a hole in now. Now he lives with no feathers growing on his head. His head is bare on top. He used to look about. He got stones, stone knives, berries. He got sweet food to put there in his hide. He put down a hide, he put down a hide and lay in the gap. He goes there. I saw a hide; the old people had talked about how he looked over it for hill kangaroos and plains kangaroos. He was going to spear them with a spear from the hide. So he goes in and hides, to look at them in the hide, to look over the gap in the hide to spear plains kangaroos and hill kangaroos. Sometimes you will hear him making a sound like cracking stones to cut meat. He will carry his children there to his place to teach them, to teach them there. They go along there hiding away. They go in a line, one behind another. Bowerbird would go along hidden to separate stones according to their size and colour, teaching his children. Red berries will lie on one side, separated from the stones with a mark. He piles up another lot of leaves on one side to lie down on. He separates them, and separates them. He separates the stones and will lie down. They lie down one by one. After that he goes somewhere else to collect more things. Then he comes back and makes a heap. A heap of stones will lie there on one side. He goes somewhere or other again. One time, I was lying in the shade of a windmill after having eaten dinner. I was lying there and heard a sound like, you know, how fence wire goes when a hill kangaroo or plains kangaroo goes through it. The wire went like this [liiin]. I got up to look. It wasn’t an emu. I couldn’t find anything. “What is going through the wire?” I thought to myself. I lay down again. And then again the wire went [liiin] like that, how a wire goes when a kangaroo goes through the wire. I lay down, I lay down again. So I lay there thinking, looking up while lying on my back. Then I saw this Bowerbird singing. “Here’s another one”, I thought. A white man and I were looking for dingoes. We went looking for tracks, climbing up the ledge on the hill, crawling, and climbing. The white man said to me: “Have a spell mate.” “All right” I replied. I sat down alright. A Bowerbird came from above to sit there in the tree near us, but we didn’t see the Bowerbird. Next we heard baby dingoes crying going like this [nnn], scratching the rocks. The white man said to me: “There are baby dingoes up above us there”. Then we heard this sound of baby dingoes crying, but it was a Bowerbird imitating baby dingoes. I said to the white man: “This is a Bowerbird talking to us”. It came from above. So we climbed up and rested at the top. Then we heard baby dingoes crying, and we went to look. Next we came across a baby dingo walking along near a cave. The white man went into the small cave. He pulled the baby dingoes out and bashed their heads.

Stories in Jiwarli 13

Today’s post presents a personal reminiscence story in Jiwarli with English translation, told and explained to me by Jack Butler on 18th May 1985. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.

Halley’s comet

This story dates from the 19th or 20th April 1910 when Jack was living at Glen Florrie Station (see map below) and at nine years old had already begun riding horses and doing yard work on the station. One night, he saw what he describes as a star with a long tail cross the sky. It was so bright that kangaroos could be seen crawling on the hills near the station. According to Jack, the white stockmen said the light was so intense that they could count the sheep in a mob they were looking after. What Jack describes is the passage of Halley’s comet 75 years previously. As Elizabeth Howell reported on in September 2017, “[t]he comet’s pass in 1910 was particularly spectacular, as the comet flew by about 13.9 million miles (22.4 million kilometers) from Earth, which is about one-fifteenth the distance between Earth and the sun”.

Photograph of Halley’s comet 21st April 1910, from Harvard University’s Southern Hemisphere Station in Peru (, accessed 2020-07-26)

Ngunhaburra gumbaja ngurnubarndibadhu. Ngurnubarndidhu ngadha gumbaja. Yananyjarni barlirringu mimburndadhu mayangga. Maajaru ngunhiba. Barrundhu nhanyanyja gundhardijaga bardara ngula. Ngunha bardaradhu wardandu gundhardidhu nyirnda jirndinggarru ngurndiniya. Gumbaja jurunggagundirru nhanyangu madhangu warrgalarriyawu barlungga yirrara. Jirrilmarringurru gumbaja ngurrunyjarri. Nhaanha ngunha ngandhurrarla. Guwardi maarru warndija. Nganggarnu. Gumbaja ngunhiba jurunggagundirru gardajula nhanyangu gurrbirliyi madhangu barlungga warrgalarriyawu babarla. Gumbaja ngurnubarndibadhu ngurrunyjarri julyunyjarri gurlganyurringu. Nhaanha ngunhabadhu. Nhaanha ngunhaba ngandhurrarla. Guwardi maarru murlgurrinyja. Bayalbarru ngunhaba. Gayanura ngunhaba gardajula. Yanyjala gardajula gurninyjarru ngurrunyjarri. Aa wandhawurru ngunhabadhu yananyja gundhardijaga bardara.


I was there after that. After that I was there. I came back to the house at Glenn Florrie. The boss was there. Then I saw a star with a tail there. The tail of the star was here in the sky in the east. You could see the hill kangaroos crawling on top of the hill as if it were daytime. The old men were afraid. They said: “What is that for us? This is the first time it appeared”. They didn’t know. You could see in the night as if it were day the kangaroos crawling on the hill towards the water. After that the old grey-haired men thought: “What is that? What is that to us? This is the first time it turned up”. That was it. That was on just one night. On another night the old men looked for it. “Oh where has that star with a tail gone?” they asked.

Stories in Jiwarli 12

Today’s post presents a personal reminiscence story in Jiwarli with English translation, told and explained to me by Jack Butler on 18th May 1985. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.

The Earthquake

This story comes from when Jack and his younger brother Joe were children travelling with their mother and step-father along the Henry River in Jiwarli traditional territory. It describes an occasion when there was a loud noise, trees and the earth shook, and water, together with the fish in it, was thrown out of the waterholes in the river. At the time, no-one knew what had happened, and Jack found out later that it had been an earthquake.

According to information from the Seismology Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia, a major earthquake (of approximate magnitude 7.5-8 on the Richter scale) took place at 07:18 GMT on 19 November 1906. The earthquake was centred at 22° S and 109° E, which is off the North-West Cape of Western Australia. Jack’s story takes place at marndaangu, Mundong Well (see map), which is located at approximately 23° S and 115° E. Jack described the earthquake as coming from the north and heading east — this fits well with advancing shock waves from a point off North-West Cape. A date of 1906 also matches Jack’s description, as he and his brother are being carried by their parents, though Jack is described as a ‘little bigger’, suggesting that he was able to walk. In 1906, Jack would have been five and his brother Joe was three. A date in late spring or early summer is also suggested by the fact that the family were travelling, there was water in the waterholes, and there were jalgunungu (bardy grubs, Trictena atripalpis) in the river gum trees. It seems highly likely then that this story is an eye-witness account of the 1906 earthquake, recalled almost eighty years later.

Apart from its historical interest as a first-hand account of an early Aboriginal experience of an earthquake, the story is also interesting for what it tells us about the daily life of the people at that time. The country of the Jiwarli was occupied by white settlers starting in the 1860s; Glen Florrie Station (mimburn), where Jack spent much of his early life, was established in the 1880s. Aboriginal people were conscripted into the pastoral industry as labourers, but they seem to have maintained much of their traditional lifestyle outside the demands of the white economy. Apart from the presence of a buri, an introduced European metal axe, the story describes a purely traditional journey. Other descriptions of his childhood from Jack support this. It was not until the 1920s, when Aboriginal people were rounded up and forced into the pearling industry, that the traditional cultural and social system was irreparably disrupted. Jack was unable to be initiated because ‘the whites had buggered it’, although he did repay the debt in the traditional manner to the man who would have initiated him if the ceremonies had not ended.

Bibijungarla babujungarla mimburnbarndi yananyja gardawurru gawarilari ngurndayi yarrgiyala jirlirra baba ngurndiniya jirlirra. Jumagudharra ngalijunha jimbinggalgurniya. Ngadhadhu barngamurdurru. Ngurndayi ngurnubarndibadhu mirninggadhumirdulyula yardingga. Mundurru yanararri warlbari yardinggamanda garlgaranydha ngunhi marndaanguwagarala yardingga. Nhanyanyja ngalijuru jumagudharralu gurrurdula yinha nyirlbu biji gurrurdula. Babujudhu ngadhala wanggaja. Ngadha gurlalga. Ngunha bayalbandhurru gurlarninyja ngunhiba wurungga burijaga jinyjiyi wandharnu jalgununguwungurnu nyirlbuwu. Jalgunungu ngunha yinidhu nyirlbu. Gumbirarri jalgujaga manangu wiinggarnu. Barrundhu babuju wanggaja yirraradhu. Gurlgayinha nhaanha ngulha bunarni yaburru. Nhugurru bunarni nhaanha. Nhaanha ngulhadhu. Nhuguwirlarrinyja ngunha. Barrundhu ngunha wuru wardawardarrinyjarru. Babuju ngunha julyu gurrgabarninyja yalhanggarru ngaliju jumagudharra ngadhiiniyarru yugarringu wardawardarriyarru wardawardalgurniyalarru. Gurlgayilgarringu barlunyjarrirru wiliwilirriyayirraranguru barlunguru. Gumbirarri ngurnuba gurlgayirnu buniya ngula wardandarirru ngunhaba. Nhaanha ngulha. Nganggarnuburra ngurrunyjarri. Baba ngunha ngurndiniya juma. Ngunhaba yananyja ngula wardandarirru. Nhanyararri babangga. Babadhu ngunha ngularru jugurninyja. Wardawardarrinyja ngunha yalhadhu. Nhanyararri bunyjinyjarrinha. Ngunhirru ngurndinha yaribirlila barlgarralarru.


My mother and father went directly west from mimburn Glen Florrie Station to camp at Yarrgiya claypan where there was water. They were carrying us two children on their backs. I was a little bigger then. After that we stayed at Mirni on the Henry River. In the morning we went south along the river to the fork there at Marndaangu. We two children saw lots of bardy grubs in the gum trees. My father said to me: “I’ll climb up”. Then he climbed up there in the tree, cutting steps with an axe, to collect the jalgunungu grubs. Jalkunungu is the name of that grub. He was getting them with a hook and pulling them out. Then my father called out from above: “I can hear something coming in the north. Something is getting close”. We didn’t know what it was. It got close, and then the tree shook. My poor old father jumped down to the ground as we two children stood crying, and the ground was shaking and we were being shaken. We heard rocks rolling down from the hill up above. We sat listening to it going towards the east. We didn’t know what it was. The old people didn’t know then. A little water was lying there in the river. That thing went east now. We looked in the waterhole, and the water had been thrown out there. The ground had been shaken. We saw the bunyji fish that were lying out on the river sand in the open.


Stories in Jiwarli 11

Today’s post presents a personal reminiscence story in Jiwarli with English translation, told and explained to me by Jack Butler on 21st May 1984. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.

Jirriwiny and the Rock Python

This story comes from when Jack Butler was living on Rocklea Station in Western Australia, probably in the 1930s. It concerns a man called Jirriwiny who was out hunting one day and saw the tail of a non-venemous snake, which Jack called Rock Python (probably Stimson’s python (Antaresia stimsoni) which is found in this area), sticking out from a cave. Jirriwiny pulled on the snake but it pulled back, so he bit the tail of the snake, which turned around, and he was able to grab it’s neck to kill it.


Stimson’s python

Yagarabaju ngunhaba birrbilyanggurawu. Wiinggarninyja nguluba walhungga. Wiingganmararnigundidhu. Nguluba birrbilyangguralu ngabaju wiinggarninyjarru yurrurru walhurla. Nguluba gundhardirru bajarninyja. Nhanyararri barna ngunhiba banhalurarru. Nguluba mamarninyjarni wurrgalbarru gubiyalgarringu wirndubinyangurru.


He was truly brave with rock pythons. He was pulling one out that was in a cave. It was just like he might have pulled it out, but the rock python almost pulled him into the cave in turn. So, he bit the tail of the rock python, and it turned around. You could see the head of the snake right there next to him. Then he grabbed the snake’s neck to strangle it, killing it.

Stories in Jiwarli 10

Today’s post presents the final traditional story in Jiwarli with English translation, told to me by Jack Butler on 19th May 1985 and explained on 20th May 1985. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.

Gardumayi and the Wajarri

This story deals with the southern neighbours of the Jiwarli and the Warriyangga, who are the Wajarri people. It describes a battle which is said to have taken place in ancestral times between the god Gardumayi and the Wajarri. At the end of the battle, after much loss of life, Gardumayi declared that Mount Augustus should be the boundary between the two groups and the Wajarri should not extend north of this border. Mt Augustus is located in the Mount Augustus National Park and is a highly visible monocline that stands 1,106 metres (3,629 ft) above sea level, and about 860 metres (2,820 ft) above the surrounding plain. It covers an area of 4,795 hectares (18.51 sq mi).

At the time of first white settlement, the Wajarri practised the male initiation rite of circumcision while their north-westerly neighbours, such as the Jiwarli, did not. Other cultural aspects differed between the two groups also — you can read more about the culture and society of the whole region here.


Binyarrinyja ngula ngunhaburra garduburradhu ngurra bularalaburra. Ngunharru ngunha gardumayi. Barlu ngunha gumbinha. Yugarra ngunha barlunyjarri. Binyarrinyja Wajarriyi mandhardawu. Wirribuga warndijarni wajarri. Gardumayidhu wanggaja. Binyarrira ngandhurru. Wirndubinyanyja wajarrinyjarrinha. Wandindhi ngunha ngurndinha bundhurrba guwardi.


They fought one another there at the time of the ancestral beings, when the earth was soft. That was that god Gardumayi. There are now rocks there; rocks are standing up. They fought the Wajarri. people. Many Wajarri tried to come up here. Gartumayi said: “We will all fight one another.” So, they killed the Wajarri, and they are all lying in a heap as rocks today.

Stories in Jiwarli 9

Today’s post presents another story in Jiwarli with English translation, told to me by Jack Butler on 20th May1984 and explained on 20th-21st May 1984. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling.

Bulhabayara and Emu

This story deals with the god Bulhabayara who is cooking gajalbu Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) in a pit in the ground filled with hot ashes. While Bulharapaya went off to have a sleep, Emu is stolen and taken up into the sky. Bulhabayara discovers this because he sees a fly going up into the sky. He goes up into the sky on a gurlurr, a special type of cloud. The thief with the emu calls out for him to open his mouth in order to receive the gaadharri ‘emu gizzard’, which is considered to be a delicacy. When Bulhabayara opens his mouth the thief throws down a hot cooking stone (usually placed inside an animal to cook it) which goes into his throat killing him. The Emu remains in the sky today as a constellation (outlined by dark areas of the night sky, not by the stars). You can find out more about the Emu Constellation and how to locate it in the Southern Hemisphere sky on this website.

Emu Constellation


Ngunhaba ngunha Gajalbu ngarringga wandharninyja jirndinyungulu nguluba. Yawardamayi Bulhabayara Gardumayi. Bulhabayaralu ganyanyja birru ngunha. Mujiyarninyja Gajalbu ngarringga gambarninyjalu. Ngunha yananyja ngurndanhurru gumbayi. Gururrirarringu. Yanararringu ngurluba ngarrirla. Yirraradhu ngunha wurunggu ngarri galarnirninyjarru. Wuru ngunha dharrbarninyja ngardingga Gajalbula ngarringga ngurndiniyala. Jigalbalgarringurru. Bambarru gumbaja jigalbarnu. Wurudhu ngunha banyjinyjarru. Wuru ngunha banyjinyja mardurarru. Ngunhabadhu warninyja yarnararru. Ngurndaja ngunhaba gurlganyurringurru. Nhaanha yilu wandharninyja nyirnda ngarringga gajalbubarndila. Nhanyararri yuwirru buniya yirraragurirrarru gurlaniya wagararriya yuwi yirraragurirra. Nhanyangu ngurndirarri. Aa ngunharru ngunha Gajalbu ganyanyja jirndirlarru yirrararlarru. Gurlarninyjarru ngunhaba gurlarrbala barnumbala. Bilanagundi gurlarrba. Jirndinyungurru ngunha. Gurlarninyja ngunhaba. Gurlarninyja. Gurlarninyja. Ngunhaba gajalbujaga birrujaga wanggaja. Yirra dhaarrima nhurra. Gaadharri yinha ngadha nhurrala jugulga. Ngunhaba gurlganyundhurru yirra dhaarrinyja. Guburnmarru jugurninyja dhugudhugu. Gambarninyja ngunhaba wurrgalba wirndubinyangurru gardulyanha. Ngunharru gumbinha. Gajalbu gumbinha guwardi jirndingga. Gumbinha nhanyiniyala ngandhurralu wandinggundhi. Guwardi ngandhurralu ngunha wandinggundhi nhanyanha gumbiniya yirrara. Ngunhaba ngunha ngurndinha. Gumbinha ngunharru. Ngandhurranha nhanyanha burlugujilu ngabajulbu. Gajalbu ngunhaba yurnubarndi ngurrabarndi ganyanyja. Ngurra bularalaburradhu ngula Yawardamayilaburradhu ngurnumalulaburra. Yini ngunha biji nganamarnu. Ngadha ngarlarrinyjarru yininyjarriyi. Ngarlarrinyjarru ngadha yiniyi ngurnuba Gajalbuwu mujiyarninyjabarndiyi. Nguluba jirndinggarru wandharninyja. Ngunharru ngunha gumbinha guwardidhu. Bayalbarru.


Long ago, Bulhabayara the god put Emu in the ashes to cook. Yawardamayi, Bulhabayara and Gardumayi are the names of the gods. Bulhabayara carried the meat to cook it in the ashes. Someone stole Emu after Bulhabayara had put it to cook in the ashes. Bulhabayara went to lie down. He woke up and went to have a look at the ashes. On top of the ashes he went like this back and forth with a stick. He inserted the stick into the Emu lying in the ashes. He went to lift it up, but he couldn’t lift it. The stick broke; the stick broke in the middle, and Bulhabayara fell onto his back. He lay there thinking: “What has he put here in the ashes after taking the emu?” He saw a fly going up, climbing, and flying up. Bulhabayara lay down on the ground looking. He said to himself: “Oh, now that emu has been taken up into the sky”. He went up on his cloud, his gurlarr, which is like a cloud. He is a god. So he went up, he went up, he went up. The one with the emu meat up above called out: “Open your mouth! I’ll throw the gizzard to you.” Bulhabayara felt pleased and opened his mouth. The thief threw down a hot cooking stone and it burned that poor fellow’s throat, killing him. That is how it is. The Emu is in the sky now. It is there where we all can look at it. Now we all can look at it sitting up above. That is it lying there in the sky. It’s sitting there now, and looking at us below in turn. The Emu was carried from this place. The earth was soft at the time of Yawardamayi and that group of gods. There were many names for them but I have  forgotten some of their names. I have forgotten the name of that one who stole the Emu. He put it in the sky, and that is why it is sitting there now. That’s the end of the story.


Stories in Jiwarli 8

Today’s post presents another story in Jiwarli with English translation, told to me by Jack Butler on 3rd November 1983 and explained on 18th May 1984. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling.

Mudlark and death

This story describes the origin of death in the world. Long ago it was customary that after three days those who had died would come to life again and then to ascend into the sky. In order to reduce the amount of distress for the next-of-kin of the deceased jilinbirrira Mudlark (Grallina cyanoleuca), also called Magpie-lark or Peewee, decided that once people died they should be buried in the ground and remain dead for ever. He painted himself with ashes and powdered gypsum, which is why he is black and white today. Aboriginal people still paint themselves with gypsum and ashes when they are in mourning.

In his comments, Jack Butler noted the striking correspondence between the three day period between death and rebirth in this story and the Christian belief that Jesus Christ was resurrected  after three days.

Male Mudlark (Magpie-lark, Peewee)

Wirndurrinyja ngunhaba bulhabayara. Bulhabayara mandharda ngunhaburradhu. Ngunha wirndurrinyja. Ngabarninyja ngunha. Yalhangga wandharninyja. Gumbaja jurungga nhaala ngulha jarrgungga jurungga. Barru ngunha mandharda mulgurrinyjarnirru wirribugala. Wirribuga jirrilmarrinyjarru. Nhaarringu yinha warndija ngandhurrala yalhangganguru ngabarninyjabarndi ngundirnu ngandhurramba. Warri. Yinharru ngunha buna jirndirlarru. Jirndirlarru ngunha gurlarninyja. Nhaalu ngunha jigalbarninyja ngunhaba bulhabayara. Jirndirlarru yananyja. Ngunharru ngunha gumbinha jirndingga guwardi. Jilinbirrira wanggaja. Warri wangarrira barru ngabarninyjabarndi ngandhurralu. Ngabalga mandharda marrunggu. Warri warndira barru mandharda ngabarninyjabarndi yalhangga. Walhi. Yalhangga wandharrga ngandhurralu marrunggulu. Warri warndira barru. Nhaarla yinha. Ngundilgangu ngandhurranha. Jilinbirrira wanggaja. Ngabanyja ngunha ngarringgurru. Galarru ngabira ngarringgu. Marrunggulurru ngunhabadhu ngabalga yalhangga. Warri barru warndira. Yinharru ngadha yugardalu ngabinha. Marrunggurninma. Warri barru warndira.


Bulhabayara died. Bulhabayara was a man at that time. He died. They buried him. They put him in the ground. He stayed in the ground for, what was it, three days. Then that man came to life again among the people. The people all became afraid. They said: “Why has this one got up among us from the ground after having been buried and distressing us? No.” Now he goes into the sky. He went up into the sky. What held up that Bulhabayara? He went up to the sky. That is why he is in the sky now. Mudlark said: “People will not become alive again after we have buried them. We will bury people for ever. People will not get up again after being buried in the ground. It is bad. We will put them in the ground for ever. They will not get up again”. Why was this? “They might distress us”, Mudlark said. He was painted with ashes. He said: “We will paint ourselves with ashes like this. Also, for ever we will bury him in the ground. He will not get up again. So I am painting myself with powdered gypsum. Make it for ever. He will not arise again.”

Stories in Jiwarli 7

Today’s post presents another story in Jiwarli with English translation, told to me by Jack Butler on 3rd November 1983 and explained on 17th May 1984. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling.

Willie Wagtail and fire

The location for this story is bibinyji Peepingee Pool in the Ashburton River in Thalanyji traditional territory. It tells how fire was stolen by the bird jindijindi Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) because he had been mistreated by the other animals and not fed. He kills all the children and leaves with a single firestick to live by the seaside at Jurrujurru. The story goes on to explain the characteristics of all the other birds as they are each in turn implored to go and bring the fire back. At last the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) succeeds in this task and is called garladhindirnira ‘one who knocks together fire’; on his return to the camp he knocks the ancestral firestick against various trees and it is from these now that men are able to make fire. Jack Butler’s story ends with a note that ancestral Peregrine Falcon was turned into stone at a place near Peepingee, only to be eventually stolen by whitemen.

Jindijindi gamu gumbanhu nyirnda dhurndi dhigalgurniya dhuwalga ngurrunyjarrilu. Ngunhaburra ngunha. Ngurra bularalaburradhu babanggaburradhu ngurrangga. Gumbaardu jindijindi gamu ngurnubandhi ganyiniyadhurndiyidhu mara dhaarriya jindijindilu warri wandharnu ngurnu. Gamurru gumbanhu walhirringurru gumbiniya jindijindi. Jindijindiyi warri yarrugarrinyja ngunhaburradhu ngunha mandhardanyjarri. Walhi. Walhi ngunha jindijindi. Nhaarrinyjalu ngulha. Gumbaja ngunha gamumanda ngunhiba wirribugala burrardinyjarri ngunha buniya banilgarringu dhuwalgawu warri wandharrgarringu. Barrundhu ngunhaba wanggaja. Nhurragara yanama manyjanhu wandindhi. Jumardi yinha wandhanma ngadhala. Ngadha gumbira jumardi nyirnda dhurndijagawu nhurragaramba. Barlirrirarni ngadhanha wandharru. Ngadha jumardiyirru gumbira galgurnu. Nhurragara yanama wandindhi manyjanhu dhurndiyi. Bayalba wirribuga warndija manyjanhu dhurndiyi birrungga ngula dhanambala wayurdala birrungga jindijindi gumbiniya garlanyjarri ngunha ngurndiniya dhaniburda gurrurdu. Garlarninyjarru wirribuga manyjanhu yanara. Jumardi nhurragaralu wandhanma ngadhala. Nyirnda gumbira jumardi. Jindijindi ngunha gumbaja gayanurru jumardiyirru manararringu. Wirndubinyanyja wandindhi garlanggarru jugulgarringu. Malu ngunha dhaniburdadhu. Ngunhirruba jugurninyja jumardinha. Dhanarru gambira dhaniburdala. Gambaja ngunhaba jumardi wandirru. Nhanyanggu ngarlburrinyja jindijindidhu. Bayalbarru ngunha gumbajarru. Jindijindi gumbaja ngarlburringurru dhardujaga babawurru manangu. Barnanggajirru ngarlburrirarri bundharu dhaniburdarla,dhanamanangurru babawu, ngurnuba dhaniburdawudhu bundharnu babajaga, burdanymarnurru. Manararringu gayanu ngunha wuwarda garla. Ngarlburrirarringu gumbayi ngula babanggarru dhanardilarru, jurrujurrularru. Yananyjarni ngunha wirribuga dhurndijaga dhuwalgajaga burrardijibidhu birrujaga jindijindiyi gurninggurru jumardiyi gurninggurru. Wandhala jumardidhu. Nhaarlarninyja nguluba. Garlawu yanararringu nhanyanggu. Garla bundharninyjarru. Wandindhi birdurarnirninyjarru garla. Nhaarru ngandhurralu dhigalga. Barlungga gurlarninyja nhanyararringu. Ngunharru ngunha jindijindi gumbinha garlajaga dhanardila. Ngana bagalyadhu. Nhurra wagurra. Ngaa. Ngabarninyja ngunha marudhalu. Gurdurlarninyjarru. Gurluwarnirninyjarru. Gurluwarru gumbinha. Yanama nhurra ngurlu garlarla mananggu mundaru. Wagurra yananyja gumbayi birruwurru dhigarnu ngunhabirru wirndubinyanyjabarndi bularnduranyjarriyi yangarnu gumbayi. Nhurra walhi. Nganalu ngunha garla manara. Jurrurarninyja jarlalyanha. Nhurra. Ngunha yananyja yangarnu gumbayi walangunyjarriyi mardurandhi yirnumalu gumbiniya gamunyjarridhu. Yanyjanha warlardunha nguluba jurrurarninyja. Warlardunha ngabarninyja marudhalu. Warlardu ngarlburrinyja gumbayi mardura yangarnu birrunyjarriyirru wayurdawurru. Nhurra walhi. Nganalu ngunha garla manara. Nhurra barru. Nhurra garladhindirnira gurugurura nhurra yinidhu. Ngaa. Ngunha dhurninyjandhi. Yananyja ngunha burdibalarru. Wandharninyja juuri wanggarra. Wandharninyja galaba wanggarra. Gaji nhurra yanama mananggu ngurlu garlarla. Ngandhurraju wirndurrirangurru nyirnda gamunyjarri. Gurugurura ngunha ngarlburrinyja. Jindijindilu nhanyanyjarni ngunha nhugurru. Babangga dharrbarninyja garla. Gurugurura ngunha yananyja dhanardila ngula. Jindijindilu barrundhurru jigalbarninyja. Gurugurura yijarra yananyja. Nyajurrinyja barlirrirarringurru. Ngarlungga yananyjarni babanggadhu nhuguwilarringurru. Jindijindilu jigalbarninyja garla. Gurugururalu janbirninyjarru garla. Barlirrirarringu gurugurura ngurlu wirribugarlarru garlawu dhindirnirnurru. Wirribuga manggaburdurrinyjarru. Dharlarninyjarru gurugururanha dhurndinggu. Yinharru guwardi ngudhurlbalu badharrgurna mandhardalu. Badharninyja wurungga. Garladhindirniralu dhindirnirninyja ngunha garla. Banhalunha barlunggarru wandharninyja bibinyjila wardandugujila. Ngunhiba ngunha gumbaja barlungga. Guwardidhu ngunha gurninyja barrundhu ngurnu. Walybalalu mananyja ngunhaba. Walybala guwardiburradhu yananyjarni. Mananyja ngunha barlu.


Willie Wagtail was sitting hungry as the old people were eating the seeds of spinifex top. That was long ago. That was when the place was soft and watery. Willie Wagtail used to sit hungry while the others carried food about and he would beg for food but they wouldn’t give him any. Willie Wagtail was hungry getting thin. The people didn’t like Willie Wagtail at that time. He was bad. That Willie Wagtail was bad. I don’t know why. He used to be hungry while all the women went to grind spinifex tops but they didn’t give him any. Then he said again: “You all go hunting. Leave the children with me. The children and I will sit here waiting for you to come back with food. You will come back to give me some. I will sit and wait for the children. You all go hunting for food.” So they all got up and went hunting for food, for their possum meat while Willie Wagtail stayed behind, and the gum tree stumps were burning in the fireplaces. He sent the mob hunting. “Leave the children with me”, he said. Willie Wagtail sat alone and was going to get the children. He killed them all and threw them on the fire. That was the shade of the fireplace. He threw the children there. He left them to burn in the fireplace. The children all burned there. Willie Wagtail ran to see. That’s how they finished. Willie Wagtail ran with a dish getting water. He ran with it on his head to douse the fireplaces, carrying water to douse the fireplaces and put the fires out. He got one firestick. He ran to sit by the seaside at Jurrujurru. The mob came with food, and the women with spinifex top and meat, looking for Willie Wagtail and the children. “Where are the children? What has he done with (them)?” they asked. They went to look at the fires. “The fires have been doused. The fires have all been extinguished”, they said. “What will we eat?” they asked each other. They climbed a hill to look. They all said: “That is Willie wagtail sitting with the fire by the sea. Who is good? How about you crow?” “Yes”, Crow replied. They painted him with black paint. They made him dark. They made him black. He is black now. “You go there to get the fire and take it away from him”, they said. Crow went and ate meat that had been killed and chased Bularndura lizards. “You are no good. Who will get the fire?”, they asked. They pointed to Spotted Chicken Hawk. They asked him: “How about you?” He went and chased birds in the middle while the mob were sitting hungry. They pointed to another one, Eaglehawk. They painted Eaglehawk with black paint. Eaglehawk ran and chased possums in the middle. They said: “You’re no good. Who will get the fire? How about you? Your name is Garladhindirnira Peregrine Falcon.” “Yes”, he replied, laughing. He was pretty now. They put paint on his throat. They put it like this on his throat. They told him: “You try to go and get the fire. We hungry people might all die here now.” Peregrine Falcon ran. Willie Wagtail saw him close by. He put the fire into the water. Peregrine Falcon went to the sea. Willie Wagtail held it up again. Peregrine Falcon went past. He turned round to come back. He came back on top of the waves and got close. Willie Wagtail held up the fire. Peregrine Falcon snatched the fire. He came back to the mob knocking the fire together. The mob were glad. They fed Peregrine Falcon with food. That’s how men twirl fire drills. He hit it against the trees. Peregrine Falcon knocked the fire. They put him there on a rock to the east of Bibinyji. There he sat on the rock. Recently we went looking for that. The white men had taken it. The white men came recently. They took that stone.