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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s