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 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 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 6

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. You can hear a recording of the beginning of the story here. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling.

Spotted Nightjar and Bat

This story concerns gabagurda Spotted Nightjar (Eurostopodus argus) and migalyaji Bat (species unknown, but possibly the Ghost Bat Macroderma gigas). These two, who are ngadhal ‘same sex parallel cousins’, kill a man called Bibijungurru, boss of all the people. After some travels they secretly spear him while he is lying in his bough shade. They are caught by the group and punished for their misdeeds by being speared and beaten with boomerangs and women’s yamsticks. Their legs are broken so that now they both lie on the ground when they land and they must both drink water on the wing, rather than being able to stand and drink like other animals.


Spotted nightjar (left) and ghost bat (right)



Gabagurda mandharda migalyaji baja yananyja mandhardawu. Yini bibijungurru. Maadha ngunha mandhardanyjarriyi bibijungurru. Warri nhugubarndi ngunha baja yananyja. Ngunhagayi gajiri¬wari gambarninyjalu gajiriyi gambarninyja ngunhiba yirrara. Ngunha wirlgamanda ngurndinha. Ngurnubarndiba yananyja yardingga yaburrari. Baja gudharra ngunhiraba. Bagalyaburradhu mandhardaburradhu ngunhaburra ngurrabularalaburra. Yananyja ngunhiraba barrundhurru gambaru gajiriyi. Yardingga wandhalarru ngunha. Ngunhiba jundalyala yaburru gambarninyja ngulaba. Julyunyjarri wanggaardu ngadhala. Ngurnubarndiba yanararri ngunharru wurrumalu. Ngulaba gambarninyja gajiri. Murlurrurnirninyja. Yanararringu ngarramarri ngunha gumbiniya ngurndanhu malungga bibinyjila bibijungurrudhu. Nhaarringu ngunhiraba bajawurrinyja. Warri wandharninyjabarndi dhurndi nguluba maadhalu. Yananyjarni ngunhiraba ngarramarri. Ngunha jina ngurndinhamanda marndangura. Ngurndanhu gumbiniya nguwanma yirdijirra malungga. Binyanyja ngunhaba Gudharralu. Migalyajilugayi gabagurdalu binyanyja. Galyarru binyanyja. Wirndubinyanyjarru. Biji wirribuga warndija badharru ngunhiranhaba. Gajirilu gurrjardalu binyanyja. Nhaamalgarringu. Ngurnubandhi gumbiniya warndingu yarrbalbandhi. Ngurnubandhi windhigudharra ngunhiraba windhi wirribugalu binyanyja. Badharninyja gurriyalu. Dhanggarninyja burrardilu wananggu. Wanggirarringurru ngunhiraba gabagurdawungarla migalyajiyi. Ngadhalgarra ngunhirabadhu. Ngadhalgarra mananyja ngunhirabanha wuluwalgarringurru. Wurndarninyja ngarda. Wuluwarninyja. Galarru nhubalu gumbama warrirru minarlarringu yanararri. Maranyjirrirarringu. Bayidhalgarringu nhubalu yalhangga ngurndayi. Baba nhubaluru bajalgarringu wagararringu. Jandagudharra nhubalu gumbama.


The nightjar and bat were angry with a man. His name was Bibijungurru. That Bibijungurru was the boss of the people. They didn’t go along angry from nearby. After they first heated and straightened spears at Mt Florrie, they heated them there at the top. There is a gap there still. After that (they) went north in the (Ashburton) river. The two of them were angry. That was the time of good men when the earth was soft. They went again to straighten a spear. In the river, where was that now? They straightened it there in the river north at Jundalya. The old people used to tell me. After that they went to Globe Hill Station. There they straightened a spear. (They) straightened it. They walked along one behind another while that Bibijungurru was lying in the shade at Bibinji. I don’t know why they were angry. The boss hadn’t given them food. They went along one behind the other. The tracks are still there on the flat rocks where he slept in the shade of a bough shade. They speared him. The two of them speared him, bat first and then nightjar. They speared him in the armpit. They killed him. The mob got up to spear the two of them. They speared them with spears. What will they do? After that each time the mob threw a spear they got up, ducked and came back in reverse. After that the mob speared those two murderers. They pelted them with boomerangs. The women hit them with yam sticks. Then they talked about Nightjar and Bat. They were same-sex parallel cousins. They got those two cousins and broke their legs. They cut their legs. They broke their legs. “You two will live like this unable to walk”, they said. “You can land. You can land on the ground to lie down. You will drink water while flying.”

Stories in Jiwarli 4

Today’s post presents another story in Jiwarli with English translation, told to me by Jack Butler on 3rd November 1983 and explained on 15th May 1984. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling.

Echidna and Mountain Butcherbird

This story deals with jiribarri Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) and ngalyardangura Mountain Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis). Echidna is an anteater covered with spines, with flat ears and feet that point backwards — this is because Mountain Butcherbird punished Echidna for not listening and paying attention.

Echidna (left) and Mountain Butcherbird (right)

Mandhardanyjarri yananyjarni biji. Ngalyardangura walangurru guwardi. Mandharda gumbaja ngunhaburradhu. Ngunhaburradhu mandhardayirralaburradhu nyirnda ngurrangga. Wanduga wangganhu gumbaja jiribarriyi  jiribarri buniyarnirru warri gurlgayirnu. Barrundhurru ngunha wanduga wanggaja. Nhaarrinyja nhurra warri gurlgayirnu wangginiyawu  nganaju. Wanduga wanggaja. Mandhardaburradhu ngunhaburradhu ngunhaburradhu ngunha gumbaja. Guwardi gurriya burrarninyja badharrgarringu jiribarriyi. Gurlgarru badharninyja. Ngunha gurlga wilirirru gumbinha badharninyjabarndi. Ngalyardanguralu jirrbijirrbirninyjarru bangirdilu. Jirrbijirrbirninyjarru ngunha jirrbijirrbirninyjarru ngunha  galaba yanabuga gajirijaga. Ngunharru gumbinha. Wuluwarninyja. Wuluwarninyja. Jina gubiyarrarninyja. Ngunharru ngunha jina gumbinha yarrbalbarru. Jinadhanyu. Maradhu bagalyalbu. Jinadhu ngunha wuluwarninyja ngunhaba. Nganalu jina manara nhanyararri. Wandhagala yinha jina yananyja. Jina manarangu yarrbalba jirrbijirrbirninyjabarndi  ngalyardanguralu. Ngunharru ngunha gumbinhadhu guwardidhu jiribarri  minarlyirranyurru. Ngunha yanara gardubayarru. Nhurra yanama gumbayi dhigarnu mandhurruwu. Minganyjarriyirru nhurra dhigarnu gumbama. Ngunhaba wanggaja wanduga. Gurlga binyanyja. Jalya nhurra gumbirarri mandhurruwu dhigarnu. Minganyjarriyi gumbirarringu dhigarnu. Yanararri nhurra mingadhanyu barndingu gujuru.


Many men were coming. Ngalyardangura is a bird now, but at that time he was a man. At that time there were no human beings here in this country. Mountain Butcherbird was talking about Echidna but he was coming along not listening. Mountain Butcherbird spoke to him again. “Why don’t you listen to what I am saying?”, Mountain Butcherbird said. They used to be men at that time. Next he got a boomerang to hit Echidna. He hit him about the ears. Now his ears are wide because he was hit. Ngalyardangura speared (him) with short spears. He speared him and speared him so that now he goes about like this with spears. That’s how he is now. He broke his leg. He broke his leg. He twisted his foot. That’s why now his feet are back to front. Only his feet. His hands are all right. He broke his feet. If someone gets his tracks and looks, they will say: “Which way has this track gone?” They might get the track back to front because he had been speared by Ngalyardangura. That’s how echidna is now unable to walk. He will go along slowly. “You go along eating white ants. You live eating ants!” Mountain Butcherbird said. He warned him. “You will be destitute, eating white ants. You will live by eating ants” said Mountain Butcherbird.

Stories in Jiwarli 3

Today’s post presents another 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.

Rock Wallaby and Hill Kangaroo

This story deals with wiyanu Rock Wallaby (Petrogale lateralis) and madhanma Hill Kangaroo (Macropus robustus), and how they decided where each would live.








Rock Wallaby (left) and Hill Kangaroo (right)

Wiyanu wanggaja madhanda. Gaji nhurra ngarlburrima nyirnda yirrangga barlungga. Madhanma ngarlburrinyja ngunhilaba yirrangga yirrabirdila barlungga. Nharanyarrinyjarru warninyja. Wiyanudhu wanggaja. Nhaarrinyja nhurra. Warninyja. Ngunha jinyjimardu nhurramba yirrabirdila jina ngadha barnga. Wiyanu wanggaja. Ngadha gajiya. Yirrabirdila ngarlburrira nyirnda barlungga. Wiyanu ngunha ngarlburrinyja yirrabirdila jinyjimardula ngula jumardila dharrbayi walhungga jumangga. Ngunha madhanma wanggaja. Nhurra gumbama yirrabirdilarru. Ngadha gumbira barlungga yirrara dhirrirarriladhu. Gurlga nhurra gumbanhudhu barlungga yirrabirdiladhu. Birrbilyangguralu nhurranha jangaalgangu. Warri nhurra gumbanhu walhunggadhu ngunhiba. Birrbilyangguralu jangaalgangu.


Rock Wallaby was talking to Hill Kangaroo. “You try to run here on the cliff”. Hill Kangaroo ran there on the ledge of the cliff. He slipped and fell. Rock Wallaby asked: “What happened?” Hill Kangaroo replied: “I fell. My feet are too big for those steps of yours on the ledge.” Rock Wallaby said: “I’ll try!” He ran here on the ledge. Rock Wallaby ran here on the little steps on the ledge and went into a little cave. Hill Kangaroo said: “You live on the ledge. I will live on top of the hill amongst the spinifex. You remember to live on the ledge on the hill. Rock Python might tie you up. Don’t live in the cave there. Rock Python might tie you up.”

Stories in Jiwarli

In 1997 I published a book of stories in Jiwarli with English translations that were told and explained to me by Jack Butler. The stories include traditional narratives dealing with the ancestral beings, events from Jack’s personal history, and ethnographic texts about how Jiwarli people carried on their lives traditionally. The book was published in Japan and is now out of print, so I present some of the stories here, in a new transcription that reflects the spelling preferences of people in the Gascoyne Region. The first story was told on 3rd November 1983 and explained on 15th May 1984.

Plains Kangaroo and Hill Kangaroo

This story describes how gurrbirli Plains Kangaroo (also called ‘red kangaroo’) and madhanma Hill Kangaroo (also called ‘euro’ or ‘wallaroo’) decided where each of them was to live.

Plains_kangaroo  Hill_kangaroo

Plains kangaroo (Osphranter rufus) (left) and hill kangaroo (Macropus robustus) (right)

Gurrbirli madhanma gumbaja wanggaarni ngana gumbayi barlungga ngana gumbayi barlgarrala. Madhanma wanggaja. Nhurra dharrbama nyirnda walhungga. Ngurndama nhurra nyirnda jumangga walhungga. Gurrbirli ngunha dharrbanyja ngurndayi walhungga ngunhi jumangga barlungga. Gurrbirli wanggaja. Nhaarrinyjarru. Nhurra ngarda ngurndinha jurungga. Gurrbirli wanggaja. Nhurra dharrbama ngurndayi. Bigurda dharrbanyja ngunhiba walhungga ngurndayi. Nhurra ngurndinha birdurarru warrirru mulgu nhanyabuga mandhardalu gurningurru nhurramba. Nhurra gumbama barlunyungu. Ngunha wanggaja. Ngaa. Nhurra yanama gumbayi. Gurrbirli wanggaja. Nhurra yanama bugardirarrila gumbayi barlgarrala malungga ngurndayi bugardila gujilarabirrila.


Plains Kangaroo and Hill Kangaroo were talking to one another about who would live in the hills and who would live on the flat. Hill Kangaroo said: “You go into the cave here. You lie down here in the small cave”. Plains Kangaroo went in to lie there in the small cave. Plains Kangaroo said: “What happened?” “Your legs are lying in the sun” [said Hill Kangaroo]. Plains Kangaroo said: “You go in to lie down.” Hill Kangaroo went in there to lie in the cave. “You are lying concealed so you won’t be seen by men looking for you. You live among the hills” [said Plains Kangaroo]. That other one (Hill Kangaroo) said: “Yes. You go and live there.” Plains Kangaroo said: “You go to live amongst the snakewood on the flat ground, to lie in the snakewood and amongst the mulga.”