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.

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 5

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.

Galah and Little Corella

This story describes how bilyarndi Galah (Cacatua roseicapilla) (also called ‘pink and grey’) comes to have a flat head and a red chest, and why there is ochre to be found in the Kennedy Ranges. He was hit by ngarnawarra Corella (Cacatua (Licmetis) sanguinea) (also called ‘white cockatoo’) and the ochre he carried on his head spilled over him. The story takes place at minyimardabarnti in the Kennedy Ranges. This is in Tharrgari traditional territory.


Galah (left) and Little Corella (right)

Bilyarndi yananyjarni gawaribarndi mardarrjaga barnanggurajaga. Ngarnawarradhu ngunha wanggaja. Wandhalurru nhurralu ganyanha mardarrbanha. Ngadha ganyanha wardandari. Nyirnda nhurralu wandhanma. Ngunhi nhurralu wandhanma wirlgangga barlungga. Warri nhurralu ganyama yinha ngulabarndi gawaribarndi yiluba bilyarndilu. Ngunha bambandhi wanggajalu bilyarndila yananyja ngunha mulhararru. Ngarlburrinyja mulhararru wirlgangga gumbayi marrgarringu. Wanajaga marrgarringu gumbaja. Wandharru ngunha. Guwardimanda yananyjarni barnanggaji wunarringurru ngunha barnanggaji mandhardaburradhu bilyarndidhu. Nhugurru ngunha wirlgawurru warndijarni. Budhirninyja ngunhiba ngarnawarralu barna. Mardarrba ngunhilaba warninyja nyirnda warngarndarru. Ngunharru ngunha guwardi gumbinha warngarnma birndiwiirru. Barna ngunha bimbirru yirrararru. Malhurlarninyjarru. Mardarrba warninyja ngunha ngarlungga bujungga. Ngunha gumbinha birndiwiirru banhalurru bilyarndi budhirninyjabarndi mardarrjaganha. Mardarrba ngunha ngurndinhamanda ngunhiba wirlgangga guwardi ngunhiba budhirninyjabarndi.


Galah came from west with red ochre on his head. Little Corella said: “Where are you carrying the red ochre to?” “I am carrying it to the east” Galah replied. Little Corella said: “Put it here. You put (it) there in the gap in the hills! Don’t you carry it from the west there, Galah.” After he couldn’t convince Galah he ran ahead. He ran ahead to sit in the gap and wait. He sat waiting with a yam stick. Little Corella said: “Where is he now? He is still coming now carrying it on his head taking a long time, that Galah man.” He came up close to the gap now. Little Corella hit him on the head there. Red ochre fell here all over his chest. That’s why now his chest is red. His head is flat on top. He made a hole. The red ochre fell all over his stomach. Now Galah is red because he was hit while carrying the red ochre. Red ochre is still there in the gap today because Galah was hit there.

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 2

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.

Emu and Turkey

This story concerns the gajalbu Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) and bardurra Turkey (also called ‘wild turkey’ or ‘bustard’, Ardeotis australis) who discuss which of them should fly.

Stories of Emu and Turkey (or Emu and Brolga in eastern Australia) are found across Australia, as reported in Ronald M. Berndt & Catherine H. Berndt (1989) The Speaking land: myth and story in Aboriginal Australia, pp. 400-401. Melbourne: Penguin Books.

Emu (left) and Turkey (right)

Gajalbu bardurra mandhardagayi gumbaja wanggaarni. Wandhagalarra nhurra. Gajalbu wanggaja bardurrala. Wagararrira nhurra jirndingga. Gajalbu wagararrinyja jirndingga. Maranyjirrinyja barlgarrala. Bardurradhu wanggaja nhurra jaligurdi ngarda nhurra wanarra. Ngarda nhurra wagararrinyja jirndingga wanarra. Gajalbu wanggaja. Nhurralbu gaji jirndingga wagararrima jaligurdi. Wagararrinyja jirndingga. Nhurra bagalya. Ngarda nhurra bulhu. Ngadhadhu wanarra. Nhurra gumbama wagararriji wamburrajaga wirlgajaga wagararrirarringu. Ngadha barlgarrala gumbira. Bardurra wanggaja. Gaji nhurra ngarlburrima. Gajalbu ngarlburrinyja. Bardurradhu wanggaja. Nhurraburra gumbama barlgarrala. Gurlbaru nhurrala warndinha ngarradhanyurru. Nhurra yinha wirlga bulhurlalgarru. Ngadha gumbira wagararriji. Gaji nhurra ngarlburrima. Gajalbu wanggaja. Ngarlburrinyja. Warri. Nhurra wagararrima jirndingga. Bagalya. Dhudhunggu nhurranha bajalgangu. Ngadhaburra galardidhu ngarlburrirarringu. Bayalbarru bula wanggaarnirrinyja.


Emu and Turkey were talking. “How will you be?” Emu was talking to Turkey. “Will you fly in the sky?” Emu flew in the sky. He landed on the flat ground. Turkey said: “Friend your legs are long. Your legs were long when you flew in the sky.” Emu said: “Now you try to fly in the sky, friend.” Turkey flew in the sky. Emu said: “You are good. Your legs are short. Mine are long. You be a flier with feathers on your wings to fly. I will live on the flat ground.” Turkey said: “You try to run.” Emu ran. Then Turkey said: “You should live on the flat ground. The dust rises up behind you. I will make these wings of yours short. I will be the flier.” “You try to run”, Emu said. So Turkey ran. “No. You fly in the sky. That’s good. The dogs might bite you. I’ll be the fast runner” said Emu. That’s all they said to one another.

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.”



What does Jiwarli sound like?

In order to introduce the Jiwarli language and its last speaker, Jack Butler, here is the beginning of a traditional story that Jack recorded on 3rd November 1983 and transcribed and translated with Peter Austin on 17th May 1984.


The story tells the tale of the bird gabagurda ‘spotted nightjar’ (Eurostopodus argus) and the bat migalyaji ‘type of bat’ (species unknown). These two are related as ngadhal  ‘same sex cross-cousins’; the term ‘cross-cousin’ means either the child of one’s father’s sister or the child of one’s mother’s brother. Since the two protagonists are understood to be male, ngadhal here can mean either ‘father’s sister’s son’ or ‘mother’s brother’s son’. In Jiwarli this kind of cousin is distinguished from bungali ‘opposite sex cross-cousin’, that is, for a woman it would be her  father’s sister’s son, or mother’s brother’s son. For a man bungali refers to his cousin who is his father’s sister’s daughter or his mother’s brother’s daughter.

The two protagonists kill a man called Bibijungurru, boss of all the people. After some travels they secretly spear him while he is lying in a bough shade. They are caught by Bibijungurru‘s group and punished for their misdeeds by being speared and beaten with boomerangs and women’s yamsticks. Their legs were broken so that today both creatures 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. As with other Australian Aboriginal groups, traditional stories like this come from the Dreamtime, described in Jiwarli as ngurra bularalaburra ‘when the earth was soft’, and they provide a foundation for understanding the characteristics and behaviour of the animals and places as they are today. Such stories often also involve extensive travel through named places (called in English ‘Dreaming tracks’ or ‘Songlines‘) — we will discuss this more in a later blog post.

Here we present the first five lines of the story as told by Jack Butler:

We can write this in Jiwarli as follows (see Spelling for details of the letters and the way we spell Jiwarli):

Gabagurda mandharda and migalyaji

Gabagurda migalyaji

Paja yananyja mandhardawu yiniyi Bibijungurruwu

Maadha ngunha mandhardanyjarriyi Bibijungurru

Warri nhugubarnti ngunha baja yananyja

Ngunhagayi gajiriwari gamparninyjalu gajiriyi gamparninyja ngunhiba yirrara

We can translate this into English as follows (note that spears are heated over the fire in order to straighten and strengthen them):

‘The Nightjar man and Bat. Nightjar (and) Bat. They were angry with a man named Pipijunkurru. That Pipijunkurruwas the boss of the people. They didn’t go along angry from nearby. After having first heated their spears at Mt Florrie, they heated them there at the top.’

The rest of the story deals with their further adventures and we will return to it later, once some details of the structure of Jiwarli are presented. This will enable readers to understand the grammar and translation of the full Jiwarli story.