Today, read her retelling of part of this Australian Children's Classic and tell me you don't want to know what happens next!!
Frank Dalby Davison’s Children of the Dark People has been described as “a European fantasy with pseudo-Aboriginal content”. Do you agree? Retell a part of the story that demonstrates this.
The whole idea of the caves, a magical spirit who has a tinkling dress and a whole load of beautiful caves is just impossible. Plus, if you ever read the book, there are many more spirits than just spirits who wear beautiful tinkling dresses. This is just a fairy story. I’ll tell it to you:
Nimmitybelle and Jackadgery had been captured by the witchdoctor, and the witchdoctor had put them at the back of the cave that he was hiding in. Every time he turned around, he glared at them angrily, as if they had done something wrong and he was paying them back.
They were just about to give themselves up as lost when they heard a little whisper, and when they turned, there was a little girl about the age of Nimmitybelle beckoning them. They were not tied up, so they quietly crept towards her. She motioned to them not to speak and then she showed them a little hole in the rock that they had not noticed before. They found themselves creeping through a narrow tunnel, just big enough for an average sized man. When they came out of the tunnel they were dazzled by a great light. When they got used to the light, they noticed that it was not the sort of light they would expect. It wasn’t light-bulb-light or sun-light or moon-light. When their eyes got more accustomed to it, they found that it was beautiful, shimmering, crystal light. There were thousands and hundreds of beautiful crystals. Nimmitybelle was the first to notice that the girl was wearing a beautiful dress, strung with crystals, just like beads. “Oh,” said Nimmitybelle, “it is beautiful!” The girl said, “I would give you one, but it belongs to the cave, for the crystals live here. I am merely borrowing them.” Then she said, “My name is the Spirit of the Caves.” Nimmitybelle and Jackadgery were still whispering for fear of the witchdoctor hearing. “No need to whisper,” she said. “Many people have come into that cave, and I have sung my little song, and they have not heard me. There is no need for him to hear me now.” Just then they heard a frightful yell of anger and shock from the witchdoctor, who really was just next door. Nimmitybelle jumped back in terror, and Jackadgery jumped in front of her. “Don’t worry,” said the Spirit of the Caves, “he has just found out you have disappeared. He is probably wondering how on earth you could have got out that cave entrance without him spotting you. Aha! He’ll never find our little cave!”
Then the Spirit of the Caves had, what, she thought, was a wonderful idea. “Let’s go take a look,” she said. Nimmitybelle thought this was the terriblest idea she could think of. She thought that they would merely be giving themselves away. The Spirit of the Caves obviously saw how she felt and said, “Don’t worry, if he hasn’t found the cave now, he could be standing right in front of it and won’t even see it. I rolled a stone in front of it.” Then Nimmitybelle and Jackadgery decided it would be okay. The Spirit of the Caves went first; Jackadgery second; and lastly, Nimmitybelle. In single file they crept down the tunnel once more.
This time, Nimmitybelle was nowhere near as frightened as she was before. The Spirit of the Caves rolled that stone back a tiny crack, and they all peeked through it. Nimmitybelle and Jackadgery were quite frightened when they saw the witchdoctor. What was he doing? He was merely jumping up and down, waving his arms as if he were trying to fly, yelling as if he had sat on an arrow, and stamping his feet as if he were trying to put out a fire. That’s what! To top it off, he was running around the room as if a load of bees were following him! Nimmitybelle was quite sure that any minute now he would discover them. Then she and the Spirit of the Caves and Jackadgery would all be doomed.
Finally the Spirit of the Caves had had enough fun. She suddenly became very serious, and said, “Come with me. You must be very hungry.” And indeed now that she had mentioned it, Nimmitybelle and Jackadgery realised just how hungry they really were. They crept back through the tunnel for the third time, and the Spirit of the Caves said, “Here, I will take you to my room. You may tell me your adventures and eat at the same time.” So she took them into her room, of which Nimmitybelle afterwards always said that if you take the most beautiful thing you could ever imagine and then you triple it, it would be ten times more beautiful. And that’s how beautiful her cave was. So they told the Spirit of the Caves their journey, and as they finished their food they also finished their story.
Then Jackadgery said, “I should like to go now to get a head start on the witchdoctor, for he is in a fine temper, and I am sure that if I came across him again he wouldn’t be too sorry to have a little fight with me.” Then the Spirit of the Caves rightly pointed out, “Shouldn’t you like to make some arrows first?” Jackadgery agreed, and while he made his spears, Nimmitybelle asked the Spirit of the Caves if she could have a look at her crystal skirts. The Spirit agreed, and even let her wear one while she waited.
Jackadgery finally finished his spears and before he went he asked, “May I paint a picture on your walls?” The Spirit of the Caves said, “Are you good?” Jackadgery did not need to answer. Before he could say, “By golly, yes,” Nimmitybelle sprang to her feet and said, “Jackadgery is the finest boy at painting on walls that I know of!” “Very well then,” said the Spirit of the Caves, “It is settled. You can paint a picture of your adventures until now.” While the Spirit of the Caves showed Nimmitybelle her other caves, Jackadgery painted the walls. When the Spirit finished her tour, she came back and saw Jackadgery with a satisfied look on his face and dusting his hands. “You are a fine painter, my boy,” she said, “quite fine.”
Nimmitybelle and Jackadgery thanked her very much for taking care of them, and said that they must be on their way, but Nimmitybelle said, “If we cannot find our way home, may we come back to you - at least for the night?” “Of course,” said the Spirit of the Caves. So Nimmitybelle picked up her dillybag and put her possum in it and Jackadgery picked up his newly made spears and boomerang.
With a final farewell and a wave of the hands, they left.