31 Jan 2009

The Australian Just So Stories

Mrs Katie Langloh Parker was an amazing woman. Born Catherine Field, she grew up among the Australian Aborigines on her father’s property, Marra Station, in northern New South Wales in the 1850's and 60's.

When she was six years old she fell into a river and would have drowned but for the help of a young Aboriginal girl. Despite the prevailing attitude toward the Aboriginal people at this time, this experience resulted in young Katie developing a great respect and appreciation for the culture of the girl who had saved her life. They became her playmates and her friends. Katie regarded the Aborigines as fellow human beings - she would have been one of the first people to do so.

A neighbour of mine exclaimed, when I mentioned that I proposed making a small collection of the folk-lore legends of the tribe of blacks I knew so well living on this station, "But have the blacks any legends?" - thus showing that people may live in a country and yet know little of the aboriginal inhabitants...

After her marriage at the age of 18 she moved to her husband’s property, Bangate Station, on the Narran River near Angledool in New South Wales. There, she started collecting stories from the local branch of Yularoi people, whom she called the Narran and whom were known amongst themselves as the Noonghaburrahs. These were subsequently published in several collections between 1896 and 1930. Andrew Lang, himself an Australian, and author of AO1's Blue Fairy Book, wrote the introduction to the collection.

Katie wrote her book in an attempt to preserve the legends of a people whose culture, she believed, was rapidly coming to an end.

There are probably many who, knowing these legends, would not think them worth recording; but, on the other hand, I hope there are many who think, as I do, that we should try, while there is yet time, to gather all the information possible of a race fast dying out, and the origin of which is so obscure. I cannot affect to think that these little legends will do much to remove that obscurity, but undoubtedly a scientific and patient study of the folk-lore throughout Australia would greatly assist thereto.

Langloh Parker was not only an anthropologist though, writing to preserve culture and tradition for future generations. She also wrote her stories for children.

Though I have written my little book in the interests of folk-lore, I hope it will gain the attention of, and have some interest for, children - of Australian children, because they will find stories of old friends among the Bush birds; and of English children, because I hope that they will be glad to make new friends, and so establish a free trade between the Australian and English nurseries - wingless, and laughing birds, in exchange for fairy godmothers, and princes in disguise.

Katie Langloh Parker's Australian Legendary Tales are the Just So Stories of Aboriginal boys and girls. As in Kipling's better known stories here we learn about the beginning of things - how the Southern Cross came to be, or why the emu cannot fly, dogs cannot speak and pigeons say "Oom oom oom" when they fly. We hear about Dinewan the emu and Goomble-Gubbon the bustard; Goo-goor-gaga the laughing jackass (kookaburra) and Goonur the kangaroo rat.

The stories are not only fairytales; they also teach of Aboriginal myth and legend and of Aboriginal life. We learn of their creator being, Baiame the Sky King and of their spirit beliefs. We learn about Boorahs, the initiation ceremonies where boys become men. We read of corroborees, bull-roarers and wirinun (the wise men).

This is a very important book; it is also very enjoyable. It certainly deserves its place amongst the Classics of Australian Children's Literature. We read it in AO2. The version we use is pictured above and contains a selection of 50 tales from four of Langloh Parker's books by H. Drake-Brockman. We read one or two of them for Australian literature every week.

The drawings are by Elizabeth Durack. Evocative of Kipling's illustrations in Just So Stories, but drawn with aboriginal styling, the pictures complement the text perfectly and help teach about aboriginal symbolism in art at the same time.

Kind be.
Do not steal,
Do not touch which to another belongs;
Leave all such alone.
Kind be.

Charm sung by Euahlayi Aboriginal women over their babies to help them be good or grow strong and clever.)

Dinewan Boollarhnah Goomblegubbon

The legend of Dinewan the Emu and Gumble-Gubbon the Turkey in the Euahayi Language

Dinewan boorool diggayah gillunnee. Nahmerhneh boorool doorunmai. Goomblegubbon boolwarrunnee. Goomblegubbon numbardee boorool boolwarrunnee Dinewan numbardee. Baiyan noo nurruldundi gunnoonah burraylundi nurreebah burri bunnagullundi. Goomblegubbondoo winnanullunnee dirrah dungah nah gillunnee, Dinewandoo boonoong noo beonemuldundi.

Goomblegubbondoo winnanullunnee gullarh naiyahneh gwallee Dinewan gimbelah:
"Wahl ninderh doorunmai gillaygoo. Baiyan noo winnanunnee boonoong gurrahgoo, wahlneh burraylaygoo. Wahl butndi naiyah boorool gillunnah boomahleegooneh naiyah butthdinen woggee gwallee myrenay boonoong gillundi."

Illah noo nurray Dinewan nahwandi. Goomblegubbon lowannee boonooog noo wunnee wooee baiyan nurrunnee bonyehdool. Baiyan boollarhgneh gwalleelunnee. Goomblegubbondoo gooway:
"Minyah goo ninderh wahl boonoong dulleebah gillunnee? Gunnoono diggayah burraylunneh. Wahl boonoong ninderh doorunmai. Myrenay boonoong gillunneh Gunnoogoo nunnahlah doorunmai gimbehlee." Dinewandoo gooway "Gheerh ninderh boonoong bayyi."


Nahnee Dinewan noonoo meer gullahgeh. Baiyan boollarhneh budtnah ginnee. Boonoong butndi nullee gurray wahl Goomblegubbon doorunmai giggee.

Dinewandoo gooneejayn gooway cooleer noo noo boonoong gurrahlee goo comeboo goo.

Baiyan noo gaiathah noonoo boonoong gurray. Baiyan, neh bunnerhgahoonee Goomblegubbon. Dinewan gooway Goomblegubbon:
"Boonoong nayr gurray." Goomblegubbon gindabnunnee, barnee, bunna gunnee dirrah gunnee numerhneh. Boonoong beeyonemay, baiyan noo gooway Dinewan.

"Dungneemay ninnerhneh nayr byjundool boonoong. Mayerboo nay, nay boonoong, gurrah wahl dunerh. Wombah ninderh byjundool boonoong." Dinewan bunna gunnee boomahlee-goo Goomblegubbon, baiyan Goomblegubbon burrunnee. Narahgahdool myrenay boonoong. Baiyan Dinewan eelaynerhginnee nahnee illah nayahe ninnernah gullahrah gimbehlee. Illah lah noo noo winnanunnee. Baiyan noo doorimbai birrahleegul boollarhyel nuddahnooway booroolah binnamayahgahway. Baiyan neh moorillah die gahraymo noo-noo, boollarh noo garwannee. Baiyan neh woggee goo nahnee. Goomblegubbondoo birrahleegul oodundi gunoonoo garwil. Baiyan boollarhgneh gwallannee. Dinewan gooway Goomblegubbon."

"Minyah goo ninderh booroolah birrahleegulgah gillunnah. Wahl ninder booroolah goo garwil ooday. Tuggil ninderh boollarhyel gargillay baiyan boollarhgnah, booral giggee, wahl ninderh booroolah goo gooloon marlday." Goomblegubbon buthdi ginnee nalmee.

"Gullarh nayr nay birrahleegul boorool luggeray Dinewan? Boollarhyel nay gillundi yahmerh boollarhgnah boorool giggee luggeray Dinewan."

Winnanunnee noo dungeway. Baiyan noo nurray Dinewan, nurray noo boorool.
Baiyan noo gooway:
"Boomahlee doo gunnoono boollarhyel nayr gurrahwulday. Dinewan wahl doorunmai gillay woggee goo. Goomblegubbon weel gillay doorunmai. Goomblegubbon boorool giggee luggeray Dinewun, boonoong gunnoo goo gurrahwulday. Baiyan noo boomay gunnoono birrahlee gul boollarhyel noo gurrahway. Baiyanneh durrahwallunee nummerh nayr Dinewan doo duldundigoo. Dinewandoo guggay."

"Minyah ninnoo birrahleegul?"

"Gunnoono nayr boomay boollarhyel gargillunnah."

"Wullundoo youlloo ninderh boomay! Booroolah nay birrahleegul, gooloonmul dunnerli nayr gunnoonoo. Booroolah gunnoonoo. Nurraleh noill doowar yu booloobunnee. Nurraleh boonboon. Nummerh nayr bayah muldunnerh nay birrahlee gulloo."

"Boollarhyel ninnoo birrahlee garlee."

"Booroolah boollarh nay. Nayr di gargee ninnoonderh nurranmullee goo."

Dinewan bunnagunnee binnamayahgoo nayr noo doorimbundigoo birrableegul. Baiyan naiyah durrabwullunee, dirralabeel ginnee noo boobootella, gwallandy, "Boom, boom." Birrahleegul noo noo bunna gairlehwahndi, beweererh nurrahwahndi, weeleer, weerleeer, Tuwerh munneh doorundi, baiyanneh eelay nurrunnee. Baiyan noo gooway.

"Geeroo nayr ninnunnerh gooway. Gunnoono nayr nay birrahleegul gurrahwuldunnerh. Nurullah Numerh nayr ninnoo nurragah birrahleegul! Boomay ninderh ninnoo birrahleegul, ninderh nunnoo dung eemai! Tuggil nayr lahnylay nayr boonoong ninderh boomah boollarhyel birrahleegarlee gargillay. Gurrahwuldare ninnoo boonong nayr luggeeroo, gurrahwulday nay birrahleegul."


  1. sigh... You get some great stuff :D

  2. This is an important book! I hope we can find it for some great summer reading. Thanks, Jeanne. :-)

  3. Hi Jeanne, thank you for all your book recommendations. I value them greatly. This book, Australian Legendary Tales, I purchased recently and began reading to my children. I became a little disturbed by the recurring theme of violence and vengeance in so many of the stories - the majority, I would say. Do you have any views on my view?
    Kind regards and appreciation,

  4. Wanted to let other readers know that this title is in the public domain and available free on gutenberg.


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