Volume 2 Issue 37 | July 5, 2008 |


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From the Galpoghor Series:

Ngarri Jandu and the Nimmamoo

IN Yamminga times, when the spirit snake Banninbooroo, the eaglehawk Warragunna and the kangaroo Yonggar roamed the bushlands of Australia, the people had much fear of the Ngarri, the devil spirits that lurked in the bush. Ngarri spirits were dazzling white like the sun and it hurt the eyes just to catch sight of them. Sometimes they took the shape of a giant woman who rushed through the bush shrieking and yelling, as a wife does when she's angry. Other times they took the shape of a giant man who stomped about the earth roaring 'kallee-gooroo,' like a bull.

One day in the far-off times, two young nimmamoo boys went out into the bush to look for the sweet geerbaju honey. One boy carried a blackwood bowl, while the other took a thorn. It was not long before they saw bees gathering nectar in a grove of blossoming trees. As the bees flew off, the two nimmamoo tried to follow their flight so that they could find their store of honey. But the bees were so small that it was hard to see which way they went.

All the same, one of the boys managed to catch a bee in his two hands, as it was busy taking nectar from a flower. Carefully, he held it up between a finger and his thumb, the mother of his hand. Then, pricking his bare arm with the thorn, he squeezed out a drop of blood with which to stick a tiny white feather to the bee's back.

Now the nimmamoo boys could follow the bee in flight and it took them right to where the sweet geerbaju honey was stored. Since the bee had disappeared into the hollow of a tree trunk, the boys quickly shinned up the tree to get at the honey. The higher they climbed, the more loudly they could hear the busy humming, humming of the bees inside the trunk. Soon they reached the nest and took as much honey as they wished, filling a quarter of their wooden bowl.

Using the very same trick with the white feather, they discovered several stores of honey that day and by sundown their blackwood bowl was almost full. They decided they would climb one last tree before going back to camp. However, while they were both in the topmost branches of the tree, a Ngarri Jandu spirit man crept up to the tree. He had smelled out the two nimmamoo boys and tracked them down.

So when they climbed down, the spirit man snatched them up and carried them off in a big wicker basket. Though they hollered loud and long, it did no good: they were trapped and in the clutches of Ngarri Jandu. Before long they came to his home on the hollow of a juniper tree and he took each boy out of his basket and pushed him inside the tree, covering the opening with a thick rind of bark.

The two nimmamoo boys were very frightened, for they now found themselves amongst a squirming nest of Ngarri babba or spirit boys who had once been nimmamoo like themselves. They had all been carried off by the Ngarri Jandu and turned into Ngarri babba. The spirit man kept The Ngarri babba to eat.

With the two nimmamoo boys safe inside his den, the Ngarri Jandu man went off to hunt for food to feed his spirit boys. He caught the langoor possum, the woggal snake, the yoongga lizard, and brought all his wallee meat back to the tree for the spirit boys and the two nimmamoo. He wanted to make them all fat enough to eat. Each day he went out hunting, and each day he brought back more snakes, possums and lizards to eat. And each day he ate the fattest of the Ngarri babba.

However much they screamed and kicked he picked them up, popped them in his mouth and swallowed them whole, bones and all.

The two nimmamoo boys became even more frightened. They knew that their turn was coming soon and they would be turned in Ngarri babba; then they would be eaten. They had to escape before it was too late.

One morning, when the spirit man was out hunting, one of the nimmamoo boys pulled the nose-bone from his nose and, it being hollow, blew through it as hard as he could on to the bark door. He blew and blew until his cheeks swelled up like a toad's. yet he could not shift the bark door.

Then the second nimmamoo boy took out his nose-bone and blew through it, he was stronger than his companion and, suddenly, the bark door fell away. At once the two boys jumped out of the hollow tree and ran as fast as their legs would carry them towards their camp.

Meanwhile the Ngarri Jandu was hunting wallee meat and looking for more young boys to carry off to his tree. It was not until late evening that he reached home to find the boys gone. He flew into a terrible rage. Seeking their footprints in the dust and their smell on the wind, he rushed off in pursuit.

By this time the boys had traveled a long way but they were still some distance from their camp. Luckily for them, however, they came across a band of hunters in the bush.

'Ngarri Jandu is after us,' they cried. 'Please kill him with your spears so that he won't catch us.''Ngow-ai,' the hunters solemnly replied. 'It shall be done.'

When the Ngarri Jandu came in sight, the hunters kept their promise and rushed at him with their spears. They hurled spear after spear at him, they beat him with their clubs. But the spears did not pierce his body because his body was as hard as stone. And the clubs did not break his bones because his bones were as tough as flint. Although the hunters fought him 'til sundown, they were unable to stop him. At last, weak and tired they put aside their weapons and let him pass.

So the Ngarri Jandu continued in pursuit of the two nimmamoo boys. At each camp he came to, the men attacked him with their sharp spears and stout clubs. Yet they could not harm him. He passed by unhurt.

Finally he came to the camp where the boys lived and was about to snatch them up when an old man flung a spear at him which had mirooroo magic in it.

The spear whistled through the air and caught the spirit man on the heel of his left foot - where his heart was. He crashed to the ground, writhing like a stricken snake. Soon he was dead.

Yool-burroo-boora. All these things took place a long time ago.

The End

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