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Willy Wagtail

Sand story by  Barbara Gibson  Nakamarra

videos by  Laurence Vale 1994 



translated from Warlpiri with Barbara Gibson Nakamarra (1984, 1995) and edited for the CD-ROM Dream trackers (UNESCO, 2000) by Barbara Glowczewski


1 Day camp

By a wind-break (, Puntaru Quail of Napangardi skin  C sits with her two daughters  cc of Nangala skin. She is camping with her cousin, Jintirrjintirrpa Willy Wagtail of Nakamarra skin, who always sits C , her back turned to the fire V, with her dish O next to her. 


2. Night camp

They sleep in a row, heads against the wind break ( , the mother ) with her two daughters )) lying down on one side of the fire V, Willy Wagtail on the other side, her back always turned to the others  (.


3. A seedcake

Before sunrise, Quail C grinds some seeds with a round stone on a big flat stone O. She adds some water, making a paste. She puts on hot leaves and covers it with ashes. Four seedcakes O are ready, two for herself and her daughters cc , and two for her cousin C.


4. The waterhole 

The two young Nangala sisters go to the rockhole O They dig to make the water come up.  The elder sister c goes down in the hole to fill her dish O with water. She gives it to the younger sister who sits on the edge c.


5. Sharing

The two sisters cc bring the water back to the camp (. They give one dish O to their mother C and one to Willy Wagtail C . She takes the dish O with two seedcakes O and some yams, and goes hunting. 


6. The son

Jintirrjintirrpa walks to a small shelter )she had made for herself in the bush. She sits C down with her dish O and her hunting stick I. She spreads her legs apart. A son I comes out of her, as big as a man! Willy Wagtail gives him water and food.


7. A spear

The son C eats and then grabs a spear I and a spear thrower hidden in his mother's wind-break) . He sharpens the spear and goes hunting.


8. A Kangaroo


The son tracks a kangaroo and spears it. He cooks the meat and brings it back to his mother who gives him a seedcake and yams. He goes back inside his mother's belly. Willy Wagtail takes the meat back to the camp and threatens to burn the two sisters' eyes if they look at her big belly. 

'I found this meat in the bush. A dingo must have killed it.'


9. The dream


When eating the kangaroo meat the big sister sees a little hole that looks like a man's spear. That night the older sister dreams of a man with a white band and a feather. In the dream she hears herself saying

'That's the man who is in Willy Wagtail's stomach!'


10. It's true!


The two sisters sharpen their digging-sticks and take off. 

'Listen,' says the elder sister, 'Willy Wagtail has got a son, a big son, I saw him last night with a white headband and a feather.'

'It's not true!'

'It's true, I dreamt it! We might track him down.'


11. Tracking


The younger sister follows the elder one who finds a track.

'Look! these are footprints of a man going from east to west. He is the one hunting the kangaroos for Willy Wagtail. She is lying about the dingo!'


12. Anger


Meanwhile Willy Wagtail is not feeling good in her binji (stomach). She has cramps from worrying for her son.

Finding the two sisters' tracks, she thinks that Quail has told them about her son. She finds Quail who is winnowing some seeds and grabs her digging stick with both hands to hit Quail on the head, arms and knees. She falls down, bleeding. Willy Wagtail pierces her chest with her stick. 


13. Footprints


The two Nangala follow the tracks up to a tree where the footprints indicate that the man has found another kangaroo. The elder sister notices smoke on the horizon.

'Let's go right to that smoke, he must be cooking the meat.'


14. The man


Willy Wagtail's son, Jungarrayi, makes a little hole in the kangaroo he caught to pull out all the intestines. He singes his skin in the fire and cooks it in a big hole. Then he goes to sleep.


15. The marriage 

The two sisters come close to the fire and find the man.

'You love that man — he's asleep, go,' says the big sister. 

'No, you go first and I'll come after you.'


The elder sister throws her digging stick near the man's feet and lies down next to him. The younger one throws her stick and lies down on the other side of the man. 


Willy Wagtail's son has never seen other women. He is very frightened and shakes when he wakes up. The two sisters put their arms around his shoulders.

'We'll sit together,' says the elder sister.

'Do you understand? Can you talk?' asks the younger one.


The man shakes his head.

'We are going to tell you a story,' says the younger sister, 'are you Willy Wagtail's son? Where is she now?'

'To the west, looking for yams.'

'You know,' says the elder sister, 'your mother and our mother Quail live together in the same camp. Our mother is of Napangardi "skin" and your mother is Nakamarra, they are "cousins". So we are Nangala "skin" and your "skin" is Jungarrayi, you understand?'


The elder sister wants him to understand that as the children of Napangardi and Nakamarra can marry, the two sisters are his 'potential wives'. Jungarrayi understands. 

'Don't be frightened,' says the elder sister. 'I've dreamt about you, that's why we have followed your tracks.' 


The two sisters put some leaves on the ground and Jungarrayi puts the cooked meat on to them. Then they cut off the skin and eat with their new husband.

'Don't go back westwards to look for your mother,' warn the sisters. 'We'll take you to our camp. Too often you have returned into your mother's womb, now you'll be living outside as a married man.'

'All right! let's go!' agrees Jungarrayi. 


16. The son kills his mother


Willy Wagtail is waiting for the two sisters at the camp. The two sisters say to Jungarrayi not to interfere. Willy Wagtail hits the two sisters with her digging stick. They fall and don't defend themselves. 

'You hit us, but we won't leave your son. We are going to live with him. Hit us as much as you wish.'


Jungarrayi fits his spear in the spear-thrower, aims at his mother and pierces her through her chest. The son has killed his mother, poor thing! He helps the two sisters to get up and shows them Quail's corpse. The two sisters cry and hit themselves on their heads with their sticks. 

'Jungarrayi,' they say to their new husband, 'we have to find the people our mothers left when we were little.'


17. Looking for law


They walk for two days and find some human tracks. Later on they run into a Jampijinpa who is cooking some meat. The elder sister explains to her husband that this man is one of her fathers. Jungarrayi walks up to the man,

'I call you father-in-law. I have killed my mother, Nakamarra. You must kill me!'

'I knew your mother but I don't know you, Jungarrayi, so I can't punish you,' and he gives him food.

'My mother killed my mother-in-law,' explains Jungarrayi, 'that's why I had to kill her.'


18. Mourning


After the meal, Jungarrayi and his two wives follow Jampijinpa to the big camp. One young Napangardi recognizes the elder sister, 

'Where is my sister Quail?'

'She's no longer alive, my mother-in-law pierced her through her chest. My sister and I had been running after her son, that's why she killed our mother and then she was killed by her own son.'


Everyone in the camp starts to cry. The women grab their digging sticks to hit themselves on the head. And the men slash their thighs with quartz knives. 


19. Men's punishment 


Jungarrayi went to the men's meeting and talked to all the Jampijinpa, his 'fathers-in-law'.

'You have to punish me now. Throw your boomerangs at me as I have killed your grandmother!'

'We can't carry out the Law on you as we don't know you.'


Nevertheless all the Jungarrayi, his 'skin' brothers, agree to carry out the 'payback' ritual. They pierce his legs with a spear according to the Law. This was not done to kill him, but the Law is such that the flowing blood wipes out the offence. 


20. Women's punishment 


The two Nangala were at the women's meeting. They say to all the Napaljarri, their 'daughters'

'Hit us, for it is our fault if our mother, your grandmother, was killed!'


The Napaljarri hit the two Nangala who said then to all the Nangala,

'Hit us, sisters! For our deceased mother!'


And all the Nangala hit their two sisters who then told all the Nakamarra,

'Hit us, for it is our fault if our mother-in-law, your sister, was killed by her son!'


And all the Nakamarra hit them to avenge their sister. Finally the two sisters say to all the Nungarrayi,

'Hit us, for it is our fault if your brother Jungarrayi has killed your mother!'


And the Nungarrayi hit them because the daughters have to avenge their mothers. The Law forbids a woman to hit her niece or her daughter. That is why the two Nangala did not ask to be hit by the Nampijinpa, their 'aunts', nor by the Napangardi, their 'mothers'. 


After this ritual punishment, Jungarrayi and his two wives lived in the Pinyala region before entering the ground for ever. The Jintirrjintirrpa Willy Wagtail story belongs to the ngurlu seed Dreaming.

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Archives de chercheurs: Barbara Glowczewski [Collection(s) 28]
Audio of stories and songs, Lajamanu, Central Australia, 1984 [Set(s) 709]
Meta data
Object(s) ID 70088
Permanent URI
Title/DescriptionJukurrpa; Yawulyu: Barbara Nakamarra recounts story of two Napurrurla associated with NGURLU (seed) Dreaming. Involves Jintijintirrpa (Willy Wagtail)
Author(s)Barbara Nakamarra Gibson
LocationLajamanu, Tanami Desert, Central Australia
Coordinateslat -35.27 / long 149.08
Copyright Barbara Glowczewski
Rank 14 / 83
Filesize ? Kb
Transcription[ See/hide ]
Tape5 side 2
Quote this document Glowczewski, Barbara 1984 [accessed: 2024/5/20]. "Jukurrpa; Yawulyu: Barbara Nakamarra recounts story of two Napurrurla associated with NGURLU (seed) Dreaming. Involves Jintijintirrpa (Willy Wagtail)" (Object Id: 70088). In Audio of stories and songs, Lajamanu, Central Australia, 1984 . Tape: 5 side 2. ODSAS: