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Version 1
Yuwaalaraay only.

Version 2
Yuwaalaraay and English.

About the Wiidhaa story

This story is from tapes 3218A (Arthur Dodd and Janet Mathews) and 5056 (Arthur Dodd and Corinne Williams). There is another version in Australian Legendary Tales (K Langloh-Parker).

The story, like a number of Arthur Dodd stories, contains some Ngiyambaa language. This language is from an area immediately south of the Yuwaalaraay area, and Arthur Dodd spoke both languages. It is also common in stories for characters from different areas to speak the different languages.

Wiidhaa is the bowerbird and Maliyan the Wedgetail eagle, both common in the Yuwaalaraay area. Arthur Dodd makes a point that the Wiidhaa called Maliyan ‘Baayamba’. The significance of this is not clear.

As with many stories there is a link to the appearance, behaviour and name of the characters and also a moral in the story. The Wiidhaa (Spotted Bowerbird) male has a tuft of purple/red feathers on the back of his head. He builds a bower of grass and sticks which he runs through and dances around to attract females, and decorates the bower with objects such as coloured flowers and bones. These days coloured plastic and aluminium is common at the bowers. The Wiidhaa/bowerbird is a great imitator of other birds and can sound like a group of many different birds when he sings. The name Wiidhaa is close to wii-dja = ‘on the fire’ in Yuwaalaraay, and even closer to the Gamilaraay version wii-dha which is possibly also the Ngiyambaa version. Maliyan is an important character in stories and the Wedge-tail is a very large and powerful bird.

The story is reproduced in English below.

The Bowerbird

There were some people in a big tree calling out loud. "There, over there, there it is, over there, there." [This is possibly Ngiyambaa and so not easily translated.] The Wedgetail Eagle was walking along towards the sound. Wedgetail could hear it as he walked.

"There must be a lot of people there, calling out. Hey, who is that? Who is calling out there?"

Then that bird saw the Wedgetail. The Wedgetail Eagle was getting closer to the Bowerbird. Then the Wedgetail stood still, and he listened.

The Bowerbird said: "Hey, who told you that you could come here? Don’t come here!"

But the Wedgetail said: "I was just walking along. I thought I heard a lot of people as I was walking. They were calling out loud, they were making a lot of noise."

"No, No, I am here alone, just me here sitting by myself. I always call out like that. Go away mate, get lost." [He used to call the Wedgetail Eagle, ‘baayamba, mate’. {this is Ngiyambaa}]

"Okay," the Wedgetail said, and then he was walking away from there.

But the Bowerbird had made a big fire. He grabbed Wedgetail and said: "I am going to chuck you on the fire!"

He threw Wedgetail on the ground. He was rolling the Wedgetail along, rolling him along to the fire, pushing him to the fire, to burn him on it.

The heat was really coming off the fire. When Wedgetail felt the heat he turned around really quickly and jumped to his feet. He grabbed that Bowerbird there, and threw him onto the ground.

But Bowerbird was calling out: "Let me stand up. Let me go, let me go! Let me go mate!"

But the Wedgetail said: "I am not going to let you go! I am going to throw you in the fire." And Wedgetail was rolling the Bowerbird along, pushing him along to the fire. Then he threw the Bowerbird in the fire. Right in the middle of the fire!

"That’s done!" Then the Wedgetail walked away from there. He heard something. It was the Bowerbird burning, and his head burst open, and the brains ran out.

So now that Bowerbird has a red tuft on the back of his head. That is where the blood ran out, and the brains ran out of his head. [And around the Bowerbird’s bower you still find lots of bones - the remains of other people he has cooked. And the Bowerbird still sits in trees imitating other birds and other animals, so he sound like a mob of birds.]