Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Rain in Arhem Land ♥

I managed to pick this book up for a bargain at a book sale held in my old student union. I love the block print- style illustrations, and spirited away short stories. Some of my favorite verses...

Down the trunk of the tree the funniest procession was moving, one hairy caterpillar after another travelling from the high branches to join it's brothers and sisters on their way towards the ground. The leading caterpillar had almost reached the part of the trunk where the shape of the big roots made jutting buttresses and folds of bark, while the others were coming wriggle, wriggle, wriggle after him.
"What are they doing?" Mindui, the little girl, wanted to know as she watched in astonishment. Mainjari joined them then. He was a little bit older than Mindui and Barai, and so they turned to him. "What are the dabelain doing?' they demanded together. " This kind of caterpillar, the debelain, do this every year," he explained. "As soon as they hear the first thunderstorm coming, they know it is time to move,so down they come. They make silk tents for themselves at the bottom of a tree and there they go to sleep while the wet season is on. The rain runs off the shelter, so they are snug and dry. Uncle Juma painted a picture about it one time."
"What happens when they wake up?" Mindui asked, with her inquisitive nose only a few inches from the fuzzy travellers. She was fascinated by the way their funny little feet moved so smoothly that they gave the effect of a constant ripple, and she nearly went cross-eyed trying to see which foot moved first and which one last. "They turn into some kind of a bunba," explained Mainjari."A butterfly.

"The Bapi Yindi, the big snake, with the lesser snakes of the dreaming, watched over the land and the people, and all was peace.

"Now all the rain snakes had shining tougues. When they stood up high on their tales to sing for the monsoon to come the light from their tongues flickered on the clouds. That was the quiet lightening. There was no loud thunder in those early days to frighten the people, nor strong lightening with burning fire in it.

"After the big snake had swallowed the two women he began to have the most peculiar feeling in his middle. He was almost uncomfortable. "Ya wui!' he cried, standing up high on his tail with his head in the topmost clouds. 'Ya wui. I have swallowed two wise women and do not like the feel of them inside me. Ya-a-a-a!' For Ganyedingu and her sister had woken up as they were being swallowed, and they did not like the feeling of being inside the snake either. They wanted to get out at once.
"The smoke from their campfire was caught in the thick hair of the two sisters, and it made Bapi Yindi cough. He coughed and he coughed, making a noise like all the thunder storms of one wet season, and when he coughed his long fork tongue flickered out like a shining flame. "But the coughing did not make the big snake feel any better.
"So the he curled himself round and round among the clouds, until they looked like high piles of frothy soap-suds, just as the storm clouds do in the wet season when it is thundering. "But the twisting round and round did not make him feel any easier.
"So then he threw himself down across the countryside-thump! And when he stood up again on his tail he left a long and very curly river bed marked in the earth very neatly, just waiting for the rain to fall and make it run with water to the sea. "Several times he did this in different places, each time leaving new, curly river beds behind him. That is why the rivers along this part of the coast wind about like twisting snakes.

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