Two Boys and Two Devils – a traditional Yangkaal story from Forsyth Island (Vote for this Artwork)
John Williams, 2020
Artist Location: Gununa, Mornington Island
Medium: Acrlic on Belgian linen
Dimensions: 102 x 102 x 2 cm
This Traditional story tells about how greediness and disrespect always come back to bite you on the bum. This is a cautionary tale and is also one of the important dances and songs of the Lardil people here on Mornington Island.
Two Boys and Two Devils – a traditional Yangkaal story from Forsyth Island
A long time ago on Gurraben Reef off Forsyth Island, two little boys were making a fire with firesticks. Up above, two malgarn (devil-birds) were singing out, “Wii!”
The two boys heard them and mocked them, singing out, “Wii!”
The two malgarn again sang out, “Wii!”
And the two boys again copied them – “Wii!”
Then the malgarn sang out louder, “Wii!”
And the two boys again copied them – “Wii!”
And again, the malgarn sang out even louder, “Wii!”
And again, the two boys copied them, singing out even louder, “Wii!”
The malgarn jumped down and grabbed those two boys and wrapped them up in a net. They dragged the net south onto a sandbank. One malgarn said, “Come over here, let the two boys lay down there in the net. You and I can go to the point and make some firesticks.”They left the boys tied up in the net near the ocean in the south-west and went to the north-east to try and make a fire to cook them.
The malgarn rubbed their firesticks, jila, jila, jila, jila! They started to get fire. They rubbed again, but the fire wouldn’t start. Maltha (nothing). Meanwhile, the two boys were still on the sandbank, struggling to escape from the net.
“Have you got anything like a knife or tomahawk to cut this net?” asked one boy. “No,” replied the other boy, “but look! I’ve got a bottle here beside me!” “Well, that’s alright,” said the first boy, “Go on, cut it with the bottle!” So, he tore and cut at the net until he made his way out.
The first boy was still inside, looking to see how far away the malgarn are. He was worried they would see them escape. The other boy reassured him, “They’re far away, far off to the east.”
“You go out first, then I’ll come out after you.” The first boy came out then and together they rolled down the sandbank. Rolling, rolling, rolling, rolling, right into the saltwater. They swam and they swam, all the way west back to Forsyth Island. The two malgarn were still trying to make fire.
“Right,” said one, “Go and get them now. We’ll eat while it’s still light.” The other malgarn went and looked. He called out “Hey, there’s nothing here! No boys! They’ve gone!” “Get them!” said the first malgarn, “Don’t hide them! I won’t give you any. Get my food!” “They’re not here,” said the other one, “Look, there’s nothing!”
“Get them! Don’t hide that food of mine. I want to eat them. Don’t hide them for no reason!” “They’re not here! You look for them!” The first, malgarn started heading to the north-east, ready for a fight. He picked up the net and looked in every corner. The two boys were really gone.
Of course, the two malgarn blamed each other for losing the boys. And then of course they started fighting. They fought each other all over the place – in the west and north and south and east. While they were fighting shooting stars fell down into the ocean. Well, when they finally had enough of fighting, the two malgarn thought that maybe they should try looking for the boys.
“Come on, you go to the north side and I’ll go to the south side.” While they were looking, they sang a song in Yangkaal. “Danda gurra, danda gurra, danda gurra, danda gurra, danda gurra, danda gurra, danda gurra. Danda warrirr!”
After a while two malgarn still hadn’t found any sign of the two boys. They took off and flew over Robert Island and back to Forsyth Island in search of the boys. They landed on a sandbank at Marragadba, wandered around to the west and did durlda (shit) there. The people saw those malgarn in the west and quickly sent the boys to the east side. But then the malgarn went east too. “Here they are on the east side, wandering around. Hide the children, those boys. Hide them all!”
They did their best to hide the children, but the malgarn must have heard them, because next thing they flew over and landed right there in the middle of the people’s camp. The malgarn asked the people, “Are our good ones here? The ones who ran here a little while ago?” “We don’t have anyone,” the people replied. “Don’t hide them! Don’t hide them! yelled the malgarn. “Get my devil’s children! Get my children!”
The people were worried, so they bring out one little child to offer to the malgarn. “This is the one, right? This one?” “No, that one’s bad, he has a big stomach. That one’s yours, he’s bad.”
They brought out another child. “Is it this one?” “That one’s bad too. He’s bad, with a skinny body.”
They brought out two more children. “How about these two?” “No, those are your bad ones, leave them. Those are bad, they’ve got skinny bodies.”
They brought out two more children. “How about these two?” “No, those are your bad ones, leave them. Those are bad, they’ve got skinny bodies.” The malgarn explained exactly what they were looking for. Eventually the people were forced to bring out the two boys who had escaped from the devils’ net. “How about these two people?”
“Yes, those are ours,” the malgarn said. “Bring them up!” Well, the people weren’t so silly as to give their boys away that easily. “Righto!” said one of the men, “Before you take these boys, go over there and shake-a-leg.” The malgarn started to shake-a-leg, because by now they were ready to do anything to be able to eat those two delicious boys. But the people continued with their plan …
“Go on, put your legs wider apart,” they said. “Open your legs.” The two malgarn opened their legs wider still, and the men all speared them. The malgarn were writhing in pain. And then they flew straight up into the sky with the white spears sticking out behind them. And they kept on going up until they disappeared out of sight.
Photographer: MIART Mornington Island Art