The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842-1954), Saturday 26 April 1947, page 11



Of The

Roper River


streams. In the

called warrai "N'yal are lubras mythological warrai." The great figures "Bolong," who rainbow-snake of the creation largely in the account is their of the blackfellow's world, mother.^ the warrai "N'yal Sometimes in warrai" live together numbers, sometimes they are in pairs, and sometimes alone. They are very shapely, with long, streaming hair, and flashing white teeth. sudman out hunting may A young denly hear, coming out of a nearby reeded-pool, talking and splashing and it is the laughter. "N'yal He knows warrai-warrai," and, soundlessly, he the leaves and sand to passes over them. creep up on Through the pandanus and the tall reeds he sees the gleam of the stirred hears the voices and He water. laughter like the sound of the water itself. he makes the In his eagerness leeds tremble as he parts them, and the laughter the voices and at once the The around water are gone. floating lily-leaves is still stirred where the water-lubras have been playing, but the hunter has not seen them, and, out of the farthest reeds, only a white egret rises and flies away. have heard, in Another hunter may the stillness of the middle of the day, a flow of musical talking along the banks of a river. He creeps up without touching a branch or causing leaf to crackle, and there, lying and a the sitting in a place of sunlight on of the "N'yal warrai sand, are two warrai." They are the most desirable lubras

he has seen. The nearest to one him, half reclining in the warm sand, has thrown back her streaming hair, the curve which lies over and covers of her back. He



to his spring,


close almost now, lubra to make nearest when, in his tenseness, he

the country bordering tributhe Roper River and its many taries, there is a definite belief of the existence of wild and beautiful
live in the lubras who springs, waters and streams.

AMONG ing in

the different tribes


billabongs, these of

sound on the leaves, and, in of wild, frightened faces and white parted teeth, the pair have slipped into the water and are gone. Accounts of these "N'yal warrai related are warrai" from various sources. Weeawa, an old lubra of tribe on the Wilton River, the Bulman told me that she had of a known water-lubra being caught by a young of the Mara tribe whose country man Station. includes the area of Nutwood


National Library of Australia

includes the


of Nutwood



that the piccaninny escaped. waters In relating this story,"* the blacks are that the piccaninny was a unanimous of the rainbow serpent Bolong, who causes the great lightnings, rains, in this case and floods, and who was its rescuing, in anger, child from the white man. y In these natives' mythology, Bolong, the rainbow serpent, has often caused and floods which have great storms tribes. destroyed and drowned many In of accordance with the sources these rivers, Bolong appears suddenly of the ground, lashing out for out furlongs his dragon-like length and bringing with outhim the great the tcrro^i pouring of water to drown stricken tribes for their wrong-doings. child

'THESE water-lubras are usually cap« tured by creeping silently up on them and catching them by the heel. A piece of wood be held ready for must their sharp teeth to bite on! Their hold them through all captors must frantic their most and desperate smugglings, until they are securely tied by the wrists and feet and gagged with piece of wood a stone. or The water-lubras do not understand the use of fire, and the general method of taming them is to make them sit the fire, burn them a little with near it, make them pass through the smoke of the fire, and to put hot bark on their ears, "in order to get the sound and feel of the water out of them." In the case of the water-lubra captribe, tured by the boy of the Mara she was married to this young man and turned out to be a good lubra It is reported that and a good cook! she eventually died in the tribe. A case involving several white men was recently related to me by the old Goodoonoo of the Mungerai N'yalarkan tribes of the Roper Valley. Goodoonoo said the incident occurred

when he was a piccaninny, and he reof two of the members the names were as white men, who surveyors, "Mr. Lindsay" and "Mr. Playbitt." and The party of five white men black boy (who looked after the one the cook) were surhorses and was It River. veying along the Bulman in the dry time just before^ the was "wet" commences, and the party, riding through the tall grass of the plains girl the river above banks, saw a piccaninny who was apparently alone. The frightened child tried to escape to the river, but the white men spurred their horses and cut the child off. One man caught up the piccaninny and held her, struggling, biting, and crying, on the front of his saddle. Each night the surveyor tied the child He tried to get the up to a tree. piccaninny to eat, but she would not The child touch any of their food. only fretted and cried. A day or two after the piccaninny had been caught, the first small rain in the sky that had cloud appeared for months That been unclouded. night lightning and a great wind and rain carne up, billowing and tearing the tents and mosquito nets of the It rained incesparty into shreds. in danger santly and the men were their of losing horses and being It was drowned. during their efforts the rising themselves from to save

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