Aboriginal stories from Queensland’s Endeavour River

Told and illustrated by Tulo Gordon. Translated, edited and additional material by John B Haviland

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A long time ago, on the Country of Guugu Yimithirr people, ancient creatures hunted, danced, played and gathered food. The Magpie brothers chased the giant Dingo; the greedy White Cockatoo stole fo read more

A long time ago, on the Country of Guugu Yimithirr people, ancient creatures hunted, danced, played and gathered food. The Magpie brothers chased the giant Dingo; the greedy White Cockatoo stole food from two Night Owl sisters; Storm threw lightning at Frill Lizard; and Eagle walked on the ground. As they roamed about, they disturbed the land, making rivers, lagoons and mountains, spreading plants and changing the colour of animals — creating the land we see today.

Tulo Gordon grew up on this Country and knew the old stories. A gifted storyteller and illustrator, Tulo Gordon retells them here in Guugu Yimithirr and English.

Production Details
  • Paperback
  • 279mm x 250mm
  • 52 pp
  • Released July 2021
  • ISBN 978-1-922102-90-4

Mungurru Bula Jirimathirr / Mungurru, the Scrub Python, and the Endeavour River 
Jibuul / Jiibuul, the Bat 
Gujal / How Gujal, the Eagle, got his wings 
Ganhaarr Bula Jiiral Nhangu / Ganhaarr, the Crocodile, and his wife 
Dindurr / The giant Dindurr Eel
Nhinhinhi Gurra Bamawi Guugu / How the giant NHinhinhi Fish changed the languages
Bunja Bula Gaanhaal Jin.gurr Bulaan Jilbi Wunay / The two Night Owl sisters and the Jilbi Tree
Gambagamba Bula Gamintharr Nhangu / The old woman and her grandson on a lonely island
Diimuur Bula Gabul / The Forest Spirit and his ten beautiful daughters
Bunjul / Frill Lizard and the honey
Durrgin / Durrgin, the Water Rat
Wurrbal Bula Tharramali / Fog and Storm
Ngamungaatharr Yabarraban / The giant Dingo
Dugul Bula Gaanhaal Jin.gurr / The two Dugul sisters
Bamaal Gunbu Dumbi / The big dance and the angry old woman
A map of where the stories come from
Guugu Yimithirr spelling and pronunciation 
Behind the stories

About The Author

Tulo Gordon was born about 1918 in a camp on the shores of the Endeavour River, upstream from Cooktown where he learned the stories in this book from his mother and other elders.
Tulo lived through an era of transformation of the lives of bama (as Aboriginal people call themselves in Guugu Yimitihirr language). He was educated on a mission near Cooktown, then was exiled south during World War II. He returned in the 1950s to a new community and established a family. He finally was recognised as an Australian citizen in the 1960s.
Tulo recorded the stories and illustrated them for a children’s book, published in English in 1978. Tulo Gordon died in 1989, but his retellings of the ancient stories live on in this new edition. Alongside the English translations, are his original words in Guugu Yimithirr, the language of the Cooktown area where Tulo’s descendants still live today.
John Haviland is a linguistic anthropologist whose research with speakers of Mayan languages of Chiapas, Mexico, and of Paman languages of north Queensland, Australia, centres on the social life of languages: how speakers use their words as resources for negotiating social worlds, including their families, their neighbours, their communities, and the evolving local and global environments where they live.

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