Milbi : Aboriginal Tales from Queensland’s Endeavour River
John B. Haviland, translator
ANU Press, 1986
Primary, Upper Primary
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English, Guugu Yimidhirr language Y82
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- Cultural protocols
- Guugu Yimidhirr people (Y82) (Qld SD55-13)
‘Milbi’, a word in the Guugu Yimidhirr language, means not only ‘a traditional story or legend’ but also ‘a piece of news, a tidbit of gossip or an account of recent or past events’. This aptly reflects the nature of this collection of 15 tales that relate to the country, bird and animal life and waterways in the region around and north of Endeavour River from Cooktown (Gan-gaar) to Cape Flattery (Yuuru) in Northern Queensland. Tulo Gordon, an artist descended from the Guugu Yimidhirr people of Queensland, retold these stories which ‘provide moral lessons about proper social order among the Guugu Yimidhirr people in traditional times’ and also created the accompanying artwork. Rendered in desert reds, ochres, black and white, stunning full-page illustrations depict key scenes or sequential vignettes enhancing the tales with movement and emotion.
We learn about how significant regional landscapes and geographical landmarks were formed in ‘Mungurru, the Scrub Python and the Endeavour River’, when the python seeks warmth, coiling up in the shallow waters of the Endeavour River, only to harden in the hot sun and turn to rock, or present-day Nobby Point (Dyiirrii). In ‘How the giant Nhinhinhi fish changed the languages’, a huge groper swallows a gathering of various tribes meeting at a corroboree, who are then vomited up and emerge speaking different languages and consequently unable to understand each other. Words in Guugu Yimidhirr appear throughout the retellings. A map offers a valuable visual guide to the region, while an informative addendum, ‘Behind the Myths’ by translator, linguist and anthropologist, Dr John Haviland, provides an insight into the tales and biographical information about Tulo Gordon.
- Talking’ Guugu Yimidhirr, National Museum of Australia, online game teaches some simple words in language, suitable for primary school age children https://nma.gov.au/av/endeavour/guugu-yimidhirr/index.html
- Learn Guugu Yimithirr: Ngayu, Nhundu, Nganhthaan, Yurra (I, You, We, You all), Good to Great Schools Australia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MSx-_M0J-M
- The story of Mungurru and Wahalumbaal birri/How Mungurru (the rock python) made Wahalumbaal birri (the Endeavour River) from the book ‘(Milbi) Aboriginal Tales from Queensland’s Endeavor River’ by Tulo Gordon http://www.cooktownandcapeyork.com/do/history/mungurrusign