‘The Pangkarlangu and the Lost Child’ is a narrative from Warlpiri country in the Northern Territory. In this version of the Pangkarlangu narrative, a young boy refuses to stay back at the camp as instructed, and instead follows his parents as they venture out hunting. His parents travel a long way from the camp, and the small boy can’t keep up. Soon he is lost and crying. This is when he happens upon the terrifying Pangkarlangu – a huge, hairy, sharp-clawed creature!
Luckily for the young boy, the Pangkarlangu takes pity on him and this story ends happily when, many years later, the boy is reunited with his family.
However, this narrative still serves as a cautionary tale for children and their parents, highlighting the dangers that may await children who wander too far from camp.
Young readers will delight in the initial sense of fear at the encounter with the scary Pangkarlangu, which then gives way to relief when the Pangkarlangu shows kindness to the lost boy. There is a fulfilling sense of circularity to the narrative when the boy is joyously reunited with his family.
The bold, brightly coloured painted illustrations, created by children from the Lajamanu Community Education Centre, are engaging, and perfectly capture emotions of tension, fear, relief and joy. The colour palette of browns, oranges and reds effectively depicts the Australian desert environment.
This book could be utilised in a classroom setting to facilitate discussion of the purpose of First Nations people’s traditional narratives and the way in which knowledge is passed from one generation to another, along with art techniques used in the book, ways of telling story, cultural diversity, and discussion of other First Nations authors.
Younger children may enjoy acting out scenes from the story or creating their own art based on themes presented in this narrative.
Series: Dreaming narrative