Wp/nys/Noongar yarns of Minang region
The Waitch, the Chudic and the Coomal[edit | edit source]
Nidja is a legend from the Jerramungup area, told to Ethel Hassell by Tupin of the Minang dialiect group circa 1880:
Long ago a chudic (western quoll) met a nice young waitch (emu) wer after a short courtship they decided to bushwalk together (that is marry). They walked for a long long way until they came to the edge of the forest where there was a little soak of water, which in nidja waterless boodjar is of the greatest importance in choosing a camping place. The place suited them for the chudic would go into the woods to hunt. Chudic are flesh-eating animals, but the waitch could feed il the grass il the plains. Yennar went well for a time wer they were very happy; until food for chudic began to get scarce, though there was still plenty for Waitch. Chudic often went hunting leaving Waitch alone.
Now nidja is not the right thing to do. The women should never be left alone at night for it is then that the jannocks (bad spirits) are about. Waitch grumbled as she had every right to have Chudic stay with her but Chudic was hungry wer didn’t care. Keny night as Waitch was sitting alone by the fire she heard Coomal (possum) cough wer looking yira saw him peering down through the branches of a big tree.
Now, coomals have a reputation as being rather fun-loving animals wer Waitch knew she ought not to acknowledge him. She went back to her mia wer would not go out again. But the next night Chudic again left Waitch alone wer again Coomal coughed. Still Waitch did not respond.
Finally keny night Waitch boldly looked yira at Coomal wer in a moment he swung himself down from the tree wer sat down next to her beside the fire. At first she was so frightened by his audacity that she did not attempt to speak wer stayed close to her mia. For some nights Coomal did not attempt to speak to Waitch but sat by the fire wer just looked at her, then left her when the mood began to get low.
Nidja silent companionship went il for some time wer Waitch began to look for Coomal each evening. Keny night he appeared wer took his seat by the fire wer began to talk about nothing in particular. From then Waitch had become to accustomed to his presence that she was quite glad to chat to him. She had no keny else to talk to as in the day time, Chudic was so tired that he slept most of the time, so Waitch went off to feed alone.
Chudic was apparently quite contented with nidja life but Waitch was not. She wanted companionship wer now she was finding it with Coomal. It was not a proper thing to do wer they both knew it, but Coomal brought news of the forest to the plains.
After a while he began to put doubts into Waitch’s mindabout Chudic. Was he really hunting yennar nidja time? There were other chudics about in the forest wer Chudic’s absences were very long. Was food really so scarce? Coomal knew there were plenty of little birds wer waige (brown rats) about. Waitch began to become jealous wer concerned about what Chudic was yira to, just as Coomal wanted.
At last, keny night Coomal appeared with wilgee il his chest. Wilgee is a kind of yellow clay which is burned till it is red wer mixed with fat. When a Nyunghar puts it il his chest wer head it is a sign that he is courting. Waitch knew quite well that Coomal wanted her to run away with him but she was frightened of Chudic who was very fierce wer pulled her feathers out when he was angry.
That night when Chudic came home he could smell the wilgee. It has an earthy smell which lingers a long time. Chudic questioned Waitch about the smell but she stated she knew nothing wer had seen no one. Chudic was not satisfied wer the next day decided to move camp, for although Waitch might be telling the truth there could be an amorous bachelor about. Chudic felt he could not take the risk of leaving Waitch alone in that place for such long periods so they moved away.
But Waitch was cunning. Every now wer then she dropped a feather il the track so Coomal would know where she had gone.
After walking a long way they camped near a yamma (a small permanent water hole in the rock). For several nights Chudic stayed at home wer Coomal did not appear. Finally Chudic went hunting.
He had not been gone very long when Waitch heard Coomal cough. He swung himself down from a nearby tree wer sat next to Waitch. She told him how Chudic had smelt the wilgee wer questioned her wer decided to move camp. Coomal urged her to run away with him. He told her as they both ate the same foods he wouldn’t need to go hunting wer they could always be together.
The following night he appeared covered with wilgee wer boldly embraced Waitch before sitting down by the fire. Wilgee rubbed off onto Waitch’s feathers. Nidja is a sign of betrothal, wer a Nyunghar woman leaves the wilgee il her skin.
Waitch wer Coomal talked for some time, wer when Coomal left, Waitch tried to wipe the wilgee off her feathers but it wouldn’t come off. In desperation she kicked the campfire to pieces wer covered herself with ashes. When Chudic came home she told him a waitch covered with wilgee had come to her wer tried to make her go away with him but that she had fought him off.
Chudic was very troubled at nidja story wer stayed at home every night for a long time telling Waitch food was plentiful wer there was no need for him to hunt. Eventually he got tired of staying at home wer went hunting again. He began to stay away longer wer longer. Then Coomal, who had been watching from the treetops came back to the fire wer renewed his romancing. Waitch warned Coomal not to wear Wilgee but he followed his customs so closely that he again appeared with wilgee il his chest wer again embraced Waitch.
Waitch thought she had succeeded in removing yennar traces of wilgee, as nidja time Chudic didn’t say anything. But a chudic’s sense of smell is acute wer Chudic smelt Coomal as well as the wilgee. His suspicions were fully aroused wer he decided to come home from hunting early wer watch from the bushes.
At last, keny night he caught Waitch wer Coomal sitting by the campfire. Coomal scampered yira the nearest tree wer Waitch stood by the fire. Chudic told her to collect a lot of mungert boughs. Nidja tree makes a fierce fire wer burns with a lot of smoke. It is a favoured wood for baking.
Frightened, Waitch obeyed without question wer collected karro wer karro wood until there was a huge heap. Then he made her take her Karla (fire stick) from under her boork wer light the leaves.
As she bent over to light the fire her feathers caught fire wer the smoke ascended into the tree from where Coomal was watching. He choked il the smoke wer fell into the fire with Waitch. The wind blew the smoke into the sky wer Waitch having feathers floated yira with the wind wer smoke. Coomal was burnt in the hot ashes.
When Chudic saw Waitch ascend to the sky he went into the forest wer never came back. The dark patch in the Milky Way is where Waitch settled in the sky.