Wantaali — the story of the porcupine

This is the story of Wantaali, the Porcupine, as told by Jack Johnson in 1971, and narrated by Andrew Sloane. Jack was a right-through speaker of Paakantyi, the language of the Aboriginal people of far western New South Wales. He is Andrew’s great-great-great-uncle. The drawings are by Amanda King.

The full script

Wantaali palkarana ngiingkayika. (Porcupines live among the roots.)

Piipuru thayiyika. (They eat ants.)

Tharlanyangka mingkari ngipayika, (They put their tongue in the hole,)

ngantamaru tharlanyana piipuru-umpala, (and pull it back, with ants on it,)

thuna kungkarungka (then swallow them.)

Porcupine was once a man long ago.

Kaantinya … (Long ago…)

He didn’t have any friends because he didn’t like anyone else.

Nguri-mathirathu. (He got fat.)

The people hated Wantaali. (He never went hunting or helped with anything. He said nasty things.)

Ngurta nhintatya, ngapa nguri. (You are skinny, I am fat.)

Wantaali had many enemies who wanted to spear him.

Wathityu. (He got in a hole.)

All through winter, when it was hard to find food, nobody saw Wantaali. He was hiding underground. In the summertime he’d be back, eating ants and getting fat. He’d be nasty again and laugh at the people.

Nguri-mathiraapa piipuru yarliny’ thayaathu. (I got fat eating lots of ants.)

His enemies went out looking for him.

Parntatyikaana kaarima-yarra. (They looked for him in the mallee.)

Every time they’d follow his trail, it led them back to the hole in the ground. They were becoming very angry.

But he still called out: Nharkaama, ngapa nharkaama! kila wiimpatyayi! (My enemies! You’re not my people!)

He tricked them. They were following around the wrong way. He’d put his feet on backwards, so they had to track him backwards.

Kalkuruna panturtana (They struck him with their spears.)

But one last time Wantaali outsmarted them by digging underground and turning into a little animal.

He still called out: Yunuuna-manti kila wiimpatukuyi ngurtawa, (So you lot aren’t my people,)

Nharka-nharkakuyi, (you’re my enemies,)

Thiriturtayi. (I’ll keep on giving you cheek.)

And that’s the story of the Ancestor, Wantaali.

Story contributed by Robert Lindsay and Menindee Central School. Story contributed in 2019.