Sunday, February 5, 2012
Review: The Mark of the Wagarl
By Lorna Little / Illustrated by Janice Lyndon
Magabala Books, 2011, 28pp full colour
RRP: $22.95 ISBN: 1-875641-97-1
You know it's a great story when it's re-released seven years after it's original publication date and as I appreciated the cultural value of this book back in 2004, I wasn't surprised to see The Mark of the Wagarl in bookshops again.
The popular children's book is by Elder of the Binjareb Noongar community in Western Australia Lorna Little, who has passed on some of her cultural knowledge The Mark of the Wagarl, which is the story of the Sacred Water Snake.
The story tells of the travels and responsibilities of Wagarl, the big boss of all snakes and how he keeps the waterways clean in Noongar country.
But the story is essentially a moral tale about obedience, teaching young people to respect and listen to their elders. We learn through the misadventures of the young boy Baardi of what can happen when the wisdom of elders is disregarded rather than headed.
Rather than avoiding Wargal as advised by his elders, Baardi dives right into the waterhole and deep into the cave under the big rivergum where Wargal lives. Without giving the ending away, let’s say that the young fella suffers life-long consequences for disobeying the elders and disturbing the Wargal.
Little says of writing this book (back in 2004):
The children are my reason for writing this story. They have impressed upon me the importance of recording the stories of our people for their cultural identity and strengthening, so that they may pass them on to their children and grandchildren. They are strong in their desire to share stories with their wadjella friends to lead towards a better understanding of Nyoongar culture.
Little’s niece, Perth-based visual arts student Janice Lyndon who has painted from an early age and draws inspiration from her elders and the environment, illustrated The Mark of the Wagarl, making her debut into the publishing world.
A great book for the classroom, the home library and a gift instead of chocolate this coming Easter, The Mark of the Wagarl is bound to be one of those books that becomes a family treasure, even for those of us who aren’t Nyoongars! Oh, there’s a fabulous Nyoongar language list included to kick start some linguistic lessons for us all.
And for more writing by Lorna Little, checkout her short-story “The Miracle” and joint essay with Tom Little “Brick Walls: A comment on the challenges facing Indigenous artists”, in the deadly collection The Who Remain Will Always Remember: an anthology of Aboriginal writing (FACP, 2000).