The Mark of the Wagarl is based on a traditional story from the Nyoongar people of the south-west of Western Australia.
Expertly told by Lorna Little, elder of the Bindjareb Nyoongar community, Lorna cites the children as her main reason for writing …
“They are strong in their desire to share stories with their wadjella friends to lead towards a better understanding of Nyoongar culture.”
Janice Lyndon’s illustrations emit colour, energy and texture. Have fun spotting all the different species of snakes ‘hidden’ in their environment. I envy her ability to capture the most thoughtful facial expressions – my personal favourite is on the very first page depicting the children listening to “the old people” as they begin retelling the story of Wagarl.
The Wagarl is the big boss, the birdiya, of the water ways who is to be respected and feared. We learn of his journey from the sea, to the rivers to the caves where his role is to look after the other snake families. The Wagarl’s resting place was a deep, dark cave so cold that he was the sole inhabitant … and was not to be disturbed. The story focuses on Baardi, who questioned and doubted the wisdom of his elders. He did not really believe that he should creep quietly past Wagarl’s resting place, that dust should be thrown in to the river to hide himself from the Wagarl and doubted that the Wagarl would really emerge … to eat him! Not only did he fail to trust in what he was told, but he decided to put it to the test.
Well of course adults always know best! Baardi comes face to face with wagarl in pages filled with vibrant blue images of the Wagarl himself. Baardi negotiates, and emerges alive but …. no spoilers here for those who don’t already know the story.