Linocut Kaidaral with Hand Clr. ed. 85
98 x 62 cm
Bia, an aborigine (kawaig), lived at Cowal Creek on Cape York Peninsula. He ate fish and wild yams (saur). He had magical powers. (1) Every day he walked along the beach, either south to the mouth of the Jardine River, or north to Red Island Point, and he always took his spear (dikun) (2) with him, a spear which had some of his own magic power in it. He used to throw the spear ahead of him, walk to it, pick it up and throw it again, all the way there and back. He used a woomera when throwing his spear. On the way back from Red Island Point one day his spear landed at Alau, skidded along the sand and buried itself to its full length just above the beach. Bia followed its tracks and found it; when he pulled it out, water gushed from the hole. There has been a spring of water at that spot ever since. The thought came to Bia one morning that he would visit the islands which lay to the north of his home at Cowal Creek. From the dilly-bag in which he kept his aids to magic he took out a small, magic canoe and a feather. He put the magic canoe into the sea, stuck the feather in the canoe, and spoke magic words. These caused the feather to become a sail and the canoe one big enough to hold a man. Bia stepped into the canoe and sailed to Muralag. He landed at Dakanu. Now if he were to be able to play with his spear at this new place, he had to have a long beach like those at his former home, so he went round to the west side of the island and looked for one. At the first long stretch of sand he saw, he threw his spear. It came to rest in the roots of a mangrove tree. This island, Bia decided, did not suit him. So he sailed further north. Kunai (Goode Island) (3) did not please him. Warar (Hawkesbury Island) did not please him. At neither was there a beach where he could throw his spear. At Warar he looked north and saw Badu and Mua. He chose Badu as the next island he would visit. Bia landed on the south-west coast of Badu at a spot on the beach near the big rock called Kudal. A man named Itar lived near by. He greeted Bia, and the two men became friends. Bia and Itar lived together at Kudal for some time. They ate fish and yams. The variety of yam which Itar dug was bua, a kind unknown to Bia. Bia, on the other hand, dug saur, the yam which he had found and eaten at Cowal Creek, and now he taught Itar about it. Each man was delighted to learn of a new food. One day Bia threw his spear along the beach which stretched north of Kudal. He had not used all his strength in throwing it, so it did not travel very far. Yet Bia spent a long time looking for it before he found it because the sand where it landed and afterwards skimmed along the surface was hard- packed - there was no track to lead Bia to his spear. Eventually he found it at Mekeina Kausar. Then he threw it back to Kudal, and it landed beside the rock on the beach. Another day, after throwing his spear to Mekeina Kausar, he threw a second time, further north, to the very end of the beach. It was very hard to find. For a while he thought it was lost for good. 'My beautiful spear where are you? Have you buried yourself like a crab in the sand? I do not want to lose you,' said Bia. He went to the soft sand-ridges behind the beach. There was no trace of the spear. At last he found it, further inland from the shore than he had expected it to be, buried to its full length in the middle of a patch of scrub, and, when he pulled it out, beautiful clear, sweet water gushed from the ground. (4) 'This is my water. I found it with my spear. This water will never stop flowing,' he said. He was very happy. On the long walk back to Kudal, Bia threw his spear twice only, the first time, just before he set out, the second time from Mekeina Kausar where it had come to rest. At Mekeina Kausar he hooked his spear to his woomera and threw with all his might. When he reached Kudal, he saw Itar lying on the beach, dead: his spear had pierced his friend's side and killed him. Bia wept. Afterwards he carried Itar to the edge of the sea and, before throwing the body into the water, said: 'Itar, my good friend, you will become a fish and live in the sea. You will look for food only at night. During the day you will rest safe and sound inside a hole in a stone.' (5) Bia had no wish to stay at Kudal any longer, so he left at once in his magic canoe, sailing round Zigini Ngur to Wakaid and then leaving Badu and crossing to Parbar on Mua. From Mua he sailed to Iem, a small island from which Gumu (Mabuiag) was clearly visible. He chose, however, to go east with the next morning tide past Gebar (Two Brothers Island) to Iama (Yam Island), which place he reached before sunset that day. When he woke the following morning, Bia decided to play with his spear and, walking to the beach, (6) threw it over a rocky point at the end of the stretch of sand. When it landed, its tip pierced the ground. Bia easily found his spear. When he pulled it free, water flowed from the shallow hole. 'This is my water,' he said, 'but because my spear only went into the ground a little way, it will sometimes fail. In a drought, this spring will go dry.' (7) Next day, Bia again sailed east with the morning tide. It took him to Kailag (Yorke Island), where he did not go ashore, not liking the beaches for spear-play, and to Erub (Darnley Island), where he landed at Badog. (8) Bia slept the night at Badog and in the morning walked round the east side of the island. At the beginning of the long beach called Isem, he threw his spear, and it fell on the far side of the headland at the end of the beach, burying itself to half its length. At that spot, (9) once again Bia's spear found water. Bia said: 'This is my water. The spring is good. Nevertheless, it will dry up at times, because my spear did not bury itself completely.' Mer (Murray Island), suspended above the horizon east of Erub, was not visited by Bia. He saw Mer, but did not go there. From Erub he sailed south. With his magic to help him and a good north wind from behind, he reached Cowal Creek in one day. He sailed up the creek for a short distance and then, standing up in his canoe, hooked his spear on the woomera and threw it. 'Where my spear stops, I will make my home.' said Bia. The spear flew through the air to the hills inland and half-buried itself in the ground at a place where the tall grass grew. Bia lived there by himself for a while. Later he had a wife with him. Bia's spear had been his plaything, a magic toy, which he had never used for killing men. He was a man who had magical powers; he was not a fighting man. Therefore, when he had reason after a time to believe himself to be in danger of an attack by ememies, he said to his wife: 'We must leave this place. It is not safe to remain here.' And the two walked towards the coast. Not far from the mouth of Cowal Creek, Bia embraced his wife and, holding her tight in his arms, jumped into the running water. He spoke magic words, and at once he and his wife became a pair of mating turtles (saulal) which were carried out to sea by the tide. Ever since, the first pair of mating turtles in the season of mating turtle have always been seen floating on top of the water near the entrance to Cowal Creek. Other couples quickly follow the first and make their way north. Before long, the sea which lies between the two mainlands is dotted with mating turtle.
1. Nui pui-mabaig, he magic power person.
2. Dikun, a spear used in play.
3. Goode Island seems to have two names, Kunai and Palilag.
4. This spring is called Iaza. It has never been known to fail.
5. Itar became the Epaulette Shark, Hemiscyllium ocellatum.
6. In front of the present-day village.
7. This spring is called Ngurnguki at Yam Island (ngur, point; nguki, water).
8. The church stands there today.
9. In Mogor. Told by Father Mara at Badu, 22 October 1967. 'Myths and Legends of the Torres Strait.' Collected and translated by Margret Lawrie, University of Queensland Press, 1970.