How the lizard got its frill

This is the time of year that the baby Bunyjul, frill-necked lizard, is hatching and finding his feet, so we thought you would enjoy this traditional story which explains how he got his frill.

The story is also about the importance of sharing - even something we love very much, like honey!

This is how my Dad, Tulo, tells the story in Milbi: Aboriginal Tales from Queensland's Endeavour River. And the illustrations are his too.

Frill Lizard had two sisters, two blackbirds. One day he decided to go out hunting, and he called his sisters to come along with him.  They set out and walked and walked. Frill Lizard happened to look up in a tree, as they were walking. There he spied a bees' nest.

He said to his sisters, 'Did you see, up in the tree, where that honey is? You two wait down here, and I'll climb up and get it.'

Frill Lizard got his stone axe, and he started to climb. He used the axe to chop notches in the tree, and he climbed up and up until he reached the branch where the honey was. Then he began to chop at the branch. Soon he had chopped an opening in the wood just big enough for him to get his hand in.

He reached in through the hole and took a handful of honey. He pulled it out and ate that first lot all by himself.  He put his hand in a second time, and he was about to eat it when those two sisters sang out from down below: 'Hey, you, throw some of that honey down to us. Throw some to us!'

Frill Lizard called back, 'Wait a bit, wait a bit!' Then he put his hand in the hole and brought out another handful of honey. 'Here, here, I'll throw it down to you,' he cried.

Those two sisters stretched out their hands to catch that honey as it came down. But just at the last minute, instead of throwing the honey down, Frill Lizard went Whooomp! and threw the honey right up into his own mouth. He ate it himself.

'Well,' Frill Lizard sang out, 'I can't throw the honey down just like that. You two have to go look around for some baaydjin grass. I'll make a sponge and dip it in the honey. Then I can throw that down for you to suck the honey from.'

So the two sisters went to have a look around. They searched and they searched, but they couldn't find any baaydjin grass. They came back and called up to their brother, 'No baaydjin grass around here!'

Frill Lizard said, 'Never mind. One of you take off that little skirt you're wearing and throw that up. I'll dip that in the honey.' So one of the blackbird sisters untied the little yirrbi she had around her waist, and she threw it high up to her brother in the tree.

Frill Lizard took that yirrbi and stuck it in the opening. He dipped in the honey and sopped it up until it was full. Then he pulled it out. But instead of throwing the skirt, soaked with honey, down to his sisters, Frill Lizard sucked that honey out himself. And he was so greedy that he swallowed the whole thing, skirt and all.

Well, his sister's skirt got stuck in the Frill Lizard's throat. And from that time on, when Frill Lizard gets excited he grows a lump on his throat. Well, that lump is his sister's yirrbi, which he wasn't even supposed to touch, and which he sucked honey from.

Bunyjul the bush weather forecaster
The story of Barrett's Lagoon
Our tours


Maree Kimberley said...

thanks for the story :) The illustrations are great!

Leanne said...

What a great story! Your dad must have passed his story telling to you. THANKS Willie!

els said...

I love the story. Thank you for sharing. Whenever I see a lump growing on a lizzard, I'll think of you Willie.