Wemba Wemba: How the Murray River was Made
How the Murray River was Made
Story told by Ron Murray with permission from his father, Besley Murray, senior Elder, Wamba Wamba.
Ron’s Nan, on his mum Lorraine’s side (Nan Karpany), also told a version of this story.Contributors
Contact Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for LanguagesCopyright
The writers, photographers and the State of Victoria
Totyerguil was a parrayi paraya. One day he left the Mallee scrub, which was his country, and lar with his kethawil pembengguk close to present-day Swan Hill, Merteruk-pert. Soon his two wives, Mathimuk and Gunewarra, the Black Swans, had a meal ready for him, and while he was tyaka his wathip went collecting wattle-gum, of which they were very fond. When they arrived at a lurthak they saw a huge yawirr basking in the nyawi close to the surface of the katen. The wuthu payingguk parenga back to tell their marn.
Totyerguil puny-will made a yungwity, and when near the kumba yawirr tyalka with all his might, which wirrp it on the warram, the tyarem remaining stuck upright between its shoulders. The yawirr, who was Otchout, the Cod, awoke with a start, and werrkuwerrkuwa towards the nyirring-wil of the lurthak commenced to form a channel by tearing up the tya, and allowing the katen to fill it up, so he could winakuwa from his yawirrek.
Otchout did this so puny-will that Totyerguil was unable to keep pace with him, and soon lost sight of him, although he kept on his trail by following the newly made kapel. At dusk Otchout excavated a long, wide lurthak, where he kumba for the puriny. Totyerguil, however, did not kumba, and coming upon the kumba codfish at daybreak the next perrp, was able to larpa a second tyarem which struck Otchout in a spot immediately behind the first which was still protruding from the middle of his warram. Otchout again parenga off pannga furiously, and once again escaped from his pursuer. That puriny he made another lurthak in which to kumba, and there Totyerguil found him next
perrp, and was able to wirrp him with a third tyarem, which lalunga the codfish just behind where the two former weapons were still impaled.
This procedure was repeated over several days, until they reached the neighbourhood where Murray Bridge (in South Australia) has since been built, and there Otchout made a very large and deep lurthak, in which he wirpa. He has since gone to the kirk, where he became the turt Delphinus.
By this time Totyerguil had larpa all his tyarem, which are now the lip projecting from the warram of present day codfish. Not having any more tyarem, and being unable to find Otchout in the deep lurthak, he winakuwa the werrki, and landed upon the nyirring-wil. There he set his yungwity on its end, and stuck his paddle-pole wak upright on the tya. The yungwity became a huge piyal, and the wak a kalpen, both of which were later pointed out to the pembengguk of the tribe when the story of the making of the Murray River by Otchout, the Codfish, was told. Ever since that time yungwity have always been made from piyal mityuk and wak from kalpen.
As told by Ron Murray with permission from his father, Besley Murray, senior Elder, Wamba Wamba.
Ron’s Nan, on his mum Lorraine’s side (Nan Karpany), also told a version of this story.
Sounds of Wemba Wemba
i as in bit
u as in put
e as in bed
o as in on
a as in father
ng as in singer
ny/yn/nj as in news
rn this sound is made by making an ‘n’ sound but curling the tongue back behind the gum ridge
dh/th these sounds are made with the tongue – middle at the back of the teeth while making a ‘d/t’ sound
dj, tj/dj, ty/dy j/dj as in English ‘j’
rd/rt this set of tongue-tip sounds is made by making ‘d/t’ sound but curling the tongue tip back behind the gum ridge
rl as in early
Wemba Wemba word list
kalpen Murray Pine (branches)
kethawil pembengguk family
kumba rest, sleeping
larpa to throw
lurthak large water-hole
Mathimuk & Gunewarra Totyerguil’s two wives, the Black Swans
merteruk-pert Swan Hill
nyirring-wil towards the banks, upon the bank
otchout the Cod
pannga dig, digging
parenga run, ran off
piyal gum tree
puny-will quickly, rapidly
Totyerguil mighty hunter
tyaka eat, eating
tyalka threw a spear
tyarem a spear
wathip Totyerguil’s two sons
winakuwa escape, abandoned
wuthu payingguk two boys