Problems and Solutions
Chapter 34

Copyright© 2017 by Peter H. Salus

Samuel’s first Christmas passed quite peacefully: at six weeks, he paid it no heed. Nor did the New Year’s fireworks have any effect. His grandparents bombarded Rachel and Patrick with excessive gifts. He also acquired some distant admirers. A Pitjantjatjara tapping stick, which Samuel would soon use to assail the slats of his crib; an oystershell ornament; a container decorated with meat ant and emu dreaming from Yuendumu, northwest of the Alice. The bands were showing respect for a new nungungi. A friend of Gordy’s sent a carved goanna from a waterhole in Queensland.

“Do you know that story?” Rachel asked.

“Only in brief. The Bull Ants discovered the nest of the Ancestral Emu, Yankirri. The painting on this container depicts this encounter; the Emu was devoured by the ants as it sat on the nest, so that only its skeleton and the egg itself remained. I’m sure there’s a far more elaborate version, but I don’t know it.”

“Next time, tell Samuel one of the Norse tales, so he gets a European point of view, too.”

“I’ll do that.”

But the next morning brought a large parcel via messenger. It contained a number of prior rulings of Class 3 of the NSW Land and Environment Court, together with a set of documents concerning an appeal by a band north and west of Byron Bay to a “determination.” Patrick was designated to conduct a hearing “prior to 26 January 2018.”

Interesting. Before Australia Day -- “a day of mourning” for Aboriginal Australians. He’d also need to find out just who sent out the notices and where the hearing would be held. He’d go downtown to the Courthouse tomorrow ... or to Parramatta?

In September 1995 Githabul legal scholar Trevor Close, on behalf of his people, lodged a native title claim for 140,600 hectares in the Kyogle, Woodenbong and Tenterfield areas in northeast New South Wales and in Queensland, south of Rathdowney. Justice Catherine Branson of the Federal Court of Australia, on 29 November 2007, made a consent determination recognising their non-exclusive native title rights and interests over 1,120 sq km in nine national parks and 13 state forests in northern New South Wales.

The appeal, by the Bundjalung, concerned the area in NSW, not the larger area in Queensland. There was a chapter on the Bundjalung by Margaret Sharpe in Walsh and Yallop [Language and Culture in Aboriginal Australia, Canberra, 1993]. More reading.

“I’m going to send the chapters on the history of photography and on landscapes in tomorrow,” said Rachel. “I’m sure Garshin’ll have changes and comments and I want to start on the meat – either Dupain or Williams.”

“Which will you do first?”

“Dupain. He was 16 years older, born in 1911.”

“Makes sense.” A cry interrupted. “Ah! Someone feels left out of the conversation.”

“I’ll change and feed him. Then you can tell him a tale of Valhalla.”

Patrick did.

“It was early in the gods’ living here, after they had established Middle-Earth and made Valhalla; that there came a craftsman who offered to build them a citadel in three seasons, so strong that it would defend them from the Mountain-Giants and the Frost-Giants, even if they tried to come across Middle-Earth. But as his reward he wanted possession of Freyja, as well as the sun and the moon. Then the gods took counsel; and made a bargain with the craftsman, that he should have what he demanded, but he’d have to complete his work in one winter. If any part of the citadel were left unfinished on the first day of summer,, he should lose his reward; and he was to receive help from no man in the work. When they told him these conditions, he asked whether he could employ the help of his stallion, called Svadilfari; and Loki recommended it, so it was agreed.

“He set to work the first day of winter, and by night (with the stallion’s aid) he hauled stones; and it was marvellous what great rocks that horse drew, more rough work than did the wright. But there were strong witnesses to the bargain, since it seemed unsafe for the giant to be among the gods without truce, in the event Thor might come home. But Thor had gone to the east to fight trolls.

“Now when the winter drew close to its end, the building of the citadel was far advanced; and it was so high and strong that it could not be taken. When it was only three days till summer, the work had almost reached the gate of the stronghold. Then the gods sat down in their judgment seats, and sought means to evade their agreement, and asked one another who had advised giving Freyja, and destroying the air and the heaven by taking the sun and the moon and to give them to a giant. The gods agreed that Loki, who was always a cheat and a trickster, must have counselled it. And they declared he deserved death, if he could not think of a way of cheating the craftsman of his wages; and they threatened Loki. But when he became frightened, then he swore oaths, that he would so contrive that the giant would lose, no matter what it cost.

“That same evening, when the craftsman drove out to fetch stone with the stallion Svadilfari, a mare bounded forth from the woods and whinnied to him. The stallion, perceiving the mare, straightway became frantic, snapped the traces, and leaped over to the mare, and she ran to the woods, and the craftsman ran after them, trying to seize the stallion. The horses ran all night, and afterward, during the day, the work was not done as it had been before. When the craftsman saw that the work could not be finished, he fell into a fury. But the gods knew that their craftsman was a giant so they did not take their oaths seriously, but called on Thor, who came quickly. And he raised his hammer Mjöllnir aloft; he paid the giant’s wage, but not with the sun and the moon. In fact, Thor denied him a home in the land of the giants, and struck him so hard that his skull burst into fragments, and he was sent down below.

“But Loki had had such dealings with Svadilfari, that somewhat later he gave birth to a foal, Sleipnir, which was gray and had eight feet, and was the best among gods and men.”

“That’s a great story. It teaches that to do something, you need to pay. Even if you’re a god.”

“Yes. Like the deeper magic in Narnia and the runes on Wotan’s spear in Wagner.”

“It’s interesting that the Giant and his horse became two giants in the German. You know, there are a lot of multi-legged horses in art.”


“Yes, I guess it was a way to represent speed. When a horse is running, his legs are a blur. So the prehistoric cave-painters did rhinos and the Greeks and Egyptians did all sorts of quadrupeds with six or eight legs. There are some bronze statuettes from Luristan with lots of legs.”


“Western Iran in the early iron age. Around 1000 BCE.”

“Interesting. But could you take your son before my arm breaks off?”

Patrick held his hearing on Wednesday the sixteenth. He felt it was quite straightforward. The two lawyers for the two bands each gave a brief presentation. The Githabul admitted that much of the southern area had been contiguous to, but not part of, the tribal area. The Bundjalung claimed ancestral use dating from prior to the British “invasion.” He cited the Bundjalung historical event, as told by the band in the Dreamtime legend of “The Three Brothers (Bundjalung Nation).”

Over twenty years ago, Sharpe had noted that for the Bundjalung “the issues of land tenure and preservation of sacred mythological sites are very much alive” [p. 82].

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