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Weedah the Mockingbird, An Australian Folk Tale

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

The collage illustration for Weedah the Mocking Bird.

The collage illustration for Weedah the Mocking Bird.

Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World

Last year, I finished a children’s alphabet book using fairy tales and folk tales from around the world as the theme. After I danced the happy dance at my success, I noticed that there were a lot more fairy tales out there that I didn’t use, enough to make a whole series using global fairy tales and folk tales. Thus the conception of my second alphabet book began. I have only been working on it since February and here is the twenty-third letter in the new book for the letter W.

Thumbnail Roughs to choose from.

Thumbnail Roughs to choose from.

Weedah the Mockingbird, An Australian Folk Tale

Weedah was a native Aborigine in Australia long ago. He had no family and no tribe. As a matter of fact, he hated all the other tribes and villages near him and wanted to get rid of them so he could be alone. To do this he decided to build a fake village of grass nyunnoos, or huts, with fires before each one as if people lived there. Then he would go into each one and cry like a baby, or laugh like a child, or sing like a maiden. Weedah was good at imitating voices. With these voices and many more, he made anyone passing by think that there was a whole village of people. The purpose was to lure strangers into his camp so he could kill them.

The trick worked for Weedah many times. A fellow hunting would come within ear shot of Weedah’s fake village and hearing the crowd of people’s voices would wonder what tribe this was. Once inside the circle of huts, the stranger would ask what tribe lived here and Weedah would say only he lived there. The stranger would say that he had heard many voices and there must be more. Coming closer Weedah would say he was mistaken. Maybe he heard the wind in the branches of the balah trees or a nearby stream. Weedah would invite the stranger to look around for the people he heard and convince him that no one else was there. This confused the stranger and while he thought about it, Weedah would shove the stranger into the fire and kill him. In this way he had killed many people.

In the villages around Weedah’s camp there were many people missing and it was a mystery what had happened to them. Mullyan, which means eagle hawk, had noticed that his best friend Beeargah, which means hawk, had not come home. He was now determined to solve the mystery and find what happened to his friend. Mullyan went hunting as all the others before had done. He found Beearagah’s tracks and found where he had hunted and slain a kangaroo and then started for home. As Mullyan was following his friend’s tracks, he came close enough to Weedah’s fake village to hear the voices of many people. He heard the shrill voice of an old woman and the shaky voice of an old man as well as others and decided to look into these voices. He saw that his friend’s tracks took him right to the village of grass huts and he saw only Weedah there.

Mullyan approached Weedah and asked what people lived here.

“I live here alone,” Weedah explained.

“How can that be? I heard many other people and babies crying,” Mullyan replied.

“Maybe your ears played a trick on you. Do your eyes see anyone but me here,” Weedah asked.

“If that is so can you tell me what has happened to my friend Beearagah and the others? Their tracks lead into this village but none lead out,” Mullyan asked.

“Who can say? I know nothing of your friends. Ask the winds. Ask Bahloo the moon, or Yhi the sun. I live alone and know nothing of your friends.” All the time Weedah spoke, he stepped nearer and nearer to Mullyan, edging him towards the fire.

Mullyan was a clever fellow and could see that Weedah was not telling the whole truth. He noticed that Weedah was edging him toward the fire, and he thought if the fire could speak, it would tell him where his friends were. Playing along, he let Weedah think that his trap was working but just as he made his usual move to push the stranger into the fire, Mullyan seized Weedah by the arm and side-stepped so that the mighty shove meant to push Mullyan into the fire, instead threw himself into the fire.

“Just as you delivered Beearagah and my friends to the fire, so I delivered you.” Mullyan felt it was justice. As he left to return home to reveal the mystery to his people, he heard a terrible explosion. The fire had burst the back of Weedah’s head and out of the remains a bird had risen. This was Weedah, the mocking bird. To this day the Weedah bird also has a hole at the back of his head, he makes grass huts and imitates any voices he ever hears, including cats, dogs, women laughing, and babies crying.

Refined Thumbnail Sketch

Refined Thumbnail Sketch

Collage Illustrations

I looked through several photo references for Australian mockingbirds or Weedah photos. In the end, I used a photo pose of the bird I liked best. I hope you enjoy seeing my progress on the collage. Sometimes after finishing the collage, I need to make a background layer using Photoshop. I felt this one needed only a slight blue tint for the sky.

Value Sketch

Value Sketch

“If you happen to read fairy tales, you will observe that one idea runs from one end of them to the other--the idea that peace and happiness can only exist on some condition. This idea, which is the core of ethics, is the core of the nursery-tales.”

— G.K. Chesterton

Will Be Published with Lulu

This fairy tale has been shortened to fit into my book along with all the other letters of the alphabet. If you would like to read the full version, you can Google the title and find the story as Weedah or Weedah Mocking Bird. With only 2 more illustrations to do, I just may be finished with the whole book and ready to publish by the end of this year.

Hidden Pictures

In my collages, I use paper from magazines, old wall calendars, catalogs, and circulars. Often I will add things into a collage you can't see unless you are looking for it like hidden pictures. This collage contains the face of a man, a young woman, the face of a teen, and the face of a baby. There is also a ring of angels flying.

Color Composition

Color Composition

Fairy tales help us earth-bound people to be able to soar to the stars on the wings of imagination.

— Denise McGill

Final Thoughts

Did you like this story’s ending? I would love to have left off the part about Weedah’s head exploding but it is part of the legend that explains the hole in the back of the bird’s head.

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. If you are interested you can purchase the first alphabet book on Lulu or Amazon.

UPDATE:

The FairyTale Alphabet Book 2 is now available on Lulu.

I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.


The finished illustration

The finished illustration

Comments

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 17, 2021:

Quite an engaging story with wonderful illustrations. You are a talented artist, and I loved your creativity. Fairy tales always have a lesson.

Thank you for sharing another beautiful story. Wish you all the best for your book.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 16, 2021:

DDE,

It is fun finding new things to read and know about, isn't it? I've learned a lot myself just researching for these books. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 16, 2021:

Jodah,

That's interesting. Thanks for getting back to me. The mockingbirds here in California are plentiful but only mock other bird's songs. I just wondered if the tale was true.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 16, 2021:

Vellur,

I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 16, 2021:

Hi Denise I have not seen a mocking bird. I had no idea of the Australian Folk tale. You enlightened me of unique fairy tale.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on January 16, 2021:

No, Denise. I can't recall ever seeing a mockingbird. Though apparently the name is used for a number of different types of songbirds in Australia,

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on January 15, 2021:

A gruesome folktale. I loved the collage illustrations, so creatively done.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 15, 2021:

Carb Diva,

Yeah, almost there. The ring of angels is small in one of the flowers to the right of the bird. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 15, 2021:

Peggy W,

We have lots of mockingbirds too but ours here in California don't sound like babies crying or women laughing. I did hear one once that sounded a little like a phone ringing and that was unusual. Mostly they mock other bird's songs. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 15, 2021:

emge,

I have enjoyed doing the research. It seems every country has tales that date way back and explain things like the character traits of this bird. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 15, 2021:

surovi99,

I'm so happy to be nearly finished myself. Thank you so much for following them and for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 15, 2021:

Lora Hollings,

You never quite know what to expect with these fairy tales and folk tales. One will be sweet and the next one gruesome. What can I say? They are representative of the cultures they come from. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 15, 2021:

AliciaC,

It is an imaginative way to tell children stories and explain the character traits of animals. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 15, 2021:

DWDavisRSL,

Yes, I agree. Fire doesn't seem the best way to eliminate unwanted neighbors either, but I don't make this stuff up. I just retell it. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 15, 2021:

Jodah,

Being an Australian, do you have the Weedah mocking birds around where you live? Just wondering if they really sound the way the tale explains. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 15, 2021:

Eurofile,

It is a bit chilling, isn't it? I didn't care for the ending myself but it is how the folk tale goes... I hope children aren't going to find it too scary. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 15, 2021:

billybuc,

Funny you would equate this story with politics but you have a very fine point. It does catch up with you eventually, doesn't it? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 15, 2021:

Pamela99,

Since it takes time to write the content, work the collage, and edit the video, I am actually finished with Z and putting the book altogether now. You won't see the finished articles for another couple of weeks but I should have a link for the purchase of the book by then. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on January 15, 2021:

Ohmy, what a story! Not exactly a bedtime tale, right? I love your illustration (and I found everything with the exception of the angels). You're almost done! Hoorah for you!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 15, 2021:

Although this story was rather grim, I liked the mockingbird aspect of it. We have loads of mockingbirds that live in our area. It is fun to listen to all of the sounds that they can make. Your collage is beautiful.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 15, 2021:

Can you pick up lovely fairytales and folktales. This one from Australia was very compelling.

Rosina S Khan on January 15, 2021:

This was an awesome story of Weedah. I loved it. I am glad you are so close to finishing your second children's book. I wish you every luck and success with it. By the way, the collage illustration was lovely, as always.

Lora Hollings on January 14, 2021:

What an interesting bird the Weedah is, Denise. This is an imaginative tale but quite a gruesome one too. Probably, not a story to read to a child right before bedtime. A beautiful illustration of the bird and I love your quotes.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 14, 2021:

I see what you meant when you told me that your next folk tale article would be gruesome! It’s an interesting story, though. I love your quotation. The imaginative aspect of folk and fairy tales appeals to me.

DW Davis from Eastern NC on January 14, 2021:

That is one of the more gruesome legends I've read regarding how an animal came to have its characteristics.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on January 14, 2021:

Yes, a gruesome story, Denise, but many Aboriginal folk tales and Dreamtime tales are. I did enjoy this though, being an Australian. Your collage illustration is excellent as always.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 14, 2021:

This is a chilling story. Probably not one to read to children before bedtime, but you have retold it well and, as ever it is very well-illustrated.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 14, 2021:

A bit graphic, but I love graphic, and I loved this folk tale. What goes around comes around, me thinks, as true today in politics as in any other walk of life. :) Well done, my friend.

Blessings always

bill

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 14, 2021:

i think the ending is fine, Denise. You are making a lot of progress in writing your children's book, and I think the illustration is also good. I think the story is good, and it seems your will be done fairly soon..