This story is of Mananga, the Eagle Warrior who defeats an evil magician and his followers. The sculpture signifies the mountain where Mananga lived. It also represents the cave dwelling of the evil magician and his warriors. The steel fingers or talons symbolise Mananga's transition from man to eagle. In this transformed state he slays the evil clan and becomes the Protector of the Lands.
A great warrior, whose name was Mananga lived a long time ago. Mananga was strong and brave and had the ability to see a very long way. Some said that he could even see tomorrow, but none said that in his presence, because they were in awe of him.
Because Mananga could see over such long distances, he liked to camp on the highest hills.
Mananga’s great deeds and brave feats were well known throughout all the lands. People would come from far and wide to seek his assistance. Mothers would seek him out to teach their sons, as Mananga only used the strength of his own body and the cunning of his mind to win battles. After each battle, Mananga would return alone to his camp on the top of the hill.
One day, an old bent woman came to him; her white hair shimmered in the sunlight. Leaning on her walking stick she looked up at him as he rested in the branches of the great tree that stood atop his hill.
“You call yourself a great warrior… Mananga” she laughed. “Look at you, lazing in the tree tops while your people need help.”
Mananga sat up and looked down at the old woman, puzzled. He could not remember having seen her before, yet, in a way she looked very familiar. “I was not aware that my people needed help” he replied. “Of course not” the old woman replied.
“You camp up here, away from everyone; you know only that which others tell you. You do not seek knowledge for yourself. Instead, you wait here for others to come to you.”
Mananga climbed down from the tree and stood beside the old woman. “Who are you, woman?” he demanded. “Why do you come here to find fault with me? When someone seeks my help, I go to them, I do what has to be done and then I return to my camp.”
The old woman sat down and made herself comfortable.
“Let me rest my weary legs, I have come a long way to see you.”
“If you seek my help, old woman, tell me what you want and leave.” Mananga replied.
The old woman chuckled. “They say that you can see tomorrow. Can you?” Mananga frowned; he liked the old woman less and less as she spoke.
“If I could, I would not have been here for you to find me” he retorted. “What is your problem? Let me deal with it, then I can be rid of you”.
“To the east there is a problem between two clans. A powerful magician has placed a curse upon the warriors of one clan so that they do his bidding without question” she said. “This magician has strong magic and he can only be defeated by one whose only weapon is the strength of his spirit. I came here to see if you are that warrior.”
“I am sorry that I was disrespectful” Mananga said. “Tell me where this magician is and I will deal with him”.
The old woman smiled. “You are indeed brave, warrior” she said. “You must follow the river of the great Eel spirit until it joins with the river of the Black Rock that Burns. In a cave at the bottom of the cliff near where the rivers meet, you will find the magician and his acolytes. I will meet you under the Boo’kerrikin that grow nearby.”
“I will observe the magician until you arrive” Mananga said. He gathered some leaves to help him travel swiftly, took a small woven basket of dried berries and was about to depart when the old woman held up a feather. “Take this” she said, “it will help you know me when you reach the Boo’kerrikin.”
The warrior took the feather and placed it in his headband, then without a further word, began his journey to the two rivers and the cliff.
He found the cave as described by the old woman. It was occupied by the magician and his five acolytes. Then he found the Boo’kerrikin, a huge wattle tree, fully in bloom, with great heavy branches that reached to the sky. Mananga climbed the tree and found that he could watch the magician’s cave without being seen.
The magician was a tall man with greying hair, but his features were not old. He had one brown eye and one blue eye and on one hand he had three fingers. Four of his acolytes were men; tall, very strong men, who always carried their weapons with them, and one woman, who did not carry any weapons other than a large stick with feathers that had been tied on with string.
Mananga realised that to get to the magician, he would first have to defeat the five acolytes. He wondered how he could do this. For three whole days he watched their every movement, when they slept, when they ate, what they ate.
On the third day, the woman left the group and approached the tree in which Mananga was hiding. He lay along one of the branches; hardly daring to breathe. The woman put down the feathered stick and cut a gash in the tree trunk with an axe.
He was about to leap on her when he glanced at the feathered stick. All of the feathers were identical to the one that the old woman had given him.
“When the sun rises tomorrow,” the woman whispered to him as she collected the gum of the Boo’kerrikin in a small berl, “we are going to gather the warriors for a great battle. You and I must act tonight. I will come to the tree later to gather more gum.”
Mananga could not speak with amazement and watched as she made her way back to the cave.
He watched the woman as she gathered food for the men, or retrieved their weapons when they practiced spear throwing. Mananga also noticed that as she carried out her duties, the magician watched her closely. He did not like the look in the magician’s eyes.
Mananga was concerned, as he felt that the woman was in grave danger. He sensed that the magician was the source of the danger. He took the feather from his headband and studied it, hoping that the feather would provide a clue to the woman’s identity. It was the largest feather he had ever seen, larger even than the tail feathers of the emu. It was exactly the same colour as his skin.
In the evening the woman approached the tree. Mananga was about to move to meet her when he saw the acolytes following her. He was about to call out a warning when he noticed the magician alone and unprotected, standing outside the cave, watching the woman with an evil grin on his face.
“Use the feather!” came the voice of the woman.
Mananga felt a movement in his hand and looked down to find that feathers were coming out of his skin, along his arms and down his body. He moved his arms and he soared upwards out of the tree and above it. He saw the acolytes look up in amazement and he saw the magician, with fear in his eyes, turn to seek shelter in the cave.
Mananga felt great power surge through him; his arms had become wings, his feet had become sharp talons, and his mouth had become a sharp beak. He seized the magician in his sharp claws and flew high into the sky, soaring upwards until the two rivers looked like two rivulets of sweat running down a man’s brow.
Then he dropped the magician, listening to the man’s scream as he fell through the air, until finally the evil man hit the ground in a cloud of dust.
Then he remembered the woman He dived down to the Boo’kerrikin to find her leaning against the base of the tree, with the bodies of the four acolytes scattered around her. She smiled at him sadly. “He was my brother” she said. “You have a choice, Mananga. You can return to your own form and to your chosen path as warrior, the defender of the People or you can remain as you are now, the Foreseer, the Protector of the People.”
“And you?” he asked. She smiled, “Again, that depends upon your decision”.
Mananga frowned and said “It has been my honour to defend the people since I first received my name. It is something that has made my heart feel good.” Then he smiled and said: “However, is it not far better to protect the people – so that there is no need to defend?”
The woman’s smile glowed and before his very eyes she changed. Brown feathers grew out of the skin on her arms and her body, her feet became talons, her arms became wings, and with a cry of joy she soared high into the sky. Mananga, the Foreseer, the Protector of these lands followed her, imitating the graceful, dancing flight of the Eagle.
© 2002. Frances Bodkin.
Intellectual Property of the Bodkin/Andrews clans of the D’harawal Peoples