The Sing-song of Old Man Kangaroo

Notes on the text

These notes draw on those written by Lisa Lewis for the OXFORD WORLD’S CLASSICS edition of Just So Stories (1995) with the kind permission of Oxford University Press, together with material from the Kipling Society’s ORG. The page numbers below refer to the Macmillan Uniform Edition of Just So Stories.

[Page 77, initial] This recalls the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. Behind
it is the constellation of the Plough or Great Bear.

[Page 77, line 11] Little God Nqa In the Ladies’ Home Journal version it is Nqa who has a “bath in the salt-pan”; Nquong has a “roost in the Blue Gums.”

There are no gods in Australian Aboriginal myth. ORG suggests that the names Nqa, Nquing and Nquong derive from Andrew Lang’s Myth, Ritual and Religion, 1887, vol. 1, where Quong is the God of Night in Melanesian myth; while “The Bushman’s Story” in vol. 2 could have suggested Nqong. It also mentions the same author’s “Natural Theology”, which includes “Quing”, Bushman hunter of King Nqsha. The first suggestion sounds more plausible than either of the other two, but none of them is wholly convincing.

[Page 78, line 13] Boomer A large male kangaroo.

[Page 82, line 1] blue gums Eucalyptus trees.

[Page 82, line 1] spinifex A spiny Australian grass (Triodia), also known as “porcupine grass”.

[Page 82, lines 9-10] Ti-trees More usually spelt “tea-trees” Leptospermum, an evergreen flowering shrub.

[Page 82, lines 9-10] mulga Acacia aneura, an Australian wattle, and hence an Australian name for bush country. Spinifex and mulga serve to “fix” the sand dunes which cover the completely empty lands of central and west Australia.

[Page 82, line 12] Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer The tropic of Capricorn runs across Australia. The tropic of Cancer does not.

[Page 82, line 18] Wollgong River An invented name.

[Page 82, line 23] Flinders Several places in Australia are named after Matthew Flinders (1774-1814), an English naval officer who led an expedition to Australia, which he circumnavigated, and charted the Gulf of Carpentaria. It seems to be the Flinders River in Queensland that is referred to here.

[Page 83, line 9] Darling Downs A plains district in the southern part of Queensland.

[Page 83, line 32] Old Scratch The devil.

[Page 84, line 17] thing with the letters on The letters read “Patent Fed. Govt. Aus.” (Federal Government of Australia). The different states of Australia had federated under one government in 1901, when the illustrations were made.

[Page 89, line 4] Warrigaborrigarooma An invented name. “Warrigal” is the aboriginal name for a dingo.

[Page 89, line 19] Torres Straits Between New Guinea and Northern Queensland.

[Page 89, line 19] Leeuwin a cape in the south-west of Western Australia.

©Lisa Lewis 2005 All rights reserved