Panel 2: Monsters across Time – 7 Dec 13:30 – 15:00

Heart of the Monster: Understanding the relationship between land, story and monsters

Gretchen M Stolte

The Nez Perce or Nimi’ipuu are an American Indian people located in the plateau region of North America. The Nez Perce have a story about a great Monster who swallowed up all the people in the world and how Coyote had to cut them out. This story becomes the creation story for all the Nez Perce people and explains how people became people and even why Bear has a short snout. Despite the significance of the Monster, it is rarely depicted in beadwork and other artwork; it remains an entity that is unrepresented. However, the Monster resides in the landscape, at a sacred site in Kamiah, Idaho. This site is legally protected by both tribal and federal laws and is one of the only sites on the Nez Perce Reservation with such dual protections. This paper explores what the Monster is today, how the legal frameworks that give such protection to the site evolved, and how contemporary Nez Perce relate to the sacred site.

Pankarlangu come to Yuendumu

Yasmine Musharbash

In this paper, I present and analyse an ethnographic case study of a Pangkarlangu visitation of the Aboriginal town of Yuendumu (Northern Territory) that took place in 2013. Pankarlangu are cannibalistic giants, who have been haunting Warlpiri country since the Dreamtime. Celebrated in myths and songs as well as in Warlpiri-language schoolbooks, they had literally become the stuff of legend until a family of three (a mother, father and child) was sighted near Yuendumu that year. News about the sightings (of both the Pangkarlangu family in the distance and of their foot tracks close by) spread like wildfire through Aboriginal central Australia via stories, phone calls, and social media, and eventually was also reported in some of the Australian mainstream media.

I first analyse the figure of Pangkarlangu in myths, schoolbooks, and eye witness accounts. Then, I explore the performative aspects of how Warlpiri people engaged with the presence of Pangkarlangu, with particular attention to gendered differences, as well as differences in reaction between older and younger generations. In the conclusion, I contemplate the repercussions of the Pangkarlangu visit on small Warlpiri children over the four years following the presence of these monsters close to their community.

‘Margt býr í þokunni’ – “What dwells in the mist?”

Helena Onnudottir

People in Iceland have fought the attacks of monsters (ófreskjur) for centuries, and their defences have been diverse. When fighting off ghosts and devils (the Devil) the most effective protection in the past drew on the smarts or intellects of individuals, in many cases literary and poetic citations or verses. It was a common belief that if a ghost or the Devil advanced citing a verse, one would be driven mad and fall under their powers unless one could respond immediately with a verse of one’s own. Margt býr í þokunni is a common saying in Icelandic, which literally means: ‘Many things dwell in the mist’. One place where you find this saying is in an 18th century tale about a young farm girl who wakes up one night (as others in the room sleep) to a voice – by some accounts a ghost, by other accounts a huldumadur – at the window citing:

Margt býr í þokunni,

þokaðu úr lokunni,

lindin mín ljúf og trú.

[Much dwells in the mist,

move aside the (door) latch,

my truly, dearest.]

The farm girl immediately replies in a verse of her own:

Fólkið mín saknar,

og faðir minn vaknar;

hann vakir svo vel, sem þú.

[(My) Folk will miss me,

Father will awake;

He is as alert as you.]

Challenged by the verse the ghost returns into the mist, never to visit the girl again. Drawing on this tale and the particular social, economic, and environmental conditions of pre-modern Iceland, this paper asks, ‘what dwells in the mist’ for 21st century Icelanders? Do ófreskjur (ghosts and devils) still dwell in the mist, do they venture out of the mist, do they still appear at the window? If so, what resources do the people of Iceland draw on? Are ófreskjur sent back to the mist?