Retold by Sebastian Blaylock. (from the Infernus Pylon Newsletter - 1997)
In Aboriginal mythology The Yara-ma-yha-who are small creatures that inhabit the east coast of Australia. They have been described as; standing about one metre tall with a large head and a very large mouth, the colour of their skin is green and / or red, they have no teeth. The Yara-ma-yha-who do not make spears and boomerangs like their larger human cousins, but they do have very unusual hands and feet. The tips of their fingers and toes end with cup shape disks (similar to the suction caps on an octopus).
Yara-Ma-Yha-Who dislike full sunlight and sometimes would live in caves and rock ledges that are close to a water source, but the favorite haunt are the large leafy fig trees. On hot days people would rest beneath them , on rainy days the thick foliage offered shelter for the traveler. This is why Yara-Ma-Yha-who chose to live in the fig trees. The method of attack was to wait until an unsuspecting person was resting under the tree, then simply drop onto them. The fingers and toes would fasten upon the flesh and drain the blood from the victim.
Yara-Ma-Yha-Who feasted until the unfortunate victim was almost unconscious, he would then drop on all fours and crawl around like a goanna before opening his mouth wide and swallowing the victim head first and whole. After his meal Yara-Ma-Yha-Who arises and begins to dance until he feels the victim is well inside and then he sleeps. on awakening he vomits up his entire meal.
The habit of vomiting after eating has given the opportunity for some to escape. If a person is clever enough to feign death (even while been tickled or poked with sticks) and waited until the Yara-Ma-Yha-Who to fall asleep there was a chance to flee. One must be quick for should he awaken there will be no second chances.
Children of the east coast tribes were taught that if they should happen to be captured, they should offer no resistance, as they have their best chance of survival if they allow Yara-Ma-Yha-Who to swallow and vomit them as has been custom from the beginning of time. Should Yara-Ma-Yha-Who fail in his quest the spirit of the fig tree would kill him by entering into his head through the ear, and causing a mumbling noise that would end in such an intense silence that the spirit would leave the body and become a fungus that grows on the buttress of the great tree, and sheds a dull glow by night.
If you are unlucky enough to be captured more than a few times, you will eventually shrink and grow the strange fingers and toes until you become one like them who roam the thick forest of eastern Australia.
An After Word.
This is a different kind of vampyre story. There are no fangs or capes but still a creature that lived apart from mankind and fed off the blood of the living . The description of Yara-Ma-Yha-Who has led to speculation that the Green Tree frog (Litoria Caerula) was the inspiration for the myth,(certainly if one dropped on you while you were sleeping it would give you a fright) .The Green tree frog grows to 10cm and does indeed have suction caps at the end of his fingers and toes, as the name implies they are often found living in trees.
The fig tree (Ficus Ruiginosa and Ficus Macrophylla) belongs to the same genus as the species found in Asia Minor (of Adam and Eve fame) but grows to about 70m tall with branches that are sometimes over 30m long . These impressive trees can live for thousands of years, to the Aboriginals of the Eastern coast they represented eternity.
Australian Legendary Tales K. Langloh Parker 1986
The Dreamtime Ainslie Roberts & C.P Mountford. 1969
Myths and Legends of The Australian Aboriginals. George G Harrap. 1930