Copyright: Pearl Hodges

In Aboriginal cultures, the yara-ma-yha-who was a little red man, about 4 feet tall, with a large head and mouth. He had no teeth and swallowed his food whole. The tips of the fingers and toes were shaped like the suckers of an octopus.

Yara-ma-yha-who As People Eaters

These creatures lived at the tops of wild fig trees and would capture their prey by dropping on unsuspecting passers-by who sought shelter in the tree. When a person camped below a fig tree, a yara-ma-yha-who might jump on top of the person and drain their blood with their hands and feet. Their victims rarely died from the initial encounter, but because the person was left in a weak and helpless state, the yara-ma-yha-who would return later and swallow the victim. It then drank water and took a nap. When it awoke, it would regurgitate the undigested portion of its meal, which, if the meal was a person, that person would still be alive.

Becoming a Yara-ma-yha-who

Children were told that if they were unfortunate enough to meet a yara-ma-yha-who, they should offer no resistance, as their chances of survival would be better if they let the creature swallow them. If a person was captured on several different occasions, they would grow shorter with each occasion until they were the same size as a yara-ma-yha-who and they would grow hair all over their body. Eventually they would become a yara-ma-yha-who themselves.