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By: Alex Postrado
Yara-ma-yha-who: The Vampire of Aboriginal Australian Mythology
The Australian outback can be relentless.
If you come unprepared, you can easily get lost in its vastness.
When that happens, your phone 一 with the poor reception 一 would not really do much to help you.
The fierce sun would not be on your side, either.
And no one would be near to offer their help should anything 一 let’s say, an Inland Taipan 一 tries to disrupt your journey into or out of the wilderness.
If you are not aware, experienced, or lucky enough, there are a lot of things in the outback that could kill you.
But, perhaps, there is only one that could… make you shorter?
It lives mostly on top of fig trees, concealed by the thick foliage. And it typically only comes down when there is prey to attack nearby.
Its lore relates that it has an elaborate feeding ritual 一 in which, the first step, involves the sucking of blood.
But how would that make any of its victims shorter? And why on earth does the Yara-ma-yha-who do that?
What is the Yara-ma-yha-who?
But, if we are being honest, while it does vaguely resemble those two known beings of European lore, the Yara-ma-yha-who is more like a distinct creature of its own.
Standing at only four feet or less, the Yara-ma-yha-who might not initially appear to be as threatening as the stories make it out to be.
After all, regardless of how potentially grotesque anyone or anything might look, in the case of a “diminutive fellow” like the Yara-ma-yha-who, what harm could it even do?
But the thing about this creature is that you must not let its small stature fool you!
Even with its height, this red-skinned, frog-like or monkey-like, semi-humanoid monster remains a figure to fear.
For one, it has a handful of weapons within its outside appearance that are so glaringly obvious, they would ironically be easy enough to miss 一 such as:
The Yara-ma-yha-who’s disproportionately large head and toothless mouth that could stretch unnaturally wide, both of which it uses to perform its feeding ritual;
And its octopus-like suckers on both hands and feet used to carry out the bloodsucking start of the whole ordeal.
The Aboriginal folklore is dead set on mentioning these details of the Yara-ma-yha-who’s appearance because they serve as immediate warnings of the possible horror that awaits anyone who fails to make a quick escape when faced with the Yara-ma-yha-who.
And as for anyone foolish enough to let the red-skinned monster near 一 well, they should expect to face a literally jaw-dropping attack that would leave them quite a different person than they were before it all happened!
Should We Fear the Yara-ma-yha-who?
Despite the Yara-ma-yha-who’s lack of actual supernatural powers, their unique physicality oftentimes makes up for it.
It all starts when a person either walks too close or rests under the shade of certain fig trees.
As we know, fig trees are considered as the Yara-ma-yha-who’s dwelling of choice.
It hides atop these trees, concealed by the generous leaves 一 patiently waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
When it spots a lone traveler, the Yara-ma-yha-who will suddenly drop from above and latch onto the victim 一 draining the poor one’s blood “in a leech-like manner through its sucker-tipped digits“.
Strange as it may sound, though, this nightmare is not meant to end the victim’s life.
Rather, this only signals the beginning of the Yara-ma-yha-who’s “multi-step feeding ritual“.
After consciously draining the traveler’s blood just until they are on the very edge of life and death, the wide-mouthed monster will now unhinge its jaw to the extent needed for it to swallow its meal.
Going from the person’s head, then onto the rest of their body, the Yara-ma-yha-who would not even sweat devouring its victim, in a way that resembles that of a snake.
Soon, it would be time for the Yara-ma-yha-who’s ritualistic nap. During this, the victim would stay inside the stubby monster’s stomach.
But, once the Yara-ma-yha-who finally awakens, the next part of its feeding habit will commence:
The prey will be vomited down 一 although, this time around, they will be shorter.
They will keep that stature for the rest of their days 一 if there ever is any more of it left. And should anyone want to secure their safe return home, there is one thing to keep in mind: play dead.
Right after puking out the unfortunate soul, the Yara-ma-yha-who will immediately check if they are already dead.
To test if they are trying to fake it, the Yara-ma-yha-who will walk five paces away, only to return quickly to poke the victim’s sides with a stick.
If the person remains unresponsive 一 or, at least, tries to 一 the Yara-ma-yha-who will proceed to take ten more paces back 一 this time, returning with a tickle attack either under the person’s neck or down their arm.
Still no response? The Yara-ma-yha-who will 一 at last 一 leave the human alone.
Though, only for a short while.
Perhaps, the frog-like beast has a thing for naps, because, at this point, another snooze would be on its way.
This would offer the perfect opportunity for the weakened victim to break free. And break free is necessary for anyone who haplessly ends up in this place!
The succeeding parts of the Yara-ma-yha-who’s nasty eating ritual are as repulsive as it gets.
And it needs to be flawlessly performed by the Yara-ma-yha-who, or else the fig tree that it calls its home would enter into its head and mumble mysterious noises 一 causing it to permanently transform into some sort of a glowing tree fungus.
Repeating the ordeal over again and over again 一 from the nap, the puking, the tickling and poking, the following nap, the regurgitating, then back to the top 一 making the victim shorter and shorter with each time, as well as adding more and more reddish tint to their skin, until they, too, ultimately become a Yara-ma-yha-who, themselves.
Lucky for us, without direct contact with the Yara-ma-yha-who’s blood-draining suckers, it would be pretty easy to make a run for it.
And even if the Yara-ma-yha-who eventually wakes up and catches sight of the escape attempt, it would be fairly facile for anyone to outrun it due to its weird and slow gait on land.
Just remember not to stray within its reach or else, prepare to be swallowed up all over again!
Is the Yara-ma-yha-who Real?
For years, some researchers speculated that the inspiration for the Yara-ma-yha-who are tarsiers 一 the shy, big-eyed, tiny primates of Southeast Asia.
Though, as far as we know, aside from being relatively harmless, tarsiers are only native in the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia 一 not in Australia.
So, others try to explain the Yara-ma-yha-who through the outback’s tree frogs 一 or some sort of “mammalian frogs“, if there are any.
Still, that theory does not solve much.
At one point, Australian anthropologist Norman B. Tindale suggested that the lore of the Yara-ma-yha-who might have something to do with “the diluted oral history of a race of Pygmy” believed to have first set foot in Australia some 30,000 years ago.
But the rest like to attribute the existence of the regurgitating terror to the Aboriginal Australians’ need to keep their children safe and wary.
As danger presents itself in countless ways across the remote regions of Australia, Aboriginal parents tried to find a way to keep their kids in line and found it in the form of the Yara-ma-yha-who.
Presenting lone children as their “favorite prey“, the Yara-ma-yha-who 一 much like a boogeyman 一 ensured that children rarely ever wandered too far from the group, lest a small, humanoid creature would swallow them whole.
Quite a feasible explanation, but a few 一 including myself 一 like to think that the Yara-ma-yha-who 一 aside from being Aboriginal Australia’s Boogey monster 一 is a folkloric echo of the Indigenous peoples’ unfading culture.
More specifically, their long-standing belief in supernatural entities and spirit beings, as well as their deep ties to nature.
Mixing the mythic with the real 一 creates an imaginary, otherworldly threat, known as the Yara-ma-yha-who, which exists, not only within the bounds of a storybook but also in the very world that they live in.
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