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The Old Black Stump

A  fantasy about Lizard tribes in the wetlands.

= lizards  meditation  mandala  fantasy  nature fantasy  YA anthropomorphisation  truth 


ISBN 9781465802255


A nature fantasy story in the same genre as Watership Down, Duncton Wood and A Rustle In The Grass. The format is similar to The Cold Moons: a nature fantasy with illustrations.

The lizard tribes of the Canning River Wetlands, worship Thuwun the creator of all life. They practise their faith through the moon rituals and the making of mandalas.
Where the Canning River sweeps around the eastern edge of Ferndale Flats, there stands a giant Flooded Gum called Raven Tree. On the swamp ground between the tree and the river stands a burnt tree stump. The Wril tribe of Raven Tree are the custodians of the Old Black Stump where the moon rituals are practised.
Jik is a young skink of the tribe who seeks truth beyond religion and ritual. He journeys through the wetlands, where he encounters tribes of different faiths and creeds. He discovers love, hatred, ignorance and wisdom.
Jik travels to a Big nest in suburban Ferndale to rescue his friend Rin who has been captured by the Big and held captive in a glass box. There he meets Ky who becomes the first real love of his life. He introduces her to the Faith. They are separated for most of the story as Jik’s quest for truth takes him over the Canning River to visit various tribes with religious practices as varied as Big worship and magic mushroom eating.
When the Old Black Stump is destroyed by the Big (humans) the faith of the tribes is shaken. Fanatical religious leaders and feral tribes arise to threaten peace and safety.
Jik finally finds the truth he is seeking when he meets the White Lizard in the garden of Peace and the Four Holy Secrets are revealed to him.

The Old Black Stump is a microcosmic (lizard’s eye) view of an estuarine and wetland habitat and its interface with the urban environment. It is also an allegory of the human search for meaning.

The author is contemplating the idea of an ANIMATED FEATURE FILM SCRIPT based on this story.



The chilling warble of a magpie echoed across the flats. Jik remained motionless. There was no danger in the sound but it did quicken a lizard’s heart, that primordial recognition of a predator’s call. Only in spring, to feed their young would magpies bother with such small prey as skinks. And they came in silence when they struck.
From his vantage point, two metres above the ground, Jik’s sharp eyes surveyed the wetlands. The old Flooded Gum where Jik’s tribe lived, was on the western edge of Ferndale Flats, near a wide bend in the Canning River. The flats stretched mainly west and north. To the southeast they disappeared around the river. Directly to the south, they bordered the streets of suburban Ferndale. Looking north, Jik could see the lush green winter grass, giving way to low, red samphire bushes and patches of bare salt pan, near the westward swing of the river. Tilting his head slightly, he scanned to the west where the flats rose into light woodland. The wind barely stirred the grass and the trees seemed to be drinking the pale sun through their winter-cooled leaves.
Jik was a young skink of three summers. His finely scaled skin, was a dark grey-brown. In the sunlight, it had a coppery metallic sheen. His sleek body was almost ten centimetres from his pointed nose to his finely tapered tail. Each tiny foot had five spatulate toes. A pinstripe ran from his eyes down each flank, giving him a slightly decorated appearance. He was free of scars, an almost perfect specimen.
The sun was just warm enough to quicken Jik’s blood. The cool afternoon breeze would soon be taking away its warm bite and Jik was enjoying every moment of his unseasonal bask. He loved to shake off the cool drowsiness of winter sleep. It wasn’t just the basking. He liked to be alone. Winter basking rarely attracted many lizards to the surface. Winter is a good time for thinking. With most of the tribe sleeping or enjoying long, drowsy conversations in dark fissures, it was easy to find time alone on the bark. Summer was full of games and hunting and every other way of being busy that made solitude a luxury.
The sky began to pale. Slowly it slipped into the thick bank of cloud that lay, like a second horizon around the rim of the earth. As the last rays evaporated from Jik’s skin, the cool breeze signalled the end of his warm sojourn. Flicking his body around, he darted to the edge of a crack in the bark. Pausing, he cocked his head to the west. The sun had been completely absorbed into the thick grey mass of cloud. The chill vapours of coming rain were stirring overhead. As he clambered down into the dark crevice, spots of water were already hitting his tail.


“We think your work shows real promise and we would be pleased to consider any manuscripts that you may care to submit in the future.”
Clare Rubera Penguin Books Australia Ltd

The original manuscript of The Old Black Stump is illustrated with over 70 drawings. The e book format will not accomdate these images. Some of them are available here:


                                                    OLD BLACK STUMP SKETCH BOOK