Bad Fairy Case File #321: Yara Ma Yha Who

OFFENSES: Bloodsucking

DESCRIPTION: Red skin, large head, suckers at the ends of hands and feet


PROVENANCE: Australian Aboriginal folklore

The Yara-Ma-Yha-Who is a very strange creature, to be sure. The Australian Aboriginal folklore he originates from is very detailed and specific. He is always described as a short (around four feet) red man with a large head, a large frog-like mouth, and suckers on the end of his hands and feet. The appearance of the creature is reminiscent of the green tree frog, and was perhaps the original inspiration for the Yara-Ma-Yha-Who legend.

His behavior, too, is highly predictable, varying very little in most tales. The Yara-Ma-Yha-Who dwells at the top of a fig tree, waiting for unsuspecting victims to take shelter from the sun under the branches. The Yara-Ma-Yha-Who will then drop down and drain the victim of blood (this will not kill the victim) then swallow them whole (this will not kill the victim either). Then, thirsty after a large meal, the Yara-Ma-Yha-Who will visit a river for a drink of water, then take a nap. After the nap he will regurgitate his victim, apparently “unharmed” except maybe a tiny bit shorter and a tiny bit redder. It is said that the victim will be more susceptible to a Yara-Ma-Yha-Who attack after he has already been attacked once. It is also said that after a number of attacks (the exact number is never specified), the victim will turn into a Yara-Ma-Yha-Who.

Though the behavior and transformative qualities of the Yara-Ma-Yha-Who are reminiscent of vampires, they do not have any supernatural powers, nor are they immortal or living-dead.

This tale was supposed to have been told by Aboriginal parents to ensure that their children wouldn’t wander too far from home alone (likely because of the many dangerous snakes, spiders and other creatures crawling around Austrailia). But part of the warning recommended that if the children were confronted by a Yara-Ma-Yha-Who, then they should be still to ensure their safety while being swallowed whole. Strange advice if the parents were truly worried about snakes and spiders.

The Yara-Ma-Yha-Who still captures the imagination of many artists and writers all over the world. Below watch an animation by Blanca Martinez de Rituerto featuring the Yara-Ma-Yha-Who.