Inspiration for The Min-Min

Min-min lights

Bogged for 24 hours, Mavis Thorpe Clark had to sleep sitting up in the front seat of her Holden one night while travelling the outback of South Australia. It was then that she saw the Min-Min lights:

"The vehicles were still stuck fast when night came ... We sat up in the front seat of the car and hoped morning would come quickly.

Suddenly a light appeared on the horizon. A bright light that scintillated like a faceted diamond. But too low in the sky for a star and too high for someone to be out there with a hurricane lamp. We knew there was no one out there, anyway. Not even a kangaroo shooter.

The light swayed gently from side to side like a balloon on a string, started to come towards us . . . then changed its mind and retreated. It changed colour from white to pale pink . . . swayed again . . . moved towards us again . . . as though aware we were there - even though we were only a black speck in that immense stretch of country. It was disturbing, frightening, in the dark silent night . . . in the emptiness . . . knowing there was no other human being in all those surrounding miles.

- The Early Dreaming: Australian Children's Authors on Childhood (1980) page 19.

"We had been bogged for more than 24 hours. Once the wheels were turning there were no stops until, just before dark, we reached Mt Eba homestead. The first thing I did on seeing a stockman was to describe what I had seen during the night.

"You saw a min-min," he said. "Min-min is the Aboriginal name for a light that sometimes appears out there. If you had walked towards it, it would have gone from you. If you had turned your back on it, it would have followed you.""

- Trust the Dream (1999) page 128.

Walking back to the house in the dark, Sylvie and the teacher Clive Scott encountered the lights of the min-min:

"Sylvie looked sideways across the stretch of plain . . . and there was the dancing light...

They looked across the gibber plain, flat as a board to the horizon where a slight shading in the depth of darkness indicated where earth and sky became one. There were no stars low in the sky - at least, no ordinary stars. But there was a small light, suspended just above the earth shadow. It gleamed white, with diamond points, and then the colour merged to pink. With the change, it swayed from side to side, as though on an invisible thread from heaven. Then it moved towards them.

"Someone's walking out there, carrying a hurricane lamp," Clive said, without conviction.

"No!" The girl was excited. "I've seen it before. I've walked towards it ... As I walked towards it, it started to go further away - I couldn't catch up with it. But when I turned . . . it followed me . . .""

- The Min-Min (1966) page 9.

See also The Min-Min

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Photo: Several cars, trucks and vans bogged on a wet dirt road.

Bogged, 1963.

Photo: Several cars, trucks and vans bogged on a wet dirt road - different angle.

Bogged, 1963.

Photo: Car and van on a desert road.

Harold Latham (left) and Harold Darwin in front of the bogged library van, 1963.