A wealth of Dreamtime legends were handed down by the Aboriginal people who lived in the area now known as Central Australia. The following is one of these complex and varied tellings--a rather sad one.
Purlimil was a pretty young girl. She was kind, carefree and in love with a man called Borola. The two of them wanted to be married but it was the elders who made the rules about marriage.
"You must marry Tirlta," they told Purlimil.
"But," she protested, "I don't like him. He is old and cross."
"That is true," the elders agreed, "but he says he will be good to you. You must obey our decision."
Upon hearing this, Purlimil began to cry. When Borola tried to comfort her, she sobbed to him, "What can we do?"
"We could run away," he suggested.
Purlimil agreed although she knew this would be dangerous.
The two waited for dark and then, together, they left the camp. After travelling a long way, they came to the shores of a beautiful lake where some of Borola's relatives lived. Here they were married and for many seasons, they lived happily.
Tirlta, however, had not forgotten Purlimil. When he thought of how he had been tricked, a great rage would fill the man who spent many days planning his revenge. Tirlta kept trying to find the young couple and his efforts were finally rewarded when he heard of them from a group of travelling hunters.
He decided to take some men with him and attack the lakeside camp. Carefully he chose his companions, cruel and mean fighters. This band waited until night, crept into the peaceful camp and without warning, attacked the sleeping people.
The lakeside people, aroused suddenly, fought bravely. Surprise, though, had lent an advantage to the attackers and everyone in the camp was killed, including Purlimil and Borola.
It had been a cruel battle and the grassland was stained with blood as Tirlta and his men walked away. The ancestor spirits, watching from the sky world, were very distressed. They knew that Purlimil, Borola and the friends who had accepted them had not deserved to die in such a way.
So distressed were the spirits that they cried for many days. Their tears, without ceasing, rolled into the nearby lakes, causing the water in them to become quite salty.
One season later, the cruel Tirlta, still proud of the cowardly revenge he had taken, returned to the shores of the lake to gloat over the bodies of the people he had killed...
to enjoy his victory.
But he found no bodies to gloat over.
Instead of bodies, Tirlta found mass upon mass of scarlet flowers--beautiful flowers the ancestor spirits had caused to grow from the blood of the good people who had been so heartlessly murdered. They had ensured, by this, that they would not be forgotten.
On seeing the flowers, Tirlta realized what had happened and became very frightened. Those same spirits might well be hovering overhead at that very moment--watching him.
He turned to run away.
As he did so, he was struck in the back by a spirit spear.
Spirit spears do not miss.
Tirlta fell dead and was changed instantly into a pebble, indistinguishable from every other pebble that had, just a moment before, been under his feet.
To this day the inland lakes of that area hold only salt water, as if the tears of the ancestor spirits remain, bearing witness to their grief.
Bright red flowers such as Tirlta saw still bloom in great numbers throughout the outback of Central Australia. Most call them Sturt's Desert Pea. Those who know the story of Purlimil and Borola, though, call them Flowers of Blood.