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Gooloo The Magpie And The Wahroogah

Source: Australian Legendary Tales

Gooloo was a very old woman, and a very wicked old woman too, as this
story will tell. During all the past season, when the grass was thick
with seed, she had gathered much doonburr, which she crushed into meal
as she wanted it for food. She used to crush it on a big flat stone
with small flat stones--the big stone was called a dayoorl. Gooloo
ground a great deal of the doonburr seed to put away for immediate use,
the rest she kept whole, to be ground as required.

Soon after she had finished her first grinding, a neighbouring tribe
came along and camped near where she was. One day the men all went out
hunting, leaving the women and the children in the camp. After the men
had been gone a little while, Gooloo the magpie came to their camp to
talk to the women. She said, "Why do you not go hunting too? Many are
the nests of the wurranunnahs round here, and thick is the honey in
them. Many and ripe are the bumbles hanging now on the humble trees;
red is the fruit of the grooees, and opening with ripeness the fruit of
the guiebets. Yet you sit in the camp and hunger, until your husbands
return with the dinewan and bowrah they have gone forth to slay. Go,
women, and gather of the plenty that surrounds you. I will take care of
your children, the little Wahroogabs."

"Your words are wise," the women said. "It is foolish to sit here and
hunger, when near at hand yams are thick in the ground, and many fruits
wait but the plucking. We will go and fill quickly our comebees and
goolays, but our children we will take with us."

"Not so," said Gooloo, "foolish indeed were you to do that. You would
tire the little feet of those that run, and tire yourselves with the
burden of those that have to be carried. No, take forth your comebees
and goolays empty, that ye may bring back the more. Many are the spoils
that wait only the hand of the gatherer. Look ye, I have a durrie made
of fresh doonburr seed, cooking just now on that bark between two
fires; that shall your children eat, and swiftly shall I make them
another. They shall eat and be full ere their mothers are out of sight.
See, they come to me now, they hunger for durrie, and well will I feed
them. Haste ye then, that ye may return in time to make ready the fires
for cooking the meat your husbands will bring. Glad will your husbands
be when they see that ye have filled your goolays and comebees with
fruits, and your wirrees with honey. Haste ye, I say, and do well."

Having listened to the words of Gooloo, the women decided to do as she
said, and, leaving their children with her, they started forth with
empty comebees, and armed with combos, with which to chop out the bees'
nests and opossums, and with yam sticks to dig up yams.

When the women had gone, Gooloo gathered the children round her and fed
them with durrie, hot from the coals. Honey, too, she gave them, and
bumbles which she had buried to ripen. When they had eaten, she hurried
them off to her real home, built in a hollow tree, a little distance
away from where she had been cooking her durrie. Into her house she
hurriedly thrust them, followed quickly herself, and made all secure.
Here she fed them again, but the children had already satisfied their
hunger, and now they missed their mothers and began to cry. Their
crying reached the ears of the women as they were returning to their
camp. Quickly they came at the sound which is not good in a mother's
ears. As they quickened their steps they thought how soon the spoils
that lay heavy in their comebees would comfort their children. And
happy they, the mothers, would feel when they fed the Wahroogahs with
the dainties they had gathered for them. Soon they reached the camp,
but, alas! where were their children? And where was Gooloo the magpie?

"They are playing wahgoo," they said, "and have hidden themselves."

The mothers hunted all round for them, and called aloud the names of
their children and Gooloo. But no answer could they hear and no trace
could they find. And yet every now and then they heard the sound of
children wailing. But seek as they would they found them not. Then
loudly wailed the mothers themselves for their lost Wahroogahs, and,
wailing, returned to the camp to wait the coming of the black fellows.
Heavy were their hearts, and sad were their faces when their husbands
returned. They hastened to tell the black fellows when they came, how
Gooloo had persuaded them to go hunting, promising if they did so that
she would feed the hungry Wahroogahs, and care for them while they were
away, but--and here they wailed again for their poor Wahroogahs. They
told how they had listened to her words and gone; truth had she told of
the plenty round, their comebees and goolays were full of fruits and
spoils they had gathered, but, alas! they came home with them laden
only to find their children gone and Gooloo gone too. And no trace
could they find of either, though at times they heard a sound as of
children wailing.

Then wroth were the men, saying: "What mothers are ye to leave your
young to a stranger, and that stranger a Gooloo, ever a treacherous
race? Did we not go forth to gain food for you and our children? Saw ye
ever your husbands return from the chase empty handed? Then why, when
ye knew we were gone hunting, must ye too go forth and leave our
helpless ones to a stranger? Oh, evil, evil indeed is the time that has
come when a mother forgets her child. Stay ye in the camp while we go
forth to hunt for our lost Wahroogahs. Heavy will be our hands on the
women if we return without them."

The men hunted the bush round for miles, but found no trace of the lost
Wahroogahs, though they too heard at times a noise as of children's
voices wailing.

But beyond the wailing which echoed in the mothers' ears for ever, no
trace was found of the children. For many days the women sat in the
camp mourning for their lost Wahroogahs, and beating their heads
because they had listened to the voice of Gooloo.

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