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Meamei The Seven Sisters

Source: Australian Legendary Tales

Wurrunnah had had a long day's hunting, and he came back to the camp
tired and hungry. He asked his old mother for durrie, but she said
there was none left. Then he asked some of the other blacks to give him
some doonburr seeds that he might make durrie for himself, But no one
would give him anything. He flew into a rage and he said, "I will go to
a far country and live with strangers; my own people would starve me."
And while he was yet hot and angry, he went. Gathering up his weapons,
he strode forth to find a new people in a new country. After he had
gone some distance, he saw, a long way off, an old man chopping out
bees' nests. The old man turned his face towards Wurrunnah, and watched
him coming, but when Wurrunnah came close to him he saw that the old
man had no eyes, though he had seemed to be watching him long before he
could have heard him. It frightened Wurrunnah to see a stranger having
no eyes, yet turning his face towards him as if seeing him all the
time. But he determined not to show his fear, but go straight on
towards him, which he did. When he came up to him, the stranger told
him that his name was Mooroonumildah, and that his tribe were so-called
because they had no eyes, but saw through their noses. Wurrunnah
thought it very strange and still felt rather frightened, though
Mooroonumildah seemed hospitable and kind, for, he gave Wurrunnah, whom
he said looked hungry, a bark wirree filled with honey, told him where
his camp was, and gave him leave to go there and stay with him.
Wurrunnah took the honey and turned as if to go to the camp, but when
he got out of sight he thought it wiser to turn in another direction.
He journeyed on for some time, until he came to a large lagoon, where
he decided to camp. He took a long drink of water, and then lay down to
sleep. When he woke in the morning, he looked towards the lagoon, but
saw only a big plain. He thought he must be dreaming; he rubbed his
eyes and looked again.

"This is a strange country," he said. "First I meet a man who has no
eyes and yet can see. Then at night I see a large lagoon full of water,
I wake in the morning and see none. The water was surely there, for I
drank some, and yet now there is no water." As he was wondering how the
water could have disappeared so quickly, he saw a big storm coming up;
he hurried to get into the thick bush for shelter. When he had gone a
little way into the bush, he saw a quantity of cut bark lying on the

"Now I am right," he said. "I shall get some poles and with them and
this bark make a dardurr in which to shelter myself from the storm I
see coming."

He quickly cut the poles he wanted, stuck them up as a framework for
his dardurr. Then he went to lift up the bark. As he lifted up a sheet
of it he saw a strange-looking object of no tribe that he had ever seen

This strange object cried out: "I am Bulgahnunnoo," in such a
terrifying tone that Wurrunnah dropped the bark, picked up his weapons
and ran away as hard as he could, quite forgetting the storm. His one
idea was to get as far as he could from Bulgahnunnoo.

On he ran until he came to a big river, which hemmed him in on three
sides. The river was too big to cross, so he had to turn back, yet he
did not retrace his steps but turned in another direction. As he turned
to leave the river he saw a flock of emus coming to water. The first
half of the flock were covered with feathers, but the last half had the
form of emus, but no feathers.

Wurrunnah decided to spear one for food. For that purpose he climbed up
a tree, so that they should not see him; he got his spear ready to kill
one of the featherless birds. As they passed by, he picked out the one
he meant to have, threw his spear and killed it, then climbed down to
go and get it.

As he was running up to the dead emu, he saw that they were not emus at
all but black fellows of a strange tribe. They were all standing round
their dead friend making savage signs, as to what they would do by way
of vengeance. Wurrunnah saw that little would avail him the excuse that
he had killed the black fellow in mistake for an emu; his only hope lay
in flight. Once more he took to his heels, hardly daring to look round
for fear he would see an enemy behind him. On he sped, until at last he
reached a camp, which be was almost into before he saw it; he had only
been thinking of danger behind him, unheeding what was before him.

However, he had nothing to fear in the camp he reached so suddenly, for
in it were only seven young girls. They did not look very terrifying,
in fact, seemed more startled than he was. They were quite friendly
towards him when they found that he was alone and hungry. They gave him
food and allowed him to camp there that night. He asked them where the
rest of their tribe were, and what their name was. They answered that
their name was Meamei, and that their tribe were in a far country. They
had only come to this country to see what it was like; they would stay
for a while and thence return whence they had come.

The next day Wurrunnah made a fresh start, and left the camp of the
Meamei, as if he were leaving for good. But he determined to hide near
and watch what they did, and if he could get a chance he would steal a
wife from amongst them. He was tired of travelling alone. He saw the
seven sisters all start out with their yam sticks in hand. He followed
at a distance, taking care not to be seen. He saw them stop by the
nests of some flying ants. With their yam sticks they dug all round
these ant holes. When they had successfully unearthed the ants they sat
down, throwing their yam sticks on one side, to enjoy a feast, for
these ants were esteemed by them a great delicacy.

While the sisters were busy at their feast, Wurrunnah sneaked up to
their yam sticks and stole two of them; then, taking the sticks with
him, sneaked back to his hiding-place. When at length the Meamei had
satisfied their appetites, they picked up their sticks and turned
towards their camp again. But only five could find their sticks; so
those five started off, leaving the other two to find theirs, supposing
they must be somewhere near, and, finding them, they would soon catch
them up. The two girls hunted all round the ants' nests, but could find
no sticks. At last, when their backs were turned towards him, Wurrunnah
crept out and stuck the lost yam sticks near together in the ground;
then he slipt back into his hiding-place. When the two girls turned
round, there in front of them they saw their sticks. With a cry of
joyful surprise they ran to them and caught hold of them to pull them
out of the ground, in which they were firmly stuck. As they were doing
so, out from his hiding-place jumped Wurrunnah. He seized both girls
round their waists, holding them tightly. They struggled and screamed,
but to no purpose. There were none near to hear them, and the more they
struggled the tighter Wurrunnah held them. Finding their screams and
struggles in vain they quietened at length, and then Wurrunnah told
them not to be afraid, he would take care of them. He was lonely, he
said, and wanted two wives. They must come quietly with him, and he
would be good to them. But they must do as he told them. If they were
not quiet, he would swiftly quieten them with his moorillah. But if
they would come quietly with him he would be good to them. Seeing that
resistance was useless, the two young girls complied with his wish, and
travelled quietly on with him. They told him that some day their tribe
would come and steal them back again; to avoid which he travelled
quickly on and on still further, hoping to elude all pursuit. Some
weeks passed, and, outwardly, the two Meamei seemed settled down to
their new life, and quite content in it, though when they were alone
together they often talked of their sisters, and wondered what they had
done when they realised their loss. They wondered if the five were
still hunting for them, or whether they had gone back to their tribe to
get assistance. That they might be in time forgotten and left with
Wurrunnali for ever, they never once for a moment thought. One day when
they were camped Wurrunnah said: "This fire will not burn well. Go you
two and get some bark from those two pine trees over there."

"No," they said, "we must not cut pine bark. If we did, you would never
more see us."

"Go! I tell you, cut pine bark. I want it. See you not the fire burns
but slowly?"

"If we go, Wurrunnah, we shall never return. You will see us no more in
this country. We know it."

"Go, women, stay not to talk. Did ye ever see talk make a fire burn?
Then why stand ye there talking? Go; do as I bid you. Talk not so
foolishly; if you ran away soon should I catch you, and, catching you,
would beat you hard. Go I talk no more."

The Meamei went, taking with them their combos with which to cut the
bark. They went each to a different tree, and each, with a strong hit,
drove her combo into the bark. As she did so, each felt the tree that
her combo had struck rising higher out of the ground and bearing her
upward with it. Higher and higher grew the pine trees, and still on
them, higher and higher from the earth, went the two girls. Hearing no
chopping after the first hits, Wurrunnah came towards the pines to see
what was keeping the girls so long. As he came near them he saw that
the pine trees were growing taller even as he looked at them, and
clinging to the trunks of the trees high in the air he saw his two
wives. He called to them to come down, but they made no answer. Time
after time he called to them as higher and higher they went, but still
they made no answer. Steadily taller grew the two pines, until at last
their tops touched the sky. As they did so, from the sky the five
Meamei looked out, called to their two sisters on the pine trees,
bidding them not to be afraid but to come to them. Quickly the two
girls climbed up when they heard the voices of their sisters. When they
reached the tops of the pines the five sisters in the sky stretched
forth their hands, and drew them in to live with them there in the sky
for ever.

And there, if you look, you may see the seven sisters together. You
perhaps know them as the Pleiades, but the black fellows call them the

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