Bootoolgah The Crane And Goonur The Kangaroo Rat The Fire Makers

: Australian Legendary Tales

In the days when Bootoolgah, the crane, married Goonur, the kangaroo

rat, there was no fire in their country. They had to eat their food raw

or just dry it in the sun. One day when Bootoolgah was rubbing two

pieces of wood together, he saw a faint spark sent forth and then a

slight smoke. "Look," he said to Goonur, "see what comes when I rub

these pieces of wood together--smoke! Would it not be good if we could

make fi
e for ourselves with which to cook our food, so as not to have

to wait for the sun to dry it?"

Goonur looked, and, seeing the smoke, she said: "Great indeed would be

the day when we could make fire. Split your stick, Bootoolgah, and

place in the opening bark and grass that even one spark may kindle a

light." And hearing wisdom in her words, even as she said Bootoolgah

did. And lol after much rubbing, from the opening came a small flame.

For as Goonur had said it would, the spark lit the grass, the bark

smouldered and smoked, and so Bootoolgah the crane, and Goonur the

kangaroo rat, discovered the art of fire making.

"This we will keep secret," they said, "from all the tribes. When we

make a fire to cook our fish we will go into a Bingahwingul scrub.

There we will make a fire and cook our food in secret. We will hide our

firesticks in the openmouthed seeds of the Bingahwinguls; one firestick

we will carry always hidden in our comebee."

Bootoolgah and Goonur cooked the next fish they caught, and found it

very good. When they went back to the camp they took some of their

cooked fish with them. The blacks noticed it looked quite different

from the usual sun-dried fish, so they asked: "What did you to that


"Let it lie in the sun," said they.

"Not so," said the others.

But that the fish was sun-dried Bootoolgah and Goonur persisted. Day by

day passed, and after catching their fish, these two always

disappeared, returning with their food looking quite different from

that of the others. At last, being unable to extract any information

from them, it was determined by the tribe to watch them. Boolooral, the

night owl, and Quarrian, the parrot, were appointed to follow the two

when they disappeared, to watch where they went, and find out what they

did. Accordingly, after the next fish were caught, when Bootoolgah and

Goonur gathered up their share and started for the bush, Boolooral and

Quarrian followed on their tracks. They saw them disappear into a

Bingahwingul scrub, where they lost sight of them. Seeing a high tree

on the edge of the scrub, they climbed up it, and from there they saw

all that was to be seen. They saw Bootoolgah and Goonur throw down

their load of fish, open their comebee and take from it a stick, which

stick, when they had blown upon it, they laid in the midst of a heap of

leaves and twigs, and at once from this heap they saw a flame leap,

which flame the fire makers fed with bigger sticks. Then, as the flame

died down, they saw the two place their fish in the ashes that remained

from the burnt sticks. Then back to the camp of their tribes went

Boolooral and Quarrian, back with the news of their discovery. Great

was the talk amongst the blacks, and many the queries as to how to get

possession of the comebee with the fire stick in it, when next

Bootoolgah and Goonur came into the camp. It was at length decided to

hold a corrobboree, and it was to be one on a scale not often seen,

probably never before by the young of the tribes. The grey beards

proposed to so astonish Bootoolgah and Goonur as to make them forget to

guard their precious comebee. As soon as they were intent on the

corrobboree and off guard, some one was to seize the comebee, steal the

firestick and start fires for the good of all. Most of them had tasted

the cooked fish brought into the camp by the fire makers and, having

found it good, hungered for it. Beeargah, the hawk, was told to feign

sickness, to tie up his head, and to lie down near wherever the two sat

to watch the corrobboree. Lying near them, be was to watch them all the

time, and when they were laughing and unthinking of anything but the

spectacle before them, he was to steal the comebee. Having arranged

their plan of action, they all prepared for a big corrobboree. They

sent word to all the surrounding tribes, asking them to attend,

especially they begged the Bralgahs to come, as they were celebrated

for their wonderful dancing, which was so wonderful as to be most

likely to absorb the attention of the firemakers.

All the tribes agreed to come, and soon all were engaged in great

preparations. Each determined to outdo the other in the quaintness and

brightness of their painting for the corrobboree. Each tribe as they

arrived gained great applause; never before had the young people seen

so much diversity in colouring and design. Beeleer, the Black Cockatoo

tribe, came with bright splashes of orange-red on their black skins.

The Pelicans came as a contrast, almost pure white, only a touch here

and there of their black skin showing where the white paint had rubbed

off. The Black Divers came in their black skins, but these polished to

shine like satin. Then came the Millears, the beauties of the Kangaroo

Rat family, who had their home on the morillas. After them came the

Buckandeer or Native Cat tribe, painted in dull colours, but in all

sorts of patterns. Mairas or Paddymelons came too in haste to take part

in the great corrobboree. After them, walking slowly, came the

Bralgahs, looking tall and dignified as they held up their red heads,

painted so in contrast to their French-grey bodies, which they deemed

too dull a colour, unbrightened, for such a gay occasion. Amongst the

many tribes there, too numerous to mention, were the rose and grey

painted Galabs, the green and crimson painted Billai; most brilliant

were they with their bodies grass green and their sides bright crimson,

so afterwards gaining them the name of crimson wings. The bright little

Gidgereegahs came too.

Great was the gathering that Bootoolgah, the crane, and Goonur, the

kangaroo rat, found assembled as they hurried on to the scene.

Bootoolgah had warned Goonur that they must only be spectators, and

take no active part in the corrobboree, as they had to guard their

combee. Obedient to his advice, Goonur seated herself beside him and

slung the comebee over her arm. Bootoolgah warned her to be careful and

not forget she had it. But as the corrobboree went on, so absorbed did

she become that she forgot the comebee, which slipped from her arm.

Happily, Bootoolgah saw it do so, replaced it, and bade her take heed,

so baulking Beeargah, who had been about to seize it, for his vigilance

was unceasing, and, deeming him sick almost unto death, the two whom

lie was watching took no heed of him. Back he crouched, moaning as he

turned., but keeping ever an eye on Goonur. And soon was he rewarded.

Now came the turn of the Bralgahs to dance, and every eye but that of

the watchful one was fixed on them as slowly they came into the ring.

First they advanced, bowed and retired, then they repeated what they

had done before, and again, each time getting faster and faster in

their movements, changing their bows into pirouettes, craning their

long necks and making such antics as they went through the figures of

their dance, and replacing their dignity with such grotesqueness, as to

make their large audience shake with laughter, they themselves keeping

throughout all their grotesque measures a solemn air, which only seemed

to heighten the effect of their antics.

And now came the chance of Beeargah the hawk. In the excitement of the

moment Goonur forgot the comebee, as did Bootoolgah. They joined in the

mirthful applause of the crowd, and Goonur threw herself back helpless

with laughter. As she did so the comebee slipped from her arm. Then up

jumped the sick man from behind her, seized the comebee with his combo,

cut it open, snatched forth the firestick, set fire to the heap of

grass ready near where he had lain, and all before the two realised

their loss. When they discovered the precious comebee was gone, up

jumped Bootoolgah and Goonur. After Beeargah ran Bootoolgah, but

Beeargah had a start and was fleeter of foot, so distanced his pursuer

quickly. As he ran he fired the grass with the stick he still held.

Bootoolgah, finding he could not catch Beeargah, and seeing fires

everywhere, retired from the pursuit, feeling it was useless now to try

and guard their secret, for it had now become the common property of

all the tribes there assembled.