The Gwineeboos The Redbreasts

: Australian Legendary Tales

Gwineeboo and Goomai, the water rat, were down at the creek one day,

getting mussels for food, when, to their astonishment, a kangaroo

hopped right into the water beside them. Well they knew that he must be

escaping from hunters, who were probably pressing him close. So

Gwineeboo quickly seized her yam stick, and knocked the kangaroo on the

head; he was caught fast in the weeds in the creek, so could not

escape. When t
e two old women had killed the kangaroo they hid its

body under the weeds in the creek, fearing to take it out and cook it

straight away, lest the hunters should come up and claim it. The little

son of Gwineeboo watched them from the bank. After having hidden the

kangaroo, the women picked up their mussels and started for their camp,

when up came the hunters, Quarrian and Gidgereegah, who had tracked the

kangaroo right to the creek.

Seeing the women they said: "Did you see a kangaroo?"

The women answered: "No. We saw no kangaroo."

"That is strange, for we have tracked it right up to here."

"We have seen no kangaroo. See, we have been digging out mussels for

food. Come to our camp, and we will give you some when they are


The young men, puzzled in their minds, followed the women to their

camp, and when the mussels were cooked the hunters joined the old women

at their dinner. The little boy would not eat the mussels; he kept

crying to his mother, "Gwineeboo, Gwineeboo. I want kangaroo. I want

kangaroo. Gwineeboo. Gwineeboo."

"There," said Quarrian. "Your little boy has seen the kangaroo, and

wants some; it must be here somewhere."

"Oh, no. He cries for anything he thinks of, some days for kangaroo; he

is only a little boy, and does not know what he wants," said old

Gwineeboo. But still the child kept saying, "Gwineeboo. Gwinceboo. I

want kangaroo. I want kangaroo." Goomai was so angry with little

Gwineeboo for keeping on asking for kangaroo, and thereby making the

young men suspicious, that she hit him so hard on the mouth to keep him

quiet, that the blood came, and trickled down his breast, staining it

red. When she saw this, old Gwineeboo grew angry in her turn, and hit

old Goomai, who returned the blow, and so a fight began, more words

than blows, so the noise was great, the women fighting, little

Gwineeboo crying, not quite knowing whether he was crying because

Goomai had hit him, because his mother was fighting, or because he

still wanted kangaroo.

Quarrian said to Gidgereegah. "They have the kangaroo somewhere hidden;

let us slip away now in the confusion. We will only hide, then come

back in a little while, and surprise them."

They went quietly away, and as soon as the two women noticed they had

gone, they ceased fighting, and determined to cook the kangaroo. They

watched the two young men out of sight, and waited some time so as to

be sure that they were safe. Then down they hurried to get the

kangaroo. They dragged it out, and were just making a big fire on which

to cook it, when up came Quarrian and Gidgereegah, saying:

"Ah! we thought so. You had our kangaroo all the time; little Gwinceboo

was right."

"But we killed it," said the women.

"But we hunted it here," said the men, and so saying caught hold of the

kangaroo and dragged it away to some distance, where they made a fire

and cooked it. Goomai, Gwineeboo, and her little boy went over to

Quarrian and Gidgereegah, and begged for some of the meat, but the

young men would give them none, though little Gwineeboo cried piteously

for some. But no; they said they would rather throw what they did not

want to the hawks than give it to the women or child. At last, seeing

that there was no hope of their getting any, the women went away. They

built a big dardurr for themselves, shutting themselves and the little

boy up in it. Then they began singing a song which was to invoke a

storm to destroy their enemies, for so now they considered Quarrian and

Gidgereegah. For some time they chanted:

"Moogaray, Moogaray, May, May,

Eehu, Eehu, Doongarah."

First they would begin very slowly and softly, gradually getting

quicker and louder, until at length they almost shrieked it out. The

words they said meant, "Come hailstones; come wind; come rain; come


While they were chanting, little Gwineeboo kept crying, and would not

be comforted. Soon came a few big drops of rain, then a big wind, and

as that lulled, more rain. Then came thunder and lightning, the air

grew bitterly cold, and there came a pitiless hailstorm, hailstones

bigger than a duck's egg fell, cutting the leaves from the trees and

bruising their bark. Gidgereegah and Quarrian came running over to the

dardurr and begged the women to let them in.

" No," shrieked Gwineeboo above the storm, "there was no kangaroo meat

for us: there is no dardurr shelter for you. Ask shelter of the hawks

whom ye fed." The men begged to be let in, said they would hunt again

and get kangaroo for the women, not one but many. "No," again shrieked

the women. "You would not even listen to the crying of a little child;

it is better such as you should perish." And fiercer raged the storm

and louder sang the women:

"Moogaray, Moogaray, May, May,

Eehu, Eehu, Doongarah."

So long and so fierce was the storm that the young men must have

perished had they not been changed into birds. First they were changed

into birds and afterwards into stars in the sky, where they now are,

Gidgereegah and Ouarrian with the kangaroo between them, still bearing

the names that they bore on the earth.