Australian Legendary Tales: Folk-Lore of the Noongahburrahs As Told to the Piccaninnies | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in August 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Mooregoo the Mopoke, and Mooninguggahgul the Mosquito Bird

AN OLD man lived with his two wives, the Mooninguggahgul sisters, and his two sons. The old man spent all his time making boomerangs, until at last he had four nets full of these weapons. The two boys used to go out hunting opossums and iguanas, which they would cook in the bush, and eat, without thinking of bringing any home to their parents. The old man asked them one day to bring him home some fat to rub his boomerangs with. This the boys did, but they brought only the fat, having eaten the rest of the iguanas from which they had taken the fat. The old man was very angry that his sons were so greedy, but he said nothing, though he determined to punish them, for he thought "when they were young, and could not hunt, I hunted for them and fed them well; now that they can hunt and I am old and cannot so well, they give me nothing." Thinking of his treatment at the hands of his sons, he greased all his boomerangs, and when he had finished them he said to the boys: "You take these boomerangs down on to the plain and try them; see if I have made them well. Then come back and tell me. I will stay here."

               The boys took the boomerangs. They threw them one after another; but to their surprise not one of the boomerangs they threw touched the ground, but, instead, went whirling up out of sight. When they had finished throwing the boomerangs, all of which acted in the same way, whirling up through space, they prepared to start home again. But as they looked round they saw a huge whirlwind coming towards them. They were frightened and called out "Wurrawilberoo," for they knew there was a devil in the whirlwind. They laid hold of trees near at hand that it might not catch them. But the whirlwind spread out first one arm and rooted up one tree, then another arm, and rooted up another. The boys ran in fear from tree to tree, but each tree that they went to was torn up by the whirlwind. At last they ran to two mubboo or beef-wood trees, and clung tightly to them. After them rushed the whirlwind, sweeping all before it, and when it reached the mubboo trees, to which the boys were clinging, it tore them from their roots and bore them upward swiftly, giving the boys no time to leave go, so they were borne upward clinging to the mubboo trees. On the whirlwind bore them until they reached the sky, where it placed the two trees with the boys still clinging to them. And there they still are, near the Milky Way, and known as Wurrawilberoo. The boomerangs are scattered all along the Milky Way, for the whirlwind had gathered them all together in its rush through space. Having placed them all in the sky, down came the whirlwind, retaking its natural shape, which was that of the old man, for so had he wreaked his vengeance on his sons for neglecting their parents.

               As time went on, the mothers wondered why their sons did not return. It struck them as strange that the old man expressed no surprise at the absence of the boys, and they suspected that he knew more than he cared to say. For he only sat in the camp smiling while his wives discussed what could have happened to them, and he let the women go out and search alone. The mothers tracked their sons to the plain. There they saw that a big whirlwind had lately been, for trees were uprooted and strewn in every direction. They tracked their sons from tree to tree until at last they came to the place where the mubboos had stood. They saw the tracks of their sons beside the places whence the trees had been uprooted, but of the trees and their sons they saw no further trace. Then they knew that they had all been borne up together by the whirlwind, and taken whither they knew not. Sadly they returned to their camp. When night came they heard cries which they recognised as made by the voices of their sons, though they sounded as if coming from the sky. As the cries sounded again the mothers looked up whence they came, and there they saw the mubboo trees with their sons beside them. Then well they knew that they would see no more their sons on earth, and great was their grief, and wroth were they with their husband, for well they knew now that he must have been the devil in the whirlwind, who had so punished the boys. They vowed to avenge the loss of their boys.

               The next day they went out and gathered a lot of pine gum, and brought it back to the camp. When they reached the camp the old man called to one of his wives to come and tease his hair, as his head ached, and that alone would relieve the pain. One of the women went over to him, took his head on her lap, and teased his hair until at last the old man was soothed and sleepy. In the meantime the other wife was melting the gum. The one with the old man gave her a secret sign to come near; then she asked the old man to lie on his back, that she might tease his front hair better. As he did so, she signed to the other woman, who quickly came, gave her some of the melted gum, which they both then poured hot into his eyes, filling them with it. In agony the old man jumped up and ran about, calling out, "Mooregoo, mooregoo," as he ran. Out of the camp he ran and far away, still crying out in his agony, as he went. And never again did his wives see him though every night they heard his cry of "Mooregoo, mooregoo." But though they never saw their husband, they saw a night hawk, the Mopoke, and as that cried always, "Mooregoo, moregoo," as their husband had cried in his agony, they knew that he must have turned into the bird.

               After a time the women were changed into Mooninguggahgul, or mosquito birds. These birds arc marked on the wings just like a mosquito, and every summer night you can hear them cry out incessantly, "Mooninguggahgul," which cry is the call for the mosquitoes to answer by coming out and buzzing in chorus. And as quickly the mosquitoes come out in answer to the summons, the Mooninguggahgul bid them fly everywhere and bite all they can.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Mooregoo the Mopoke, and Mooninguggahgul the Mosquito Bird
Tale Author/Editor: Parker, K. Langloh
Book Title: Australian Legendary Tales: Folk-Lore of the Noongahburrahs As Told to the Piccaninnies
Book Author/Editor: Parker, K. Langloh
Publisher: David Nutt
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1896
Country of Origin: Australia
Classification: unclassified

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