Emu and the Jabiru

Once at a place called Nurrurrumba lived a person called Gandji and his children, and a man call Wurrpan, with his children. The men were brothers-in-law.

One day, Gandji and his children went down to fish for stingray. When they got to the salt water, they saw the water was clean and clear to the bottom. It was easy to see all types of stingrays, which they started to spear as they walked through the water up to their knees.

After spearing the stingrays they went back to the shore and started gathering firewood and cooking the stingrays, separating the meat from the fat.

They grabbed some bark and wrapped up the meat and the fat and went back to the camp where Wurrpan and his children were.

When they got to the camp, they sat down and Gandji called out to one of the Wurrpan children to get their share. But when they had separated the fat and the meat, they had kept the sweet, fresh ones for themselves and gave the old bits to Wurrpan and his family.

So one of the Wurrpan children ran over and grabbed the bark parcel of stingray and took it over to his father, who quickly untied it. When he opened it he noticed that he and his family had been given old stingray pieces, and then he said, ‘They must have kept the fresh, sweet ones for themselves.’

So they ate what they had been given and then afterwards, Wurrpan stood up and said, to the other family, ‘You gave me and my kids old stingrays, while you and your family had the fresh ones.’ So they started arguing.

Gandji said, ‘You should have gone stingray fishing for yourselves.’ So they argued and argued and argued until Gandji grabbed a handful of hot coals and threw them at Wurrpan. He turned around and grabbed a smooth rock called Buyburu, which he used for grinding cycad nuts. He threw it at Wurrpan and hit him right on the chest.

Then Gandji started jumping around in fear of what Wurrpan might do to him. From jumping he started flying, higher and higher. As he flew he turned into a Jabiru without a beak and flew away.

Then Wurrpan told his children to bring him his spear, which was called Wandhawarri Djimbarrmirri. He tried pointing the spear up in the air where Gandji was, but he noticed the spear was too long because it was bending backwards. So he told his children to bring a sharp rock to cut the spear shorter. The second time he aimed it was just right.

He aimed at Gandji and said to the spear, ‘Please don’t let me miss.’

Then he threw the spear up into the sky where Gandji was flying around. The spear went right through Gandji, from his behind through to his face, until it poked out, making a beak. Gandji fell from the sky and landed at a place called Ngurruyurrdjurr.

Wurrpan said to his children, ‘Let’s get out of here while we are still alive. Come on, as fast as we can. We’ll head towards Milindji Dhawarri.’

As they were running, they started to change into Emus. That made them move faster. Their feathers were grey because of the ash that Gandji threw and they had a bump on their front where the stone had hit.

Today, Yolngu remember this story in the way they cook Wurrpan meat in the fire. They always half-cook it, wiping off the ash before they eat it. That’s the story of the Emu and the Jabiru. Today, the Emu has eggs the same shape as the rock that hit him.

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