Dinewan the emu, being the largest bird, was acknowledged as king by the other birds. The Goomblegubbons, the bustards, were jealous of the Dinewans. The mother Goomblegubbon was particularly jealous of the Dinewan mother.
The mother Goomblegubbon would watch with envy the high flight of the Dinewans, and their swift running, and she always fancied that the Dinewan mother flaunted her superiority in her face, for whenever Dinewan alighted near Goomblegubbon, after a long, high flight, she would flap her big wings and begin booing in her pride, not the loud booing of the male bird, but a little, triumphant, satisfied booing noise of her own, which never failed to irritate Goomblegubbon when she heard it.
Goomblegubbon wondered how she could put an end to Dinewan's supremacy. Goomblegubbon decided that she would only be able to put an end to Dinewan's supremacy by injuring Dinewan's wings and checking her power of flight, but the question that troubled Goomblegubbon was how to achieve this end.
Goomblegubbon knew she would gain nothing by having a quarrel with Dinewan and fighting her, because a Goomblegubbon would not stand any chance against a Dinewan. As there was evidently nothing to be gained by an open fight, Goomblegubbon would need to achieve her end by cunning.
One day, when Goomblegubbon saw Dinewan in the distance, coming towards her, Goomblegubbon squatted down and doubled in her wings in such a way as to look as if she had no wings.
After Dinewan had been talking to her for some time, Goomblegubbon said: "Why do you not imitate me and do without wings? Every bird flies. The Dinewans, to be the king of birds, should do without wings. When all the birds see that I can do without wings, they will think I am the cleverest bird and they will make a Goomblegubbon king."
"But you have wings" said Dinewan.
|"No, I have no wings." And indeed
Goomblegubbon looked as if her words were true, so well were Goomblegubbon's
wings hidden, as she squatted in the grass. Dinewan went away after a while,
and thought much of what she had heard. Dinewan talked it all over with
her mate, who was as disturbed as Dinewan was. They made up their minds
that it would never do to let the Goomblegubbons reign in their stead, even
if they had to lose their wings to save their kingship.
At length the Dinewan decided to sacrifice their wings. The Dinewan mother showed the example by persuading her mate to cut off her wings with a combo (or stone tomahawk), and then Dinewan did the same to her mate's wings. As soon as the operations were over, the Dinewan mother lost no time in letting Goomblegubbon know what they had done.
Dinewan ran swiftly down to the plain on which she had left Goomblegubbon, and, finding Goomblegubbon still squatting there, she said, "See, I have followed your example. I have now no wings. They are cut off."
"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Goomblegubbon, jumping up and dancing round with joy at the success of her plot. As Goomblegubbon danced round, Goomblegubbon spread out her wings, flapped them, and said, "I have taken you in, old stumpy wings. I have my wings. You are fine birds, you Dinewans, to be chosen kings, when you are so easily taken in. Ha! ha! ha!" and, laughing derisively, Goomblegubbon flapped her wings in front of Dinewan, who rushed towards Goomblegubbon to chastise her treachery, but Goomblegubbon flew away, and, alas the now wingless Dinewan could not follow her.
|Brooding over her wrongs, Dinewan
walked away, vowing she would be revenged, but how? That was the question
which Dinewan and her mate failed to answer for some time. At length, the
Dinewan mother thought of a plan and prepared at once to execute it. Dinewan
hid all her young Dinewans, except two under a big salt bush. Then Dinewan
walked off to Goomblegubbon's plain with the two young ones following her.
As Dinewan walked off the morilla ridge, where her home was, on to the plain,
Dinewan saw Goomblegubbon out feeding with her twelve young ones.
After exchanging a few friendly remarks with Goomblegubbon, Dinewan said, "Why do you not imitate me and only have two children? Twelve are too many to feed. If you keep so many they will never grow into big birds like the Dinewans. The food that would make big birds of two would only starve twelve."
Goomblegubbon said nothing, but Goomblegubbon thought that Dinewan might be right. It was impossible to deny that the young Dinewans were much bigger than the young Goomblegubbons, and, discontentedly, Goomblegubbon walked away, wondering whether the smallness of her young ones was because of the number of them.
Goomblegubbon thought that it would be grand to grow as big as the Dinewans, but Goomblegubbon remembered the trick she had played on Dinewan, and Goomblegubbon thought that perhaps she was being fooled in her turn. Goomblegubbon looked back to where the Dinewans fed, and as she saw how much bigger the two young Dinewans were than any of hers, mad envy of Dinewan possessed Goomblegubbon once more.
Goomblegubbon determined that she would not be outdone, and would she kill all of her young ones except two. Goomblegubbon said, "The Dinewans shall not be the king birds of the plains. The Goomblegubbons shall replace them. The Goomblegubbons shall grow as big as the Dinewans, and shall keep their wings and fly, which w the Dinewans cannot do no."
Goomblegubbon killed all her young ones except two. Then Goomblegubbon came to where the Dinewans were still feeding. When Dinewan saw her coming and noticed that Goomblegubbon had only two young ones with her, Dinewan called out, "Where are all your young ones?"
|Goomblegubbon answered, "I have killed
them, and have only two left. Those will have plenty to eat now, and will
soon grow as big as your young ones."
"You cruel mother to kill your children. You greedy mother. Why, I have twelve children and I find food for them all. I would not kill one of my children for anything, not even if by so doing I could get my wings back. There is plenty for all. Look at the emu bush how it covers itself with berries to feed my big family. See how the grasshoppers come hopping round, so that we can catch them and fatten on them."
Goomblegubbon said "But you have only two children."
Dinewan said "I have twelve children. I will go and bring them to show you." Dinewan ran off to her salt bush where she had hidden her ten young ones. Soon Dinewan came back. Running with her neck stretched forward, her head thrown back with pride, and the feathers of her boobootella swinging as she ran, booming out the while her queer throat noise, the Dinewan song of joy, the pretty, soft looking little ones with their zebra striped skins, running beside her whistling their baby Dinewan note.
|When Dinewan reached the place where
Goomblegubbon was, Dinewan stopped her booing and said in a solemn tone,
"Now you see my words are true, I have twelve young ones, as I said. You
can gaze at my loved ones and think of your poor murdered children, and
while you do so I will tell you the fate of your descendants forever. By
trickery and deceit you lost the Dinewans their wings, and now forever more,
as long as a Dinewan has no wings, so long shall a Goomblegubbon lay only
two eggs and have only two young ones. We are even now. You have your wings
and I have my children."
And ever since that time a Dinewan, or emu, has had no wings, and a Goomblegubbon, or bustard of the plains, has laid only two eggs in a season.
Collected in 1897 by Mrs. K. Langloh Parker.