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Goonur, The Woman-Doctor

Goonur (Kangaroo Rat) was a clever old woman-doctor, who lived with her son, Goonur, and his two wives. The wives were Guddah the red lizard, and Beereeun the small, prickly lizard. One day the two wives had done something to anger Goonur, their husband, and he gave them both a great beating.

After their beating Guddah and Beereeun went away by themselves. Guddah and Beereeun said to each other that they could stand their present life no longer, but there was no escape unless they killed their husband. Guddah and Beereeun decided they would do that. But how? That was the question. It must be by cunning.

At last Guddah and Beereeun decided on a plan. Guddah and Beereeun dug a big hole in the sand near the creek, filled it with water, and covered the hole over with boughs, leaves, and grass.

"Now we will go" they said, "and tell our husband, Goonur that we have found a big bandicoot's nest."


Guddah and Beereeun went back to the camp, and told Goonur that they had seen a big nest of bandicoots near the creek; and that if he sneaked up he would be able to suprise the bandicoots and get the lot.

Goonur went off in great haste. Goonur sneaked up to witbin a couple of feet of the nest, then gave a spring on to the top of it. Only when Goonur felt the bough top give in with him, and he sank down into water, too late to save himself did Goonur realise that he had been tricked. Goonur was drowning and could not escape.

Guddah and Beereeun watched the success of their stratagem from a distance. When they were certain that they had effectually disposed of their hated husband, Guddah and Beereeun went back to the camp.

Goonur, the mother, soon missed her son, and made inquiries of Guddah and Beereeun, but gained no information from them. Two or three days passed, but Goonur, the son, did not return. Seriously alarmed at her son's long absence without having given her notice of his intention, Goonur the mother determined to follow his track.


Goonur, the mother took up her son's trail where she had last seen him leave the camp, which she followed until she reached the so-called bandicoot's nest, where his tracks disappeared. Nowhere could Goonur, the mother find a sign of her son having returned from this place.

Goonur, the mother felt in the hole with her yarn stick, and soon felt that there was something large there in the water. Goonur, the mother cut a forked stick and tried to raise the body and get it out, because Goonur, the mother felt sure the body must be her son.

Goonur, the mother could not raise the body. Stick after stick broke in the effort. At last Goonur, the mother cut a midjee (a species of acacia) stick and tried with that, and then Goonur, the mother was successful.

When Goonur, the mother brought out the body, Goonur, the mother found it was indeed her son. Goonur, the mother dragged the body to an ant bed, and watched intently to see if the stings of the ants brought any sign of returning life. Soon her hope was realised, and after a violent twitching of the muscles her son regained consciousness. As soon as Goonur, the son was able to do so, Goonur, the son told Goonur the mother of the trick his wives had played on him.


Goonur the mother, was furious. "No more shall Guddah and Beereeun have you as husband. You shall live hidden in my dardurr (bark, humpy or shed). When we get near the camp you can get into this long, big comebee, and I will take you in. When you want to go hunting I will take you from the camp in this comebee (bag made of kangaroo skins), and when we are out of sight you can get out and hunt as of old."

Thus they managed for some time to keep Goonur, the son's return a secret; and little Guddah and Beereeun knew that their husband was alive and in his mother's camp. As day after day Goonur the mother, returned from hunting loaded with spoils, Guddah and Beereeun began to think she must have help from someone; because surely no old woman could be so successful in hunting. There was a mystery, Guddah and Beereeun were sure, and they were determined to find it out.

"See" Guddah and Beereeun said, "Goonur, the mother goes out alone. She is old, but she brings home more than we two do together, and we are young. Today Goonur, the mother brought opossums, piggiebillahs, honey yams, quatha (a red fruit like a round red plum), and many things. We got little, and we went far. We will watch her."


The next time old Goonur went out, carrying her big comebee, Guddah and Beereeun watched her. "Look" they said, "how slowly she goes. She could not climb trees for opossums; she is too old and weak. Look how she staggers."

Guddah and Beereeun went cautiously after Goonur the mother, and saw when she was some distance from the camp that she put down her comebee. Out of the comebee, to their amazement, stepped Goonur, their husband.

"Ah" Guddah and Beereeun said, "this is her secret. Goonur, the mother must have found him, and as Goonur, the mother is a great doctor, she was able to bring Goonur, our husband to life again. We must wait until Goonur, the mother leaves Goonur, our husband and then go to him, and beg to know where he has been, and pretend joy that he is back, or else surely now he is alive again, he will sometime kill us."


Accordingly, when Goonur was alone Guddah and Beereeun ran to him, and said: "Why did you leave us Goonur our husband? Where have you been all the time that we, your wives, have mourned for you? Long has the time been without you, and we your wives, have been sad that you came no more to our dardurr."

Goonur, the husband, affected to believe their sorrow was genuine, and that Guddah and Beereeun did not know when they directed him to the bandicoot's nest that it was a trap, which but for his mother, might have been his grave.

They all went hunting together, and when they had killed enough for food they returned to the camp. As they came near to the camp, Goonur, the mother, saw them coming, and cried out:

"Would you be tricked by your wives again? Did I save you from death only that you might again be killed? I spared them, but I would I had slain them, if they are to have a chance of killing you again, my son. Many are the wiles of women, and I might not be able to save you another time. Let them live if you will it so my son, but not with you. Guddah and Beereeun tried to lure you to death; you are no longer theirs mine only now. Did I not bring you back from the dead?"


Goonur the husband said, "In truth you did save me mother, and my wives rejoice that you did. Guddah and Beereeun, were deceived by the bandicoot's nest as I was, the work of an enemy yet to be found. See mother, do not the looks of love in their eyes, and words of love on their lips vouch for their truth? We will be as we have been mother, and live again in peace."

Thus craftily did Goonur the husband deceive his wives and make them believe he trusted them wholly, while in reality his mind was even then plotting vengeance. In a few days he had his plans ready. Having cut and pointed sharply two stakes, he stuck them firmly in the creek, then he placed two logs on the bank, in front of the sticks, which were underneath the water, and invisible. Having made his preparations, he invited his wives to come for a bathe.

When they reached the creek, Goonur the husband said: "See those two logs on the bank, each of you jump in from one, and see which can dive the furthest. I will go first to see you as you come up."

In Goonur the husband jumped, carefully avoiding the pointed stakes. "Right" he called. "All is clear here, jump in."


Guddah and Beereeun ran down the bank, each to a log and jumped from it. Goonur had calculated the distance well, because both jumped right on to the stakes placed in the water to catch them, and stuck firmly into them, holding them under the water.

"Well am I avenged" said Goonur. "No more will my wives lay traps to catch me." Goonur walked off to the camp.

Goonur's mother asked Goonur where his wives were. "They left me" he said, "to get bees' nests."

As day by day passed and the wives did not return, the old woman began to suspect that her son knew more than he said.

Goonur's mother asked him no more, but quietly watched her opportunity, when her son was away hunting, and then followed the tracks of the wives. Goonur's mother tracked them to the creek, and as she saw no tracks of their return, she went into the creek, felt about, and there found the two bodies fast on the stakes.


Goonur's mother managed to get the two bodies off and out of the creek, then Goonur's mother determined to try and restore the two bodies to life, because she was angry that her son had not told her what he had done, but had deceived her as well as his wives.

Goonur's mother rubbed the women with some of her medicines, dressed the wounds made by the stakes, and then dragged Guddah and Beereeun on to ants' nests and watched their bodies as the ants crawled over them, biting them. Goonur's mother did not have long to wait; soon Guddah and Beereeun began to move and come to life again.

As soon as Guddah and Beereeun were restored Goonur took them back to the camp and said to Goonur her son, "Once I used my knowledge to restore life to you, and I have now used my knowledge to restore life to your wives. You are all mine now, and I desire that you live in peace and never more deceive me, or never again shall I use my skill for you."

They lived for a long while together, and when the Mother Doctor died there was a beautiful, dazzlingly bright falling star, followed by a sound as of a sharp clap of thunder, and all the tribes round when they saw and heard this said, "A great doctor must have died, because that is the sign."

When Guddah and Beereeun died, they were taken up to the sky, where they are now known as Gwaibillah, the red star, so called from its bright red colour, owing the legend says, to the red marks left by the stakes on the bodies of the two women, and which nothing could efface.