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The Cookooburrahs and the Goolahgool

Googarh, the Iguana was married to Moodai, the opossum and Cookooburrah, the laughing jackass. Cookooburrah was the mother of three sons, one grown up and living away from her, the other two only little boys. They had their camps near a goolahgool (water-holding tree), from where they obtained water.

A goolahgool is a water-holding tree, of the iron bark or box species. It is a tree with a split in the fork of it, and hollow below the fork. After heavy rain, this hollow trunk would be full of water which would have run into it through the split in the fork.

A goolahgool will hold water for a long time. The men know a goolahgool, amongst other trees, by the mark which the overflow of water made down the trunk of the tree, discolouring the bark.


One day, Googarh, the iguana, and his two wives went out hunting, leaving the two little Cookooburrahs at the camp. They had taken out water for themselves in their opossum skin water bags, but they had left no water for the children, who were too small to get any from the goolahgool for themselves, so nearly perished from thirst.

The two little Cookooburrahs' tongues were swollen in their mouths, and they were quite speechless, when they saw a man coming towards them. When the man came near, the two little Cookooburrahs saw it was Cookooburrah, their big brother.

The two little Cookooburrahs could not speak to Cookooburrah or answer when Cookooburrah asked where his mother was. Cookooburrah asked the two little Cookooburrahs what was the matter. All that the two little Cookooburrahs could do was to point towards the tree.


Cookooburrah looked at the tree, and saw that the tree was a goolahgool. Cookooburrah said, "Did your mother leave you no water?"

The two little Cookooburrahs shook their heads.

Cookooburrah said, "Then you are perishing for want of a drink, my brothers?"

The two little Cookooburrahs nodded.

Cookooburrah said "Go a little way off, and you shall see how I will punish them for leaving my little brothers to perish of thirst."

Cookooburrah went towards the tree, climbed up it, and split it right down. As he did so, out gushed the water in a swiftly running stream. Soon the little fellows quenched their thirst and then, in their joy, bathed in the water, which grew in volume every moment.


In the meantime, those who had gone forth to hunt were returning, and as they came towards their camp they met a running stream of water.

"What is this?" they said "our goolahgool must have burst." They tried to dam the water, but the water was running too strongly for them. They gave up the effort and hurried on towards their camp, but they found that a deep stream divided them from their camp.

The three Cookooburrahs saw them, and the eldest one said to the little fellows "You call out and tell them to cross down there, where the stream is not deep."


The little ones called out as they were told, and where they pointed Googarh and his wives waded into the stream.

Finding she was getting out of her depth, Cookooburrah the laughing jackass cried out "Goug gour gah gah. Goug gour gah gah. Give me a stick. Give me a stick."


From the bank her sons only answered in derision. "Goug gour gah gah. Goug gour gah gah."

The three hunters were soon engulfed in the rushing stream, drawn down by the current and drowned.


Collected in 1897 by Mrs. K. Langloh Parker.