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Meamei the Seven Sisters

After a long day's hunting, Wurranunnah (wild bee) came back to the camp tired and hungry. Wurranunnah asked his old mother for durrie (bread made from grass seed), but she said that there was none left.

Wurranunnah asked some of the men to give him some doonburr (a grass) seeds that he might make durrie for himself, but no one would give him anything. Wurranunnah flew into a rage and said, "I will go to a far country and live with strangers; my own people would starve me."

While Wurranunnah was still hot and angry, he went. Gathering up his weapons, Wurranunnah strode forth to find a new people in a new country. After Wurranunnah had gone some distance, he saw, a long way off, an old man chopping out bees' nests.


The old man turned his face towards Wurranunnah, and watched him coming, but when Wurranunnah came close to the old man, Wurranunnah saw that the old man had no eyes, even though the old man had seemed to be watching Wurranunnah long before he could have heard him.

It frightened Wurranunnah to see a stranger having no eyes, but turning his face towards him as if seeing him all the time. However, Wurranunnah determined not to show his fear, but to go straight on towards the old man, which he did.

When he came up to him, the stranger told him that his name was Mooroonumildah (having no eyes), and that his tribe were so called because they had no eyes, but saw through their noses. Wurranunnah thought it very strange, and still felt frightened.

However, Mooroonumildah seemed to be hospitable and kind, because he gave Wurranunnah, whom he said looked hungry, a wirree (small piece of bark, canoe-shaped) filled with honey. Mooroonumildah told Wurranunnah where his camp was, and gave him leave to go to the camp and stay with him.


Wurranunnah took the honey and turned as if to go to the camp, but when he got out of sight, Wurranunnah thought that it was wiser to turn in another direction. Wurranunnah journeyed on for some time, until he came to a large lagoon, where he decided to camp. Wurranunnah took a long drink of water, and then lay down to sleep.

When Wurranunnah woke in the morning, he looked towards the lagoon, but saw only a big plain. He thought he must be dreaming; he rubbed his eyes and looked again.

"This is a strange country" Wurranunnah said. "First I meet a man who has no eyes and yet can see. Then at night I see a large lagoon full of water, I wake in the morning and see none. The water was surely there, because I drank some, but now there is no water."

As Wurranunnah was wondering how the water could have disappeared so quickly, he saw a big storm coming up. Wurranunnah hurried to get into the thick bush for shelter. When Wurranunnah had gone a little way into the bush, he saw a quantity of cut bark lying on the ground.

"Now I am right" Wurranunnah said. "I shall get some poles and with them, and this bark make a dardurr (humpy or shed) in which to shelter myself from the storm I see coming."


Wurranunnah quickly cut the poles he wanted, stuck them up as a framework for his dardurr. Then Wurranunnah went to lift up the bark. As he lifted up a sheet of bark, Wurranunnah saw a strange looking object of no tribe that he had ever seen before.

This strange object cried out, "I am Bulgahnunnoo" (bark-backed) in such a terrifying tone that Wurranunnah dropped the bark, picked up his weapons and ran away as hard as he could, quite forgetting the storm. Wurranunnah's one idea was to get as far away from Bulgahnunnoo as he could.

On Wurranunnah ran until he came to a big river, which hemmed him in on three sides. The river was too big to cross so Wurranunnah had to turn back, but Wurranunnah did not retrace his steps, instead Wurranunnah turned in another direction.

As Wurranunnah turned to leave the river, he saw a flock of emus coming to water. The first half of the flock of emus were covered with feathers. However, the second half of the flock had the form of emus, but no feathers.


Wurranunnah decided to spear an emu for food. Wurranunnah climbed up a tree, so that the flock of emus should not see him. Wurranunnah got his spear ready to kill one of the featherless birds. As they passed by, Wurranunnah picked out the bird he meant to have, threw his spear and killed the bird. Wurrunnah climbed down to get the bird.

As Wurranunnah was running up to the dead emu, he saw that they were not emus at all, but men of a strange tribe. The men were all standing round their dead friend making savage signs, as to what they would do by way of vengeance.

Wurranunnah saw that little would avail him the excuse that he had killed the man by mistake, for an emu. Wurranunnah's only hope lay in flight. Once more Wurranunnah took to his heels, hardly daring to look round for fear he would see an enemy behind him. On Wurranunnah sped, until at last he reached a camp, which be was almost into before he saw it. Wurranunnah had only been thinking of danger behind him, unheeding what was before him.

However, Wurranunnah had nothing to fear in the camp he reached so suddenly, because in the camp were only seven young girls. The seven young girls did not look very terrifying. In fact, the seven young girls seemed more startled than Wurranunnah was.


The seven young girls were quite friendly towards Wurranunnah when they found that he was alone and hungry. The seven young girls gave Wurranunnah food and allowed him to camp there that night. Wurranunnah asked the seven young girls where the rest of their tribe were, and what their name was. The seven young girls answered that their name was Meamei, and that their tribe were in a far country. They had only come to this country to see what it was like; they would stay for a while, and then return to whence they had come.

The next day Wurranunnah made a fresh start, and left the camp of the Meamei, as if he were leaving for good. However, Wurranunnah determined to hide near by and watch what the Meamei did. If Wurranunnah could get a chance he would steal a wife from amongst the Meamei, because he was tired of travelling alone.

Wurranunnah saw the seven sisters start out with their yam sticks in hand. Wurranunnah followed at a distance, taking care not to be seen. Wurranunnah saw the seven sisters stop by the nests of some flying ants. With their yam sticks they dug all round these ant holes. When they had successfully unearthed the ants they sat down, throwing their yam sticks on one side, to enjoy a feast, because the ants were esteemed to be a great delicacy by the Meamei.

While the sisters were busy at their feast, Wurranunnah sneaked up to their yam sticks and stole two of them. Taking the sticks with him, Wurranunnah sneaked back to his hiding place.


When the Meamei had satisfied their appetites, they picked up their sticks and turned towards their camp again. However, only five could find their sticks. Those five started off, leaving the other two to find theirs, supposing they must be somewhere near, and finding them, they would soon catch them up.

The two girls hunted all round the ants' nests, but could not find their sticks. When the two girls' backs were turned towards him, Wurranunnah crept out and stuck the lost yam sticks together in the ground. Wurranunnah then slipped back into his hiding place.

When the two girls turned round, they saw their sticks. With a cry of joyful surprise the two girls ran to their sticks and caught hold of them to pull them out of the ground, in which they were firmly stuck. As they were doing so, Wurranunnah jumped out from his hiding place. Wurranunnah seized both girls round their waists, holding them tightly.

The two girls struggled and screamed, but to no avail. There was no one near enough to hear them, and the more that the two girls struggled the tighter Wurranunnah held them.

  Finding their screams and struggles in vain the two girls quietened, and Wurranunnah told them not to be afraid, he would take care of them. He was lonely, he said, and wanted two wives. They must come quietly with him, and he would be good to them, but they must do as he told them. If they were not quiet, he would swiftly quieten them. However, if they would come quietly with him, Wurranunnah would be good to them.

Seeing that resistance was useless, the two young girls complied with Wurranunnah's wish, and travelled quietly with him. The two young girls told Wurranunnah that some day their tribe would come and steal them back again.

To avoid having his wives stolen, Wurranunnah travelled quickly, hoping to elude all pursuit. Some weeks passed and outwardly, the two Meamei seemed settled down and quite content to their new life, but when they were alone together they often talked of their sisters, and wondered what they had done when they realised their loss.

The two young girls wondered if their five sisters were still hunting for them, or whether they had gone back to their tribe to get assistance. The two Meamei never once for a moment thought that they might be forgotten in time and left with Wurrunnah forever.

  One day when they were camped Wurranunnah said: "This fire will not burn well. You two go and get some bark from those two pine trees over there."

"No" they said "we must not cut pine bark. If we did cut pine bark, you would never more see us."

"Go, I tell you, cut pine bark. Do you not see that the fire burns slowly?"

"If we go, Wurranunnah, we shall never return. You will see us no more in this country. We know it."

"Go women, do not stay to talk. Did you ever see talk make a fire burn? Then why stand ye there talking? Go, do as I bid you. Do not talk so foolishly, if you ran away, I would soon catch you, and catching you, I would beat you hard. Go, and talk no more."

  The Meamei went, taking their combos (stone tomahawk) with which to cut the bark with them. They each went to a different tree, and each, with a strong hit, drove her combo into the bark. As she did so, each felt the tree that her combo had struck rising higher out of the ground and bearing her upward with it.

The pine trees grew higher and higher, and still on the trees, higher and higher from the earth went the two girls. Hearing no chopping after the first hits, Wurranunnah came towards the pines to see what was taking the girls so long.

As Wurranunnah came near them he saw that the pine trees were growing taller even as he looked at them, and clinging to the trunks of the trees high in the air he saw his two wives. Wurranunnah called to them to come down, but they made no answer.

Time after time Wurranunnah called to them as higher and higher they went, but still they made no answer. Steadily the two pines grew taller, until at last their tops touched the sky. As they did so, from the sky the five Meamei looked out, called to their two sisters on the pine trees, bidding them not to be afraid but to come to them.


The two girls quickly climbed up when they heard the voices of their sisters. When they reached the tops of the pines, the five sisters in the sky stretched forth their hands, and drew the two sisters in to live with them there in the sky for ever.

If you look, you may see the seven sisters together. You perhaps know them as the Pleiades, but the Aboriginals call them the Meamei.


Collected in 1897 by Mrs. K. Langloh Parker.