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Weedah the Mocking Bird

Weedah was playing a great trick on the men who lived near him. Weedah had built himself more than twenty grass nyunnoos (a grass humpy). Weedah made fires before each nyunnoo, to make it look as if someone lived in the nyunnoos. First Weedah would go into one nyunnoo, and cry like a baby, then to another and laugh like a child, then in turn, as Weedah went the round of the humpies he would sing like a maiden, corrobboree like a man, call out in a quavering voice like an old man, and in a shrill voice like an old woman.

In fact, Weedah could imitate any sort of voice he had ever heard, and Weedah imitate voices so quickly in succession that any one passing would think there was a great crowd of people in that camp. Weedah's object was to entice as many strangers into his camp as he could, one at a time. Weedah would then he would kill the strangers and gradually gain the whole country for his own.

Weedah's chance was when he managed to get a single man into his camp, which he very often did, then by his cunning he always gained his end and the man's death. A man, probably separated from his fellows in the excitement of the chase, would be returning home alone passing within earshot of Weedah's camp he would hear the various voices and wonder what tribe could be there.


Curiosity would induce the man to come near, and the man would probably peer into the camp, and seeing Weedah standing alone, would advance towards him. Weedah would be standing at a little distance from a big glowing fire, where he would wait until the strange man came quite close to him. Then Weedah would ask the man what he wanted. The stranger would say he had heard many voices and had wondered what tribe it could be, so had come near to find out.

Weedah would say, "I am here alone. How could you have heard voices? Look round; I am alone." Bewildered, the stranger would look around, and say in a puzzled tone of voice: "Where are all of the people gone? As I came I heard babies crying, men calling, and women laughing. I heard many voices, but I only see you."

Weedah said "I am the only one here. The wind must have stirred the branches of the balah trees, and you must have thought it was the wailing of children, the laughing of the gouggourgahgah (laughing jackass) you heard, and thought it the laughter of women and my voice must have been the voice as of men that you heard. Alone in the bush, as the shadows fall, a man breeds strange fancies. See by the light of this fire, where are your fancies now? No women laugh, no babies cry, only I, Weedah, talk."

As Weedah was talking, he kept edging the stranger towards the fire. When they were quite close to the fire, Weedah turned swiftly, seized the stranger, and threw him right into the middle of the blaze. This scene was repeated time after time, until the ranks of the men living round the camp of Weedah began to get thin.


Mullyan, the eagle hawk, determined to fathom the mystery, because the men had no clue as to how or where their friends had disappeared. When Beeargah (hawk), Mullyan's cousin, did not return to his camp, Mullyan made up his mind to follow Beeargah's track, until he solved the mystery. After following Beeargah's track as he had chased the kangaroo to where he had slain it, he followed Beeargah's homeward trail. Mullyan tracked Beeargah over stony ground, through sand, across plains, and through scrub.

At last, Mullyan heard the sounds of many voices, babies crying, women singing, men talking. Beeargah's track took Mullyan nearer to the spot where he had heard the sounds. Mullyan saw the grass humpies. 'Who can these be?' Mullyan thought. The track led Mullyan right into the camp, where he saw Weedah alone. Mullyan advanced towards Weedah, and asked where the people whose voices he had heard as he came through the bush were.

Weedah said: "How can I tell you? I know of no people; I live alone."

Mullyan said, "I heard babies crying, women laughing, and men talking, not one but many."

"I am alone here. Ask of your ears what trick they played you, or perhaps your eyes fail you now. Can you see anybody else? Look for yourself."


"If you are the only one here as it seems, what did you with my cousin Beeargah, and where are my friends? I see many trails coming into this camp, but none going out. If you live here alone, then you alone can answer me."

"What do I know of you or your friends? Nothing. Ask the winds that blow, ask Bahloo the moon who looks down on the earth by night, ask Yhi the sun who looks down by day, but do not ask Weedah, who dwells alone, and knows nothing of your friends." As Weedah was talking, he was carefully edging Mullyan towards the fire.

Mullyan was cunning, and not easy to trap. Mullyan saw a blazing fire in front of him, Mullyan saw the tracks of his friend behind him, Mullyan saw that Weedah was edging him towards the fire. Mullyan thought that if the fire could speak, the fire could him tell where his friends were.


The time had not come for Mullyan to show Weedah that he had fathomed the mystery, so Mullyan pretended to fall into the trap. However, when they reached the fire, and before Weedah had time to act his usual part, with a mighty grip Mullyan seized Weedah, saying "Even as you served my cousin Beeargah the hawk, and my friends, so now serve I you."

Mullyan threw Weedah right into the middle of the blazing fire. Mullyan turned homewards in haste, to tell the men that he had solved the fate of their friends, which had so long been a mystery. When Mullyan was some distance from the Weedah's camp, Mullyan heard the sound of a thunder clap. However, the sound was not thunder, the sound was the bursting of the back of Weedah's head, which had burst with a bang as loud as a thunder clap.

As Weedah's head burst, out from his remains had risen a bird, Weedah, the mocking bird, which bird to this day has a hole at the back of his head, in the same place as Weedah's head had burst, and where the bird came forth.


To this day the Weedah makes grass playgrounds, through which he runs, imitating, as he plays, in quick succession, any voices he has ever heard, from the crying of a child to the laughing of a woman; from the mewing of a cat to the barking of a dog, and hence his name Weedah, the mocking bird.


Collected in 1897 by Mrs. K. Langloh Parker.