The Dreaming

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The Dogs That Were Really Snakes

Brown Snake Dreaming

Brown Snake Dreaming

© Deidrie Napangardi

Bahloo, the Moon God, waited until everyone was asleep before taking his three dogs for a walk. Bahloo was a friendly fellow, greatly liked by all the blackfellas; but the same could not be said of his dogs. That was why he usually chose the hours of darkness to exercise them.

Sometimes Bahloo shows himself in the daytime. We have all seen his round, shining face sailing across the afternoon sky. It was on one such day that Bahloo was leading his dogs through the scrub when he came to a broad stream. A party of men was camped on the bank.

'A very pleasant day,' Bahloo observed. They all smiled when they saw his round faceplate met, Bahloo,' they shouted. 'Why have you come here?'

'I am taking my dogs for a walk, but now I want to cross to the other side of the river. Will you carry them across for me?'

'No,' they cried in unison. 'No, we will not touch your dogs, Bahloo.'

'Why is that?' asked the Moon.

No one answered him.

'Oh, come! If you will not help me, you must tell me why.'

One, braver than the others, spoke for all of them.

'Bahloo, we all admire you. We would do anything for you—anything except come near your dogs. They do not harm you, but if we touched them they would kill us.'

Bahloo was annoyed.

'I have made a simple request,' he said, 'and you have refused it. Look!'

He picked a piece of bark from the trunk of a tree and threw it in the river. It sank, and then bobbed up to the surface.

'You have seen the bark? If you do as I ask you, you will be like that piece of bark when you die. You will come back to life on earth again, just as I die and live again in my home in the sky. But if you disobey—watch again!'

He threw a stone in the water. There was no need for him to say any more, for his meaning was clear to everyone.

'Oh, Bahloo, we love you, and we fear you, but we fear your dogs even more. They are not really dogs. They are snakes—the tiger snake, the death adder, and the brown snake. Each one has poison fangs—we dare not touch them.'

'Then when you die you will remain dead. Your bodies will lose their flesh, and in the end your bones will crumble into dust.'

With these words ringing in their ears, he picked up his snakes, which he called his dogs, wrapped them round his neck with their tails drooping over his shoulders and coiled round his arms, and waded through the water.

After that day Bahloo never talked with the people of earth again, but vindictively sent his 'dogs' to plague them. Wherever they were, men killed them, but it was no use, for Bahloo was always watching, sending others to remind them of his dreadful words about death.

A.W. Reed, Aboriginal Fables & Legendary Tales (Aboriginal Library)


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