The Dreaming

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The Moon's Reward

Bee Nest in Tree

Two brothers were looking for honey. Their search led them a long distance, but at last they found a bees’ nest in a hollow tree. The bees were flying in and out of a hole in the trunk several feet from the ground.

‘There will be a fine supply of honey here,’ one of the brothers said. ‘No one has been here before. Put your hand inside and pull it out.’

‘No,’ his brother replied. ‘Your arms are longer than mine. You pull it out.’

‘My skin is not as hard as yours. I would get badly stung.’

‘And what about me? Do you think the bees will leave me alone? Anyway, you are the oldest. It is only right that you should show me how to get the honey out of the tree.’

Yes, I am older than you, and as you are the younger brother, I tell you to get it. If you don’t I’ll set about you with my club, and then you can tell me whether bee stings are worse than waddy blows.’

The younger brother gave way and gingerly thrust his hand into the hole, blocking it completely. The bees were puzzled. They buzzed round trying to find an entrance, but made no attempt to sting the honey thief.

‘I can’t feel any honey,’ he said. ‘Only bees crawling over my fingers.’

‘Put your arm right in, man,’ his brother urged. ‘The honey is sure to be farther down the trunk.’

The young man pressed hard against the hole of the tree and thrust his arm down to its fullest extent.

‘I can just touch the honey,’ he exclaimed. ‘It is sticky on my fingers.’

‘Then pull it out!’

‘I can’t. I can touch it, but I can’t get my fingers round it. It’s too far down.’

‘Oh, you are a fool. Why didn’t I do it myself!’

‘Because you were frightened of the bees, elder brother. Now you know that they won’t hurt you, perhaps you would like to try for yourself.’ He began to pull his arm out of the hole. It had been a very tight squeeze getting it in, but by now his arm was swollen and covered with honey.

‘I can’t get it out,’ he complained. ‘My elbow is stuck and it hurts.’ His brother caught hold of his other arm and began to pull. ‘Stop! Stop!’ the young man shouted. ‘You’re hurting!’

‘It’ll hurt more before I’m finished with you. I can’t leave you like this, and anyway I want my honey.’ He began to jerk savagely, holding on to his brother’s arm with both hands and pressing his feet against the trunk of the tree.

The young brother, who was little more than a boy, began to scream with pain. The elder brother let go and sat down to think. ‘I will get other people to help. If we all pull at once we’ll have your arm out before you know where you are.’

‘No, no,’ pleaded the other. ‘I think you have broken it already. You’ll have to find some other way.’

‘Very well. I’ll go and get help. There may be some wise man who can tell us a better way to free you.’

There were a number of hunters on the plain. He ran swiftly from one to another, telling them what had happened, and begging them to help, but they were too intent on their tasks and refused abruptly. Some said they were sorry and would come later, others were angry and drove him away because he was frightening the game, and some thought it was all a huge joke. The only one who could help was a round-faced man named Moon.

‘Where is he?’ asked Moon. ‘I think I know what to do. Take me to him.’

When they got to the tree the poor young man was dangling helplessly by his arm and almost unconscious. Moon climbed nimbly into the branches of the tree and found the hollow shaft below him. He put his head right inside and gave a tremendous sneeze. The imprisoned arm was blown out of the hole, followed by a cloud of angry bees and a large quantity of honey.

The three men sat down to eat. The two brothers were angry because the other hunters had refused to help, and they plotted vengeance.

‘The wind is blowing towards them, and there is a lot of dry grass about,’ the younger brother suggested.

‘Don’t do it,’ Moon begged. ‘You may find yourselves in trouble if you try to burn them up.’

‘We won’t do that,’ elder brother said, rubbing the hard edge of his woomera on a dry log. ‘We’ll smoke them out and drive the game farther away.’

A wisp of smoke came from the log. He blew the tinder and fed the tiny flame with wisps of grass until the wind fanned it to a blaze. The fire spread quickly, but the wind shifted and started to blow towards them. The three men turned and ran, but the fire gained on them. Moon stumbled and fell flat on his face.

‘He helped us, now we must help him,’ younger brother gasped. The brothers turned to Moon, seized an arm and a foot on either side, and swung him backwards and forwards, higher and higher. When they released him he shot up into the sky.

The brothers kept on running until they were lost to sight, even to Moon, who liked his new home in the sky so much that he has remained there ever since.


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