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The Dreaming



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The Hero
Who Was Changed into a Mountain


Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

The Great Dividing Range



On the Great Dividing Range the face of a young warrior stares up at the sky. His descendants see the proud profile silhouetted against the setting sun and in their hearts they know that while he remains there, a carved figure in the changeless hills, they will have peace and will be unafraid of their enemies.

It is no handiwork of man, this sharp-edged profile. The hand of nature has set it there for all men to see, and to remind the people of the valley that it is to Butcha that they owe their freedom. Cut off in the full strength of manhood, he left no children to remember him and carry on the divine spark of courage and sacrifice to succeeding generations; but there is no need for these while his face can be seen in the dividing hills.

This is the story of how the face of Butcha has been carved into the timeless hills. A fighting man of the Baluchi tribe had made several raids on the Ugarapuls, traversing the pass in the early mornings, killing defenceless men and capturing the most desirable women. The raids were made stealthily and no one had seen him until one morning when he stood on a rock high above the camp and shouted insults and threats.

'Choose the best of your weakling warriors,' he called, 'and I will cut him into little pieces. Or if you are afraid, come and attack me in force and you will learn the strength of a Baluchi fighting man. Already I have taken many of your wives and young women. Soon no one will be left except old men and women, and babies crying for their mothers' breasts.'

Goaded by his words some of the younger men of the tribe hurled themselves up the steep slope, but when they arrived breathless at the rock the Baluchi warrior was no longer there.

The elders sat in conference round the camp fire that night. 'This is a task for young men,' they said. 'We must accept the challenge or our people will never live in peace. We dare not fail.'

They called the young men to them. 'The honour of our tribe is in your hands,' they were told. 'Who will accept the challenge of the upstart Baluchi people?'

The young men stepped forward eagerly and a chorus of voices answered, 'I will! I will!'

'That is good,' an old man grunted. 'At least we do not breed cowards among the Ugarapuls. But bravery is not enough. Only one man can be chosen, and we must be sure that he is the most skilful fighter among you. Go to your gunyahs now and sleep with your wives. Sleep well, and in the morning we will choose the one who is to serve us all.'

The following morning the eager young warriors danced with excitement. Individual contests were fought, and many a proud young man shed his blood on the grass as he failed to parry the spear of his opponent. There were sore heads and broken legs and arms, but when the sun was high there was no doubt who was most worthy to fight on behalf of the Ugarapuls.

It was Butcha, who had passed the bora rites so recently that he had not even selected a young woman as his mate.

Before the sun had touched the peaks of the Dividing Range the next day he was on his way. He held the sharp-tipped spears and the polished waddy in his left hand, while a light wooden shield with brightly painted designs rested comfortably on his right arm. He ran nimbly between the trees and was lost to sight in the folds of the hills. When he reached the flat rock where the Baluchi warrior had shouted his challenge the sunlight gilded his body. Standing erect, he heard the distant deep-throated roar of the men of his tribe.

Another sound made him turn his head quickly. It was the fighting man of the Baluchi tribe. He was older than Butcha, his body scarred with ancient wounds, his hair shaggy, the muscles rippling like snakes under his skin. The men stood facing each other like a huge gnarled tree and a young slender sapling growing side by side.

'Come, my little man!' the Baluchi warrior sneered, showing his teeth in a grin and shaking his hair out of his eyes. 'Are you the best that the Ugarapul can provide? I expected to find a warrior worthy of my spear this morning.'

'Boasting words do not bring victory,' Butcha said with a quick smile, dancing lightly from one foot to the other. 'The choice fell to me. From this morning's work we will prove whether Ugarapul or Baluchi will dominate this place.'

He sprang to one side as the older man lunged at him with his war spear.

The contest will never be forgotten while the camp fires burn at night in the valley of the Ugarapuls. The tribesmen came closer to cheer on their champion, and the men of Baluchi crept out of their hiding places among the trees and rocks.

Time after time Butcha was wounded by spear and club, for the Baluchi warrior was heavier and more experienced in fighting, but his feet still danced as lightly as a bird, and every now and then he penetrated his opponent's guard until the older man was bleeding in a dozen places. The Baluchi man was breathing heavily, and for a moment he lowered his shield. Butcha dropped his spears, seized his waddy in both hands and brought it down on his opponent's head with a shattering blow.

For a moment there was silence. It was as though the birds had stopped singing and the wind had died among the trees. A roar of triumph came from the men of Ugarapul. They swarmed over the rock, leaping over the dead body of the fallen warrior, and surrounded their champion. Butcha laughed and threw his arms wide as though to disperse the enemy tribesmen who were stealing away to the shelter of the trees.

With the smile still on his face he swayed and fell, and when they bent over him they found that their young champion was dead. It was only the spirit that had maintained the life in his body until the supreme moment when his club descended on the Baluchi warrior's head and his people were assured of a victory.

So he was buried in honour and in sorrow, the young man who sacrificed his life and the children he had yet to father, to save his people. No one knows where his bones are buried. There is no need to know while his face smiles as he lies on his back on the summit of the Dividing Range and shows a proud profile against the blue sky. He remains there in the clear, cold air, a god of the mountain heights whose memory is enshrined in the hearts of his people.

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

  

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