The Dreaming

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The Rebellious Son of Baiame

Barramundi Dreaming


In the Barwon River there is a large pool called Wirreebila; and nearby there is a tree with a lump on the bark which is known to the tribes for hundreds of miles around as the Goodoo of Wirreebilla. This is the story of Goodoo.

Long ago Baiame and one of his sons were fishing at the pool. They caught an enormous Goodoo, or Codfish. It was so large that it was a struggle to get it ashore. When it was safely landed, Baiame cut two large slices of its flesh, which he put on the fire that his son had kindled. The remainder of the fish was hung on the bough of a tree.

There was a tempting aroma as the fish was cooked. Baiame took it out of the fire and sank his teeth into one of the slices. His son put out his hand to take the other piece, but Baiame struck it away. With smarting eyes the young man watched his father eat the first slice and make a start on the second.

He flung down the bank in a temper and, hidden from his father, wrought magic spells that caused the water to whirl round faster and faster until it surged down the river, carrying all the fish with it. As the torrent flooded the river from bank to bank, the boy ran alongside it, laughing as he saw the fish swept helplessly along.

Baiame finished his meal, wiped his hands, and called his son. There was no answer. He called again, and then walked over to the pool. There was only a little muddy water at the bottom, and he knew at once what had happened. He strode down the river in a temper. He could see the traces of the floodwater, but mile after mile went by without any sign of his son. Then, far in the distance, he caught sight of him.

'Stop!' he called.

His son kept on running. Baiame gave a slow smile. He knew that where his son was going the river plunged underground. When the boy halted, he came closer and said, 'You wanted to go with the river. Go on. Go on under the earth and never let me see you again.'

The boy was defiant. He had never stood up to his father's anger before, but he was so resentful of Baiame's selfishness that he shouted, 'Be quiet, old man. Turn into stone.'

The veins stood out on Baiame's forehead, and his face turned almost black with rage. He threw out his arms, and his son was forced back, step by step, until he fell into the river and was swept underground.

The great wirrinun walked slowly away. He never saw his son again, but the curse lingered over him all his life. In his home in the sky he stands, partly turned to stone because of the words that his son uttered before he was buried in the underground river.

And the Goodoo of Wirreebilla remains as a sign that the great evil of other days really happened.

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


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