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The Adventures of Yooneeara


A daring thought once came to Yooneeara of the Kamilaroi tribe.

'I am going on a long journey towards the setting sun,' he told his people. 'I will not stop until I come to the home of Baiame himself.'

He gathered his hunting spears, put a few possessions in his dilly bag and, as an afterthought, stuffed a live bandicoot in with his snares and fire sticks.

'What do you want to take a bandicoot with you for?' his friends asked.

'Don't you think you'll be able to get enough food by hunting?'

'You never know,' said Yooneeara. 'It might come in useful.'

He set out on his adventure and travelled for several days until he came to the land of the Dhinnabarrada, the queer men who have legs and feet like emus. They hunt together in bands looking for grubs, which are their sole food, and spend the rest of their time making boomerangs from the strong-scented wood of gidya trees.

As soon as they saw Yooneeara they rushed towards him, trying to touch his feet, because if they had been able to do this they would have changed him into a Dhinnabarrada like themselves. They ran so quickly that the young man knew he could not escape. He put his dilly bag on the ground and opened it. The bandicoot struggled free and ran away as fast as it could. The Dhinnabarradas whooped with excitement as they gave chase, for they had never seen such a strange creature before, and Yooneeara was able to creep away unseen.

Presently he came to a large plain which was the home of the Dheeyabery tribe. When seen from in front they looked like men, but from behind they had the appearance of round balls. They gathered round the explorer and patted him with their hands.

'Where are you going?' they asked him.

Yooneeara was afraid that if they kept on feeling him with their hands he would become as round as they were.

'I am going to see Baiame,' he said shortly, shook himself free, and ran away.

'Come back, come back. Stay with us,' they cried until he could no longer hear their voices.

But though he ran very fast he could not get rid of the mosquitoes and March flies that began to swarm round him. The faster he ran the more viciously they attacked him. He sank down breathless beside a water hole, but the insects attacked him until he was nearly desperate. He knew that he must protect himself or he would be driven mad. It was worse than any of the ordeals he had had to endure in the bora rite.

He took his knife and cut a large rectangle of bark from a tree; in it he made two tiny holes for eye-pieces. He wrapped it round his body and pulled the ends together as tight as he could, pushing leaves and grass into the gaps of the home-made armour. Well protected from the insects, he walked onwards towards the setting sun. Some of the insects found their way inside the armour, but they were few and he felt he could endure their bites.

After a long time the pests were left behind and he was able to take off the uncomfortable garment. He put it into a large water hole to soak, thinking that it would be soft when he returned, and that he would be able to wrap it more closely round him. As he placed it in position he noticed that the water was clear. At the bottom of the pool he saw tiny men walking about. He could hear their silvery voices calling, "Where are you?" and every now and then he saw one of them catch a fish and throw it up so that it jumped out of the water and fell on the bank.

'Thank you, little men,' he said with a grin, gathered the fish into his dilly bag, and went on.

There was no need for him to spend time in hunting. His dilly bag was full of fish and he knew that he must be getting close to Kurrilwan, the home of Baiame. He passed the Weebullabulla, the misshapen old women who live on yams and lizards and have nothing to do with men, and came to the great swamp called Kollioroogla. It was not very wide, but its ends stretched to the far horizons.

At last Yooneeara's heart failed him. He could see no way of crossing the barrier. He dug his spear into the thick black mud. It sank so far down that he had difficulty in pulling it out. The swamp was too muddy to swim and too deep to walk through. He lay down to rest and slept all through the night and far into the next day. When he woke the sun was sinking behind the mountains on the far side of the swamp, and the red glow beckoned him on. He ran along the bank until he came to a fallen tree. It was long and slender, and he wondered whether it would bear his weight, but at least it was a bridge. He ran across it lightly without missing his footing, climbed the hills, and came to the far slopes of the mountains.

The place was a wonderland, lit by a sun which never sank. Game of all kinds, including animals he had never seen before, ran through the scrub, the air was filled with the singing of birds, and there was a sweet scent of flowers. The trees were all green and pointing in one direction towards a huge cave in the mountainside. At his feet a stream chuckled over the rocks and fell in a silver sheet of water into a lagoon where swans and ducks were swimming, and plants dipped their blossoms into the cool water. He ran down to the lagoon and plunged into it, washing the dust and sweat of his journey from his face and body. The water was soothing and invigorating. Yooneeara left his weapons on the bank and ran up to the cave. In front of it Byallaburragan, Baiame's daughter, was roasting a snake at a fire.

'I have been waiting for you,' she said, and gave him a tender morsel of flesh, which satisfied his hunger.

'Have you come here to see my father?' she asked.

'Yes. It has been a long journey, but my soul told me to come to see the Great Spirit.'

'You can see his body there," Byallaburragan told him. 'It is many moons since any man has been bold enough to look at Baiame. He is asleep and you must not wake him. Look!'

Yooneeara peered into the cave. In the shadows he saw the body of a man stretched out on a bed of compressed bushes. He was many times the size of an ordinary man, and mystical patterns in white and yellow clay were painted on his body. Yooneeara longed to speak to him, but Byallaburragan warned him that it was time to leave.

'Have courage,' she said, 'and soon you will see him properly.'

The homeward journey took many days. There was a lightness in the traveller's heart that took him quickly past all the dangers. The garment of bark was soft when he took it from the water. It clung to his body and protected him against the March flies and the mosquitoes.

Eventually he reached his home and tried to gather his people round him to tell them what had happened to him. Yooneeara did not realise that the time he had spent in the presence of the sleeping Baiame had changed him. In a little while he died, and his spirit went direct to the Great Spirit in the land of everlasting life without having to endure the sorrows of the path.

But this was not known to Yooneeara's people. All they knew was that they would never dare to try to find the home of Baiame while blood and breath still stirred in their bodies.

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


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