The Goanna / Magpies Marriage


The goanna could run fast.   As fast as the wind which blew the dried grass into untidy balls to make them dance, like stiff legged crabs, rushing this way and that to the sound of the dead shells clattering back and forth over the wet sand as they are hustled by the waves and the wind.

Nurunderi was the fastest of his goanna friends, and boasted he could outrun a spear flung by the strongest of the black man hunters.   His friends hid from the hunters who delighted in spearing them and cooking them over hot coals.

Nurunderi laughed at the cowardice of his friends and refused to be intimidated by the hunters’ sharp spears.

But Nurunderi’s father was not so stupid and arrogant.

“You must camouflage yourself so the hunters can’t easily see you,” he advised.

Nurunderi laughed at his wise old father’s concerns.

“I can run like the wind.   No spear can catch me.”

And with those words, he stood up on his long claws and raced across the rocks and sand.   But not fast enough to escape the hunter’s spear, which struck him through the neck.

Nurunderi’s spirit now lives in the sky and rests on top of high rocks and trees.   When the wind blows, he enjoys racing the clouds.   That is the reason his earthly friends hurry up the tallest tree to watch whenever the wind stirs the leaves to announce the race.

Only they can see Nurunderi because he belatedly took his father’s advice and is now camouflaged to escape the spears.


Magpies mate for life.   Most birds do.   But humans aren’t so loyal to each other.

Boori was a young man admired by his tribe because of his manliness and hunting skills.   He had many of the tribe’s young women, and even some of the older ones,  chasing after him.

Instead of selecting one to mate with for life, like a magpie, he shared himself without thought for the feelings of the girls.

His wise mother worried that he had no feelings for others and so spoke to an old female magpie who lived in a gnarled old gum tree beside the billabong.

“How can I make him think of others rather than himself?” she implored the old magpie.

“I will help you,” sang the magpie in distinctive tones.

And that night, as the sun slid behind the horizon, Boori was swooped on by a flight of magpies and carried away.

The tribes’ people who witnessed the sight were dumbfounded.   They searched the scrub all next morning, thinking the magpies may have dropped him as he was indeed heavy.   But they found nothing.

The young girls mourned his disappearance.

Boori’s mother sought out the magpie woman.

“Have faith, my dear,” was all she was told.

Then one day not long after the spring flowers blossomed in the desert sand, Boori appeared on top of one of the large red sandstone rocks on the other side of the river.   He’d grown huge black wings and his thighs were marked in bold white clay stripes.   Magpies flew around him, warbling joyously.   Nesting in his thick hair was his bride  –  a young female magpie.   She was sitting on their eggs, which were also being warmed by the spring sun’s rays.

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