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Dinewan the emu and Goomblegubbon the bustard
From Australian Legendary Tales
Folklore of the Noongahburrahs as told to the Piccaninnies
Author: K. Langloh Parker
KING OF THE NOONGAHBURRAHS
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Dinewan the emu, being the largest bird, was acknowledged as king by the
other birds. The Goomblegubbons, the bustards, were jealous of the
Dinewans. Particularly was Goomblegubbon, the mother, jealous of the
Diriewan mother. She would watch with envy the high flight of the
Dinewans, and their swift running. And she always fancied that the
Dinewan mother flaunted her superiority in her face, for whenever
Dinewan alighted near Goomblegubbon, after a long, high flight, she
would flap her big wings and begin booing in her pride, not the loud
booing of the male bird, but a little, triumphant, satisfied booing
noise of her own, which never failed to irritate Goomblegubbon when she
Goomblegubbon used to wonder how she could put an end to Dinewan's
supremacy. She decided that she would only be able to do so by injuring
her wings and checking her power of flight. But the question that
troubled her was how to effect this end. She knew she would gain
nothing by having a quarrel with Dinewan and fighting her, for no
Goomblegubbon would stand any chance against a Dinewan, There was
evidently nothing to be gained by an open fight. She would have to
effect her end by cunning.
One day, when Goomblegubbon saw in the distance Dinewan coming towards
her, she squatted down and doubled in her wings in such a way as to
look as if she had none. After Dinewan had been talking to her for some
time, Goomblegubbon said: "Why do you not imitate me and do without
wings? Every bird flies. The Dinewans, to be the king of birds, should
do without wings. When all the birds see that I can do without wings,
they will think I am the cleverest bird and they will make a
"But you have wings," said Dinewan.
"No, I have no wings." And indeed she looked as if her words were true,
so well were her wings hidden, as she squatted in the grass. Dinewan
went away after awhile, and thought much of what she had heard. She
talked it all over with her mate, who was as disturbed as she was. They
made up their minds that it would never do to let the Goomblegubbons
reign in their stead, even if they had to lose their wings to save
At length they decided on the sacrifice of their wings. The Dinewan
mother showed the example by persuading her mate to cut off hers with a
combo or stone tomahawk, and then she did the same to his. As soon as
the operations were over, the Dinewan mother lost no time in letting
Goomblegubbon know what they had done. She ran swiftly down to the
plain on which she had left Goomblegubbon, and, finding her still
squatting there, she said: "See, I have followed your example. I have
now no wings. They are cut off."
"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Goomblegubbon, jumping up and dancing round with
joy at the success of her plot. As she danced round, she spread out her
wings, flapped them, and said: "I have taken you in, old stumpy wings.
I have my wings yet. You are fine birds, you Dinewans, to be chosen
kings, when you are so easily taken in. Ha! ha! ha!" And, laughing
derisively, Goomblegubbon flapped her wings right in front of Dinewan,
who rushed towards her to chastise her treachery. But Goomblegubbon
flew away, and, alas! the now wingless Dinewan could not follow her.
Brooding over her wrongs, Dinewan walked away, vowing she would be
revenged. But how? That was the question which she and her mate failed
to answer for some time. At length the Dinewan mother thought of a plan
and prepared at once to execute it. She hid all her young Dinewans but
two, under a big salt bush. Then she walked off to Goomblegubbons'
plain with the two young ones following her. As she walked off the
morilla ridge, where her home was, on to the plain, she saw
Goomblegubbon out feeding with her twelve young ones.
After exchanging a few remarks in a friendly manner with Goomblegubbon,
she said to her, "Why do you not imitate me and only have two children?
Twelve are too many to feed. If you keep so many they will never grow
big birds like the Dinewans. The food that would make big birds of two
would only starve twelve." Goomblegubbon said nothing, but she thought
it might be so. It was impossible to deny that the young Dinewans were
much bigger than the young Goomblegubbons, and, discontentedly,
Goomblegubbon walked away, wondering whether the smallness of her young
ones was owing to the number of them being so much greater than that of
the Dinewans. It would be grand, she thought, to grow as big as the
But she remembered the trick she had played on Dinewan, and
she thought that perhaps she was being fooled in her turn. She looked
back to where the Dinewans fed, and as she saw how much bigger the two
young ones were than any of hers, once more mad envy of Dinewan
possessed her. She determined she would not be outdone. Rather would
she kill all her young ones but two. She said, "The Dinewans shall not
be the king birds of the plains. The Goomblegubbons shall replace them.
They shall grow as big as the Dinewans, and shall keep their wings and
fly, which now the Dinewans cannot do." And straightway Goomblegubbon
killed all her young ones but two. Then back she came to where the
Dinewans were still feeding. When Dinewan saw her coming and noticed
she had only two young ones with her, she called out: "Where are all
your young ones?"
Goomblegubbon answered, "I have killed them, and have only two left.
Those will have plenty to eat now, and will soon grow as big as your
"You cruel mother to kill your children. You greedy mother. Why, I have
twelve children and I find food for them all. I would not kill one for
anything, not even if by so doing I could get back my wings. There is
plenty for all. Look at the emu bush how it covers itself with berries
to feed my big family. See how the grasshoppers come hopping round, so
that we can catch them and fatten on them."
"But you have only two children."
"I have twelve. I will go and bring them to show you." Dinewan ran off
to her salt bush where she had hidden her ten young ones. Soon she was
to be seen coming back. Running with her neck stretched forward, her
head thrown back with pride, and the feathers of her boobootella
swinging as she ran, booming out the while her queer throat noise, the
Dinewan song of joy, the pretty, soft-looking little ones with their
zebra-striped skins, running beside her whistling their baby Dinewan
note. When Dinewan reached the place where Goomblegubbon was, she
stopped her booing and said in a solemn tone, "Now you see my words are
true, I have twelve young ones, as I said. You can gaze at my loved
ones and think of your poor murdered children. And while you do so I
will tell you the fate of your descendants for ever. By trickery and
deceit you lost the Dinewans their wings, and now for evermore, as long
as a Dinewan has no wings, so long shall a Goomblegubbon lay only two
eggs and have only two young ones. We are quits now. You have your
wings and I my children."
And ever since that time a Dinewan, or emu, has had no wings, and a
Goomblegubbon, or bustard of the plains, has laid only two eggs in a