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meamei the seven sisters.

From Australian Legendary Tales, by K. Langloh Parker

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The next day Wurrunnah made a fresh start, and left the camp of the Meamei, as if he were leaving for good. But he determined to hide near and watch what they did, and if he could get a chance he would steal a wife from amongst them. He was tired of travelling alone. He saw the seven sisters all start out with their yam sticks in hand. He followed at a distance, taking care not to be seen. He saw them stop by the nests of some flying ants. With their yam sticks they dug all round these ant holes. When they had successfully unearthed the ants they sat down, throwing their yam sticks on one side, to enjoy a feast, for these ants were esteemed by them a great delicacy. While the sisters were busy at their feast, Wurrunnah sneaked up to their yam sticks and stole two of them; then, taking the sticks with him, sneaked back to his hiding-place. When at length the Meamei had satisfied their appetites, they picked up their sticks and turned towards their camp again. But only five could find their sticks; so those five started off, leaving the other two to find theirs, supposing they must be somewhere near, and, finding them, they would soon catch them up. The two girls hunted all round the ants' nests, but could find no sticks.



At last, when their backs were turned towards him, Wurrunnah crept out and stuck the lost yam sticks near together in the ground; then he slipt back into his hiding-place. When the two girls turned round, there in front of them they saw their sticks. With a cry of joyful surprise they ran to them and caught hold of them to pull them out of the ground, in which they were firmly stuck. As they were doing so, out from his hiding-place jumped Wurrunnah. He seized both girls round their waists, holding them tightly. They struggled and screamed, but to no purpose. There were none near to hear them, and the more they struggled the tighter Wurrunnah held them. Finding their screams and struggles in vain they quietened at length, and then Wurrunnah told them not to be afraid, he would take care of them. He was lonely, he said, and wanted two wives. They must come quietly with him, and he would be good to them. But they must do as he told them. If they were not quiet, he would swiftly quieten them with his moorillah. But if they would come quietly with him he would be good to them. Seeing that resistance was useless, the two young girls complied with his wish, and travelled quietly on with him. They told him that some day their tribe would come and steal them back again; to avoid which he travelled quickly on and on still further, hoping to elude all pursuit.



Some weeks passed, and, outwardly, the two Meamei seemed settled down to their new life, and quite content in it, though when they were alone together they often talked of their sisters, and wondered what they had done when they realised their loss. They wondered if the five were still hunting for them, or whether they had gone back to their tribe to get assistance. That they might be in time forgotten and left with Wurrunnali for ever, they never once for a moment thought. One day when they were camped Wurrunnah said: "This fire will not burn well. Go you two and get some bark from those two pine trees over there." "No," they said, "we must not cut pine bark. If we did, you would never more see us." "Go! I tell you, cut pine bark. I want it. See you not the fire burns but slowly?" "If we go, Wurrunnah, we shall never return. You will see us no more in this country. We know it." "Go, women, stay not to talk. Did ye ever see talk make a fire burn? Then why stand ye there talking? Go; do as I bid you. Talk not so foolishly; if you ran away soon should I catch you, and, catching you, would beat you hard. Go I talk no more."



The Meamei went, taking with them their combos with which to cut the bark. They went each to a different tree, and each, with a strong hit, drove her combo into the bark. As she did so, each felt the tree that her combo had struck rising higher out of the ground and bearing her upward with it. Higher and higher grew the pine trees, and still on them, higher and higher from the earth, went the two girls. Hearing no chopping after the first hits, Wurrunnah came towards the pines to see what was keeping the girls so long. As he came near them he saw that the pine trees were growing taller even as he looked at them, and clinging to the trunks of the trees high in the air he saw his two wives. He called to them to come down, but they made no answer. Time after time he called to them as higher and higher they went, but still they made no answer. Steadily taller grew the two pines, until at last their tops touched the sky. As they did so, from the sky the five Meamei looked out, called to their two sisters on the pine trees, bidding them not to be afraid but to come to them. Quickly the two girls climbed up when they heard the voices of their sisters. When they reached the tops of the pines the five sisters in the sky stretched forth their hands, and drew them in to live with them there in the sky for ever. And there, if you look, you may see the seven sisters together. You perhaps know them as the Pleiades, but the black fellows call them the Meamei.

       



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