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Main > Australian folktales > Fairy tale "Ouyan the Curlew"

Ouyan the Curlew

Bleargah the hawk, mother of Ouyan the curlew, said one day to her son: "Go, Ouyan, out, take your spears and kill an emu. The women and I are hungry. You are a man, go out and kill, that we may eat. You must not stay always in the camp like an old woman; you must go and hunt as other men do, lest the women laugh at you."

Ouyan took his spears and went out hunting, but though he went far, he could not get an emu, yet he dare not return to the camp and face the jeers of the women. Well could they jeer, and angry could his mother grow when she was hungry. Sooner than return empty-handed he would cut some flesh off his own legs. And this he decided to do. He made a cut in his leg with his comebo and as he made it, cried aloud: "Yuckay! Yuckay," in pain. But he cut on, saying: "Sharper would cut the tongues of the women, and deeper would be the wounds they would make, if I returned without food for them." And crying: "Yuckay, yuckay," at each stroke of his comebo, he at length cut off a piece of flesh, and started towards the camp with it.

As he neared the camp his mother cried out: "What have you brought us, Ouyan? We starve for meat, come quickly."

He came and laid the flesh at her feet, saying: "Far did I go, and little did I see, but there is enough for all to-night; to-morrow will I go forth again."

The women cooked the flesh, and ate it hungrily. Afterwards they felt quite ill, but thought it must be because they had eaten too hungrily. The next day they hurried Ouyan forth again. And again he returned bringing his own flesh back. Again the women ate hungrily of it, and again they felt quite ill.

Then, too, Beeargah noticed for the first time that the flesh Ouyan brought looked different from emu flesh. She asked him what flesh it was. He replied: "What should it be but the flesh of emu?"

But Beeargah was not satisfied, and she said to the two women who lived with her: "Go you, to-morrow, follow Ouyan, and see whence he gets this flesh."

The next day, the two woman followed Ouyan when he went forth to hunt.

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