Laughing Kookaburra perched on a Silver Wattle, Waterworks Reserve, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Photo by JJ Harrison.
Laughing Kookaburra perched on a Silver Wattle, Waterworks Reserve, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Photo by JJ Harrison.

How about another tale from Australia? “The Cookooburrahs and the Goolahgool” was retold by Mrs. K. Langloh Parker in Australian Legendary Tales, 1896.

Googarh, the iguana, was married to Moodai, the opossum and Cookooburrah, the laughing kookaburra. Two wives, again, but this time that’s not the creature’s downfall. Cookooburrah was the mother of three sons, one grown and living on his own, the other two only little boys. They had their camp near a goolahgool, which is apparently a tree that can hold water. It has a split in the fork of it, and a hollow below the fork. After a heavy rain, this hollow trunk would fill with water and it held that water for a long time.

One day, Googarh, the iguana, and his two wives went out hunting, leaving the two little kookaburra at the camp. The adults  had taken out water and filled their own water bags, but they had left none for the children, who were too small to get any from the three for themselves. The children had  become speechless with thirst, when they saw a someone coming towards them. When he came near, they saw it was Cookooburrah, their big brother. They could not answer when he asked where his mother was. Then he asked them what was the matter. All the young ones could do was to point towards the tree. He looked at it, and saw it was a goolahgool, so he said, “Did your mother leave you no water?” They shook their heads yes. He said, “Then you are perishing for want of a drink, my brothers?” They nodded. “Go,” he said “a little way off, and you shall see how I will punish them for leaving my little brothers to die of thirst.” He split the tree right down the middle and out gushed the water in a swift strem. Soon the little boys drank their fill.

In the meantime, those who had gone forth to hunt were returning, and when they saw the stream of water, they assumed the goolahgool must have burst. They tried to dam the water, but the current was too strong. They hurried on, but the water had formed a deep stream between them and the camp.  The three kookaburras saw them, and the oldest told the children to tell the three adults to cross at a certain point and to assure them it was not deep there.  The little ones did as they were told, and Googarh and his wives waded into the stream. Finding she was getting out of her depth, Cookooburrah cried out for a stick

But from the bank her sons only made fun of her, not offering any help. And the three hunters were soon engulfed in the rushing stream and drowned.

Once again, an evil deed ends up with those who committed it being punished with death. And I do think leaving your children with no water was pretty cruel. I guess in a way here we have both an evil mother and an evil stepmother, since neither seemed worried about the children. Maybe not evil, maybe just neglectful. And a useless father. Standard fairy tale characters.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.

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