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Friday, April 19, 2024

Parker - The Gwineeboos The Redbreasts - Keeping The Public in Public Domain

Monday is Earth Day and while I have tons of Creation or Pourquois tales, none of them seemed to call out to me until I went to K. Langloh Parker's Australian Legendary TalesI've included Parker's book from colonial Australia retelling Australian aboriginal tales twice before here and strongly recommend going to them for background material on her and to understand more about the stories.

Today's story is about sharing, for Earth Day is indeed about learning how to share the earth.  It's also a tale about the robin, but the Australian robin is not the same as the robin most of us, living outside Australasia, know.  There are 51 species of Australasian robins, but like the robins of the rest of the world, today's story is about the red breasted ones that led colonizers to call them robins, but Parker preserved their original name of Gwineeboo.  Gwineeboo's friend, Goomai, is a water rat.  The other characters named in the story, Quarrian and Gidgereegah, are only described as hunters, but the book's glossary tells us they are parrots for that's what they became.

Aside from this being a story pitting two females (plus their noisy hungry baby) against two hunters, it's a great story for audience participation.  Teach the audience to chant like the baby, "Gwineeboo, Gwineeboo. I want kangaroo. I want kangaroo. Gwineeboo. Gwineeboo." They will have a blast, but be sure to teach them to silence when you hold up your hand!  Beyond that I suggest putting the later chant that causes the storm on a card as it's more difficult to remember.  "Moogaray, Moogaray, May, May, Eehu, Eehu, Doongarah."  Then give the translation.  You can say that fortunately the audience aren't birds, so - you hope -the chant only works in the story.

The only other needed explanation, again from the glossary, is that a dardurr is a type of hut.

The scarlet robin, an Australasian robin


Gwineeboo and Goomai, the water rat, were down at the creek one day, getting mussels for food, when, to their astonishment, a kangaroo hopped right into the water beside them. Well they knew that he must be escaping from hunters, who were probably pressing him close. So Gwineeboo quickly seized her yam stick, and knocked the kangaroo on the head; he was caught fast in the weeds in the creek, so could not escape. When the two old women had killed the kangaroo they hid its body under the weeds in the creek, fearing to take it out and cook it straight away, lest the hunters should come up and claim it. The little son of Gwineeboo watched them from the bank. After having hidden the kangaroo, the women picked up their mussels and started for their camp, when up came the hunters, Quarrian and Gidgereegah, who had tracked the kangaroo right to the creek.

Seeing the women they said: "Did you see a kangaroo?"

The women answered: "No. We saw no kangaroo."

"That is strange, for we have tracked it right up to here."

"We have seen no kangaroo. See, we have been digging out mussels for food. Come to our camp, and we will give you some when they are cooked."

The young men, puzzled in their minds, followed the women to their camp, and when the mussels were cooked the hunters joined the old women at their dinner. The little boy would not eat the mussels; he kept crying to his mother, "Gwineeboo, Gwineeboo. I want kangaroo. I want kangaroo. Gwineeboo. Gwineeboo."

"There," said Quarrian. "Your little boy has seen the kangaroo, and wants some; it must be here somewhere."

"Oh, no. He cries for anything he thinks of, some days for kangaroo; he is only a little boy, and does not know what he wants," said old Gwineeboo. But still the child kept saying, "Gwineeboo. Gwineeboo. I want kangaroo. I want kangaroo." Goomai was so angry with little Gwineeboo for keeping on asking for kangaroo, and thereby making the young men suspicious, that she hit him so hard on the mouth to keep him quiet, that the blood came, and trickled down his breast, staining it red. When she saw this, old Gwineeboo grew angry in her turn, and hit old Goomai, who returned the blow, and so a fight began, more words than blows, so the noise was great, the women fighting, little Gwineeboo crying, not quite knowing whether he was crying because Goomai had hit him, because his mother was fighting, or because he still wanted kangaroo.

Quarrian said to Gidgereegah. "They have the kangaroo somewhere hidden; let us slip away now in the confusion. We will only hide, then come back in a little while, and surprise them."

They went quietly away, and as soon as the two women noticed they had gone, they ceased fighting, and determined to cook the kangaroo. They watched the two young men out of sight, and waited some time so as to be sure that they were safe. Then down they hurried to get the kangaroo. They dragged it out, and were just making a big fire on which to cook it, when up came Quarrian and Gidgereegah, saying:

"Ah! we thought so. You had our kangaroo all the time; little Gwineeboo was right."

"But we killed it," said the women.

"But we hunted it here," said the men, and so saying caught hold of the kangaroo and dragged it away to some distance, where they made a fire and cooked it. Goomai, Gwineeboo, and her little boy went over to Quarrian and Gidgereegah, and begged for some of the meat, but the young men would give them none, though little Gwineeboo cried piteously for some. But no; they said they would rather throw what they did not want to the hawks than give it to the women or child. At last, seeing that there was no hope of their getting any, the women went away. They built a big dardurr for themselves, shutting themselves and the little boy up in it. Then they began singing a song which was to invoke a storm to destroy their enemies, for so now they considered Quarrian and Gidgereegah. For some time they chanted:

"Moogaray, Moogaray, May, May, Eehu, Eehu, Doongarah."

First they would begin very slowly and softly, gradually getting quicker and louder, until at length they almost shrieked it out. The words they said meant, "Come hailstones; come wind; come rain; come lightning."

While they were chanting, little Gwineeboo kept crying, and would not be comforted. Soon came a few big drops of rain, then a big wind, and as that lulled, more rain. Then came thunder and lightning, the air grew bitterly cold, and there came a pitiless hailstorm, hailstones bigger than a duck's egg fell, cutting the leaves from the trees and bruising their bark. Gidgereegah and Quarrian came running over to the dardurr and begged the women to let them in.

"No," shrieked Gwineeboo above the storm, "there was no kangaroo meat for us: there is no dardurr shelter for you. Ask shelter of the hawks whom ye fed." The men begged to be let in, said they would hunt again and get kangaroo for the women, not one but many. "No," again shrieked the women. "You would not even listen to the crying of a little child; it is better such as you should perish." And fiercer raged the storm and louder sang the women:

"Moogaray, Moogaray, May, May,
Eehu, Eehu, Doongarah."

So long and so fierce was the storm that the young men must have perished had they not been changed into birds. First they were changed into birds and afterwards into stars in the sky, where they now are, Gidgereegah and Ouarrian with the kangaroo between them, still bearing the names that they bore on the earth. 


This story convinced me to add it to my "Storytelling Cruise Around the World."  The "cruise" is one my most popular programs and fits well with this year's Summer Reading theme of "Adventure Begins at Your Library." Stories sometimes just have a way of calling out to be told. . . sort of like that baby calling "Gwineeboo, Gwineeboo. I want kangaroo. I want kangaroo. Gwineeboo. Gwineeboo."


This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-

  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.

  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"

The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:        

         - David K. Brown -

         - Richard Martin -

         - Spirit of Trees -

         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but the late Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for December 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.

       - World of Tales - 

           - Zalka Csenge Virag - doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.

You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!

    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.

You can see why I recommend these to you. 

Have fun discovering even more stories

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