Aboriginal stories Emu and Bustard

Emu and Bustard Aboriginal Story

Dinewan the Emu and Goomblegubbon the Bustard A Modern Retelling

Dinewan the emu, being the largest bird, was recognized as the ruler by the other birds. However, the bustards, known as the Goomblegubbons, were intensely jealous of the Dinewans. The mother Goomblegubbon was particularly envious of the Dinewan matriarch. She’d watch with resentment as the Dinewans soared high and ran swiftly. And she always imagined the Dinewan mother flaunted her superiority, because whenever Dinewan landed near Goomblegubbon after a long flight, she would proudly flap her huge wings and let out a little triumphant booing noise that never failed to irritate Goomblegubbon.

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The envious bustard constantly schemed about how to end Dinewan’s supremacy. She realized she could only do it by crippling the emu’s wings and limiting her flight. But the challenge was figuring out how. Fighting Dinewan directly would be futile – no Goomblegubbon stood a chance against a Dinewan. Goomblegubbon would have to resort to cunning.

One day, seeing Dinewan approach in the distance, Goomblegubbon tucked in her wings to appear wingless. After chatting a while, the sly bustard said, “Why don’t you copy me and go without wings? Every bird flies. The king of birds should be different. When the others see I don’t need wings, they’ll think I’m the cleverest and make me their ruler instead.”

Male Emu with chicks

The emu rulers fretted after this encounter. Losing their wings was a steep price, but they refused to let the Goomblegubbons usurp their reign. So they made the painful decision to amputate each other’s wings with a sharp stone.

Dinewan mother then rushed to show Goomblegubbon, expecting her to be impressed. But the deceitful bustard merely laughed derisively, dancing around and flaunting her own wings. “You foolish emus, so easily tricked! You’re hardly fit to be kings now. Ha!”

Enraged but flightless, the humiliated Dinewan vowed revenge as Goomblegubbon flew off. After much brooding, she hatched a scheme and put it in motion. Hiding all but two of her chicks under a salt bush, she approached Goomblegubbon and her twelve offspring.

“Why not be like me and only have two chicks?” suggested Dinewan. “Twelve is too many to feed properly. They’ll never grow big and strong that way.”

Pair of Australian Bustards on the plains

This gave the greedy bustard pause. The Dinewan chicks were undeniably bigger… Goomblegubbon’s jealousy flared. She would not be outdone by her rival! In a fit of madness, she slaughtered all but two of her own babies, proclaiming that her remaining young would grow even mightier than the emus.

When the horrified Dinewan questioned her, Goomblegubbon haughtily explained her cruel logic. In response, Dinewan retrieved her other ten chicks to reveal the truth.

“Now you see your folly,” Dinewan boomed at the shocked bustard. “You gained your wings through trickery, but lost your children through greed. So I lay this curse: for as long as emus are wingless, you shall lay only two eggs and raise two chicks each year. We are even now – you have your wings, and I my children.”

And so it has been ever since – the flightless emu raises great flocks, while the winged bustard births a meager two chicks per clutch. The price of deceit and envy is steep indeed.

Adapted from Australian Legendary Tales. Buy the eBook