The Echidna’s Curse The Weeoombeens’ Flight from Greed

Emu painting

Transformation and Retribution in the Bush The Legacy of Piggiebillah and the Weeoombeens

The Echidna’s Curse is a powerful tale from Australian Indigenous folklore that intertwines themes of betrayal, revenge, and transformation. This story follows the journey of two Weeoombeen brothers who encounter Piggiebillah, a man whose greed leads to a dramatic sequence of events. The story paints a vivid picture of traditional justice and metamorphosis, exploring how greed can lead to downfall and how cunning can lead to survival. It offers a window into the complex moral landscapes navigated by Aboriginal communities, showcasing the profound connection between nature and cultural identity.

Australian Legendary Tales

Anthology of 31 folklore stories from the Noongahburrah tribe of New South Wales

  • Will educate and fascinate readers across a broad spectrum of ages.
  • Cultural heritage of Indigenous Australians from the late 19th century.

Purchase your eBook copy of Australian Legendary Tales and start exploring these enchanting stories wherever you are. Buy now and begin your journey through Australia’s rich indigenous heritage.

The Weeoombeens and Piggiebillah

Two Weeoombeen brothers, one older and larger than the other, went out hunting. When they spotted an emu, the elder brother instructed the younger to remain quiet, fearing that Piggiebillah, a strong man from a nearby camp, might steal their kill. The big Weeoombeen crept up on the emu, swiftly killing it with an accurate stone throw.

Overjoyed, the little Weeoombeen forgot his brother’s warning and cried out in excitement. Piggiebillah, hearing the commotion, approached the brothers, demanding to know what they had found. The Weeoombeens, afraid of Piggiebillah’s strength, feigned ignorance, claiming to have only found mistletoe berries and struck a small bird.

Unconvinced, Piggiebillah threatened to kill them if they withheld the truth. Frightened, the brothers revealed the dead emu, which Piggiebillah promptly dragged away to his own camp for his supper. The Weeoombeens, hoping for a share, followed and even helped prepare the fire, but Piggiebillah refused them any meat.

Angered and disappointed, the Weeoombeens sought revenge by alerting nearby tribe to Piggiebillah’s bountiful meal. The men, armed with spears, followed the brothers to Piggiebillah’s camp. Surrounding him, they unleashed a barrage of spears, piercing Piggiebillah’s body as he cried out,

“Bingehlah, Bingehlah. You can have it, you can have it.”

Leaving Piggiebillah gravely wounded, the men searched for the emu, only to discover that the Weeoombeens had vanished with it. They tracked the brothers to their nyunnoo (a grass humpy) and then to a large hole with a massive stone at its entrance. The Weeoombeens, knowing the secret to moving the stone, had hidden inside with their prize before the pursuers arrived.

The men attempted to move the stone but could not, despite hearing the brothers’ voices from within. Noticing crevices around the stone, they drove their spears through, unaware that the Weeoombeens had cleverly used the emu carcass as a shield. Believing the brothers dead after a series of attacks met with silence, the men left to gather more help.

In the brief respite, the Weeoombeens devised a plan to evade capture, knowing their lives were at risk. When the men finally removed the stone, they found only the emu remains, with no trace of the brothers. The only living creatures present were two small birds perched on a nearby bush, seemingly discussing the events.

As time passed with no sign of the Weeoombeens, the men concluded that the brothers had transformed into the white-throated birds to escape their vengeance. From that day forward, the birds were known as Weeoombeens. And Piggiebillah’s memory lives on in the echidna, a creature bearing his name and covered in countless miniature spears, forever symbolizing his greed and ultimate downfall.

Adapted from Australian Legendary Tales. Buy the eBook