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The Crow and the Eagle

Long ago in the Dreamtime, the crow was white. The crow and the eagle were the best of friends. They lived together in the same camp. When they got up in the morning, the crow used to tell the eagle, 'You go up to the hills and look for the big red hill kangaroo. I will go down to the billabong and see if I can catch some ducks for our dinner.'

The eagle went up into the hills and the crow went down to the billabong and caught lots of ducks! He had a hairstring tied around his waist and he used a long, hollow reed to breathe underwater. He'd jump into the water and sink below the surface. When the ducks were passing, he would grab them by the legs, one by one, and tuck them in the hairstring around his waist.

When he had enough, he'd get out of the water and make a big fire and start cooking the ducks. Every day he had a good feed there, then he would go back to camp empty-handed.

Every day the eagle came home and asked the crow, 'Have you any tucker for me?' And the crow would say, 'Sorry, I didn't catch anything today.' He always told the eagle to go up into the hills to look for kangaroo. Then one day the eagle thought, 'That crow is up to something! He's telling me lies.'

So he came back earlier than usual but he didn't go to the camp. No, he went to the billabong to catch the crow at his tricks. He saw the crow rushing around hiding the cooked ducks under some leaves.

When he came near, the eagle asked the crow, 'Have you kept any food for me?' The eagle started rushing about, looking here and there as if he was trying to find something.

Then eagle saw some grease on the hot ashes and around crow's mouth, where he'd been eating, and there was grease on the crow's hands. 'This fire has grease on it!' shouted the eagle. 'So that's what you've been up to. You've been hiding my share of the food, and telling me lies!'

Eagle got very angry, grabbed the crow and threw him into the hot ashes. The crow jumped out of the fire but the eagle kept on throwing him back onto the coals, until he was burnt black all over.

Some of the eagle's feathers were burnt too. That's why he's brown. The crow was punished for his greediness and that's why he's black today.

Story courtesy of Tjarany Roughtail (Stories told be the Kukatja) (1992) Gracie Greene, Joe Tramacchi, Lucille Gill, Magabala Books, Broome, WA, pp. 5-8