In the dream-time, a terrible drought swept across the land. The leaves of the trees turned brown and fell from the branches, the flowers drooped their heads and died, and the green grass withered as though the spirit from the barren mountain had breathed upon it with a breath of fire. When the hot wind blew, the dead reeds rattled in the river bed, and the burning sands shimmered like a silver lagoon.
All the water had left the rippling creeks, and deep, still water
holes. In the clear blue sky the sun was a mass of molten gold; the
clouds no longer drifted across the hills, and the only darkness that
fell across the land was the shadow of night and death.
After many had died of thirst, all the animals in the land met
together in a great council to discover the cause of the drought. They
travelled many miles. Some came from the bush, and others from the
The sea-birds left their homes in the cliffs where the white surf
thundered, and flew without resting many days and nights. When they all
arrived at the chosen meeting place in Central Australia, they
discovered that a frog of enormous size had swallowed all the water in
the land, and thus caused the drought. After much serious discussion, it
was decided that the only way to obtain the water again was to make the
frog laugh. The question now arose as to which animal should begin the
performance, and, after a heated argument, the pride of place was given
to the Kookaburra.
The animals then formed themselves into a huge circle with the frog
in the centre. Red kangaroos, grey wallaroos, rock and swamp wallabies,
kangaroo rats, bandicoots, native bears and ring-tailed possums all sat
together. The emu and the native companion forgot their quarrel and the
bell bird his chimes. Even a butcher bird looked pleasantly at a brown
snake, and the porcupine forgot to bristle. A truce had been called in
the war of the bush.
Now, the Kookaburra, seated himself on the limb of a tree, and, with a
wicked twinkle in his eye, looked straight at the big, bloated frog,
ruffled his brown feathers, and began to laugh. At first, he made a low
gurgling sound deep in his throat, as though he was smiling to himself,
but gradually he raised his voice and laughed louder and louder until
the bush re-echoed with the sound of his merriment. The other animals
looked on with very serious faces, but the frog gave no sign. He just
blinked his eyes and looked as stupid as only a frog can look.
The Kookaburra continued to laugh until he nearly choked and fell off
the tree, but all without success. The next competitor was a
frill-lizard. It extended the frill around its throat, and, puffing out
its jaws, capered up and down. But there was no humor in the frog; he
did not even look at the lizard, and laughter was out of the question.
It was then suggested that the dancing of the native companion might
tickle the fancy of the frog. So the native companion danced until she
was tired, but all her graceful and grotesque figures failed to arouse
the interest of the frog.
The position was very serious, and the council of animals was at its
wits' end for a reasonable suggestion. In their anxiety to solve the
difficulty, they all spoke at once, and the din was indescribable. Above
the noise could be heard a frantic cry of distress. A carpet snake was
endeavoring to swallow a porcupine. The bristles had stuck in his
throat, and a kookaburra, who had a firm grip of his tail, was making an
effort to fly away with him.
Close by, two bandicoots were fighting over the possession of a sweet
root, but, while they were busily engaged in scratching each other, a
possum stole it. They then forgot their quarrel and chased the possum,
who escaped danger by climbing a tree and swinging from a branch by his
tail. In this peculiar position he ate the root at his leisure, much to
the disgust of the bandicoots below.
After peace and quiet had been restored, the question of the drought
was again considered. A big eel, who lived in a deep water hole in the
river, suggested that he should be given an opportunity of making the
frog laugh. Many of the animals laughed at the idea, but, in despair,
they agreed to give him a trial. The eel then began to wriggle in front
of the frog. At first he wriggled slowly, then faster and faster until
his head and tail met. Then he slowed down and wriggled like a snake
with the shivers. After a few minutes, he changed his position, and
flopped about like a well-bitten grub on an ant bed.
The frog opened his sleepy eyes, his big body quivered, his face
relaxed, and, at last, he burst into a laugh that sounded like rolling
thunder. The water poured from his mouth in a flood. It filled the
deepest rivers and covered the land. Only the highest mountain peaks
were visible, like islands in the sea. Many men and animals were
The pelican-who was a blackfellow at this time -sailed from island to
island in a great canoe and rescued any blackfellow he saw. At last he
came to an island on which there were many people. In their midst he saw
a beautiful woman, and f ell in love with her. He rescued all the men
on this island until the woman alone remained. Every time he made a
journey she would ask him to take her with the men, but he would reply:
"There are many in the canoe. I will carry you next time." He did this
several times, and at last the woman guessed that he was going to take
her to his camp. She then determined to escape from the pelican. While
he was away, she wrapped a log in her possum rug, and placed it near the
gunyah; then, as the flood was subsiding, she escaped to the bush. When
he returned, he called to her, but, receiving no answer, he walked over
to the possum rug and touched it with his foot. It, however, did not
move. He then tore the rug away from what he supposed was a woman, but,
when he found a log, he was very angry, and resolved to be revenged. He
painted himself with white clay, and set out to look for the other
blackfellows, with the intention of killing them. But the first pelican
he met was so frightened by his strange appearance, that it struck him
with a club and killed him. Since that time pelicans have been black and
white in remembrance of the Great Flood.
The flood gradually subsided, and the land was again clothed in the
green garments of spring. Through the tall green reeds the voice of the
night wind whispered soft music to the river. And, when the dawn came
from the eastern sky, the birds sang a song of welcome to the new
flood-a flood of golden sunlight.