‘As a young boy, I used to sit and watch pelicans for hours. The big graceful birds would sweep down to land on the lagoons near my tribe’s cam, then paddle along, dipping their large bills into the water looking for fish. Pelicans lay sometimes two, sometimes four eggs, and when the little pelicans hatch they leave their nests and spend their time playing and learning with other baby pelicans in a kind of kindergarten. One or two adults look after lots of babies while most of the adults are out looking for food. In a lot of ways they are the Aboriginals, sharing their campsites, and the raising of their young.’
source: Jane Resture Oceania
Long ago, in the Dreamtime, there lived a pelican called Moola. In the Dreamtime, pelicans were completely black, and Moola was the blackest and fiercest of them all. he was proud of the way he looked, and each day he would spend hours and hours arranging his feathers, preening and prancing, and grooming himself with his large bill.
When he was quite happy with his appearance, Moola would climb into his bark canoe and paddle around showing off to all the other birds. Moola was very proud of his canoe because he was the only pelican who had one. The other birds would look at Moola and say,
‘Look at Moola, so proud in his canoe.’
‘I wish I had a canoe like Moola’s.’
But Moola was very selfish, he would never let other pelicans ride in his canoe. When they asked, Moola would say,
‘You might fall out, canoes are difficult to paddle.’
Moola knew he looked important, sitting in his canoe, and he didn’t want the other pelicans to look important too. One day there came a huge storm. The rain poured down, soaking all the animals. The old Wombat shivered in his hole, the Kangaroos sheltered under the trees, and still, it rained. It rained so much that the rivers filled and flowed out over the land. The old wombat knew that he would have to leave his cosy hole. As he scrambled out he saw the Kangaroos hopping off towards higher ground. But Moola was delighted. All this water meant that he could paddle his canoe to places he had never been before. It also meant that he could show off to lots of animals who had never seen him before. Big, black, proud Moola, the only pelican with a canoe. As he paddled off, he sang,
‘Munmuckinny, munmuckinny, munmuckinny, munmuckinny.’
He hadn’t rowed very far when he came across a group of Aboriginals stranded on a tiny island. Moola could see that the rising water would soon cover the tiny island. As he came nearer he could see that there were four people, two old women, an old man and a beautiful young girl.
‘Help, please help us. If you don’t save us we will surely drown.’
The young girl, whose name was Mungi, pleaded with Moola,
‘Please save us. You have a canoe and you could take us one at a time.’
Moola stared at her, she was very pretty and young. And, he, Moola the proudest and blackest of all the pelicans didn’t have a woman. Mungi felt uneasy. Why was the big, black bird staring at her like that? She huddled closer to the old woman. They were all very wet, and very frightened. Moola stared at her. If he could get the three old people off the island, then he could come back and take the young girl for himself.
‘I will help you. don’t worry. I can save you with my canoe. I will take you one at a time, and I will take the oldest first.’
Moola collected the older woman and paddled her across the river to where the land was high. He helped her out of the canoe and went back again. He collected the other old woman and returned for the old man. Mungi and the old man sat huddled together on the island. Mungi was frightened. Each time Moola came to the island he stared at her and waved his big yellow bill in the air. When the old man and Moola had gone, Mungi was left sitting all alone. She thought. She was young and very pretty, everyone told her so. Was that why Moola stared at her? She began to cry. Through the rain, she could just see the big, black bird paddling the old man towards the distant shore. she sobbed,
‘At least the old people are saved, but I don’t trust Moola. I am frightened he will steal me to be his woman.’
Moola reached the far bank. She watched the old man climb out of the canoe. Then Moola turned to come back for Mungi. She watched as he paddled towards her. Mungi knew she must escape, if she tried to swim then Moola would only come after her. She must trick him so that she could escape. She had an idea. ‘She quickly slipped the kangaroo-skin rug from around her shoulders, and she wrapped it around a log. Mungi slipped into the water and began to swim to the opposite bank. Moola paddled up to the tiny island. He couldn’t see Mungi. Where was she? He jumped out of his canoe. Mungi was nowhere to be seen. Then Moola saw the kangaroo-skin rug.
‘That Mungi, asleep, when I Moola the most
handsome of all pelicans have come to save her.’
He rushed up to the log and gave it an almighty kick. Pain soared up his leg. He leapt into the air. He had been tricked. Mungi was gone. Moola limped back to his canoe. No one had ever tricked him before. ‘the more he thought of Mungi, the angrier he became.
‘I’ll go back to my camp. I’ll get my spears and I’ll
hunt that Mungi.’
The other pelicans saw Moola coming. He looked quite funny, paddling along with one big, swollen foot dangling out of his canoe. They began to laugh.
‘Look at Moola.’
‘Moola doesn’t look so important now.’
‘Moola, Moola, Bigfoot.’
Their teasing only made Moola angrier. He went to his camp and splashed white war-paint over his body. The white paint made him look very fierce. Moola roared in anger, gathered his spears and started back to his canoe. The older pelicans saw him, all covered in white war-paint. They had never seen anything like it. Pelicans, they said, should not look like this; pelicans were black. They decided to teach Moola a lesson. Flapping their wings, they rushed at him. Wheeling around him, they pecked and flapped, their huge bills plunging into Moola’s black and white feathers. When the old pelicans had finished, they told Moola that he must leave and never return. He was to be banished forever. Although the young pelicans watched in horror as Moola stumbled away, they thought he looked very fierce and proud.
‘If we painted ourselves, then we could look
fierce and proud like Moola.’
So they all rushed off to paint themselves like Moola. Soon all the young pelicans in the cam had covered their black feathers with fierce blotches of white paint. The old pelicans looked amazed. Pelicans should be black. But the young pelicans didn’t listen. They went parading around, admiring their new black and white plumage.
‘We look so fierce.’
We look so proud.’
‘We all look as fierce and as proud as Moola.’
And they have stayed that way ever since. And that is why, today, if you see pelicans on a lagoon or Billabong, you will see that they are black with white patches, just as Moola was, long ago in the Dreamtime.
source: Jane Resture Oceania