Wirreenun the Rainmaker – Australian Folktale
Posted on: October 16, 2021.

Author: Prabhukrishna M, Content Creator/Chief Editor, Yokibu Editorial

A drought had stricken the vintage village in a remote region in Australia. Deep holes had formed in all the dry rivers. The trees were dying, and the grass had already died.

Murmuring—secretly at first, then openly at last—among themselves, said the young men of the vintage Australian village:

” ‘Wirreenun would make rain to fall when it was needed most.’ Wasn’t that what our fathers always said?”

“Isn’t this such a time? To countries afar have the emu, duck, and swan flown and dying are our kangaroo!”

“Even to grind there is no seed and blown away have the grass! Our country, isn’t yet being looked at!”

“We are soon going to die with no food, and no more, in this part of Earth, would our race be seen!”

“Wirreenun! Oh, the Able One! Why aren’t you yet making it rain!”

Old Wirreenun too heard these murmurs but said nothing. However, as the young men noticed, he would go to the waterhole in the creek for 2 or 3 days in succession…

…and place in it a long stick, ornamented at the top with white cockatoo feathers. Hidden—at all other times, especially from the eyes of women—in the folds of his clothes or in the band or net on his head…

…old Wirreenun carried two big, clear pebbles, which he also placed in the waterhole now, beside the ornamental sticks.

To the young men, Wirreenun, at the end of the third successive day, gave specific, clear instructions—they were to cut bark from a particular tree, sufficient to make preparations for the entire tribe.

When the task was fulfilled as required, Wirreenun told the young men to raise a high place, about a foot from the ground, with ant-bed, on which to place dry wooden logs for a fire…

…and again another ant-bed a foot high on the floor were they were to build something specific. Both these tasks were also duly fulfilled. Then, the whole camp—men, women, children, everybody—was told by Wirreenun to follow him to the waterhole.

The whole tribe followed him to where the two big, clear pebbles and the ornamental sticks had been placed in the waterhole down the creek. Gesturing for all of them to again follow him, which they did,…

…old Wirreenun jumped in the water! Then, as they all splashed and played about there in the water, Wirreenun went up first behind one black fellow and then behind another, peculiarly…

…appearing to suck the back or top of their heads, and draw out lumps of charcoal!!—which he spat into the water as he sucked them out, until at length he had been round them all…

and taken lumps of charcoal from the back of each one’s head! Unexpectedly, however, Wirreenun found himself flung into water, by a young man who’d caught him with his arms.

Presently, old Wirreenun was shivering—he’d been caught and flung into the water several times, each time by a young man, as he came out of the water everytime!

The dramatically weird ritual now complete, it was a signal for all and everybody to leave the creek. All the young men were bade by old Wirreenun to go and sleep inside a big bough shed…

…while he—along with two old men and two old women—stayed outside the shed. With all their belongings piled up on their backs, dayoorl stones and all, as if getting ready for a ‘flitting’, they loaded themselves…

…and—as if waiting a signal to start somewhere— began to walk impatiently around the bough shed. Then something spectacularly fascinating began to happen! On the horizon appeared a bigh black cloud.

A single cloud at first, but soon followed by others rising all round! Gradually, a big, black mass of clouds formed overhead, rising quickly. Soon, this big, heavy, rainladen-looking cloud overhead turned stationary.

As if following a sequence of steps, as until so far, the young men asleep inside the big bough shed were awakened—by the five old people walking around it—and made to come out and look at the sky.

Being told by old Wirreenun that they had no time to lose and were to hasten to the shelter of the ant-bed on high ground, the young men—now fully aroused—gathered all their possessions together and hurried.

Their spears well-hidden, they’d scarcely made it into the high place when what followed was nothing short of spectacular! A terrific clap of thunder sounded, quickly followed by a regular cannonade—

…flashes of lightning shooting across the sky,

…deafeaning claps of thunder in instantaneous claps,

…and lightning again in sudden flashes..!

That lightning lit a pathway—from heaven to earth..!!—followed by the frightening sound of a terrible crash. It was only a tree a little distance off, but the threatened tribe thought their very camps were struck!

Dogs crouched in fear towards their owners, while their children cried with fear, frightened to move, all—dogs, owners, and children—huddled together in the ant-bed placed on high ground.

Again, old Wirreenun came to their rescue, chanting an incantation to protect the people from the forces of natures. The cannonade lulled to a gentle breeze, and then to an oppressive silence…

…whence the rain began to fall in earnest, lasting for a few days. Wirreenun went over to the waterhole down by the creek and removed his pebbles and the ornamental sticks…

…for, obviously, their work was done with the gathering of the clouds. Eventually, the rain subsided, and the land began looking green again—the drought was now nothing more than a quickly-forgotten nightmare.

As a perfecting touch to demonstrating his powers, old Wirreenun instructed the young men to gather their fishing nets and go catch some fish in the lake that was now brimming to its edges with water.

“How shall there be fish in a lake filled not from the floodwater of rivers, but rain?”, reasoned the young men, to which Wirreenun replied—

“But just go! Then I shall but only ask the women for honey and yam, and speak to the men of the tribe no more, if your nets catch no fish!”

Obviously, the surprises for the season had not yet ended—for the youth returned fishing from the lake with their nets full of goodoo, murree, tucki, and bunmillah. Plenty for the tribe and all their dogs!

Wirreenun, “the Rainmaker”, had triumphed completely but, calmly and characteristically, closed off to all words of merit and the aura of fame—as heedless of their praise as he had been of their murmurs.



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