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Why The Curlew Cries At Night (Who was Ooyan) 

In this famous painting can be seen: 
Left: The tribesmen hunting for food and the animals they catch right: Ooyan can be seen here, not hunting, but being lazy 
Bottom Right: The women digging for yams, which Ooyan refused to do with them 
Middle Bottom: The meal from Ooyan's legs wrapped in leaves 
Middle Top: Ooyan turned into the Curlew 
Top Right: The various hunting tracks where the tribesmen hunt and stalk their prey.

The Story

The Curlew bird is a native of Australia, found mainly in the northern parts of the country. It is known for its thin red legs and by the way it cries incessantly at night.

Way back in the beginning of time, the story goes that the first Curlew Bird was in fact a man named Ooyan. Ooyan was a plump, happy and very good-natured man, but above all he was very lazy.

While the other men were out hunting for food Ooyan either stayed by the camp fire, or lay in the sunshine getting in the way of the women. The women often jeered at Ooyan constantly saying to him 'You are not a man, a real man goes out and gets food for his family by hunting and using his skills with the spear and the boomerang".

Ooyan brushed all these criticisms off lazily to one side. ' I am quite happy where I am' Ooyan said, "It is your job to find food for me."

One day Ooyan's wife was so furious after he even wouldn't help the women find yams with sticks, she began to beat him with her stick. She kept beating him so much that eventually Ooyan was forced to snatch a stone knife and spear and run out of the camp.

Ooyan thought he would go and hunt animals and bring them back to show the women and the other tribespersons he was capable of hunting. However, try as he may he could not stalk the animals, and was far too slow to catch them.

So, as not to lose faith when returning to the tribe, he drew his stone knife from the sheaf and plunged it into his leg carving a large piece of flesh. He wrapped it in leaves and hobbled home. When he first came in sight of the camp he adjusted his Kangaroo skin so it covered the bleeding part of his leg. He gave the meat to the tribe who all tried some saying "it tastes different to any other meat we have ever eaten".

Everybody at the camp was impressed, and thought that Ooyan was a real man after all. However the next day, his wife again forced him to go out hunting again with the same story. Ooyan had to cut meat from his other leg because again he could not get close to his prey. He could scarcely stagger back to the camp for weakness and loss of blood.

When his wife asked him to join in the dancing that night he was so stiff and sore he said he could not. His wife then snatched the Kangaroo skin from his legs accidentally showing the gapping wounds. They all utter a cry of horror when they found he had fed them with his own flesh and had no pity on him. The women picked up their yam sticks and drove him into the darkness where all night long he cried with pain and misery.

So it was with that, Ooyan turned into a Curlew with thin red fleshless legs and cries at night because he is lonely in the darkness.