The Coming of Death

The first man ever to live in Australia was Ber-rook-boorn. He had been made by Baiame. After establishing Berr-rook-boorn and his wife in a place that was good to live in, he put his sacred mark on a yarran tree nearby, which was the home of a swarm of bees.

"This is my tree," he told them, "and these are my bees. You can take food anywhere you like in the land I have given you, but this tree, the bees, and the honey they make, you must never touch. If you do much evil will befall you and all the people who will come after you."

He disappeared, and after he had gone, the first man and woman obeyed his instructions. But one day, when the woman was gathering firewood, her search carried her to Baiame's tree. The ground was littered with fallen branches. When she looked up and saw the sacred tree towering above her, she was terrified, but the easily gathered wood was so tempting that she came closer to gather an armful.

A brooding presence seemed to hover above her, and she raised her eyes once more. Now that she was closer to the tree she saw the bees hovering round the trunk, and drops of honey glittering on the bark.

She stared at them, fascinated by the sight. She had tasted the sweet excretion only once before, but here was food for many meals. She could not resist the lure of the shining drops. Letting her sticks fall to the ground, she began to climb the tree.

Suddenly there was a rush of air and a dark shape with huge black wings enveloped her. It was Narahdarn the Bat, whom Baiame had put there to guard his yarran tree. Berrook-boorn's wife scrambled down and rushed to her gunyah, where she hid in the darkest corner.

The evil she had done could never be remedied. She had released Narahdarn into the world, and from that day onwards he became the symbol of the death that afflicts all the descendants of Ber-rook-boorn.

It was the end of the golden age for Ber-rook-boorn and his wife, and the yarran tree wept bitterly at the thought. The tears coursed down the bark and solidified in the form of red gum which can often be found on yarran trees.

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