The story of
Koonya - The Black Swans


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The Tasmanian Aboriginal Story, Koonya - The Black Swans, explains how these creatures came into being.

The story begins in the marshes. Many frogs lived there. They feasted on the tiny creatures around them. There wasn't always enough food to go around. So the frogs tried to eat as much as they could whenever they got the chance.

One evening, to the delight of the frogs, there was a huge tide. This resulted in plenty of food being available. The greedy frogs began to gorge themselves. Pretty soon they were sick from all the eating!

Now the Rageorapper kept watch over everything and punished any creatures that did wrong.  Unfortunately, the Rageorapper had begun to act unwisely.  So Rala was sent to keep the Rageorapper in check.

Rala was a white frog. It was powerful enough to control the Rageorapper. It lived on the Rageorapper's tongue.

Rala was concerned about its frog cousins getting sick from eating. It asked the Rageorapper to do something.

The Rageorapper went to see a whale elder. It invited the whale elder to come along with other whales to the marshes as there was plenty of food available. The whale elder was very wise and decided not to go as the whales could get stuck in the marshes.

The Rageorapper did not give up. It spotted a baby whale on its own. It began to carry it to the marshes.

Rala was alarmed when it realised what was happening, and began to scold the Rageorapper. Rala explained that the whale elder would come to rescue the baby whale and get stuck in the marshes. The Rageorapper defended itself, saying that it was trying to get the whales to eat the food so that the frogs would not get sick from eating so much.

What Rala feared came to pass. The whale elder tried to rescue the baby whale and got stuck in the mud of the marshes. Soon it couldn't breathe. As it struggled, it caused black mud to spout out from its head. The mud rose up high and mixed in with white clouds. Big black birds started to form from the mixture of mud and clouds.

The whale elder was dying. Soon it released blood which spattered the birds. The birds were mainly black, but their beaks and eyes had red from the whale's blood and their wings had bits of white from the clouds.

The birds flew sadly around the whale elder. Nothing could be done to save it, but the birds managed to carry the baby whale away to safety.

Rala called upon the frogs to always remember how they had become sick from greed, and to be content with what they had.

And this is why we have Koonya (or black swans) today.

Source of information on this page:
Taraba: Tasmanian Aboriginal Stories, Hobart, DECCD, 1997.


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