The story of the boy, the eagle and the Southern Cross
A midwinter story - Adapted by Carol Liknaitzky - Educational Leader, Ignite Minds
There was a boy who lived with his grandmother in a village deep in a valley surrounded by mountains. From the top of the mountains flowed many little streams until they gathered together into a great cascading waterfall. And this waterfall plunged down into the valley and became a broad sparkling river. This river flowed strongly out into the sea.
Since he was a small boy he had made boats – first paper boats that he let sail down the river, then boats made from large bamboo that he had cut lengthways, sealed up the sides and put sails on, and now that he was eight years old he was building a wooden boat big enough for him to sail in.
Since he was a little boy, his grandma used to sing him a song, especially at night when he was about to sleep and felt a little lonely.
Song: the river is flowing, flowing and growing, the river is flowing back to the sea. Mother earth is carrying me a child I will always be. Mother earth is carrying me back to the sea.
She taught him about the stars at night and especially showed him the Southern cross, that an aboriginal tribe called Bunjil, the great eagle. This was an important constellation she told him. ‘It is always there to guide you at night as it shows you where south is. It shines above our village, so if ever you are lost and it is dark you can find your way back home”. He was quite scared of the eagle, for they are enormous birds, with very sharp eyes that can see from very far away, and once they see their prey, which could be as small as a mouse or as large as a baby kangaroo, they swoop down incredibly fast and catch their prey. He had once seen an eagle hovering high above him near the river only to see it swoop down at breakneck speed and catch a large fish from under the water.
One late afternoon as he was putting the finishing touches to his boat, he decided to give it its first test in the water. He got into the boat feeling very proud, with his grandmother watching and many of the village children present, and pushed off from the shore of the river. He pulled up the sail as he began to float off, he heard loud rumblings from the skies and almost immediately the rain began to pelt down with large raindrops and before he knew it he was being blown by the wind and carried down the river towards the sea. The storm was wild and the boy had no control over the steering and could only hold on to the side of the boat to keep himself from being thrown out. He found himself drifting out in the open sea and could not see anything familiar - no land, no mountains and no stars to guide him.
The sky was filled with dark swirling clouds and as the boy looked up to see if he could find the southern cross, he saw a great eagle flying high above. It seemed to be rising above the clouds, when suddenly a vicious wind caught its wings and hurled it down towards the sea. He saw the eagle desperately trying to flap his great wings but they were so sodden with (rain)water, they were too heavy and suddenly with a sudden burst of gusting, squawling wind and rain, the eagle was flung into the boat and landed right on top of the boy! At the same time the storm suddenly stopped as quickly as it had started. The boy, at first terrified, looked into the (sharp) eyes of the eagle and seeing his alarmed expression , realised that he was of no danger to him. The eagle was shivering, his wings and feathers were tattered and not fit for flying and the boy decided he had to help him. He had a soft cloth in his boat that he had used for polishing and he wrung out the water and began to dry off the feathers of the eagle. It was very dark now and the stars where still blocked by all the clouds in the sky and when the eagle was reasonably dry the boy held the eagle close to him to keep him warm and began to sing the song his grandmother had always sung at night.
Song: The river is flowing………
After a while they both fell asleep, warm in each other’s embrace. When he felt the eagle stirring, the boy woke up. It was pitch dark and he could only see very dimly as the eagle stretched out his now dry wings, tested them with a little flapping, and then with great effort managed to raise his body from the boat. As the eagle got stronger, he flew higher and higher until his wings began to move the clouds from above the boy. The eagle seemed to fly deliberately away from boat - clearing -pushing the clouds away with his great wings as he went.
Suddenly the stars reappeared in the sky and the southern cross became visible. The boy remembered what his grandmother had said and began to steer the boat in that direction. There was a very light breeze that helped him from behind and he found himself very quickly back amongst his favourite and familiar mountains, near his village. He looked up and saw very high up in the sky, the great eagle hovering, his wings hardly moving. He knew he was looking down at the boy and could see him very clearly. He felt very grateful to this amazingly powerful being but remembered that he once was very helplessly lying in the boy’s arms. At a time when both were so weak and lost, the boy’s love and compassion had come like a great warm fire and had lit a light in both of them, never to be forgotten. From that day on, for the rest of the boy’s life, the eagle was never far away. The people of the village would sometimes say, Bunjil the great eagle from the sky was sent down to be the boy’s very special guardian.
Song: The river………….