From The Archive-Stories from Near and Far: How The Kangaroo Got Her Pouch(Episode 146)
This is an adapted folktale from Australia. It’s a legend about how the mummy kangaroo got a pouch!
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Long ago mumma kangaroo was grooming her joey on the bank of a brook. They liked to listen to the water babble as the mama combed her baby’s fur.
As she gave a final touch to Joey’s coat, she said lovingly, “Always stay close to mumma. Whenever we go out, I get worried when you wander off.”
Before Joey cold even nod, they heard the sound of weeping.
Children, who do you think is crying?
They saw an old wombat staggering toward them.
“Oh dear,” the kangaroo whispered to her baby. “This wombat is old and sick. He must have great-great-grandchildren already.”
As the wombat swung closer, she heard him say, “Useless and worthless, worthless and useless.”
“What’s the trouble, friend wombat?” she asked.
He said, startled. “Who said that?”
“I did,” said Mumma kangaroo. “A kangaroo and her joey here.”
“I can’t see properly,” the wombat replied. “Nobody wants me around. Nobody thinks about me. I’m no good anymore. They’ve abandoned me, all of them.”
The mumma kangaroo, who had a tender heart, said, “It’s not as bad as that at all. I’ll be your friend. My joey and I will show you where the tastiest grass grows.” She let the wombat hold her tail. Then, slowly, she led him over to the juiciest grass and the cleanest water. The old wombat sighed with pleasure. It made the kangaroo happy to see him feeling better.
Children, think of one way you helped someone this week.
Suddenly she remembered her Joey! She had told him to stay close, but he had wandered off again. She raced back to look for him. So many times this had happened. She had gone out looking for food, and when she looked up, the little joey had wandered off. It scared her terribly.
Fortunately, she found her joey asleep under a gum tree. Not wanting to wake him from his nap, she decided to go back and check on the old wombat. Something was moving in the bush. An Aboriginal hunter, silently stalking the wombat!
Children, what do you think the mumma kangaroo will do now?
The hunter’s boomerang was raised above his head. Its smooth edges are ready to slice the air.
Children a boomerang is a curved flat piece of wood that can be thrown so that it will return to the thrower. It was traditionally used by Australian Aboriginal people as a hunting weapon.
Well, getting on with the story.
When the kangaroo saw the hunter, she froze. She couldn’t even breathe. As you must have realized by now he kangaroo was very kind hearted, so in spite of the hunter, she wanted to protect the wombat!
The kangaroo began to stomp the branches and twigs under her feet. Thump, thump, crack, crack, she pounded the earth. The hunter turned toward her. “Run,” she screamed to the wombat, “Run, there’s a hunter.” The wombat took off crazily, not knowing where he was going. The hunter didn’t care. Now all he wanted was the mumma kangaroo!
Children, do you think the hunter will catch the kangaroo? Listen ahead.
She hopped as hard and fast as she could into the bush, away, away from where she had left her joey asleep. At last, she came to a cave. She was too tired to go any farther and collapsed on the dirt floor inside. At least the hunter would have to kill her in the cool dark, not out in the open where other animals would be forced to watch.
The hunter ran past the mouth of the cave! The kangaroo breathed a sigh of relief. She stayed inside, listening for his return. She was afraid to go out.
Finally, when she saw him walk past the mouth of the cave again, his boomerang hanging from his hand. She waited until it was safe, then ran as fast as she could back to the gum tree.
Children, who was there under the gum tree?
That’s right, there was her joey, awake and ready to play. Together they went to look for the wombat, but he had gone.
What the kangaroo mother did not know was that the wombat wasn’t a wombat. He was actually the great god Byamee who had put on a disguise.
Children, In Australian Aboriginal mythology, Baiame was the creator god who created all living things.
So, Byamee had put on a disguise and had descended from the sky world to find out which of his creatures had the kindest heart. Now he had an answer that pleased him greatly and that was the kangaroo. Byamee wanted to give her the gift that would help her most of all. So he called the sky spirits together and said, “Go down below to where the eucalyptus grow tall. Peel the long strips of the bark and make an apron.”
Children, why was Byamee, getting a bag? Put on your thinking caps.
Then Byamee added, “Give it to the kangaroo mother and explain that she must tie it around her waist.”
And so they did. At the very moment the kangaroo mother tied the apron around her waist, Byamee transformed it into soft kangaroo fur. It grew into her own flesh. Now she had a pouch in which to carry her baby joey. He could even sleep in there as she went about her daily tasks.
The kangaroo mother was very delighted with her gift. She thanked the Baymee God and the sky spirits. But because she was the kindest creature of all, she didn’t want to keep it only for herself. She thought about the other kangaroo mothers and about the kangaroo rats and all the other marsupials and requested that all her friends too get a bag like hers.
Byamee loved the kangaroo’s generous heart. So, he decided to make pouches for all the other marsupial mothers. Ever since then, their babies almost never get lost.