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The Crow and the Magpie

Many years ago there lived two brothers who belonged to the Crow family, and although both brothers were liked by all who knew them, they couldn't get along with each other; they seemed to be always bickering and arguing.

When hunting for food Crow and Magpie would go in separate directions, because they knew that if they hunted together their quarrelling would reduce their chances of being successful in the hunt.

On their arrival back at the campsite at dusk, each would light his own fire and begin the task of cooking his evening meal.

The fortunes of each varied from day to day, but often Magpie would arrive home with much more food than Crow, and naturally Crow would be jealous, which would cause another of their arguments. Then the calm of the night would be shattered by Crow and Magpie shouting angrily as they hurled abuse at each other.

One evening their quarrelling was so intense and hateful that they came to blows. Crow challenged Magpie to come to the circle of light around the fire and fight. Magpie then attacked Crow and as they fought, kicking the dust and firesticks in all directions, Crow struck Magpie a stunning blow which sent him hurtling into the centre of the hot coals and ash.

Crow immediately felt sorry for what he had done because he could see that Magpie was seriously hurt, so Crow stepped forward and helped Magpie to his feet. As Magpie stood up Crow noticed that Magpie's glossy black coat was sprinkled with the white ash of the fire.

When Crow pointed this out to Magpie, he became very angry and told Crow, 'From this moment on I shall no longer accept you as my brother, but shall be the chief of a new tribe which shall forever bear my name.' This was the beginning of the Magpie tribe, who are just like Crows except that their feathers are, in places, ash white, whereas Crows are black all over. And this is why Crows and Magpies are never friendly to each other.

In the bush, even to this day, you will often see different kinds of birds feeding harmoniously together, but you will never see Crows and Magpies doing this. If some Crows are feeding on a dead animal they will not let any Magpies join them. The only thing the Magpies can do, if there are enough of them, is to attack the Crows and drive then off. And similarly, if Magpies are feeding on a carcase, the Crows will wait at a distance and not dare to join in unless there are enough of them to fight the Magpies and drive them away.

Story courtesy of Aboriginal Legends from the Bibulman Tribe (1981) Eddie Bennell and Anne Thomas, Rigby, Australia, pp. 19-20