Stock Works 29

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25 AM 15827/18
Mick Quilliam Tengenowa - The Red One 2018
Acrylic on canvas
820 x 1530mm

From Land of the Sleeping Gods, pp. 111

Robin Red Breast: Tengenowa, The Red One Culla-Minna, The Mother of All Life, had come to earth to look into a great disaster that had befallen the black swans. There seemed no reason for it as she inspected the weeds and food on which the birds fed. The swans themselves were fat and looked healthy as they flocked around her, yet they died in front of her. When she asked the swans when this dreadful thing had begun, they answered her: a full moon ago. The Mother of All Life was very puzzled. 'Take me to where the very first of your people died,' she said. As one, all the swans rose in the air and surrounded The Mother as she flew with them. When they came to the first dead swan, the Mother of Life was surprised to find that its body looked as if it had only died that very day. Its feathers were still bright, and its eyes still shone. The Mother of Life could not think what had happened to her swans. Had this ever happened before? Had there been any flies or locusts? Had there been a flood or drought? Had there been any high winds? Ah.... Some of the swans stretched their long necks and looked at The Mother curiously. They looked out into the middle of the lagoon, unwilling to talk. At last Robeegana, the swan pen, said she had noticed that every morning a wurly-wind seemed to come out of the sky and go into the middle of the lagoon. She pointed with her long, graceful neck. Then she looked up into the sky. 'It will happen any time now,' she said. 'There is the black cloud that always comes and draws the wurly-wind up into the sky.' There was a single black cloud over the water, and as they watched, the lagoon seemed to explode. Out of it came a huge black shape, twisting and turning furiously as it disappeared up into the cloud. Certainly it could be mistaken for a wurly- wind mixed with water and wisps of black cloud. But The Mother of Life knew that it was her enemy, Cruisere, the stealer of living spirits. Then she knew what had been happening to the swans. Tomorrow she would try her magic and attempt to coax Cruisere back to his home in the Sleeping Lake where Moinee had banished him ages before. The next morning at daylight The Mother of Life stood at the edge of the lagoon. She had seen the black cloud coming and knew that the monster would soon be here to steal the living spirits of the swans. She heard a splash in the water. It was Cruisere. 'Robeegana,' called the Mother. 'Take your swans swiftly far, far away. Come back at sundown.' The swans rose into the air and flew away. 'I know that you are down in that slimy mud where you belong, Cruisere,' she called. 'But this place belongs to the swans. Go back to the black mountain tarn where you must remain for eternity- or I shall come down into the lagoon and drag you out.' After a while she saw his red eyes staring up at her. The Mother of Life was a powerful magician, but Cruisere was her equal. She knew, however, that she would have the help of Dromerdene in her struggle. They fought the long day, thrashing in the water, tearing flesh and sinew until The Mother of Life was spent. At last she had him out of the water, but she lay gasping for breath beneath a silver wattle. Cruisere saw that this was his chance. So powerful was his magic that his wounds healed straight away. He whipped his great tail about The Mother's body to crush the life out of her. As her glazing eyes looked about despairingly, she saw in the wattle tree a little green bird looking down at her. 'His tail, Mother. The tip of his tail is the only place where you can hurt him,' the little bird called. The darkness was closing in on her when she managed to scratch the tip of his great tail. Immediately Cruisere collapsed, and soon he lay helpless on the green margin on the lagoon. The Mother reached up and took the little bird in her trembling hands. Where her fingers touched his head his feathers shone jet-black. 'This was my blackest hour. When I thought all was lost,' said The Mother of Life. She touched the little bird above his beak, and a shining white snowflake appeared above the black bill. 'This was your love for Dromerdene and for me,' she said, 'and a pure light lifting me from despair.' Then she wiped some blood from her wounded breast and stained the little bird's breast. 'This will tell the world how you rescued The Mother of Life from Cruisere, stealer of spirits. Your name will be Tengenowa, the redbreast, forever.'

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