The Kunwinjku Dreamtime Story of the long-necked turtle and the echidna explains why the turtle and the echidna live in separate places.
As told and painted by Leslie Nawirridj
Western Arnhem Land, NT
The long-necked turtle and the echidna were two best friends.
The echidna had a baby. Turtle and Echidna lived together near the billabong. They went hunting and shared their food together. One day they ran out of food. Echidna told her friend Turtle to look after her baby while she went out hunting for food. Turtle replied, “Yes, I will look after your baby while you go out hunting.” So Echidna went out. Turtle stayed to wait with the baby.
After a long time had passed, Turtle was wondering what had happened to her friend Echidna. Turtle was getting very hungry. She couldn’t wait for Echidna to return with food from hunting, so she ate Echidna’s baby.
Then Echidna came back. She gave some of her food to Turtle and asked her, “Where’s my baby?” Turtle said, “I’m sorry, but I ate your baby because I was so very hungry.” So Echidna told Turtle, “Wait here while I go and get some stones.” But Turtle didn’t wait. She went to get some spear grass. Echidna threw the stones at Turtle, and the stones stuck on Turtle’s back. Turtle threw the spear grass at Echidna, and the spears stuck on Echidna’s back. And they fought all day. So the stones formed into a hard shell on Turtle’s back. The spears formed into spines on Echidna’s back. After that Turtle told Echidna, “I will go and live in the billabong and never see you again.” Echidna told Turtle, “And I will go and live in the escarpment country, and I’ll never see you again.”
This is how the long-necked turtle got her hard shell on her back, and the echidna got her spines on her back. And this is why the turtle and the echidna live in separate places.
Compiled by Alison Nawirridj