Whale Man and His Canoe story, believed to have originated at the end of the Ice Age, comes from the Northern Territory, is retold with permission, by Francis Firebrace

BACK IN THE DREAMING, when the world was young, ice melted. The water levels rose and some of the land began to disappear. All the animals wanted to escape to the other side, but no one had a canoe big enough to carry them, except the Whale man.

The Whale man was a big fella and he had a huge canoe, but he wouldn’t loan his canoe to anyone. So, the animals all met and decided to try to get hold of the Whale man’s canoe. That way they could go across the waters, to reach the land on the other side, before it was too late.

So, it was arranged. One day, when the Whale man was walking down the beach, dragging his canoe behind him along the water’s edge, the Starfish man approached him.

“Hey brother!” he said. “I see some sea lice on your head. Why don’t you come over here to these rocks, where I’m sitting and put your head in my lap. I’ll scratch and get rid of some of them and make you feel good. The Whale man agreed to do this, but, because he loved his canoe, he hung on tightly to the bark rope.

To see what happens next, click here to buy Gadi Mirrabooka – book of Australian Aboriginal Tales from the Dreaming