account for peculiarities of certain animals. Bonga, the chief god, cast certain people out of heaven; they fell to earth, found iron ore, and began smelting it. The black smoke displeased Sing Bonga, who sent two king crows and an owl to bid people cease to pollute the atmosphere. But the iron smelters spoiled these birds' tails, and blackened the previously white crow, scorched its beak red, and flattened its head. Sing Bonga burned man, and turned woman into hills and waterspouts.
Examples of this class of myth in Indo-Aryan literature are not hard to find. Why is dawn red? Why are donkeys slow? Why have mules no young ones? Mules have no foals because they were severely burned when Agni (fire) drove them in a chariot race. Dawn is red, not because (as in Australia) she wears a red kangaroo cloak, but because she competed in this race with red cows for her coursers. Donkeys are slow because they never recovered from their exertions in the same race, when the Asvins called on their asses and landed themselves the winners. And cows are accommodated with horns for a reason no less probable and satisfactory.
Though in the legends of the less developed peoples men and women are more frequently metamorphosed into birds and beasts than into stones and plants, yet such changes of form are by no means unknown. To the north-east of Western Point there lies a range of hills, inhabited, according to the natives of Victoria, by
- Dalton, pp. 186–187.
- Aitareya Brahmana, ii. 272, iv. 9.
- iv. 17.