The Lilac Fairy Book
The Bones of Djulung
In a beautiful island that lies in the southern seas, where chains of gay orchids bind the
trees together, and the days and nights are equally long and nearly equally hot, there once
lived a family of seven sisters. Their father and mother were dead, and they had no
brothers, so the eldest girl ruled over the rest, and they all did as she bade them. One
sister had to clean the house, a second carried water from the spring in the forest, a third
cooked their food, while to the youngest fell the hardest task of all, for she had to cut and
bring home the wood which was to keep the fire continually burning. This was very hot
and tiring work, and when she had fed the fire and heaped up in a corner the sticks that
were to supply it till the next day, she often threw herself down under a tree, and went
One morning, however, as she was staggering along with her bundle on her back, she
thought that the river which flowed past their hut looked so cool and inviting that she
determined to bathe in it, instead of taking her usual nap. Hastily piling up her load by the
fire, and thrusting some sticks into the flame, she ran down to the river and jumped in.
How delicious it was diving and swimming and floating in the dark forest, where the
trees were so thick that you could hardly see the sun! But after a while she began to look
about her, and her eyes fell on a little fish that seemed made out of a rainbow, so brilliant
were the colours he flashed out.
'I should like him for a pet,' thought the girl, and the next time the fish swam by, she put
out her hand and caught him. Then she ran along the grassy path till she came to a cave in
front of which a stream fell over some rocks into a basin. Here she put her little fish,
whose name was Djulung-djulung, and promising to return soon and bring him some
dinner, she went away.
By the time she got home, the rice for their dinner was ready cooked, and the eldest sister
gave the other six their portions in wooden bowls. But the youngest did not finish hers,
and when no one was looking, stole off to the fountain in the forest where the little fish
was swimming about.
'See! I have not forgotten you,' she cried, and one by one she let the grains of rice fall into
the water, where the fish gobbled them up greedily, for he had never tasted anything so
'That is all for to-day,' she said at last, 'but I will come again to-morrow,' and biding him
good-bye she went down the path.
Now the girl did not tell her sisters about the fish, but every day she saved half of her rice
to give him, and called him softly in a little song she had made for herself. If she
sometimes felt hungry, no one knew of it, and, indeed, she did not mind that much, when
she saw how the fish enjoyed it. And the fish grew fat and big, but the girl grew thin and
weak, and the loads of wood felt heavier every day, and at last her sisters noticed it.