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How Coyote Got His Cunning
Kareya was the god who in the very
beginning created the world. First he made the fishes in the
ocean; then he made the animals on land; and last of all he
made man. He had, however, given all the animals the same amount
of rank and power. So he went to the man he had created and
said, "Make as many bows and arrows as there are animals.
I am going to call all the animals together, and you are to
give the longest bow and arrow to the one that should have the
most power, and the shortest to the one that should have the
So the man set to work making bows
and arrows, and at the end of nine days he had turned out enough
for all the animals created by Kareya. Then Kareya called them
all together and told them the man would come to them the next
day with the bows, and the one to whom he gave the longest would
have the most power.
Each animal wanted to be the one
to get the longest bow. Coyote schemed to outwit the others
by staying awake all night. He thought that if he was the first
to meet the man in the morning, he could get the longest bow
for himself. So when the animals went to sleep, Coyote lay down
and only pretended to sleep. About midnight, however, he began
to feel genuinely sleepy. He got up and walked around, scratching
his eyes to keep them open. As time passed, he grew sleepier.
He resorted to skipping and jumping to keep awake, but he noise
waked some of the other animals, so he had to stop. About the
time the morning star came up, Coyote was so sleepy that he
couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. So he took two little
sticks and sharpened them at the ends, and with these he propped
his eyelids open. Then he felt it was safe to sleep, since his
eyes could watch the morning star rising. He planned to get
up before the star was completely up, for by then all the other
animals would be stirring. In a few minutes, however, Coyote
was fast asleep. The sharp sticks pierced right through his
eyelids, and instead of keeping them open, they pinned them
shut. When the rest of the animals got up, Coyote lay in a deep
sleep. The animals went to meet the man and receive their bows.
Cougar was given the longest, Bear the next-longest, and so
on until the next-to-last bow was given to Frog. The shortest
bow was still left, however. "What animal have I missed?"
the man cried. The animals began to look about, and they soon
spied Coyote lying fast asleep.
They all laughed heartily and danced
around him. They led him to the man, for Coyote's eyes were
pinned together by the sticks and he could not see. The man
pulled the sticks out of Coyote's eyes and gave him the shortest
bow. The animals laughed so hard that the man began to pity
Coyote, who would be the weakest of them all. So he prayed to
Kareya about Coyote, and Kareya responded by giving Coyote more
cunning than any other animal. And that's how Coyote got his
...A tale reported by E.W. Gifford
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