Native American Legends
Bat and Coyote
A Nez Perce Legend
Many people dwelt nearby. There was an old woman who had a daughter,
a beautiful maiden. They lived near a river. Across this river,
on the other shore, Bat [u'ts' uts] lived alone. He was young, and
he was known as Bat-Youth. He owned all kinds of good thing such
as soft, furry robes and skins. He had all kinds of things.
Coyote [itsaya' ya] thought up a scheme in connection with Bat.
Coyote built a canoe and paddled across the river to Bat's lodge.
He arrived there and addressed Bat in these words, "I came
across only to see you. How is it, Bat-Youth, that this state of
affairs exists? Across the river is a maiden who lives with her
mother. A long time ago you had an elder brother, and his wife was
the eldest daughter of this maiden's mother. And now, this maiden,
the youngest daughter, and you are rightly mates according to marriage
"Yes?" Bat replied. "I did not know these things
Coyote continued, "Here you live in a good lodge. You have
all kinds of valuable possessions, and why should you not bring
this maiden here?" As a matter of fact, however Bat was a very
homely youth, and that is why Coyote lied to him and convinced him
about these matters.
Bat said, "Yes, that is what I will do. I did not know about
myself before. It is good that you have told me. I will go across
the river to this maiden."
"Yes," Coyote replied, "but exactly when will you
come? I will speak to the maiden and have her meet you."
Then Bat told Coyote when he would go across the river. Here foolish
Bat began to prepare for departure. He packed up cushions, skins,
and many other things. "Now I am ready," he finally said.
He went down to the shore and began to shout in his own peculiar
words ["ta' qats, taqatslu' ya"] by way of summoning someone
across the river to come after him.
"Somebody is over on the other shore shouting to be ferried
across. I wonder who he is?" the people commented to one another.
But Coyote knew. "He is coming," he thought. And he went
over to the maiden and said to her, "You should paddle across.
I am very busy myself. It is Bat, and you can ferry him across."
The maiden went down to the shore and put out in a canoe. In a little
while she landed on the shore and put the canoe in position for
her passenger to step aboard easily.
Bat stood there, but he made no move to get into the canoe. Then
he began to waggle his head as if to tell the maiden, "Point
the bow of the canoe upstream." She did what he seemed to want.
Then Bat waggled his head by way of saying, "Pull forward a
little." The maiden did this, and now the canoe rested flush
against the ground along its whole length Bat was most elaborately
dressed. Suddenly he ran over to where the maiden sat in the stern
of the canoe, jumped on her knee, and sat there. There he was perched
on her knee.
"What is he doing?" the maiden thought. She tried to
paddle the canoe, but she was so encumbered by Bat's presence on
her knee that she could scarcely make headway. She managed at last
to paddle across. The canoe had no more than touched shore when
Bat jumped ashore ahead of her. There was a sudden jangle of his
adornments as he alighted on he ground. The maiden got out of the
canoe and tied it up. Then she started home, but Bat followed her
along-followed her right home. The maiden entered her lodge and
sat down. Bat followed her inside and again he hopped on her knee
and sat there. There sat Bat when Coyote arrived.
Coyote began to whittle shavings from a piece of cedar wood. He
said to Bat, "So this is what you have decided to do, Bat?
It is good that you have come. You must have thought, 'Because they
were thus once, that, of course, is what is always done.' "
There sat Coyote busily cutting cedar shavings.
But now the old woman, the maiden's mother, wondered, "What
is he talking about? There were never any such relations. I never
had a daughter like that."
Then the maiden began to weep. "So this is what they are doing!"
she realized. Bat leaned over to her and said, "Do not weep.
I still have many other skins there across the river. Let them take
Bat thought she was weeping because they were taking those things
which he had brought. So Bat talked to the maiden and tried to soothe
her feelings. Coyote talked on incessantly while he whittled cedar
shavings. He kept lying as he talked.
The women wondered, "Whatever is he talking about?" Bat
sat there, his eyes indiscernible.
Then Coyote took his cedar shavings and thrust them into the fire.
There was a sudden "Crackle, crackle, crackle [t'a' qaqaq,
t'a' qaqaq]" of burning cedar. "The place is afire!"
shouted Coyote. The flames leaped high. "The place is afire!"
shouted Coyote. Alarmed, Bat suddenly lifted his head and looked
up. Oh, his tiny, beak-like eyes came into view. "See Bat's
eyes! See Bat's eyes! See Bat's eyes!" Coyote howled in glee,
and "Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha a'haha, a'haha]" he laughed uproariously.
Bat rushed out of the door and ran pell-mell down toward the shore,
his adornments jingling at every step. He ran right up to a canoe,
jumped aboard, and pulled for the opposite shore. There he landed,
and with a push of the foot he sent the canoe back across. Then
he went home-nor was anyone likely to see him again. He still lives
There at the maiden's lodge Coyote continued to laugh and laugh.
"That he should think, 'Let me marry by prerogative!' "
he declared. Thus Coyote played a practical joke on Bat. But when
did Coyote ever show respect for anyone?
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