Native American Legends
Coyote dances with a star
A Cheyenne Legend
Because the Great Mystery Power had given Coyote much of his medicine,
Coyote himself grew very powerful and very conceited. There was
nothing, he believe that he couldn't do. He even thought he was
more powerful than the Great Mystery, for Coyote was sometimes wise
but also a fool. One day long ago, it came into his mind to dance
with a star. "I really feel like doing this," he said.
He saw a bright star coming up from behind a mountain, and called
out: "Hoh, you star, wait and come down! I want to dance with
The star descended until Coyote could get hold of him, and then
soared up into the sky, with Coyote hanging on for dear life. Round
and round the sky went the star. Coyote became very tired, and the
arm that was holding onto the star grew numb, as if it were coming
out of its socket.
"Star," he said, "I believe I've done enough dancing
for now. I'll let go and be getting back home."
"No, wait; we're too high up" said the star. "Wait
until I come lower over the mountain where I picked you up."
Coyote looked down at the earth. He thought it seemed quite near.
"I'm tired, star; I think I'll leave now; we're low enough,"
he said, and let go.
Coyote had made a bad mistake. He dropped down, down, down. He
fell for a full ten winters. He plopped through the earth clouds
at last and when he finally hit ground, he was flattened like a
tanned stretched deerskin. So he died right there.
Now, the Great Mystery Power had amused himself by giving Coyote
several lives. It took Coyote quite a few winters, however, to pull
himself up again and into his old shape. He had grown quite a bit
older in all that time, but he had not grown less foolish. he boasted:
"Who besides me could dance with stars, and fall out of the
sky for ten long winters, and be flattened out like a deer hide,
and live to tell the tale? I am Coyote. I am powerful. I can do
Coyote was sitting in front of his lodge one night, when from behind
the mountain here rose a strange kind of star, a very fast one,
trailing a long, shining tail. Coyote said to himself: "Look
at that fast star, what fun to dance with him!" He called out:
"Ho, strange star with the long tail! Wait for me; come down;
The strange, fast star shot down, and Coyote grabbed hold. The
star whirled off into the vastness of the universe. Again Coyote
had made a bad mistake. Looking up from his lodge into the sky,
he had no idea of that star's real speed. It was the fastest thing
in the universe. It whirled Coyote around so swiftly that first
one and then the other of his legs dropped off. Bit by bit, small
pieces of Coyote were torn off in this mad race through the skies,
until at last only Coyote's right hand was holding onto that fast
Coyote fell back down to earth in little pieces, a bit here and
a bit there. But soon the pieces started looking for each other,
slowly coming together, forming up into Coyote again. It took a
long time--several winters. At last Coyote was whole again except
for his right hand, which was still whirling around in space with
the star. Coyote called out: "Great Mystery! I was wrong. I'm
not as powerful as you. I'm not as powerful as I thought. Have pity
Then the Great Mystery Power spoke: "Friend Coyote. I have
given your four lives. Two you have already wasted foolishly. Better
"Have pity on me," wailed Coyote. "Give me back
my right hand."
"That's up to the star with the long tail, my friend. You
must have patience. Wait until the star appears to you, rising from
behind the mountain again. then maybe he will shake your hand off."
"How often does this star come over the mountain?"
"Once in a hundred lifetimes," said the Great Mystery.
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