Native American Legends
Why Coyote stopped imitating his friends
A Caddo Legend
Coyote and Raven were good friends.
One day after Coyote had grown weary of hunting for food and finding
none, he decided to go to the top of Blue Mountain to see his friend
"Welcome," Raven said. "But why do you look so weary
and sad, my friend?" "I have been hunting for food,"
replied Coyote, "but I found nothing."
Upon hearing this, Raven put an arrow to his bow and shot it straight
up into the air, and then stood waiting for it to come down. It
came down and pierced his upper wing. When Raven drew the arrow
out, it had a large piece of buffalo meat fixed to the head. Raven
gave the meat to Coyote, who smacked his mouth and ate heartily.
"That was a fine piece of meat," Coyote said. "I
must repay you some time. Will you come and visit me soon?"
"Yes, I will come," promised Raven. Coyote did not know
that Raven possessed magic powers over the buffalo, and he believed
that he could perform the same trick to obtain meat.
In expectation of Raven's visit, he made himself a new bow, and
a few days later Raven came down from Blue Mountain to see him.
"Welcome, welcome," Coyote greeted him. "I have
no meat because I did not expect you, but if you will wait a moment
I will soon have some for you."
Coyote took his new bow and shot an arrow straight up into the
sky. He then stood waiting for it to come down.
Raven watched him but said not a word.
The arrow came down and struck Coyote's thigh. He ran away screaming
with pain, leaving his guest behind. Raven waited a while and then
went home without any meat, but in very high spirits because Coyote's
attempt to imitate him amused him greatly. For days he chuckled
to himself whenever he thought of it.
As for Coyote, he ran for miles until he finally had the sense
to stop and pull the arrow out of his thigh. He was so humiliated
that he broke the arrow to pieces, and then wandered off and hid
in the woods.
After a time he grew hungry, and when he could find nothing to
eat he decided to go up on Rich Mountain and visit Brown Bear.
"Welcome, old friend," said Brown Bear. "I will
see if I can get some food to offer you."As he spoke he leaned
against a persimmon tree that was weighted down with ripe persimmons.
His body jarred the tree so that the ripe fruit fell to the ground.
Bear smiled and asked his friend to eat.
Coyote ate persimmons until he was no longer hungry, and then he
filled his pack with them. "Thank you, indeed, my friend,"
said Coyote. "I must be going now, but I insist that you promise
to visit me soon."
Next day Coyote wandered all about looking for a persimmon tree.
He could not find one with any fruit on it, and so he cut down one
without fruit. He carried it home where he set it up. Then he took
the persimmons he had brought in his pack and tied them to the tree
branches so that they looked as though they had grown there. Not
long after that, Brown Bear came by to make his promised visit.
"I am glad to see you," said Coyote. "Wait a moment
and I will try to get you something to eat." Coyote began bumping
against the persimmon tree with his head. He butted harder and harder
but the persimmons were tied on so well they would not fall off.
Finally he shook the tree with his paws, although it embarrassed
him to have to do this. He gave the tree a big shake and over it
fell, crashing upon his head. He pretended that it did not hurt
and went about gathering up the fruit for Bear, but he could hardly
see for the pain. The knot on his head kept growing larger and larger.
Bear ate, but he could scarcely swallow for laughing at the way
Coyote had tried to imitate him. After a while he told Coyote that
it was time for him to leave. He was afraid to stay longer for fear
Coyote would see him laugh.
After Bear left, Coyote sat down and held his sore head, but he
felt happy because he had furnished food for his friend Brown Bear.
A few days later while Coyote was out in the forest looking for
something to eat, he came upon a grass lodge that he had never seen
before. Wondering who might live in the new lodge and if they might
have some food to share with him, he went right up to the entrance
and called out: "Hello in there. I'm Coyote."
"And I'm Woodpecker," a voice replied. "Come in."
Coyote entered and saw a bird walking around with a bright light
on his head. "Say, friend," cried Coyote, "your head
is on fire, and you and your house will burn up if you don't put
The Red-Headed Woodpecker smiled and replied in a calm voice: "I've
always worn this light on my head. It was given to me in the beginning.
It will not burn anything. Woodpecker then gave Coyote something
After Coyote had eaten all he could, he arose and said that he
must go. "Please come over and make me a visit," he said,
"and I shall return your hospitality."
Some time later Woodpecker visited Coyote's lodge. "Is anybody
home?" he called out at the entrance. "Just a moment,"
replied Coyote. Woodpecker could hear him rustling around inside,
and then Coyote said: "Now, come in and be seated." Woodpecker
entered and was surprised to see a bunch of burning straw on Coyote's
"Oh, take that off," cried Woodpecker. "You will
burn your head." Coyote smiled and replied in a calm voice:
"No, no, that will not burn my head. I always wear it. I was
told in the beginning that I would wear a light on my head at nights
so that I can do whatever I like while others are in darkness."
Coyote had no more than finished speaking when the hair on his head
caught fire. He began to scream in pain and tried to put it out,
but could not. He ran out of his lodge, howling all the way to the
Woodpecker waited a long time for him to return, but Coyote stayed
in the river all day trying to soothe his burned head.
After that, Coyote stopped trying to imitate his friends.
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