Native American Legends
How Coyote got his cunning
A Karok (Karuk) Legend
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 power and rank.
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 least.
So the man set to working 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 that
the man would come to them the next day with the bows, and the one
to whom he gave the longest bow would have the most power.
Each animal wanted to be the one with 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 himself awake, but the
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 soon spied Coyote lying fast
asleep. They all laughed heartily and danced around him. Then 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 cunning.
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