Tuesday's Tales - a North American story

Fable of the Animals

A great many hundred snows ago, Kareya, sitting on the Sacred Stool, created the world.  First he made the fishes in the big water, then the animals on the green land, and last of all The Man.  But the animals were all alike in power, and it was not yet ordained which should be food to others, and which should be food for The Man.  Then Kareya bade them all assemble together that The Man might give each his power and his rank.  So the animals all met when the sun set, that they might wait for the coming of The Man.

Kareya commanded The Man to make bows and arrows, as many as there were animals, and to give the longest to the one that should have the most power, and the shortest to the one that should have the least.

After nine nights, The Man’s work was ended.

The animals went to sleep that they might rise on the morrow and go forth to meet The Man.

But the coyote was exceedingly cunning.

So he thought to himself how he might get the longest bow, and so have the greatest power, and have all the animals for his meat.

He determined to stay awake all night, while the others slept, and so be the first to go to The Man in the morning and get the longest bow.

Laughing to himself, he stretched out and pretended to sleep like the others.

But about midnight he began to get sleepy, and he had to walk around the camp and rub his eyes to try and keep them open.

But still he grew sleepy, and so jumped about, trying to keep awake.

When the morning star appeared, he was so sleepy that he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer.

Then he took two little sticks, sharpened them at the ends, and propped open his eyelids, thinking he could take a little nap with his eyes open.

But in a few minutes he was sound asleep, and the sharp sticks pierced through his eyelids, and pinned them fast together.

So the morning star rose, and the birds began to sing, and the animals began to wake and rise, except for the coyote who lay fast asleep.

At last it was broad daylight, and all the animals went forth to meet The Man.

He gave the longest bow to the cougar, so he had the greatest power of all; and the second longest to the bear; and so on, giving the next to the last to the poor frog.

But he still had the shortest one left, and he said, “What animal have I missed?”

The animals began looking about, and soon spied coyote lying fast asleep, with the sharp sticks pinning his eyelids together.

The animals began to laugh, and jumped on the coyote and danced on him.

Then they led him to The Man, who pulled out the sticks and gave him the shortest bow of all, which would hardly shoot an arrow more than a foot.

And all the animals laughed.

But The Man took pity on the coyote, because he was now the weakest of all animals, weaker even than the frog, and he prayed to Kareya for him.

Kareya gave the coyote cunning, ten times more than before, so that he was cunning above all the animals of the wood.

And the coyote was a friend to The Man and to his children after him, and helped him, and did many things for him.