Tale of Coyote Challenges The Snake

One time while Coyote was out hunting something to eat he decided to go where Snake lived. He started in the direction he thought Snake lived and went to many places, but he could not find him. He went along talking to himself, saying, “I thought so; Snake is not so poisonous as people think, and if I ever find him I will show him my power.” He kept going from place to place. Finally he came to one place and thought he would stop and rest for a while. He was not there very long when he heard some one calling him. He arose and looked around and saw Snake coming toward him. When Snake came up to him, Coyote asked him how he was getting along in the world, since he had been made so small. “You look so small that I do not think you can do very much harm to any one, though I have heard many times that you have much poison. They say that you are more dangerous than I, and so that is the reason I have gone from place to place looking for you. Now that I have met you I want you to show me in what way you are more powerful and dangerous than I am.” Snake said: “Yes, I look very small to you, but you know that although I am small I am given power by our Father, and by his aid I have done many things in this world. I have killed many animals, large and small. Now you have come to see me, and whatever you want me to do I will do it; but first tell me what you want me to do.” “Well,” said Coyote, “I want to see which of us has the most power.” “All right,” said Snake, “you may bite me just once anywhere you like, and I will bite you, too, and in that way we will see who has the more power.” “But you have to bite me first,” said Coyote. “All right,” said Snake, and went up to Coyote and bit him on the top of his nose, and then said: “That is all I can do.” Coyote stood there as though he was not hurt at all. He asked Snake if that was all he could do, and Snake said: “That is the best I can do to show you my power.” Coyote said: “Well, it is my time to show you my power.” “Yes,” said Snake, and so Coyote came up to Snake and bit him nearly in two. Snake cried out and begged Coyote to let him go. “Now,” said Coyote to Snake, “you lie there and I will lie here. We will call to each other every now and then, so that we can see who will live the longer.” Snake went a little way off and laid down, acting as though he were about to die. Coyote also went off a little way and lay down. He was thinking Snake would die in a little while, and so he called out to him. Coyote could just hear him answer in a weak voice, as though he was almost dead. After a while he heard Snake calling him and he answered with a big voice. They kept on calling to one another all night. Toward daylight Snake called Coyote, but no answer came from him. He called again, but still no answer. The third and fourth times he called, but there was no answer. Snake went over to see what was the matter, and when he got there he found Coyote all swollen and dead. Snake was more dangerous than Coyote.

Caddo, Legends,

Dorsey, George A. Traditions of the Caddo. Washington: Carnegie Institution. 1905.

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