Tales of Coyote Imitates His Host

In the days of old, when animals were like people and talked and visited each other, Coyote and Raven were great friends. One day after Coyote had grown weary of hunting for game and finding none, he went up to the top of the mountain to see his friend Raven. Raven had control of the buffalo and was always seen with the herds. (Now, since the buffalo has gone from the earth, Raven has disappeared and is seldom seen any more.) Raven invited Coyote to enter, and when he saw Coyote weary and sad and silent he arose, took an arrow, shot it up into the air, and then stood waiting for it to come down. It came down and pierced him under the right arm. He drew the arrow out and with it came buffalo meat and fat. He gave the meat to Coyote, who ate heartily. Then Coyote smacked his mouth, arose, and said that he must be going, but before he went he gave Raven an urgent invitation to come over and make him a visit, and Raven promised to come.

When Coyote went home he began making a bow and arrow, and when he had finished them he put them away until Raven should visit him. One day Raven bethought himself of his promise, and so he left his home in haste to pay Coyote a visit. Coyote received him with joy. After they had talked about many things Coyote said: “I have no meat, for I did not expect you, but if you will wait I will soon have some for you.” Coyote took his bow and arrow and shot the arrow into the sky, then stood waiting for it to come down. Raven watched him and said never a word. The arrow came down and struck in Coyote’s thigh. He ran away screaming with pain and left his guest alone. Raven waited a while and then went home without any meat, but in very high spirits notwithstanding, for Coyote’s performance amused him greatly and he chuckled to himself as often as he thought of it. Coyote continued to run until he pulled the arrow out of his thigh; then he took the arrow and broke it to pieces. He never went back to see Raven, and time passed on and none of Coyote’s friends saw him, and they all wondered what had become of him. At last he grew so hungry that he had to go out for food. He found none, and so he went to visit another one of his friends, for he had many. Black-Mountain-Bear received him graciously when he came to his home and asked him in. Bear said: “I regret that I have no meat to offer you.” As he spoke he leaned against a persimmon tree that was weighted down with many ripe persimmons, and as he leaned against the tree the ripe fruit fell to the ground. Bear smiled and asked his friend to eat. Coyote ate many, for he was very hungry. When he had finished he thanked Bear and said that he must be going, but before he went he insisted that Bear come to see him, and Bear promised to come soon.

Coyote wandered all about looking for a persimmon tree. He could not find one with any fruit on it, and so he decided to take one without fruit. He cut the tree down and carried it to his home, where he set it up; then he went out to look for persimmons. He had stolen some from Bear’s home, but he had not stolen enough. When he found more persimmons he took them home, and climbing the tree he placed the persimmons all over the tree, so that they looked as though they had grown there.

Black-Mountain-Bear was out hunting one day, and as he was near Coyote’s home he remembered his promise to visit him, and so he ran over to see him. Coyote was glad to see him and asked him in. “I am so sorry I have no meat for you,” he said, “but if you will wait I will try to get you something to eat.” Coyote began to bump against the tree with his head. He hit harder and harder, but the persimmons would not fall. Finally he arose and shook the tree with his hands, though it embarrassed him to have to do this. He gave the tree a big shake and over it fell, hitting him on the head. He pretended that it did not hurt and went about gathering up the fruit for Bear, though he could hardly see for pain. Bear ate, though he could hardly swallow for laughing, for Coyote’s head kept getting bigger and bigger. After a little while Bear said that he must be going, for he was afraid to stay longer for fear Coyote would see him laugh. After he had gone Coyote sat down and held his sore head, but he felt happy notwithstanding, for he had furnished food for Bear.

Tale of of Coyote Imitates His Host 2

One morning while Coyote was out looking for something to eat he came to a grass lodge. Thinking that there might be food inside, he decided to go in and pay his respects to its owner if he should be there; if not, help himself to food. He entered and saw a man walking about with a light on his head. At once Coyote called out: “Say, friend, your head is on fire, and you and your house will burn up if you don’t look out.” The man smiled and replied in a calm voice: “I have always worn this light on my head. It was given to me in the beginning. It will not burn anything.” Then the man, who was Woodpecker, gave Coyote something to eat. After Coyote had eaten all he could, he arose and said that he must go. He asked Woodpecker to come over and make him a visit, and Woodpecker promised that he would. Some time later Woodpecker remembered his promise and so started out to find Coyote’s lodge. He found it, and Coyote, much pleased, invited him to come in and be seated. Woodpecker entered and was surprised to see a big bunch of burning straw on Coyote’s head. “Ah, take that off. You will burn your head.” Coyote only smiled, and replied in a calm voice: “Oh, 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 to while others are in darkness.” He had no more than finished speaking when the hair on his head caught fire. He began to scream and try to put it out, but could not. He ran out of his lodge screaming for help. Woodpecker waited for him to return, but he did not come.

Caddo, Legends,

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

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