October 25, 2021

#08-143: Rabbit Tricks Coyote, a Native American tale

Coyote pushed his paws against the cliff...

Note: Many cultures have stories about a character who likes to play tricks on others, called a "trickster." But some tricksters aren't as clever as other ones, as we learn in Native American stories about Coyote.

Get Ready: Why do you think ancient peoples told stories about tricksters and other humorous characters? What purpose could such stories serve?

The native peoples of the American Southwest tell stories of a sort of "trickster" character named Coyote (an animal like a small wolf). He's not a very good trickster, though: he's too gullible, and the other creatures often play tricks on him! He's always hungry, and because of his foolishness, he usually dies at the end of his stories--only to be resurrected without explanation for the next one.

Here's a typical story.

One day Coyote was making his usual rounds and saw Rabbit out on the plain eating some grass. "I'm hungry!" Coyote announced with a snarl, "so I'm going to eat you!"

"Oh, you don't want to eat me!" said Rabbit. "I'm stringy and tough from running around all the time, practically just skin and bones. You see those people over there?"--and here he pointed toward a ranch--"You just wait here, and I'll bring you some of the juicy chicken that they're cooking, just right over there!"

So Coyote waited contentedly as the Rabbit ran toward the hills. But after a while, he grew suspicious, and set out to follow Rabbit's tracks. When Coyote caught up with him, Rabbit was standing by the wall of a cliff, leaning on it with his front feet.

"What are you doing?" Coyote asked.

"I am holding up this cliff," Rabbit replied. "Come help me and hold it up while I go get the food I told you about." So Coyote pushed his paws against the cliff as Rabbit ran off. A few pebbles fell from above while Coyote stood there, so he pushed all the harder. He grew tired, plus he was still hungry. Finally, he let go of the cliff and jumped back--but of course nothing happened. Once again he had been tricked, and set off to follow the tracks of Rabbit.

When he caught up, Coyote said, "This time I really am going to eat you!"

But Rabbit once more assured him the food would be there soon, and ran off again--supposedly to fetch it. Coyote waited.

Meanwhile, Rabbit set fire to the brush all around Coyote. He ran back and said, "The party's going strong! Hear the skyrockets? Smell them burning? It will just be a few more minutes!" He ran off again, just ahead of the flames, and left Coyote waiting. Coyote danced and sang as he waited, until at last the fire caught up with him and burned him to death.


Read more (including this story in full): https://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/sw/pifs/pifs34.htm

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. assured
  2. contentedly
  3. fetch
  4. flames
  5. gullible
  6. pebbles
  7. resurrected
  8. skyrockets
  9. stringy
  10. suspicious

  1. coarse and fibrous; tough to eat
  2. easily fooled; too trusting
  3. "tongues" of fire
  4. brought back to life; raised from the dead
  5. get; bring
  6. a type of fireworks that shoot up into the air
  7. small rocks
  8. happily; peacefully
  9. promised
  10. feeling doubtful; questioning

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for October 25, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. h; 3. e; 4. c; 5. b; 6. g; 7. d; 8. f; 9. a; 10. j