Sacred Texts  Native American  Southwest  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 84



ANOTHER Isleta myth tells of an equally sad misadventure of the Coyote.

Once upon a time an old Coyote-father took a walk away from home; for in that season of the year his babies were so peevish they would not let him sleep. It happened that a Locust was making pottery, under a tree; and every time she moved the molding-spoon around the soft clay jar, she sang a song. The Coyote, coming near and hearing, thought: "Now that is the very song I need to put my óo-un to sleep." And following the sound he came to the tree, and found Cheech-wée-deh at work. But she had stopped singing.

"Locust-friend," said he, "come teach me that song, so that I can soothe my children to sleep." But the Locust did not move to answer; and he repeated:

"Locust-friend, come teach me that song."

Still she did not answer, and the Coyote, losing his patience, said:

"Locust, if you don't teach me that song, I will eat you up!"

p. 85

At that, the Locust showed him the song, and he sang with her until he knew how.

"Now I know it, thank you," he said. "So I will go home and sing it to my children, and they will sleep."

So he went. But as he came to a pool, halfway home, a flock of Afraids-of-the-Water 1 flew up at his very nose, and drove out his memory. He went looking around, turning over the stones and peeping in the grass; but he could not find the song anywhere. So he started back at last to get the Locust to teach him again.

But while he was yet far, the Locust saw him, so she shed her skin, leaving a dry husk, as snakes do, and filled it with sand. Then she made it to sit up, and put the molding-spoon in its hands, and the clay jars in front of it; and she herself flew up into the tree.

Coming, the Coyote said: "Friend Locust, show that song again; for I got scared, and the song was driven out of me." But there was no answer.

"Hear, Locust! I will ask just once more; and if you do not show me the song, I'll swallow you!"

Still she did not reply; and the Coyote, being angry, swallowed the stuffed skin, sand, spoon, and all, and started homeward, saying: "Now I think I have that song in me!"

But when he was half-way home he stopped and struck himself, and said: "What a fool, truly! For now I am going home without a song. But if I had left the Locust alive, and bothered her long enough, she would have shown me. I think now [paragraph continues]

p. 86

I will take her out, to see if she will not sing for me."

So he ran all around, hunting for a black thunder-knife, 1 and singing:

Where can I find Shée-eh-fóon?
Where can I find Shée-eh-fóon?

At last he found a large piece of the black-rock, and broke it until he got a knife. He made a mark on his breast with his finger, saying: "Here I will cut, and take her out."

Then he cut. "Mercy!" said he, "but it bites!" He cut again, harder. "Goodness! but how it bites!" he cried, very loud. And cutting a third time, he fell down and died. So he did not learn the song of the pottery-making.


The Quères Pueblos have exactly the same folk-story, except that they make the Horned Toad, instead of the Locust, the music-teacher. In their version, the Horned Toad, after being swallowed, kills the Coyote by lifting its spines. Remembering what I have said of the maker of the thunder-knives, you will readily see the analogy between this and the obsidian splinter of the Tée-wahn story. It is, indeed, one of the most characteristic and instructive examples of the manner in which a folk-story becomes changed.


85:1 The ironical Tée-wahn name for ducks.

86:1 One of obsidian, or volcanic glass.

Next: XIII. The Magic Hide and Seek