The Fable of the Animals
by Katharine Berry Judson
Myths and Legends of California and the Old
Karok (near Klamath River,. Cal.)
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, Man! But at first the animals
were all alike in power. No one knew which animals should be food for
others, and which should be food for man. Then Kareya ordered them all to
meet in one place, that Man might give each his rank and his power. So the
animals all met together one evening, when the sun was set, to wait
overnight for the coming of Man on the next morning. Kareya also commanded
Man to make bows and arrows, as many as there were animals, and to give
the longest one to the animal which was to have the most power, and the
shortest to the one which should have least power. So he did, and after
nine sleeps his work was ended, and the bows and arrows which he had made
were very many.
Now the animals, being all together, went to sleep, so they might be ready
to meet Man on the next morning. But Coyote was exceedingly cunning—he
was cunning above all the beasts. Coyote wanted the longest bow and the
greatest power, so he could have all the other animals for his meat. He
decided to stay awake all night, so that he would be first to meet Man in
the morning. So he laughed to himself and stretched his nose out on his
paw and pretended to sleep. About midnight he began to be sleepy. He had
to walk around the camp and scratch his eyes to keep them open. He grew
more sleepy, so that he had to skip and jump about to keep awake. But he
made so much noise, he awakened some of the other animals. When the
morning star came up, he was too sleepy to keep his eyes open any longer.
So he took two little sticks, and sharpened them at the ends, and propped
open his eyelids. Then he felt safe. He watched the morning star, with his
nose stretched along his paws, and fell asleep. The sharp sticks pinned
his eyelids fast together.
The morning star rose rapidly into the sky. The birds began to sing. The
animals woke up and stretched themselves, but still Coyote lay fast
asleep. When the sun rose, the animals went to meet Man. He gave the
longest bow to Cougar, so he had greatest power; the second longest he
gave to Bear; others he gave to the other animals, giving all but the last
to Frog. But the shortest one was left. Man cried out, "What animal have I
missed?" Then the animals began to look about and found Coyote fast
asleep, with his eyelids pinned together. All the animals began to laugh,
and they jumped upon Coyote and danced upon him. Then they led him to Man,
still blinded, and Man pulled out the sharp sticks and gave him the
shortest bow of all. It would hardly shoot an arrow farther than a foot.
All the animals laughed.
But Man took pity on Coyote, because he was now weaker even than Frog. So
at his request, Kareya gave him cunning, ten times more than before, so
that he was cunning above all the animals of the wood. Therefore Coyote
was friendly to Man and his children, and did many things for them.