Indian Legends of California and the Southwest

Week 13: Native American Tales - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

Coyote and the Quails; Coyote and the Fawns

Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 600 words.

Here you will read about two of coyote's disastrous adventures. In the first story, the quails start off by pulling off bits of Coyote's own flesh and feeding it to Coyote - of course that makes him angry! And in the second story, the Coyote wants his little coyotes to look as pretty as spotted fawns of the Deer - so the Deer pretends to tell Coyote how he can manage to paint his little coyotes just the same way.
Coyote and the Quails (Pima, Arizona)

Once upon a time, long ago, Coyote was sleeping so soundly that a covey of quails came along and cut pieces of fat meat out of his flesh without arousing him. Then they went on. After they had camped for the evening, and were cooking the meat, Coyote came up the trail.

Coyote said, "Where did you get that nice, fat meat? Give me some."

Quails gave him all he wanted. Then he went farther up the trail. After he had gone a little way, Quails called to him, "Coyote, you were eating your own flesh."

Coyote said, "What did you say?"

Quails said, "Oh, nothing. We heard something calling behind the mountains."

Soon the quails called again: "Coyote, you ate your own meat."

"What did you say?"

"Oh, nothing. We heard somebody pounding his grinding-stone. "

So Coyote went on. But at last he began to feel where he had been cut. Then he knew what the quails meant. He turned back down the trail and told Quails he would eat them up. He began to chase them. The quails flew above ground and Coyote ran about under them. At last they got tired, but Coyote did not because he was so angry.

By and by Quails came to a hole, and one of the keenest-witted picked up a piece of prickly cholla cactus and pushed it into the hole; then they all ran in after it. But Coyote dug out the hole and reached them. When he came to the first quail he said, "Was it you who told me I ate my own flesh?"

Quail said, "No."

So Coyote let him go and he flew away. When Coyote came to the second quail, he asked the same question. Quail said, "No," and then flew away. So Coyote asked every quail, until the last quail was gone, and then he came to the cactus branch. Now the prickly cactus branch was so covered with feathers that it looked just like a quail. Coyote asked it the same question, but the cactus branch did not answer. Then Coyote said, "I know it was you because you do not answer."

So Coyote bit very hard into the hard, prickly branch, and it killed him.

Coyote and the Fawns (Sia, New Mexico)

Another day when he was travelling around, Coyote met a deer with two fawns. The fawns were beautifully spotted, and he said to the deer, "How did you paint your children? They are so beautiful!"

Deer replied, "I painted them with fire from the cedar."

"And how did you do the work?" asked Coyote.

"I put my children into a cave and built a fire of cedar in front of it. Every time a spark flew from the fire it struck my children, making a beautiful spot."

"Oh," said Coyote, "I will do the same thing. Then I will make my children beautiful."

He hurried to his house and put his children in a cave. Then he built a fire of cedar in front of it and stood off to watch the fire. But the children cried because the fire was very hot. Coyote kept calling to them not to cry because they would be beautiful like the deer. After a time the crying ceased and Coyote was pleased. But when the fire died down, he found they were burned to death. Coyote expected to find them beautiful, but instead they were dead.

Then he was enraged with the deer and ran away to hunt her, but he could not find her anywhere. He was much distressed to think the deer had fooled him so easily.

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what trick did the quails play on Coyote?
  • how did the Coyote die when he tried to punish the quails?
  • why did the Coyote burn his children to death?

Source: Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest. Compiled and Edited by Katharine Berry Judson. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1912. Weblink.

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM