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The Fable Of The Animals

Source: Myths And Legends Of California And The Old Southwest

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

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