Creation Of Man

: Myths And Legends Of California And The Old Southwest

Miwok (San Joaquin Valley, Cal.)

After Coyote had completed making the world, he began to think about

creating man. He called a council of all the animals. The animals sat in

a circle, just as the Indians do, with Lion at the head, in an open

space in the forest. On Lion's right was Grizzly Bear; next Cinnamon

Bear; and so on to Mouse, who sat at Lion's left.

Lion spoke first. Lion said he w
shed man to have a terrible voice, like

himself, so that he could frighten all animals. He wanted man also to be

well covered with hair, with fangs in his claws, and very strong teeth.

Grizzly Bear laughed. He said it was ridiculous for any one to have such

a voice as Lion, because when he roared he frightened away the very prey

for which he was searching. But he said man should have very great

strength; that he should move silently, but very swiftly; and he should

be able to seize his prey without noise.

Buck said man would look foolish without antlers. And a terrible voice

was absurd, but man should have ears like a spider's web, and eyes like


Mountain Sheep said the branching antlers would bother man if he got

caught in a thicket. If man had horns rolled up, so that they were like

a stone on each side of his head, it would give his head weight enough

to butt very hard.

When it came Coyote's turn, he said the other animals were foolish

because they each wanted man to be just like themselves. Coyote was sure

he could make a man who would look better than Coyote himself, or any

other animal. Of course he would have to have four legs, with five

fingers. Man should have a strong voice, but he need not roar all the

time with it. And he should have feet nearly like Grizzly Bear's,

because he could then stand erect when he needed to. Grizzly Bear had no

tail, and man should not have any. The eyes and ears of Buck were good,

and perhaps man should have those. Then there was Fish, which had no

hair, and hair was a burden much of the year. So Coyote thought man

should not wear fur. And his claws should be as long as the Eagle's, so

that he could hold things in them. But no animal was as cunning and

crafty as Coyote, so man should have the wit of Coyote.

Then Beaver talked. Beaver said man would have to have a tail, but it

should be broad and flat, so he could haul mud and sand on it. Not a

furry tail, because they were troublesome on account of fleas.

Owl said man would be useless without wings.

But Mole said wings would be folly. Man would be sure to bump against

the sky. Besides, if he had wings and eyes both, he would get his eyes

burned out by flying too near the sun. But without eyes, he could burrow

in the soft, cool earth where he could be happy.

Mouse said man needed eyes so he could see what he was eating. And

nobody wanted to burrow in the damp earth. So the council broke up in a


Then every animal set to work to make a man according to his own ideas.

Each one took a lump of earth and modelled it just like himself. All but

Coyote, for Coyote began to make the kind of man he had talked of in the


It was late when the animals stopped work and fell asleep. All but

Coyote, for Coyote was the cunningest of all the animals, and he stayed

awake until he had finished his model. He worked hard all night. When

the other animals were fast asleep he threw water on the lumps of earth,

and so spoiled the models of the other animals. But in the morning he

finished his own, and gave it life long before the others could finish

theirs. Thus man was made by Coyote.