Coyote Rides a Star
A Klamath Legend
The animal people celebrated the return of the salmon with a feast
more splendid than any they had ever had before. Though often they
thought Coyote a great nuisance, they had to admit that he knew how
to use his wits. At the feast-after much arguing-they even gave him
the place of honor next to Eagle, their chief.
Coyote was full of himself. "Who in the World is more clever than
Coyote?" he thought as he made his way home from the feast by
starlight. "Who else could have snatched the Sun? Or sniffed out the
stolen salmon? With my brains, I should be chief, not Eagle. I
should have the best seat at the feast, and be served first. I,
Ki-yoo the Coyote, should be honored above all others!"
Coyote gave a proud toss of his head, and as he did so, he spied the
stars glittering in the dark sky above. A shooting star streaked
"Hai! How beautiful!" Coyote exclaimed. And suddenly he knew what he
wanted most in the world to do.
"I want to ride on a star," said he. "Even Mouse and Measuring Worm,
the least of the animal people, can walk around on the earth. I,
Coyote, should have a better way of going. And I shall! I shall take
a journey on a star."
So Coyote climbed to the top of the nearest hill, lifted his nose to
the sky, and howled up at the Evening Star. "Hai, Bright Star!" he
called. "Come down here to me. I am going to take a ride on your
But the Evening Star did not obey. It barely blinked as it moved
along its sky path.
"Ho! Are you hard of hearing, old Star?" cried Coyote. "I am
Coyote-the Great Coyote, Sun-Snatcher and Fish-Finder. I have saved
my people from darkness and cold and hunger, and now I wish to see
all the World. Come down here so that I may jump onto your back."
The Evening Star smiled, but kept on its way without a word. In a
little while it was gone.
But Coyote was not one to give up so easily.
At sundown the next day Coyote climbed to the same hilltop and
called as he had called before.
"Hai, Bright Star! Come down here to me so that I may jump onto your
This time the Evening Star, seeing that Coyote was in earnest,
answered in a thin silvery voice. "Be content with your four feet,
Ki-yoo the Coyote," it called. "Your place is on the earth. You may
be a Great One among the animal folk, but you could not stand the
speed of the stars."
But Coyote would not be put off. Each day at nightfall he returned
and howled and yowled. whined and whispered and blustered and begged
until at last Evening Star grew tired of listening.
"Enough, enough!" it said one night in a voice more sharp than
silvery. "Jump on before I change my mind."
Evening Star slid down the sky, barely slowing as it skimmed past
the hilltop, and then soared upward once more. Coyote gave a great
jump, catching hold with his front paws, and almost slid off. "Hai,
yi, yi!" he cried, but the sound whirled away in the star-wind.
Evening Star flew so fast that poor Coyote could not haul himself up
to crouch upon its back. It took all of his strength just to hold
Evening Star flew up and up and up, and then north over lands of ice
and snow. The sharp star-wind grew bitter cold. Coyote's paws
grew cold,' then stiff, then numb, until he could hold on no longer.
Letting go, he fell, head over feet over tail, back to earth.
He was a long time falling. Ten snows passed, some say. And when he
came at last to earth, his landing was so hard that he was-say
some-flattened out as thin as an acorn cake. Certainly, from that
day to this he has been thin. And every day to this day, he
climbs at nightfall to the top of the nearest hill and scolds the
Back in the Beforetime: Tales
of the California Indians [the Klamath River region in the north
to the inland desert mountains and the southern coastlands] Retold
by Jane Louise Curry, 1987
Submitted by Blue Panther Keeper