Manataka American Indian Council










Coyote and the Giant

Navajo Legend

According to stories of ancient times, cruel giants once roamed the earth. They were especially fond of little children, whom they caught and ate.

One day Coyote was trotting across a rocky place when he saw one of those huge creatures.

"Cousin "Coyote called, "I'm on my way to the creek to take a sweat bath. I admit I was a little afraid to startle such a big, brave giant as you are; so I caught your attention first - will you join me in a sweat bath?"

"Why?" the giant growled, putting his club down and looking more friendly.

"Why do I need a sweat bath?"

"Everyone needs a sweat bath," Coyote told him. "They're good for you, Cousin Giant How else would you be able to get rid of all those no-good things in you?

"What no-good things?" the giant asked, looking down at his balloon of a stomach.

"You'll find out when you take a sweat bath," Coyote said. Of course, if you don't want to come with me, I'll trot on by myself."

The giant stopped; then he looked at his big stomach again and thought of all the no-good things that might be in there.

"All right, Cousin," he told Coyote. "Lead the way. I'll follow you.

Coyote trotted off down the hill, being sure to keep a safe distance from the giant's heavy club. When they reached the creek bank. Coyote selected a nice flat place where there were trees and bark and branches. There he could make a sweat house.

"All right. Cousin Giant," Coyote said. "This is an excellent location. You build a fire, while I build the sweat house."

The giant clumsily laid the fire and tried to light it with two flints, while Coyote built the sweat house. After it was completed. Coyote quickly
pushed into the house an unskinned leg of a deer that he had hidden.

"I'll trick him'" he chuckled. "He'll never want another sweat bath with me.

Soon everything was ready. Coyote and the giant crawled into the sweat house. It was filled with steam.

"Now what do I do?" the giant asked.

"First " the coyote told him, "you must drink some of this bitter brew I have prepared for us. It is made of good clean herbs and is wonderful for your system. It will take out all those no-good things I told you about."

"Will it help me catch those fast-running little humans? I like them better than any other food," the giant said. "They almost always run away from me."

"That's because you're so clumsy on your feet," Coyote told him. "Look at me, I can outrun almost anything in the forest or on the desert. That's because I take so many sweat baths."

The giant was big, but not very smart. He believed everything Coyote said.

So they sat in the sweat house, and the steam got hotter and hotter. "I'm too warm," the giant complained, squirming. "Let's go out and get some fresh air."

"We will," Coyote promised. "But, first, we have to drink more of the herb brew.

The giant shuddered as he drank the brew. He was the first one outside the sweat house.

"Now what do we do?" he asked. "I feel sick at my stomach."

"Wait," Coyote said. "I'll bring dishes, so you can see the no-good things you throw up."

He put dishes before them both. The dishes were curled up pieces of pinon bark.

"Now close your eyes, and throw up what is in your stomach."

They both emptied their stomachs, but the giant's waste was clean. Coyote's was filled with worms and other no-good things. Coyote quickly switched dishes while the giant's eyes were closed.

"Oh, Cousin," Coyote cried. "Open your eyes. See what a lot of no-good things you've been carrying around with you. No wonder you're slow on your feet.

The giant looked and heaved some more.

"Maybe we'd better go back in for more cleansing," the giant said. Coyote was having a hard time to keep from laughing.

"Yes, Cousin," he agreed. "I think we should."

They went back inside the sweat house, where, it was pitch dark, and they drank some more brew.

"Now I'll perform one of my miracles," Coyote said. "Feel my leg ... that's it! I'm going to break it and then make it as good as ever.

He took a  rock and pounded the deer leg until the bone broke. All the time he was pretending to be in great pain.

"Now feel the bone," he said, when he had broken it. "Can you feel  it?

"Oh, yes," said the giant. "You broke it all right."

"Now I'll make it as good as it ever was," Coyote promised. He began spitting on his own leg. "Become whole," he chanted. "Leg, become whole. Be as you were before I began pounding .  There it is. Now feel it."

The giant reached over in the darkness, and Coyote guided his hand.

The giant felt the leg. He pinched it and pulled it.

"What a miracle," he said at last. "How did you do it?"

"I'll show you," Coyote offered. "Put one of your legs over this way."

Not knowing he was about to be tricked, the giant pushed his leg over close to Coyote.

"It will hurt a little," Coyote warned him. "Especially at first."

The giant's leg was heavy and thick. Coyote pounded and pounded, and the giant yelled and screamed for him to stop.

Soon Coyote felt the bone break.

"There! It is broken. Now start spitting on it."

The giant began spitting. He spat until he ran out of spit, and still his leg was broken and refused to mend.

"Help me, Cousin," he begged. "The magic won't work for me."

"Just keep on spitting," Coyote said, and slipped out of the sweat house.

He knew the poor old giant never would be able to heal his broken leg. Now it would be harder than ever for him to outrun anything - even little human beings.


Taken from Coyote Stories of the Navajo People, Navajo Curriculum Center Press, 1974 School Board, Inc. Rough Rock Arizona.
Source: Blue Panther Keeper of Stories





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