Átsé Hashké dóó Bįįháád (Coyote and the Doe)

Note: The Navajo (Diné) word for "Coyote" is Mąii, but the Diné word for the "Coyote" (of Navajo mythology) is Átsé Hashké. The Diné word for "Doe" is Bįįháád.

Coyote was trotting along through the pinion pines and the low growing cedars of his beautiful homeland one morning. He saw a doe, with two pretty spotted fawns, standing in the shadow of a tree.

Coyote looked at the doe, thinking what a lot of meat she would provide for him and his hungry little pups, back in their den with their mother. But there was no use chasing a deer. He could not catch it, unless it was wounded by hunters and could not travel fast, or was very old and ill.

He stopped near the doe and her babies, sat down in the shade and began to talk to her. "Your children are beautiful," he told her. "They are much more beautiful than my children, though I do admit mine are cunning and cute in their awkward baby way. I suppose your children were just born beautiful."

The doe looked a little nervous. Coyote could not outrun her, but what about her babies? Perhaps he was sitting there, pretending to be friendly, but really planning to catch one of her children. "No, they were born plain," said the doe. "They weren't just naturally beautiful."

"But how did they get those beautiful spots?" Coyote asked her. The doe nosed her babies around on the other side of the tree. "It's a long story," she said, "and I'm sure you wouldn't care to hear all of it. But, in brief, this is the way I did it. "I found a hole big enough for both of them. Then I gathered cedar wood and bark and built a big fire near them. "You know, of course, that cedar wood gives off many sparks. Those sparks flew over and landed on my children and colored their skin as you see them."

"But didn't that hurt them? Weren't they burned badly?" Coyote asked. "Oh, not at all," the doe answered. "Good-bye now. Cousin. I must take my children to the spring for a drink."

She and her twin fawns went bounding away through the forest. Coyote lay down on the grass and looked after them. They were beautiful and they were fast runners. He hoped he could make his children not only beautiful, but less awkward on their feet.

He went home feeling very thoughtful. Maybe he was the only father who thought his babies were ugly. Maybe he'd better take another look at his little ones.

They came tumbling out of the den when he returned home. All of them wanted to be played with, and they tumbled around even more. He looked at them, with his head cocked on one side. They weren't bad. Fat little things. Playful children even when he got a little rough in his play, they didn't whine or slink back into the den.

However, after the sun had set and the babies were back in the den, sound asleep, he went out and gathered wood for a fire. But he didn't get much that night. "I'll go get more tomorrow," he told himself. But the next day he added only a few sticks to the pile of firewood. It was the same the next day.

On the fourth day he decided he must go through with the plan to make his babies beautiful. He gathered wood and made a big fire around a hole in the sand. Next he carried his children out, each by the back of the neck, and dropped them into the hole. The babies cried and whined at first, but Coyote could not see them for the smoke.

After a time, the fire died down and he went to the edge of the pit to take a look at his babies. He thought they'd be beautiful now, with pretty brown spots on their hides. What a terrible surprise he got! Instead of pretty spots on their hides, they had no hair at all. It all had been singed off.

"I'll get even with that doe for the trick she played on me," he vowed. But time went on and he never did see her again. Probably she knew how angry he would be and was careful to keep out of his sight.

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URL: http://www.lapahie.com /Coyote_Doe.cfm
Creator(s): Harrison Lapahie Jr.
Dated Created: 12/03/2011
Version: 2.0
Updated: 05/16/2014
Curator(s): Harrison Lapahie Jr.
Resource(s): Coyote Stories of the Navajo People, Navajo Curriculum Center Press, 1974 School Board, Inc. Rough Rock Arizona
Questions/Comments: Harrison Lapahie Jr.

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