A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Coyote and the Turtle."
From: Taytay's Tales (1922) Traditional Pueblo Indian Tales, collected and retold by Elizabeth Willis De Huff; illustrated by Fred Kabotie, Hopi (1900-1986) and Otis Polelonema, Hopi (1902-1981)

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


(Hopi, 2nd Mesa.)

Early one summer morning, once upon a time, when the ground was cool and damp, a turtle crawled up out of his home in the river. He crawled along hunting things to eat. He found so many good things that he crawled farther and farther away from the river. He forgot all about old Father Sun, who would come peeping up over the hills after awhile. If he had been a wise little turtle, he would not have wandered so far away from home. River turtles have to keep themselves damp. If they become too dry they cannot walk, and if the sun shines too hot upon them, they die.

Now while this little turtle was trudging slowly along, the sun came up and shone right down upon him. He turned around and started back to the river; but turtles travel so slowly and the sun was so hot, that he could only get half way there. When he saw what trouble he was in, he climbed into a shady hole in a big rock and began to cry.

He climbed into a shady hole in a big rock

He cried so hard and so loud that a coyote, who was passing near by, heard him. The coyote's ears were not very keen so he thought it was somebody singing.

"I must find out who that is singing," said Mr. Coyote, " and get him to teach me that song. "

So Mr. Coyote peeped around the rock and found the turtle with big tears in his eyes.

"Good-day," said Mr. Coyote, "that was a nice song you were singing. Won't you teach it to me?"

"I was not singing," replied the turtle.

"I know you were, for I heard you and I want to learn your song. If you do not teach it to me I will swallow you whole!"

"That cannot do me any harm," said the turtle, "for I have a hard shell that will hurt your throat."

"Well, if you do not sing for me I'll throw you in the hot sun!"

"That cannot harm me either," said the turtle, "for I can crawl under my shell."

"Well then," said Mr. Coyote, "I will throw you into the river if you do not sing."

"Oh, please Coyote-man do not throw me into the river. I might drown if you do. Please do not throw me in!"

Mr. Coyote threw the turtle into the river

"Yes, I will!" and Mr. Coyote took up the turtle in his mouth and threw him into the river

The little turtle swam out under the water where the coyote could not reach him. Then he stuck his head up out of the water:

"Thank you very much, Coyote-man, for throwing me into the river. This is my home. I had no way to get here. Thank you for helping me."

And old Mr. Coyote trotted away very angry.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Mary Mark Ockerbloom.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom