Hundreds of years ago the Zuni people created and told stories of humanand world creations, tales of love and lust, and just about anything”that gave people an explanation for something they could notunderstand” (Gaarder 25). They made up all these legends or mythsbefore there was anything called science. The stories came from theheart and soul of these native people. Legends are not just sillystories that were told for amusement they are like magic lenses, theyallow us to have a glimpse of social orders and the daily life of howthe Indians interpreted things long ago. One legend of the Zuni tribetells the tale of the sun and the moon and how these two heavenly bodiescame into being.
The legend is called “Coyote Steals the Sun and Moon. “The story begins when an out of luck Coyote can never seem to killanything. He watches Eagle catch rabbit after rabbit with all theease. He decides to go to Eagle with a proposition. Coyote told Eaglethat they should hunt together, Eagle accepts, so they begin to hunt inpartnership. Still all Coyote catches is just a couple of grubs, whileEagle is far ahead with many rabbits.
At the time the world was stilldark, the sun and moon had not been placed into the sky yet. So coyoteblamed his hunting problems on the fact that he could not see and eagleif he knew where they could find light. Eagle was not really sure, buthe figured it was somewhere on the west. So they set out to find it.
They soon came to the Kachinas’ village, where the villagers were busilygoing all out in their sacred dances. The Kachinas invited Coyote andEagle to rest and have a bite to eat while they continued to dance. Eagle observed the people and could sense all the power they bestowedwithin. He began to wonder if they were the ones who had control of thelight.
Coyote pointed to two boxes, a large one and a small one. Theynoticed that when the people wanted light they opened the lids of theboxes. In the smaller box was the moon, it contained little light. Inthe larger one was the sun and it gave off a lot of light.
Coyote toldEagle that they should go and steal the big box. So when all theKachinas went home to sleep, Eagle put both the sun and the moon intoone box and flew off. After a while Coyote wanted to carry the boxthinking that Eagle might be hiding something from him. He pestered andpestered Eagle till he could not take it anymore and Eagle let him holdthe box. Coyote promised not to open the box, but after a while, hewanted to know what the light looked like. So he took a peek.
All atonce the sun and the moon came escaping out of the box. The moon causedall the plants to shrivel up and turn brown. Then all the leaves felloff the trees and it became winter. As he was trying to catch the moon,the sun drifted away and all the fruits shriveled up in the cold.
Eagleturned to see what was keeping Coyote. When he saw what Coyote had donehe scolded him and blamed him for the reason coldness came to theworld. “If it were not for Coyote’s curiosity and mischief making, wewould not have winter; we could enjoy summer all the time” (Erdoes andOrtiz 142). In this Native American legend the sun and the moon represent the dayand night. Thus, they are metaphorically associated with summer andwinter.
When Coyote releases the moon he brings death and desolationto the world. “The sun, the father of light who begets all livingthings upon mother earth, the illuminator of the primordial darkness, islife giver as well as destroyer” (Erdoes and Ortiz 127). By doing thishe completely disrupts the seasonal cycle by interfering with theheavenly process. At the time, to the Zuni, the Kachinas weredemi-gods. “They regularly visited the pueblos and establishedelaborate rituals that included festive dances for the people”(Erdoesand Ortiz 143). Yet, though the Eagle trusted the Coyote and showed theCoyote he did by allowing him to carry the boxes, even though he knewhow sneaky he was.
But to the Coyote that was not enough, he wantedmore. In a way, he had to have the “last word.”