Coyote as Eye Juggler

Compare Zande trickster (sub-Saharan Africa)

Then Coyote started out again. He met some Jicarilla Apaches who had power too. These Apaches were throwing up their eyes into the air, and the eyes would come back in place every time.

Coyote looked at them. “That’s a good thing to know,” he said. “You must teach me that.”

“If you want to learn this trick, you must be careful.”

“Yes, yes, I’ll be careful. Show me how.”

“If you don’t keep the rules, you may lose your eyes.”

So one Jicarilla Apache took Coyote’s eyes out and threw them up in the air four times and showed him how to do it.

He told Coyote then, “You must be careful not to go among the trees, for these eyes may get caught on a branch.”

“All right,” said Coyote.

So Coyote went away. He was throwing his eyes up all the time. He had been told to keep near the plains, where there were no trees. But Coyote soon forgot and went right where there were many trees. He threw the eyes up. They stayed up there.

Coyote called, “Come back to my sockets!”

But the eyes stayed up there. Coyote shouted and cried.

The Jicarilla Apache heard him and came over.

Coyote said, “Codi, my eyes have stayed up there.”

That man got up in the tree and got the eyes down again. He said to Coyote, “I told you to stay away from these bushy places.”

But Coyote soon forgot. He went on his way and the same thing happened again. His eyes got caught. He shouted and the man helped him again. This happened for a third time. But the fourth time the man was good and tired of Coyote.

The man said, “No, I won’t help. Those eyes will stay there, and the people will live on them. They will turn to plums.”

So Coyote’s eyes turned to plums.

The man then went out and gathered some pitch from the pinon tree. He rolled it into two balls and put these in the sockets. He told Coyote, “Now keep out of the sunshine for four days. Stay in the shade during this period. If you go into the sun, the pitch will melt.”

But Coyote forgot. He fell asleep in the shade. But he overslept, and the shade passed. It was sunny there and the pitch melted. Coyote’s eyes were spoiled. He called loudly for help again, and the man came to him. He fixed him again and gave him the same advice. But Coyote forgot as usual and the eyes melted again. They were fixed again, but for a third time Coyote let them melt.

Then this man said, “This is the last time I’m going to help you. If this happens again you will have to go without eyes.”

It did happen the fourth time. Coyote fell asleep in the shade. Then it became sunny. His eyes started to melt and had melted just a little. But this time Coyote woke up. The pitch had begun to run down his face and that is why there are two black marks there running down from his eyes. The man kept his word and Coyote has had to stay that way. But it was not enough to spoil his eyes.

This Jicarilla Apache who taught Coyote learned the trick of throwing up the eyes from the jack-rabbit, for in those days everything talked. But it was the man and not the jack-rabbit who taught Coyote how to do it.


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