Coyote Stories, by Mourning Dove

Coyote Stories

What It’s About

Trickster creation tales, carefully preserved from the oral tradition by an Okanogan woman.

Why I Think You’d Like It

This was a really cool find for me. Nowadays, while indigenous voices is still underrepresented, it’s still not weird to find Native American and other indigenous people’s foklore spread throughout the local library. When this book was published, back in 1933, that wasn’t the case. Book written by Native Americans barely existed, and books written by Native American women didn’t exist at all. Mourning Dove’s native folklore was slowly dying out, and the only narratives that existed about Native Americans were grossly inaccurate caricatures.

Her book sparked a whole new interest. It’s success proved that there was a market for indigenous voices and an interest in accurate representations of indigenous folklore. All the cool stories about Kokopelli, Raven, Sedna and Wisakedjak that we can find and enjoy? They might not have existed without this book.

Coyote is a fascinatingly flawed character, and he provokes some interesting questions. While often designated a trickster, he relies on luck and his magic as much as anything else. He is not admirable; in fact his actions and motivations are often despicable, but the effects of his actions are often paradoxically good. Despite his repulsiveness, he has a purpose in the world. He is there to pave the way for humans. He defeats monsters, he creates food, he shapes the landscape and sets useful precedents, all without actually meaning to serve anybody but himself.

This book is also full of historical, geographical and linguistic notes that are, to be technical about it, really fucking cool.

Content Warnings

As I said, Coyote is an asshole, and is frankly pretty manipulative and abusive to everyone around him. The animal folk are also fairly cavalier about killing each other. The gory details are left out and the dead characters resurrect with the frequency of a Supernatural cast member, so your mileage may vary as to how much that affects you.

The notes at the end also include some of the sexual content and bawdy humor that Mourning Dove left out.

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