Zuni Indian Mythology

Hundreds of years ago the Zuni people created and told stories of human
and world creations, tales of love and lust, and just about anything
"that gave people an explanation for something they could not
understand" (Gaarder 25). They made up all these legends or myths
before there was anything called science. The stories came from the
heart and soul of these native people. Legends are not just silly
stories that were told for amusement they are like magic lenses, they
allow us to have a glimpse of social orders and the daily life of how
the Indians interpreted things long ago. One legend of the Zuni tribe
tells the tale of the sun and the moon and how these two heavenly bodies
came 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 kill
anything. He watches Eagle catch rabbit after rabbit with all the
ease. He decides to go to Eagle with a proposition. Coyote told Eagle
that they should hunt together, Eagle accepts, so they begin to hunt in
partnership. Still all Coyote catches is just a couple of grubs, while
Eagle is far ahead with many rabbits. At the time the world was still
dark, the sun and moon had not been placed into the sky yet. So coyote
blamed his hunting problems on the fact that he could not see and eagle
if he knew where they could find light. Eagle was not really sure, but
he 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 busily
going all out in their sacred dances. The Kachinas invited Coyote and
Eagle to rest and have a bite to eat while they continued to dance.
Eagle observed the people and could sense all the power they bestowed
within. He began to wonder if they were the ones who had control of the
light. Coyote pointed to two boxes, a large one and a small one. They
noticed that when the people wanted light they opened the lids of the
boxes. In the smaller box was the moon, it contained little light. In
the larger one was the sun and it gave off a lot of light. Coyote told
Eagle that they should go and steal the big box. So when all the
Kachinas went home to sleep, Eagle put both the sun and the moon into
one box and flew off. After a while Coyote wanted to carry the box
thinking that Eagle might be hiding something from him. He pestered and
pestered Eagle till he could not take it anymore and Eagle let him hold
the box. Coyote promised not to open the box, but after a while, he
wanted to know what the light looked like. So he took a peek. All at
once the sun and the moon came escaping out of the box. The moon caused
all the plants to shrivel up and turn brown. Then all the leaves fell
off 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. Eagle
turned to see what was keeping Coyote. When he saw what Coyote had done
he scolded him and blamed him for the reason coldness came to the
world. "If it were not for Coyote\'s curiosity and mischief making, we
would not have winter; we could enjoy summer all the time" (Erdoes and
Ortiz 142).
In this Native American legend the sun and the moon represent the day
and night. Thus, they are metaphorically associated with summer and
winter. When Coyote releases the moon he brings death and desolation
to the world. "The sun, the father of light who begets all living
things upon mother earth, the illuminator of the primordial darkness, is
life giver as well as destroyer" (Erdoes and Ortiz 127). By doing this
he completely disrupts the seasonal cycle by interfering with the
heavenly process. At the time, to the Zuni, the Kachinas were
demi-gods. "They regularly visited the pueblos and established
elaborate rituals that included festive dances for the people"(Erdoes
and Ortiz 143). Yet, though the Eagle trusted the Coyote and showed the
Coyote he did by allowing him to carry the boxes, even though he knew
how sneaky he was. But to the Coyote that was not enough, he wanted
more. In a way, he had to have the "last word."

Category: Miscellaneous