Old Woman and The Coyote


One of the advantages of being in the military was the exposure to different cultures. While stateside I had the opportunity to study Native American myths. This was in the days before the Internet, and these stories come from oral tradition.

My favorite story is one of the many creation myths passed down among the Navajo. The characters of this particular myth are Old Woman and The Coyote. Old Woman is the partner of Old Man, the godlike creators of the world. Unlike gods from other myths Old Man and Old Woman do not help nor hinder humans they merely observe. The Coyote is a complex character. What we may see as evil is not always so. The Coyote is a trickster who attempts to sway events. These attempts are not evil or good, but they do teach us many lessons. This is the story of Old Woman and The Coyote.


One day The Coyote came upon Old Woman while she was cooking. The Coyote asked, “Old Woman, what are you cooking?”

Old Woman replied, “I am cooking the people. They will move among the animals and become their overseers.”

The Coyote watched as she put her first batch of People into her oven. After a few short minutes, The Coyote began, “Old Woman remove them now! If you cook them too long they will surely burn!”

Old Woman replied, “Not yet Coyote, they can’t be done so soon.”

The Coyote continued, “No they have been in too long and have surely burned by now!”

Old Woman gave into The Coyote’s continual begging and removed the people from the oven. She saw that they were still white, and very under-cooked. She said, “She what you have done Coyote, these people are not ready yet, they are still raw.”

The Coyote said, “I was just trying to help you Old Woman. Make another batch.”

Old Woman put another batch into her oven. After some time she went to take them out.

“No!”, said The Coyote. “Remember last time? You took them out too soon. Let them cook a little longer.”

The Coyote begged and pleaded so much that Old Woman left the people in the oven twice as long as before. When Old Woman removed the people she saw they were burned black as coal. “See what you have done Coyote? I have left them in too long now they are burned black!”

The Coyote put his tail between his legs and said, “I am sorry Old Woman. I will leave it up to you next time. Please do another batch.”

Old Woman did just that. She placed another batch of people into her oven. This time, she ignored the pleading and barking of The Coyote. She removed the people from her oven, and they were perfectly golden brown. “See Coyote, these people are perfect.”, she said.

“We will see.”, said The Coyote.

And that is the creation myth of Old Woman and The Coyote.

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