Wily, raunchy, and heroic. A trickster, lecher, and supreme survivor. Such is the magical Coyote, that mythic Native American figure whose various roles are recounted here in a wonderful selection of poetry and stories.
Anthropological linguist William Bright brings together diverse portraits of Coyote from American Indian texts and modern American writing. Because Native American myths have been recited and transmitted orally, Bright addresses the special problem of converting them into written stories. His familiarity with the native languages gives his retranslations a liveliness that conveys their original vitality.
The collection also includes poetic translations and original works by important contemporary writers Leslie Silko, Gary Snyder, Wendy Rose, Peter Blue Cloud, and Simon Ortiz, along with the voice of an earlier American author—Mark Twain.
We see how the figure of Coyote serves both to entertain and to instruct and, by his similarities to the actual biological coyote, provides a link between culture and nature. At the same time, since he embodies distinctive characteristics of Homo sapiens, Coyote also reflects many aspects of human nature.
Bright places each tale in relation to the larger Native American context and shows Coyote's affinities with classic mythological figures and popular cultural images such as Bugs Bunny. Filled with humor and at times disturbing, Coyote's tales mirror the human condition across time and cultures.
William Bright, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics and Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles, is now Professor Adjoint in Linguistics at the University of Colorado. He recently edited the four-volume Oxford International Encyclopedia of Linguistics (1991).