ChildrenHow the Bluebird and Coyote Got Their Color

How the Bluebird and Coyote Got Their Color

Paraphrased from Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest,
Compiled and edited by Katharine Berry Judson, 1912, further edited by Bet Zimmerman Smith.
Probably Pima or Cherokee in origin.

bluebirdAlong time ago, the bluebird was a drab, ugly color. One night the Dream spirit spoke to him and told him how he could change his color. “Far away in the mountains,” said Dream Spirit, “there is a magic lake that has no inlet or outlet, so the water there is always the same deep blue color. “Bathe in the blue lake each morning for five mornings,” Dream Spirit told him, “and while you bathe, sing this magic song:

“The water is blue.
I went in.
And now I’m blue too.”

Bluebird did as the Dream Spirit said. On the fourth morning,all of Bluebirds’ feathers fell off, and he came out of the lakeas naked as the day he had hatched. But the fifth morning whenhe emerged from the lake, he was covered with blue feathers.

Now all this while Coyote, who was bright green, had been hiding in the grass, watching Bluebird. He wanted to jump in the lake and eat Bluebird, but was afraid of the water. But on the fifth morning Coyote said, “How is it you have lost all your ugly color, and now you are blue and gay? You are more beautiful than anything that flies in the air. I want to be blue, too!”

“I went in the lake five times on five mornings,” said Bluebird. He taught Coyote the magic song, and Coyote went in five times, and sang

“The water is blue.
I went in.
And now I’m blue too.”

And on the fifth morning Coyote emerged as blue as the littlebird.

Then Coyote was very, very proud. He was so proud that as he strutted along the road, he looked from side to side to see if anybody was looking at him now that he was a beautiful blue coyote. Then he looked back to see if his shadow was blue too, and ran head first into a stump so hard that he fell down in the dirt and was covered all over with dust. And that is why even today coyotes are the color of dirt.


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