Once upon a time, an Apache story tells us, the trickster called Coyote killed a bear so that he could make a suitable quiver for his magical arrows. "You shouldn't have done that," someone warned Coyote. "That skin will only bring you bad luck." And so it has been for Coyote ever since, chased by bears and humans alike. In this charming collection of folktales from long ago, we read of the creation of the world, of the ways of animals, of the beguiling Coyote, of the world in which we live and other worlds that hide just beyond our sight. Drawn from the oral literatures of some twenty Southwestern American Indian peoples, these stories teach us about the constants of those dry places: about how the clouds form in the sky, how the heat rises from the ground, how the animals move about from one shady spot to another, and how the people once lived their lives. All these stories show us - as the great anthropologist, Claude Lévi-Strauss, observed - that folktales are not mere afterthoughts of literature, just pleasant stories to tell around the campfire, but rather valuable tools for reflection upon our own lives.
A longtime resident of the Southwest, Gregory McNamee is the author of Blue Mountains Far Away and Gila: The Life and Death of an American River, along with numerous other books; he is also the general editor of the Daimon Folklore Library.