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The Coyote and The Turtle

Published August 15, 2008
Countries: USA, USA (Native American)
Age Levels: 4-5 and up

     One morning, a long time ago - when the ground was cool and damp in the morning, Turtle left the banks of the river to graze on the sweet plants that grew along the shore.  It seemed that the further away from the river he got, the plants tasted even sweeter.  Turtle slowly crawled along looking for good things to eat and totally forgot about the time.

     He crawled farther and farther away from the river.  Turtle paid no attention to Father Sun, who came peeking his head over the hills at late morning time to look over the earth and all of the creatures who roamed on it.

     If Turtle had been more wise, he would have remembered to stay near the wet riverbanks.  Every young cub learns around the campfire what turtle should have remembered - River turtles have to keep themselves damp.  If they become too dry, they cannot walk. Their joints stiffen up until they cannot move. If the sun shines too hot upon them, the turtles will die.

     Now Turtle trudged along slowly until the sun's beams came over the top of the hill and shined upon him.  He turned and started running back to the safety of the banks of the rivers.  But as any young cub learns around a campfire - Turtles cannot run very fast. This is especially true if they have been out of the river for a long time. The turtle traveled slowly, and the sun's rays were hot.

     Turtle began to dry out and moved more slowly.  He came to the top of a rise overlooking the banks of the river when the turtle felt the heat of the sun.  Turtle knew his legs soon would move no more.  Turtle tried to move into the shade in a hole and hide from the sun's rays.

     But the sun moved over in the sky trying to see all of his creatures as he does every day.  Soon Turtle was in the sun once again.  He softly began to cry.  While all this happened, coyote came walking by.  He had not seen the turtle since it was in the hole. But, he heard something that sounded like singing.

     Every young cub learns around the campfire that - Coyote loves to sing. He can be heard singing at the moon every night - though most people call it howling.  He had to know who was singing so he could learn the new song.  Finally, he peaked around a rock where he thought he heard the voice and saw the top of Turtle's shell.  He saw the Turtle sitting there with tears in his eyes.

"What was the sad song you were singing, Turtle?" asked coyote.  "You must teach it to me."

     The Turtle would not admit he had been crying, but he told coyote "I was not singing!"

     "I know you were, for I heard you, and I want to learn your song," said Coyote.  "If you do not teach it to me, I will swallow you whole!"

     "That cannot do me harm," replied Turtle.  "I would stick in your throat because of my hard shell. If that happened, you could never sing again."

     Coyote did not like hearing that. So he said, "If you do not teach me that song, I will throw you out into the hot sun."

     "That cannot harm me either," said Turtle, though he knew it would.  "I can crawl under my shell and stay in the shade of my shell."

     "Well then, I shall throw you into the river if you do not sing and teach me your sad song! said Coyote.

     "Oh, please Mr. Coyote, please do not throw me into the river, I might drown if you do.  Please do not throw me into the river," cried Turtle.

     Well, Mr. Coyote was so angry that turtle had not shared his song that he picked turtle up in his mouth and shook him violently. Then Coyote threw turtle into the deepest part of the river.

     The Turtle swam out under the water where the Coyote could not reach him.  Then he stuck his head out of the water and shouted, "Thank you, Coyote for throwing me into the river. For this is my home. I had no way of getting here. Thank you for helping me."

     Coyote trotted away very angry.  He had been fooled by Turtle, and he had not been able to learn a new song.

     Today, sometimes you see a coyote sniffing under bushes and looking into holes near the banks of a river.  But every young cub learns around the campfire what he is doing.  Coyote is still looking for Turtle to get his revenge.

Note:   If you wish to read more stories by Dr. Lockett, please visit his website at