Coyote and the Pebbles is a Native American tale that describes how the stars in the sky came to be. The protagonist of the tale is a tricky coyote who misses out on his opportunity to receive instruction from the Great Mystery. The Great Mystery seems to be a godlike figure who rules over the night creatures (and probably creatures of the daytime as well). The Great Mystery uses the earthly figures to follow out tasks for him. The creatures themselves could also be individual parts of the godhead who carry out specific purposes. The other creatures of the night such as the deer and owl receive the instruction. Therefore, they are prepared to follow through with the task. The night creatures beg for more light in which they are granted. They must gather shiny pebbles that they find and take the pebbles up the mountain. After doing so, they must draw a portrait of themselves in the sky as high as they can reach. By doing so, they will have more light during the nighttime instead of only the moon or fragments of the moon. Coyote, playing the common role of a trickster, is late to the meeting and misses out on this opportunity to claim part of the sky. Coyote only hears about the news from Raven, who tells him that he must hurry because the others have started without him. Perhaps the Raven likes to stir up chaos as well. Coyote then rushes off to fulfill his portion of the task. He is seething with anger and vows to make the biggest and best portrait of them all.
“I am the greatest artist in the world! Therefore, my drawing will be the largest and the best!”
Coyote appears to be both a troublemaker and a sympathetic character within the graphic tale. He begins his journey by completely missing his opportunity to light up the night sky. In a rush to claim the biggest and best portion of the sky, he makes a grave mistake. His selfishness seems ironic considering the other night creatures did not wait for him. In a way, they too portrayed some selfish characteristics. For example, they realized he was not there and moved on anyways. Later, when Coyote tries to find a spot in the sky to draw his portrait every space is taken. No one saved him a space in the sky. They were all concerned with their displays being grand enough. Coyote’s betrayal then causes him to act selfishly by trying to create the grandest portrait of all, which only ends with the destruction of all portraits. In the end, no one portrait brightens the night sky. It appears as though all the night creatures want their portraits displayed for all to see, which projects the dangers of self-absorption. The tale not only describes the origin of how stars were created but also amplifies how each night creature was fixated on the fact that the light in the night sky did not reflect versions of themselves they wanted to show to the world. They seem to have forgotten that the main point was to create more light in the sky.
“The pebbles sprang around, higher and higher, here and there, bumping into each other, until they were bumping into everyone else’s drawings.” (page 29 of pdf)
“The night creatures could only watch as their portraits were destroyed” (page 29 of pdf)
In the end, the task was fulfilled, the night sky had more light available than just the moon. Although this was true, the night creatures still could not forgive the Coyote for destroying their portraits. They continue to blame him and forget to realize that the task has been fulfilled. Coyote, distressed for not only the destruction of his portrait but for the others as well, becomes filled with sorrow. He does not want to feel like an outcast anymore and desires a sense of belongingness to the rest of the night creatures. Out of embarrassment, Coyote slips away before the Great Spirit came again to council with them. This act also supports the theme of selfishness within the text. Much to the night creatures’ surprise, the Great Spirit does not hold a grudge against Coyote. The Great Spirit states, “The order of creation is already in place” (page 31 of pdf). The night creatures fail to understand this and continue to resent Coyote for his actions that cannot be undone. Coyote, sick with himself, howls in angst. Coyote is no longer allowed to join in any night creature celebrations. He has become a complete outcast to the rest of the group. He is sorrowful for what he has done because it has landed him in a lonely position. Perhaps he still has not grasped the dangers of selfishness. He mourns for his exile, but perhaps he is not truly sorry for what he has done.
Writer Dayton Edmonds and artist Micah Farritor display a Native American tale within the graphic Coyote and the Pebble. This text exemplifies the dangers of selfishness as well as explains how the stars in the sky came to be. The godlike figures take on both animal and human characteristics to describe the creation of the stars. The Great Mystery acts as an all-knowing figure who oversees the night creatures. The Great Mystery’s wisdom is displayed throughout the text. For example, after the destruction of the portraits the god states, “We cannot change what has happened. We cannot go back to last month, last week, or even five minutes ago” (page 32 of pdf) which also portrays Native American beliefs. The theme of the tale reminds one to not be selfish and provides the origin of the stars.
Edmonds, Dayton and Micah Farritor. “Coyote and the Pebbles.” pages 20-33. The Graphic Canon, Vol. 1. Editor Russ Kick. Publisher Seven Stories Press. 2012. New York.