In the earliest part of the Beginning Times the Creative Spirit was lonely. The animals he made flourished, spreading further across the land with each generation. The Manitous did their jobs as well as he hoped, watching over cycles of life, death, and seasons with constant vigilance. The mortal beings and immortal spirits offered their affections, but this did not satisfy him. He wanted children more like himself, carrying the spark of awareness and capable of inspiring him with their imaginations.
He spent a longer time making each of these new beings than he did any of their predecessors. They carried the best traits of the older children. He gave them the beautiful diversity of forms found in the animals, and made them able to live with him forever like the Manitous. To make them even more special, he set them apart by blending their appearance with the physical form that felt most natural to him when he left his spirit body to walk across the earth.
The children's bodies were the easy part. After he finished with each one he set him or her aside, locked in a peaceful sleep. Their minds were a haze of instincts gathered from the species they mirrored, empty of personality. The Creative Spirit sat beside each one, placed his hands on the child's head, and called upon his Power to fill the child with unique talents and ways of thinking. Despite his strength of will, much of the process remained a mystery to him. He could only begin molding the personality before it slipped away from him, still connected to the pool of Power he used to create life, and finished forming on its own. He could not predict what kind of person each child would be, and the possibilities delighted him.
He stepped back and gave them one last look. He found what he saw good, and decided to name his new children Animal Spirits. For a final touch he altered his own appearance. He added wrinkles to his smooth brown skin and drained the color from his hair. They would wear the same youthful faces no matter what time passed, and to them he would always be a wise old man.
The Creative Spirit breathed awareness into them and they awoke. The Animal Spirits stood upright and scanned their world with wide eyes, twitching noses, and swiveling ears.
The creator spread his arms and smiled upon them. "My children! I have waited so long to meet you. The world I bring you into is beautiful, but with your help it can become even more so. Each of you Animal Spirits has a species to care for. The animals survive, but all is not well for them. They could be living better lives. Study them. Find ways to change them that will bring greater balance and beauty into the world."
A gray and white form leapt above the heads of the others and waved its arms.
The Creative Spirit chuckled. "Do you have a question, Coyote?"
Coyote shoved his way through the crowd to the front and fixed the creator with curious brown eyes. "Why?"
The Creative Spirit patted him on the head. "Because bringing beauty into the world is the greatest goal a person can aspire to. When you love someone, that is beautiful. Harmony is beautiful. Shape, color, new ideas- there are so many different forms beauty can take. This task I give you is only the beginning."
"Because, each of you has a unique set of talents, and this will encourage you to find them."
"Because I made you to share the world with me and, as my special children, this means bringing changes to it."
"Because things should not stay the same. Change is another form of beauty."
"Because I said so! Go now, and learn about coyotes. You may make changes on your own or consult with me first. If your changes do not make life more difficult for the animals, they will be set for future generations. I look forward to seeing the fruits of your imagination."
Coyote's ears drooped. Asking "why" was so much fun he wished he never had to stop. He ran away from his father and disappeared into the forest.
The other Animal Spirits set out to find ways to impress their father. The Creative Spirit visited them on occasion to check their progress and offer critique. He loved each one, but his duties to the world consumed most of his time. After a quick chat he moved on to the next task, whether his children still wanted to spend time with him or not.
Coyote was different. He did not bother to look for coyotes. He figured that if they looked as handsome as he did they should be fine. While the others worked he searched for more interesting things to do. He discovered that bugs make gooey crunching sounds when a rock lands on them. He found the softest kind of dirt for digging. He learned that rolling on dead animals was not as enjoyable as the strange feelings in his head told him it would be.
After several visits the Creative Spirit had little patience left for him. He found Coyote lying on his belly in a field of dandelions and leaned over him with a scowl. "Why are you ignoring me? My other children have done so many things to make me happy."
Coyote smashed a fluffy white dandelion and watched the seeds poof out from beneath his paw. "I'm not them. I can still make you happy, though. Watch this!"
He breathed in until his lungs felt like they would pop and then blew on the puffballs spread before him. A flurry of seeds washed over the Creative Spirit.
The creator wiped scraps of white fuzz from his face and deepened his scowl. "I will not tolerate disrespect. If you do not have something to show me by the time of my next visit, you will be punished."
Coyote sulked for a few days while he tried to decide what to do. Part of him was curious about what the punishment would be, but the other part of him was frightened. Fear won out in the end and he went looking for his first coyotes.
He found a male and a female digging a den. The male was a scrawny creature with half an ear missing, and the female had a comically fat belly. Both were gray with lighter undersides, and they had blunt ears and muzzles. They looked like smaller, scrappier versions of wolves. Coyote was not terribly impressed, but at least he now had an idea to work with.
None of the Animal Spirits worked harder than Wolf. Whenever they visited he boasted and showed them the latest pelt he had painted. The Creative Spirit held him up as an example to the others, praising him for the variety of colors and patterns he designed for his wolves. The solution Coyote reached was simple. If Wolf's work made the creator happy, it was just the thing his coyotes needed.
Coyote waited until Wolf left his cave to go hunting, and then snuck in. The cave was a marvel of organized chaos. Pelts covered every wall, some a simple gray and white, others painted with multiple layers of colors. Brushes, charcoal, and bowls of pigment were scattered across the floor. A pile of furs was crammed into the back for a bed.
An unpleasant new feeling stirred in Coyote. While he was out exploring and sleeping in the cold under the stars, Wolf had made a home for himself and filled it with interesting things. For some reason the sight made him agitated. Coyote took the fur blankets, and that made some of the new feeling go away. He picked a pelt with shades of gray, white, black, and light brown. Two pieces of amber were sewn into the eye slits. He added a knife to his selection, and then trotted back to the den.
Coyote cut the pelt down to size. He tossed it onto the scrawny male coyote while his mate poked her head out of the den to watch. The coyote stared at him with dull, animal eyes and panted. Coyote waited. The pelt stretched and wrapped around the animal, which didn't seem to mind. The amber eyes sunk into place and the transformation was complete.
Coyote beamed and wrapped his arms around its neck for a hug. "You're gorgeous!"
It gave him a blank stare, which he decided to accept as a thank-you. He let go and snapped his fingers. The female's coat and eyes changed, with subtle differences in color compared to the male. He snapped his fingers again and his own eyes and gray and white coat matched theirs. With a lightness of heart that came with a job well done (emphasis on done), he dashed away to find something more fun to do.
The next day the Creative Spirit called his children together for a meeting. Coyote arrived late and found all eyes on him. He wagged his bushy, black-tipped tail and smiled at the crowd. "Hey everyone, what'cha doin'?"
Wolf flattened his ears against his head and snarled. "Thief!"
Scattered voices rose, climbed over each other, fed on each other. Even those who did not like Wolf found the confrontation exciting.
The Creative Spirit's voice boomed thunder-loud. "Enough! Coyote, come here."
Everyone cowered at the sound and slunk aside to let Coyote through. They had never heard their father yell before.
Coyote had made something new and unsettling happen. He thought about this while he walked to his father's side. It fascinated him.
The Creative Spirit grabbed hold of his scruff. He wanted to pretend that nothing was wrong, but the pain made him whine and his tail curled between his legs.
The creator looked into the crowd and shook Coyote. "My children, Coyote has done a shameful thing. I have spoken to each of you about doing your own work and respecting the work of others. He can make no excuses for his behavior. As punishment, he and his coyotes will keep Wolf's pelt. Every time you see them you will remember his dishonor and know that stealing is wrong."
He vanished with a gust of wind and Coyote fell, landing on his backside. Wolf laughed, rasping like a rockslide. The Animal Spirits dispersed in pairs or small groups, talking in hushed tones. Some shot Coyote a disapproving glance before leaving.
Coyote sat on his smarting rear for a long time and pondered what had just happened. The Creative Spirit said he should feel ashamed, but he felt a strange new joy instead. Everyone was looking at him. Talking about him. Paying attention to him. He decided that he never wanted to wander away and play on his own again.
The wind tickled his ear and the creator's voice spoke from it. "I still expect to see some original work from you."
Coyote grinned. "Sure thing!"
The next day he returned to the den and found the male coyote sunning at the entrance. He poked and prodded at the confused canine, picturing possible changes. He tugged on the coyote's ears, and an idea came to him. With a yank they stretched, and he got a good laugh out of it. Next he wrapped a paw around its muzzle and squeezed it long and pointed. He laughed harder. The coyote cocked its head and yipped.
Coyote clasped his paws together. "Of course! Thanks for the suggestion. Now, pay close attention."
He taught them a new song, then changed his face to match theirs and rushed off to find the Creative Spirit. When the creator returned and saw the new coyotes he scowled.
Coyote grinned and scratched each of them behind the ear. "Bigger ears to find more mice. Longer noses for sticking down rat holes. Did I do good?"
The Creative Spirit narrowed his eyes and studied them for a few moments with new perspective. "It is acceptable."
Coyote wagged his tail. "Great! I haven't shown you the best part though. I taught them to sing a song in your honor."
He yipped and yowled until the coyotes joined in. When they got going long enough a word seemed to emerge from their howling.
Wh… wh… wh… whyyyy?
The Creative Spirit groaned. He vanished into the wind.
Coyote felt happier than ever. He still liked Wolf's coat, but there was a different kind of satisfaction in the ideas he came up with on his own. Since stealing and doing things for himself both felt good, he decided he would keep doing both.
He left the coyotes to raise their pups and ran off to find the nearest Animal Spirit to share his ideas with.