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The Story of the Rabbit and the Coyote. Illustrated by Francisco Toledo, Adapted by Gloria and Víctor de la Cruz

I bought Cuento del Conejo y el Coyote illustrated by the artist Francisco Toledo when I was in Oaxaca in 1999 finishing up my novel. I’d first seen Toledo’s work about twelve years earlier when I was crashing in an apartment in Paris (yes!) that my friend Patricia was painting. The owner of the apartment was an art collector. I was immediately drawn to a book of Toledo’s graphics on his shelf. (Toledo had lived in Paris for awhile before returning to his hometown of Oaxaca.) I’ve always liked snakes, animals, reptiles, the erotic, mystery, surprise; and Toledo’s work has all of that.

This tale, told in Zapotec and Spanish, is about the prey outwitting the predator, a story as old as the hills and as current as The Road Runner and the Coyote. Beep! Beep! I have supplied an English translation.

You’ll get a better look at each graphics when you click on it.

This is a story my grandfather told me about the Rabbit and the Coyote. On the night of a full moon, the Rabbit entered a garden of chiles. It made him so happy that he hopped among the chiles picking the biggest ones to eat.

In the morning, the owner of the garden came to look after his chiles. He was surprised to see them trampled on the ground and recognized the tracks of the Rabbit among the plants. With some bee’s wax, he fashioned a dummy to trap it.

He put the dummy in the middle of the garden and went away. At dusk, the Rabbit returned and approached the figure to ask if he might have some chiles; but when he saw that the figure wasn’t paying any attention to him, he hit it with his front paws and they stayed in the wax, then he kicked with his hind paws and they got stuck too.

Early on the following day, the owner went to see if the rabbit was there, and found him stuck to the wax dummy. He put him in a net, carried him home, and started to heat a pot of water to cook the Rabbit.

From where he was, the Rabbit could see the Coyote approaching. “What are you doing there?” the Coyote asked him. The Rabbit answered: “The gentleman here wants me to marry his daughter. But I’m too young. Why don’t you stay in my place? Look! there is the water for the chocolate.”

When the farmer undid the net, he saw the Coyote. “You’re going to pay for this,” he said and threw him in the boiling water. The Coyote jumped out of there and angrily started to look for the Rabbit.

The Coyote was furious and followed the Rabbit’s tracks until he found him in a jícara tree. “Now I’m going to eat you,” he told the Rabbit.

The Rabbit knew the Coyote couldn’t tell a jícara (a hollow gourd) from a zapote (a sweet fruit). “Why do you want to eat me when there are all of these sweet zapotes here?” the Rabbit asked him. “Throw me one,” the Coyote told him without knowing that it was a jícara he was getting.

The jícara choked the Coyote and he fainted. When he came to a little later, he went to look for the Rabbit and found him resting against a rock on the edge of a hill. Seeing the Coyote, the Rabbit quickly put his paws against the rock and stayed like that saying: “Don’t eat me. If I don’t keep this rock from falling, the world is going to end. What you have to do is help me.”

The Rabbit told the Coyote to hold the rock while he went for help. The Coyote believed him and held it while the Rabbit ran off. Tired and angry the Coyote finally let go of the rock and went to look for the Rabbit.

“I’m going to eat you this time,” said the Coyote. “If you eat me who’s going to take care of the children in that school?” the Rabbit asked pointing to a hive of wasps. “Wouldn’t you like to do what I’m doing? As soon as you see one stick his head out, you can hit him.” The Coyote settled on the branch believing what the Rabbit had told him.

Scarcely had the rabbit gone, when the Coyote hit the hive with a stick. When all the wasps came out and chased him, he dived into a little water hole.

When it got dark, the Coyote found the rabbit on the edge of a little lake. He was going to eat him when the Rabbit said, “Why are you going to eat me, brother, when I’ve been waiting for you, so we could eat the cheese you see there?” He pointed at the moon reflected in the water.

“But we can’t eat the cheese until we have swallowed the whey that surrounds it.” The Rabbit said took the Coyote to the lake to drink. After awhile the Coyote said, “I can’t drink anymore.” “Just drink a little more and you will have the cheese,” said the Rabbit. When water was coming out of the Coyote’s eyes and ears, the Rabbit ran off and that made the Coyote even more furious.

The Rabbit knew of a ladder that would take him to the moon and he began to climb it.

When he got to the moon, he looked down and saw the Coyote searching for him in the sky. That’s why they say coyotes are always looking at the sky. This ends the story my grandfather told me.

One Comment

  1. Flora Sarker

    Wonderful story… no matter how small we are, but we can win if we have intellect…

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