Pacific NW: Tallapus and the Cedar

The "rays of Tomanowos" that you will read about in this story are connected to a meteorite that fell to earth and was preserved by the people of the Willamette Valley. This meteorite, called "Tomanowos" in the native tradition, is also known as the "Willamette Meteorite," and you can read more about that in this article online, Willamette Meteorite Agreement, and also at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Pacific Northwest unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of the Pacific Northwest, especially of Washington and Oregon, by Katharine Berry Judson (1910).

Tallapus and the Cedar

ONCE Tallapus was travelling from the country of the Tillimooks to the country of the Clatsops. Tallapus made himself a coyote. Tallapus passed the mountains and headlands of the coast. Then he followed the trail through the deep woods. 

As he was travelling along, Tallapus saw an immense cedar. The inside was hollow. He could see it through a big gap which opened and closed. The gap opened and closed as the tree swayed in the wind. Tallapus cried, "Open, Cedar Tree!"

Then the tree opened. Tallapus jumped inside. He said, "Shut, Cedar Tree!" Then the tree closed. Tallapus was shut inside the tree.

After a while Tallapus said, "Open, Cedar Tree!" Then the tree opened. Tallapus stepped out of it. The tree was a very strange one. So Tallapus told the tree to open, and jumped inside. Then he told it to close. Tallapus did this many times.

At last Tallapus was inside the tree. Tallapus said, "Open, Cedar Tree!" The tree did not answer. Tallapus was angry. He called to the tree. He kicked the tree. The tree did not answer.

Then Tallapus remembered that he was Coyote, the wisest and cunningest of all animals. Then Tallapus began to think. After he thought, Tallapus called the birds to help him. He told them to peck a hole through Cedar Tree.

The first was Wren. Wren pecked and pecked at the great cedar until her bill was blunted. But Wren could not even make a dent. Therefore Tallapus called her Wren.

Then Tallapus called the other birds. Sparrow came, Robin came, Finch came, but they could not even break the heavy bark. So Tallapus gave each a name and sent them away.

Then Owl came, and Raven, and Hawk, and Eagle. They could not make even a little hole. So Tallapus gave each a name and sent them away.

Then he called Little Woodpecker. Finally Little Woodpecker made a tiny hole. Then big Yellow Hammer came and pecked a large hole. But the hole was too small for Tallapus. So he saw there was no help from the birds.

Then Tallapus remembered again that he was Coyote, the wisest and cunningest of all the animals. Then Tallapus began to think.  After he thought, Tallapus began to take himself apart.

He took himself apart and slipped each piece through Yellow Hammer's hole. First he slipped a leg through, then a paw, then his tail, then his ears, and his eyes, until he was through the hole, and out-side the cedar tree. Then Tallapus began to put himself together. He put his legs and paws together, then his tail, his nose, his ears, then his body.

At last Tallapus put himself together again except his eyes. He could not find his eyes. Raven had seen them on the ground. Raven had stolen them.

So Tallapus, the Coyote, the wisest and cunningest of all animals, was blind. But Tallapus did not want the animals to know he was blind. Tallapus smelled a wild rose. He found the bush and picked two rose leaves. He put the rose leaves in place of his eyes. Then Tallapus travelled on, feeling his way along the trail.

Soon he met a squaw. Squaw began to jeer: "Oh, ho, you seem to be very blind."

"Oh, no," said Tallapus, "I am measuring the ground. I can see better than you can. I can see Tomanowos' rays." Squaw was greatly astonished. Tallapus pretended to see wonderful things at a great distance.

Squaw said, "I wish I could see Tomanowos'  rays."

Tallapus said, "Change eyes with me. Then you can see Tomanowos' rays." So Tallapus and Squaw traded eyes. Tallapus took Squaw's eyes and gave her the rose leaves. Then Tallapus could see as well as ever. Squaw could see nothing.

Tallapus said, "For your folly you must always be a snail. You must creep. You must feel your way on the ground." Ever since that time snails have been blind. They have to creep slowly over the ground.

(700 words)

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