Coyote and Turtle Story is a tale told by Tim F. Salinas of the Navajo tribe. It was uploaded to on December 10, 2006. It is currently unknown where the performance was recorded. It was recorded in 2003 for Pasadena City College.

Transcription of PerformanceEdit

Video Script
Coyote and Turtle Story

Coyote and Turtle Story

<chanting and drum beating in background>
One night, Baby Turtle was very hungry so he decided to leave the safety of the river in search of food.

Soon he found a sweet cactus fruiting seeds.

Baby Turtle wandered alone, eating and laughing.

The mighty sun rose and began to beat down upon the desert.

When Baby Turtle finally looked up from his meal, he realized that he was lost.

Baby Turtle <flute begins> began to cry.

Hungry Coyote heard the crying <stop flute> and went to investigate. Coyote found Baby Turtle hiding under a sage bush and quickly made plans for dinner.

"That was a pretty song you were singing. Please continue while I build a big fire to cook you in." "I wasn't singing. Anyway, my shell is way too hard. Even the hottest fire can't penetrate it."

"Well then, I'll take you to the top of the highest plateau and drop you on the rocks below."

"Pff! I've already told you. My shell is so thick that I will simply bounce off the rocks and escape."

Coyote thought long and hard about how to get Baby Turtle into his belly.

"I'll take you to the river, drown you, and then I'll eat you."

"Oh no, please not drown me in the river. Anything but that!"

"Ha! I knew it." <flute begins>

<muffled>"Please keep singing, it's very nice".<stop flute>

"I'm not singing." <flute begins>

Soon he arrived at the river, and Coyote dropped Baby Turtle into the water. <flute stop>

"Silly Coyote. Thanks for bringing me home."

Coyote had been tricked by Baby Turtle. He became so angry that he jumped in the river, but the current was strong and it swept Coyote down the stream.

Baby Turtle was safe at last and never strayed far from the river banks again.<chanting stop>

Source: YouTube permalink
Source: Transcribed from multiple viewings of the video.


Baby Turtle, swimming in the river, gets hungry and leaves the river to find some food. After getting lost, he tricks Coyote into bringing him back to the river.

Approach : Performance Theory Edit

Performance Theory
Keys to Performance:
  1. Special codes
  2. Figurative language
  3. Parallelism
  4. Special formulas
  5. Appeal to tradition
  6. Disclaimers of performance
  7. Other
HROPAll Approaches

Using the Performance Theory of Oral Tradition, one looks at each performance as an event and attempts to look at the importance of all aspects of the performance such as words spoken, actions performed, and instruments used, called "keys to performance". (Foley 2002) Because there are no definite keys, it is up to the studier to determine what the keys are. This may prove a difficult task because each key has to have a significance to the performance. Without the keys, the performance would cease to be a representation of the tradition.

Some keys may be audible, such as the unique voices for both Baby Turtle and Coyote, the chanting and drum beating in the background, the occasional flute sound, and the inflection generally tracked by ethnopoetics. The unique voices are useful not only because they distinguish who is speaking for the audience's ease of comprehension, and it also makes the experience more entertaining for younger audiences. While Coyote sometimes participates in adult oriented stories, traditions often use stories as educational tools, and while their culture may view reproduction as less taboo as western cultures, this story of Coyote and Turtle is relatively tame subject matter. (Erdoes and Ortiz 1998) Because this is a reproduction of a very old tradition, it is assumed the story was first told in the Navajo's native tongue. (Bright 1978) Also, because all we currently have to observe is an audio "fossil" with a cartoon played simultaneously, we do not know if the chanting and drum was performed live with the telling of the story, or added later on the computer. Ideally, Tim Salins uploaded a fair representation of the Navajo tradition. The same can be said for the occasional flute noise, which seems to add an effect to Baby Turtle's crying and later suspense, something a written transcription could never accurately portray. (Tedlock 1999) All of these audible tend to fall into the "disclaimers of performance".

Non-audible keys to performance includes both visual and contextual keys. Because no visual "clues" are available, it can only be postulated that perhaps puppets are used to portray this story. If this were true, the use of puppets would be a key to performance. The textual keys to performance could include the apparent lack of figurative language, special formulas of story framework, the appeal to tradition and use of stock characters, and the disclaimer of performance by starting the performance with a reference to time.

Apparent Lack of Figurative LanguageEdit

Native American traditions tend to tell straight stories with very little figurative language. (Thompson 1929) Because their heritage stresses a high importance on nature, stories tend to represent natural events exactly how they happen. The only events that would not happen in real life would be the anthropomorphic animals.

Appeal to TraditionEdit

The apparent lack of figurative language seems like it could also be classified in the "tradition" of Navajo or Native American stories, but on a second thought all keys to performance are aspects of the tradition. What exactly does "appeal to tradition" mean in this light? Using stock characters is placed here because it has no other category to fall within, but is still an important piece of the tradition. Without the stock characters, the stories would not be as effective because characterization would take much longer to establish. This proposes a difficulty to stories that usually take only a few minutes to tell. (Bright 1993)

Special FormulasEdit

The use of special formulas in this story seems to be difficult to find due to the straight forward style of the story. Ironically, the straight forward style is one of the special formulas that is accepted as a key to performance. Similar to stock characters, Native American stories tend to follow a structured path. The story is a trickster story, which is made known by the appearance of Coyote. Trickster stories always have a lying character who attempts to deceive another character, and a lesson is learned for both an animal (usually Coyote), or the audience. Lessons are learned in nearly all Native American stories, such as how the world was made to rules of conduct.

Disclaimers of PerformanceEdit

In addition to the audible disclaimers of performance listed and discussed above, the story starts with a reference to time. Native Americans place an important focus on the seasons and time, as well as astrological occurrences. Many stories are started with an establishment of time, and later place. Usually the location of the story is familiar to the peoples who told it, in this case Navajo. (Thompson 1929)

Further AnalysisEdit

Like other Native American stories, the story of Coyote and Turtle has a lesson to the audience. (Bright 1993) Not only does the audience learn why turtles always remain near rivers, but also have the opportunity to learn a tale similar to that of the tale of Brier Rabbit. Children may also learn that it is not wise to stray to far away from where you are safe, and this lesson is directed toward children by making the turtle a baby turtle, which also shows his inexperience of straying from the river. All oral traditions serve a purpose for their culture, and besides entertainment, this story teaches many lessons.

The ethnopoetic approach would apply to this story quite well, and it is always a good idea and recommendation to approach any tradition or performance with all three approaches. It is never a good idea to limit the ways to study something worth while of studying.

Further ThoughtEdit

See Talk:Coyote and Turtle Story for questions to think about and discuss.

External LinksEdit

  Twbtg2's Project on Native American Trickster Stories edit

Navigation: Twbtg2 - Abstract - Table of Contents - All Articles - Suggested Routes - Sources
Elements: Trickster story type - Coyote - List and maps of Native American tribes
Stories: The Coyote & The Prairie Dog - Coyote and Junco - Coyote and Turtle Story - Coyote Races Buffalo - Coyote Steals a Drink - Don't Be Too Curious - Rabbit's Short Tail
Approaches: Ethnopoetics - Performance Theory - Immanent Art - All
Sources: American Indian Trickster Tales - Calvin Grinnell Interview - A Coyote Reader - Coyote Stories - Finding the Center - How to Read an Oral Poem - Inconstant Companions - Tales of the North American Indians - The Telling of the World - All

The Video Lover Route

Coyote and Turtle StoryCoyote Races BuffaloRabbit's Short TailThe Coyote & The Prairie DogSourcesOther Routes

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