Monday, September 13, 2010


[The following is the Karuk text of a story that was tape-recorded with Julia Starritt at Orleans in summer 1950. It is presented in here in the "ethnopoetic" format of measured verse pioneered by Dell Hymes in his book In Vain I Tried to Tell You (Philadelphia, 1981). An English version was published as "A Karok myth in measured verse", in W. Bright, American Indian Linguistics and Literature, 91–100 (Berlin, 1984). The present interlinear analysis was prepared for a lecture at the Free University, Berlin, Germany, in November 1999.]

Act 1: The center of the world.
Scene 1. Coyote.
Coyote went upriver long ago to bring back fire.
They had stolen the fire, the upriver people.
And people were all just freezing,when it was gone here, the fire.
“Let me bring it back, the fire.
“I know how I can retrieve it.”
(The Karuk speaker said, “pa ni (kupa—) p ├╗ukeev ish.”
“ the ethnopoetic:" DET 1S REP retrieve FUT)

Scene 2. Coyote and the runners.

And so then he arranged them, the people, he arranged all the swiftest people.
And he told them:“You sit a little bit upriver, and the next one sit a bit farther upriver”
finally they arrived upriver, they arrived at the upriver peoples’ country.
And to the first, Frog, he said, “Sit on the riverbank.”
And uphill—on the mountain-top, he said, “Turtle, sit here.”

Act II. Recovering the fire.

Scene 1. Traveling upriver. Coyote and the children.
And so that’s how they went upriver.
And Coyote arrived upriver.
And he saw it was deserted.
And he saw there were fires, there were forest fires, up in the mountains.
And he went in a house.
And he saw only children were there.
And he said:“Where are they?
“Where are the men?”
And the children said,"They’re hunting in the mountains.”
And he said,“I’m lying down right here,
“I’m tired.”

And he said to the children, “Let me paint your faces!
“Come on, let me paint your faces!
“You’ll look pretty thatway!”
And the children said, “Maybe he’s Coyote.”
They were saying that to each other.
And they said to him, to Coyote,
“Maybe you’re Coyote, your ears are pink.”

And he said, “No.
“I don’t even know that, where Coyote is.”
And he said:“Let me paint your faces!”
And he painted their faces.
And when he painted all
the children’s faces then he said,
“See, I’ve set water down right here, take a look in there.”

“But I’m lying down right here, I’m tired.”
In fact, he had stuck fir bark in his toes.
And then he stuck his foot in the fire.
And then finally it caught fire, it became a coal, it turned into a coal.
And then he jumped up back up.

Scene 2. Coyote returns downriver.

And he jumped back outdoors.
And he ran back downriver,
And when he got tired, then he gave the fire to the next person.
And that one too began to run.
And up in the mountains, where there had fires, then they all went out.
And then people said, “Why, they’ve taken it back, “our fire!”

Act III. Returning to the center of the world.

Scene 1. The runners.

And so the (upriver) people ran downhill.
And (Coyote’s) people ran down from upriver; one gave it to another, he gave it to the next.
Whenever a person got tired, he gave it to another one.
Finally they ran back here from upriver.
And they ran back here behind them, the upriver people did.
And so Turtle, where he sat at the end on a hilltop, then they gave it to him, the fire.

Scene 2. Turtle and Frog.

And so he began to roll, he rolled down to the river,
he rolled to a stop on the riverbank.
And there where Frog sat, then he gave it to her, the fire.
So they ran downhill just above her, the upriver people.
And then where did she go?
Frog was nowhere to be seen, where had she run to?
In fact she had dived into the river.
And suddenly, across river, then there was smoke, suddenly the dogs barked.
There humans had come into existence; dogs were howling.
"Traditional stories of related tribes like the Shasta and Yurok tribes are very similar."

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