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  1. Coyote Pedagogy is a term sometimes used to describe King’s writing strategies (Margery Fee and Jane Flick). Discuss your understanding of the role of Coyote in the novel.

Coyote is one of the more intriguing characters in this novel, and also in the spectrum of readings that we have had in this course.  In Green Grass Running Water he is positioned as the creator, or at the least present when the world began.  He plays a pivotal role in the novel, by this I mean he is always present, but often outside of the regular narrative.  I read his appearance as an ‘outsider’ to be King’s commentary on the ignorance of the ‘new spiritual powers’ (western religions) to recognize the pedagogy of the first nations traditional teachings.  Though King challenges this notion with the conversation between Coyote and Dog, and further illustrates when Dog, who refers to himself as god, who asserts that he wishes to be the more important figure.  In paralleling Coyote and Dog, he positions Coyote as the First Nations equivalent of the creator to juxtapose the christian equivalent in god.  You can draw further parallels in the chaos that Coyote has attributed to his actions, and the fact that water, symbolizing great floods, appears wherever Coyote appears.  This appears to be an obvious reference to the biblical flooding that is attributed to the will of god.

Coyote is almost always referred to as a catalyst, and true to form, he is present at the climax of the novel when the dam finally breaks.  It should also be mentioned that the other four characters of note, the old ‘Indians’ choose Western names to identify themselves.  This notion is presented in a manner that shows the adaptability of the First Nations people in accepting and absorbing new and strange structures into their worlds.  In contrast to this, Coyote does not assume any western name, he simply is Coyote.  This sets him somewhat above the rest, if a hierarchy were to be constructed.  Though it appears that his travelling companions at times are annoyed with Coyote, there constant references to his placement during key events in the history of the world actually state Coyote’s claim to be of an ancient race, and assert his importance in creation.  This conforms with the duality that Coyote represents; on one hand he is a pivotal figure in creation stories, yet by his very nature he needs to be handled with care, for his actions often lead to unforeseen events.

Coyote represents the bridge between old and new traditions.  He remains active and relevant in current events as they happen, but at the same time his involvement in the early history of the world is repetitively confirmed.  Coyote is the character that enhances the relevance of the modern narrative in the novel, while still affirming the traditional First Nations belief structures and traditions.

 

4 Comments

  1. Hi Sean,

    I liked your analysis of Coyote throughout the novel; I agree that King’s ignorance is being supported by the commentary of the new spiritual powers. You did a really good job of analyzing how Coyote represents both historical and modern traditions in your blog. My question for you is that do you think the depiction of Coyote in the novel challenges Western ideology regarding the notion of god? Good job on your blog, best of luck.

    Deepak

    • Hi Deepak,

      That is a very interesting question, and for a short answer to it I say yes. Coyote is said to have not only been there, but asleep, at the time that the world is created. Both he and old woman appear to be complete and established entities prior to the beginning of the ‘christian’ narrative. Even the aloof nature of Coyote, as he appears to be always present but unconcerned with the outcomes in the story, stands as a juxtaposition to the vain and overly concerned ‘god’ character in GGRW. The second clear indicator is that King first introduces ‘god’ as the creation of dream that Coyote was having. I believe this also points to the fact that Coyote was an earlier entity than ‘god’ in the scheme of world creation.

  2. Hi Sean,

    I really like the point you made about Coyote being the bridge between old and new traditions. In being this bridge, it seems to me that he is not only the catalyst for the creation of new things, but also the support of the existence of the “old” things. The truth is, traditions and culture will inevitably change as time passes, and although it is important to remember and preserve parts of the old traditions, it is also important to embrace the new. I wonder if Coyote being a catalyst is significant in that he is helping everyone to embrace change, by forcing such changes through his seemingly destructive actions?

    Thank you again for your post!

    Cheers,

    Amelia

    • Hi Amelia,

      I would tend to agree with your point. It is possible to ascertain through the direct dialogue we have from past First Nations story telling that the meaning of the story is often buried in the subtext of the narrative. What I mean by this is that often the message in the story is not stated outright, but it is expected that the reader, or audience extracts the meanings from with the presentation. This describes Coyote to a ‘T’. He is seemingly ever-present, but rarely is credited with any direct-role other than the seemingly constant chaos that surrounds him. The audience is than forced to see the significance of Coyote, and recognize the importance of his role both in First Nations “mythology” and the creation of the world.

      I hope this satisfies your question/comment.


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