Aztec / Mayan:


Why the Fox has a Huge Mouth

One day many years ago, at a time when his mouth was still small and dainty, as in fact it used to be, the fox was out walking and happened to notice a huaychao singing on a hilltop. Fascinated by the bird's flute-like bill, he said politely, "What a lovely flute, friend Huaychao, and how well you play it! Could you let me try it? I'll give it back in a moment, I promise."

The bird refused. But the fox was so insistent that at last the huaychao lent him its bill, advising him to sew up his lips except for a tiny opening so that the 'flute' would fit just right.

Then the fox began to play. He played on and on without stopping. After a while the huaychao asked for its bill back, but still the fox kept on. The bird reminded him, "You promised. Besides, I only use it from time to time; you're playing it constantly." But the fox pain no attention and kept right on.

Awakened by the sound of the flute, skinks came out of their burrows and climbed up the hill in a bustling throng. When they saw the fox playing, they began to dance.

At the sight of the dancing skunks, the fox burst out laughing. As he laughed, his lips became unstitched. His mouth tore open and kept on tearing until he was grinning from ear to ear. Before the fox could regain his composure, the huaychao had picked up his bill and flown away. To this day the fox has a huge mouth - as punishment for breaking his promise.

The Dancing Fox

Foxes love to dance. They dance in the dark with young women who slip quietly from their beds and come running out into the night.

But the fox who dances must wear a disguise. He must hide his long, bushy tail. He must wrap it around him and stuff it inside his trousers, though when he does he is really too warm. He perspires. Yet still he is able to dance.

Now, one of these foxes was young and amorous, and he never missed the nightly dancing. Toward morning, however, as the cock began to crow, he would always hurry away.

This fine fox was a subtle flatterer, a favorite with all the young women. Each of them wanted to dance with him. And as it happened, one or another would sometimes feel slighted and grow resentful.

One of them once, in a fit of pique, drew her companions aside and pointed out that the fox always left before dawn. Who was he? And why did he run away?

The young woman wondered. Then they made up their minds to catch him and hold him until it was daylight.

The next night, when it was fully dark, they made their circle and began to dance. Soon the fox appeared, as usual disguised as a young man in shirt and trousers. Suspecting nothing, he danced and sang. The girls made him heady with their caresses, and he became more spirited and more flattering than ever.

As soon as the cock crowed, he started to leave. "No, no," they all cried, "don't go! Not yet! The cock crows six times. You can stay till the fifth."

The dancing continued, and there were more caresses. The fox forgot that he had to leave, and at last the white light of dawn appeared. Frightened, he tried to flee. But the young women held him. They entangled him in their arms. Then suddenly, with a growl, he bit their hands, leaped over their heads, and ran.

As he leaped, his trousers ripped open and out flew his tail. The girls all shrieked with laughter. They called after him and mocked him as he ran out of sight, his long, bushy tail waving between his legs. Then he disappeared and was seen no more. He never came back again.

Kajortoq, the Red Fox

One Summer day, Kajortoq, the red fox, left her brood of cubs in the den and went out in search of something to eat. On a vast plain she met Aklaq, the brown bear, and said: "Cousin, it has been a long time since I last saw you! What is the matter with you?"

"I am hungry," replied Aklaq.

"Me too. I really am," said Kajortoq. "Letís hunt together. You go this way and I shall go that way."

"There is nothing this way but ptarmigan," complained Aklaq, "and they are afraid of me. Every time I get close to them they fly away."

"It is easy for me to catch them," remarked the fox. "But," she added, "I am afraid of men."

"I am not afraid of men," said Aklaq, "but I am unable to catch ptarmigan."

"In that case," declared Kajortoq, "wait for me here; I shall go and get you some ptarmigan. I shall not be long."

Aklaq waited and Kajortoq soon returned with a few ptarmigan. The brown bear was full of joy and thanked his companion again and again. He was very hungry and ate the ptarmigan at once. When he had finished he said, "You were very kind to bring me some ptarmigan. In return I shall now bring you a man. Wait for me here."

Kajortoq waited but the bear took a long time to return, and when he did arrive he had no man. Instead he staggered along; he was losing blood and behind him the ground was red. A man had shot an arrow at him and had wounded him in the side. The shaft of the arrow had broken and the point remained in the flesh.

Kajortoq sympathized: "Cousin, I feel sorry for you. Let me take care of you." Kajortoq built a stone fireplace, lit a fire, and heated some stones.

"Stretch out here," she told the bear. "Stretch your legs and even if I hurt you, do not move. If you stir, you will die because I shall not be ale to remove the arrow."

The bear stretched on the ground. The fox took a red hot stone from the fire and applied it to the wound pushing harder and harder on it. Aklaq moaned and howled with pain, but soon the howls stopped; he was dead.

Kajortoq stood on her hind legs and danced around the bear, laughing loudly: "I can brag to myself. No one could do this but I. I have enough to eat for a long time." The fox did not return to her lair but remained at this place for the duration of the summer, feeding herself on the meat of the bear.

When winter came she had run out of provisions. The bear had all been eaten; there was nothing left but the bones. She placed them in a pile and buried them under some boulders.

A while later she saw Amaroq, the wolf, coming toward her and went to meet him. "How are you, cousin?"

"Not too well," answered Amaroq, "I am very hungry."

"Have confidence in me," said Kajortoq. "I shall show you what you have to do to get some food. Do you see that river in front of us?" She pointed to a nearby river covered with a thin coating of ice. Here and there water could be seen through holes in the ice.

"Go over there," suggested Kajortoq. "Try to catch come trout. I am going to make you a fish hook. All you have to do is sit near the hole, tie the hook to your tail and let it sink to the bottom. Remain seated and do not move until the sun sets. At that time you will pull in your hook. There will be a trout caught on it. Believe me, that is how I caught mine."

The wolf sat beside the hole without moving. Meanwhile, the red fox set out along the shore saying that she was going to look for something to eat. Instead she hid behind a small hill to watch the wolf, but being careful that he not see her.

Amaroq stayed where he was for the entire day, confidently awaiting the results of his fishing. By the time the sun had reached the west he realized he had caught nothing. He growled in anger, "Kajortoq lied to me. I am going to run after her and eat her!"

He tried to get up but his tail was stuck to the ice. He pulled on it again and again until all of a sudden it came free; his tail had broken. Frothing with rage and bleeding profusely, the wolf searched the plain for traces of Kajortoq. The fox, however, had slipped away to hide in her hole.

The wolf soon discovered her den and cried, "Come out of your hole so that I can eat you!"

"What are you saying?" answered Kajortoq, sticking her head out of her den to look. As she did so she bent her head to one side and kept one of her eyes closed. "I have never seen you before. What do you want?"

"You deceived me today and I have lost my tail. Now I am going to eat you!"

"I know nothing about that," replied Kajortoq emerging from her hole. "Did you ask that red fox over there? It must be him. I heard someone pass my door a little while ago."

Impatiently, the wolf left Kajortoq to run after the other red fox. Kajortoq saw him go and kept watching until the wolf fell from his wound. By the next morning, having lost all of his blood, Amaroq was dead. Kajortoq stood up on her hind legs and started dancing in circles around him. "I can boast to myself. No one could do this but I."

She lived on the wolf all of that winter. When she had eaten all his flesh, she made a pile of the bones and went elsewhere in search of food.

One day she saw coming toward her a brown female bear who looked larger and more terrifying than any bear Kajortoq had ever seen.

The bear addressed the fox angrily. "Did you know my son? He left last spring to hunt but he did not come back. I have found his bones near this hill."

I know nothing about it," answered Kajortoq. "I did not see him. I shall follow you and you can show me where his bones are."

They left together. The fox recognized the place where she had killed Aklaq. Seeing that the female bear was crying Kajortoq pretended to be full of sorrow.

"Tears wonít help you," she told the mother bear. "I believe I know who killed your son. Wait here awhile for me."

Kajortoq climbed to the top of a hill. From this vantage point she looked in all directions and saw another brown bear. She returned in haste to the female bear and said, "The one who killed your son is over there. Go and attack him. He is big and strong but I shall help you."

While the bears fought Kajortoq jumped around pretending to help. In fact, she only spattered blood on her hair. At length the female bear killed the other bear. The turned to the fox and said gratefully, "You helped me, thank you. Take all this meat. I am tired and wounded and do not want any of it." The bear started homeward, but died of her wounds before she was out of sight.

Kajortoq once again danced for joy and was happy. The two bears would provide plenty of meat for a long time to come.