[Lexicog] "googly" and metaphors of deception

Fritz Goerling Fritz_Goerling at SIL.ORG
Sun May 23 10:44:43 UTC 2004


That is an interesting inversal of roles: the coyote not just as the
trickster but also the fool. Probably as the trickster tricked.
That also happens in African "rabbit" stories where the rabbit
is tricked by the squirrel or spider once in a while.
Here is a Western European "jewel." It is the translation of the French
poet Lafontaine's famous poem "The Raven and the Fox". The translation
was done by a friend who wants to stay anonymous:


Master* Raven perched on a tree,
   was holding in his beek a bit of cheese.
Master Fox, attracted by a milky odor,
   expressed himself something like this:
     "Hey! Good afternoon, most illustrious Raven.
      You're so pretty! You're so beautiful to me!
          No lie! If your song
          matches up to your plumage,
You'll be the Phoenix** of the forest dwellers!"
With those words the Raven felt no joy.***
      And to show his beautiful voice
  He opened his large beak, and let fall his prey.
The Fox seized it and said: "My good man.
          You must learn that every flatterer
           lives at the expense of the one who listens:
This lesson applies well to a bit of cheese, no doubt."****

The Raven, humiliated and confused,
swore, but just a little late, never to be tricked again.

*Master: name actually reserved for lawyers, notaries, attornies,
 but was widely used from the Middle Ages to the 17th century to
 refer to people of average means.
**"Phoenix": fabulous bird, the only one of its kind, who after a century
of life, dies being consumed by fire, then is reborn immediately from
its ashes. By extension: to be unique of its kind; to be the most
***"Felt no joy": lose the feeling of the effect of joy, is beside himself
(with anger)
****"No doubt": without ANY doubt.

In most of the languages of the American west and Mexico the coyote is the
trickster/fool. The languages I've worked on in which this is the case
include Cahuilla, Cupeqo, and Serrano in California, Hopi and O'odham in
Arizona, and Nahuatl in Mexico. I have heard that the raven fills this
role in the northwest/Canadian west and Alaska.

The indigenous folkloric coyote provided the basis for the coyote figure
in the coyote and roadrunner cartoons. It may be of interest that the
roadrunner is not an important folkloric figure.


--- Wayne Leman <wayne_leman at sil.org> wrote:
> coyote: Cheyenne
> > In different cultures deception and cunning behavior are associated
> with
> > certain animals. The animal metaphor is often applied to a human
> > trickster.
> >
> > rabbit: Africa and America
> > fox: German, Dutch, French
> > jackal: Arabic
> > (o)possum: US
> > spider: Africa
> > squirrel: Africa
> >
> > Fritz Goerling

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