HOW THE RABBIT STOLE THE OTTER’S COAT
The animals were of different sizes and wore coats of various colors and
patterns. Some wore long fur and others wore short. Some had rings on their
tails, and some had no tails at all. Some had coats of brown, others of black or
yellow. They were always disputing about their good looks, so at last they
agreed to hold a council to decide who had the finest coat.
They had heard a great deal about the Otter, who lived so far up the creek that he
seldom came down to visit the other animals. It was said that he had the finest
coat of all, but no one knew just what it was like, because it was a long time
since anyone had seen him. They did not even know exactly where he lived—
only the general direction; but they knew he would come to the council when the
word got out.
Now the Rabbit wanted the verdict for himself, so when it began to look as if it
might go to the Otter he studied up a plan to cheat him out of it. He asked a few
sly questions until he learned what trail the Otter would take to get to the council
place. Then, without saying anything, he went on ahead and after four days’travel he met the Otter and knew him at once his beautiful coat of soft dark-
brown fur. The Otter was glad to see him and asked him where he was going.
“O,” said the Rabbit, “the animals sent me to bring you to the council; because
you live so far away they were afraid you mightn’t know the road.” The Otter
thanked him, and they went on together.
They traveled all day toward the council ground, and at night the Rabbit selected
the camping place, because the Otter was a stranger in that part of the country,
and cut down bushes for beds and fixed everything in good shape. The next
morning they started on again. In the afternoon the Rabbit began to pick up
wood and bark as they went along and to load it on his back. When the Otter
asked what this was for the Rabbit said it was that they might be warm and
comfortable at night. After a while, when it was near sunset, they stopped and
made their camp.
When supper was over the Rabbit got a stick and shaved it down to a paddle.
The Otter wondered and asked again what that was for.
“I have good dreams when I sleep with a paddle under my head,” said the
When the paddle was finished the Rabbit began to cut away the bushes so as to
make a clean trail down to the river. The Otter wondered more and more and
wanted to know what this meant.
Said the Rabbit, “This place is called Di′tatlâski′yĭ [The Place Where it Rains
Fire]. Sometimes it rains fire here, and the sky looks a little that way to-night.
You go to sleep and I’ll sit up and watch, and if the fire does come, as soon as
you hear me shout, you run and jump into the river. Better hang your coat on a
limb over there, so it won’t get burnt.”
The Otter did as he was told, and they both doubled up to go to sleep, but the
Rabbit kept awake. After a while the fire burned down to red coals. The Rabbit
called, but the Otter was fast asleep and made no answer. In a little while he
called again, but the Otter never stirred. Then the Rabbit filled the paddle with
hot coals and threw them up into the air and shouted, “It’s raining fire! It’s
The hot coals fell all around the Otter and he jumped up. “To the water!” criedThe hot coals fell all around the Otter and he jumped up. “To the water!” cried
the Rabbit, and the Otter ran and jumped into the river, and he has lived in the
water ever since.
The Rabbit took the Otter’s coat and put it on, leaving his own instead, and went
on to the council. All the animals were there, every one looking out for the Otter.
At last they saw him in the distance, and they said one to the other, “The Otter is
coming!” and sent one of the small animals to show him the best seat. They were
all glad to see him and went up in turn to welcome him, but the Otter kept his
head down, with one paw over his face. They wondered that he was so bashful,
until the Bear came up and pulled the paw away, and there was the Rabbit with
his split nose. He sprang up and started to run, when the Bear struck at him and
pulled his tail off, but the Rabbit was too quick for them and got away.
Myths of the Cherokee James Mooney