'Coyote's Flame' | Circle Round 110

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Coyote's Flame (Artwork by Sabina Hahn)
Coyote's Flame (Artwork by Sabina Hahn)

Have you ever been part of a team?

Maybe you played a team sport, like soccer or baseball. Maybe you and a friend joined forces to build a pillow fort. Maybe you and your family worked together to clean the house.

When we work as a team, there’s so much we can do! And in today’s story we’ll meet a character who realizes that to accomplish something really big, she can’t do it alone.

Our story is called “Coyote’s Flame.” Versions of this tale come from many Native American peoples, including the Shoshone, Karuk, and Kiowa Apache.

Voices in this episode include Jefferson A. Russell, Ryan Shrime, Raechel Wong, and Brittany O’Grady, whom you grown-ups might recognize from Little Voice on Apple TV+ and Star on Fox.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Katherine Brewer. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

Coloring Page

("Coyote's Flame" by Sabina Hahn)
("Coyote's Flame" by Sabina Hahn)

ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.

Things To Think About After Listening

Think about some of the things you’ve achieved... either as part of a team, or by yourself. Cut out some strips of paper, and write the words “I can…” on them. Then, one by one, finish that sentence with something you’ve proven you can do.

Put your “I can…” strips in a jar — or even, yes, a can! And every time you conquer a new challenge or learn a new skill, fill out another strip, drop it in, and watch your accomplishments grow!

Musical spotlight: Hand Drum

Of all the Native American and First Nations instruments, the hand drum may be the most important. While different tribes have their own drumming traditions, the instrument’s basic construction is always similar: a wooden frame with animal skin stretched across the opening. Traditional drums are big — 2-3 feet in diameter — and played by many people standing in a circle. But in some Native American groups, each drummer has their own smaller instrument. In this video, check out 9-year-old Aaron Potts Letendre of the Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation sing and play the drum!


NARRATOR: Long, long ago... in the earliest times... animals ruled the earth.

And boy, that earth was a chilly and gloomy place!

You see, there was no sun, and no warmth, because all the fire in the world was hidden away… hoarded by selfish, cave-dwelling creatures known as the Fire Beings.

So the animals kept shivering and trembling and staggering in the dark… until one of the most clever critters — Coyote — decided to do something about it.

On yet another nippy, sun-less day, Coyote called three of her closest friends together.

There was Squirrel... who, back when our story takes place, had a fluffy, bushy tail that was as straight as a needle...

SQUIRREL: Hey there, Coyote! What’s going on?

NARRATOR: There was Chipmunk... who had a plain, reddish-brown back...

CHIPMUNK: Yeah, Coyote! Why’d you call us here?

NARRATOR: ...and there was Frog... who in those days sported a skinny, green tail.

FROG: What can we do for ya, pal?

NARRATOR: Coyote squinted at Squirrel, Chipmunk and Frog through the inky blackness.

COYOTE: Well, folks, take a look around you — or try to, anyway! The world is so very cold… and so very dark… and  I don’t know how much longer we animals can live like this! We need heat, and we need light. (beat) And that’s why I believe it’s time to free the fire from the Fire Beings!

NARRATOR: Squirrel, Chipmunk and Frog gasped.


SQUIRREL: But, Coyote!

CHIPMUNK: The Fire Beings have been hoarding the fire forever!

FROG: They’ll never give any of it to us!

NARRATOR: Coyote wagged her shaggy brown tail.

COYOTE: Oh, I know they’ll never give us any fire. (beat) That’s why we are going to take it!

SQUIRREL: / CHIPMUNK: / FROG: Take it…?!??

COYOTE: Yes! Just a little of it! Enough so we can bring brightness and warmth to the rest of the world! (beat) Look. Each one of you is nimble and swift. Squirrel, you can scurry up and down the tallest of trees! Chipmunk, you can scamper around like the wind. And Frog, you can hop and jump like nobody’s business. If we all work together, I know we can get some fire. Are you with me, friends?

NARRATOR: Squirrel, Chipmunk and Frog weren’t sure what to say. But then the wind picked up. And as the icy breeze chilled their bones… it also made up their minds!

SQUIRREL: (through chattering teeth) Count me in, Coyote!

CHIPMUNK: (through chattering teeth) Me too!

FROG: (through chattering teeth) Me three!

NARRATOR: Coyote, Squirrel, Chipmunk and Frog spent hours concocting a plan. Then, together, they journeyed to the mountain where the Fire Beings built their cave.

When the four friends reached the bottom of the mountain, they were nervous, but determined. Coyote glanced up toward the mountain’s faraway peak, then turned her eyes toward Squirrel.

COYOTE: Squirrel, you wait here. When you get the signal, you know what to do. (beat) Are you ready?

SQUIRREL: (psyching himself up) Ready as I’ll ever be!

NARRATOR: Coyote squeezed Squirrel’s paw, then continued with Chipmunk and Frog up the mountain. When they were halfway to the top, Coyote nodded at Chipmunk.

COYOTE: Chipmunk, you wait here. When you get the signal, you know what to do. (beat) Are you ready?

CHIPMUNK: (psyching herself up) I think so! Yes!

NARRATOR: Coyote patted Chipmunk on the head, then continued with Frog up the mountain. When they were nearly at the top, Coyote motioned for Frog to stop.

COYOTE: Frog, you wait here. When you get the signal, you know what to do. (beat) Are you ready?

FROG: (psyching himself up) Uh-huh! I’ll do my best!

NARRATOR: Coyote gave Frog a smile, then continued up the mountain all by herself. When she reached the peak, she found the pile of rocks that marked the entrance to the Fire Being’s cave.

Careful not to make a sound, Coyote pushed some of the rocks aside and peered into the cave. And as she did, she was dazzled by something she had never seen before.

COYOTE: (slowly, seeing it for the first time ) Light!!!

NARRATOR: The light was radiating from a tall heap of logs, sticks and twigs, all of them blazing… with fire! The red, orange and yellow flames flickered, sputtered and crackled!

And dancing around that flickering, sputtering, crackling fire... were the Fire Beings. As Coyote watched them frolick, rollick, swirl and twirl, her heart raced a million miles a minute.

But she knew what she had to do.

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What will Coyote do next?

What would you do if you were Coyote?

We’ll find out what happens, after a quick break.

[theme music out]


[theme music in]

NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “Coyote’s Flame.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, Coyote, Squirrel, Chipmunk and Frog journeyed to the home of the Fire Beings... selfish creatures who’d been hoarding fire in their cave on top of the mountain forever.

Squirrel… who had a straight, bushy tail… stayed at the bottom of the mountain. Chipmunk… who had a plain, reddish-brown back... stayed halfway up. Frog… who had a skinny green tail... stayed near the top. And Coyote climbed all the way to the peak.

When she peered into the cave, she saw the Fire Beings whirling and twirling around a blazing fire made from twigs, logs and sticks.

But the moment Coyote stepped inside, the Fire Beings stopped dancing and fixed the strange invader with a withering glare.

FIRE BEING 1: Who are you??!

FIRE BEING 2: And how dare you enter our cave?!

FIRE BEING 3: Get out of here now!

FIRE BEING 4: Or we’ll throw you out!

NARRATOR: Coyote flashed the Fire Beings an innocent grin.

COYOTE: I’m sorry, friends, but I was wandering by and caught sight of your glorious dancing! Never in my life have I witnessed such marvelous moves! (beat) May I please join in? Just for a little while?

NARRATOR: Well, Coyote’s flattery worked. Now that the Fire Beings were all buttered up, they were more than happy to let their new admirer dance with them around the fire.

And what a dancer she was! Coyote skipped and pranced, strutted and spun, and with every whirl and twirl, she got closer and closer to the brilliant, blistering fire, until…

COYOTE: (snatching a stick) A-ha!

NARRATOR: … she was close enough to reach in and snatch a blazing stick. Quick as a wink, she gripped the stick between her teeth, and made a break for the cave’s entrance.

FIRE BEING 1: Wait a minute!

FIRE BEING 2: That intruder is stealing our fire!

FIRE BEING 3: Stop her!

FIRE BEING 4: Stop her!

NARRATOR: With the Fire Beings ‘hot’ on her trail, Coyote dashed out of the cave.

But as she took off down the mountainside, she skidded to an abrupt stop. A huge boulder was blocking her path! As Coyote prepared to make the biggest jump of her life, one of the Fire Beings drew near enough to grab the tip of her shaggy tail!

FIRE BEING 1: (ad-lib grabbing sound, like:) Aaaaaaaaghhhh!!!

NARRATOR: Luckily, Coyote was able to break free and spring over the boulder…

COYOTE: (ad-lib expression of breaking free/relief, like) Whew!

NARRATOR: ...but guess what? Ever since then, the tip of her brown tail has been white!

Coyote kept going, the flaming stick clamped between her teeth. Eventually, she darted down to the spot where Frog was waiting.

COYOTE: Take it away, Frog!

FROG: It would be my pleasure, Coyote!

NARRATOR: In the blink of an eye, Frog seized the stick and put it in his mouth. Then he went bounding down the mountain, his slender green tail bouncing up and down behind him.

Suddenly, Frog slipped on a wet stone. As he struggled to regain his footing, one of the Fire Beings managed to catch up and grasp Frog’s tail!

FIRE BEING 2: (ad-lib grasping sound, like:) Errrrrrgh!

NARRATOR: Frog lunged forward with all his might…

FROG: (ad-lib, lunging sound, like:) Hi-yahhh!

NARRATOR: ...but his tail stayed behind, gripped tight in the Fire Being’s hand! And wouldn’t you know it, ever since then, Frog has had no tail.

Frog kept hopping with the fiery stick, until he reached the spot where Chipmunk was waiting.

FROG: It’s all yours, Chipmunk!

CHIPMUNK: Thank you, Frog!

NARRATOR: Without hesitation, Chipmunk took the smoldering stick and put it in her mouth. Then she went skittering down the mountain, her tiny reddish-brown body a blur as she scurried along.

But when she slowed down to swim through a puddle, one of the Fire Beings stretched out its arm and scratched its fingers down Chipmunk’s back!

FIRE BEING 3: (ad-lib clawing sound, like:) Yaaaaahh!

NARRATOR: Chipmunk picked up the pace and got away…

CHIPMUNK: (ad-lib exhilarated/keep-going sound, like:) Ha ha!!!

NARRATOR: ...but you know what? Ever since then, her plain brown back has been marked by dark and light stripes.

Chipmunk continued down the mountain, back to the spot where Squirrel was waiting.

CHIPMUNK: Show us what you can do, Squirrel!

SQUIRREL: You bet I will, Chipmunk!

NARRATOR: In no time flat, Squirrel caught the stick from Chipmunk, clenched it in his teeth, and sprinted away from the mountain.

He made a beeline for a towering oak tree. But just as he was about to scuttle up the trunk, one of the Fire Beings dove toward him and clutched onto his tail!

FIRE BEING 4: (ad-lib clutching sound, like:) Gahhhhhh!

NARRATOR: Squirrel plunged ahead, though…

SQUIRREL: (ad-lib exhilarated/keep-going sound, like:) Woohoo!!!

NARRATOR: ...and when he broke away from the Fire Being, his straight, bushy tail arched and curled up… and, indeed, it’s been that way ever since.

Squirrel scooted to the top of the oak tree, balanced on a branch, and hid behind a cluster of leaves. Then he watched as the worn-out Fire Beings gave up and trudged back to their cave in the mountain.

Once the Fire Beings were out of sight, the other animals bustled over to the oak tree. First Chipmunk, with her newly-striped back. Then Frog, with his smooth, tail-free behind. And finally Coyote, with her white-tipped tail.

COYOTE: Excellent work, my friends! We did it! We freed fire! There’s just one more thing to do. (beat) Squirrel? Could you please toss me some wood?

NARRATOR: Squirrel nibbled a slender branch off the oak tree and threw it down to Coyote.

COYOTE: Thank you! (beat) Now, friends… what do you say we put fire in the sky, so we can bring brightness and warmth to the whole world???

NARRATOR: The other animals nodded with excitement. Coyote took the first stick — the one they had freed from the Fire Beings — and used it to light the oak branch.

Then she took the burning oak branch and hurled it way up in the air.

Up and up the branch flew… until it stuck in the sky, and became the big, burning ball of fire we now know as the sun.

And ever since then, the world has had light… and heat… all thanks to four determined friends with a burning in their heart, and a fire in their belly.

Headshot of Rebecca Sheir

Rebecca Sheir Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.



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