Coyote Saves Xelex
Coyote Saves Xelix comes from a published collection of Chumash
stories, transcribed from their passage down as an oral tradition into printed form, available under the title *"December's Child"* by Thomas C. Blackburn. The stories range from a short paragraph to several pages, recounting historical and mythological personages and events that shaped the Chumash world and way of life. from Coyote to Woodpecker, from the Sea People to the sky People, these stories provided a glimpse into a still mysterious culture that thrived on and around the Santa Barbara Channel Islands for thousands of years.
The following story has been adapted from the Decemberís Child
Once upon a time Xelex went fishing in the ocean with two mariners. The
three of them went out in a canoe. They were casting out a line when Xelex saw a big seabass. Xelex got his harpoon ready quickly and threw it, but as he did so he slipped and fell into the water. Just then a swordfish happened by and seized Xelex and carried him away. His two companions in the boat were looking all around hoping to see him come to the surface again, so that they could pull him aboard, but thought they waited and waited there was no sign of him. Finally they took some bearings from the mountain peaks so that they could find the spot again, and they returned home sadly to "syuxtun" ( a village where Santa Barbara now stands ).
The Chief " wot ", Eagle, questioned the comrades about what
had happened, where his nephew Xelex was lost, and where he might be. They explained to the chief that Xelex had thrown his harpoon at a sea bass and had inadvertently gone overboard with it, and that they had remained there quite awhile hoping he would reappear.
Now Coyote happened to be standing nearby listening to all this, and
he spoke up and said, " Abandon any hope that he will reappear. They have seized him and taken him away." Then the "wot" said, " Why is there no hope that my nephew will reappear?" And Coyote answered, saying, "Because there they donít fool around. " "Who are these people that you are speaking about?" asked the "wot". Then Coyote said, "There are people who live in a village under the sea, just as there are people up here." And the Chief asked " What shall we do now? We must send someone to rescue my nephew Xelex and bring him back again."
Coyote protested that he was not the man for the job, but the Chief
ordered him to go. The two mariners showed Coyote where Xelex had gone overboard, and he told them hat if he hadnít returned in five days that they should give up hope for it would mean he was dead. Then he said goodbye to the two boys and plunged into the water with the equipment he had gathered to take along on his journey beneath the sea.
Coyote arrived at the bottom of the sea and began walking slowly along
looking about him. He said to himself "Now where will I find the house of the swordfish?" Actually of course he knew where it was. After walking quite awhile he finally came to the house, but it was closed uptight. He walked around it but could not find the door, only eight windows. Using special leaves he had brought with him, Coyote found the door and it opened to allow him to enter. After four days of challenges, races, and dangerous tricks at the hands of the deceitful swordfish, Coyote wins the right to bring Xelex back up to the surface. Xelex and Coyote return to their village, but Xelex can not remember what happened to him as the swordfish had put him under a death-like spell of deep sleep, but Coyote recounts the great difficulties he endured down in the village below the sea inorder to win Xelex back from the swordfish, and the Ďwotí rewards Coyote with a house of his own, and Xelex soon marries a woman of the village "syuxtun" and they all lived happily for a long time. "