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Tricky stories like those ones can't be left just lying around; you just never know what they might get up to.

Book Review: The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales Edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

You know about that one, that Old Coyote? He’s sure one tricky fellow. He come over for tea you have to watch him all the time. He keeps sticking his nose where it don’t belong — like in the jam jar or down the muzzle of a gun barrel — and then gets to feeling sorry for himself when he gets bit by wasps because he’s covered in sweet stuff, or gets his nose blown off by the shot gun because he forgot to make sure the safety was on before pulling the trigger with his nose down the barrel.

That’s when you really have to watch out; when Coyote feels sorry for himself and thinks the world owes him something. Hoo Boy, then it’s time to board up the windows and bury yourself in the root cellar cause you don’t know just what could happen.

He gets resentful and looks for someone to blame, and you just have to hope he doesn’t pick you. Sometimes he doesn’t find anyone, and then he gets depressed and starts moping about the house. Then he starts sighing — oh boy you don’t want to have those Coyote sighs floating around in your house — you never know what they can turn into. He was doing a lot of sighing just around the first time that George Bush Jr. got elected president and you know what that’s been like

Datlow & Windling.jpgWell the other day that one, Old Coyote, he was around my house and he was looking as sorry for himself as I’ve ever seen him do. I thought the world has enough trouble right now without more Coyote sighs loose in it, but I was ready for him this time. There’s nothing Coyote likes better than to hear stories of himself and I thought I had the perfect thing for him.

Those people over at Penguin Canada have just put out a book full of tricky stories about Coyote and his extended family called The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling are the ones who went around and asked people to write down some tricky stories from all over the world, and I knew there would have to be some in here that Old Coyote have not heard before.

“Old Coyote,” I said. “Come over here. Get your head up from off your paws lying there out in the yard like dumb dog and stop your sighing. Have a nice cup of tea; I want to tell you some stories that people have written down about you and your family and friends around the world. Very tricky stuff.”

I could see he was interested because of the way he pricked up his ears when I said they were stories about him and tricky ones, too, but he had to pretend he wasn’t because he’s Coyote and he likes to feel sorry for himself. But he picked himself up and came and sat on the veranda with me and let me pour him some of that tea which he likes with four cubes of sugar and no milk.

So when he was comfortable with his mug of tea I picked up the book and decided I’d read him the story about his Uncle Tompa from Tibet. Well it’s not really a story but a poem by that nice woman writer Midori Snyder who has written lots of stories.

This poem is just called “Uncle Tompa,” because not many people over in this world know about Coyote’s Uncle Tompa from Tibet (he’s not really his uncle you know, but one of those old friends of the family you just call Uncle because you sure aren’t going to call him mister), and it describes all the tricky things that Uncle does to make people look silly. Coyote, he smiles, ’cause it reminds him of an especially dirty story involving an uppity virgin bride-to-be, her wealthy father, and what Tompa did to them both to take them down a peg or two.

I don’t think anyone wants to hear that story so I decide to read him another from the book so he won’t tell it. This one’s a little longer; it’s one by that Charles de Lint fellow. “Crow Roads” is what it’s called and it’s not a ‘ha-ha tricky’ story, it’s more an ‘hmm, make you think about things’ tricky story. The type that make you wonder about what goes on in the shadow of a tree when you look at it from the corner of your eye.

Now Coyote liked that story and asked if there were any more stories, and of course there were, and all of them good. That Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling know their stuff when it comes to putting together collections of stories after all. This is the third of what they call their Mythic Anthology Series, and if those first two The Green Man: Tales From The Mythic Forest and The Faery Reel: Tales From The Twilight Realm are as good as this one, owning all three would be a good thing, especially if you get Coyote visiting often like I do.

This book is filled with tricky tales of all sorts, and of course Coyote comes into them, too, which is right and proper, as he puts it. In fact, the very first story has his sister trying to fix the world. Always a dangerous business when Old Woman Coyote tries to fix a young man’s world, for the young man that is, because if he doesn’t heed the teaching, he’ll be mighty uncomfortable for a long time.

Of course some of Coyote’s friends and family aren’t out to trick you just to teach you a lesson, they may want to do bad things to you and than you have to be the tricky one if you want to get away. The young girls in the Irish school learn that about Queen Mab of the faery in the story “Friday Night At St. Cecilia’s” by Ellen Klages. That story made Coyote a little nervous, but he liked the trick at the end the young girl did to save herself and her friend.

Coyote and me, we had a good time that afternoon sipping out tea — he slurps his if you want to know the truth — with him listening to me reading stories about tricky people from Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. I had forgotten how big Coyote’s family was and how many friends the tricky guy has. By the time he decided it was time to go home, he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself no more and was laughing under his breath as he trotted along down the road.

Any thing that can make Coyote stop feeling sorry for himself is a good thing, I thought as I sat and watched the sun go under the ground at the end of the road, and the stories in The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales that Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have picked out are good stories for that.

I picked up Coyote’s mug, our pot of tea, and carefully put the book under my arm to remember to take it inside. Tricky stories like those ones can’t be left just lying around; you just never know what they might get up to.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.

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