Native American legend has it that the sun was formed long ago when a coyote got tired of the dark and cold. Taking a hawk, rabbit and turtle with him, he went in search of fire.
Upon finding humans in a cave, the coyote tricked them into getting close enough so he could steal some of their fire. He ran off with the fire on the tip of his tail. The humans chased him.
The coyote yelled to the hawk to take the fire. The hawk grabbed the fire and passed it to the rabbit, who gave it to the turtle. But the humans caught the turtle, so he protected the fire by withdrawing into his shell.
The humans threw the turtle in a river and left. The turtle climbed out and gave the fire to the coyote, who shaped it into a ball and threw it up in the sky, bringing light and warmth to the world.
The legend of "Coyote Makes the Sun" is just one of many Native American stories that tell how the universe came to be. At the Eldersburg branch library, children are learning these legends and myths at a 10-part weekly series called Skytellers.
"The Lunar and Planetary Institute has 10 Native American stories on DVD that have different topics," said library associate Mary Sadaka. "The DVD starts out with the folk tale explaining the topic, followed by the first Native American astronaut giving the scientific explanation of the story."
The Skytellers Web site, she said, also has suggested activities for children to do after each video.
Last Monday, 11 youngsters ranging from 3 years old to 12 years old, most with a parent or grandparent, listened to the story of "Coyote Makes the Sun." Then the astronaut explained how atoms squeezed up against each other to form the sun.
After the video, librarian Joann Beninghove asked the children questions about the story, then told them they were going to paint scenes from the legend. On large poster boards, the youngsters drew colorful pictures of the sun, the fire and the animals.
Hannah Gregor, 5, and her brother Tristan, 3, of Taylorsville, were well acquainted with the Native American stories. Their parents, Amy and Ferenc Gregor, were drawn to the lifestyle years ago after visiting the Native American Learning Center in New Mexico.
"This is part of Hannah's homeschooling," Amy Gregor said. "The stories are fascinating -- it's the first time hearing these versions. The crafts they do are really great -- they really bring it together for my daughter."
Tristan, Amy Gregor said, "picks up on the talks afterward -- he's a drummer." His painting was colorful swirls on the poster.
Hannah started her four-cornered painting with a bright yellow sun, then added the cave in red, people around the fire, the hawk flying by the sun and the turtle.
Her favorite part of the story, Hannah said, was "the coyote was dancing around the fire."
Amy Gregor said the family has signed up for the whole series.
Diane Raymond of Sykesville brought her granddaughter, Alexis Buswell, 8, because the girl likes arts and crafts and learning about Native Americans.
"I'm going to do four pictures -- the first is the people in the cave," Alexis said. She added the sun, a bright blue sky, the hawk passing the fire to the turtle, the coyote throwing the sun up in the sky and all the animals enjoying the sun.
Alexis then showed off her picture and described it to the group.
Cameron Weikel, 7, of Marriottsville, attending his second Skytellers program, drew the turtle running away with the sun. "I like Native American stories in school," he said.
Beninghove said the program has many budding artists.
"I love it when you all show the fire on the coyote's tail -- that's so cute," she told the children.
Skytellers continues at 7 p.m. Mondays at Eldersburg library branch as follows: "How We got Stars" tomorrow; "Why Coyote Howls -- A Star Story" Oct. 30; "Why the North Star Stands Still" Nov. 6; "The Creation of Earth" Nov. 13; and "Coyote and the Milky Way" Nov. 20. Information: 410-386-4488.