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Here Be Dragons co-curated by Cressida Cowell and Toothless - opens 13 July. Admission included with ticket to the Galleries

1001 Stories Collection

How the Stars Came Into the Sky

1001 How The Stars Came Into Thhe Sky Aperture Vintage
Added on 14th August 2020

Oral tradition Navojo myth

North and Central America Myths and legends Environment and nature

The story of how First Woman and Coyote created the night sky.


The First Woman was carefully placing jewels one by one in the dark night sky. While she did this, Coyote watched from the shadows and asked what she was doing. She explained that she was planning deliberate patterns which the Navajo people would be able to read to understand their laws. Coyote asked to help but he was impatient and began to moan that it was taking too long. So, Coyote grabbed the stars from her hands, and threw them into the sky, disrupting her careful patterns and creating chaos. That is how the stars came to be in the sky.

Why we chose it

There are many traditional stories from different traditions which explain natural phenomena in a beautiful, poetic way. This Navajo tale explains the night sky.

Where it came from

The story of how the stars came into the sky is a Navajo, or Navaho, folktale from North America. The Navajo are the second most populous of Native American peoples, based predominantly in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Navajo religion remains widely practiced and has many intricate traditions, many relating the tales of the creation of the Fourth World, in which we currently live, the first people and the origins of certain phenomena or ceremonies. One version of the myth of the creation of the stars is preceded by another story in which First Woman creates the sun and the moon from quartz, and the stars from the pieces left over from the carving.

Where it went next

The myth was retold in a children’s book, How the Stars Fell into the Sky: A Navajo Legend (1996), written by Jennie Oughton and illustrated by Lisa Desimini.

Associated stories

Stars and astronomy play a significant role in Native American culture. There are many stories across different regions about their origins and the making of constellations, and several gods or spirits associated with the heavens. The constellations differ from those of Greek or Roman origin, and include bears, humans, and the legendary thunderbird. Common myths include tales about humans who become stars or constellations, and women who have children with stars. These star-born children tend to become great heroes, and occur in the myths of the Blackfoot, Crow, Pawnee, Dakota, Arapaho, Kiowa and Gros Ventre.

Added on 14th August 2020

Oral tradition Navojo myth

North and Central America Myths and legends Environment and nature