Toelken notes that the culture of the Coquelles, which givs us this narrative, is still alive, but the language has become extinct. The narrative, then, is rendered in English as it is performed (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 176). He assumes that there is some particular tribal concern or value which leads to many of the elements in the story of the coyote and the strawberries, therefore his intention is to explore the story for these values. The tribe is from the Coos Bay area of Oregon. Wasson is from the tribal community and learned the story as well as the tribal culture from his childhood (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 178).
Wasson considers the story to be a "family favorite for many generations" (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 179). He emphasizes that the English usage was already struggled with by native speakers who knew the story in the Milluk language. In its historical use, the story was told in particular ways, with respect and even reverence. When people were learning to tell the story they would be corrected by others who had specific recall of the proper forms and orders of events. The stories would also only be appropriate for winter, the season proper to the coyote (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 180).
The story, as told by Wasson, is found on pp. 180-186. He then provides some notes about the features of the story, including its specific location. Many of the natural elements have clear symbolic meanings. For instance, the cedar tree struck by lightning is considered appropriate for sacred medicine. Woodpeckers were considered with respect and should never be molested, and the woodpecker in the story is molested in the same ways it would be inappropriate to molest an unmarried woman (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 187). The coyote's attempt to plug his rectum would be considered tantamount to insanity. The use of material fitting for a torch or then a medicinal plant is humorous and also shows the foolishness of the coyote (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 188). The interactinos with the seagulls, the whale, and the salmons suggest disordered family relationships of some sort. Wasson considers them consistent with numerous other stories which use similar characters.
Toelken makes a comment of analysis. He notes that it is tempting to look for similar themes and compare other stories to look for an authoritative original stury. This would certainly be possible, as Toelken demonstrates by a variety of references to different cultural stories (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 190). However, he considers the underlying "issues of relationships, ritual and social obligations, moral behaviors and responsibilities, issues that are usually the crux of Native American stories and that vary considerably in their organization and meaning from tribe to tribe" to be more important (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 191).
The figure of the Coyote is common to many cultures, though Toelken observes he is often a different type of animal. He is a trickster who is at once shrewd and foolish. Tolkein considers this to be important. The character has various aspects which are sometimes contradictory to one another and which overlap one another. This is a complex individual (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 193). The fact that he breaks cultural expectations and is forced to an act of self-mutiliation so as to cope with his failing is important. This self-mutilation sets the stage for acts of selfishness. It also places him in a position which leads to more self-destruction, accompanied by further breaking of cultural expectations in such a way as to cause offense (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 194).
Wasson notes that there are several natural discrepancies in the story as well. Not only is the idea of self-surgery and reassembly nonsense, particularly in the native views of medicine, but the weather situation doesn't add up. The story starts with a hailstorm, typical of February, then continues with strawberries, a June crop. It could be that the setting recalls an odd weather pattern which was repeated in 1995, with a surprisingly late snow storm. The overall setting, however, is remarkable, which may parallel the remarkable behavior of the coyote (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 196).
Toelken observes that the theme of seeing and looking at things seems important. There is a great deal of looking and being surprised by what can or cannot be seen in the story. It is possible that the idea is that we should learn to see more clearly (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 197).
Both authors note that there are a number of explanatory comments in the story. Though they change slightly based on the setting of the telling of the story, Wasson observes that the comments belong at their places in the story and are part of the form. Neither Toelken nor Wasson explains the significance of this phenomenon, but they do suggest that there may be fruitful study to be done in this regard (Wasson & Toelken 1998, 197).