Monday, January 20, 2014

Week 10: Blackfoot

Here are my favorite Blackfoot stories from the Blackfoot Stories unit.

The Wolf Man. What a fantastic story! This is like a male version of the Sioux story about the woman who lived with the wolves. The man's wives are seriously bad news, more dangerous than any wolf! It's a totally different kind of drama than the stories you might think of when you hear the phrase "wolfman."

The Dog And The Root Digger. I really liked the way the creator god, Napi, chose a human partner to help him in finding the lost buffalo, and I was really intrigued by the mysterious man and his family, camping all alone and clearly possessed of supernatural (and shape-shifting) powers! And I had to laugh about how Grinnell just could not cope with the idea that the same character could be both a cosmic creator guide and also a mean-spirited trickster, but so it is, again and again; in fact, that is one of the most fascinating things about the tricksters!

The Camp Of The Ghosts. How cool: just like in the Greek legend of Orpheus, the man going to the camp of ghosts cannot open his eyes. Even worse: he will fail in his quest AND die. There are other prohibitions too, and in the end he does lose here again because he threatens to hit her. Intense!

How The Thunder Pipe Came. Wow, an even more awesome story about a lost wife - this time, Thunder has taken her, but with the help of Raven, the sorrowing husband is able to confront Thunder and get her back. Very cool story: I love the idea that Thunder keeps the eyes of those he abducts as trophies. Eeek.

Cold Maker's Medicine. Oh, I really liked this one too! It has another pairing of a supernatural god (Cold Maker) who has a human sidekick, and in this case they are like "detectives," identifying what we would call a serial killer and putting a stop to her... and her two sidekicks are very hungry bears. What a great story!

The Rolling Rock. Of the Old Man trickster stories (and I liked them all!), I think this one was my favorite: the Old Man should have known better than to take back a gift! Poor coyote should not have gone along with Old Man on this one. Old Man can speak defiant words to the rock ("I was only going to borrow this robe until the rain was over, but now that you have acted so mean about it, I will keep it. You don't need a robe, anyhow. You have been out in the rain and snow all your life, and it will not hurt you to live so always") ... but mere words will not stop that rock!

Kut-O-Yis, The Blood Boy. This is one of my favorite Indian hero story cycles. I like the way the presentation of these episodes really emphasizes the theme of injustice, how again and again Kutoyis comes to a place where there is an evil and greedy ruler, someone (or something, in the case of the non-human monsters) that Kutoyis must overthrow. That sense of justice gives it a very different quality from the Labors of Hercules, for example, where sometimes the labors repair an injustice, but not always.

And I learned something new: I had never heard of bullberries (buffalo berries) before!

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