Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Week 9: Pacific Northwest

Here are my favorite stories from Judson's Pacific Northwest book. As often, it was hard for me to limit myself to just a few favorites... I really like these stories!

Three Coyote Stories. Poor coyote! These were all good stories, esp. the one about coyote grabbing on to the star and going up into the sky world... but it got too cold up there and he couldn't hang on. Of course, when he falls down from the sky like that it's a bit like Wily Coyote falling down from a cliff and getting smushed: he'll be back.


The First Totem Pole. This is another one of those stories about time dilation: Wakiash thinks he is gone only four days, but he is gone four years. I really like the idea of the animal world that he visits, where the animals have all the culture (the dances, songs, masks) that the human wants. And, of course, the animals are right there on the totem poles too!


Three Raven Stories. There are all kinds of different stories about how raven brings light to the world, and this one is just great: I really like the idea that he tricked the gull, needing a little light so he could see to get the thorn out of gull's foot... the thorn raven conjured up in the first place!


Why There Are No Snakes on Takhoma. I liked this story so much! First of all, I learned the Indian name for Mount Rainier (and it really SHOULD have the Indian name; I saw in Wikipedia that the name was being debated in the U.S. Congress as late as the 1920s!). I also really liked the idea of how this flood story works, with the people and the good animals escaping up into the clouds!


Two Thunder Bird Stories
An Indian's Vow to the Thunder Gods. WOW, this really did make me curious. The story - a true story - is included here as an example of how these religious beliefs about the gods can become part of an actual person's life, like this woman who promised her first born child to the Thunder... and sure enough, the Thunder took her child.


Chinook Ghosts. What a completely eerie story! It is another one of those stories about a visit to the land of the dead; Blue Jay thinks he will be able to come home, and he plays tricks on the dead (switching their heads around)... but in the end, he did not do what he was told and had to remain in the ghost land. Intense! I also really liked the other story about the land of the dead: The Memaloose Islands.


Origin of the Tribes. Oh, Wishpoosh: the monster beaver. And he fights Coyote... and in the process they create the world. Of course it is a great story! Wow! My favorite part was how the parts of Wishpoosh's dead body produced the tribes: "From the head of Wishpoosh, Coyote made the Nez Perces, great in council," etc. Very cool.


Coyote and the Fire. There are a bunch of great coyote stories (including coyote who is named Tallapus in the Clatsop stories), but the one about fire was my favorite. I like the way the Skookums are the ones with fire to start with, and coyote cannot steal it alone, but the theft of the fire affects all the animals: why coyote's tail is white, why the squirrel's tail is curled, why frog has no tail, and finally wood "swallowed" the fire, so we can get fire out of wood now. Nice!


I also thought the reverence for the "Williamette Meteorite" was pretty amazing - the meteorite is amazing both in mythological terms and in scientific terms too.



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