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Dee Brown did much to shift prevailing attitudes towards Native Americans with his groundbreaking, bestselling account of their displacement, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Nine years later, in 1979, he compiled this collection of Native American folklore. His aim was to demonstrate the ‘kinship’ between people across the world, as reflected in the stories passed from one generation to another.
These 36 tales, beautifully retold in modern prose, originate from many different indigenous Native American communities. 'The Girl Who Climbed to the Sky' belongs to the Arapaho-Caddo culture, 'How Rabbit Fooled Wolf ' to the Creeks. There are tales of tricksters; hero legends; and origin myths about the buffalo, fire, and day and night. There are predictions and memories of the Europeans' arrival; in 'The Cheyenne Prophet' Motzeyouf warns, 'They will offer you strange presents – a white sand that melts in the mouth and tastes sweet – things that flash in the sunlight and reflect your faces as water in a quiet stream does…' There are also ghost stories that explore death and the afterlife. As Brown hoped, these tales reveal the shared values of far-flung cultures. In 'Red Shield and Running Wolf', a brave, beautiful heroine risks her safety to woo a warrior from a rival tribe, and for a time love dispels conflict – a story that resembles Romeo and Juliet. In others, animals embody human vices and virtues, calling to mind Aesop's fables. Hard work, honesty and humility are rewarded; greed and deceit are follies. And often, the weaker, smaller creature outwits the one who boasts of strength.
Whether evoked through humour, tragedy or suspense, the symbiosis of humankind and the natural world runs through all of these tales. In her introduction, Joy Porter, a historian and joint editor of the Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature, discusses how they speak of 'an expansive, sentient and articulate world with which human beings could be in a positive and reciprocal relationship'. Caroline Smith’s vibrant illustrations, which will appeal to all ages, express the drama and grace of these captivating stories.
Review by fchin123 on 1st Jan 2013
"The illustrations alone are worth the price of the book although the stories are tedious and unforgettable, and don't sound authentic."
Review by anon on 18th Sep 2012
"This is a lovely book. The binding, illustarations, and end papers add to the enjoyable text. "