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N. Scott Momaday: The Way to Rainy Mountain

  • Genre(s): Native American, Contemporary
  • Period: 1960s to present
  • Lines: (from "XXIV" of The Way to Rainy Mountains)
    ... He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listen to the sounds that are made upon it. He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk.
  • Quote: My grandmother had a reverence for the sun, a holy regard that now is gone out of mankind. There was a wariness in her, and an ancient awe. She was a Christian in her later years, but she had come a long way about, and she never forgot her birthright. (from Introduction to The Way to Rainy Mountain).
  • Way to Rainy Mountain Click to Order Momaday's The Way to Rainy Mountain (soft $)

    Not found in the poetry section of most bookstores—if found in bookstores at all—this collection of very short pieces of fiction combine the non-linear elements of Native American folk-tales with the precision and condensation of prose poems. The stories are passed down from Kiowas, and recorded perhaps for the first time; accompanying the tales are simple but fascinating ink drawings. Momaday writes of his effort to preserve the Kiowa's tales: "What remains is fragmentary: mythology, legend, lore, and heresay—and of course the idea itself, as crucial and complete as it ever was. That is the miracle."

    Although the tales are passed down, Momaday has weaved himself into the book with a unique form in which each section begins with a short tale followed by a short prose section that appears to comment on the tale with the eye of a reverent ethnologist; each section ends with a short piece of prose, expressing a personal memory in which the myth is brought to life. This book appeals to children and adults alike with its elements of creation myth, playfulness, and its grounding in nature (including animal beings who play integral parts in the vignettes). The Way to Rainy Mountain pays homage to the Native American oral tradition, and brings to print stories, myths, and memories that will be appreciated for generations to come.

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