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Native American Mythology In Literature English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1288 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Throughout the history of humankind, certain threads have been sewn into our civilization. We have needed and conceived theories that explained the origin of our world, our people, and our belief system. Different stories of how each culture came into creation generally included a person or group of persons who brought fourth the Earth and then laid out a foundation of how the people were to live and worship it. Therefore, the theories integrated religion and philosophy into nearly all principles of conjecture.

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Many people today dismiss the Natives’ theories as just myths or unsophisticated deductions from time. The basic premises of Native American creation mythology is interwined with the natural world and frequently includes animals who act as Creators, messengers, protectors, guardians and advisors. They were often thought to process human qualities and had the ability to speak, think, see, understand and act like humans. Animals such as the coyote, bear, raven, spider, and turtle were often found in Native stories that recount the origin of a tribe and were held as spiritual guides or important players in the communities’ daily existence.

The trickster figure is sacred, vulgar, likable, laughable and usually used for entertaining an audience. It could be a human, a god or an animal and even able to change their gender. The trickster stories taught people very much about early exploration and colonization. As the colonies started to process more, they encountered different opportunities and new possibilities as the establishing of the stories started to get more and more interesting to the listeners, so they always wanted to hear these stories. The stories provide for lots of impossibilities in the everyday world, since everything was written through a Puritan worldview. The stories were also an attempt to impose order on the universe and teach people that we can’t take the universe for granted.

The trickster stories’ main objectives are to teach important lessons and social codes. The lessons range from not being arrogant, respecting certain tribes, and being careful of who you trust to not taking more of certain things that you don’t need and being greedy.

In the Winnebago trickster story we realized that it took place near cabins, so we would believe that it took place in Wisconsin. It tells of how the trees led the Wakjankaga more close towards the river, so that he would be able to get to the water and survive. The humor is fantastic, but at the same time weird and over the top to get the audiences’ attention. In the Koasati trickster story, the bear went to go get a doctor, which was a vulcher, to save the rabbit’s life. The vulcher tricked everyone, by telling them that he had to examine on the rabbit in person, so everyone left and went outside. Instead of helping the rabbit, the vulcher eats him in a sneaky way, then thinks that it is funny. In the Chinook trickster story, an owlwoman took a lot of children from their parents so that she could eat them. Going along, she came across a coyote, which told her that he would be her accomplice in killing and eating the children. In the end the coyote killed the owlwoman and let all of the young children go back to their parents. In the Navajo trickster story, the prairie dogs treated the coyote very badly. A skunk helped the coyote to get retaliation on the prairie dogs. The coyote killed all of the prairie dogs and said that the skunk and himself could split them. The coyote tried to cheat the skunk, by saying that he would race the skunk and the first to get back would get all of the prairie dogs, because he knew that he was bigger and faster than the skunk. In the end, the skunk cheated the coyote and was able to get all the better prairie dogs to eat for himself.

In Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity Narrative, she also talks about the Indians’ exploration and colonization. Rowlandson tells of how the Indians lived, are able to go out to hunt for food and are able to survive in the forest. At one point during their exploration, Rowlandson starts to get arrogant with them because she realizes that they wouldn’t hurt her because her husband is a powerful man and would pay a ransom for her freedom. Rowlandson also gets selfish during the exploration a few times and could sometimes be cold and objective. Rowlandson knows that she had to depend on the Indians most of the time, even though she didn’t want to admit it, because she wasn’t able to go out and find the type of food that they were able to find in order to survive, and she wanted to survive, so she had to get her food from them.

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Rowlandson lived in Lancaster, Massachusetts, where she was the wife of a minister. On February 10, 1675, during King Philip’s War, her house came under attack and she was taken captive, along with three of her children. For three months, she was forced to accompany her captors as they trekked through the forest, under what she describes as horrible conditions, as her captors attempted to elude the English army. She describes the odyssey as twenty distinct “Removes,” until she was finally reunited with her husband. She was ransomed by John Hoar of Concord at Redemption Rock in Princeton on May 2, 1676. During that time, one child died and two others were separated form her, but throughout it all she sought solace in the Bible-the text of her narrative is replete with verses and references describing conditions similar to her own.

Rowlandson’s book, published in 1682, set the tone for many subsequent captivity narratives in which the emerging American community developed a sense of “us against the other”, who often came into violent confrontation. According to these accounts, it is the strength of character of the Americans, bolstered by religion and destiny, that helps them to survive in the “Wilderness”. At the same time, it protects them when they are forced to accommodate themselves to the conditions of North America through a process of acculturation with Native culture and knowledge. By laying the groundwork for these in her account, Rowlandson effectively created the first uniquely American literary genre. She is also the first female American author.

Background Information (Rowlandson was probably born in England and brought to this country at an early age. Her father, John White, was a wealthy landholder in the Massachusetts Bay Colony who settled in Lancaster. About 1656, Rowlandson married Joseph Rowlandson and for the next twenty years led a busy life as mother and minister’s wife. The attack on Lancaster occurred on February 20, 1676, and she was not released until the second of May, having been ransomed for twenty pounds. The following year, Rowlandson went with her husband to Wethersfield, Connecticut; Mr. Rowlandson died there in 1678. The town voted to pay her an annuity “so long as she remains a widow among us.” Shortly after her return to Lancaster, Mrs. Rowlandson began to make a record of her life in captivity. Her Narrative (published in 1682) is the only evidence we have of her skill as a writer. The account of her captivity became one of the most popular prose works of the seventeenth century, both in this country and in England. It combined high adventure, heroism, and exemplary piety and is the first in its narrative skill and delineation of character, the best of what have become popularly known as “Indian captivities”.) From Text Mary Rowlandson, A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson


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