Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waterless Mountain (1932)

A little slow, Waterless Mountain did give me a better understanding of Navajo culture in the early part of the 20th century.  The story revolves around Younger Brother and his growth from an 8-year-old child to a youth on his way to becoming a man, and a medicine man at that.  At one point, Younger Brother decides he must go west to the sea and bring back some sea water to his uncle, the medicine man.  He has many adventures along the way, but eventually, with some help, reaches the sea and is able to return to his people wiser for the journey.

I enjoyed the authors description of how the Navajos felt connected to nature and how nature was connected to the "holy ones," the gods associated with their mythology.  Here is just one example of many.  "The secret joy inside of him responded to the joy of all the desert world and he knew that the holy ones watched him from the heat waves and the mirage which danced before his eyes." (p. 110)  How they related to the world around them and the meaning they gathered from everyday happenings in the world was very enlightening.

Seeing the clash of cultures between the Navajos and "white men" was also interesting..  The way the author describes it, the interactions were very paternalistic, with the white men providing an outlet for selling handmade goods such as rugs and turquoise and silver jewelry, in exchange for tobacco, clothing, etc.  One clash took place when the Big Man, the owner of the trading post, took Younger Brother and his family to see a Western movie.  In it Younger Brother saw the image and heard the voice of a relative who had died.  He ran from the theater scared and yelling, " Chindi!" or ghost.

I liked the telling of their legends of the Turquoise Woman and her journey to the west, the Pack People, the Young Woman Who Tinkles (not the way we use the word tinkle), and many others.

Some memorable quotes:
"There are always doubters but what of it, so long as there are those who believe and dream?" (p. 73)
"At times he was lonely, but not for any particular person.  The loneliness came when he was the happiest.  Then he felt the old longing to share his joy with someone." (p. 106)
"There are some happenings we do not speak of.  It is better to be quiet until one understands."  (p. 206)

Would I recommend this book?  Maybe.  The story was good and the learning about other cultures and times, but it was a very slow-moving book.

Armer, Laura Adams. Waterless Mountain. Longmans, Green and Co., 1931.

1 comment:

  1. I really should remember to keep up with these. Very interesting. I particularly like your choices of "quotes" to include.