Friday, September 28, 2007

Traditional Literature: The Legend of the White Buffalo Woman

Goble, Paul. 1998. THE LEGEND OF THE WHITE BUFFALO WOMAN. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society. ISBN 0792270746.

After a great flood that destroyed its people, the Lakota (Sioux) nation was born again by the marriage of a Woman of the Earth and the Eagle of the Sky. However, after suffering devastation from attacks from their enemies, they abandon their forested homes and move to the plains. There, while searching for the buffaloes, two young men discover a beautiful and mysterious young woman who has been sent by the Great Spirit to help their people. By presenting the Lakota leader Buffalo Standing Upright with the Sacred Calf Pipe for the people to use as they pray. Once presenting the gift and telling of its power, the woman walks into the plains, lies on the ground and turns into a white buffalo calf, and joined the herd of buffaloes that had gathered. The pipe has brought the Lakota and the Buffalo Nation together. As another gift to the Lakota, the buffaloes brought the red stone, which is said to be the flesh and blood of their ancestors who were lost in the flood, to allow everyone to make their own pipes.

Out of all of the Lakota legends the one of the White Buffalo Woman and the Sacred Calf Pipe is the most sacred. To tell the this story Paul Goble, as he states in his Author’s Note before the story begins, incorporated several other myths that are related to the legend to make a complete story. One about the great flood that wiped out the nation and how it was brought back.

The text of the books is engaging because it tells such an important story for this Lakota people. It relays the myths and legends in a simple manner. On occasion, Goble included actual Lakota words such as “Wakan Tanka,” meaning Great Spirit, and “Mitakuye oyasin,” which means, “We are all related.”

As wonderful as the story is, it is the book’s illustrations that makes that grabs the reader’s eyes and love this book. Combining watercolor and gauche paint as well as black ink, Goble creates highly detailed double-page illustrations with strong use of lines. The characters are in two-dimensional with primary emphasis on their clothing. Every single element of the clothing and ornamentations are absolutely and amazing accurate to the Lakota, as well as any other western tribes under the Sioux nations, particularly with the use of geometric designs. To continue the discussion of the use of geometric designs, to represent the sunbeams of both the rising and setting sun Goble uses traditional diamond shapes in repetition. To add to this he also uses colors to signify the warm and cool feeling of the sunbeams: red and yellow for the rising sun and red and blue for the setting sun.

The third and final wonderful example of traditional deign element is the illustrations depicting the attacks from the enemies. To approach this sensitive subject with tact as well being another method to keep the sense of the of culture, the illustrations shows the battle through simple yet detailed stick figures that are drawn on a the covering of a tipi. On one side of the tipi cover there are the irregular holes that are the support polls go through, and on the other end, just in the corner, is a glimpse of the traditional quillwork design characteristic to the Plains Indians.

The overall techniques that Goble employs for his illustrations are not entirely in the traditional painterly sense, even though his primary medium is paint. His use of the different thickness of paint gives his work depth despite the fact that everything is primarily in two-dimensional, which ties wonderfully into the traditional style of painterly art done by the Native Americans. Secondly, the unique negative space within the flat artwork, seen as fine white lines around characters and other elements, gives the amazing appearance of being done by relief printing like woodcuts. This is especially seen when examining the cloudy skies and the great waves of water.

In addition to the story and beautiful illustrations, Goble also provides and wonderfully detailed description and meanings of all of the elements a pipe like the one in the story. The amazingly life-like detailed illustrated views of the pipe were wonderfully done by a pipe-make named Myron Taylor.

Because Goble’s The Legend of the Buffalo Woman tells the story of and from a specific culture in our nation and displays illustrations that represent many aspects of Native American art, this book is not only a great storybook but also a book to educate young readers with.

Gr. 4-8. In this picture book for older readers, Goble uses his characteristic decorative paintings to help retell an important sacred legend of the Lakota people. He describes a great flood, which killed almost all life on the earth, and relates how the nation came to be born again from the union of a woman of the earth and an eagle of the sky. He then explains how the people came upon hard and frightening times and tells of the arrival of the powerful White Buffalo Woman, who gave the Lakota people the Sacred Calf Pipe, a gift of the Great Spirit. The use of boldface headings and the braiding together of several myths interrupt the flow of the text, leaving readers to pick up additional meaning from the illustrations, but Goble fans, young and old, will enjoy the details in the clothing and landscape. The cartoonlike battle scene, with bloody, rolling heads, will certainly attract the attention of some young readers. In addition to notes regarding the significance of the tale, how he determined the style of clothing, and why he utilized specific related myths in his retelling, Goble lists primary and secondary sources. Additional information about Indian pipes is appended, as is a map pinpointing Pipestone Quarry, now a national monument. ((Reviewed March 15, 1998)) -- Karen Morgan. Booklist, published by the American Library Association.

"Goble's crystalline illustrations spread across the double pages, each a model of design, clarity, and balance. From the roiling clouds of the flood scene to the brilliant stylized sun that accompanies White Buffalo Woman, the paintings convey both mood and motion. Goble notes that the pipe portrayed is not the Sacred Calf Pipe, which should never be reproduced, a tangible reminder of the enduring respect the author/illustrator demonstrates in his work. While the sophistication of the story and the episodic nature of the narrative may limit the book's audience, visually it is one of Goble's most stunning offerings to date." (44 no. 5 (May 1998) p. 154)

*Learn more about the legend of the White Buffalo by reading books like The Secret of the White Buffalo by C. J. Taylor and The White Buffalo Woman: An Indian Legend by Christine Crowl.
*Learn about the buffaloes of the Great Plains by reading books like The Return of the Buffaloes: A Plains Indian Story about Famine and Renewal of the Earth by Paul Goble and Where the Buffaloes Begin by Olaff Baker and Stephen Grammell.
*Have the children learn more about reading books like Traditional Native American Arts and Activities by Arlette N. Braman and creating their own artwork in traditional geometric and organic designs.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for mentioning my book, Traditional Native American Arts and Activities. It was a humbling experience to write this book and I loved every minute of it. I hope it offers insight to your visitors
    Arlette Braman


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