|Title page for last story in book|
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Beverly Slapin's Review of Pomplun, Smelcer, and Bruchac's NATIVE AMERICAN CLASSICS
1) This essay may not be published elsewhere without written permission from its author, Beverly Slapin. Copyright 2012 by Beverly Slapin. All rights reserved.
2) I selected Two Wolves as the illustration to use for Slapin's essay because Joseph Bruchac and Richard Van Camp are two Native writers giving us outstanding work. A selected set of illustrations is available at Pages from Native American Classics.
Pomplun, Tom, editor, and John E. Smelcer and Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), associate editors, Native American Classics (Graphic Classics, Volume 24). Eureka Productions, 2013.
The “Graphic Classics” books, unlike other graphic adaptations, are anthologies, with each short story, poem, or abridged novel illustrated by a different artist. Native American Classics highlights the nascent English writing and publication by Native people, including Zitkala-Sa, Charles A. Eastman, E. Pauline Johnson, and others. It’s not the only anthology of earlier Indian writing; many others come to mind. One of my favorites is Paula Gunn Allen’s excellent Voice of the Turtle: American Indian Literature, 1900-1970 (Ballantine, 1995). One of the differences between Native American Classics and the other anthologies is that its graphic format will appeal to “reluctant” readers and others who are attracted to this particular genre. But Native American Classics is not without problems.
Way back, when the earliest Indian writers published their pictographs on vertical and horizontal outcroppings, they transmitted information, history, lessons, culture, language, and more.
Fast-forward a few centuries, to the early 1900s. Stories by Indian writers of that era had to be both carefully written and suitable for publication by, of course, non-Native publishers. As such, many of the lessons they imparted were so subtle that a casual reader, especially one from outside the culture, might not recognize their messages.
If there were pictures, they supported the story rather than obstructing it; they provided a background rather than a foreground; and they enhanced, rather than interfered with, the reader’s imagination. And, perhaps most importantly, the pictures did not reinterpret the story; did not tell readers what to think.
“Telling readers what to think” is the main problem with some of the pieces in this collection, problems inherent in transmogrifying stories by the earlier Indian writers into a genre in which graphics foreground the story—and the graphic artists don’t always understand it or their work is mismatched. Another problem is that often, details are belabored in “dialogue bubbles,” at the cost of the integrity of the story. Yet another is that stories are sometimes “edited down” to what is seen to be the reading level for this kind of anthology. And finally, the stories would have benefited greatly with prefatory material that clearly set each in a historical, geographical, political and biographical context. This last problem, again, although inherent in this genre, stands out most glaringly in what is purported to be a “multicultural” anthology.
In the third edition (1992) of Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children (Slapin and Seale, eds., New Society Publishers), there’s an essay by Lenore Keeshig-Tobias (Ojibwe), entitled, “Not Just Entertainment.” She writes:
Stories are not just entertainment. Stories are power. They reflect the deepest, the most intimate perceptions, relationships and attitudes of a people. Stories show how a people, a culture, thinks. Such wonderful offerings are seldom reproduced by outsiders.
“Native stories deal with the experiences of our humanity,” she continues, “experiences we laugh, and cry, and sweat for, experiences we learn from.”
Stories are not just for entertainment. We know that. The storyteller and writer have a responsibility—a responsibility to the people, a responsibility for the story and a responsibility to the art. The art in turn then reflects a significant and profound self-understanding.
To Lenore’s heartfelt comments I would add that adaptors and illustrators of stories—as well as editors of anthologies, if they are honest and really care—also must own up to these responsibilities.
Some of the stories and poems in Native American Classics are incomparably beautiful—some whose texts have been left whole and some that have been adapted. Some of the art in Native American Classics is—to use a descriptor I’ve recently been known to use too often—awesome. Others, not so much.
I can’t, in good conscience, “recommend” or “not recommend” this anthology. Rather, I chose to review each entry as a separate entity. Sorry for the length of this review; it’s the best I could do for the integrity of the stories and poems therein.
Teachers who would want to use Native American Classics to introduce “reluctant readers” to Native literatures should do so with caution.
“After a Sermon at the Church of Infinite Confusion,” by John E. Smelcer / art by Bahe Whitethorne, Jr. (Diné) (p. 2)
The poem beginning this anthology defies cultural logic and exemplifies incongruence between text and art. Whitethorne’s painting is of a Diné girl on Diné land. Flying into the foreground is a huge black bird, its beak wide open. The bird is larger than the child. Could be a raven, a crow, a blackbird, or maybe even a mockingbird. The painting was originally done for the cover of a children’s book called The Mockingbird’s Manual by Seth Muller (Salina Bookshelf, 2009) and someone must have thought it would be appropriate to illustrate this poem. It isn’t.
The girl’s name, “Mary Caught-in-Between,” is apparently supposed to be ironic. It’s not. It’s insulting. The singular experience of attending “sunday school” is interpreted as turning Mary’s whole world upside down; in reality, it would’ve taken years of Indian residential school to do that. Mary’s spiritual world appears to be inhabited by “Raven and Coyote,” whom she tells they aren’t “gods anymore.” But she’d know that Raven and Coyote never were gods and that you don’t worship tricksters—and you don’t talk to them, either. Mary is dressed in traditional Diné clothing, but children don’t generally dress like that just to hang out. And if she is indeed Diné, I don’t understand why a “totem pole” (on which she thinks that “god” was nailed) would even enter her consciousness. Is that big black bird supposed to be Raven? If so, there are ravens in Diné country, but Raven? No. He’s a Northwest Coast-area trickster. The poem itself is infinitely confusing, and a casual reader will probably think it’s authentic. Not recommended.
“The Soft-Hearted Sioux” (1901) by Zitkala-Sa (Yankton Nakota), adapted by Benjamin Truman, art by Jim McMunn, Timothy Truman and Mark A. Nelson (pp. 4-21)
“The Soft-Hearted Sioux” is a heartbreaking story about what happens when a Christianized Nakota man returns from mission school to proselytize his tribal community. The young man has become a stranger who disrespects his culture and community, his elders and his spiritual leader. It’s a tragic story with a tragic ending. There can be no positive outcome; Zitkala-Sa presents the dilemma and leaves out the moral. This is as it should be.
But it’s clear that the illustrators here do not “get” the subtleties of the story. While Zitkala-Sa’s Christianized narrator describes the community’s spiritual leader—aka “medicine man”—only as “tall and large” with “long strides [that]…seemed to me then as the uncanny gait of eternal death,” the artists portray him as a charlatan, as evil incarnate. He is dark and glowering and inhuman-looking, his head and face almost totally covered with eagle feathers; even his bear-claw necklace and the burning sage bundle he holds appear menacing.
When Zitkala-Sa writes, “seemed to me then,” she means that before the young man entered mission school, he saw the spiritual leader as a person whom he and the rest of the community respected. After the missionaries had finished with the young man, he saw the spiritual leader as someone with “the uncanny gait of eternal death.” Indeed, the medicine man had not changed, the young man had. Although I love “The Soft-Hearted Sioux,” I cannot recommend it in this form.
“On Wolf Mountain” (1904) by Charles Alexander Eastman (Santee), adapted by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) / art by Robby McMurtry (p. 22-44)
Told from the perspective of a gray wolf, “On Wolf Mountain”—from Eastman’s Red Hunters and the Animal People (1904)—shows their natural respect for, and complex relationship with, the Indian peoples who hunted large game animals on the plains. As well, it describes the relationship between the wolves and the white settlers (here, sheepherders), who attempted to disrupt the ancient rhythms of life and death, feast and hunger—a dance that existed long before the wagon trains, railroads, and banks got here. “It was altogether different with that hairy-faced man who had lately come among them,” Eastman writes, “to lay waste the forests and tear up the very earth about his dwelling…while his creatures devoured the herbage of the plains.” In one section, an enraged sheepherder whose flock is decimated by the wolves sets out to destroy them. A soldier tells him: “I told you before to lay out all the strychnine you could get hold of. We’ve got to rid this region of the Injuns and gray wolves before civilization will stick!”
Both Bruchac’s faithful adaptation and McMurtry’s art—on a palette of mostly grays and browns—are right on target. In text and illustration, the wolves are as detailed as the humans, and on every few pages, McMurtry inserts Eastman’s face as the story unfolds. On the final page, McMurtry depicts Eastman telling his story to a group of Boy Scouts, an organization that he co-founded. “On Wolf Mountain” is highly recommended.
“The Red Man’s Rebuke” (1893) by Simon Pokagon (Potawatomi), art by Murv Jacob (Cherokee/Creek) (p.45)
This poem was part of the preface of a small 16-page booklet, a series of short essays printed on birch bark and originally written in 1893 as a political argument and protest against the Columbian Exposition. I can see Pokagon, in my mind’s eye, standing at the entrance of the Exposition, giving away (or selling) his booklet to the startled white people going in to see this celebration of the “discovery of America.” FYI, what follows are a few words from Pokagon’s speech:
In behalf of my people, the American Indians, I hereby declare to you, the pale-faced race that has usurped our lands and homes, that we have no spirit to celebrate with you the great Columbian Fair now being held in this Chicago city, the wonder of the world. No; sooner would we hold the high joy day over the graves of our departed than to celebrate our own funeral, the discovery of America. And while you who are strangers, and you who live here, bring the offering of the handiwork of your own lands and your hearts in admiration rejoice over the beauty and grandeur of this young republic and you say, “Behold the wonders wrought by our children in this foreign land,” do not forget that this success has been at the sacrifice of our homes and a once happy race.
Jacob’s painting of the death march known as the “Trail Where the People Cried,” or more popularly known as the “Trail of Tears,” is amazing. It’s wintertime and you can feel the deathly cold winter as the people lean into the freezing snow and wind. Pokagon’s short poem might have been paired with Jacob’s painting because the Potawatomi had their own “Trail of Death,” as it is known. Yet the Pokagon band of Potawatomi were not marched—they remain in southwestern Michigan—because Pokagon, as a hereditary chief, sold a substantial part of what is now the Chicago waterfront without his people’s permission. As a beginning of a discussion of Pokagon’s life, the Potawatomi people, and/or Manifest Destiny, “The Red Man’s Rebuke” is highly recommended.
“The Cattle Thief” (1914) by E. Pauline Johnson/Tekahionwake, art by Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva) (pp. 46-53)
“The Cattle Thief,” a long poem, was originally published in Johnson’s anthology, Flint and Feather, in 1914; and is reprinted here in its entirety. An enormously popular performance poet, Johnson toured her native Canada, the US and England, placing her Mohawk name alongside her English name and strongly maintaining her identity as an Aboriginal woman. The Cree woman in “The Cattle Thief” is strong and resolute as she protests the murder of her elderly, starving father, called “cattle thief” by the white riders who have relentlessly hunted him down and now raise their knives to mutilate him. Standing over her father’s body, the woman harangues his killers, daring them to touch him.
And the words outleapt from her shrunken lips in the language of the Cree,
“If you mean to touch that body, you must cut your way through me.”
And that band of cursing settlers dropped backward one by one,
For they knew that an Indian woman roused, was a woman to let alone.
On a palette of mostly browns and blacks, Alvitre’s art effectively captures the bloodthirsty riders, the old man, and most of all, the courageous woman who strikes out against white predation of her people and land. “The Cattle Thief” is highly recommended.
“The Hunter and Medicine Legend” (1881) by Elias Johnson (Tuscarora), adapted by Andrea Grant, art by Toby Cypress (pp. 54-62)
Johnson’s story, in about three pages, is a good read. Children—and adults as well—who read or listen to it will see the action in their minds’ eyes, and will take in the lessons as well. Not so with the adaptation, which is belabored and too “cartoony” for my taste. The adapted text follows the original somewhat, but then veers into extraneous and annoying and hokey “conversation bubbles,” which explain what does not need to be explained. For instance, the text (and adapted text as well) read:
There once lived a man who was a great hunter. His generosity was…praised in all the country, for he not only supplied his own family with food, but distributed game among his friends and neighbors…. He even called the birds and animals of the forest to partake of his abundance.
Then, in the adaptation, the hunter explains to the animals, including two deer, why he is sharing his kill (a deer!) with them: “We are all connected in our life cycles...and so if I take, I will always give back.” Sounds like Tonto explaining something obvious to the Lone Ranger. Read the original. It’s much better. Not recommended.
“The White Man Wants the Indians’ Home” (date unknown; pre-1885) by James Harris Guy (Chickasaw), art by David Kainetakeron Faddon (Mohawk) (p. 63)
Little is known about Guy, other than that he was a member of the police force of the Chickasaw Nation, and that he was killed in a shootout in 1885. This poem was published in Native American Writing in the Southeast: An Anthology, 1875-1935, edited by Daniel F. Littlefield. Fadden’s amazing oil painting—on a bejeweled pallet of mostly sky blues, grass greens and browns—depicts a Mohawk couple against the backdrop of the land. Here are sunbeams breaking through the clouds, a bear in the sky, a deer in the meadow. It all comes together to carry this simple poem that laments the continued depredations of Indian lands. Recommended.
“How the White Race Came to America” (1913) by Handsome Lake (Seneca), as told to Arthur C. Parker (Seneca), adapted by Tom Pomplum / art by Roy Boney, Jr. (Cherokee) (pp.64-71)
Since its founding in the 19th Century, the Code of Handsome Lake has been a source of controversy, political divisions, and pain among the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse). It is known that Handsome Lake was recovering from alcoholism when he experienced his visions. It is also known that Handsome Lake’s mother was not Seneca and so, in this matrilineal society, he may not have been recognized as Seneca. In addition, Handsome Lake’s visions, as passed down in written form by his grandson, have a distinctively Christian influence, and forbid much of what is practiced today by the traditional Longhouse People. And finally, an important part of the controversy is whether or not it was proper to have taken his visions out of the oral tradition in the first place. That part of the Code of Handsome Lake is now produced in graphic format for the amusement of non-Natives belittles the whole thing. Not recommended.
“A Prehistoric Race” (1919) by Bertrand N.O. Walker/Hen-To (Wyandot), adapted by Tom Pomplun, art by Tara Audibert (Maliseet) (pp. 72-79)
Bertrand N.O. Walker/Hen-To was a wonderful storyteller. In the book from which this story is told, Tales of the Bark Lodges, originally published in 1919, Grandma tells old Wyandot stories to her grandson. In these stories, the Wyandot dialect that Grandma speaks is authentic, understandable, and very, very funny; and when her grandson replies, he speaks relatively “standard” English. Since Grandma’s telling the stories to her grandson, she’s also, of course, speaking the animals’ parts. In this adaptation, Grandma tells the story, yet the animals speak dialect-free English. For instance, in the original story, Ol’ Buffalo tells Ol’ Fox that he wants to challenge Ol’ Turtle to a race. So Ol’ Buffalo says:
My frien’, I got make race with Turtle. You kind a smart, an’ you got sharp eyes, you be the judge, see who beat ‘em. You tell him, Ol’ Turtle, I beat ‘im on a ground’ or in a wata’, jus’ how he like, I don’ care nothin’. You tell ‘im come tomorro’ ova’ there by lake when sun come up jus’ ‘bout high as sycamo’ tree. You tell eva-body an’ he can come see race. I be down tha’, you tell ‘im that, Ol’ Turtle. He’s always best one, eva’ time; but I don’t think he could run, it’s too short his legs. Mebbe so he’s run good in wata’, tho’. Me, too, I could run fas’ in wata’ or anyhow. I bet I could beat ‘im’.
In the adaptation, this is what Ol’ Buffalo says:
I have to race with Turtle. You’re smart, and you’ve got sharp eyes—you be judge, and decide who wins. You tell Turtle I can beat him on land or in water, whichever he choose. Tell him to come tomorrow by the lake when the sun is as high as the sycamore trees. Tell everybody to come and see the race. Ol’ Turtle always says he’s best, but I don’t think he can run fast; his legs are too short. Maybe he’s faster in water, but I’m fast in water, too. I bet I could beat him.
Adapting a story is one thing, but to change the style and language is disrespectful and boring. And it makes Grandma appear to be unintelligent. The art is boring as well. Not recommended.
“I’m Wildcat Bill from Grizzle Hill” (ca. 1894) by Alexander Posey (Muscogee Creek), art by Marty Two Bulls, Sr. (Oglala Lakota) (pp. 80-81)
Alexander Posey was a journalist, essayist, poet and humorist, whose writing tended toward sharp political commentary. “Wildcat Bill,” which Posey wrote around 1894, is a boozing, bragging settler (“a gambler, scalper, born a scout; a tough; the man ye read about”). According to scholar Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., “‘Wildcat Bill’ is Posey’s attempt to imitate the speech of the white people then streaming into Indian Territory.” In this version, Marty Two Bulls makes sure that Wildcat Bill gets his comeuppance—from, of all things, a red-painted cigar-store Indian. Hilarious, and highly recommended.
“The Thunder’s Nest” (1851) by George Copway/Kahgegagahbowh (Mississauga Ojibwe), adapted by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair (Anishinaabe), art by James Odjick (Anishinaabe) (pp. 82-88)
This story was first published in Copway’s The traditional history and characteristic sketches of the Ojibway nation (1851) and is the story about how the Thunders, beings who wreaked havoc on the Ojibwe people, were subdued by the bravery of a young man. Although the art takes the place of a lot of the written story, it’s a faithful adaptation of Copway’s version. There is no dialogue—for which I am grateful—and the art is spot-on perfect. The Thunders are frightening, the young man is stalwart and the heart he holds in his hands is practically pulsating. Plus—and this is indeed a “plus” in books that illustrate traditional tales—the pipe is right, the clothing is right, the dwellings are right. It’s good to have a talented Anishinaabe artist illustrating an Anishinaabe story.
My only problem with Copway’s written story is that it appears to be a Christianized version of an old story that belies Indian peoples’ traditional respect for all the elements of Creation. Not having heard an oral version, I’m kind of skeptical of this one, and don’t know if I’d recommend it.
“They May Bury the Steel” (1875) by Israel Folsom (Choctaw), art by Larry Vienneau, Jr. (p. 89)
They may bury the steel in the Indian’s breast;
They may lay him low with his sires to rest,
His scattered race from their heritage push,
But his dauntless spirit they cannot crush.
Folsom’s short, evocative poem was originally published in an essay entitled “Choctaw Traditions: Introductory Remarks,” and republished in Native American Writing in the Southeast: An Anthology, 1875-1935, by Daniel F. Littlefield and James W. Parins. I especially like the repetition of the word “they.” We all know who “they” are. Vienneau’s print of a huge raven (or Raven) on a solid blue background, black with blue shining through its outspread wings, beak open, might evoke defiance, but I think the implied equivalence between Indian and Raven is funky. Folsom’s poem is recommended; the art, not so much.
“The Story of Itsikamahidish and the Wild Potato” (1914) by Buffalo Bird Woman (Hidatsa), as told to Gilbert L. Wilson, adapted by Tom Pomplun, art by Pat N. Lewis (pp. 90-95)
This story was found in Wilson’s field notes (vol. 16, #14) and later appeared in Native American Women’s Writing: An Anthology, ca. 1800-1924, edited by Karen L. Kilcup. According to Hidatsa cosmology, Itsikamahidish is a complex kind of guy who appears in many forms, including as a human; sometimes he appears in the form of Coyote. This is a story about how Itsikamahidish, as Coyote, discovers wild potatoes, who warn him not to eat too much of them. Of course, Coyote being who he is doesn’t listen, and the consequences of eating too many wild potatoes are not lost on the reader. This graphic version is very, well, graphic; Coyote gets his comeuppance and we all know exactly why we shouldn’t eat too many wild potatoes. In Lewis’s illustrations—on a palette of riotous colors—Itsikamahidish looks just like Wile E. Coyote, the talking potato looks like Mister Potato Head, and the circular earth lodges appear accurate. I’m confused, though, about why Itsikamahidish’s sweetheart is an Indian woman, since the Coyote stories I’ve heard take place in the time before humans were created. However, if Itsikamahidish takes many forms, maybe he also dates humans. Recommended.
“Anoska Nimiwina” (1899) by William Jones (Fox), adapted by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), art by Afua Richardson (pp. 96-113)
Written about ten years after the event, this is the story of how Anoska Nimiwina, the dance of peace, came through the territory of the Osakie, Shawnee, Delaware, and Kickapoo, and brought an alliance with their enemies, the Comanche, Kiowa, and Caddo. According to Jones, this version of the sacred story of how a young woman brought peace to the warring peoples of the area was brought to the Sauk and Fox by messengers of the Potawatomi. What has been erroneously referred to as the “Ghost Dance” swept through the Plains nations; and it was brought about by the same desperation. The People believed that if they danced and prayed together in this good way, the predatory whites would disappear, the murdered ancestors would return, and the land and game animals would come back.
Richardson’s art, on a gorgeous palette of mostly blues, purples and browns, make a spectacular complement to Bruchac’s amazing adaptation of a story that reverberates even today in the Idle No More movement and a strong, courageous Indian woman. Highly recommended.
“The Stolen White Girl” (1868) by John Rollin Ridge/Cheesquatalawny (Cherokee), art by Daryl Talbot (Choctaw), color by Kevin Atkinson (pp. 114-115)
John Rollin Ridge is a notorious figure in Cherokee history. His father, John Ridge, and grandfather, Major Ridge, as leaders of the “Treaty Party,” were leading signatories of the Treaty of New Echota (1836), which ceded Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi, and was said to have resulted in the death march known as The Trail Where the People Cried, more popularly called “The Trail of Tears.” Years after followers of John Ross—who had led the Cherokee opposition to the treaty—assassinated Ridge’s father and grandfather, Ridge himself killed David Kell, a member of Ross’s faction. Then Ridge fled to California, and went on to become—a writer. A child of mixed parentage, Ross also married a white woman, Elizabeth. “The Stolen White Girl” is probably a romanticized version of their courtship; absent any of this context, the poem and illustrations read like an early version of the “dime novels” and their successors, the “Indian Romance” novels (“Savage Heart,” “Savage Flames,” “Beloved Savage,” you get the picture). Not recommended.
“The Middle-Man” (1909) by Royal Roger Eubanks (Cherokee), adapted by Jon Proudstar (Yaqui, Maya), art by Terry Laban (pp. 116-129)
In 1887, Congress passed the Dawes Act, also euphemistically known as the “General Allotment Act,” which broke up the vast tribal lands and allotted small portions (about 160 acres) to individual Indian families to farm. The “surplus” lands were then opened up to settlers, and within decades, whites owned the vast majority of the lands. But “most” was not “enough,” and along came the real estate speculators, who, by using the American legal system, bilked Indian individuals of their land allotments. Eubanks, who had pursued careers in teaching and art, became famous for his biting political cartoons and cartoon-illustrated stories, one of which became “The Middle-Man.” Although there is some information on the Dawes Act here (in tiny print at the bottom of three of the ten-page story), it is not enough to carry this adaptation, which will lead readers to believe that Indians were (and are) unintelligent and easily duped. Not recommended.
“Changing Is Not Vanishing” (1916) by Carlos Montezuma/Wassaja (Apache), art by Arigon Starr (Kickapoo) (p. 130)
Carlos Montezuma was a nationally known political leader, writer, essayist and poet, who aimed his political arrows at the white establishment and the BIA for the devastation imposed on Native peoples, and on those who believed the stereotypical portrayal of Indians in the media. Montezuma was not, as the notes here read, “the first Native American to earn a medical degree in an American University.” Actually, Charles Eastman (Santee Dakota) earned his medical degree in the same year, 1889. (Caution: Do your own research and don’t believe everything you read in Wikipedia.)
“Changing Is Not Vanishing” is Montezuma’s answer to those who would believe that changing is vanishing. Arigon Starr’s illustration, of four contemporary traditional and modern Indian people, includes two women, of whom Montezuma’s poem left out. Highly recommended.
“Two Wolves,” by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), adapted by Richard Van Camp (Dogrib Dene) / art by John Findley (pp. 131-139)
“Two Wolves” is one of my three hands-down favorites of this collection. (The others are “Anoska Nimiwina,” which Bruchac adapted; and “The Cattle Thief by E. Pauline Johnson.) “Two Wolves” is the story of a young Abenaki, just out of his teens, back from fighting in the Civil War. Hired by the Town Board to hunt down and destroy a wolf who has killed some sheep, Ash has been traumatized by the killing he has had to do in the war. The wolf has been wounded and scarred as well, and the irony is not lost on the young man: “That’s a good one, isn’t it?” he tells the wolf, “an Indian boy getting paid to scalp a wolf?” Ash, after tossing some of his dinner to the wolf (now named “Catcher”), decides he has “done enough killing for all of us,” and tells his new companion of his plans to head north to Canada. In the north, he says, is “land where there’s woods and deer. No sheep, no bounties paid for wolves or men.”
Findley’s art is amazing, realistic and detailed (save the members of the Town Board, who are appropriately caricatured). Especially poignant is Catcher’s sniffing at Ash’s wolf skin-lined bedroll. In the last two panels, the two lie down together, Ash’s head on his bedroll, and Catcher at his side. Or is Ash’s head on Catcher? Both art and story complement each other, a perfect balance, neither competing for domination. With “Two Wolves,” an anti-war story told in an “Indian” way—no “explanation,” no stated moral, no heavy-handed polemic—the reader is left to ponder the issues and explore the possibilities. Beautiful. Highly recommended.