Here's the first paragraph in the story:
The people were always moving from place to place following the herds of buffalo. They had many horses to carry the tipis and all their belongings. They trained their fastest horses to hunt the buffalo.With the word 'tipis' in that paragraph Goble suggests that these are Plains people. The buffalo are another clue that suggests the story is one belonging to the Plains tribes.
As the story begins, we learn of "a girl" (we are never given her name) who loved horses. People in the village see that she has a way with them. One day when she is out with the herd of horses, a huge storm erupts. She leaps onto one as the herd races in fear. When the horses stop that night, the girl looks around and realizes that they are lost. The next morning she wakes to the neighing of a handsome stallion who tells her he is the leader of the wild horses that roam the hills. He welcomes her to live with them. She and her herd are happy.
Meanwhile, her people spend the next year looking for her. One day, two hunters see the stallion and the girl, too. She's on a horse, leading a colt. They call and wave at her. She waved back, but the stallion drove her and the herd away from the hunters. Other men join them in an attempt to reach the girl, but the stallion keeps them away from the girl and the colt. But, the girl's horse stumbles, and she falls. The hunters take her back to the village. She was happy to see her parents but she is sad. She misses the colt and the wild horses. At night, the stallion calls to her. The girl is lonely and gets sick. Doctors ask what would make her happy again, and she says she wants to return to the wild horses.
The stallion and wild horses come to the village. The people give the horses blankets and saddles and they give the girl a beautiful dress and the best horse in the village. The girl gives her parents a colt, and she rides away, beside the stallion, reunited with the herd. Each year, she brings her parents another colt. But one year, she doesn't return at all.
Then, the hunters see the stallion again. Beside him is "a beautiful mare with a mane and tail floating with wispy clouds about her." They believe the girl is that mare, that she has become a wild horse, too. The story ends with:
Today we are still glad to remember that we have relatives among the Horse People. And it gives us joy to see the wild horses running free. Our thoughts fly with them.Nowhere in The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses do we have any sources for that story. As noted earlier, Goble's use of 'tipis' suggests a Plains tribe. What we know as the Great Plains is a vast area. Here's a map from the Smithsonian:
See how that area stretches from the north to south, spanning at least 1500 miles? See the 20 or so tribes listed in that area? There's a lot more than just those 20. They don't speak the same language and they don't tell the same stories.
The question is, who does this story about a girl who became a wild horse belong to? It'd be good to know. If it is a story Goble came up with, then it isn't a Native story, is it?
Though it won the Caldecott, and though a lot of people love Goble's art, I think it is (past) time to set aside The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. What do you think?
Update, 6:00 AM, June 11, 2014
(1) Elsewhere people are noting how much like they like his art. It is a style most people would recognize as "Goble" but let's pause again. I haven't done a close study of it, but does it suffer from the same ambiguity we see in The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses?
(2) Someone noted that Goble was adopted by a tribe. His Adopted by the Eagles (Macmillian, 1994) includes this:
Does being given a name and being called "Son" mean he was adopted? Was he adopted by Edgar Red Cloud? Or was it by a tribe, as was done with President Obama? I've ordered Goble's autobiography and will revisit this post when it arrives. It may provide details about how he met Edgar Red Cloud.
(3) The Author's Note for Adopted by the Eagles says:
"I would like to think that Edgar somehow sensed, right from the start (1959), that I would one day make books of some of the stories he told me."Many authors say something similar to that... about how Native people they know/live amongst asked them to write a story about them. As readers of AICL now, I frown on that phrase.
(4) Goble's note ends with this curious paragraph:
Finally, it needs to be stated that the traditional kola friendship of the two Lakota men, as described in this story, was never a homosexual relationship. Kolas sought to guard each other from all errors; to share their strengths while walking life's Good Red Road together.I wonder why Goble felt compelled to include that paragraph? Adopted by the Eagles was published in 1994. Perhaps it was prompted by a fear that people wouldn't buy a book about friendship between two men, but, do other books published then have a similar disclaimer?
(5) The last item on the page with the Author's Note is a very important note for teachers. Here it is, in its entirety:
When a book like this has been read in the classroom, students are sometimes asked to write their own "Indian" stories. It is not asked with bad intentions, but it belittles these traditional stories, suggesting that any child can invent them. When studying the Greek myths, or the legends of King Arthur, or Bible stories, students would never be asked to invent stories in the manner of... Instead, children should be encouraged to write down the stories in their own words to help remember them. Over the years they will come to think about the inner meanings which all these stories hold.I say that, too. I'm glad to see it in Goble's book. But he's invented stories! Is it ok, since he is not a child? I don't think so!
See my previous posts about Goble. I'll have more to say when I get Goble's biography.
July 22, 2009: About Paul Goble and his books...
April 3, 2011: Dear Mr. Goble: