Monday, May 19, 2008

Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT

Many people have written to ask me about a young adult novel called Twilight. Written by Stephanie Meyer, Twilight is the first book in the "Twilight Saga." The "Twilight Saga" has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 40 weeks and as of this day, is in the number 1 spot.

I've been asked about it because the books include werewolves who are Native. Quileute, to be precise, from the La Push reservation in Washington. Quileute is not made up, and neither is La Push. Both are real.

I read the book, quickly. Here's passages that begin on page 124. The Quileute boy, Jacob, is with the protagonist, Bella, on an outing. Bella's love interest is a guy named Edward Cullen. Bella suspects Edward is different (doesn't know yet that he's a vampire), and is trying to get information out of Jacob. I'll start with Bella speaking to Jacob, and his reply:

"What was that he was saying about the doctor's family?" I asked innocently.

"The Cullens? Oh, they're not supposed to come onto the reservation."

Jacob feels he's said too much, but Bella promises she won't tell anyone. Assured with her promise, Jacob goes on, saying:

"Do you know any of our old stories, about where we came from--the Quileutes, I mean?" he began.

"Not really," I admitted.

"Well, there are lots of legends, some of them claiming to date back to the Flood--supposedly, the ancient Quileutes tied their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees on the mountain to survive like Noah and the ark." He smiled, to show me how little stock he put in the histories. "Another legend claims that we descended from wolves--and that the wolves are our brothers still. It's against tribal law to kill them.

"Then there are the stories about the cold ones." His voice dropped a little lower.

"The cold ones?" I asked, not faking my intrigue now.

"Yes. There are stories of the cold ones as old as the wolf legends, and some much more recent. According to legend, my own great-grandfather knew some of them. He was the one who made the treaty that kept them off our land." He rolled his eyes.

"Your great-grandfather?" I encouraged.

"He was a tribal elder, like my father. You see, the cold ones are the natural enemies of the wolf--well, not the wolf, really, but the wolves that turn into men, like our ancestors. You would call them werewolves."

"Werewolves have enemies?"

"Only one."

I stared at him earnestly, hoping to disguise my impatience as admiration.

"So you see," Jacob continued, "the cold ones are traditionally our enemies. But this pack that came to our territory during my great-grandfather's time was different. They didn't hunt the way others of their kind did--they weren't supposed to be dangerous to the tribe. So my great-grandfather made a truce with them. If they would promise to stay off our lands, we wouldn't expose them to the pale-faces." He winked at me.

Jacob goes on, eventually telling her the cold ones are vampires. Then he says:

"Pretty crazy stuff, though, isn't it? No wonder my dad doesn't want us to talk about it to anyone."

I couldn't control my expression enough to look at him yet. "Don't worry, I won't give you away."

"I guess I just violated the treaty," he laughed.

"I'll take it to the grave," I promised, and then I shivered.

"Seriously, though, don't say anything to Charlie. He was pretty mad at my dad when he heard that some of us weren't going to the hospital since Dr. Cullen started working there."

"I won't, of course not."

"So do you think we're a bunch of superstitious natives or what?" he asked in a playful tone, but with a hint of worry. I still hadn't looked away from the ocean.

There's more as the book progresses, but none of the reviews mention the werewolf/Quieluete material...

More later. (And if you've read the books, please comment.)

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.


gnomicutterance said...

There's a community on Livejournal specifically for Native fans of the Twilight books: twilight_ndnz [profile]

Anonymous said...

her name is spelled: stephenie

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that stephenie uses the Aboriginal/Native American angle as a "hook" in her novel and her site makes claims that it will be a series with the potential of Rowlings'....stephenie parallels Rowling's hook into magic/supernatural based in English myth and boarding school ethos the fully developed in the literary mythos...tapping into the blood myths around Native American's in the American psyche is nothing new....or surprising....we know that Rice's vampire series was very much based in the loss of her child from a blood based disease and her own exploration of the meaning and value of blood in her writings.....the anxieties associated with blood/primitive peoples/west coast forests willderness (Forks = Men in Trees)are just so, well....EXCITING.... it will be interesting to see what develops in stephenie's writings since the LDS have some interesting theology around Native Americans and the settling of the west. We will watch to see the development of some of these mythical American relationships as they come out into the light of day/screen/page/WHY.
Ya godda start with the Indian stories, with get the hair on the back of the neck to stand up...I think they call it thrills.....drawing on colonial sentiment...for the blood....
but then I am not much of a horror flick chick....

Debbie Reese said...

Thanks, anonymous, for the note about correct spelling of her name. I've made the correction.


jpm said...

It looks a bit like .... umm... vampirism when an outsider whose idea has run out of its own red cells & plasma is able to get a transfusion of sorts from indigenous traditions of which he/she has only the most superficial understanding.

Anonymous said...

The vampires in this series are not the heroes. The Cullens are attempting to exist while not hurting humans --- turning away from the very nature of being a vampire. The Native American tribe (some of whom are werewolves) protects the community from the "regular sort vampires" & has an uneasy alliance of sorts with the Cullens. Since werewolves & vampires are deadly enemies, it is difficult for the Native Americans who are also werewolves & the Cullens to tolerate each other. Add the complication of a competing love interest - Bella-- to both Jacob & Edward -- conflict is inevitable. As this series continues on, the Native Americans who are also werewolves join forces with Cullens to drive out a group of marading vampires from this area & save both the communities -- those on the reservation & in the city itself.

Alice said...

In response to the last comment -- I would not go so far as to say that the vampires are not the heroes of the story. Meyer takes great measures to praise the Cullens in their ability to deny their natural urges and rise above their animalistic instincts. In so doing she paints the sparkly white vampires as "civilized". She then takes great measures to show how the Quileute werewolves have great difficulty quelling their animalistic sides. They are ruled by the animal within in a much less controlled and "civilized" manner. One might argue, that Meyer is unconsciously painting the Native werewolf as "primitive" and the white vampire as "civilized". To say the least, this is insulting. It becomes obvious that the Cullen family are definitely Meyer's heroes.

I understand how these themes can become embedded in the novel of anyone who has ever read or been taught from a standard American history textbook. Almost all textbooks write using the primitive to civilized continuum -when it would be better for everyone if this racist view of history was uprooted and challenged.

Meyer's Twilight Saga is the perfect example of how this primitive/civilized idea is still engrained in fiction. The more time the werewolves spent with the Cullens the more they began to take on some of their ways. Look at Seth - one of the most "endearing" werewolves, becomes so only because of his close relationship to the vampire family. While those werewolves who stay closest to their wolf family - Sam etc are closed-minded, dangerous, animals... Until Jacob, Leah and Seth can show them that the Cullens are really awesome people... That they are really the heroes of the story.

There are many aspects of these books that caught a raw nerve for me! Bella's weakness and need for rescue, Edward's dominant control over her to name a few more. But the portrayal of our Northwest Coastal Natives as wild animals with little control over their urges frustated/angered me most.

Terri the teacher said...

I am very grateful to have found this site.
I usually do not blog,but the media hype about
this series and movie needs a reality check.
I am an elementary teacher and a mother of a
12 year old girl. My daughter brought Twilight
home from her middle school. As a concerned parent, I began reading it
and have since read the series in its entirety.
My daughter and I have had several discussions
concerning the sexual content and the lack of reality
when it comes to the Native American Quileute reservation
at LaPush, WA. She is not reading the rest of the series.
I live in Seattle and have studied, known,
taught etc about the Native American experience to elementary
students for quite a few years. I am not an expert,nor do I claim
to have all the answers. We vacation at LaPush at least once a year, and I am
struck by the natural beauty and the poverty of the reservation.
I was quite concerned by the inauthenticity regarding the Northwest
Native American stories. The book calls them werewolves, but they
are not the traditional full moon werewolf,rather they are protectors
of the "tribe". This distinction is not cleared up until the final book.
I have yet to hear or read such a story from the Northwest
Indian Clans. Most children/teens do not have the background knowledge to
separate fact from fiction when it comes to the beliefs, etc of Native American
This book just continues to provide misinformation.
As a mom trying to raise my daughter to feel good about her coming womanhood,
I am aghast at how the media is advertising Edward as some sort of gentleman,and refering to the
sexual tension as not about sex but about abstinence (give me a break)
Controlling and obsessive relationships are especially harmful to anyone at
any age. The book reads like a trash romance, and the characters are especially
self-centered. That Meyers refrains from references to alcohol, drugs, and swearing
keeps the books at the PG13 level, and also the movie. The theme is sexual tension
with overtones of sadism, and masochism. Sexual violence is also present, but it
is prettied up as a result of the Honeymoon experience in the final book. That
the media has marketed these books to kids as young as 10 and 11 is a travesty.

Ellie said...

Yeah, I read two of the books, and wondered if the Quiluetes were cool with Meyer basically making up fake legends about a real tribe. I mean, the balls on her. The tribe could probably sue.

Brian said...

Quileute Wolf Myths says that two monsters met on occasion in massive battle at the boundary between Elwha and Quileute territory. Equally matched, they devastated a huge area and wounded one another grievously, but neither ever killed the other. After the last such fight, both monsters hobbled home to caves, walled themselves in, and cried over their injuries. The steaming hot tears of both have run off of their dens and amassed to make the Sol Duc and Olympic hot springs. The Quileutes named the monster whose tears make the Sol Duc Hot Springs a’lakil “the monster who cries in the woods”. Perhaps this is the the fabled battle between the wolves and vampires?

Anonymous said...

i've read the series at least 63 times, and as i read more of it, it got more racist every time i picked up the book. he, as in edward cullen, has been terroizing jacob. he's been calling him names, ands such but stephenie meyer, the author of this series, has had her religion secretly added to this. there has been accusations that the name"jacob black" came from the book of mormon as a curse. does this prove that the twilight saga is racist, or no?

Anonymous said...

What I find a little disturbing in those quotes is the way the Native American histories and stories have been belittled. There was in fact a great flood that washed over the entire Northwest (Glacial Lake Missoula). I'm sure in the Puget Sound area there were also many floods throughout the centuries of this tribes existence. Fastening canoes to treetops for survival actually doesn't seem so far fetched when you consider that.