September 16th 2010
~characters that make mistakes and try to fix things
The difference is between those who know the consequences and those who don’t.
~Patterns of hierarchy and dominance stem from conceptions through people and stories
a tale, the idea of story telling and its influence
~stories that claim for themselves a sort of truth: novel conflict
Thomas King explores what happens if you spin the truth another way, and what happens if
you stop believing the Truth
Thomas King: The author
Born of a Cherokee father and a German mother in California. Went to the University of
Minnesota and teaches at Guelph, GGRW is his 2nd novel
Layers of the story
Coyote and the narrator tell the story
4 Indians: Robinson Crusoe, Ishmael, Lone Ranger and Hawkeye
First Woman, Changing Woman, Thought Woman: Creation stories
Babo, Sergeant Cereno, Dr. Hovaugh
Alberta, Lionel Red Dog and Charlie Looking Bear
Eli Stands Alone, Sifton, Karen, Norma
Why is there such a concern with beginnings?
Creation Stories: symbolize importance of beginnings: political meaning, I.e. who first?
Origins of the story, what stories are the seeds of modern thinking?
Communal beginnings, going back to the beginning to fix what went wrong
Starting Over: mistakes cannot be undone
Ex. Adam and Eve: their fault, original sin
But you can go back to where it start, understand mistake and learn from it in the future
Explores how certain texts have been given priority over others
Unifies told and untold aspects. Aka genesis story + aboriginal trickster
Precedence: one beginning that has priority, 1st is the best idea theory
Coyote is there before God, upsetting preconceptions
No competition, both Christian God and Aboriginals Coyote were there first -combination
First Word: “So.
Before the biblical genesis beginning therefore undermining its significance
Displacement of logic
Oral audience, an attention grabber
Two types of stories, oral performance and written text
Dream symbolizes God: depicted with no manners, as ‘silly’ (Dog spelled backwards is God)
Silliness is used to level the playing field
Is King staking the deck against one particular story?
Emphasis on audience
Reminders that mistakes have been made in the past: skeptic of single stories, single tellers
and worry about making mistake: highlights importance of stories
Premise: that any one story will always have mistakes therefore tell more stories
Thomas King: “There is a story I know about earth and about how it floats on the back of a
In all the tellings the world never leaves the back of the turtle
“What was bellow the turtle?”
Responsive and playful = no Truth
Joseph Hovaugh: Jehovah. Solitary, order giving character.
Focused on the written text (not oral tradition) and that patterns in the text
I.e. “the book” allusion to the bible
College suggests that he is ‘cherry picking’ his facts
Introverted focus vs. ‘mind your relations’ (community)
Hears only what he wants to hear
Ex. Conversation with Babo, doesn’t care for her take on stories
Racial prejudice: calls Babo Aunt Jemima, a derogatory term for African-American. Race
matters most to people who believe in hierarchy
Interested in knowing everything—like God—skeptic and omniscient
Page Forty Nine
Creation stories: earth diver aboriginal stories, different versions across North America—
GGRW marries biblical and aboriginal religions together
Prerogative: Ahdam doesn’t care that the animals know what they are—he strives to achieve a
hierarchy. – Ahdam lens: exploitable resources in the future, living beings as objects
Ah-damn: allusion to ‘damn’, ironic, being ascribed set role tha might subordinate someone.
Metaphorical Naming: the idea that one name is better than the other, is something better
than what it already is.
Ahdam as anthropocentric—human based world, dominion over other creatures
Page Forty Seven
Myth of the vanishing Indian: that colonization would wipe out the less civilized indigenous
GGRW refutes that
Successful Indians, Alberta as Prof, Lionel as TV seller, Eli as Prof, Charlie as lawyer etc.
Not telling the story in a linear progression with foreseeable end, instead it is complex and
Move to bring together cultural narratives, that even Aboriginal tales are adaptable and re-
September 21st 2010
Oral and Written Stories
Alberta’s history lesson
Portland Looking Bear (aka. “Iron Eyes Screeching Eagle”)
Relationship between the Oral and Written Word
Preoccupation regarding attitudes of oral and written texts
A story as fluid, ever changing
Ex. Amos and Milford with the stolen truck and signed bill of sale
Sergeant Cereno refers constantly to files instead of orally listening to Babo (recording the
Injunctions: Eli staves off the dam usage, past vs. present, stalling change
Lionel can’t get a job because of a criminal record and has heart problems
Changing Woman ‘there has to be a Queequay” says the man
Relationship between writing and empire, a tool of power: treaties
But the treaties are the only written text that seems not to have power
Narratives composed and related in oral performance and passed on orally: dynamic and
changing, different teller, different audience
Lose the rhythms of oral performance, the interactions and improvisation, lose personality.
Settlers say repetition as silly but it engages listening, no going back
GGRW: the attention to people telling stories, repetition, puns that only work when you say
them allowed (pg 334) “Louie, Ray, Al” Louis Riel
Vocal and active reader
The written better than the oral?
Ignored treaties vs. continually asking him the same question
Affinity with oral because of the 4 creation stories
Talking over each other, having a one sided conversation including two people
The ability to listen is an important quality
The idea of precedence as stupid
Rallying against the abuses of written texts, that assert dominance over others
Nothing is better or worse, simply different
Pg 55 Lionel’s 2nd mistake ending in written records:
His mistakes have stemmed from passively telling a story (Duncan’s story), lack of
understanding of audience – King’s making a joke ‘Duncan Scott’
Duncan Campbell Scott was in the Department of Indian Affairs, sent aboriginal people to
boarding school, taking them away from community, culture, language
Present day situation of Aboriginal peoples
Characters named after historical people
Alberta’s History Lesson
Fort Marion where aboriginals were sent on planes to Florida where they made art in ledger
books—true story—students bored by it but named after the people who oppressed Indians in
the past, whose own history is bound up in what Alberta is saying
Why this history lesson?
They do have culture through pictures, upsetting the balance between written and oral
~characters that make mistakes and try to fix things. The difference is between those who know the consequences and those who don"t. ~patterns of hierarchy and dominance stem from conceptions through people and stories a tale, the idea of story telling and its influence. ~stories that claim for themselves a sort of truth: novel conflict. Thomas king explores what happens if you spin the truth another way, and what happens if you stop believing the truth. Born of a cherokee father and a german mother in california. Minnesota and teaches at guelph, ggrw is his 2nd novel. 4 indians: robinson crusoe, ishmael, lone ranger and hawkeye. First woman, changing woman, thought woman: creation stories. Alberta, lionel red dog and charlie looking bear. Communal beginnings, going back to the beginning to fix what went wrong. But you can go back to where it start, understand mistake and learn from it in the future.