Sunday, November 20, 2022

Tricksters: Return of the Sun

After last week's focus on secondary literature about tricksters, I'm returning to the stories this week, and I'll be focusing on the books by Joseph Bruchac, a wonderful Abenaki storyteller. To start things off, here is an anthology of stories: Return of the Sun: Native American Tales from the Northeast Woodlands.

This is a book with various genres of stories: there are origin stories here, animal stories, stories of human beings... and stories of tricksters, including Glooskap and Nanabush. The illustrations are by Gary Carpenter, a musician and artist based in Santa Cruz, CA. Here is his illustration of Glooskap and the Whale:

The geography ranges from the Great Lakes in the west to the Atlantic coast, including what is now New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and parts of Canada, although those names and boundaries did not exist in the time these stories were first told. The peoples of that time spoke varieties of Algonquin languages and of Iroquoian languages. Bruchac himself is of Abenaki descent, and the Abenaki are an Algonquian-speaking people who lived in what is now New England and Quebec. The Iroquoian peoples include the Mohawk and the Cherokee.

Be sure to read Bruchac's introduction about his process for retelling stories that will appear in print. He works from original languages, but he only retells stories that have already appeared in print, honoring the Native storytellers who are preserving oral stories that have not been written down, without being detached from the oral tradition by appearing in print. Bruchac also visits the places where the stories took place in order to bring that awareness to his retelling. 

So, there is so much to learn from here, and so many stories to enjoy!

by Joseph Bruchac

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