N. Scott Momaday: The Ancient Child


The latest addition to my website is N. Scott Momaday‘s Ancient Child, another superb novel about Native American culture from Momaday. The story focuses on two quasi-outsiders. Grey is half Kiowa and half Navajo but has been brought up by her Navajo mother. She returns, aged nineteen, to her Kiowa family to assist her ageing great-grandmother, Kope’mah, and the two soon establish a bond, in particular both having visions about Billy the Kid and Set-angya, a Native American who resisted the whites and was killed doing so. Locke Setman, known as Set, was an orphan, with his mother dying giving birth to him and his father dying when he was seven. After some time in an orphanage, he was adopted by a white couple. He has since become a celebrated painter. When he gets a telegram about the impending death of his grandmother, Kope’mah, he is surprised as he knew nothing about her. He does go but arrives too late but does meet his family, including Grey. We then follow Set as his career develops while his relationship does not. We also follow Grey as she continues to have visions of Billy the Kid, about whom she writes, and develops as a medicine woman, medicine she will use to summon Set back to her. Momaday tells an excellent story, against a background of Native American myth and legend as well as the legend of Billy the Kid, as well as raising important issues about identity and belonging, and about art and artists.

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