The Way to Rainy Mountain | Study Guide

N. Scott Momaday

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The Way to Rainy Mountain | Chapter 3 : The Setting Out | Summary



The ancestral paragraph notes the Kiowa used to need dogs "a long time ago, when dogs could talk." It tells the story of a dog that offered to help a Kiowa man who was facing a bear if the man would "take care of [its] puppies." The historical section details the "great number of horses which the Kiowas owned." A Comanche man named Ten Bears noted: "When we first knew you ... you had nothing but dogs and sleds." The warrior society of the Kiowa people was called the "Real Dogs" (Ka-itsenko), a group of 10 men, each of whom would fight and "stand his ground to the death." In the personal paragraph, the author recalls, "There were always dogs about my grandmother's house." Although no one paid them attention, he thinks "the old people" would be sad if they weren't around.


Folklore and history meld in a way that emphasizes the ancestral, historical, and personal stories are not actually distinct. The author uses a structure in which these three elements are each typographically set apart in the pages, but the context starts to meld in some segments. The legend of the dog is followed by the fact that special warriors carried the name of "Real Dogs." This honor society and the ferocity of the way they fought may very well read as legend, and yet it is presented as history. These two ideas are followed by an innocuous note about how there were stray dogs aplenty in the author's recalled experiences. The flow between lore, history, and memory is not just about the structure of the theme, but about the fluidity of those three aspects.

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