The Way to Rainy Mountain | Study Guide

N. Scott Momaday

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The Way to Rainy Mountain | Chapter 6 : The Setting Out | Summary



The first paragraph continues the story of the sun's child. The child sees a spider—"that which is called a grandmother"—and she becomes his caretaker after capturing him with a "snare of rope." The historical paragraph references 1874, when the Kiowa were being surrounded by "columns of troops." In the day it rained. In the evening "the earth was suddenly crawling with spiders, great black tarantulas." The author "know[s] of spiders." In the personal paragraph, he details the look of them and says there is "something crotchety about them." He says tarantulas are "always larger than you imagine, dull and dark brown." This line is repeated on its own page, and facing it is a full-page illustration of a spider in black and white.


The figure of the spider appears in assorted myths, but the spider here is specific to the Kiowa representation of her. In her article "The Gift of Spider Woman," Judith A. Franke, director of the Dickson Mounds Museum, states, "The Kiowa credit Grandmother Spider with putting the sun in place and creating food plants." The grandmother spider here cares for the sun's child. Any further details as to the grandmother spider's role in stories of the sun are not explained in Momaday's text, but in this story she captures the sun's child and cares for the boy. Momaday's depiction of actual spiders as being "crotchety" ties them to the role of grandmother spider as well. The character of the grandmother spider is both caring and crotchety, or cranky.

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