The Way to Rainy Mountain | Study Guide

N. Scott Momaday

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The Way to Rainy Mountain | Chapter 8 : The Setting Out | Summary



The first paragraph tells us the children of the sun each had a ring now, and they played with them. They followed their rings over a hill and ended up in a cave where a giant lived. The giant "killed a lot of people in the past by building fires and filling the cave with smoke." However, the children escaped because they remembered the word thain-mom (above my eyes), which the grandmother spider had taught them. The historical paragraph notes that to the Kiowa, words have "power," and "the word is sacred." It notes further the Kiowas "would not speak the name of a dead man." The personal paragraph relates that Momaday's grandmother, Aho, used the word zei-dl-bei (frightful) when she "saw or heard or thought something bad." He thinks it was "a warding off, an exertion of language upon ignorance and disorder."


In direct contrast to the last segment, this one has a wholeness to it that pulls together a number of textual elements. The author references his dead grandmother (Aho), calls her by name immediately after giving the information that historically Kiowas did not call dead people by name. He also references the power of words and the story of the twins using words as power. Explicitly, the words are used to protect the twins from the smoke that could kill them. The words provide clarity, safety, and ultimately freedom. This is paired perfectly with a recollection of Aho using words of her own as a "warding off" of bad things—much as the children in the legend had done.

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