The Way to Rainy Mountain | Study Guide

N. Scott Momaday

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The Way to Rainy Mountain | Chapter 9 : The Setting Out | Summary



The ancestral paragraph continues the story. When the twins killed a snake, the grandmother spider cried and told them the snake was their grandfather. The grandmother spider died, and the twins "lived on for a long time." The historical paragraph describes an alternate version of the story in which the girl follows a porcupine instead of a redbird. In that version, one twin disappears in a lake, and the other "transformed himself into ten portions of 'medicine.'" These medicine bundles were called "talyi-da-i," or "boy medicine," and they are like Tai-me (the Sun Dance doll) in that they are objects of "religious veneration." In the personal paragraph, the author recounts his father going with his grandmother, Keahdinekeah, to see the talyi-da-i in a special tipi. The speaker also remembers meeting Keahdinekeah, who seemed holy to him.


In Kiowa beliefs, the idea of "medicine" is repeatedly mentioned. One sort of medicine is "Snake Medicine." One who had Snake Medicine would treat snake, spider, or scorpion bites. Considering the number of venomous snakes, spiders, and scorpions in the Kiowa territory, this would be very powerful medicine indeed. Momaday does not overtly tie "Snake Medicine" to the myth, but he pairs a story of killing a snake with the historical information on the possession of "medicine." He also includes here his own recollection that the experience of being exposed to these medicine bundles, even tangentially, seemed holy.

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