The Way to Rainy Mountain | Study Guide

N. Scott Momaday

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The Way to Rainy Mountain | Epilogue | Summary



The epilogue is narrated in the way of the prologue, preface, and introduction. It tells of the Leonid meteor shower on November 13, 1833. This is one of "the earliest entries in the Kiowa calendar"—pictographic tribal records—and it is illustrated here. In the previous year, "Tai-me had been stolen." Tai-me would be recovered, but "in 1837 the Kiowas made the first of their treaties with the United States." The epilogue goes on to point out the "golden age" of the Kiowa people was very brief, only "ninety or a hundred years."

For the author, "the living memory and the verbal tradition" of the Kiowas were embodied in Ko-sahn, a 100-year-old woman. Ko-sahn sang and "spoke of many things," including the Sun Dance. He recounts her recollections, and they end with this statement: "It was all for Tai-me, you know, and it was a long time ago." The author closes the book with the thought that she, too, is probably dead now. He wonders what she dreamed and thought about. On the final page is a 10-line poem titled "Rainy Mountain Cemetery," in which the author comments on death, the early sun, the plains, and silence.


The final portion of the book is a more linear narrative of the ideas Momaday offers poetically and by inference in the heart of the text of The Way to Rainy Mountain. Here he outlines some key events in the history of the Kiowa people.

The author's intent with the inclusion of the person of Ko-sahn is more overt than most of the rest of the text. For Momaday, she personifies the "living memory and verbal tradition" of the Kiowa people. As she is 100 years old, her strong connection to that history means she represents the closing opportunity to make it known. She has lived the memories and experiences that Momaday primarily knows of through other people's voices. Moreover, when he notes she, too, is likely to be dead now, Ko-sahn embodies his mourning over the Kiowa people as a whole.

The book's poetic close continues this sorrowful tone and sense of great loss. There is much to remember here, implies the author, and there is much that has already been lost.

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