The Way to Rainy Mountain | Study Guide

N. Scott Momaday

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The Way to Rainy Mountain | Quotes

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1.

Transported so in the dancing light ... she seemed beyond the reach of time.


Narrator, Introduction

Momaday is speaking of his grandmother, Aho. The occasion of her death was the spark that sent Momaday to Rainy Mountain. He remembers her having an air of timelessness.

2.

The Kiowas came one by one into the world through a hollow log.


Narrator, Chapter 1

This selection is from one of the passages recounting Kiowa folklore. In their creation story, the Kiowa people came to this world via a hollow log. This is the beginning of their tribe, and thus the beginning of their story.

3.

Of all the tribes ... the Kiowas owned the greatest number of horses per person.


Narrator, Chapter 7

The Kiowa people were an equestrian tribe. They were skilled riders, and with the aid of horses, they were fierce hunters, particularly of bison. Many Great Plains tribes were equestrian, but the author argues no tribe was as horse-rich as the Kiowas.

4.

A word has power in and of itself.


Narrator, Chapter 8

The idea of words as power, of names weighted with meaning, appears elsewhere in Momaday's work as well. Here and in House Made of Dawn (his Pulitzer-winning novel, which contains echoes of this nonfictional text), he notes words are a creative force for the Kiowa and possibly for the entire world.

5.

The dead take their names with them out of the world.


Narrator, Chapter 8

A word is powerful, and so too is a name. The name is the thing, the identity, and with it one has power. Because of this, out of respect, a person's name is not spoken after their death.

6.

'Take me with you,' the voice said, 'and I will give you whatever you want.'


Narrator, Chapter 10

Tai-me, the Sun Dance doll, is central to the Kiowa Tribe and to this text. The small doll was only revealed once a year at the Sun Dance. It was powerful medicine, and it gave strength and other traits to the Kiowa. To conceptualize this, the reader may find it useful to think of holy items, relics, books, or other faith-based objects.

7.

Old men were the best arrowmakers, for they could bring time and patience to their craft.


Narrator, Chapter 13

Regard for elders is a trait that is not belabored in the text, but it is acknowledged here. The respect is earned because elders have had the time to perfect their craft, rather than simply being revered for being older.

8.

At times the plains are ... black with the sudden violence of weather. Always there are winds.


Narrator, Chapter 14

Momaday captures the spirit of the land in this and other passages. He was a poet as well as a novelist, and it shows in the power of his words. He conveys a sense of place in lines such as this one, in which he shares with the reader the moods of the plains.

9.

There is graphic proof that the lives of women were hard.


Narrator, Chapter 17

The subject of women in Kiowa culture is glossed over. There are thin references, but here is an overt statement that women were not treated as equals by default. He gives an example of a woman waiting outside until her feet froze to elucidate this point.

10.

She owned a great herd of cattle, and she could ride as well as any man.


Narrator, Chapter 17

An exception to the unsavory treatment of women in the historical context is highlighted in the figure of an ancestor of Momaday's, Kau-au-ointy. She distinguished herself by being as competent "as any man." She was initially a slave, and she rose to a position of power.

11.

Nearly 800 horses were killed outright; two thousand more were sold, stolen, given away.


Narrator, Chapter 19

The slaughter of the horses was painful for the Kiowa, for whom horses meant strength and the ability to hunt. Their equestrian skills and their sheer number of horses were part of their tribal identity. The slaughter and removal of their animals was an attack on that identity, strength, and freedom.

12.

I thought I understood how ... a man might be moved to preserve the bones of a horse.


Narrator, Chapter 22

Momaday is trying to understand the story of the horse named "Little Red," and at times he feels as if he can grasp it. The implied statement here, also, is he cannot fully comprehend it. The horse was significant, powerful even in death, and that comes from a legendary aspect still not within the author's reach.

13.

You know, the Tai-me bundle is not very big, but it is full of power.


Narrator, Chapter 22

The Sun Dance doll is neither large nor heavy. It is a small thing, and it is rarely seen. However, its strength is not dependent on its size. The power, the medicine, is within its tiny bundle. The reader can extend this to a larger anthropological understanding. The idea that Tai-me figures in cultural identity, in the existence of the Sun Dance, is also a power.

14.

Indeed the golden age of the Kiowas had been short-lived, ninety or a hundred years.


Narrator, Epilogue

The tribe, small in number, was not as significant in history as many other tribes. Their time of strength was brief. Yet they were powerful and rich in tradition and beauty. Today there are still members of the Kiowa Tribe.

15.

It was ... a quest, a going forth upon the way to Rainy Mountain.


Narrator, Epilogue

Momaday's exploration of his cultural heritage and the history of that culture was part of a quest, a journey sparked by his need to see the place where his grandmother lived and died.

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