Friday, October 21, 2011

THE MAN WHO KILLED THE DEER by Frank Waters (1942)

The power of this novel lies in the information it delivers about the Pueblo culture, while at the same time telling a fascinating story. The protagonist is Martiniano, a Pueblo Indian who has just returned from years of education in white boarding schools. He is a man caught between the white and the Pueblo cultures. Through the course of the novel, Martiniano, who is a decent human being, moves closer to his lost Indian culture and by the end is back to the blanket as Byers says. Byers is a white trader with an intimate understanding of the Pueblos and an extraordinary closeness to them—and yet he really doesn’t fully understand them.
The Deer is at the core of the Pueblo spiritual life which centers on the belief that all of nature is interconnected that this life is very much controlled by the other world.
There is a perfect balance in the telling of the story, which opens with Palemon, a traditional Pueblo and Martiniano’s close friend, sensing something, he doesn’t know what. He rises from bed and goes up on the mountain, where he finds Martiniano, who has been injured while hunting. Palemon the fetches the deer Martiniano has killed out of season and without the ceremony appropriate under the Pueblo spiritual life. The deer’s spirit will haunt and shape Martiniano through the story. At the end of the book, Martiniano, who has moved closer to his spiritual roots, rises from his bed, haunted by the drums of the kivas, to go up the mountain for an inexplicable reason to rescue Palemon’s injured son, who was completing the rite of passage from boy to man. Ergo the balance of the story and the spiritual/physical life.
At the end, Martiniano decides to submit his own son to the Pueblo system of spiritual education—with the emphasis on the spirit, the unity of the tribe and nature--instead of pursuing the white man’s path of getting and spending.
In reading “The Man Who Killed the Deer”, I began to see why some suspect Carlos Castaneda was writing fiction rather than anthropological studies in his Don Juan books. The roots of the information of Don Juan’s teaching are available in “The Man who killed the deer” including the peyote path.

 A SUGGESTION: My novel, OOOEELIE, is now available as a free download on, KINDLE, SMASHWORDS, BARNES & NOBLE, and i-TUNES.
Try it, enjoy it, and if you are in the mood, review it.

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