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Multicultural Literature
Buffalo Woman
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Goble, Paul.  1984.  Buffalo woman.  New York: Simon &
     Schuster Books for Young Readers.  ISBN: 0027377202.

 

          A Plain's Indian hunter comes upon a buffalo cow at the river.  Drawing his bow he aims and the next thing he sees is a beautiful young woman at the water’s edge.  He knows at once he loves her and she agrees to marry him saying that she has been sent by her people because the hunter is a good and kind man.

          A son, Calf Boy, is born but Buffalo Woman is not accepted by the tribe.  They are not kind saying she has no family and they send her away.  Upon returning home, the hunter finds his family gone and he goes in search of them.  Finding them, his wife tells him she cannot live with his people.  She says not to follow or he will be in great danger but the hunter responds, “I love you…and wherever you and our son go, I am going too” (Goble).

          Buffalo Woman returns to her people, the Buffalo Nation, and the hunter is again warned to turn back because the buffalo are angry with the “Straight-up-People” for being unkind to Buffalo Woman.  Upon finding the herd of buffalo, Calf Boy, warns his father that the buffalo will kill him if he cannot pass several tests.  With the help of his son, the hunter passes the tests and is transformed into a young buffalo bull.

          According to the author, this legend comes from the Indian tribes living on the Great Plains who followed the buffalo herds.  Buffalo were integral to the Plains Indians survival and the people felt a kinship with these animals.  Throughout the story, in illustration and words, there is a balance between man and animal.  The fact that the buffalo provide food, hides for clothing and shelter, and implements for “Straight-up-People", is offset by the beauty and majesty in which the buffalo are depicted.

          Illustrations are created with ink and watercolor in flat perspective suggestive of Indian artwork displayed on tepees and other artifacts.   The native people are never shown in full face in accordance with Indian belief having to do with a person’s spirit.  He accurately depicts the clothing and surroundings of these native people, in great detail.  Wildlife, landscape plants and trees are representative of the Great Plains. Mention is made that Buffalo Woman’s hairstyle is different and not in braids but all others feature the traditional braided hair.  

          Goble states that, in accordance with Indian belief, the retelling of these stories encouraged the herds to continue to give of themselves and by listening, man would be more worthy of this gift from the buffalo.  At the end of the story, a song and quote from the Osage tribe add to the authenticity of this story.  The transforming power of love is the lesson of this legend; the love of the hunter for his family and the mutual respect man and animal have for each other.