The Crying for a Vision

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"Waskn Mani's grandmother had seen a fire in the eye of her grandson, the same keen joy his mother had once displayed in the good red and blue days of the past. She did not feel his joy. Neither did she understand it because it had a mystery about it and a complexity. This joy did not produce smiles and laughter, but rather a sacred intensity as if he were thinking hard in a foreign language. Such constant thinking made the boy seem almost a man. Almost holy. Waskn Mani did not look at the hills and trees as they traveled. He seemed to look
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Overview

"Waskn Mani's grandmother had seen a fire in the eye of her grandson, the same keen joy his mother had once displayed in the good red and blue days of the past. She did not feel his joy. Neither did she understand it because it had a mystery about it and a complexity. This joy did not produce smiles and laughter, but rather a sacred intensity as if he were thinking hard in a foreign language. Such constant thinking made the boy seem almost a man. Almost holy. Waskn Mani did not look at the hills and trees as they traveled. He seemed to look through them. And he breathed with a lunging ferocity as if the air were rich and tingling. Ah, the child had some secret in him, some knowledge so deep that even he might not know it was there. This is what caused his grandmother to say that God might have a job for him to do."

Lakota orphan Waskn Mani (Moves Walking), half-child of a star, is a gentle, nature-conscious boy gifted with rare spiritual insight and power. His people are astonished when Moves Walking opposes Fire Thunder, a warrior of great skill and violence whose quest for power will lead to the tribe's spiritual destruction. Only through sacrifice can Moves Walking restore life and hope to his people, and heal their "elemental sorrow -- the anguish of living things when the sacred hoop is broken." Told with extraordinary literary grace and infused with the author's deep love of the Lakota people, this is a timeless tale of good and evil, life and loss, and the transforming relationship that all people of faith can experience with creation and the Creator. Steeped in the culture, history, and legend of the Lakota Sioux, The Crying for a Vision is a novel as majestic as the open plains of the Dakotas.

Waskn Mani, the son of a Lakota woman and one of the stars in the sky, is torn between his devotion to the mystical world and his destiny of confronting the powerful one-eyed warrior Fire Thunder.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a starred review, PW said that Wangerin "powerfully conveys the spiritual beliefs and traditions of the Lakota" in this "stirring" adventure of a boy's sacrifice to save his people. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-This complex and absorbing novel of good and evil, sacrifice and redemption, paints a picture of Lakota culture while illuminating universal truths. A too-brief summary would suggest (incorrectly) that the plot is clichd and predictable: a young man, child of a human woman and a celestial being (a star) is chosen (or chooses?) to give his life for the salvation of his people. A comprehensive plot summary, however, is well beyond the scope of a short review, as Wangerin's narrative is both episodic and cohesive, suspenseful and inevitable, densely detailed and fluidly presented. Suffice it to say that the story of Lakota orphan Waskn Mani (Moves Walking) offers readers an unusual opportunity to glimpse a mythic past and enter a world in which the interconnectedness of all beings is emphasized. The dangers of disconnection are made only too obvious by the ravages of war, famine, and despair. Wangerin's use of language is smooth and compelling, complementing the narrative's structure, which resembles an intricate weaving. The story is not told in a strictly linear, chronological fashion, but is created by combining different parts, told from various perspectives. The book's challenging structure, sophisticated vocabulary, and strongly spiritual theme suggest that it will be enjoyed most by thoughtful readers in search of an imaginative, allegorical novel rather than a simple adventure story. Those able to appreciate this masterfully told tale will be richly rewarded.-Lisa Dennis, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Anne O'Malley
Waskn Mani is an unusual boy. Unlike his fellow Lakota tribesmen, he takes no pride in hunting animals or making war on neighboring peoples. A gentle soul, he quests for his missing mother and later locks into fierce confrontation with the Fire Thunder, the warlike Lakota leader whose story is bound up with the mysterious disappearance of the boy's mother. Wangerin has woven Lakota legends together to tell an adventure tale of a boy's search for peace and justice. Memorable characters abound--including the tribal elders and the many animals with whom Waskn Mani communicates. The mystical strands of dreams and visions and the heavy use of Lakota language weave a rich tapestry of Native American lore but may slow down reluctant readers--although the lengthy glossary of Lakota word meanings will help. This is a particularly strong addition to historical fiction and Native American fiction and legend collections.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557253422
  • Publisher: Paraclete Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2003
  • Pages: 346
  • Product dimensions: 6.54 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

A Dedication and Thanksgiving to the Lakota People vii
Before the Story: a Waniyetu Iyawapi of Slow Buffalo's Band xiii
Part 1
1 Moves Walking 3
2 Fire Thunder 11
Part 2
3 Weeping Star 19
4 A New Wound 23
5 "Black Eyes, I Love You" 30
6 Starmaiden 35
7 Water Lilies 40
8 Standing Hollow Horn 42
9 Itomni: Happy 46
10 A Pair of Warm Moccasins 52
11 "Weep, Weep" 57
12 Rattling Hail Woman 64
13 "The Spotted Eagle is Coming to Carry Me Away" 71
14 Wicahpi 75
15 Hokshi Cala: Baby 82
Part 3
16 Wasna 89
17 Wolf Trap 96
18 "Beautiful Wolf, Don't Die" 101
19 Shunkmanitu Tanka 105
20 The Conversation of Death 111
21 Kola: Friend 118
22 Transfiguration 122
23 Courting 129
24 Scorched Mountain Woman 141
25 Hocoka 147
26 Waga Chun: the Rustling Cottonwood Tree 158
27 A Contest 164
28 An Accusation 170
29 Mitakuye Oyasin! 177
30 They did Not Dance 185
Part 4
31 The Black Road 189
32 Onshika, Onshika: the Pity 204
33 Red Day Woman 212
34 Calling the Buffalo Back 214
35 Washigla: He is in Mourning 221
36 A Moving Flint 228
37 Chanunpa: the Pipe 239
38 Hanblechia: the Crying for a Vision 243
39 Wanagi Yuhapi: the Keeping of Her Spirit 251
40 Hetchetu Welo 261
41 Ohunkankan: the Ancestors Tell This Story 264
42 After the Story: Wateca 275
An Afterword: Mitak' Oyasin: Recalling the Sun Dance 282
Glossary 239
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First Chapter

Part One

Now, then, the story starts here, with a small question: why was a five-year-old child sitting in the tipi of the chief, a little boy crosslegged and scowling as fierce as the rabbit? What could have been the reason for the boy's elevation?
Well, if he were one filled with ability this was an honor.
If he'd been bad, of course, this was discipline.
But the boy showed nothing remarkably good or bad about himself: skinny body, long glossy hair, the shoulder-bones popping through his skin, kneecaps like cracked firewood. He was staring at the chief and trying hard to frown as gravely as that old man--who himself sat cross-legged toward the doorway. The chief owned a heavy hanging face, an enormous nose, a great drum of a belly. The boy kept scowling, puffing his cheeks and sticking out his bottom lip. It wasn't working. He might have been able to scribble a little wrath onto his brow but not into his black eyes.
Bright, rising suns were the black eyes of this child, eyes that followed all he saw as persistently as the mosquito, probing the motion of his elders. Hungry eyes. But it must be said on his behalf that he scarcely noticed how angry his gaze could make his elders.
Moves Walking, they would shout at him, stop that! Don't stare like that! Honor those older than you. Stop that! Stop that, you wablenica, or I will hit you with this stick!
No, with eyes as large as lakes the child could not look grim.
Nor could he make his belly big.
Why, then, on this particular day in the Moon of the Grass Appearing (April) did Moves Walking--a boy but five years old whose Lakota name was Waskn Mani--occupy a position of some importance within the band, sitting in Slow Buffalo's personal tipi on the left side of the doorway so that he was almost opposite the great itancan himself.
Not for honor. Not for punishment either. But because his grandmother was also there, sitting on the other side of the door. There were three in the tipi. She was the third, a tiny woman as small and dark and wrinkled as an old potato, reaching forward to rub her feet and shaking her head. The itancan too was shaking his head because they were in the middle of a conversation about youth. These two people were very old with many memories between them and only one friend fully trustworthy, only one friend fully understanding, and that friend for each was the other.
Moves Walking was in the chief's tipi because he had no choice. He had to stay by his grandmother and she was here because the old man had asked her to come and he had asked because on this particular day the rest of the village was crazy with celebration and the chief was not pleased. He wanted company in his gloom.
Outside the tipi people were running and screaming and laughing. Inside the tipi a small boy felt neglected. The sticking out of his bottom lip was a genuine effort at pouting. He didn't want to look grim like the chief; he wanted to look grimly at the chief.
Outside the tipi little children were squealing so loudly they frightened themselves. Young men were whipping up their ponies and thundering down the village rows, wheeling their mounts into dangerous turns, showing off. Women of every age were making the tremolo of encouragement as if the men were engaged in battles and winning.
But the itancan sat in his tipi and gazed at the wrinkled old woman and heaved a heavy sigh.
So did the small boy sigh. No one noticed.
Waskn Mani was required to stay by his grandmother because she was, so far as anyone could tell, his only living relative. From the beginning no one knew who his father was; his mother had never named a man; and then while the boy was still in a cradleboard she too had disappeared; so the people of the village began to call him wablenica, "orphan."
Little boy, little grandmother. She sat on the right side of the doorway, her legs straight out in front of her, seeming as small as he who sat on the left. But there were differences: the boy's eyes were huge and his skin was smooth; her eyes were tiny and bright and pressed into a badlands of a face. Little grandmother: for her the years had been torrents and terrible droughts creating deep gullies across her face--but her eyes were clean. Her eyes were hazel-bright and clean.
Shrewdly now she watched Slow Buffalo heave his sigh. She said, "Tatanka Hunkeshne, what is the matter with you?"
All at once the village fell quiet. The silence outside was like a pressure, people holding their breath and waiting. Inside, the boy's black eyes were nearly popping from his head because he knew who was coming; he knew the hero was almost here and he couldn't stand it.
Then someone shouted, "Hi-ye-he!"
Waskn Mani clapped a hand over his mouth.
Then a hundred people were shouting greetings and bellowing praises: "HI-YE-HE! HI-YE-HE!" The whole village exploded in a sustained thunder.
The boy put two hands over his mouth. Poor Waskn Mani felt yells in his throat too. The hunter was home! At this very moment the warrior of glory was riding toward their tipis.
Waskn Mani's eyebrows rose in speechless appeal. His nostrils flared, his small chest panted, but no one was paying attention and he didn't yell. Oh! Oh, listen! There were the hoofbeats of one walking pony! Even beneath the roar of the people the boy could feel those hoofbeats in the earth.
Fire Thunder! That mighty hunter, that dreadful warrior, was right now passing outside the skins of the chief's tipi.
How could a boy not yell?
How could a boy not die?
Then many, many ponies were passing by and both of the ancient people with him bowed their heads. The itancan closed his eyes in a seeming weariness but the old woman was counting.
Two and five and ten and twenty--and by the sound of their step they were loaded down with buffalo meat: forty ponies. Fifty ponies!
"Tatanka Hunkeshne," the old woman said the name of her friend. "Did you count what just came home? Fifty. The first hunt of the season and the first pony raid, both--and this young fellow all by himself brings back enough food to satisfy three villages. Aren't you glad? Doesn't this cause some pride in the heart of an itancan?"
Already the sounds outside were subsiding from roars to the rhythms of work. Meat-drying racks were dragged into place; great strips of buffalo meat were being cut to hang there, later to be pounded with whole cherries and bone tallow into a good nutritious food called wasna. The sounds of a village at work now grew soft and continuous like the ticking of ten thousand ants: people were lashing willow frames together upon which they would stretch new buffalo hides. They were sharpening fleshing tools for scraping the skins clean. They were building high fires and filling buffalo paunches with water, the fires to heat stones which they would drop in the water to make it boil, to render fat from the bones for wasna: Hi-ye-he! Happy day! Good and happy work! A winter of hunger was ended. Richness had returned.
But Slow Buffalo the chief kept his great head bowed, his old eyes closed.
"Tatanka Hunkeshne," the old woman said, "what is the matter with you?"
He made a deep sound in the cave of his nose: "Hmmm."
She said, "Listen, wicahchala: critical people might think that an old hunter is jealous of a young one, yes? I am not such a person myself, of course, but gossips might say an old warrior begrudges a young one his glory."
Slow Buffalo's big belly began to jump upward: "Hm! Hm!" Waskn Mani thought these were spasms but then the man's shoulders started to shake and a rumbling rolled from his nose. He was laughing. He raised his head and said, "Old woman, I broke a tooth on some wasna today." He grinned. Lo, there was a whole new gap in his smile. "You and your feet, me and my teeth. Woman, woman, we are coming to pieces, ho-ho-ho!"
Waskn Mani's grandmother also began to giggle. It was clear that these two were enjoying a joke together, though the boy had no idea what was funny about crumbling teeth and crooked feet. He stuck out his bottom lip so far he could see it. Here was the chief of the entire band displaying his gums while the rest of the people were busy working.
Why should a child have to sit for this?
His grandmother said, "So then, that is your trouble? You won't be able to feast on new meat tonight? Hee-hee-hee!"
"Ho-ho!"
At that very instant there came a scratching on the doorflap. Someone was asking to come in--a giant, according to the tremendous shadow he cast on the yellow buffalo skins. Immediately the mood inside the tipi changed.
Laughter died on the chief's lips. His face fell, his eyes snapped upward and the old woman squinted at her friend: "So this is your trouble?" she whispered.
"Not his success," Slow Buffalo said, "but his manner. There is something here that scares me concerning our future." All at once he raised his voice and shouted, "Hau!"
The mood of the boy, too, had changed. No bottom lip, no pouting now! His face flamed with anticipation. He had covered his mouth with both hands again because happiness was booming in his chest.
"Hau!" shouted the chief. "Come!"
So the flap was drawn back. So sunlight flooded the tipi blinding the boy--and into that sunlight, bowed low by his entering, stepped a man.
Fire Thunder.
Oh, what a man now unfolded beside small Waskn Mani: as for height more glorious than the thundercloud, a man like a single cottonwood standing alone midfield, tall and tough; as for strength muscled and mighty and shining, his head ascending to the smoke hole, his shoulders a shelf of the heavens. Behold how his frame filled the tipi, cords of power down his arms, a brace of muscle at the forearm. Waskn Mani could reach and touch the back of the huge left hand but he didn't dare, He wasn't even breathing. Here was a warrior, oh! Here was a hunter in nought but a loincloth, a knife at his hip, braids on his broad back, and--slanting down his forehead and cheek in order to cover the left eye forever--an otterskin headband.
Whoever had seen beneath that slash of a headband? Who knew what was hidden there? The right eye flashed like black obsidian; the left remained as mysterious as God. And the jaw of Fire Thunder was so absolute that young men whispered, Inyan: stone. This jaw was of stone and perhaps the left eye was an eagle's beak!
He fights in silence, the young men said. He fights in solitude. He never cries out and even when he is done he does not utter stories. Others must sing his glories for him--
In his right hand, now, the warrior-hunter carried a parfleche bag. Fire Thunder had come to the chief's tipi in order to observe a ritual, bringing first meats as a gift.
Slow Buffalo said nothing.
Waskn Mani squirmed in discomfort. Someone should speak to such a hero, welcome him, acknowledge him.
But Fire Thunder seemed equal to any situation. With an outrageous grace he sank to one knee and placed the parfleche bag on the ground before him.
In a voice as smooth as the owl's flight he murmured, "Liver and kidney, grandfather. Soft meat. I would not want the mighty itancan to abuse his poor old teeth with chewing."
Slow Buffalo's eyes flashed. His face drooped like a sliding mud but still he said nothing.
"I rode west," the hunter continued, "west past the mountains and yet farther west than Lakota have courage to go and I drove the buffalo herds back--"
Waskn Mani gasped. He couldn't help himself The reference to such distances set him buzzing with a question which came often into his mind, a question of such urgency that even the awe of this moment could not restrain him. Surely if anyone, great Fire Thunder would know the answer. Surely he!
So the child went up on his knees beside the warrior and spoke out loud: "Ate?" he said. "Father?" he said, a term of extreme respect.
Immediately his grandmother slapped her thigh for silence and the chief frowned and Fire Thunder whirled around on one knee. The covering of his left eye had hidden the boy till now.
"Ate?" the child repeated in spite of all--but the giant's reaction was so strange that Waskn Mani, seeing it, didn't speak again.
Fire Thunder first had narrowed his eye at the five-year-old but now he opened it in seeming recognition and his face began to swell with emotion. His visible eye ignited white fire, his brow grew black, he lifted his right hand and pointed at the boy as if to say, Don't speak to me, don't speak to me, boy! In fact, the man said nothing at all, but a hissing escaped his teeth.
Without a word, without asking leave of the itancan, without prayer or approval or an end to the ritual, the warrior stood, bent down and departed the tipi. He went forth like an owl in perfect silence.
For a while that silence continued within the tipi.
Then Moves Walking whispered, "Unchi? Grandmother? But I have to ask if he met my mother in the faraway."
Slow Buffalo's great cheeks were trembling. "Did you hear that?" he said. "Woman, did you see what he did? He mocked my age! He scorned me with his joke: liver and kidney! Old teeth and chewing! No, I do not like him. No, I do not trust this Fire Thunder."
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