As I noted in last week’s post, I am often asked why all of my books have prologues. I not only tried to explain that I use them to set the tone of the novels, but also provided two examples of Prologues by another Okie writer. Today, I’d like to present another approach by a second author with Oklahoma roots, Donald T. Morgan. Let’s get right into the Prologue to his THE EAGLE’S CLAW.
Sleep brought a restless dream. Rather, it was the stitching together of a memory by the boy’s subconscious from scraps collected and then forgotten over the years. There was a man in the dream, a tall Indah with brown hair and sad, gray eyes. A small, tawny woman with long, black hair and a beautiful smile was in it, as well. The izdan, well past school age, yearned to be able to read and write. The man, who taught at the Indian school, helped her learn. They were together often. They talked and laughed and grew toward one another.
They left the reservation and were married in the white man’s way. The woman often returned to her mother’s wickiup, but the schoolteacher never came. This was good because a man gazing upon his mother-in-law risked blindness. The young wife blossomed with health and happiness and child. Strength and pride replaced the longing in the man’s eyes.
One day, more Indah brought a rodeo to the reservation. The Tinneh loved a rodeo. It was great fun to watch the gaunt, pale men flop around on bucking horses. Some of the People rode, too. The crowd cheered when a cowboy rolled in the dust, no matter he was white or tribesman.
Then a hush fell over the stands. A magnificent roan pranced into the arena. A devil horse with fire-eyes and a black mane writhing like a nest of serpents. Its great hooves struck sparks from the earth.
No one could ride him, hooted the rodeo hands. No one ever had. No one ever would. They offered the bribe of money to any who succeeded. The Apache men stirred restlessly, but advised by diyi—the shamans among them—they refused the challenge even though the prize was hefty.
One man stepped forward. The white man with gray eyes. A teacher didn’t make much money, and he had a family on the way. He would claim the reward.
Death stalked the arena. Evil corrupted the air. The cowboys’ flesh turned green from it. The roan danced in savage glee. The smell of horse sweat and manure and hot dogs and dust hung heavy over the crowd. Invisible owls screeched. Whippoorwills cried, and coyotes cackled.
From the uneasy safety of his dream, the boy watched the man mount the haughty horse. The chute gate flew open. The roan shot out, bucking and whirling in a frenzy. The Indah rode him! He rode the wicked beast.
Enraged by the humiliation, the roan flung himself against the fence. The man was hurt. His fingers loosened. The animal twisted savagely, and the rider fell. The demon horse wheeled.
The woman with the beautiful smile ran into the arena, waving her arms to turn the frothy beast away. The horse charged on, driven insane by talons of monster owls buried in his withers.
The man was dead. The dreamer thought the woman was, too, but she moved. Her body strained in birth even as she died.
And he knew he had seen himself born.
Many writing coaches advise authors to steer clear of dream sequences, but I think this one is very interesting. An examination of it tells us a lot about the book. We can assume the restless dreamer is the protagonist of the novel, and if that is true, we learn a great deal about him. He is a half-breed Apache who is likely being raised on the reservation by someone who is deeply immersed in the mystical side of life. We know the violence into which he was born and can only wonder if it continues throughout his life. The Prologue foretells a struggle for the boy’s soul ty two different cultures and hints from the wealth of mythology encapsulated in the dream that the advantage goes to his Apache heritage. We can anticipate that powerful medicine will be used to keep him on the reservation. But we also know the irrestible draw of the outside world.
It spiked my interest. The viewpoint? Well, it has to be omniscient because the wealth of details are far beyond a child’s capacity to take in, understand, or even dream. Thereafter, the book is told in the third person limited point of view.
Once again, I’d like to challenge you to study a prologue and try to determine what the author is trying to accomplish with it.
Next week, we’ll take a look at some of my Prologues.
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