What role do the mythical characters of Ka'tsina and Yellow Woman play in the narrator going with Silva in the story "Yellow Woman" by Leslie Silko?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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“Yellow Woman went away with the spirit from the north and lived with him [Ka’tsina] and his relatives.  She was gone for a long time, but then one day she came back…”

This is the essence of the myth that the protagonist has been taught in the story “Yellow Woman” by Leslie Marmon Silko.  A ka’tsina in the Pueblo people’s mythology was a benevolent spirit associated with water.  He was often associated with abducting a woman from her community.

The nameless protagonist awakens to find herself not in a dream but in an relationship with a man called Silva.  He has indicated to her that he is a ka’tsina and she is Yellow Woman, another mythological character who represented female sexuality, power, and corn.

The narrator easily falls under the spell of Silva.  Named by Silva, Yellow Woman finds herself caught between two worlds—her everyday life that is unfulfilling to her; and the mythic history of her people as taught by her grandfather. 

Silva, the ka’tsina to her Yellow Woman, tells her that she is going with him to his cabin in the mountains.  Never hestitating, the speaker leaves behind the real world and travels under the spell of this exciting man.  When she goes into the mountains with Silva, time stands still. There is nothing to remind her of the twentieth century 

The sexuality is palpable as Silva constantly touches his modern day Yellow Woman.  The narrator is unsure who or what Silva is.  She begins to believe that she may actually be caught in some other worldly time. Despite this, occasionally she thinks back to her babies and other family that she left behind. 

When the speaker is in his cabin,  Silva pulls her into his world. He continues to intrigue her with his references to their living this mythical dream.

Throughout their time together, the young woman falls further under the influence of this exciting, free time.  Even though she questions Silva, he never admits that he is anything other than the mountain spirit.

After a night of love making, the narrator awakens in the morning. Silva is gone.  She begins to think that she will be with him forever, even making plans about who would take care of her family. The young woman goes for a walk through the pine trees.

When she returns to the cabin, Silva is there dressing a carcass.  He has stolen a cow from the nearby ranchers.  He wants the narrator to accompany him into a nearby town to sell the meat. 

The two ride off to sell the meat.  They run into a man who accuses Silva of rustling his cattle. Speaking the Indian language, Silva tells the narrator to return to the cabin. 

Turning her horse, she begins he ride back until she hears four shots. She aims toward the river where she first met Silva.  Leaving the horse behind, she runs the rest of the way.  It takes all of strength to keep from returning to Silva.

However, she walks back to her house and listens to the voices inside.  They would be glad to see her. She will tell them that she had been kidnapped.

Although she is a married woman with many responsibilities, the encounter with Silva  by the river leads her to leave her old life behind with scarcely asecond thought.  The narrator does not decide to go with Silva but goes because he tells her that she will go.

Realizing that Silva is not the good water spirit, she understands that he is a thief and probably a murderer; the narrator also knows that if Silva were to come for tomorrow that she would probably go.





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