Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The Forest People compete with the Hill People, who have slightly more advanced skills in spinning wool, hunting, and using metals. The priests of the Hill People have not forgotten the old writings and have some knowledge of healing—such as how to stop bleeding. Bound by superstition and taboos based on experience, tribe members are forbidden to go east, cross the great river, enter the Dead Places, or touch metal not purified by priests. These strictures have been in force throughout tribal memory. In addition, the people fear spirits and demons and have an ancestral memory of a “Great Burning.”
A young member of the Hill People, the narrator has studied for the priesthood under his father. He has learned chants, spells, and medical secrets, and has made dangerous journeys searching for metal in spirit houses. Now he has come of age and has reached the time of initiation and spirit journey. He undergoes purification rites, answers questions about his dreams, and tells his father about the vision that he sees in the smoke of the fire. His vision is of a gigantic Dead Place in its time of glory; although his father fears that his son’s strong dream will eat him up, he sends his son on the journey of discovery required as the final initiation into the priesthood. After fasting, the young man awaits a sign. After he sees an eagle flying east and kills a panther by shooting a single arrow through its eye while it attacks a white fawn, he is convinced...
(The entire section is 538 words.)
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