Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In The Light in the Forest, Richter presents the Indians’ point of view toward the settlement of the wilderness, putting an unusual twist on the traditional captivity tale: He tells the story of a white boy who resents being returned to his natural parents. John Butler was only four years old when Delaware Indians captured him during a raid on his father’s farm in western Pennsylvania. Adopted by a tribal chief and renamed True Son, he lived for more than a decade in the Ohio wilderness until Colonel Bouquet’s treaty with the Delaware Indians called for the repatriation of all white captives. On True Son’s reluctant journey to the Paxton settlement, he sees an ancient sycamore that symbolizes his predicament. A dead limb points toward the white settlement, while a live branch points back toward his beloved Indian culture. The conflict in the story turns on these two claims to his loyalty.
Stubbornly insisting on his Indian identity, True Son refuses all efforts to reinstate him into the life of family and community. His invalid mother seems ineffectual, and his father preoccupied with business ledgers and property. Only his little brother, Gordon, provides comfort and companionship. True Son reserves his greatest hostility for his uncle, Wilse Owens, an Indian-hater and one of the Paxton Boys, who had massacred Indian women and children in an earlier reprisal against the Conestoga.
True Son’s smoldering resentment at his...
(The entire section is 717 words.)
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The Light in the Forest addresses universal issues of survival, individual freedom, divided loyalties, and identity through the personal drama of True Son, a fifteen-year-old boy caught between two cultures. Born to European settlers, True Son was abducted by Native Americans when he was four years old. He has grown to love and respect his "adopted" parents; forced to return to his biological family as an adolescent, True Son faces a crisis of identity and purpose.
True Son's individual struggle points to the larger territorial conflict between the early pioneers and Native Americans. As an adventure story, the novel depicts both the white and Native American characters as complex individuals; as a historical account, the story presents the characters as representations of the political loyalties and racial biases of their own groups. Richter openly confronts the issue of racial biases among ethnic groups and encourages cultural sensitivity; The Light in the Forest emphasizes cooperation and respect for the values of others as the only means of ensuring a peaceful society in the future. Forced to choose between his white and Native American families, True Son ultimately rejects both and instead chooses to regard himself as an individual and to provide an example of peace and justice. Through True Son's story Richter extends a message of racial harmony in the United States and peace and understanding among nations.
(The entire section is 227 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
True Son is fifteen years old and tries to act like a grown man when he hears the news, but inside he is in great pain. Physical pain he can endure, as he has many times before, like when hot stones were placed on his skin or when he had to sit in an icy river as his Indian father tried to make him strong enough to endure any physical hardship. But nothing has prepared him for this.
It is November, and it has been rumored for days in True Son’s village that the Lenni Lenape and Shawanose are being forced to return their white prisoners; but True Son never thought he would have to leave. Cuyloga has been True Son’s father for eleven years, ever since True Son was adopted as Cuyloga’s son, replacing a son who died. Cuyloga spoke words that replaced the boy’s white blood with Indian blood, and that is when the boy became True Son, a member of Cuyloga’s family. Now he must be torn from them and given to his enemy, “the alien whites.”
The day his father tells him the news, True Son determines he will never give up this life; so he sneaks out of his village, blackens his face with campfire soot, and hides in a hollow tree. True Son thinks no one will find him, but Cuyloga tracks his son down and ties the boy up in his cabin.
The next morning, Cuyloga leads True Son away from everything and everyone he has known for most of his life and leads him to the “ugly log redoubts and pale tents of the white army.” True Son wonders if Cuyloga, who has always been right, is in the right now.
The sights and smells of the white man are loathsome to the boy, and he tries with all his strength to escape this fate. Finally Cuyloga drags True Son, twisting and screaming, to the council house and deposits him in a pile of leaves along with the other captives.
True Son now knows all hope is lost. One of the soldiers, Del Hardy (perhaps nicknamed that because he can speak Delaware, what the white men call the language of the Lenni Lenape), tells Cuyloga that all Indians must leave the army camp by nightfall.
Before Cuyloga leaves, he speaks to True Son in a “low, stern voice” and tells the boy to go like a true Indian without shaming his father. True Son thinks about his beautiful village and weeps with homesickness.
The twenty-year old Hardy sees the boy’s sorrow and laughs at him. Immediately True Son turns away, and hatred rises in him like poison. He vows to...
(The entire section is 464 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Del Hardy left Fort Pitt in October and now serves with Colonel Bouquet, a peaceful but rather crazy man. The Colonel marched his troops as if they were going to a celebration rather than into a hundred miles of wilderness in hostile Indian territory without a fort or settlement anywhere near.
The soldiers are outnumbered two to one, and each day the Indians lie in wait to kill them. Most of Bouquet’s men do not expect to reach their destination alive as their orders are not to harm any Indian unless they are directly attacked. Half of the soldiers are volunteers who have lost loved ones to Indian attacks and are now seeking revenge. Although they despise that order, the soldiers obey it.
Bouquet and his men finally reach the Forks of the Muskingum, where many Indian tribes are located. Rather than being intimidated, Bouquet grows bolder and demands that every Indian messenger who visits the army camp must deliver one message to their tribes: there will be no peace until all white prisoners have been returned.
Hardy lived with the Delaware Indians when he was a boy, and he tries to explain that any white prisoners who had been kidnapped were either killed immediately or adopted into an Indian family, often in place of a dead relative. This adoption is a serious thing to the Indians; the white prisoners actually become full-blooded Indians and their tribe will never let them go.
But Hardy is wrong. The Indians hate and fear white men, and their presence so near the Indians is enough for them to give up their “white relations.”
It is an awful sight to see the emotional partings between the Indians and their adopted relatives, but Hardy is amazed at how ungrateful the white prisoners are, refusing to have anything to do with the white soldiers who are risking their lives to rescue them. The “wildest and most rebellious” of them all is True Son; he has to be tied up so he will not escape. The boy is wearing a calico hunting shirt and Indian leggings, although he is obviously white. The boy grows wild as he approaches the white camp. The Indians all suffer too as they leave their loved ones forever, but they remain stoic.
That night, Hardy discovers True Son trying to tear at the knots that bind him with his teeth. The guard tries to reason with the boy, reminding him that he had a white mother and father before he had Quaquenga and Cuyloga, but the boy maintains his...
(The entire section is 473 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
On the third day after True Son’s arrival, the white man’s army camp begins to stir; tomorrow the two thousand soldiers and the returned white captives will leave for Pennsylvania.
True Son spends the day in despair, knowing he will never be able to live as a slouching, undignified white man. He remembers his Indian father’s friend who, after his squaw and children left him, ended his life by eating the poisonous root of the May apple. No one thought of him as a coward, so no one will think True Son is a coward if he kills himself rather than be carried off to Pennsylvania. This way his body will remain here in the land he loves, and his Indian family will mourn for him and visit his burial site.
Three times that day he falls on the ground and tries to gather some of the poisonous root, but he is tethered like a beast and will now have to wait until they begin the march. Then he will find the root and end his life.
True Son struggles violently as the journey begins, but he is forced to keep moving by his guard, Del Hardy. Suddenly True Son hears someone calling him from the cover of some nearby trees. It is his cousin and friend Half Arrow, who is just ahead of True Son as he marches in the column. Half Arrow vows to march the entire way with True Son, and the two boys chatter tirelessly even though they have only been apart for three days. Little Crane, another Indian from near True Son’s village, also walks with the group to be near his white squaw.
Having a friend with him uplifts True Son’s spirits, and he forgets to search for the poisonous root of the May apple. Finally Half Arrow cautiously emerges from the cover of the woods, and True Son shares his bread and meat with his cousin. Both boys find the meat distasteful, and Half Arrow understands why the white people are so “pale and bandy-legged”—because they have to eat such old and stringy meat.
The boys march all day together, but Hardy will not allow them to sleep next to each other, afraid True Son will try to escape. Half Arrow agrees to sleep in the woods like Little Crane, but first he presents True Son with some gifts, including a small bag of parched corn; a richly embroidered pair of moccasins; and the old, worn bearskin that had been on True Son’s bed in the cabin. All of these gifts will help True Son remember his Indian family, and he is moved by them. Half Arrow sleeps in a bed of leaves.
(The entire section is 457 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
True Son dreads the day when Half Arrow and Little Crane will have to turn back and go home. As they travel, the boys discuss which of the white men’s horses they would steal and which of the white guards they would scalp if they had the opportunity.
They also talk about white people’s foolish ways. Indians are an “original people,” so their eyes, skin, and hair are always dark. Whites are a mixed people and therefore are many different types and colors. This is why they are “so foolish and troublesome.” The Great Being even had to give them the Good Book so they will know right from wrong, something Indians know without reading anything. White men must have poor vision because they always stand so close, and their hearing must be poor because they always speak loudly. Even worse, white people all talk at once and have not learned the art of listening.
The white man is “young and heedless like a child,” amassing treasures that they know they cannot take with them when they die. Their houses are not big enough to store all their belongings, so they have to build barns. This accumulation of things is why there are so many thieves among the white men and why they must put locks on their doors. If they shared like the Indians, they would not have to work so much or so hard.
The white men only look at the ground and call the land around them ugly; Indians see the bounty and the beauty of the land. The white men are foolish when they make their decisions about where to set up camp and where to light a fire; the cousins enjoy laughing at all their foolishness.
They reach the large river on which Fort Pitt is located, but the river is too swollen to cross. Little Crane and Half Arrow find a scalped and tomahawked Indian near the camp; they suspect it was a white man trying to blame Indians for the murder.
The next day, Hardy tells Half Arrow he must leave because they are nearing white settlements and some may want to exact some revenge on the Indian. Before leaving, Half Arrow delivers a message from Cuyloga: “It is wiser to be willing and be alive than be defiant and be dead so your father and mother and sisters have to mourn you.”
True Son promises to bear his disgrace and conduct himself like a proud Indian until the time is right for him to strike. At the river’s edge, Half Arrow watches as True Son wades in alone; the boy does not look back until he is...
(The entire section is 461 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Now True Son is alone and will have to “think his own Indian thoughts.” He does not reveal any of his loathing as he marches into Fort Pitt, despite the darkness of the passageways, the drunken soldiers, and the obsequious turncoat Indians he sees inside the fortress.
Not until he leaves Fort Pitt and crosses a mountain range does True Son feel the full weight of his exile. He feels his white enemies surrounding him, and everything he sees is evidence of the white men’s confining, restricted lives, including fences and houses made of heavy brick and stone.
When the group arrives at its destination, small crowds try to “storm the captives,” but the soldiers protect their prisoners. True Son’s guard, Del Hardy, tells him his father will come for him tomorrow.
The morning is cold and people have gathered early. As soon as the captives arrive, people begin groping them, looking for birthmarks, scars, or other identifying features. Colonel Bouquet stops this nonsense and conducts things in an orderly manner. One unwilling former captive at a time is announced, and those who wish to claim a relationship must prove their claim. This prompts much emotion among the whites, but the captives remain dry-eyed and stoic. Their Indian families would be proud.
At the end, only True Son and two teenage girls remain unclaimed; True Son is hopeful he will be allowed to return to his village. Soon, however, he hears a rider approaching. True Son does not want this “insignificant man with black boots, a face colorless as clay and a silly hat on his head” to be his father, but he is.
When the man sees the boy, his eyes get misty and his hand trembles as he reaches out to touch his son. True Son stands unmoving until Hardy orders him to shake the man’s hand. Hardy translates as the man tells True Son he is thankful the boy is safe and welcomes him home. Again True Son is unmoved as he compares this insipid man with his Indian father Cuyloga; he tells Hardy this man is not his father.
Colonel Bouquet has been watching this exchange and orders Hardy to go with the boy and his father and act as their translator. True Son is not fooled. Hardy is being sent with them to protect the father from his son. True Son is bitterly disappointed, as this will undoubtedly delay his plan to escape.
(The entire section is 411 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Del Hardy was thankful to be back at Fort Pitt and away from the savages and the wilderness. After three hundred miles of tramping through forests, he was thankful to see cleared land once again. Everything was familiar, and people rejoiced as the army delivered the white captives.
Now he is on a ferry with the boy, John Cameron Butler, and his father. They are all on horseback for the short crossing. True Son is silent and sullen until he hears his father say they are on the Susquehanna River; then he pours out bitter invective that Hardy wearily translates. Cuyloga, his Indian father, told him the Susquehanna River belongs to the Indians and was stolen from them, along with their ancestors’ graves, by the white people.
They arrive at Paxton Township, a place True Son knows as Peshtank Township. This is where John Butler was born, and he looks at it with panic in his eyes. As soon as the boat touches shore, he spurs his horse and urges it up the steep bank until horse and rider vanish. Butler is not worried and says the boy will be stopped at the fort at the top of the embankment; however, when he and Hardy get there, they find True Son’s riderless horse. Hardy finds the boy hiding in some brambles and drags him back to his horse.
The three riders arrive at a great stone mansion, but the homecoming is grim. Butler introduces True Son to Gordie, a brother whom True Son has never met, and Aunt Kate before resignedly dragging his oldest son upstairs to meet his anxious mother. Through all of this, True Son does and says nothing.
Although Myra Butler is an invalid, she is clearly the mistress of her home and loves her firstborn son; the first thing she tries to do is make him say his name, John, in English. After some silence, Myra says True Son is obviously stubborn, just like his Uncle Wilse. Because the entire family is coming to see him tomorrow, True Son cannot leave this room until he says his name. She refuses to let her son appear “crude and ignorant as a savage in front of them.”
It is clear that True Son understands her, but he answers her in Delaware and Hardy translates that his name is True Son. The boy also says it in English, which temporarily satisfies his mother. She has made him some pants and a jacket from his cousin Alec’s old clothing. To True Son they are symbols of all the horrible things done by the white man, and he does not even want to touch them....
(The entire section is 487 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
That night, True Son and Hardy sleep in a closed-in bedroom that feels like a grave to the Indian boy. He does not sleep because he is thinking about the story Cuyloga told him about the horrible Peshtank Township. The men came into the Conestogo village and brutally killed everyone in it; the Conestogo, true to their faith (they had adopted the white man’s Christian religion), did not resist. Their cabins were burned and the people were destroyed. When the Conestogo who had been away from the village returned, they sought refuge in the white man’s jail, assuming this would be a safe place. It was not. Just before Christmas, “white barbarians,” all claiming to be Christians, broke open the jail and slaughtered the Indians. No one tried to stop them.
Finally True Son sleeps, and in the morning he still wears his Indian clothes until his disapproving Aunt Kate threatens to wash and dress him. True Son is appalled but allows Gordie to show him how to bathe with soap in the wooden tub. The pants and jacket are repugnant to him, along with everything else about this new life, but he dons the clothes before his extended family arrives.
He meets a dozen people, but they all look the same to him. Uncle Wilse is especially loathsome to True Son, as he was a leader of the Paxton boys. Wilse’s son Alec is appalled that an Indian boy is wearing his castoff clothing. Wilse is cruelly blunt about how horrible True Son must be since he was raised among such savages.
Hardy translates some of the conversation, and finally True Son must speak. With dignity, he explains that the Delaware language is the primary Indian language and it is beautiful. Wilse interrupts and True Son finally speaks directly to Wilse, accusing him of claiming to be a Christian even as he murdered the Conestogo. The furious man claims the Conestogo only pretended to be Christians so they could murder unsuspecting white people; they deserved to be murdered because they were not Christians.
True Son does not claim to know whether the Conestogo were true Christians, but he reminds his uncle that he and the others who killed them were Christians and begins to recount the awful ways the white men butchered the Indians. In a rage, Wilse claims they only got what they deserved.
Now Uncle Owens speaks a bit more reasonably, explaining the truth that the animosity between the whites and the Indians is deeply entrenched and is...
(The entire section is 498 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
True Son takes off the pants and jacket that once belonged to his Uncle Wilse’s son and will not wear them ever again. Butler hires a tailor to make his son an everyday outfit and a dress outfit; although he hates the clothes, True Son hates the heavy, confining shoes even more. He continues to wear his moccasins rather than the ugly, restricting shoes until one night when Aunt Kate takes them while he is sleeping. Now he has to wear his new shoes.
Del Hardy has left and True Son misses him, as he was the last connection to his Indian people. “And now all the odious and joyless life of the white race, its incomprehensible customs and heavy ways, falls on him like a plague.” True Son has to learn to read and write, and he has to go to church.
Today he and Gordie are sent to buy a new bushel basket. The old Negro basket maker lives in a cabin in the woods. For a moment, True Son feels as if he is back in his Indian village and is overwhelmed with homesickness. As he works, the old man tells True Son that he too was taken by Indians as a boy. He was rescued when he was twenty and has been working ever since for the captain who rescued him.
Gordie says the man is a slave. The man agrees but adds that white men are slaves too as they bear the burdens of accumulating and ownership. The old man tells him there is only one man left around here who can speak Delaware. Corn Blade is nearly a hundred years old and lives up on Third Mountain; he never comes to town because he is afraid the Paxton boys will kill him.
Finally one day it is warm enough for True Son to visit Corn Blade. He steals some food and takes a horse; Gordie sees him as he is leaving and asks to come along. True Son hoists him into the saddle and they leave. Alec sees them and runs to tell his father that True Son is leaving town with Gordie. But True Son does not care as he revels in the freedom of being in the forest with signs of spring all around him.
Soon True Son hears horses approaching. Butler, Wilse, and another man approach the boys, and Butler accuses True Son of running away. When True Son explains that he was just going to visit Corn Blade, his father says Corn Blade died long ago. Wilse is spoiling for a fight and pulls out the food True Son put in the saddlebags. Goaded by Wilse, Butler accuses True Son of lying, stealing, and trying to run away. True Son tries not to let his emotions show, although it breaks...
(The entire section is 484 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
In late March, Myra Butler lies in bed and remembers a day in July, eleven years ago. Her husband was helping with the harvest and took young Johnny along. As the harvesters worked, Indians hid in the woods. When the workers were in the middle of the field, far from their weapons, the Indians killed one man and wounded a woman. Everyone ran and the Indians took Johnny, who had been playing under a shade tree. That was when Myra became an invalid.
Now the much loved Parson Elder is here to visit, and he allows Myra to unburden herself about her eldest son. She is thankful the boy did not escape with Gordie, but True Son is ungrateful, eating only when he is hungry and shaming her family in front of relatives and neighbors. Things keep disappearing, such as some Indian corn meal, a butcher knife, and one of Butler’s guns, along with some powder and lead. Aunt Kate is appalled that True Son will not honor his parents as the Bible says he must. Elder deliberates before speaking, knowing this is a delicate matter. He offers to talk to the boy, and Aunt Kate is relieved.
Most boys are rather intimidated to be called by Elder, but True Son is not. As is the custom, Aunt Kate serves whiskey to everyone, but True Son refuses to accept his drink (which has been appropriately diluted with water). Elder tells him it is good to be polite, but True Son explains what Cuyloga taught him about white traders getting Indians drunk to take advantage of them. Elder assures him that no one in this house is trying to take advantage of him or make him conform to their religion. All Elder wants is for Johnny to be kind to his mother and refrain from lying, stealing, and swearing. True Son never swears, and he treats his Indian parents with love and obedience.
Finally True Son accuses Elder of being part of the Conestogo massacre. The older man tries to explain that sometimes even the best men are driven by some darkness in their hearts. He tried to stop the men from killing the Conestogo—until the men threatened to kill his horse. True Son comments that Elder’s horse was more important to him than those innocent Indians. Elder restrains himself and reminds True Son that evil has been done by the Indians as well. He believes that “Christians, red and white,” need to respect one another.
After he dismisses True Son, the weary preacher asks for another drink. He assures Myra that the boy was raised incorrectly for the...
(The entire section is 501 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Harry Butler stands in his son’s bedroom for the first time since True Son came home. He is only there now because the boy is sick. The doctor has been here and bled the boy, but he is certain True Son has simply lived too long among the heathen Indians and has contracted one of their mysterious and primitive diseases. (He knows that the Indians have exactly the same organs, muscles, bones, and blood as white men, but there are “obscure primitive tendencies and susceptibilities in the aboriginal race.”)
All the doctor knows for certain is that the boy has had a strong fever for a week and that none of his tests and medicines has been effective on the sick boy. Eventually the fever will either break or kill him.
Butler does not want his son to die and feels guilty because of his role in the boy’s heathenish upbringing. He would like to explain that to True Son; then perhaps his son would like to admit his regret for his “persistent and unhealthy passion for Indian ways” and his stubborn refusal to adopt a more Christian lifestyle. The boy might even confess to stealing Butler’s rifle. Butler could then forgive him and explain that he intended to gift the rifle to him anyway.
True Son is unaware of anything, including his father’s presence, until Butler speaks to him. True Son answers mechanically, as if his father were an intruding stranger. On pegs along the wall are all of True Son’s clothes, including his Indian garb, and the sight moves Butler. Eventually, with a heavy heart, Butler goes to his office.
The parson’s son arrives; Elder sent him to warn Butler that there are Indians in the area. Butler is shocked since they are at peace with the savages, but already one Indian has been shot. Only two Indians have been seen; they were asking around town for the white boy who was taken from them. They were directed to True Son’s Uncle Owens, where they were given too much to drink. One of the Indians told awful stories and later one of them was shot in the back and scalped.
Butler asks the boy if his father knows who shot the Indian. The boy says his father did not tell him, but he cannot meet Butler’s eyes as he says it. No one has seen the other Indian since sundown last night; he may have crossed back over the river or there may be more Indians in hiding on the mountain.
Elder is afraid this news might make True Son even sicker. Butler decides not to...
(The entire section is 491 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
True Son knew he was getting sick. It had been a long time since he left his Indian family, and he had not heard from them. He remembered his old life with longing, and he convinced himself that he would hear from his family by spring.
Eventually that time passed, and now he realizes he is “dead to his Indian people.” Even worse, True Son senses that his Indian spirit has been tamed by the white man. He has even wielded a hoe, something Cuyloga told him was beneath a man’s dignity. True Son wants only to obey the voice inside him that says he must let himself sink into the darkness and escape the prison cell of his bedroom.
Tonight, however, he is vaguely aware that something unusual has happened. He hears horses and a commotion below him, and soon Gordie comes to tell him that Aunt Kate saw an Indian looking through the kitchen window; she shooed him off with her broom.
True Son allows the hard knot inside him to melt a bit, and he feels the first stirrings of hope. After Gordie is asleep next to him, True Son gets up slowly, adjusting to moving once again. He puts on his Indian clothes and climbs out the window. He stops in a field and gives a familiar call; finally Half Arrow cautiously answers him.
True Son wants to take Half Arrow back to his home, but Half Arrow hesitates. He is unwilling to tell True Son that Half Crane is dead until he takes his cousin to Little Crane’s body. When True Son asks how Little Crane died, Half Arrow explains what happened after the two friends arrived in town last night. He tells True Son the two stories Little Crane told Owens, thinking they were humorous and harmless. In fact, the stories incensed Owens, who does not understand Indians’ humor.
Rage burns in True Son’s breast when he sees that Little Crane was scalped. After they give their friend a fitting burial, the boys go to the Owens’ house and Uncle Wilse appears at the door but does not recognize True Son at first. He says Little Crane will not be causing any more trouble; then he recognizes his nephew and grabs him.
Half Arrow emerges from the shadows and strikes Wilse, but Wilse is a large man and nearly kills both boys. Half Arrow escapes the man’s grip and strikes Wilse in the head with his hoop pole; when the man falls, Half Arrow prepares to cut out his heart until True Son regretfully stops him.
The boys cut off some of Wilse’s hair until...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
True Son wakes up but does not know where he is at first. He was weak and on the edge of death, but now he is strong and free. He wonders if he is dead until he hears Half Arrow snoring next to him. Now True Son remembers what happened last night. When he tells Half Arrow he will be going back to the Indian village with him, Half Arrow whoops loudly and they begin their journey.
Eventually True Son runs out of energy and they have to stop; as they lie in the woods, they hear several search parties crossing the valley. The next morning, True Son is shivering with wet and cold, and he has not eaten for several days; but at the top of the mountain he looks out and knows he has finally escaped from his Peshtank prison. His only regret is leaving Gordie, and he asks Half Arrow to be his brother from now on.
The boys travel for many days though white man’s territory, land that once belonged to Indians. When they arrive at the final mountain range, they are daunted at the path that lies before them and look for a quicker way to get home. They see two boats owned by a trapper, which True Son does not want to take because they belong to someone else. Half Arrow reminds him that he has been corrupted. True Son has forgotten that Indians know it is not stealing to take back what has been taken from them.
Under cover of night, the boys steal one of the boats and float peacefully along the river until dawn, when they hide the dugout and themselves and sleep all day. That night they again float on the river until they see the lights of Fort Pitt ahead of them. Unlike the last time True Son was here, he feels “light and free” because he knows he is nearly home.
(The entire section is 324 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
After True Son and Half Arrow pass Fort Pitt, they no longer feel as if they must hide during the day. They stop for the night in a lush part of the river bank, and in the morning they make a net to catch fish for a meal. It is such a pleasant place that they spend several months here.
The cousins spend their days hunting and fishing and enjoying all that nature provides them. True Son and Half Arrow are experiencing the life they have dreamed of living. They are their own masters and are able to gather their own provisions from the land in a kind of “primitive deliciousness.”
The cousins cut one another’s ears to “make them seemly,” and they pull out all the hair on one another’s head except for a long center growth, which hangs freely. They lie under their dugout boat listening to the rain, and they live the life of true Indians. The land provides them everything they need, and they care nothing about either their pasts or their futures.
Finally True Son and Half Arrow know they must leave this idyllic life, although they would certainly rather stay. As they round the final bend in the river and see their village in the distance, they hear dogs barking and see the Indians doing their ordinary tasks. It is just as True Son remembered in his mind, and he trembles at the sight.
Soon everyone on land begins to look intently at them, trying to identify the people in the boat. By the time the boys land, a crowd has gathered to meet them, including True Son’s beautiful sisters. Half Arrow and True Son walk proud and tall through their village.
When True Son finally goes to his cabin and sees his mother, she steps aside to allow her husband to greet True Son first. When the boy greets his father, Cuyloga’s face is impassive but his eyes reflect a “deep welcome.” The crowd in the doorway cheers as the two of them embrace.
(The entire section is 345 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
True Son sleeps with his family in his usual place that night. For several days, the village celebrates the boys’ return.
True Son feels a deep sense of contentment, but there is a shadow hovering over him and the village. Little Crane’s relatives did not come for the homecoming celebration, even though they live quite close, and they do not greet True Son when he passes.
When Little Crane’s brother comes to the village, both boys are uneasy. Thitpan (which means bitter) has other men with him. These men go to the council house and begin beating a drum. Cuyloga’s face indicates this is a serious matter. The visitors are calling for vengeance and war on the white man. Cuyloga agrees to go since Little Crane’s murder happened in his son’s white village. Although his mother protests, True Son goes too, proud and eager to seek vengeance for Little Crane. They are all “brothers in arms against the white murderers.”
Thitpan proposed the war, so he is the leader; Half Arrow and True Son are at the end of the procession. On their first night, Thitpan’s raiding party returns to camp with booty and three bloody scalps. Although the stories of war inspire True Son, he is disturbed that one of the scalps belonged to a child. Thitpan claims that all white men are their enemies, although Cuyloga, in his silence, does not agree. Thitpan only killed this child because she would have slowed them all down in battle; he is resentful about being questioned by a boy.
The next night, True Son dreams about his white parents as he sleeps among his Indian brothers. The Butlers are with a small child; although True Son cannot see the child’s face, he can see that the young boy is afraid. True Son wakes in a sweat from this nightmare.
The next day, True Son dresses as a white boy and becomes a decoy to lure a boat to shore so the rest of them can pillage it. Finally a boat is spotted and True Son acts as if he is drowning and needs help. It is a large boat with many white passengers and their belongings. True Son talks like a young boy and appeals to the women on board, but many of the men sense a trick and are unwilling to risk an ambush. Finally one woman is adamant and the captain steers his boat toward shore.
Suddenly True Son sees a young boy on board, remembers his dream, and fears that his white parents may have brought Gordie to look for him. When the boy turns to speak to...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Suddenly True Son realizes what he has done: he has betrayed his brothers. No one welcomes him, and even Half Arrow turns away. True Son cannot make them understand what he did because he does not understand it himself.
After some deliberation, True Son’s hands and feet are bound and one half of his face is painted black with charcoal while the other half is painted white with clay from the river bank. This means the council is divided and he will therefore be tried in the Lenape fashion. True Son will either be burned alive (the black side) or be allowed to live (the white side).
Thitpan argues that True Son chose white people over Indians, so there is no Indian blood in his veins. Each man throws a stick into the fire, indicating his vote to burn True Son. Half Arrow sees how the vote is going and runs off into the woods; Cuyloga votes last.
True Son is certain his father is also going to throw his stick into the fire; however, Cuyloga reaches down and takes a charred stick. Silently he blackens his entire face and then turns to the others. He is an impressive figure, and his eyes flash in his dark face. Cuyloga says he raised True Son, taught him in all his ways; Cuyloga knows his son, and True Son is like Cuyloga. If True Son is “double-tongued and a spy,” so is Cuyloga; they should burn the father who is responsible for his son’s bad instruction. He will not allow them to burn his son because of their wounded pride, and he could not face True Son’s mother if he did not do something to prevent it.
Cuyloga quickly cuts his son’s bindings and waits for the others to attack. No one moves. Cuyloga is formidable and magnificent, but now he turns on True Son. He reminds the boy that he was adopted into Cuyloga’s family and treated, like his name, as a true son. Never did he expect True Son to act like anything other than a true Indian, but it has happened. True Son assures his father that the white man is his enemy and he will never return to them, but Cuyloga looks at him with pity before speaking again. Although True Son’s heart is Indian, his blood is thin like white people’s. They must part now, and the path between them will be closed. They are no longer father and son, and if they meet in battle they will be enemies.
True Son is stunned, but in silence both men pick up their packs and exchange a long farewell look. The next day, when the path they are on crosses a...
(The entire section is 504 words.)