By the Waters of Babylon Questions and Answers
by Stephen Vincent Benét

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What four things does John encounter on his journey?

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John's journey is to the east despite the fact that it is forbidden to go east.

"It is forbidden to travel east. It is forbidden to cross the river. It is forbidden to go to the Place of the Gods. All these things are forbidden."

Even after John leaves his father and the village, John is still unsure of whether or not he should go east.  John encounters four things though that he takes as signs that he should continue to journey east.  

The first thing that John encounters is an eagle.  It flies to the east.  

The second thing that John encounters is three deer all heading east.  Included among the deer is a white fawn.  

The third thing that John encounters is a panther.  It attacked the white fawn, and John shot it dead with one arrow.  

It is not easy to kill a panther with one arrow but the arrow went through his eye and into his brain. He died as he tried to spring—he rolled over, tearing at the ground. Then I knew I was meant to go east—I knew that was my journey.

The fourth thing that John encountered while travelling east were several Dead Places.  In one of them, he found a decent knife.  Shortly after, he encountered two different hunting parties from the forest people, but they did not see John.  

Always when I looked for game, it was in front of my arrow, and twice I passed hunting parties of the Forest People without their knowing. So I knew my magic was strong and my journey clean, in spite of the law.

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