When the Legends Die

by Hal Borland

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What is the setting in the book When the Legends Die?

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When the Legends Die is a novel written by Hal Borland that tells the story of Thomas Black Bull’s life. Thomas Black Bull is a Ute Native American from Southwest Colorado. He travels throughout his life, so the setting also changes throughout the novel. However, it is primarily focused on the American Southwest in the early part of the twentieth century. The novel begins in Pagosa, but Thomas Black Bull and his family must soon flee to the wilderness, where they live off the land. From there, the setting changes back to the Ute Indian Reservation, then moves throughout the Southwestern United States as Thomas travels with a rodeo to Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. At the end of the novel, Thomas returns to his roots, where he lives in the wilderness again.

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The setting of When the Legends Die is the western United States, in particular Colorado. The main character, Thomas Black Bull, is a member of the Ute Native American tribe. The novel has Thomas living in the small town of Pagosa. He also lives in the wilderness (sometimes with both parents, sometimes with just his mother, and sometimes completely alone) and at a Native American reservation school.

Just as Legends has its setting in a number of specific locations, the protagonist of the novel goes through some name changes. He is given the name Little Black Bull at birth by his parents. When a white minister baptizes him, he is given the name Thomas Black Bull. Nearing his teenage years, he renames himself Bear's Brother and later, while popular on the rodeo circuit, his fans nickname him Killer Tom.

In short, in When the Legends Die, a change in setting often signals a change in name/identity for the protagonist.

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