2:6 –Response to Question 1

Read “Coyote Makes a Deal with King of England”, in Living by Stories. Read it silently, read it out loud, read it to a friend, and have a friend read it to you. See if you can discover how this oral syntax works to shape meaning for the story by shaping your reading and listening of the story. Write a blog about this reading/listening experience that provides references to the story.


As King suggests in his article “Godzilla vs. The Post-colonial,” Robinson’s “Coyote Makes a Deal with King of England” is written using syntax that defies silence.  In fact, with its repetition, plot diversions and syntax, its almost impossible to understand if you read it to yourself.  But read this story aloud, ideally to another person, and your voice naturally pauses in the appropriate places, you begin gesturing with your hands in others, such as the suggestion that the “black and white” law book is “about this long and about this wide” (84).

Repetition is an important characteristic of this story, and one I noticed right away.  The word “fire” is repeated four times on the first page of the story.  The specific phrase “they got a fire” is repeated twice on the first page.  This becomes a trend throughout the story, and I noticed that this use of repetition helps not only with the flow of the story, but the rhythm.

This article speaks about the importance of rhythm in children’s stories.  Children’s stories are one of the few structured oral storytelling methods surviving in Western culture. The distance between beats and the number of beats are cited as two important characteristics of good rhythm in a story.  Robinson’s has both.  The words used for the story are similar in length, and visually, the text is structured like a poem in that it has stanzas of text rather than traditional paragraphs.

Plot diversions are another aspect of this story that, unless read allowed, trip up the reader.  The narrator seems to be talking to the audience directly in many of these plot sidelines, or arguing with himself.  One instance is on page 81, beginning at the first line of the page from “That’s all the name I know” to “Only name I know, that was TOH-mah” (81).  Here the narrator has stopped the story to try to recall a character’s name, but can’t seem to precisely remember it.  The narrator struggles aloud for several lines before giving up and moving on.  This is really hard to follow when reading silently, but when read out loud, it flows better.  The speaker can use tone to make it clear that the narrator is thinking to themselves rather than speaking to the audience.

The syntax itself contributes heavily to the rhythm, as I mentioned, and this is due I think in a majority to word length and use of contractions.  The language is very informal, words such as “writing” or “until” replaced with “writin'” and “’till” (79).  Repetition is used here as filler.  Where some people might use “like” or “um” when speaking naturally, the narrator recreates these breaks in speech by repeating themselves, such as on page 66: “Do you know what the Angel was?/Do you know?/The Angel, God’s Angel, you know.”  This is an example of filler speech because it does nothing to move the story forward, it is simply stagnant.

Robinson is able to write a story and make it seem like he is simply transcribing a story he is hearing.  The experience is one of both listening and reading, but much of the story is lost or cannot be properly understood without listening to it read aloud.  This was an interesting experience for me, especially once I realized I could connect this experience with folk tales and other stories I was read to as a child, meeting four of the five points of a children’s story that I remember being significant to a good story.

Works Cited

Coyote. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 29 June 2016. Web. 29 June 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coyote>.

Heathfield, David. “Rhythm, Rhyme, Repetition, Reasoning and Response in Oral Storytelling.” TeachingEnglish. British Council, n.d. Web. 30 June 2016.

King, Thomas. “Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial.” Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism. Mississauga, ON: Broadview, 2004. 183- 190.

Robinson, Harry. “Coyote Makes a Deal with the King Of England.” Living by Stories: a Journey of Landscape and Memory. Ed. Wendy Wickwire. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2005. 64-85.

Shepard, Aaron. “Rhythm and the Read-Aloud.” (Writing Books, Stories for Children). Aaron Shep, May 1999. Web. 30 June 2016.


2:4–Response to Question 1

At the end of this lesson, you will find a list of questions. Read each of the questions and select one that you would like to answer for your blog assignment.  

In order to respond to the assignment in this lesson, I chose question 1, which examines more closely the two creation stories described by King in his book The Truth About Stories.  The first part of this question is why does King create two distinct and separate dichotomies for the reader to examine the creation stories he provides?  I think his reasoning goes back to Chamberlin’s description that humans are “animals who have language” (13).  Chamberlin argues that it is this basic understanding that has caused human beings to develop categories of civilized and barbaric based on language and its usages.  In the case of these two stories, one of the dichotomies created is that of co-operation and competition.  Based on King’s descriptions, for our purposes, the story of “The Earth Diver” is the story of co-operation, and also the “barbaric” story.  The other creation story is the bible’s “Genesis,” and is the story of competition, and also the “civilized” creation story.

“Genesis” Story

“The Earth Diver” Story

The second part of this question asks why King emphasized the believability of one story over the other, in this case the “Genesis” story, which he told with an authoritative voice, as opposed to “The Earth Diver” (this is a video of a version of the creation story) story, which was told with a storytellers voice. The last question inquires as to why King presents these stories with the basis of analysis on oppositions in a row of dichotomies; what is he trying to show his readers?  In order to begin to discuss these questions, I think it is important to examine believability, which ties into the categories of “co-operation” and “competition.” European culture is one based on hierarchy and competition within that hierarchy.  They are also the “civilized” story, and the one told in an authoritative voice. “The Earth Diver” is the story with “co-operation” and also the “barbaric” and non-European story.  “Genesis” is a written story, “The Earth Diver” is an oral story.  King points out many dichotomies in order to show that there are no true parallel divisions. In our previous readings, Chamberlin explained that ceremony can be a connector between the two basic dichotomies of the “civilized” and the “barbaric.”  Religious ceremonies, churches, weddings, and court process all are examples of modern practices that rely on oral traditions and ceremonies–things that belong to the category of “barbaric,” and therefor disrupt the category of “civilized” through their inclusion.

I think King’s overall goal in pointing out and then disrupting these dichotomies is to illustrate that the supposed way of determining differences is false.  Each supposed dichotomy has influences from the other.  Much of the racism in our society, and abuse of one people at the hands of another is based on supposed dichotomies.  Us vs them.  The “civilized” vs the “barbaric.”  I think that by detailing these issues, and forcing his readers to analyze them, King is showing how human beings cannot be defined using such black and white terms.  Neither can the culture of those human beings be defined with dichotomies.  There is no “barbaric” or “civilized” as a singular term for any culture.  People are a mix; their stories, ceremonies and traditions are a rich history.

Works Cited

“Archives.” Welcome to COHDS. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2016.

Chamberlin, J. Edward.  If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?. Vintage Canada Edition, 2004. Print.

gyundt. “Earth Diver.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlOierP0iGg. Youtube. 13 Mar 2013. Web.  17 Jun 2016.

“Skywoman falling.” Digital image.  Iroquois Creation Story I, n.d. Web. 17 Jun 2016.

“The second creation story.” Digital image.  Conversation in Faith Weblog, 8 Oct 2008.  Web. 17 Jun 2016.


2:3 What We Share About Home

Read at least 3 students blog short stories about ‘home’ and make a list of the common shared assumptions, values and stories that you find. Post this list on your blog with some commentary about what you discovered.

I want to begin by thanking my classmates for sharing their stories of home.  After reading many of them, I’ve quickly realized that many shared very personal experiences–as one would imagine when talking about their home.  However, I am stunned that such authenticity in regards to personal life can be shared and discussed in an academic environment.  It was an honor to read your stories; I am humbled.

Home is an abstract place.

This is the first commonality I noticed in the blogs of my classmates.  Both Ashley and Alanna discuss this in their stories, and their separate journeys on finding physical spaces to call home.  This themed jumped out to me most likely for my own history and struggles to identify a specific physical place as my home (I have a town I call home, just not an exact, physical space).  Alanna’s story of home affected me most strongly with her mention of divorced parents, as her descriptions matched many of my own growing up.  I feel that it is likely that many Canadians struggle to identify a physical, geographical space as home, especially with recent refugees.  I was glad to see this as a common theme throughout our own stories.

You need language to belong.

While this specific assumption of home was not echoed by a majority of classmate blogs, when I read Claudia‘s story of home, I felt it was important to discuss.  Claudia speaks of the difficulties in belonging when language labels are placed on you from an early age.  In Canada, we have two official languages, and many more spoken by many of our other citizens.  Claudia discusses the challenge to find a place to call home when a label of “outsider” or simply “different” is placed on you.  Depending on geographical location, sometimes a restriction to belong in certain areas requires you to have been born there.  This has never occurred to me, as I have never really lived far from the community I was born in, and my community does not get a lot of new inhabitants.  At first, this issue seemed foreign to me, but when I stopped to consider it, the idea makes strange sense.  When I stop to think about it, I realize that there are times when I’ve been on a bus or walking down the street or in a hallway where someone is speaking a language other than English.  It seems strange, off, and immediately indicates the speaker as a potential outsider.  This is all done in my own head mostly unconsciously.  Personally, it does not affect the way I interact with a person, but I can understand how this could lead to discrimination, and for a speaker of a language other than English (or whatever language is common for whatever area) to feel outcast.

While these are only two items for discussion, I feel that they both warrant attention and stand as important concepts.  These two points play off each other and I think will become more relevant as we move further in our studies together.

Thank you all again for sharing your stories.


2:2 — The Hermit Mural

Write a short story (600 – 1000 words max) that describes your sense of home and the values and stories that you use to connect yourself to your home and respond to all comments on your blog. 

I grew up in a small area outside of a small town.  There are many things and stories that are typical of a small town, but I like to think mine has a unique feature: murals.  We tell our town’s history and our community on the walls of our buildings with paintings.  Like anyone surrounded by stories growing up, I have a favorite, the mural displaying part of Charlie Abbott’s story, and the legacy he left behind for his community.

The Hermit, Mural #36 by Paul YgartuaThe image to the left is the mural in my town called “The Hermit,”  and it was true that not many referred to Charlie by name then, or now.  When I was younger, I liked this mural most for the feelings of peace and serenity every time I looked at it…and also for the powerful story behind it.

For a little background, Charlie Abbott came to my home town in his later years of life.  He was a homeless alcoholic, so the story goes, and my town was strange territory to him. He settled into a nearby forest by himself and generally shied away from human contact.  No one knows why he chose my hometown to settle his wanderings, but all residents know of the gift he gave us: The Hermit Trails.

In the 1970s, bent with age and content with solitude, Charlie worked hard and silently to devote the rest of his life to creating, maintaining and preserving his trails.  He made simple benches, cut pathways and lined his trails with painstakingly chosen stones.  Everyday he swept the paths, and when others eventually asked if they could walk the peaceful paths, Charlie was quick to point out that the land wasn’t his, he just considered himself to be a caretaker.  True to his words, Charlie cared for the trails until his death in the late 80s, and now the town has taken up the preservation of his final days’ work, going so far as to buy up the land to save it from development.

When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate the devotion it took for an elderly man to create and care for 3.5 acres of trails.  I didn’t appreciate the sense of community knowing my town stepped up to preserve the man’s work, though none of them knew him and it wasn’t his land to carve into.  I now work in a museum during the summers, where we strive to preserve the history of logging in British Columbia.  My town started as a logging community, and my job has helped me to become interested in and connect with my own history and town.  This is how I came to appreciate the effort and love that “The Hermit” of Chemainus gave to the place he called home.  He gave to the community he was a part of without seeking acknowledgement, and created a beautiful place for families and children to fell safe and admire his hard work and perseverance.  In my town, “The Hermit Trails” are not just a place of beauty and peace, but connection.  Walking the paths or viewing the murals tells not only residents, but any visitors, our proud history, and how we stand with each other and work together to create what we have.

Works Cited

BC Forest Discovery Centre.  BC Forest Discovery Centre, n.d. Web. 6 June 2016.

MuralTown.  Chemainus Festival of Murals Society, n.d. Web.  6 June 2016.

Ygartua, Paul.  “The Hermit.” Image of painting.  2004.  Web.  6 June 2016.