3.7–Hyperlinking Characters

Write a blog that hyper-links your research on the characters in GGRW according to the pages assigned to you. Be sure to make use of  Jane Flicks’ GGRW reading notes on your reading list. 

Hyper-linking characters in pages 38-41, 85-90.


Coyote is a famous Trickster figure in Native American tales, and is often seen as one of the First Peoples. Coyote begins the novel when the world as we know it is unformed.  He is often seen as one of “a race of mythic prototypes who lived before humans existed. They had tremendous powers; they created the world as we know it; they instituted human life and culture—but they were also capable of being brave or cowardly, conservative or innovative, wise or stupid” (Flick citing Bright).  King’s version of Coyote seems to be at least innovative and wise, allowing Dream/Dog its fantasies.  The role of trickster also seems to be controversial in this novel, as Coyote’s mischievousness is done with the intention of fixing the world. Coyote does not verbally interact with the modern characters, but is on conversational terms with the narrator and four escaped Native Americans.

There are some that argue King’s Coyote is female, based on his story “The One About Coyote Going West,” published in the same year as Green Grass, Running Water.  This would make the creation story followed in the novel, and the references to Genesis seem of even more importance, as Coyote (female) existed and dreamed up Dog/GOD (male).


This character is a contrary who “has everything backward” (King, 2).  A dog is a more tamed, “lesser” relative of a coyote, while GOD is “dog” backwards.  Dog/GOD begins as a dream of Coyote’s that wakes Coyote up before the beginning of the world.  This character thinks itself very clever, while Coyote and the narrator find the new creation to be silly and backward.  Dog/GOD is a creation of Coyote, which would be more interesting if Coyote were indeed a female character, as Dog/GOD seems to uphold the Christian narrative of the story (therefor a female being would have created “GOD”).  If Dog/GOD is getting everything backward, this would cause the Genesis story to be backward.  The particular page selection I chose for Dog/GOD (38-41) features the First Woman story as Dog/GOD attempts to interrupt and interject into the narrative to provide the Genesis story of events.

First Woman

First woman is a common story among North American people.  First Woman falls from the sky and lands on a world covered with water.  She makes an island on Turtle’s back and on this island she creates a garden.  This again eludes to Genesis (Eve) and the Garden of Eden, except we again have a female creator. First Woman is also the character known as The Lone Ranger, the hero of Western books, radio, television and movies, with a faithful companion named Tonto, who is Ahdamn.  Flick, in her “Reading Notes for Green Grass, Running Water” explains the Lone Ranger as a “a Do Gooder. The Texas Rangers myth has it that one ranger could be sent to clean up a town”.  Thomas King’s interest in the Lone Ranger also extends to photography, where he shoots Native Americans in a Lone Ranger mask


The counterpart to First Woman, Ahdamn lives with First Woman in the garden, his origins unknown to the narrator (as opposed to Genesis, where Eve is made from Adam, and Adam is created by God).  In the section of the novel I chose, Ahdamn is attempting to give names to the creatures in First Woman’s garden, and is failing.  This scene is done by making fun of Ahdamn, but it is also curious that the animals in the garden seem to already know their names, and this is in part why all the names Ahdamn suggests are ridiculous.  It is interesting that the two male characters of Dog/GOD and Ahdamn are trying to control the creation story/control creation, but it is the female characters of First Woman (and possibly Coyote) who have the power to create.  This bid for power seems important in the context of the Garden, as we have the male creation power of Genesis/Christian belief vs the female power of Native American story/First Woman.

Alberta Frank

Frank slide 1903

Alberta Frank, a professor teaching Native American history, is the primary female character in the modern world part of the novel.  “Alberta” suggests the province of Alberta where the story takes place, while Flick suggests that the character herself is frank.  The name Frank could also allude to the town of Frank, Alberta.  The town was subject to a major disaster, buried by the famous Frank Slide of 1903.  The slide came off a mountain called Turtle Mountain.  Given the significance of Turtle in the novel, this does not seem like a coincidence.  Her name could have been meant as foreshadowing for the crisis in her life.

Works Cited

Flick Jane. “Reading Notes for Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water.” Canadian Literature 161/162 (1999). Web. July 27, 2016.

Frank, Alberta Slide:  http://history.alberta.ca/frankslide/slidefacts/docs/fsic_facts.pdf

“Frank Slide 1903”. Digital Image. Calgary: Calgary Photo Supply Co., Calgary, Alberta, [ca. 1935].  Web.  July 27, 2016.

King, Thomas. Green Grass Running Water. Toronto: Harper Collins, 1993. Print.

V.G. Petkova.  “How Thomas King Uses Coyote in his Novel Green Grass, Running Water”.  Canadian Literature (2011).  Web.  July 27, 2016.


Coyote: Knowledge without borders

Coyote Pedagogy is a term sometimes used to describe King’s writing strategies (Margery Fee and Jane Flick). Discuss your understanding of the role of Coyote in the novel.

Book Cover

The narrator and Coyote preside over two interwoven plots in Thomas King’s Green Grass Running Water–one concerning the creation of the world, and the other a semi-plausible journey of characters in the modern era.  Normally, the role of Coyote is that of a Trickster, cultural hero, or buffoon.  For this novel, that personality came through as an eager, child-like figure prone to excitement, but is well-mannered.  However, Coyote most importantly plays the role of the student as narrator and Coyote navigate the two plot lines.  As this is in many ways a story of borders, one could see Coyote as also serving to represent the mythic aspect of the novel, while the narrator serves for the more-believable modern aspect.

The novel begins “in the beginning, there was nothing.  Just the water.  Coyote was there, but Coyote was asleep” (King, 1).   Coyote is woken by his Dream, which is running around and behaving arrogantly.  Instead of correcting the “silly Dream,” Coyote simply asks the Dream to “be a little quieter” (2).  When the Dream deduces that it must be Coyote, Coyote gently corrects the Dream, suggesting that it can instead be a dog, which is close to a Coyote.  The narrator suggests to Coyote that this could be a problem, as the Dream does not look like a dog.  While Coyote agrees, he does nothing to change the image that the Dream now has of itself as a dog.  To me, this opening scene plays out as a parent with their child, where Coyote is teaching his Dream about its surroundings and itself, without discouraging its own worldview or, when the Dream is loud and rude, without trying to influence its behavior.  For me, this opening scene speaks largely to the personality we as readers are to expect from Coyote as the novel moves forward.  Coyote is not a voice of authority in the traditional sense.  He is in some ways a voice of reason, but more accurately, Coyote stands as a teacher.  But, as the novel progresses and more conversations occur between Coyote and the narrator, Coyote slips into the role of student.

My conclusion is that Coyote serves to challenge borders in the novel.  Coyote is the character that is both mythical and able to interact with reality (the narrator).  He is both student and teacher, performing neither with arrogance or a close-minded mentality, but with spirit and enthusiasm.  At the start of the novel, when he must teach, Coyote does it patiently and without anger or frustration.  When he must learn, Coyote is excited, needing the stories to move faster so that he can receive the knowledge more quickly.  I think that King is trying to use Coyote as an example to the readers of his novel about how one should approach the spread of knowledge, especially when sharing stories between cultures.

Works Cited

Book Cover. Digital image. Amazon. Amazon, n.d. Web. 18 July 2016.

King, Thomas. Green Grass Running Water. Toronto: Harper Collins, 1993. Print.

Welker, Glenn. “Coyote Stories/Poems.” Coyote Stories/Poems. Indigenous People, 15 July 2016. Web. 19 July 2016.


Multiculturalism Act 1989

For this blog assignment, I would like you to research and summarize one of the state or governing activities, such as The Royal Proclamation 1763, the Indian Act 1876, Immigration Act 1910, or the Multiculturalism Act 1989 – you choose the legislation or policy or commission you find most interesting. Write a blog about your findings and in your conclusion comment on whether or not your findings support Coleman’s argument about the project of white civility.

In introduction, I will be discussing the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which you can find here if you are interested in reading/skimming for better understanding.

“Neil Bissoondath argues in Selling Illusions (1994) that multiculturalism leads to ethnic and cultural segregation and the ghettoization of cultural groups rather than to an integrated community” (CanLit guide).  When you consider the idea of nationalism in Canada from the viewpoint of race and ethnicity, it immediately becomes apparent that the the concept of “nationalism” in Canada is of white European origin and construction.  Introduction of the idea of multiculturalism did not erase the distinct lines drawn by white Anglo-Canadian society.  When it comes to multiculturalism policy, the main role of inclusion is focused on performative displays of diversity, for example: food, dance, song, art.  Little focus is given to policy that will affect actual social change and correct social injustices.

The white, Anglo-Canadian hierarchy is never forgotten in the supposed steps towards a multicultural Canada.  When recent immigrants or visible minority groups are welcomed into Canada, they are greeted by this hierarchy, which works to enforce gratitude, “forming a host/guest hierarchy” (CanLit guide).  In a similar position, Indigenous peoples “have resisted being categorized in the frame of multiculturalism, as their societies predate the formation of the nation-state of Canada” (CanLit guide).  However, Indigenous peoples should rightfully be playing the part of “host” in the “host/guest” hierarchy.  Instead, they have received little acknowledgement or gratitude for the sharing of their lands, and have alone experienced enough social injustice to call into question the concept and ideals behind Canada’s take on multiculturalism.

An important feature of the Multiculturalism Act, and arguably one of its most damaging flaws is its focus on individual origins.  This, by its very nature, prevents the presented idea of Canada as a nation of “we,” instead promoting a nation of “me,” or “us” and “them.”  Canada, in comparison to The United States, is known as a mosaic, rather than a melting pot, but this does not seem to be a truly accurate description or division, especially when considering the Canadian justice system, which is based on an English model, and slow to adapt to change.  That our justice is based on a single, separate nation’s justice system defies the inclusion of multiculturalism.  This becomes a problem with situations where the cultural practices of minority groups collide with white Anglo-Canadian Law, such as with the niqab and the citizenship-swearing oath.  The woman in this article is perfectly willing to remove her veil for security reasons, but refuses to do so during a citizenship-swearing ceremony just because someone else doesn’t like it.  (I’d like to note that she did remove it before hand to prove her identity, but did not want to leave it removed to swear the oath, as this is not a security concern).

Police and protesters exchange words near the camp's checkpoint during a recent stand-off.

“Police and protesters exchange words near the camp’s checkpoint during a recent stand-off.”

On the topic of cultural management, Canada’s multiculturalism label again fails.  There are many examples of Indigenous peoples occupying/protesting on their ancestral lands against unwanted development or encroachment, such as this one.  These protests, most often non-violent, are met with police force. This response emphasizes the issues surrounding multiculturalism in the sense of communities, borders, and state-power.

Coleman describes white civility as romantic notions of nationalism founded on a British perspective and sense of civility.  Coleman emphasizes two major points in his discussion: 1) nation building has a fictive, romanticized, element and 2) the only way to maintain the fiction is to practice forgetfulness.  When applied to multiculturalism, both of his points seem relevant.  Multiculturalism may have been thought up with good intention, but it does not actually force those in power (white Anglo-Canadians) to give up or share their power with other cultures, rather it is a romanticized concept possibly meant to placate or to provide a pat-on-the-back to “white civility.” When this idea of multiculturalism is called upon by minority groups and Indigenous peoples, Canada seems to have a policy of forgetfulness that determines anything outside of the white Anglo-Canadian comfort zone as dangerous (or harmful to those in power keeping their power).

Works Cited

Browne, Rachel. “Canada Wants Muslim Women to Take Off Their Face Coverings for Citizenship Oath | VICE News.” VICE News RSS. VICE News, 14 Sept. 2015. Web. 08 July 2016.

“Canadian Multiculturalism Act (R.S.C., 1985, C. 24 (4th Supp.)).” Legislative Services Branch. Government of Canada, 01 Apr. 2014. Web. 08 July 2016.

“Nationalism, 1980s Onwards: Contesting Multiculturalism.” CanLit Guides. UBC, n.d. Web. 08 July 2016.

Trumpener, Betsy. “RCMP Planning Mass Arrests at Pipeline Protest Camp, Northern B.C Chiefs Fear – British Columbia – CBC News.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 28 Aug. 2015. Web. 08 July 2016.

“Unist’ot’en Camp/Vimeo.”  Digital image. CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 28 Aug. 2015. Web. 08 July 2016.


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.



1:5 — How Evil Came into the World

Your task is to take the story about how evil comes into the world, the story King tells about the Witches’ convention in Chapter One of The Truth about Stories, and change it any way you want, except the ending. You can change to place, the people, the time – anything you want. But, your story must have the same moral – it must tell us how evil came into the world and how once a story is told, it cannot be taken back.

Team_SpiritStories are living things–and they are dangerous.  When evil came into the world, it was in the form of a story.  Every evening, the creatures of the world would gather together and share their daily stories.  The birds would tell stories of the sky and all the creatures they had spied on.  The bears would share their struggles to scavenge the ripest berries to prepare for winter.  The snakes would share their difficulties in finding warm rocks to fight the constant chill of their bodies.  The stories were all good and the creatures of the world were content.

One evening, a newcomer joined the gathering.  None of the creatures afterwards could recall exactly who it was, but all of them remembered the story that was told.  The newcomer shared a warning with the others.  A great and terrible creature had been sighted.  Hairless, clawless and without visible defenses, the creature should have been harmless, said the newcomer.  But this strange creature isn’t harmless, insisted the newcomer.  Beware, beware, beware.

The creatures at the gathering laughed.  If this new creature could not fight, it could not be so terrible.  We will attack its eyes, claimed the birds.  I will attack with my claws and teeth, chimed the bear.  I will coil my great body around it and constrict around its lungs, added the snake.  All the other creatures agreed and added their own strategies, until all of them felt confident that this new creature could do them no harm.

Laugh if you want, the newcomer warned, but they are coming.  They are cunning and cruel and full of fear.  Their eyes see only a dead, cold world.  They are deaf to the speech of other animals, deaf to the wind in the trees and the babbling brooks.  But worst of all, they fear.  They fear the world they cannot hear.  They destroy what they fear.  They destroy even themselves.  Beware, beware, beware. They are coming now.

All of the other creatures had grown silent and still.  We do not like your story, take it back.  Take it back.  Take it back.

But it is too late.  They are already coming.


I found this form of storytelling to be very difficult.  While I have crafted fiction frequently in the past, they have all been written storytelling; the Genesis version of events, with “rhetorical distance,” to use Thomas King’s example, as opposed to oral storytelling, involving a performance for an audience (22).  I researched other creation stories in trying to come up with my own (I also found what I think is the full version of Leslie Silko’s creation story, if anyone was curious).  I discovered one very important thing on this journey: I suck at oral storytelling.  It’s harder.  As an oral storyteller, you can’t just rely on your words to paint the picture–though I’m sure this helps.  You need to act, use different tones and voice, draw people in.  Even a short story like the one I wrote above involves a performance, or else my listeners lost their attention.  I’m not ashamed to say I researched for tips and tricks.  I was in over my head and needed to tell a good story at least once!  My endeavors led me places such as this, and I learned something crucial: there isn’t a lot of information of telling a story specifically orally.  Did anyone else try to research something similar in preparation and encounter the same result?

Works Cited

“Image.” Digital Painting.  Magic Jargon. Magic: The Gathering, 9 Sept 2006.  Web.  30 May 2016.

King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2003. Print.

Silko, Leslie.  “[Long Time Ago].” First World Stories, n.d.  Web.  30 May 2016.

Ware, Tom.  “Tips From a Master Storyteller.”  The New Zealand Guild of Storytellers, n.d. Web 30 May 2016.


1:3–I didn’t know how culture worked.

Explain why the notion that cultures can be distinguished as either “oral culture” or “written culture” (19) is a mistaken understanding as to how culture works, according to Chamberlin and your reading of Courtney MacNeil’s article “Orality.

Them and Us.  The doodlers versus the babblers.  Civilization and barbarians.  The first part of Edward J. Chamberlin’s If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground discusses why the distinction between an “oral culture” and a “written culture” is a misconception.  In his attempt to bring the reader to this same understanding, he explains that

Human beings are often defined as animals who have language; so it is not surprising that the categories… first take shape along lines of language with the dismissal of a different language as either barbaric or so basic that it could not possibly accommodate civilized thoughts and feelings.  (13)

While sometimes this dismissal of cultures can take a more polite regard, it is no less harmful.  Some classify an oral culture as one whose majors forms of expression are in speech or performance.  This is considered to be more natural and connected with the world than writing and reading, which are “cultivated and complex” (19).  I admit that this was my own understanding before reading Chamberlin’s text; an easy-to-understand borderline of two separate ideas of culture that did not mix.  He points out that some of the most important rituals of the “civilized” or “doodlers” society–such as in baptisms, funerals, weddings or coronation–rely on words or ceremony conducted in a specific, performative manner using language that is archaic/outdated, or even another language altogether.

Perhaps one of the strongest defenses for Chamberlin’s position that there is no distinct line between an oral and a written culture are MacNeil’s points in her article “Orality.”  SJ-cyberspaceThanks to the realm of cyberspace, the supposed line between oral and written culture is even more indistinct.  If an oral culture is defined by its lack of substance and malleability, how do we define such categories as audio-recordings or sound-files which can now saturate the online world in a permanent way?  We cannot only store this form of oral culture, but re-play it in its exactness again and again, just as one could read and reread a written text.  In contrast, if written work is defined by its permanence or ability to endure the ages, how to we categorize the instant message or websites (like Wikipedia) that are left free to editorial change by the masses?

The aspect I find most interesting about the orality/literacy debate is that while many may have a strong association between literacy and civilization, for a long period of time literacy was accessible only for the privileged.  It is not until the invention of the printing press that literacy became more wide-spread and accessible to the masses.  Suddenly, millions of people became readers, and stories became public.  But what were they before?  To share their stories, they would have had to have been both a written and oral culture: one to read the written stories, and another, perhaps illiterate, to listen.  I wonder if, following its creation, the printing press could have been heralded or viewed as the end to orality.  However, it was quickly followed by the invention of the telephone to replace the telegraph, the radio, and the television to replace newspapers.  When you pause, it is easy to see that there is no distinct line, and that traditionally viewed literary and oral cultures dip into each others territory.

Works Cited

Chamberlin, Edward. If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground. AA. Knopf. Toronto. 2003. Print.

Coffee, Peter.  Image. Diginomica. Salesforce, 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 20 May 2016.

Hansen, Erin.  “Oral Traditions.”  Indigenous Foundations.  University of British Columbia, n.d. Web. 15 May 2016.

MacNeil, Courtney.  “Orality.” The Chicago School of Media Theory. Uchicagoedublogs, 2007. Web. 18 May 2016.

“Rite for the Baptism of One Child.”  Liturgical Texts.  The Catholic Liturgical Library, 1970.  Web.  20, May 2016.



Nice to meet you.

Hello classmates and fellow bloggers!  Welcome to my digital learning and interactions space.

PictureI am a storyteller; a writer.  I am a fourth year literature major at UBC.  This blog will be used to record my journey into ENGL 470A Canadian Studies. I am looking forward to the communication of classmates as we begin to explore the relationships between literature and storytelling in both its modern and historical aspects.  I am personally taking this course in the hopes of adding flesh to my bare-bones understanding of identity.  My own identity is limited to that of being Canadian–I do not know my ancestral history or their stories.  However, I was born on Canadian soil, and I believe I should know the stories surrounding the land I call my home.  This, and my claim to being a writer myself, has led to my interest in this particular course.

One aspect I find interesting, and hope to examine in this course, is the deviation in the methods of storytelling between European and Indigenous peoples.  Or, more specifically, written and oral documentation of history. Oral history, while being much more organic and malleable than written history, is far more fragile.  It seems of particular importance to examine this form of storytelling due to the threat Indigenous languages face.  This threat is not only of relevance to the preservation of stories and history, but to identity.  It is easy to interpret identity as something restricted to a past setting, and this mind-set has led to tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. In reality, history is an ongoing experience and has a lasting impact on shaping peoples lives and cultures that is still relevant today.  In order to interact and navigate with other cultures in Canada, we must first learn.

I look forward to a summer of insight and understanding with all of you!


Works Cited

Crey, Karrmen.  “Aboriginal Identity and the Classroom.”  Indigenous Foundations.  University of British Columbia, n.d. Web. 15 May 2016.

“Living Communities.” Image. Cross Curriculum Priorities. Working with Indigenous Australian Students, n.d. Web. 15 May 2016.

Luksic, N., Howell, T.  “Constitutional challenge looks to revive aboriginal languages.”  CBCNews: Aboriginal. CBCNews: Aboriginal, 10 April 2016.  Web.  15 May 2016.