History and Reading Arts for Ages Eleven to Fifteen (Pour la version française, faire défiler vers le bas)

Bear Cubs

Bear Cubs

History and Reading Arts for Ages Eleven to Fifteen

The Award-WinningSummer of the Bear

(Faire défiler vers le bas pour la version française)


Part II:The Issues Raised in the Book, which You Can Discuss with Your Child:

One of the very first issues raised in the book is the meaning of Core Democratic Values for kids. Do kids get any of these rights? Why? Why not?When the Constitution tells us we’re FREE, does that mean we can do and sayanything we want, or are there bounds to our liberty?

” ‘And personal liberty,’ Miss Frolich droned on, ‘is the right to think, to act, and to be an individual without governmental control or protest . . .’ What a joke. If I wanted to do something, my father would decide whether or not I could do it. If he could have controlled my mind, he would have. I guessed

you got to enjoy all those freedoms Miss Frolich had been teaching us when you grew up and moved out of your parents’ house. This really exciting plan I had hatched for that summer is a perfect example of what I mean. It was harmless, but it would allow me the freedom to be the real me. I doubted my father would

go for it.” [Loc. 76 ]

“ ‘That’s very nice. I mean you should have the freedom to be the person you were born to be’ my father yelled, ‘but what about me? I feed you, clothe you, put a roof over your head, and I love you. Don’t I have any rights? And what about your mother? Didn’t it ever occur to you that she might be worried? Having the right to liberty doesn’t mean you can do anything you want any time you want. The right to liberty brings with it tremendous responsibility. You have to think about other people. You have to think about what’s fair for them as well as for yourself.’ ” [Loc. 1529 ]


Possible Questions: Does the U.S. constitution give rights to children as well as adults? Why do children have to listen to their parents?  Does having liberty mean you can do anything you want, any time you want? Why doesn’t everybody just do what he wants, whenever he wants to? Is Kevin’s father fair to put limits on Kevin’s liberty? Why does he do that?


Conservation and the Proper Uses of Wealth.

Conservation and sharing for the Native American constituted a way of life, whereas the Euro-American wastes enormous quantities of natural resources and only gives to charity in exchange for a tax write-off. He may worry about the obvious end of the world, but, when it comes to making money, he thinks only of the here and now. Native Americans always gave thanks for everything they took, and they took only what they needed from the Earth.

“Wild rice (mano’min) is said to be generous to those who ask permission from the spirits to take it. They must pick only as much as they need and no more. This is so that there will always be plenty for everybody.” [Loc. 287]

“We Anishinabeg are the original conservationists. The Creator gave us everything we needed.” [Loc. 723]

“During za pre-contact period before za Europeans came,’ ” Jean-Baptiste

interrupted, “zay could get what zay needed from zair environment. Zay  asked za spirits’ permission for everything zay took; zay never took any more zan zay needed. Why would zay want something extra, when zay had more zan enough? It is zair way to share with family and needy neighbors. Zair way of showing wealth is to give it away, not to display possessions.” [Loc. 725].


Possible Questions: What do you think are the proper uses of wealth? Should we be careful of our resources? Why? For example, do you think we have enough water? Is all the water good to drink? What about lake water? Rain water? Tap water? What can we do to conserve water? What about gasoline? Etc.


What is the Best Kind of Economy? Survival Economies Versus Economies Geared to Profit.

“. . . Zee Anishinabeg only want to survive. Zee Indians eventually make zemselve trouble because zay kill all zair fur-bearing animal to satisfy European demands. Zen za fur trade died. If zay had preserve zee animal, za way zair customs taught zem to do, zay  would never have run out of fur for warmth or meat to eat.” [Loc. 725]


Possible Questions: What do you think the best kind of economy is? One where you just try to survive, or one where you make money? Why?  What would the United States be like if we had a survival economy? Would we have big cities, trains, buses, taxi cabs, etc. What if all the countries in the world had survival economies? What would the world be like then? Would there be bakeries, hardware stores, shopping centers, winter and summer resorts, movies, theaters? Etc. What if we had a command economy? What kind of economy do we have?



For the Indian, Nature Is Not Only Good, but It Is an Integral Part of the Creation. For the White Man, Nature is Evil and is Put at Man’s Disposal. He Therefore Destroys it, with Little Thought for the Future.

In this novel, Kevin is fearful of the forest and hostile nature.

“That night I couldn’t sleep, worrying about what would happen when Brock’s father came up for the weekend, and we weren’t there. Then I worried about what would happen if we got lost or found a bear. What if we drowned?” [Loc. 389]


His friend, Jean-Baptiste, angers a mother bear, which forces Kevin to kill it. Then Jean-Baptiste is forced to take only the bear’s hide, leaving the meat to rot. The Frenchman is upset because, his Indian friends have taught him to see the bear as a positive force:

“Kuo-Haya,” he said to his boy. “I have come to take you home. The bears have taught me a lesson. I shall treat you as a father should treat his son.” Then he promised that he would always be kind to the bears, because they had taught the boy that we must always be kind to one another.” [Loc. 872]


When Jean-Baptiste sees that Kevin and Brock are horrified at eating the muskrat he has just killed, he explains,

“My Anishinabe Friend, Ed, taught me that one only kills what one needs to survive. One offers tobacco and asks the animal’s forgiveness so that he will lead more muskrat, or deer, or whatever it is, to one’s gun when one needs to eat. Then one buries his bones. You see, the Anishinabeg think that everything in creation is related. So one is related to this muskrat, to the tree, to the river, to everything.” [Loc. 517-39]


When Kevin looks at nature, he sees death at every turn. By contrast, the Anishinabe boy, Mickie, sees nature as a protective force, as long as he treats her respectfully:

“My Ahsaymah’, or Tobacco, in Anishinaabemowin, carries my thoughts to the Spirit World. It represents my sincerity. When I offer Tobacco to the spirits, they tell me the secrets of the Creation. The Water Spirits appreciate my respectfulness so they guide me safely across the rivers. I’m always able to find something to eat because the animals offer themselves to me when I’m hungry. The Tobacco shows them the truth of my intentions.” [Loc. 590]


Possible Questions: Do you think the woods are dangerous? Why?  Do you think that animals like bears, lions, or snakes want to hurt humans? Why do they hurt human beings? Do you think your’re related to a bear, a monkey, or a snake? In what way? What about a cat or a dog? Do cats, dogs, lions have feelings? How do they express those feelings? Do you think dogs, cats,  lions, bears etc. deserve your respect and love? Why? Do you think other people deserve your respect and love? Why? Have you seen the internet video at the zoo about a woman, who visits a lion she raised at home?


Disciplining Children.

Both Kevin and Brock come from families where children are sternly disciplined. It is new for them to learn about Indian discipline:

“The Anishinabeg never beat or shout at their children,” Star said. “If the child is uncontrollable, they might threaten him with monsters that prey on disobedient children. But, for the most part, they speak calmly and clearly to the child who misbehaves.”

“What do they say to him?” Brock asked.

“They tell him a teaching story,” Star replied, “like the one you just heard” [Loc. 872]


Possible Questions:  Should children be beaten? Should children be severely punished? Why? Should pets be beaten and severely punished when they make a mistake?  If a child misbehaves and his parents tell him a story to show him what kind of mistake he made and why it was a mistake, do you think that child will make the same mistake again? Who will be better behaved when he grows up? The child who has been beaten and severely punished or the child, who has been corrected patiently and lovingly? Which child will grow up to be a patient, loving person? If a child is beaten or told he is stupid, what kind of adult will he grow up to be?


The Equality of Women.

Star’s father told us another story that night about Native American women.

“Their roles varied widely from tribe to tribe,” he began, “but Indians have always loved and respected their woman. They were leaders and war chiefs in some nations. In all tribes, women are the ones who give and preserve life. Like any man, a woman’s first allegiance is to her family and her tribe. A good life means doing what you are supposed to do, rather than what you want to do.” [Loc. 894]


Possible Questions: Do you agree with that statement? Why are you here on earth? To do what you want to do, or what you’re supposed to do? How do you know what you’re supposed to do? Do your parents do what they want, or what they’re supposed to do? Are they happy? Is doing what you want with your life a little like being free to do whatever you want? When you’re the only one around, then why not do what you want? But, if there are other people around, that’s a different story, isn’t it? You can’t do exactly what you want and have everyone around you be happy. So when you live in society, how does that differ from living all alone, like a hermit?


Do you think men and women are equal, or do you think men are superior to women, or vice versa? What makes you think the way you do? Who is smarter, a man or a woman? Who makes better decisions? Who is more dependable? Who is more sociable? Who is kinder? Who is emotionally stronger? Who is physically stronger? Who is a better warrior? etc. So, are men and women absolutely equal, or are they meant to share the work of tending the earth, each one using his or her particular strengths, as the American Indians thought they were?



La Version Française

L’Histoire et l’Art de la lecture, pour les jeunes âgés de 11 à 15 ans.

L’Été de l’ours, livre primé.


Deuxième partie: Les questions soulevées par le texte à examiner avec votre enfant:

Une des premières questions soulevées par le texte c’est la signification des Valeurs Essentielles Démocrates de la Constitution Américaine  pour les jeunes. Les enfants ont-ils droit à ces libertés? Pourquoi? Pourquoi pas? Lorsque la Constitution nous dit que nous sommes libres, est-ce que ça veut dire que nous avons le droit de faire et de dire tout ce que nous voulons, ou y a-t-il des limites à notre liberté?

” ‘Et la liberté personelle,’ continuait Mlle Frolich, ‘c’est le droit de penser, d’agir, et d’être individu, sans le contrôl ou la protestation du gouvernement. . .’

“Quelle blague! Si moi je faisais des projets, mon père déciderait si je pouvais les réaliser ou non. S’il aurait pu contrôller mon esprit, il l’aurait fait.  Je supposais que l’on pourrait apprécier toutes ces Valeurs Essentielles Démocratiques que Mlle Frolich nous enseignait lorsqu’on atteindrait la majorité et déménagerait  de chez ses parents. Un exemple parfait de ce dont je parle, c’était ce projet que j’avais en tête pour cet été-là. Il était innocent, mais ça me permettrait la liberté, dont j’avais tellement envie, d’être le vrai moi. Je savais que mon père n’aimerait point mon plan.” [Loc. 76]

” ‘Comme c’est convenable, ça! Tu devrais avoir toute la liberté nécessaire pour devenir la personne que tu as toujours rêvé de devenir!’ Mon père cria. ‘Mais n’ai-je pas des droits aussi, moi? Je te nourris, je t’habille, je te fournis un abri, et je t’aime. Et ta mère? N’as-tu jamais pensé qu’elle pourrait s’inquiéter à ton sujet? Avoir le droit à la liberté ne veut pas dire que tu peux faire n’importe quoi n’importe quand. Le droit de la liberté apporte avec soi beaucoup de responsabilité. Il faut toujours penser aux autres. Tu dois considérer ce qui est juste pour eux aussi bien que pour toi.’ ” [Loc. 1529]


Questions possibles: La Constitution américaine, donne-t-elle des droits aux enfants aussi bien qu’aux adultes? Pourquoi faut-il que les enfants écoutent leurs parents? La liberté veut dire que l’on est libre à faire n’importe quoi n’importe quand? Pourquoi est-ce que tout le monde ne fait pas n’importe quoi n’importe quand? Le père de Kevin, agit-il avec justice lorsqu’il impose des limites à la liberté de son fils? Pourquoi le fait-il?


La Sauvegarde et les bons usages des richesses:

La sauvegarde et le partage constituaient une mode de vie pour les Amérindiens, tandis que l’Euro-Américain gaspille des quantités énormes de biens naturels. Il ne fait de la charité que pour une déduction fiscale.  Il s’inquiète pour la fin inévitable du monde, mais aussitôt qu’il soit question de faire de l’argent, il ne pense qu’au présent.  Les Amérindiens traditionnels ont toujours remercié la Terre pour tout ce qu’ils ont pris d’Elle, et ils n’en prennent que ce dont ils ont besoin.


“Le riz sauvage (mano’min) est généreux avec ceux qui demande la permission des Esprits pour la cueillir. Ils doivent ne cueillir que ce qu’il leur faut. C’est pour qu’il y en ait plein pour tout le monde.” [Loc. 287]


“Nous, les Anishinabeg, sommes les défenseurs originaux de l’environnement. Le Créateur nous donna tout ce dont nous avons besoin!” [Loc. 723]


” ‘Pendant l’époque dite ‘pré-contacte,’ c.-à-d. avant l’arrivée des Européens,’ Jean-Baptiste interrompit, ‘ils pouvaient obtenir n’importe quoi de leur environnement. Ils ont demandé aux Esprits la permission de prendre tout ce dont  ils avaient besoin. Ils n’ont jamais pris plus que ce qu’il leur fallait. Pourquoi auraient-ils voulu du surplus lorsqu’ils avaient largement assez?

C’est leur style de partager avec la famille et les voisins pauvres. Leur façon de faire montre de leur richesse est de la donner aux autres. Ils ne font jamais étalage de leurs possessions.” [Loc. 725]





Questions possibles:

Quels sont les bons usages de la richesse? Devrions-nous sauvegarder nos biens naturels? Par exemple, avons-nous assez d’eau? Est-ce que toute l’eau que nous avons est potable? Et quoi de l’eau du Lac? L’eau de la pluie? L’eau du robinet, peux-tu boire tout cela sans tomber malade? Que pourrions-nous faire pour savegarder l’eau?  L’essence? Le bois? Etc.


L’Économie de survie et les Économies adaptés au profit. Quel est le meilleur système économique pour nous?

“Les Anishinabeg ne cherchent qu’à survivre. Les amérindiens s’attirèrent des problèmes en fin de compte parce qu’ils tuèrent tous leurs animaux à pelage pour satisfaire aux demandes des Européens. Ensuite, l’industrie de la fourrure a succombé. S’ils avaient preservé leurs animaux comme leur avaient enseigné leurs coutumes, les Amérindiens n’auraient jamais manqué de la fourrure pour les réchauffer ni de la viande à manger.” [Loc. 725]


Questions possibles:

À ton avis, quel est le meilleur système économique? Pourquoi? Comment États-Unis seraient-ils si nous avions une économie de survie? Et si tous les pays du monde avaient des économies de survie, y auraient-il beaucoup de marchés, de quincailleries, de pâtisseries, de boulangers, de centres commerciaux, etc.? Comment les grandes villes seraient-elles? Les villages? Y auraient-ils des stations d’hiver, des stations balnéaires, des boîtes de nuits, des cinés, des théâtres?


Comment le monde serait-il si nous avions un système économique de commandement?


Quel type de système économique avons-nous aux États-Unis?


La Nature

Pour l’Amérindien la nature n’est pas seulement bonne, elle fait partie intégrale de la Création. Pour le Blanc, la nature est mauvaise. Elle est à l’homme pour en disposer comme il veut. Donc l’homme blanc la détruit, sans penser à l’avenir.

Dans ce roman, Kevin a peur de la forêt et de la nature, qu’il considère comme hostiles.

“Cette nuit-là je n’arrivais pas à dormir. Je me tracassais pour quand le père de Brock viendrait à la cabane le week-end. Que penserait-il si nous n’y étions pas? Après je m’inquiétais pour ce qui arriverait si nous nous perdions ou si nous encontrions un ours. Et si nous nous noyions? [Loc. 389 ]

Son ami, Jean-Baptiste, irrite une ourse avec des oursons, ce qui finit par forcer Kevin à la confronter. Ensuite Jean-Baptiste est  forcé de ne prendre que le pelage de l’ourse, laissant en arrière la viande. Le Français est fâché parce que ses amis amérindiens l’ont enseigné à envisager l’ours comme force positive dans la vie de l’homme.

” ‘Kuo-Haya,’ dit-il à son fils. ‘Je suis venu pour t’ammener chez nous. Les ours m’ont enseigné une belle leçon. Je te traiterai comme il sied à tout père  avec son fils.’  Ensuite il a promis de toujours traiter les ours avec bonté parce qu’ils avaient enseigné à son garçon que nous devons toujours être gentil l’un avec l’autre.” [Loc. 872 ]

Lorsque Jean–Baptiste comprend que Kevin et Brock ont horreur de manger le rat musqué qu’il vient de tuer, il leur explique,

“Mon ami Anishnabe, Ed, m’enseigna que l’on ne tue que ce dont on a besoin. On offre le tabac et on demande pardon de l’animal pour qu’il mène encore des rats musqués ou des cerfs ou quoique ce soit, à son fusil lorsque l’on aura besoin de manger. Ensuite on enterre les os. Vous voyez, les Anishinabeg croient que tout dans la Création fait partie intégrale de l’ensemble. Il s’ensuit que l’on compte parmi ses parents ce rat musqué, l’arbre, la rivière, tout…!” [Loc. 517-39]

Lorsque Kevin regarde la nature, il n’y voit que la mort. Par contraste, le garçon anishinabe, Mickie, y voit une force protectrice, pourvu qu’il la traite avec respect.

“Mon Ahsaymah ou mon tabac, en Anishinaabemowin, transporte mes pensées au monde des esprits. Ça représente ma sincérité. Quand j’offre du tabac aux Esprits, ils me racontent les secrets de la Création.  Les Esprits de l’eau apprécient mon attitude respectueuse de sorte qu’ils me guident à travers les rivières. Je peux toujours trouver quelque chose à manger parce que les animaux s’offrent à moi lorsque j’ai faim. Le tabac leur montre la pureté de mes intentions.” [Loc.  590]

Questions possibles:

Penses-tu que les bois soient dangéreux? Pourquoi? Crois-tu que des animaux comme les ours, les lions, ou les serpents, veuillent faire mal aux êtres humains?  Et pourtant, pourquoi font-il mal aux humains? Penses-tu être apparenté à un ours, un singe, ou un serpent? Comment? Et à un chat ou un chien? Est-ce que les chiens, les chats et les lions etc. ont des sentiments? Comment expriment-ils leurs sentiments? Crois-tu que les chiens, les chats, les lions, et les ours méritent notre respect et notre amour? Pourquoi? Penses-tu que d’autres êres humains méritent votre respect et votre amour? Pourquoi? As-tu vu le vidéo au zoo de la dame qui a visité un lion qu’elle avait élevé chez elle?


Comment discipliner les enfants

Et Kevin et Brock viennent des familles où les enfants reçoivent une discipline stricte. La discipline amérindienne est un concept neuf pour eux:

“Les Anishinabeg ne battent jamais leurs enfants. Ils ne leur crient pas non plus,” dit Étoile.”Si l’enfant est hors de contrôle, les parents sont capables de l’effrayer avec des monstres imaginaires qui chassent après les enfants désobéissants. Mais la plupart du temps, ils parlent calmement et clairement à un enfant qui désobéit.”

“Qu’est-ce qu’il lui disent?” Demanda Brock.

“Ils lui racontent un exemple (une histoire d’enseignement),” Étoile répondit, “comme celle que vous venez d’entendre.” [Loc.  372]




Questions possibles:

Devrait-on battre les enfants? Devrait-on punir sévèrement les enfants? Pourquoi? Devrait-on battre et punir sévèrement les animaux familiers lorsqu’ils font une erreur? Si un enfant se comporte mal et ses parents lui racontent un conte pour illustrer son erreur, penses-tu que cet enfant fasse le même erreur encore une fois? Qui se comporte mieux une fois qu’il est adulte: l’enfant qui a été sévèrement puni ou l’enfant qui a été corrigé patiemmenmt et avec amour? Lequel de ces deux enfants deviendra un adulte patient et amiable? Si un enfant est battu ou appelé “stupide” par ses parents, quelle sorte d’adulte sera-t-il?


L’Égalité des Femmes

Le père d’Étoile nous raconte un autre récit ce soir-là dans lequel il s’agit des amérindiennes:

“Leurs rôles variaient beaucoup de tribu en tribu,” il commença, “mais les Amérindiens ont toujours aimé et respecté leurs femmes. Elles étaient leaders, chefs de guerre dans quelques unes des nations. Dans toutes les tribus, les femmes sont celles qui donent et qui préservent la vie. Comme tout homme, la première allégeance d’une femme se doit à sa famille et à sa tribu. Une bonne vie veut dire faire ce que l’on est censé faire, au lieu de faire ce que l’on veut.” (Loc. 894]


Questions Possibles:

Es-tu d’accord avec cette formulation de la bonne vie? Pourquoi es-tu ici sur la terre? Es-tu ici pour faire ce que tu veux ou ce que tu es censé faire? Comment sais-tu ce que tu es censé faire? Tes parents, font-ils ce qu’ils veulent ou ce qu’il doivent? Sont-ils heureux? Est-ce que faire ce que tu veux de ta vie est un peu comme être libre à faire n’importe quoi n’importe quand? S’il n’y avait que toi dans le monde, pourquoi ne pas faire exactement ce que tu voulais? Mais s’il y a d’autres gens autour de toi, c’est un peu different, non? Tu ne peux pas faire exactement ce que tu veux si

tu veux que les gens avec qui tu partages ta vie soient contents eux aussi. Enfin, quand tu fais partie de la société, comment est-ce que cela se distinque de vivre tout seul? Ta vie est différente ou la même?


Pense-tu que les hommes et les femmes sont absoluement égaux? Ou trouves-tu que les hommes sont supérieurs aux femmes ou plutôt l’inverse?  Pourquoi? Qui est plus intelligent – un homme ou une femme? Qui prend les meilleurs partis? Sur qui peut-on compter le plus? Qui est plus sociable? Qui est plus fort sur le plan affectif? Et sur le plan physique? Qui est le meilleur guerrier? Etc.  Les hommes et les femmes sont-ils tout à fait égaux alors? Ou sont-ils faits pour partager le travail, selon leurs compétences particulières, de ménager la terre comme le pensent les Amérindiens?










History and Reading Arts for Ages Eleven to Fifteen (Faire défiler vers le bas pour la version française)

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The Journals of Kevin Murphy

 I. English Version (Faire défiler vers le bas pour la version française).

The Journals of Kevin Murphy, 1: The Plots


I have just uploaded an adventure series for young adults to Amazon: The Journals of Kevin Murphy. The first volume, The Summer of the Bear, is about Kevin’s 14th summer, which he spends in the Pigeon River Country State Forest in northern, lower Michigan. Kevin, who is the narrator of the three books in the series, learns the value of being part of a team. He even comes to appreciate his own worth as a writer, because he is the one who writes down the adventure, including the details of Jean-Baptiste’s thick Canadian accent.  Without Kevin, no one would ever know what really happened.

The cover features the mother bear and her cubs alongside the river.

The cover features the mother bear and her cubs alongside the river.

Kevin and his best friend, Brock Tomlinson, spend two boring weeks with Brock’s dad, in a cabin on the river. Finally, Mr. Tomlinson has to go back to work. He leaves the two boys in the care of Mrs. Vaillant. But, at the moment of his departure, Jean-Baptiste’s canoe is quietly landing.

Jean-Baptiste, who would like to be a canoe man (voyageur), talks the two boys into going down the river with him, where they find adventures they will never forget. It is in the forest that they meet Mickie Mamansinam, a young Anishinaabe (Ojibwe Indian), who is looking for a bad bearwalker (a medicine man gone bad). Jean-Baptiste decides to help Mickie, thus leading the boys into a terrifying misadventure.

The Michigan State History Seal of Approval

The Michigan State History Seal of Approval

In the second volume, Son of Fireheart, Kevin meets the Esselen-Mexican boy, Esteban Sanchez, on a beach in Santa Cruz, where he is spending the summer with his aunt and his little sister, Katie. Esteban is homeless. His only contact with literature of any kind has been with the Fireheart section of the Spider-Man comic book. The two boys become friends, but Kevin’s chivalry, when he saves a teen from a group of local gang bangers at the beach, culminates in a raging forest fire in the Santa Lucía mountains.

A mountain lion in the Santa Lucia Mountains

A mountain lion in the Santa Lucia Mountains

At its center, the narrative turns on the transformation of Esteban from an abused, homeless illiterate to a college medical student, who eventually becomes a viable member of the tribe from which he has been estranged. It is Kevin’s aunt, who helps Esteban to surmount an extremely difficult childhood. If she succeeds, it is because she introduces the boy to members of his tribe, who know how to create a prosperous and useful life for him.

The cover from Eagle from the Dawn, depicting Tipyahlanah Kaupu, fighting the white stallion.

The cover from Eagle from the Dawn, depicting Tipyahlanah Kaupu, fighting the white stallion.

In the third volume, Eagle from the Dawn, Kevin has just received his diploma from Dearborn High in Michigan. Kevin goes to the Winddancer Ranch in Montana, which belongs to his uncle Matt. There, he renews his friendship with Peter Taksoukt, the son of Matt’s partner on the ranch. The boys decide to cross the Rockies together with Peter’s little sister. Kevin brings his beloved Mustang, Tipyahlanah Kaupau, nimipuutimpt  (the language of the Nez Perces) for ‘Eagle from the Dawn.’ The horse escapes, and Kevin is forced to acquire the essential skill of letting go. He learns to do this in a Nez Perce sweat house.  What he has discovered, is the secret to happiness in any relationship, but especially the secret to a love relationship. It is precisely at this moment that he meets the love of his life at a powwow in Idaho. And there is a video of me reading from this scene on my author’s page.






II. La Version Française

Les Journaux de Kevin Murphy,  1:  Les Trames


Je viens de télécharger une série d’aventures pour les jeunes à Amazon.fr: Les Journaux de Kevin Murphy, écrits en anglais. Dans le premier volume, L’été de l’ours (Summer of the Bear), il s’agit du 14e été de Kevin, passé dans la forêt au pays de la fleuve Pigeon au nord du Michigan, un des états américains. Kevin, qui raconte les récits dans ces trois livres, apprend la valeur de travailler dans une équippe, et il arrive même à apprécier sa propre valeur en tant qu’écrivain, car c’est lui qui se souvient de tous les détails de l’aventure, même des détails de l’accent de leur guide, Jean-Baptiste Vaillant, jeune Canadien français, qui ne parle que rarement l’anglais.

Kevin et son meilleur ami, Brock Tomlinson, passent deux semaines ennuyeuses auprès du père de Brock, dans une cabane qui donne sur la rivière. Enfin, M. Tomlinson doit reprendre son travail à Détroit. Il laisse les deux garcons aux soins de la voisine, Mme Vaillant. Mais au moment de son départ, le canoë de Jean-Baptiste arrive silencieusement. Jean-Baptiste, qui voudrait être voyageur, comme son arrière arrière grand-père, invite aux garçons à voyager avec lui sur la rivière, où ils trouveront des aventures qu’ils n’oublieront jamais! C’est dans la forêt que les trois voyageurs font la connaissance de Mickie Mamansinam, un jeune Anishinaabe (une tribu amérindienne du Michigan et du Canada), qui cherche un mauvais Bearwalker (un médecin amérindien qui utilize son savoir pour le mal) . Jean-Baptiste décide d’aider Mickie, emmenant ainsi les deux autres garcons dans une mésaventure effrayante.

Dans le deuxième volume, Fils de Coeur en Feu (Son of Fireheart), Kevin fait la connaissance d’un garçon Esselen-Méxicain, Esteban Sanchez, sur la plage à Santa Cruz, où il passe l’été avec sa tante et sa petite soeur, Katie. Esteban est un sans-abri. Sa seule connaissance littéraire c’est la section “Coeur en Feu” de Spider-Man (magazine de bandes dessinées bien connu). Les deuz garcons deviennent amis, mais la courtoisie de Kevin, lorsqu’il sauve une jeune fille d’une bande de délinquents à la plage, mène à une incendie sinistre dans les montagnes de Santa Lucía. Le centre du récit tourne autour d’Esteban, qui se transforme d’un sans-abri illettré et abusé à un étudiant de médecine à l’université, qui devient membre viable de sa tribu. C’est la tante de Kevin qui aide à Esteban à surmonter une jeunesse extrêmement difficile. Elle réussit précisément parce qu’elle présente le garçon aux membres de sa tribu, qui savent créer pour lui une vie utile et prospère.

Dans le volume trois, L’aigle de l’aube (Eagle from the Dawn), il s’agit du 17e été de Kevin, juste après avoir reçu son diplôme du lycée de Dearborn au Michigan. Kevin va à Montana, à la ranche Winddancer, qui appartient à son oncle Matt. Là il renouvelle son amitié avec Peter Taksoukt, fils du partenaire de Matt. Les deux jeunes décident de traverser les montagnes ensemble, avec la petite soeur de Peter. Kevin emmène son Mustang, bien aimé, Tipyahlanah Kaupau (nimipuutimpt, ou la langue Nez Perce, pour ‘l’aigle de l’aube’). Le cheval s’évade et Kevin doit aquérir le compétence essentiel de lâcher prise. Il apprend à faire ceci dans une sauna (sweathouse) Nez Percée.  Il a enfin compris le secret essentiel du bonheur  dans n’importe quel lien, surtout dans l’amour. C’est précisément à ce moment-ci qu’il rencontre l’amour de sa vie à un powwow en Idaho. Et il y a une lecture (en anglais) de cette scène cruciale sur ma page d’auteur à Amazon.

Wolf Man


Blog 4, Wolf Man

“Wolf Man” was written a little earlier than the “Peach Tree.”  Like “Peach Tree,” the story has it’s origins in the Lais of Marie de France.


The Lais were short poetic hero tales in octosyllabic rhymed couplets. Marie’s intention was to tell the true story of a knight, who turned into a werewolf for three days out of every week and wandered the forest as a beast. Like my hero, the wife wheedles the truth out of the husband, even though he knows he would be better off not telling her.  However, whereas in my story, Lyudka is already involved with Kirill, and simply looking for an excuse to get rid of Oleg, in Marie’s tale, the wife has always been deeply in love with her husband. The revelation of his secret so frightens her that she accepts the love of a suitor, who has been courting her for a very long time. It is this suitor, who steals the husband’s clothes and thus sentences him to a life as a beast. The couple marries, and the beast mourns. One day, the King runs across the werewolf (Bisclavret) and chases it all over the forest. In the end, the werewolf comes to the King’s stirrup and kisses his leg and foot. The King is so impressed with his courtesy that he lets the werewolf go. It follows him to court, where it is accepted and eventually beloved by all.


At length, the King calls all his barons to court, among whom, the Werewolf’s wife and her second husband.  Bisclavret tries to attack the woman the moment he sees her, but the King holds him back with a stick. People remark that the beast must have a reason for wanting to attack her. It is not until the lady’s second visit to the court that Bisclavret bites off her nose. A wise man advises the King to torture her, and, after much discomfort, she admits to having had her second husband steal Bisclavret’s clothes.  The couple is banished from court and country; Bisclavret is reinstated. The King finds him sleeping in his bed, after he has become a man again. The sovereign embraces him and gives him back his land.


I kept many of the narrative details of my medieval source. Indeed, both are apologues: Marie tells us a true story about an exemplary beast and a foolish woman. The moral is weak because the purpose of her tale is to relate an interesting truth in the romantic mode.


L’aventure k’avez oïe

(The adventure that you have [just] heard)

Veraie fu, n’en dutez mie.

(Was true, of this have not doubt,)

De Bisclavret fu fez li lais

(The Lay was made [written] about Bisclavret [Normand for “werewolf”])

Pur remembrance a tuz dis mais.

(It has been told so it would be remembered for ever after)


My story is also an exemplum, but very much tongue in cheek: 


The moral to this tale is that, while overly inquisitive wives deserve to have their noses bitten off, some husbands can be quite savage and are better left in the forest. Moreover, since neither husbands nor wives are likely to change their bad habits, it behooves them to take each other as they are, or not at all.


As can be seen by the closing moral lesson, my tale, although also an apologue, is written in the satiric mode, for very different purposes than Marie’s tale.  And so, we can see from just this bit, that I have actually “made it new” in the medieval sense of the word. Twelfth and thirteenth-century writers took an existing narrative and turned it on it’s ear in order to come up with a brand new work. And, if you read the story, you will see that that is precisely what I have done. While there are a limited number of plots in the world, the possibilities in the handling of each of these plots is infinite.  If this kind of thing interests you, I would be happy to talk about it some more in later blogs.


For the moment, let me just say that I wrote this after spending six weeks in China and Russia, which is why the tale is set in Russia rather than in France. My favorite teacher used to say, “Ah, la belle poésie des noms!”‘Oh, the beautiful poetry of names!’ meaning that names, in and of themselves, held volumes of beauty and meaning.  I think that this story was perhaps the very first time I realized what he meant. The beauty of the Siberian forest and Lake Baikal, which I have seen with my own eyes, contrast with the ugliness of the characters, who are funny because their baseness is too rude for literary narrative. Lyudka was, for me, the perfect name for a greedy peasant woman; Oleg was certainly a poor, clumsy bear, caught in his wife’s greedy grasp through his readiness to believe in the romantic pipe dream she offers. And the soldier’s name, Kirill  suggested the oily feel of the adventurer to me.

The Peach Tree

I must have written “The Peach Tree” around 1987, after a year or so of thinking about how to write a short story. Still heavily influenced by medieval literature, especially by the twelfth-century narrative poetess, Marie de France, I had decided to “rework” some of her narratives as practice. But, by the time I got to “The Peach Tree,” I was ready to strike out on my own.


The story is based on Marie de France’s “Equitan,” to be sure, but it is a very different tale from Marie’s.  For the poetess, her story was an exemplum of what happens when we do wrong to others. It comes back to us:


                                Ici purreit ensample prendre

                                Tels purcace le mal d’autrui

                                Dunt tuz le mals revert sur lui.


To be sure, my King, like Equitan, is overly fond of wenches and none too careful about guarding his friendship with his favorite vassal, the Seneschal. However, Equitan comes across as a weak, immoral, smart ass, whereas my King is a sociopath, who sees other people as useful, or not. Equitan’s excuse for seducing the young woman is that she’d have to take a lover anyway, to keep up her “curteisie” (the whole business of being a magnet for the young men at court because you are possibly beautiful, but more probably, the only woman at court). The Seneschal, he reasons, couldn’t hold her anyway, so he shouldn’t mind so much that he, Equitan takes her for his lover:


                                Si bele dame tant mar fust

                `              S’ele n’amast e dru n’eust!

                                Que devendreit sa curteisie,

                                S’ele n’amast de druerie?

                                Suz ciel n’ad humme, s’el l’amast,

                                Ki durement n’en amendast.

                                Li seneschals, si l’ot cunter,

                                Ne l’en deit mie trop peser:

                                Suls ne la peot il pas tenir!


When the young woman worries about what will become of her, he tells her she’s bargaining with him like a bourgeois:


                                “Dame, merci! Nel dites mes!

                                Cil ne sunt mie fin curteis,

                                Ainz est bargaine de burgeis, . . .


By contrast, my King is courtly (i.e., courteous, well-manered, charming, etc. on the surface, except when he doesn’t get his own way, in which case he falls upon the floor in a temper tantrum). He also has to win at everything, which is why he likes his poor Seneshal so much-he can always best him. When confronted with the beauty of his vassal’s young wife, he must have her! Selfish and immature, he doesn’t even think things through. He sends her husband off to war so he can enjoy the woman. At no time is he overly concerned about whether the man lives or dies! He is a full-blown sociopath in medieval garb, if you will.


In both Marie’s tale and mine, it is the woman’s idea to get rid of the husband.  In “Equitan”, the king goes along with the plan with the same devil-may-care amorality he displays from the very beginning. In my story, the King has forgotten how much he liked his vassa,l because he has been sleeping with the guy’s wife for two years. He helps her to kill the husband, but in a way that removes him from the reality of the murder.  It is her idea to poison the husband’s favorite fruit tree by feeding a magician’s potion to the roots. In “Equitan,” the wife heats up a bath tub, to be used by the husband after he has been bled. Equitan is supposed to dive into the tub with the cold water, whereas the unwitting husband will bleed out in the hot water. Of course, things backfire. The husband catches the wife in bed with Equitan, and Equitan dives into the hot bath by mistake. With a truly medieval flourish, the husband takes the wife, turns her upside down, and plunges her into the hot tub, head first, with her lover!


In “The Peach Tree,” the priest, Baudoin, warns the husband, returning from war, of the King’s treachery and the couples’ plan to murder him. The husband has a cake made out of peaches to honor the lovers. He has the cake decorated with the story of Mars and Venus, caught in the nets of Venus’ horrible husband, Vulcan. The King knows the story, and it makes him very uncomfortable. Unlike the Seneschal in “Equitan,” the husband in “The Peach Tree” is a brutish lover, probably not unlike Vulcan.  So the wife’s treachery has some foundation in my story, whereas  it is completely gratuitous in Marie’s tale. My “exemplum” is about being waylaid on one’s true path through life by appearances.


Because I was still learning, I was courageous enough to alter the original story completely, but the poisoning of the peach tree came to me from the I Claudius, where poor Augustus trusts in his figs because he figures they are the only thing in the house that are safe to eat. Still, this narrative of mine was original enough to publish, and so I did, with the understanding that it was a step on the way in learning to produce original works.