Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian tale

11May10

by Gerald McDermot

Arrow to the Sun is a Pueblo Indian tale adapted and illustrated by Gerald McDermott. McDermott’s illustrations are highly contrastive combinations between blacks and bold oranges, reds, and yellows in the first half of the book. Although this color palette remains the predominant one throughout the book, a more rainbow-look is introduced with the entrance of the Lord of the Sun back into the story. The shapes used are highly patterned and geometrically, reminiscent of a  Pueblo print.

The tale begins as the Lord of the Sun sends the “spark of life” down to earth with his bow. This spark is launched into the pueblo of a young woman, causing her to immaculately conceive the Lord of the Sun’s child (“In this way, the Boy came into the world of men.”). The capitalization of “the Boy” lets the reader know that this child is special, and perhaps even god-like. The illustrations show the Boy standing out boldly from the others – his figure is of solid black and with more designs, while they are more muted in coloring and have simpler adornments.

Upset that the other boys taunt him for not having a father and refuse to let him play with them, the Boy tells his mother, “I must look for my father. No matter where he is, I must find him.” Leaving home, the Boy visits different people in the “world of men” and inquires about his father. His visits with Corn Planter and Pot Maker are unfruitful, but Arrow Maker recognizes that “the Boy had come from the Sun.” Paneled illustrations show the Boy transform his shape into an arrow, and the Arrow Maker launches him “into the heavens” to the sun.

Meeting his father for the first time, the Boy is presented with a serious of challenges to prove his heredity: “You must prove yourself. You must pass through the four chambers of ceremony – the Kiva of Lions, the Kiva of Serpents, the Kiva of Bees, and the Kiva of Lightning.” The Boy fearlessly takes on and conquers these trials. The illustrations show four leveled chambers with ladders leading down into the different “kivas”, and reminded me of a game show I watched growing up called “Legends of the Hidden Temple” where challengers had to enter similar chambers and complete tasks all. It is at this point in the illustrations that additional colors of bold pinks, blues, and greens are added to the palette. White is also used once in the story during the trial of the lightning. The additional of these colors revives and revamps the story, and makes the Boy’s transformation from a solid black figure into a colorful one more notable and energetic(“He was filled with the power of the sun.”).

The Lord of the Sun tells the boy “Now you must return to earth, my son, and bring my spirit to the world of men.” I thought this act of the Lord of the Sun sending his son back down to earth in addition to the immaculate conception very interesting in terms of the beliefs of Christianity. It truly is amazing that in different times, places, and cultures similar stories can be found.

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