The Power of Words in James Welch’s Fools Crow Analyzed by Robert F. Gish

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In the scholarly article, “Word Medicine: Storytelling and Magic Realism in James Welch’s Fools Crow,” Robert F. Gish discusses how words have power and meaning that makes them special and how James Welch uses this to his advantage in his novel, Fools Crow. Gish also discusses how Welch makes storytelling a central subject in his novel and how magic realism is portrayed through dreams.

James Welch has done an extensive amount of research on the history of the people he is portraying, the Blackfeet, and the time period he is setting his story in, 1876 to 1870. Welch’s novel takes place right before and during the Marias River Massacre in which 173 Blackfeet, under Chief Heavy Runner, are killed when they try to stop a rebellious group from raiding the white settler (Owl Child’s group in the book). This novel is based on a true story but is, at the same time, fiction. Welch “invents his own scheme of naming” (Gish) as he recreated the world of these people.

Winter-Cold Maker, Horses-Blackhorn Runners, and Skunk Bear-Wolverine. In Welch’s naming of people, there is a certain poetry but also a certain silliness, such as Rides-at-the-Door and Yellow Kidney. This is considered “a risk he must take in order to transport the reader back as far as the novel, written within its conventions and in English, will allow and still recreate an older and other language and culture and world view (Gish).” White Man’s Dog’s name change also proves the power of words that Welch is trying to portray. When White Man’s Dog becomes Fools Crow, he gain a respect and a power that he did not have before. His name represents his honor and what he did to earn that honor.

In this article, Gish makes a point that storytelling may be the true subject of Welch’s novel. The entire novel is structured around many different stories and stories within stories. Welch uses these stories, through many different storytellers, to tell the big story meaning the novel. Welch especially uses the surrealism of dreams to tell stories that are equally as important and even contribute to the larger story at hand. These dreams, like the one Fast Horse has before him, Yellow Kidney, and Eagle Ribs invade the Crows the first time, hold a bigger significance than the larger story because they are the guiding point for the actions of each character.

Gish also points out Welch’s extensive use of magic realism through dreams and myths. In the dreams of each character there is a constant pattern of “gods working their ways on humankind (the Raven), and humankind trying to influence the will of the gods, of nature and of destiny” (Gish) (Fast Horse’s vision before the first raid). Magic realism can also be found in the animals and how the Blackfeet people seem to be able to understand and speak to them in the natural world and how they view them as brothers and equals. And James Welch uses this to his advantage in his novel, Fools Crow.

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The Power of Words in James Welch’s Fools Crow Analyzed by Robert F. Gish. (2023, May 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-power-of-words-in-james-welchs-fools-crow-analyzed-by-robert-f-gish/

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