Books and Movies Reviews

When Legends Die

Protagonist Thomas Black Bull comes full circle in Hal Borland’s novel When the Legends Die. A Ute native from Colorado, Tom spends a large portion of his childhood in the wilderness, where he befriends a bear cub and assumes the name “Bear’s Brother.” His affinity for nature is encouraged by his family, who fled their hometown Pagosa because Tom’s father George Black Bull killed Frank No Deer. Learning and living the old Ute ways in the woods brings Tom in tough with his true self. However, Tom is tricked into returning to mainstream civilization. Spending years of his life in misery, Tom eventually returns to the woods at the end of the novel. The peace he feels in the woods is especially profound compared with his struggles in the modernized world and therefore, the old Ute ways clearly offer a better way of life for Tom.
After spending many years on the Ute reserve, Tom and his family take some time to adapt back to the old ways. They rely only on a bow and arrow to go hunting. They learn how to preserve meats to store for the long winter. The family seeks an ideal site on which to build a winter cabin and teach Tom the old ways. After several years Tom grows into a traditional Ute boy and knows little else but the ways of his ancestors. When his father dies in an avalanche, Tom is prepared to become a man and carry on the Ute ways of life. Even Tom’s transition into adulthood is marked with Ute traditions. The burial of Black Bull and Tom’s assuming the name Bear Brother are both in keeping with age-old Ute traditions.
Tom learns all about the old Ute ways during his childhood and directly from his parents. Thus in spite of losing his father and being isolated from other people, Tom grows up a strong, self-assured, confident boy. His transition into manhood is eased because of his connection to ancestral ways, proving that boys do not need the trappings of modern civilization to be healthy. In fact, he deals with the death of hi…

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