Louise Erdrich One of the most important Native American authors writing in the United States as of , Louise Erdrich is famous for her unique storytelling technique that draws from her knowledge of Chippewa or Ojibwa life and legend. Although Erdrich is a poet and nonfiction writer as well, her most prominent work involves episodes from the lives of several Chippewa families whose roots are in the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. These richly drawn characters, whose lives intertwine across generations, have filled five novels and many short stories. In her individual style that alternates between a variety of first-person narrative voices, Erdrich captures the essence of these characters and their viewpoints as they tell the stories of their lives. Erdrich draws much of her material from the stories of her Chippewa mother, and one of the first characters she developed out of these childhood tales was Fleur Pillager, the subject of Erdrich's short story "Fleur.
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Within us, like ice shards, their names bobbed and shifted. Then the slivers of ice began to collect and cover us. We became so heavy, weighted down with the lead, gray frost, that we could not move. Our hands lay on the table like cloudy blocks. The blood with us grew thick. We needed no food. And little warmth. We had gone half windigo. I learned later that this was common, that there were many of our people who died in this manner, of the invisible sickness.
There were those who could not swallow another bite of food. Because the names of their dead anchored their tongues. There were those who let their blood stop, who took the road west after all. It wasn't that Fleur won that hooked them in so, because she lost hands, too. It was rather that she never had a freak deal or even anything above a straight.
By chance, Fleur should have gotten a full or a flush by now. That spring, I went to help out in her cabin when she bore the child, whose green eyes and skin the color of an old penny have made more talk, as no one can decide if the child is mixed blood or what, fathered in a smokehouse, or by a man with brass scales, or by the lake.
The girl is bold, smiling in her sleep, as if she knows what people wonder, as if she hears the old men talk, turning the story over. It comes up different every time, and has no ending, no beginning.
They get the middle wrong too. Along comes this bear. She jumps on. Perhaps she had bitten his nails in her sleep, swallowed the ends, snipped threads from his clothing and made a doll to wear between her legs. So I know that when Fleur saw the bear in the house she was filled with such fear and power that she raised herself on the mound of blankets and gave birth. She says so anyway.
For I heard the gun go off and then saw the creature whirl and roar from the house. It barreled past me, crashed through the brush into the woods, and was not seen after.
It left no trail either, so it could have been a spirit bear. In the morning, before they washed in Matchimanito, they smelled like animals, wild and heady, and sometimes in the dusk their fingers left tracks like snails, glistening and wet.
They made my head hurt. A heaviness spread between my legs and ached. The tips of my breasts chafed and wore themselves to points and a yawning eagerness gripped me.
Then Fleur washed me, but I warned myself not to experience any pleasure. I sat down in the water, felts its heat as a sharp danger, but then I forgot.
The child soaped my back with a slick plant, and scrubbed the agonizing itch of rough twine and harsh woolens. I gave her my hand. She washed each finger, then each toe. Fleur pared the overgrown nails with a knife. The girl rinsed away the sting of nettles, aggravation of hooked burrs. She dislodged the invisible strands of screwgrass that had woven into my skin.
Fleur poured a pitcher of warm water over me and then began to shampoo my head and hair. It was so terrible, so pleasant, that I abandoned my Lord and all His rules and special requirements. But you, whom I consider my father, I still owe. I will not harm your wife.
But I never will go to Kashpaw land. She sent you to the government school, it is true, but you must understand there were reasons: there would be no place for you, no safety on this reservation, no hiding from government papers, or from Morrisseys who shaved heads or the Turcot Company, leveler of the whole forest.
There was also no predicting what would happen to Fleur herself. So you were sent away, another piece cut from my heart. Plot Summary. All Terms Manitou Odjib Windigo. LitCharts Teacher Editions. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does.
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Our Teacher Edition on Tracks can help. Themes All Themes. Symbols All Symbols. Theme Wheel. She is stubborn and self-sufficient, unwilling to compromise her values or her allegiance to her family and culture. She is rumored to have magical powers, having survived drowning twice and supposedly responsible for the otherwise unexplained deaths of many men who have crossed her. When the novel begins, the rest of her family has died of consumption and she is rescued from the same fate by a tribe elder, Nanapush.
She leaves the reservation for a short time to work in a butcher shop in the nearby town of Argus, where she gambles with the male workers. The men grow frustrated with her successes and attack her. She returns to the reservation, and shortly after a storm destroys the town, harming only the men who sought their revenge on her.
Other residents of the reservation speculate that the baby might also be that of the Lake Monster, Misshepeshu , with whom they believe Fleur has a special relationship. Soon after, though, she becomes involved with Eli Kashpaw , giving birth to a daughter named Lulu , who Eli raises with Fleur as his own child. Fleur serves as the clearest example of a purely Native existence, having no involvement with the Catholic Church, but she does place her daughter Lulu in boarding school to protect her from the threats imposed on the reservation.
Despite the fact that she has officially lost ownership of her land, she insists on living on the land illegally anyway. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:.
Chapter 1 Quotes. Related Characters: Nanapush speaker , Fleur Pillager. Related Themes: Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences. Page Number and Citation : 6 Cite this Quote. Explanation and Analysis:. Chapter 2 Quotes. Related Themes: Gender Roles.
Page Number and Citation : 21 Cite this Quote. Page Number and Citation : 31 Cite this Quote. Chapter 3 Quotes. Related Symbols: Bears. Page Number and Citation : 46 Cite this Quote. Related Themes: Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion. Page Number and Citation : 49 Cite this Quote. Page Number and Citation : 60 Cite this Quote. Chapter 4 Quotes. Page Number and Citation : 72 Cite this Quote.
Chapter 6 Quotes. Page Number and Citation : Cite this Quote. Chapter 9 Quotes. Download it!
Fleur (short story)
Tracks is a novel by Louise Erdrich , published in It is the third in a tetralogy of novels beginning with Love Medicine that explores the interrelated lives of four Anishinaabe families living on an Indian reservation near the fictional town of Argus, North Dakota. Within the saga, Tracks is earliest chronologically, providing the back-story of several characters such as Lulu Lamartine and Marie Kashpaw who become prominent in the other novels. As in many of her other novels, Erdrich employs the use of multiple first-person narratives to relate the events of the plot, alternating between Nanapush, a tribal patriarch, and Pauline, a young girl of mixed heritage. Tracks alternates between two narrators: Nanapush, a jovial tribal elder, and Pauline, a young girl of mixed heritage.
Louise Erdrich is one of the most gifted, prolific, and challenging of contemporary Native American novelists. Her fiction reflects aspects of her mixed heritage: German through her father, and French and Ojibwa through her mother. She worked at various jobs, such as hoeing sugar beets, farm work, waitressing, short order cooking, lifeguarding, and construction work, before becoming a writer. After she was named writer-in-residence at Dartmouth, she married professor Michael Dorris and raised several children, some of them adopted. She and Michael became a picture-book husband-and-wife writing team, though they wrote only one truly collaborative novel, The Crown of Columbus