Sunday, February 9, 2020

Review of "Dancing Drum: A Cherokee Lesson," by Terri Cohlene

Review of

Dancing Drum: A Cherokee Lesson, by Terri Cohlene ISBN 0816723621

Five out of five stars

 This retelling and modification of a legend of the Cherokee tribe is interesting on several levels. First and foremost, it gives an insight into the Cherokee beliefs regarding death and the structure of the spirit world. Secondly, when it opens, it was possible for spirits of the dead to travel back to the land of the living and it explains how that was changed. Finally, one of the fundamental premises is that the energy output of the sun is not constant over time. The last premise is known to be true; the sun’s output does vary slightly over time with occasional massive bursts of radiation capable of frying modern electronics and damaging satellites.

 When Grandmother Sun begins burning up the land, a young man named Dancing Drum is tasked with traveling to the residence of the sun’s daughter so that he can perhaps alter the situation. Wrapped in the skin of a snake, Dancing Drum accidently kills the sun’s daughter.

 This mistake must be fixed, so Dancing Drum and a band of the six fastest stickball players set off on an expedition to recover the sun’s daughter from the spirit world and return her to the living. It is a difficult task and they almost are able to be completely successful.

 The Cherokee were one of the “Seven Civilized Tribes” in what were the original American colonies. They were farmers and quickly adapted to the ways of the European settlers and many were educated. These features did them no good when they were forcibly removed from their native lands and force marched to the alien environment of Oklahoma in what is now known as “The Trail of Tears.” This book is an excellent retelling of one of their important legends and gives insight into their culture.

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