THE MANITOUS: The Spiritual World of the Ojibway by Basil H. Johnston

THE MANITOUS: The Spiritual World of the Ojibway

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Through soothing rhythms and repetition, Johnston recreates the ancient storytelling tradition of the Ojibway Indians. The word manitou has usually been translated to mean simply ""spirit,"" but according to Johnston, the term connotes mystery, mysticism, godliness, and the essence of things. Manitous are also the supernatural beings of the Anishinaubae, ""the good men and people"" of the Ojibway, Ottowa, Pottawatomi, and Algonquin tribes. Johnston here tells the stories of these beings, and his tales are buoyed up with commentary so skillfully interwoven with the narrative that the reader is unconsciously instructed in the history and method behind them. He includes traditional creation and flood myths; the stories of Nana'b'oozoo, the prototypical human being; the origin tales of corn, birch, flint, and tobacco; and much more. These stories are meant not only to answer questions about the world, but to teach valuable life lessons. In the beautiful tale of the spruce tree, a young woman is married off against her will to an old man. At first she is despondent, but after many years she begins to appreciate her husband's goodness and finally to love him. When he dies she keeps a vigil at his grave until she too dies, and from their joint grave grows a tree that rains a light mist, said to be the tears shed by the young wife over her beloved husband. This story teaches respect for elders, the value of kindness, the unpredictable nature of love; others show respect for nature, for animals, and for the wisdom of the elders. In the last story of Nana'b'oozoo, he is seen sadly leaving his people, unremarked and unmourned, a symbol of the Indians' lost heritage. With his writing and storytelling, Johnston hopes to summon Nana'b'oozoo back. An extraordinary glimpse into a rich and meaningful mythology.

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 1995
ISBN: 0873514114
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: HarperCollins