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When the Legends Die

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Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title When the Legends Die

author  Hal Borland

type of work  Novel

genre  Coming-of-age novel; young adult novel; Native American fiction

language  English

time and place written  Early 1960s; the United States

date of first publication  1963

publisher  Lippincott

narrator  Anonymous

point of view  This novel is narrated in the third-person omniscient voice.

tone  Young, angry, tragic, desperate

tense  Past

setting (time)  Approximately 1910 onward

setting (place)  Piedra Town; Arboles; Horse Mountain; Pagosa; Bayfield; Aztec; Bernalillo; Carrizozo; Socorro; Eastern New Mexico; Oklahoma; Colorado; El Paso; Fort Stockton; Sonora; Fredericksburg; Uvalde Country; Odessa; Wolf Point; New York

protagonist  Thomas Black Bull

major conflict  Tom attempts to come to terms with his Ute heritage and to define his role in society.

rising action  Tom's abandonment of his life in the wilderness; Tom's visit to Bayfield, during which he meets Red, who will instruct him in bronco riding

climax  Tom dreams of the All-Mother, and she speaks to him, claiming him as her son.

falling action  Tom resumes his life in the traditional Ute way.

themes  The Search to Define Oneself; the sense of homelessness; resentment toward authority

motifs  Comedy and tragedy; songs and chants; the novel's title

symbols  The bear; colors; Tom Black Bull

foreshadowing  Meo's prediction in Chapter 24 that Red's gambling and drinking behavior will result in his eventual death; Jim Woodward's warning to Tom about what to do if a bear should make trouble on the range.