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“Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit”: Old Tales in the Lives of Native Americans


Upon reading Yellow Woman for the first time, I was amazed by how much the author keeps the story interesting, especially when she connects myths and reality. Leslie Marmon Silko has maintained an appreciation of history and culture and thus the Laguna Pueblo. What she goes through and what she sees convinced her to share it through her writing to preserve the traditions and promote them to others. Her masterpieces seek to bring the audience’s attention to the importance of folklore in the present lives of Native Americans. In this regard, the current essay intends to examine how the author reveals the role of old tales and anecdotes in the lives of Native American tribes in Yellow Woman.

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The auditory and visual imagery establishes the story setting but still fails to suggest a specific place or period besides a peaceful place alongside the river, which makes me want to know more. One of the character’s inability to leave the other shows that something brings them back. The suspense and questions that come to mind upon reading the text from one sentence to another make the novel quite appealing and intriguing because I want to know what will happen next. For instance, the narrator wakes up next to a river in the morning and discovers wildlife in the surroundings. Next to her is a man she looks at and then follows the river as it leads to her house, as the author writes, “and followed the river south the way we had come the afternoon before” (Silko, “Yellow Woman” 54). Even though her house is not visible from a distance, she hopes that it is near. The narrator chooses to bid the man goodbye after realizing that his horse is trying to follow her.

Topics like prophecy and how an individual can predict the future are interesting in the story. For instance, the narrator contemplates how the mythological figure in the old story departed to reside with a spirit for a long time and afterward returned home as a mother of two kids. She asks the man if he has an idea about the tale of the old. Silva denies in the pretense that he does not have any idea “What story?” (Silko, “Yellow Woman” 56). The main heroine then considers the similarity between the present situation and what her grandpa was talking about but claims that it does not have to be the same fate as her comparison in the ancient tale. She knows that the tales about Yellow Woman are just a myth and does not have to go with Silva. Her thoughts continue to be tangled with a myth as she establishes agency in the circumstances. She figures that if she is the woman in the old story, they both have the same fate.

It is amazing how the narrative maintains a reader’s interest when a woman initially refuses to go with another character and then agrees. It is interesting, especially when Silva refuses to argue with the second character and drags her with him. After a while, she stops denying the idea and hopes that another individual will appear who confirms that she and Silva are real beings “I had stopped trying to pull away” (Silko, “Yellow Woman” 56). The man’s authority and confidence show that he knows something that the narrator does not know: the fate of the two individuals. However, she suggests that she initially resisted his dragging, which shows that his intentions are less inclined to seduction than kidnapping. The narrator also wishes another individual to verify if they are mythological characters, which shows that the two cannot identify their identities by themselves.

My Favorite Quotes

The first quote that grabbed my attention was from the beginning of the story. “But I only said that you were him and that I was Yellow Woman—I’m not really her…” says the main heroine to her capturer (Silko, “Yellow Woman” 55).

Here the writer, for the first time, reveals the kidnapped woman’s feelings or, more specifically, her confusion and sadness. In this regard, although readers can identify those sentiments, they still do not understand the reasons that evoked them. As a result, the existence of such a mystery immediately captures the audience’s attention. Yet, as the story goes on, it becomes clear that the main character heard the tale about Yellow Woman many times but never could imagine that such a situation would happen to her. Therefore, when she was actually kidnapped, her real world and the fictional world collided, making the heroine question her own identity.

Moreover, I was quite astonished at the end of the main heroine’s ‘adventures’ when she returned home and was sad that the grandpa could not hear her version of the Yellow Woman drama. “I decided to tell them that some Navajo had kidnapped me, but I was sorry that old Grandpa wasn’t alive to hear my story…” she thinks (Silko, “Yellow Woman” 62). That is probably not what the Western audience expects the woman kidnapped and raped to feel before she meets her parent and husband. Yet, I think it reveals the main idea that Leslie Marmon wanted to communicate to the readers. She argues that tales such as that of Yellow Woman are firmly rooted in the minds of Native Americans so that they serve as psychological support for both the victims and their relatives.

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How Leslie Marmon Silko’s Background Affected Her Writing

It is clear that Silko’s personal experience played a great role in writing the Yellow Woman. Indeed, the writer was born and raised in Laguna Pueblo, and the natural scenery and local population which is depicted in the latter story. Moreover, the author mentions that where she was raised, passing the tales and anecdotes from generation to generation is a central part of the local culture (Silko, “Language and Literature”). Therefore, understanding how the past can actually affect the present through stories, the author intended to share the wisdom of her people with the rest of the world.


The paper shows that Leslie Marmon uses a narrator to bring out the importance of integrating old tales into new writing since it is interesting to a reader. In her real life and culture, she is used to hearing the tales from aging individuals who are viewed as very knowledgeable and interestingly teaching about life. From the novel, it is evident that her grandfather told a story about when a character thinks that she might be living as a mythological figure. In many past cultures, particular individuals used narratives that helped them communicate an important message to the people. The oral tradition also helped them teach the young about various issues in a way that is engaging. Many authors fail to tell anecdotes that have a connection with their personal lives. In conclusion, the more a story is connected to someone’s personal life, the more likely a reader finds it fascinating, and the author has achieved that.

Works Cited

Silko, Leslie Marmon. Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit Simon and Schuster, 2013.

“Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective”. Literary Analyses, Web.

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