Sometimes we come across a story that is so compelling and moving that we’re almost at a loss for words to recount it in the manner it deserves. Once in awhile, we find a tale about an historical figure of whom we already know the ultimate ending. A story like that was first published in 1942. It was written by Mari Sandoz.
Crazy Horse The Strange Man Of The Oglalas is one of Sandoz’s major projects. Her efforts in researching the life and times of the great Oglala leader resulted in one of the best biographies of any American leader ever written. It was a book that Mari Sandoz poured her heart and soul into creating.
The larger than life hero and his people are brought to life by skillful descriptions of the characters, the attitudes and the setting. Careful dialogue construction energizes the story and draws the reader into the life and times of Crazy Horse.
If the reader is unfamiliar with the history of the Plains Indians, I recommend that a careful perusal of the notes and outlines be done before reading the text of the book. Better yet, I think that the reader would be best primed by reading Sandoz’s Love Song To The Plains. That book will give you a feel for Sandoz’s styles of research and writing.
While all of Mari Sandoz’s non-fiction material has been very carefully reasearched, her Crazy Horse biography was given even closer attention. Sandoz was able to personally interview several of Crazy Horse’s surviving contemporaries. Her fact-checking was impeccable.
As you read this biography, you’ll find the writing style is akin to that of legendary folktales. The youth, known as Curly is mentored by his father, named Crazy Horse. His warrior father, Hump, along with other people and his own experiences and contemplations round out the education of the young hero.
Curly has a vision of his purpose and fate. This vision reveals his strong “medicine” or powers. Later, Curly describes to his father, Crazy Horse, the details of that vision. This is when his father gives the son his own name. Curly will be called Crazy Horse and the father will go by his previous name, Worm.
The vision made clear the importance of acting only in the interests of the people. Any action that was made for his own glory would be his downfall. This wisdom enhanced Curly’s already humble, unassuming nature. The young warrior performed many heroic acts yet was not boastful about them. Any rewards and prizes he earned were given to the poor, and needy among his people.
The place names and historical events are described and experienced through the paradigm of native Amerindian ways. The Battle of the Little Big Horn and the trouncing of the U.S. Army seen through the mind of the great Oglala chieftain is one of biographical literature’s triumphs.
Crazy Horse at once understands that the greatest victory of the native peoples over the white invaders will yield a dark result for himself and his peoples. He comes to realize the inevitablity of white men’s dominance and native subservience in the land.
Crazy Horse The Strange Man Of The Oglalas is a very thoughtful book and morality tale. It is the story of a man of peerless character versus adversaries motivated by greed, jealousy, and bigotry. The deceit and betrayal by the antagonists is at once understandable and heartbreaking.
This monumental book should be required reading for each and every person seeking political office in the United States and elsewhere. Indeed, there are many lessons for anyone wanting to deepen his or her own wisdom.
Crazy Horse The Strange Man Of The Oglalas by Mari Sandoz. Reviewed edition published by University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska and London, UK. ISBN 0-8032-9319-4.
The Blue Jay of Happiness hopes you will include this book in your own short list of required reading.