Summary and Analysis
The prologue opens the book with a scene-painting passage which describes in three paragraphs the vision of a man named Abel, running in a vast landscape. Like other descriptive passages in the novel, this one is in present tense, emphasizing the timeless beauty of the land and the ageless customs of the people who have lived on it for centuries. It is winter on the high plateau of the Southwest. The man who is running is named Abel, and he has rubbed charcoal and ash on his body according to the custom of the Pueblo people in this area; his running is a ceremonial act, part of a religious observance.
Dypaloh the opening formula for storytelling in Jemez (the phrase "Once upon a time" is such a formula in English). When the audience hears this word, they know that what follows will be a story.
mesquite a hardwood tree native to the Southwestern desert; mesquite beans have long been an important source of food for indigenous people.
pueblo the Spanish word for "settlement," or "town." People lived in these city-states of the Southwest for hundreds of years, in contrast to more nomadic peoples like the Navajos, Apaches, and Utes. Called "Pueblo" Indians by the Spanish settlers, they are considered as a defined cultural group today.