Summary and Analysis Chapter 12



Awakening on First Mountain, True Son rejoices that he is finally separated from the hated white settlement. For three days, he and Half Arrow travel northwest across three more mountains. At a point between Indian land and white, the two boys express different regrets: True Son dislikes having to abandon his white brother, Gordie; Half Arrow wishes that he could have killed Wilse while he had him down on the ground.

When the two boys discover the log buildings of a half-breed trader on a river they identify as the Alleghi Sipu, Half Arrow wants to steal one of the trader's two dugout boats. True Son hesitates about stealing from the trader, but Half Arrow argues that they would only be stealing from those who steal from Indians. He resolves to take only one boat because the owner is half-Indian. In his typical good spirits, he ridicules his cousin's resorting to white morality. To elude the trader's guard dog, Half Arrow waits until night and then nabs the boat that is tied with a rope. He and True Son float down river past Fort Pitt and on to the Ohio River.


Richter begins the chapter with a religious rebirth as True Son revels in sleeping outdoors among "his father, the Sun," "his sisters, the birds," "his brother, the Black Squirrel," and "his mother, the Earth." At this point in the story, the boy assumes that he has cut all ties with the white world. His violent departure from Paxton means that the Butler family can never reclaim him, for by striking Uncle Wilse, he would be imprisoned, hanged, or tortured by the Paxton militia should he ever return there.

Richter's tone is uplifting as he details the westward passage of True Son and Half Arrow. True Son rejoices in "this path, this westward, ever westward path, deep in their Indian forest." He exults in the names of eastern forest tribes who share trails along the Tuscarawas River, yet he must acknowledge that white intruders have driven many tribes far to the west. The atmosphere in this chapter remains somber because of True Son and Half Arrow's infrequent encounters with white traders, who are a threat to the boys.

The chapter's action discloses mature thoughts and behaviors in both boys. Half Arrow's decision to leave unharmed the "cutters down of the Indian forest" is but one example of how, in the forest and away from white civilization, he acts logically and unemotionally, in direct contrast to his rashness while briefly in Paxton. True Son's hesitation at stealing the trader's boat will be expanded in the disastrous water scene in Chapter 14, when his actions are viewed by the Indians as disloyal to the tribe.

True Son rejoices in the sight of Fort Pitt and comments, "The last time I saw it, I was heavy and a prisoner. Now I go light and free." But from some of his ways on the trail, we can sense that his expectations of his Indian homecoming may not be fulfilled completely.


hemlock an evergreen whose stem ends herbalists boiled as a tea to treat itch, diarrhea, and kidney disease.

spice bush the Caroline allspice or sweet bubby bush, a healing plant used as a stimulant.

hazel a valuable shrub whose bark has curative powers. It is steeped into a strong, aromatic, antiseptic tea similar to rubbing alcohol for bathing scratches, sores, and sprains. Indian healers used it for treating tuberculosis.

burr the prickly outer shell of the chestnut.

buttonwood the sycamore or planetree, which produces a button-shaped blossom.

dugout the world's first boat, a heavy wooden canoe made by peeling bark from a stout tree trunk, flattening the bottom with a plane, and then burning out the heartwood.

thong a rawhide tether sliced from dried animal skin and used like cord or twine.

fish weir an artificial V-shaped channel or dam in a stream that forces eels and fish into a net.

gauntlet a punishment course lined by facing rows of enemies who strike the runner with kicks, punches, lashes, and blows from clubs and tomahawks. The person who survives the course earns tribal respect and is spared execution.