Cover image for Panther in the sky
Panther in the sky
Thom, James Alexander.
Personal Author:
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Ballantine Books, 1989.
Physical Description:
655 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm.
General Note:
Maps on lining papers.


Call Number
Material Type
Angelica Free Library 1 FICTION Adult Fiction Book
Horseheads Free Library 1 FICTION Adult Fiction Book
Pulteney Free Library 1 FIC Adult Fiction Book
Wellsville - David A. Howe Public Library 1 STACKS FIC Adult Fiction Book

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" Thom shows how, in honest, capable hands, fictionalized biography can add verisimilitude to the life and times of this extraordinary America....The dialogue has the ring of reality about it....Thom is able to get into the thoughts and emotions of his characters...." DEE BROWNLOS ANGELES TIMESRich, colorful and bursting with excitment, this remarkable story turns James Alexander Thom's power and passion for American history to the epic story of Tecumseh's life and give us a heart-thumping novel of one man's magnificent destiny--to unite his people in the struggle to save their land and their way of life from the relentless press of the white settlers.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Thom continues to offer a superior brand of meticulously researched and authentically rendered fiction. The author's sympathetic portrait of Tecumseh, the renowned Shawnee chief and warrior who established a confederacy of tribes in order to resist U.S. encroachment into the Ohio valley, is suitably suffused with fascinating elements of native American lore, legend, and culture. Since Tecumseh's childhood, adolescence, and adulthood are profiled in full detail, the reader is afforded an unabridged view of the circumstances that conspired to fashion and motivate a brilliant leader and military strategist. Action and reflection are juxtaposed in a riveting narrative that animates a remarkable cast of celebrated characters and vivifies recorded events. This respectful version of the life of a heroic and courageous native American represents historical fiction at its finest. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

``What particularly distinguishes this splendidly vigorous and imaginative recreation of the life of the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh (1768-1813) is its bid to capture the spirit of Midwestern Indian culture from within,'' commented PW. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Thom's previous books, published in trade paperback, all dealt with Americans fighting for independence in the Ohio River area and their experiences with the Indians in the late 1700s. Now come the Indians themselves, with this hardcover novel of Tecumseh (1768-1813). Tecumseh was born under a shooting star, a portent of greatness. His father and older brothers died fighting white encroachment onto Indian lands, and he became the leader of younger and more dissident elements of many tribes in order to fight white seizure of their lands. The basic facts of this warrior's life are all here, but Thom states he ``was looking especially for insights into the culture, morality, ceremony, and psychic condition of the Shawnee people in the time of their greatest crisis.'' He seems to have found them, as the characters are alive and believable. Overlong but well done.-- Andrea Lee Shuey, Dallas P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1 ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CIRCLE OF TIME OLD PIQUA TOWN   March 9, 1768   Turtle Mother squatted, naked and sweaty, in the center of the birth hut. Her daughter knelt at her right and an old midwife at her left.   The pain returned with its rushing sound. The light of the little campfire outside the hut blurred in Turtle Mother's sight and became two campfires, moving apart from each other and then together again. She gripped the center post of the hut and groaned, and pushed down with all the strength of her torso. Her breathing was fast and hard. She pressed as if she must turn herself inside out. She felt as if she would die of this. But with her first two she had felt as if she would die, too, and had not, so she was not afraid. Still, even knowing she would not die of this, she felt as if she would.   Then the pain drew back a little way, and Turtle Mother squatted there with her hands still on the post and drew slow breaths. Sweat was coursing down her cheeks, growing cool in the night air, and the coolness felt good. She was aware of her daughter's hands as they pressed and stroked her flanks and eased the pain. The girl's hands were gentle and cool, but strong.   As the rushing sound of the pain lessened, the sounds of the night came to her ears again. She heard the piping of the little tree frogs. She heard Wind Spirit whispering high in the treetops outside the shelter, the spring trickling through its rocks nearby, and in the distance the quickening beats of a drumming grouse. She heard the voice of her husband, Pucsinwah, Hard Striker, who was talking "with their son Chiksika beside the campfire outside the hut.   Her daughter's hand now stroked her brow and wiped sweat out of her eyes. The girl had moved closer around in front of her. The girl's eye reflected firelight for a moment as she moved, then her thick hair shadowed it. She was only ten years old, but already she was like a woman in the wisdom of her heart, and she understood, the way an animal understands, without word teaching, the coming of life. Thus she knew how to help and soothe her mother in the labor of birth instead of being afraid and helpless. For a moment, Turtle Mother was able to smile at her daughter. Then the mighty coming-down began again, and her smile turned to a grimace, and she turned her head aside, and again the firelight shimmered and divided. This time the pain was greater and longer, and it forced noises from her throat, awful noises.   Hard Striker by the fire outside heard his wife's pain and feared for her. Though he was the principal war chief of all the Shawnees, he was a man who felt the pain in others. Turtle Mother was a perfect wife for a man, but birth was always uncommonly hard for her, and each time she gave him a child he was afraid he would lose her. Looking toward the shelter, he said to his son Chiksika, "A man cannot know how that feels."   It was not the kind of thing that a father would have tried to express to an ordinary boy of twelve. But Chiksika, like his sister, was wise and good beyond his age. His name meant "the Chickasaw," for he had been born while his parents traveled through the lands of that nation, down in the southern lands beyond the hunting grounds of Kain-tuck-ee. Chiksika was as near manhood and ready to become a warrior as most boys were at sixteen or seventeen. He listened well to everything his father said and tried to understand it all.   Now Hard Striker said to him, "I have felt the hurt of a musket ball in my body, and of the tomahawk several times. But surely a woman's pain is worse than those." He squinted and looked toward the shelter. When he spoke again his voice was thick with feeling. "Sometimes you will hear men and boys make mockery of women, saying they are weak and silly. My son, never let your lips speak such things."   "No, Father. I promise."   Hard Striker drew a small leather bag from under his robe, a bag decorated with quillwork. He shut his eyes and moved his lips, making a silent incantation. The firelight gleamed on the planes and ridges of his craggy face. Raising his hand high, he shook the medicine bag to make its contents rattle. Two of the items in the bag were dried snippets from the birth cords of his first two children. Every man chose for himself what was good medicine to carry, and to Hard Striker the bond of his family was the best of all things. He sensed that life was a form of fire, that the bodies of people were a way of containing the sacred fire of the sun and carrying it about on the earth, and that the fire was kept by woman and passed on to the next generation somehow through this cord. So the cord was powerful and good medicine. Now he passed the bag back and forth through the smoke of the campfire, praying. After a while he put the bag away. He glanced toward the shelter and thought with tenderness of what his wife and daughter were sharing in that dim place. The girl herself would someday have to suffer this same pain, before many years, he knew, because she would be beautiful like her mother, and her man would want to be upon her often. Hard Striker wondered who that man would be. He felt time moving, going around. He remembered when his daughter had been born. Now she was old enough to help at another child's birth. And before many years she would be bearing. She was called Sky Watcher, because she had seemed to be staring hard at the sky when she first opened her eyes. The chief, remembering that, looked up at the starry sky through the still-leafless trees. It was good to have a clear look at the stars and to be in the quiet of the woods instead of in a town at the time of a birth, because the unsoma were clearer and more true when the world was quiet. For this reason Hard Striker liked to build a birth shelter away from the smoke and noise of towns for his wife when she bore children. The unsoma were the name-signs that came at the time of a child's birth or in the ten days following it. The unsoma were brought by the Messenger Spirits, and one had to be alert to detect them and not catch a wrong sign. It was necessary to be open to the signs no matter what else was on one's mind, and there was a great deal now on Hard Striker's mind.   When Turtle Mother had begun having the pains of birth, the family had been on the trace to the main Shawnee town of Chillicothe, on the Miami-se-pe. Cornstalk, the nation's principal chief, had called for a council of all the Shawnee septs to be held there, to talk about the problem of white men.   As chief of the Kispoko, or warrior, sept, Hard Striker would be a most important member of the council. Though he was known throughout the nation as a fair and far-seeing man, and his opinions weighed heavily even on matters that had nothing to do with war, this council was sure to have much discussion of war, because the white people were becoming very troublesome. For years they had crowded the Shawnees off their lands farther east, until the nation had congregated here in the O-hi-o lands above the great Speh-leh-weh-se-pe, the Beautiful River--the O-hi-o-se-pe, as it was called by most peoples. On the other side of the Beautiful River lay the Sacred Hunting Ground of Kain-tuck-ee, where all tribes could hunt but none could live, because it was a land occupied by the ghosts of a giant race, whom the tribes had massacred there hundreds of years before. The Algonquian nations all hunted there, but primarily the Shawnees, Miamis, and Delawares. This had been the way of Kain-tuck-ee through many ages. Kain-tuck-ee was a sacred and bountiful and lonely land; because it was empty of people, it was full of game.   But now an evil thing was being done about Kain-tuck-ee. White men were counciling with the Iroquois, ancient enemies of the Shawnees, trying to buy Kain-tuck-ee from them. The Iroquois neither lived nor hunted in Kain-tuck-ee and thus had nothing to lose by selling that land to the white men, as the white men in their cunning well knew. The whites were also trying to buy parts of Kain-tuck-ee from the Cherokees, who lived southeast of it. If the white men tried to settle in the Sacred Hunting Ground, surely there soon would be war with them. Already white hunters and settlers were intruding on Shawnee lands near the head of the Beautiful River, despite treaties that were supposed to keep them on the other side of the mountains.   And so the matter of the council was very much on Hard Striker's mind. But for this moment, he was trying to concentrate upon the important thing that was happening here in the circle of his family in a clean and quiet place under the stars; he kept the power of his thoughts directed to his wife, Methotasa.   Her name meant A-Turtle-Laying-Her-Eggs-in-the-Sand. That had been the unsoma seen at the time of her own birth, the sign seen in a sandy creekbed far to the south, in the Muskogee land. Turtle Mother was a Creek woman, warm and fertile like her homeland beside the Tallapoosa. And as the turtle lays her many eggs, so would Turtle Mother bear many children, as the world and seasons rolled round and round and the stars turned slowly above.   The world was good, so very good. And to be born a Shawnee was the best fortune in this good world. The Shawandasse, called the South Wind People because of their origins in those warm lands, were the happiest, bravest, and most honorable of all people, and the Kispoko, his sept, were the bravest of all the Shawandasse. Of course other tribes and septs believed that about themselves, but Hard Striker knew it was true in the case of his people. In his mind there was nothing wrong in the entire circle of the world--except the one great trouble.   The coming of the white men. Excerpted from Panther in the Sky by James Alexander Thom All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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