Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King

Thomas King

Thomas King. Photo by Bob Housser

Thomas King’s storytelling, publications, and talks play a significant role in developing Indigenous literatures in Canada and the United States. Green Grass, Running Water, a finalist for the 1993 Governor General’s Award, remains one of his most popular works.

The novel follows three major groups of characters, all with different motivations, as they converge on a Blackfoot reserve and interact there.

The narratives are also interwoven with two mythological and historical layers. One features four Indigenous elders who have escaped their seniors’ home and are out to save the world with Coyote. The other, narrated by these elders, is composed of a series of intertwined creation myths and historical moments from both Christian and Indigenous traditions, with a central Woman figure interacting with them, often satirically.

The multiple narratives inform and comment on each other in often humorous and pointed ways, continually shifting the grounds of knowledge and action.

Questions to Keep in Mind While Reading

For help with critical reading, see Close Reading Prose.

  1. Tensions and Stereotypes: How are conflicts between characters informed by stereotypical expectations about roles such as the doctor, the academic, the woman, the Indian, and so on? How are these tensions engaged with and resolved? What is required to resolve them?
  2. Locations: The story follows characters through both literal and mythological locations. How does the juxaposition of different spaces and approaches influence the understanding of the other? What does the interweaving of various stories say about the relationship between mythology and experience?
  3. Humour: There are many moments that are just plain funny in this novel! Note these comedic moments: how might they open up difficult questions or point to particular problems between characters or within society as a whole? Be specific about what questions or problems may arise. Also consider how often King uses puns and allusions in the naming of his characters and how some need to be read aloud to hear the pun.

Works Cited

  • King, Thomas. Green Grass, Running Water. Toronto: HarperCollins, 1993. Print.