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The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie…

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush

by Tomie dePaola

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Summary: Little Gopher, a Native American boy longs to be like all of the other boys who are training to be warriors. Yet, he has been gifted with other talents such as painting and drawing pictures, specifically for his tribe and people. One day as Little Gopher went up the hills to think about becoming a man, an old grandfather and a young maiden revealed to him in a dream vision what his calling was as a man, to paint images that represented his tribe as well as find the whitest buckskin and paint with the most vibrant paints the colors of the sunset. Little Gopher was faithful and he received the honor of using his gifts to paint the sunset, as revealed in his dream vision and because of his pictures, memories of his tribe lived long after.

Personal Reaction: This book really opened my eyes to Native American culture, and I believe it does that for many children when they read it, as well. This book makes a great multicultural book, making young children more aware of the various ethnic groups that are in the world, surrounding them daily.

Extension Ideas:
(1. Have students paint a feather displaying the colors of the sunset and hang them around the room to remind them of the book.
(2. Have students journal about different gifts/talents they have and ways that they can use them as well as whether or not they like them.
  cwall_2018 | Oct 13, 2015 |
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush is a story about a Native American boy who is seeking to find his meaning of life. At the beginning of the book he is confused why he is different from the other children in his tribe because he is not a good hunter like the others. Little Gopher finds his meaning and happiness from discovering the gods want him to be a painter and paint the beautiful horizon but he can not find the right colors to do so because the horizon has the boldest and brightest of colors. One day he discovers that the wild flowers have grown all over the hillside and provide him with the right colors he needs. ( )
  Kristinewaind | May 27, 2015 |
Summary: This is an old Plains Indian legend about the Indian Paintbrush wildflowers that bloom in the spring in Texas, often alongside bluebonnets. Little Gopher is left out because he doesn’t have the athletic ability of the other boys, but he does have a talent for painting. He had a dream vision that one day he would paint a beautiful sunset and the brushes full of the right colors were miraculously provided. After he painted the sunset, he dropped the brushes along and trail and Indian paintbrushes grew.

The beautiful illustrations add a lot of value to this picture book. The story also delivers a moral: be true to yourself and don’t give up in the face of adversity.

Reading Level: 2.5

Genre: Traditional literature – legends & myths
  rdg301library | May 24, 2015 |
This story would be good when talking about Native Americans and also about mythology. I think students will like this story because they can relate to the little boy and the story is entertaining. ( )
  Kate_Schulte078 | Apr 29, 2015 |
This myth/legend is about Little Gopher who is a very talented artist. One night in a dream, he is told where to find brushes filled with vibrant colors. The next day he locates them and paints beautifully colored flowers called 'Indian Paintbrush'. He paints pictures of the warriors so that people could see them and remember them forever. ( )
  BayleeWestrick | Apr 13, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
In this adaptation of the legend of the Indian Paintbrush flower… The story follows Little Gopher, a Native boy (no tribe indicated)… [whose] paint colors appear dull and dark. One night he hears a voice that tells him to go where he watches the evening sun, and on the ground he will find what he needs. There he is surrounded by brushes filled with paint, each one a color of the sunset. The brushes take root and are known today as Indian Paintbrush flowers. The illustrations do not reflect Plains material culture.

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tomie dePaolaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gabriel, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description

Little Gopher is upset in the beginning of the story because he is smaller then the other children and he can not keep up with their strength. When he grows a bit older, he goes to the hills alone to think about becoming a man. This is where the Dream-Vision occurs. The young Indian Maiden and the old grandfather in the clouds gave Little Gopher a rolled-up animal skin, a brush made of fine animal hairs, and pots of paints. They told him to paint pictures of deeds of warriors, visions of the shaman, and a picture pure as the colors in the evening sky. Little Gopher gathered flowers and berries to make his paints, and painted pictures of great hunts and great deeds. He struggled with finding the colors of the sunset. He often looked at the colors of the sky and did not give up on this task. One night he heard voices in the sky telling him to go to the hillside where he sees the sun set and he will find what he needs. The next evening, in this place Little Gopher found brushes filled with paint the colors of the sunset on the ground all around him. Little Gopher finally painted a picture pure as the colors in the evening sky. He left his brushes on the ground and returned to the village. The next morning, the hillside was covered with plants of brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. The brushes had taken root and multiplied. Now every spring the ground is covered with these beautiful plants and Little Gopher is praised for being the person who brought the sunset to the earth.

The Native American culture is best described through its use of traditional literature. Much understanding of their ways and beliefs can be found through the study of their legends. Although stories of Native American warrior’s brutality, war, and fighting do exist, these people were mostly about peace with others and kindness toward our earth. “The Legend of the Indain Paintbrush” is a beautiful, well-written example of how the Native Americans believe the people, earth, and sky are all connected. The beginning of the story also reflects the true value that each tribe places upon each individual person in that tribe. dePaola writes, “The wise shaman of the tribe understood that Little Gopher had a gift that was special.” The Native Americans believe that each person, animal, plant, etc. has a purpose and can be used to benefit the well-being of others.

This story along with other De Paola stories would be excellent for a genre study in the classroom. It is easy to pick out elements of a legend and it would be fun to see kids compare these legends.
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Little Gopher follows his destiny, as revealed in a Dream-Vision, of becoming an artist for his people and eventually is able to bring the colors of the sunset down to the earth.

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