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Free Study Guide-When The Legends Die by Hal Borland- Free Book Notes
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CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Bessie

Bessie was Thomas Black Bullís mother, who had a tremendous influence on her young son. Wise, strong, and caring, she was a faithful wife and devoted mother. She carefully taught Tom the old Indian ways and the skills of surviving in the wild. When her husband was killed in an avalanche, she did not run back to town; instead, she stayed on in the lodge on Granite Peak, raising her young son in the wild, according to Ute tradition.

When Bessie grew sick and was dying, Thomas Black Bull took care of her. In the end, death stole her at an early age; but before dying, she advised Tom to remember all that she had taught him. Tom, however, was not allowed to retain his heritage. He was forced from his home and made to live in town, dressing like a white man and attending school. He then began to forget Bessieís teachings. As a result, his life was miserable. Then when he returned to Granite Peak to live as an adult, Tom finally embraced his heritage and remembered his motherís teachings from Ute custom. As a result, he gave up the rodeo and found himself and happiness.


George Black Bull

George Black Bull was Bessieís husband and Tomís father. He was an honest and a hardworking man, who loved his wife and son dearly. When Tom was very young, George worked in the mill in Pagosa to support his family. Even though he longed to return to live by Ute custom in the wild, he felt trapped by debt and remained in town. When he was robbed by Frank No Deer three different times, George finally killed him in a heated argument. As a result, George felt like he was forced to flee and live in hiding on Granite Peak. There he was killed in an avalanche, as he hunted for deer.

Blue Elk

Blue Elk is an unscrupulous Ute Indian who lives in the town of Piedra. He is fat, old, and greedy. Totally unprincipled, he will stoop to any level for money, even taking advantage of his fellow Ute Indians, who are vulnerable. He lies, cheats, and steals and then brags that he helps others. He forces the orphaned Tom into leaving his lodge. Blue Elk then returns and steals all of Tomís possessions, selling them for a profit. He is truly a shameless parasite who exploits his own people to satisfy his personal avarice.

Albert Left Hand

Albert Left Hand is an old surly and abusive Indian. He has a flock of sheep on the northern edge of the reservation. Since he is in need of a helper, he hires the young Tom to tend his sheep. Although he whines to Tom about his personal problems, Albert Left Hand teaches the boy a lot about lambs and sheep. As a result, Tom becomes a good shepherd. He leaves Albert when Red Dillon takes him in to teach him bronco riding.

Red Dillon

Red Dillon, a wiry red-headed man with a crooked nose, owns a ranch in New Mexico. He is known as an alcoholic and compulsive gambler, who often fixes the bets to his advantage. When he sees the fourteen year old Tom working with horses, he recognizes the boyís talents and offers to train him as a wild bronco rider. Although Red teaches Tom a great deal, he also totally controls the boy. He takes Tom from rodeo to rodeo, all over the United States. He often forces Tom to lose in the last rounds of rodeo competition so that he can make money on his bets. Tom resents that he must do what Red tells him, but he accepts him as the boss; therefore, he feels he must obey Redís orders.

As soon as Tom makes money for Red, he foolishly spends it on gambling and alcohol, often drinking himself into a stupor. Red dies at an early age, largely due to his drinking habit. Tom feels no remorse over Redís death, for he feels free at last.

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