The Lakota warrior known as Crazy Horse is one of the more romantic and yet enigmatic and tragic figures in American history: surprisingly little is known about the man who led the Sioux to a series of successes against the US Army, before being arrested and killed in prison. This book takes the bare facts of Crazy Horse’s life and spins them into a moving and compelling novel that delves into the fictional Crazy Horse’s mind and motivations.
In the 20th-anniversary edition, the author explains how he, a non-Lakota and a person who originally scoffed at visions and all such things, found himself answering an inner calling to find out more about Crazy Horse, to write this novel, and to become immersed in Lakota culture. The novel itself, while written in a clear prose style and possessing a coherent narrative, bears the traces of its visionary origins: Crazy Horse’s inner spiritual life is depicted in detail, with emphasis given to his own visions and insights, some of which are known to be historically accurate. Just how similar the fictional Crazy Horse is to his real counterpart is impossible to say, but this Crazy Horse resembles the descriptions of the historical Crazy Horse given by his contemporaries, only seen from the inside, as we are shown the world, a world that no longer has a place for people like him, through Crazy Horse’s eyes.
The depiction of Lakota culture, in all its beauty and brutality, is sympathetic and skillfully done, plunging the reader into a mindset that is in many ways completely at odds with the European one, so that readers may find themselves appalled at the savage inhumanity of the US soldiers towards the Lakota, but accepting the practice of taking scalps as civilized and commendable. And while the inevitable tragedy of Crazy Horse’s fate and that of the entire Sioux nation unfolds as we know it must, in the novel Crazy Horse’s own spirit is able to rise above the destruction of his body and his people, and find the freedom it had always been seeking. A book that is in turns fascinating, gripping, and heartbreaking, about a figure who is one of the greatest villains and biggest heroes in American history.