This project involves the use of Wili Woyi by Robert J. Conley. It was used in "Fantasy and Society," one of the curriculum options of Humanities 10A, which is part of the humanities core sequence of Saddleback College's Honors Program.
The Fantasy and Society curriculum covered origin stories, trickster tales, fairy tales, and science fiction. In the context of this class, the short story "Wili Woyi" allowed students to explore the trickster figure in Cherokee culture, and more importantly challenged them to decide what is fantasy, and what is just perspective.
"Wili Woyi," by Robert J. Conley, was originally published in Geary Hobson's The Remembered Earth (Albuquerque: Red Earth Press, 1979). It was also featured in Conley's own The Witch of Goingsnake and Other Stories (Stillwater: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), and is included in Paula Gunn Allen's Song of the Turtle: American Indian Literature 1974-1994 (New York: Ballantine Books, 1996).
The short story is a good length for a classroom "read-to." It is short enough to allow time for discussion afterward, and long enough to allow a definite mood to settle in on the class. A read-to allows a shared experience and a communal involvement in the text. Allow about 40 minutes for it; we suggest one reader in order to avoid breaking the mood. We did no introduction to the work other than to spend about 10 minutes in lecture to convey the following:
After the reading, discussion can follow along several lines, depending upon what works students have previously been exposed to. Our students had read Ananse trickster tales from Africa, Br'er Rabbit tales, creation stories from various cultures, Grimm and Andersen fairy tales, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, and Stranger in a Strange Land, in addition to several non-fiction readings pertaining to the cultures these stories came from. The only American Indian work they had been exposed to in class before this was the witches' conference story on pp. 130-137 of Leslie Marmon Silko's Storyteller. From the readings they were thus familiar with, for example, the idea of the trickster, and we left it to them to discover his presence in this story.
Possible discussion questions:
We also suggest that other possible stories for exploring
questions of fantasy vs. perspective are "Yellow Woman" and
"Tony's Story" in Silko's
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