Ikkemotubbe

Character Key Number: 
112
Display Name: 
Ikkemotubbe
Sort Name: 
Ikkemotubbe
Parent Character Key: 
Ever Present in Yoknapatawpha?: 
Yes
Biography: 

The Choctaw|Chickasaw chief Ikkemotubbe appears in fourteen texts, more than any of the other Indian characters in the fictions. His significance in most of them is either as Sam Fathers' father or as the chief who sold or traded Indian land to white settlers like Compson and Sutpen, but his own story is a fascinating one. It is first told - in two pages! - in "Red Leaves": he is the son of the chief's sister who travels to New Orleans, where he acquires his soubriquet "Doom" from a decadent French aristocrat and a child from the "daughter of a fairly well-to-do West Indian family," then returns to Yoknapatawpha to become the chief himself after "his uncle and cousin both die" (318). His own role, if any, in their deaths is not explained. In that story Issetibbeha is his son. In "A Justice," one of the two stories that feature him as a major character, Issetibbeha is his uncle, and the ruthless means by which he clears his male relatives out of his path to power is described explicitly. As the chief - "The Man," in the Indians' vocabulary - he is a despot, treating his tribe and the slaves they own as instruments of his will. More than once Faulkner explains how he became "Doom": that aristocratic Frenchman assumed he was already 'The Man,' which according to Faulkner translates into the French "du homme," which is anglicized into "Doom." Several of the retellings make a point of saying that it was then Ikkemotubbe who choose to take that name as his own. He thus becomes an ironist like the author who created him. For Faulkner, Ikkemotubbe's fierce determination to rule plays out against his own inevitable dispossession by the larger forces of history. But if Ikkemotubbe is doomed, like his culture and like so many other Faulkner characters, at least he can write his own epitaph with economy and wit. The other story in which he's a major character is "A Courtship," where he cannot escape the less portentous irony of defeating a romantic rival in a kind of frontier tall tale test of strength only to be defeated when the object of his desire chooses an artist instead of him. That story is the last of Faulkner's 'Indian tales,' and set before Ikkemotubbe leaves for New Orleans. It complicates this biographical sketch by describing him not as the feared potential regicide but as a beloved member of his tribe - "one of the young men, the best one" (363). Perhaps, however, we are meant to think that his frustration at the hands of Herman Basket's sister is the seed out of which his ruthlessness grows.