Lion's|Sam Fathers' Gravesite (Location Key)


This location changes slightly and profoundly between "Lion" and Go Down, Moses. In both texts the "the spring flood water" (199) or "the flood-waters of two springs" (311) have washed away all traces of the graves by the time they are visited by Quentin Compson and Ike McCaslin, respectively. In "Lion" the spot is marked by "four pale trunks" of holly trees, and is where the dog Lion was buried under a "wooden cross with Old Ben's dried mutilated paw nailed to it" ("Lion," 199). In Go Down, Moses, however, both the contents and the context of the site are more resonant. Now the spot is identified by four concrete markers, and alongside Lion and "Old Ben's dried mutilated paw" lie the remains of Sam Fathers, the last of the Chickasaw Indians in Yoknapatawpha (312). And now the narrative identifies the spot as the one plot of land that Major de Spain reserved when he sold the rest of his hunting grounds to the lumber company that is planning to turn the trees into boards. In Faulkner's hunting stories, the big woods may at first seem boundless and eternal. Although the thought doesn't overtly occur to Ike during his visit to the gravesite in the last section of "The Bear," as he stands inside this plot to pay his respects it is inevitable that soon all that will remain those big woods is this small cemetery.

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Sam Fathers' Gravesite
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Deep in the big woods is the holly knoll where Lion lies buried at the end of the short story bearing his name. When Quentin visits the site he notes the "pale trunks" of the four holly trees that mark the four corners of the graveyard, and the "wooden cross with Old Ben's mutilated paw nailed to it" that marks the dog's resting place ("Lion," 199). Half a dozen years later Faulkner's imagination returns to this knoll, this time at the end of "The Bear" in the novel Go Down, Moses. This time it is Ike McCaslin who visits the site, which now also contains the remains of Sam Fathers. Among the several differences between the two scenes, this one may be the most portentous: now the burial site is defined by "four concrete markers set down by the lumber company's surveyor to establish the four corners of the plot which Major de Spain had reserved out of the sale" (Moses, 311). Soon that lumber company will have cut down all the woods except for this one plot. Visiting the knoll, Ike thinks of nature's immortality: "that place where dissolution itself was a seething turmoil of ejaculation tumescence conception and birth" (311); imagining Sam, Lion and Ben reunited beyond the grave in something like the stereotypical 'happy hunting ground' of Indian mythology, Ike concludes that the knoll is "no abode of the dead because there was no death" (312). But as signs of things to come - and go - those "shockingly alien" concrete markers transform all that will be left of the big woods into the grave of the wilderness itself. (In the earlier story "Lion" Faulkner described a version of this cemetery, though in that text only Lion and Old Ben's paw are in it.)

Occupants:Sam Fathers, Lion, Old Ben's paw.

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Lion's|Sam Fathers' Gravesite
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Lion's|Sam Fathers' Gravesite