The Heartsong of Charging Elk: A Novel

Front Cover
Doubleday, 2000 - Fiction - 440 pages
32 Reviews
From a master of contemporary Native American fiction, a haunting novel of an Oglala Sioux's odyssey from the Great Plains to the back streets of nineteenth-century France.

Inspired by actual historical fact, The Heartsong of Charging Elk tells the story of an Oglala Sioux who travels the extraordinary geographical and cultural distance from tribal life in the Black Hills of South Dakota to existence on the streets of Marseilles. As a young boy, Charging Elk witnessed his people's massacre of Custer's Seventh Cavalry at Little Big Horn, followed by years of futile fighting and wandering until the Sioux were finally lured to the Pine Ridge reservation. But he preferred life in the Stronghold, living by his wits and skills in the old way.

Ironically, it is Charging Elk's horsemanship and independent air that cause Buffalo Bill to recruit him for his Wild West Show, which travels across "the big water" to create a sensation in the capitals of Europe. Charging Elk and his Sioux companions are living a life touched by fame and marked by previously unthinkable experiences -- until he falls ill in Marseilles and, through a bureaucratic mix-up, is left behind in a hospital while the show travels on. Scared, disoriented, Charging Elk escapes -- only to fall into a series of events, including a love affair with a prostitute and a shocking murder, that will change his life utterly beyond his imagination.

In The Heartsong of Charging Elk, James Welch, one of our truly great Native American writers, has taken a fascinating premise and realized it with utter mastery. Reminiscent of his classic novel of Indian life, Fools Crow, it is a haunting epic of culture shock and colliding ways of lifeand thought, sure to be hailed by reviewers and readers alike.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Review: The Heartsong of Charging Elk

User Review  - Goodreads

A heart felt story. I fell in love with Charging Elk myself. This was an excellent read! Read full review

Review: The Heartsong of Charging Elk

User Review  - Goodreads

This book took me on an emotional rollercoaster. Reading "Ceremony" by Leslie Harmon Silko before this one, the theme of forced cultural assimilation resounded in both books. Yet, this story of a ... Read full review


Section 1
Section 2
Section 3

20 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (2000)

James Welch is the author of four previous novels, including Winter in the Blood (1974) and Fools Crow (1986), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, and one nonfiction work, Killing Custer (1994). He attended schools on the Blackfeet and Fort Belknap reservations in Montana, and studied writing at the University of Montana under the legendary teacher Richard Hugo. He lives in Missoula, Montana, with his wife, Lois.

Bibliographic information