The Tail of the Raccoon
Main Character Names & Descriptions
Alatro: The Black Widow spider. A treacherous, heartless, and gruesome-looking spider who preys upon the residents of the Great Forest. Alatro blends an intoxicating potion from her poisonous venom and serves the deadly, but rewarding potion, in a vial woven from her silken threads. Her name is derived from the black widow’s most potent neurotoxin which is called alpha-latrotoxin. The black widow is from the Genus Latrodectus.
Dextro: The Porcupine. Alatro’s “right hand man”. The porcupine takes orders from the black widow. His main job is to entice others to use Alatro’s potion and to make sure that no one escapes from the black widow’s tangled web. The prefix dextro is used in many chemical names such as dextromethorphan. Literal meaning – on or to the right.
Four Bears: A Native American Chief and greatly respected leader of Mapache’s tribe. A life-long, true friend of Mapache and a mortal enemy of Rukeewis.
The character Four Bears is named after a Mandan warrior named Mah-to-toh-pa who appears in George Catlin’s book, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians: Written during Eight Years Travel (1832-1839) amongst the Wildest Tribes of Indians in North America. In this book he describes Mah-to-toh-pa, translated as Four Bears, and his robe with the “battles of his life emblazoned on it” (page 148).
On page 154 appears a description of one of the battle scenes portrayed on the buffalo robe:
“Several hundred Minatarrees and Mandans attacked by a party of Assinneboins – all fled but Mah-to-toh-pa, who stood his ground, fired, and killed one of the enemy, putting the rest of them to flight, and driving off sixty horses! He is here seen with his lance and shield – foot-tracks of his enemy in front, and his own party’s horse-tracks behind him, and a shower of bullets flying around his head; here he got the name of “the four bears” as the Assinneboins said he rushed on like four bears.”
Catlin’s portrait of Four Bears, along with many of his works which portray Native Americans, can be viewed at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington D. C.
Catlin, George (1973). Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians: Written during Eight Years Travel (1832-1839) amongst the Wildest Tribes of Indians in North America Volume I. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
Isquasis: Algonquian Indian name. Isquasis is a renowned medicine woman who uses her knowledge of herbal medicine, spirituality, and surgical skills to help all those in need. In the Ojibwe language, ikwezens – pronounced ih-quay-zayns. Isquasis is the name of a Native American female character in the book “Children of the Forest” by Egerton R. Young.
Young, Egerton, R. (1904). Children of the Forest. A Story of Indian Love. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company.
King of the Great Forest: A notorious gray wolf, The King of the Great Forest, is modeled after “Lobo, The King of Currumpaw” a wolf described by Ernest Thompson Seton in his book, “Wild Animals I Have Known”. Lobo lived in the Currumpaw region of northern New Mexico in the 1890s. Seton describes Lobo as follows: “Old Lobo, or the king, as the Mexicans called him, was the gigantic leader of a remarkable pack of gray wolves, that had ravaged the Currumpaw Valley for a number of years.” Ranchers and cowboys knew him well and tried everything imaginable to rid themselves of this alpha male and his wolf pack. However, the savvy king always found ways to avoid the traps, poisons, and packs of hunting dogs set out to ruin him. Eventually there was a $1,000 bounty placed on Lobo’s head, which, at the time, was quite a lot of money.
The King of Currumpaw met his tragic end after his mate, a pure white wolf, was caught in a trap. Lobo became reckless in his search for her. As described by Seton, “Poor old hero, he had never ceased to search for his darling, and when he found the trail her body had made he followed it recklessly, and so fell into the snare prepared for him.” The King died quietly, his spirit broken, after he had lost his freedom, his mate, and his strength.
Seton, Ernest Thompson. (1924) Wild Animals I Have Known. NY, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Lepus: Son of Sign Tracker and Procyona. The young raccoon character, Lepus, drinks from the black widow’s silken vial full of her intoxicating potion. Because of his susceptibility to the allure of the vial and the potion’s rewarding effects he falls into the abyss of addiction and loses his free will. This character is named after the constellation Lepus, which is Latin for hare. It is directly south of Orion. The brightest star in the constellation Lepus is Alpha Leporis.
Little Hawk: Son of Isquasis and helpful aid to Mapache.
Mapache: A Native American warrior blinded in battle. Mapache, the hero of the stories is a loyal friend to the raccoon Sign Tracker, the children’s favorite story teller, an enemy of Rukeewis, and a close friend of Isquasis and Four Bears. He is a survivor of war and has overcome devastating injury.
Mapache is Spanish for Raccoon. The Spanish name is adopted from the Nahuatl mapachitli of the Aztecs, meaning “the one who takes everything in his hands”. In many languages the name used for the raccoon comes from the animals use of his hands to scrub and “wash” his food.
Noturrno: The wise and all-seeing owl. Sirius asks Noturrno for help, and as a result, the owl becomes an ally of Sign Tracker’s family and an enemy of Alatro. The owl’s name, Noturrno, is Italian for night or nocturnal.
Orion: Son of Sign Tracker and Procyona. This raccoon is strong and adventurous. He travels far and wide within the Great Forest and knows the lay of the land better than the rest of his family.
This raccoon character is named after the constellation Orion, the hunter in Greek mythology. The constellation Orion is one of the easiest constellations to identify. In the center of the constellation is Orion’s belt, made up of the stars Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Finding these three stars is the easiest way to locate the constellation Orion in the night sky. Located on the celestial equator, this constellation is prominent and visible throughout the world.
Procilina: The brave and kind-hearted daughter of Sign Tracker and Procyona. The sister of Lepus who supports him through good times and bad. “ina” is a suffix that expresses affection or smallness such as “sorellina” or “little sister” in Italian. “lina” is a feminine diminutive suffix found in names such as Angelina.
Procyona: Sign Tracker’s mate and devoted mother of Sirius, Orion, Lepus and Procilina. The name is derived from the scientific name for raccoon, Procyon lotor, from the family Procyonidae.
Rukeewis: a Native American character who is a bitter enemy of Four Bears and the blind warrior, Mapache. Rukeewis is known for his cowardly and malicious nature. This character is named after Pau-Puk-Keewis, who is a character in Longfellow’s poem Hiawatha.
The following quote is from Chapter XVII of Hiawatha called “The Hunting of Pau-Puk-Keewis”
“Full of wrath was Hiawatha
When he came into the village,
Found the people in confusion,
Heard of all the misdemeanors,
All the malice and the mischief,
Of the cunning Pau-Puk-Keewis.
Hard his breath came through his nostrils,
Through his teeth he buzzed and muttered
Words of anger and resentment,
Hot and humming like a hornet.
‘I will slay this Pau-Puk-Keewis,
Slay this mischief-maker!’ said he.
‘Not so long and wide the world is,
Not so rude and rough the way is,
That my wrath shall not attain him,
That my vengeance shall not reach him!’”
Sign Tracker: the main character of the Tail of the Raccoon Series. A handsome, clever, and likable raccoon who befriends Mapache. He loses and gains the Rings on his Tail as he loses and gains strength and free will. The story follows the path of his life from youthful innocence to family patriarch to mature realist. Sign Tracker derives his name from the scientific phenomenon of Sign-Tracking.
Sirius: Son of Sign Tracker and Procyona and a friend to many residents of the Great Forest. Sirius is a very observant and intelligent raccoon. He is strong-willed and enjoys exploring the world around him. This character is named after Sirius, The Dog Star. This is the brightest star in the night sky. Sirius is a part of the constellation Canis Major.
Souwanas: A Native American warrior who is seriously wounded by the treacherous Rukeewis. Souwanas is a Saulteaux Indian character in Algonquin Indian Tales by Egerton R. Young.
Young, Egerton R. (ed.) (1903). Algonquin Indian Tales. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company.