Where the Buffaloes Begin (Picture Puffins)

by Olaf Baker

Other authorsStephen Gammell (Illustrator)
Paperback, 1985


Check shelf

Call number

E Bak


Puffin (1985), Paperback, 48 pages


After hearing the legend retold by the tribe's oldest member, Little Wolf hopes to someday witness the beginning of the buffaloes at the sacred lake.

Local notes


Media reviews

Little Wolf witnesses the origin of buffalo…. Little Wolf's tribe is not indicated, though the story relates that the enemy is Assiniboin. The author makes no claim that this retelling of a story… is based on an authentic Indian legend. The prose is poetic…; some lengthy sentences might daunt
Show More
younger readers. The author's use of the name "Nawa" for the Great Spirit is purely fictional. Includes beautiful black-and-white illustrations.
Show Less

User reviews

LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Originally published in 1915 in the St. Nicholas Magazine for children, this story by expatriate Englishman Olaf Baker was reprinted in 1981 with illustrations by Stephen Gammell. The result is a beautifully illustrated picture-book, awarded a Caldecott Honor in 1982. Where the Buffaloes Begin is
Show More
the tale of Little Wolf, a young Indian boy who sets out to find the lake described by Nawa - his people's wise old storyteller - as the origin place of the buffalo. Little does he know that his triumphant return with a herd of buffalo will save his people from attack...

Described as a legend of the "Plains Indians," I think this must be taken from the traditions of either the Blackfeet or Gros Ventre peoples, as the Assiniboine are mentioned as enemies. Clearly the Assiniboine themselves wouldn't have related legends in which they themselves featured as the villains, so this cannot be a tale told by all the Plains nations, although I believe that many of them do have legends which tell of the underground origin of the buffalo.

Unfortunately, I don't know enough about either the folklore of the Blackfeet or Gros Ventre to judge the authenticity of this tale, but the deliberate vagueness of attribution makes me feel rather skeptical, especially given the well-documented history of European and Euro-American appropriation and misinterpretation of Native American cultures. The black and white illustrations by Stephen Gammell are lovely, but this is not one I would recommend for folklore study, unless its origin can be documented.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ericarhenry
I really enjoyed this book and I thought it was a great Native American myth. It begins with Nawa, an elder, telling a story about where the buffaloes begin. Little Wolf is the main character and he is a ten year old boy that is very brave and fearless. Once spring comes, Little Wolf leaves his
Show More
camp and searches across the prairie to find the lake where the buffaloes begin. It takes him all day and along the way, he sees a shape in the distance that he dismisses as a herd of animals. At the time, he doesn’t realize it is a group of the enemy tribe heading towards his tribe, trying to attack them. He continues on and finds the lake. He waits all evening and falls asleep. He is woken by the sounds of the buffalo and sees that the legend is true. The buffalo rise up out of the lake in a huge herd and are standing there in on the water. Little Wolf gives a huge cry and waves his arms, trying to communicate with the buffalo. They see him and start galloping towards him. Little Wolf runs for his pony and they take off toward their camp. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen and wonders if the buffalo will trample them. He knows they can’t outrun them because his pony is tired from the trip out to the lake so they just keep going as fast as they can until they are surrounded by buffalo. They are running with the buffalo towards his tribe’s camp. That’s when they see the enemy. They are running away from the tribe’s camp. They heard the buffalo and are trying to escape and get to their ponies. They haven’t yet attacked the camp. The enemy is fleeing the scene and Little Wolf and his pony are galloping among the huge herd of buffalo toward his camp. The enemy is easily overtaken by the buffalo and they are trampled. Little Wolf has unknowingly saved his tribe by bringing the buffalo.
Show Less
LibraryThing member wb010371
Where the Buffalos Begin is a book about an Indian boy named Little Wolf who saved the people in his tribe by stirring up the buffalos, and by accident had stopped an attack by another tribe on his people. The story is one of chance, but of great courage also.

I liked this book because it had a
Show More
sense of excitement through every page. I thought that it was going to be a boy who helped his tribe find buffalo to kill and it was not anything like that. It was a legend, a folktale of a small curious boy who saved his people by more or less scaring the buffalo and making them run in a stampede killing the enemies of his tribe making him a hero.

This would be a good book when learning of some of the Indian culture and even about buffalo. It could raise the question of why the tribe had enemies and why was Little Wolf a here to his people.
Show Less
LibraryThing member joel07
Hero's come in every size and nationality and this is shown in Where the Buffaloes Begin. It is a story of adventure, curiosity and seeking knowledge, and in doing so saving your people from their enemies as well. The illustrations in this book really add to the dream like feel of tis folktale.
LibraryThing member btivis
This is a story of an Indian legend of how the buffalo came to be. After hearing the legend from the wise man, Little Wolf goes out in search of the lake where the buffalo emerged from. When he finds the lake, he falls asleep and wakes to see the buffaloes emerging from the water. He stands up and
Show More
waves his arms, unknowingly giving them a signal. They take off running towards Little Wolfs camp. He runs with them to see the enemy sneaking up on his camp. The buffalo trample the indians and save the village. Now when the legend is told they add how Little Wolf saved the villiage.
I thought this was an interesting book and the pictures do a wonderful job showing the story. I would use this book in multicultural lessons and to explain legends.
Show Less
LibraryThing member kj117629
A young Native American boy named Little Wolf goes on a journey in search of buffaloes. Oh what excitement and joy he felt when he finally found them! The excitement was short-lived when he gets caught up in a stampede. Through all the excitement, Little Wolf led the buffaloes and saved his people.
Show More

I can personally relate to this book because I have Native American ancestors. It is always interesting reading about ledgends of Native cultures.

The classroom could discuss the Native American culture, and how important the buffaloes were to them for survival. We could take a field trip to the museum so the children could see all the Native American artifacts.
Show Less
LibraryThing member nfigue1
Where the Buffaloes Begin takes us on a journey alongside of Little Wolf, as he becomes victorious to his enemies. Illustrator, Stephen Gammell, completed phenomenal work! The illustrations were magnificent, and brought the story of Little Wolf to life. I particularly enjoyed how the author
Show More
portrayed his audience to feel like Little Wolf himself. It was extraordinarily easy to get lost in Little Wolf’s adventure and relate to him throughout the picturebook. The introduction of Where the Buffaloes Begin provided background knowledge of the setting, teaching me more about Native American’s and their culture. After finishing this book, I truly learned more! This was a wonderful read, I would fully recommend this book as a teaching tool for Native American based units. This book was lengthy, so I would suggest reading it in segments to our younger audiences.
Show Less
LibraryThing member kwander
Summary: This Caldecott honor book is based on an Indian boy who discovers where buffaloes begin. Down at the lake in the South, Little Wolf watches as the buffalo emerge out of the water and onto the prarie land. Little Wolf then leads the buffalo to victory against his people's enemy.

Show More
Reaction: This book reminds me of Oklahoma history class I had to take whenever I moved to Oklahoma from Texas. There was a lot of Indian history that took place here in Oklahoma, where buffalo still roam.

Classroom Extension Ideas:
1. Have the children create a drawing of a buffalo.
2. Discuss what they know about buffalo.
Show Less
LibraryThing member wichitafriendsschool
A Caldecott Honor picture book. Over the blazing campfires, where the wind moaned eerily through the thickets of juniper and fir, they spoke of it in the Indian tongue—the strange lake to the southward whose waters never rest. And Nawa, the medicine man, declared that if you arrived at the right
Show More
time, on the right night, you would see the buffaloes rise out of the middle of the lake -- the sacred spot where the buffaloes began. Ten-year-old Little Wolf is determined to see this.
Show Less
LibraryThing member DianeVogan
The cover does not do this book justice. The story and illustrations inside of the cover are both worthy of a good read. A young boy goes on a quest to discover where the buffaloes begin, rides with them, and his village is saved.


Original publication date


Physical description

48 p.; 9.96 x 9.79 inches


Page: 0.1475 seconds