The very first encounter that introduces Fleur to the reader, leaves an impression of fascination, fear and remarkable beauty. Who exactly is this delicate yet strong and mystical character? According to Nanapush, one of the two narrators of the tale, the sole survivor in a burnt down Pillager cabin. A seventeen year old girl, charmingly beautiful with a fate that surpasses and captures the reader all through the narration. Her wildly intriguing affinity for Lake Matchimanito where it is rumored that she has an ongoing affair with Misshepeshu, the creature at the bottom of the lake and the common belief of the natives that she is in possession of magical abilities further draws the reader to discover who is Fleur, yet her true identity remains quiet a mystery since all the reader is presented with is the tales of her that are narrated by Nanapush and Pauline.
“Even though she was good-looking, nobody dared to court her because it was clear that Misshepeshu, the water man, the monster, wanted her for himself. He’s a devil, that one, hungry with desire and maddened for the touch of young girls, the strong and daring especially, the ones like Fleur”(p.11), with such strong accusations and beliefs of the Native Indian Americans it is easy for me as a reader to see the magical fascination which frightens as much as attracts the men of the novel and the readers alike to Fleur. Like almost every society with some sort of organized belief system, the devil always has and will be an identity that is both feared and respected. And the idea that it is the devil himself who wishes to have Fleur in his possession only further fuels the intrigue and need to understand not only her character but the element which draws all the gossip and common fascination of the natives towards her. But despite all this a brave soul is introduced to the readers, Eli. Despite all the rumors that circulate around Fleur, Eli is willing to pursue her and is not afraid to love her despite the fates of the other men who have been associated with Fleur. This does not only show the magnetic force that she posses but the power she holds over men. The novel progresses with constant reminders of the supernatural state of Fleur, which remains a mystery. Was Fleur really a being with elements from another world, a world beyond the reach of the commons, or is it simply the Native way to dwell in these thoughts? With references to Fleur’s daughter Lulu, such questions remain unanswered as is portrayed with phrases such as the following: “To our minds, Lulu’s eyes blazed bright as his. Yet she had the Kashpaws’ unmistakable nose, too wide and squashed on the tip. She was good-looking. She had Fleur’s coarse, quick-growing hair. Sheer black” (p.70). This characterization of Lulu not only gives her physical features but also suggests that perhaps Misshepeshu is the girl’s father when Pauline says that her eyes were like his. But then she goes on to say that her nose was obviously the nose of a Kashpaw.
But the supernatural and the unexplained does not only circulate around Fleur, Pauline, whose narrative is not very reliable since her character is portrayed with many insecurities and flaws also embodies the strange happenings common to the lives and beliefs of the Natives. “They say, or Bernadette does, that when they found me in the tree later that morning, everyone was shot with fear at the way I hung, precarious, above the ground. They were amazed I could climb there, as the trunk was smooth for seven feet and there were no hand- or footholds of any sort. But I remembered everything, and wasn’t in the least surprised. I knew that after I circled, studied, saw all, I touched down on my favorite branch and tucked my head beneath the shelter of my wing” (p. 68-69). It seems perfectly natural to Pauline that she turned into an owl and flew to the top of this tree. She felt at peace doing this because she had just found her calling, watching people dying and harvesting souls. This is a dark characterization of Pauline; she finds comfort and pleasure in watching people die and dealing with their dead bodies.
In conclusion I would like to say that Louis Erdrich successfully captured the essence and the magic which she presented in a unique way, not only to fascinate the readers but to open their eyes to the struggle and pain that any minority faces in our modern world of taming the unknown, claiming the rights to things which are not of possession and the political struggle for power, a never-ending game of the power holders of the world.