“Lullaby” first appeared in Storyteller (1981), a book in which Silko interweaves autobiographical reminiscences, short stories, poetry, photographs of her family (taken by her father) and traditional songs. The book as a whole is concerned with the oral tradition of storytelling in Native American culture. Through a variety of formats, Silko attempts to reproduce the effect of oral storytelling in a written English form. She is also concerned with the transformative power of storytelling in the lives of her characters and the role of storytelling in maintaining cultural traditions and intergenerational ties, particularly in a matrilineal line from grandmother to granddaughter. Because of this focus, the physical surroundings of the action of “Lullaby” are not central to its narrative. The story begins with Ayah, an old Native American woman, leaning against a tree near a stream, reminiscing about some of the most tragic events of her life, as well as about the role of her grandmother in some of the most happy events of her life: “She was an old woman now, and her life had become memories.” She recalls watching her mother weaving outside on a big loom, while her grandmother spun wool into yarn. She remembers her mother and the old woman who helped her give birth to her first child, Jimmie. Yet she also recalls the time the white man came to her door to announce that Jimmie had died in a helicopter crash in the war. Because Ayah could not speak English, her husband, Chato, had to translate the tragic news to her. As Ayah reminisces about her life, including the loss of her children, the eventual rift between her husband and herself, and other tragic losses, the narrative slowly catches up to the present. In recent years, Ayah and Chato have begun receiving federal assistance checks in order to survive-Chato would immediately cash the check and go spend it at the bar. In the present tense of the story, Ayah goes there to look for him. When she does not find him there, she goes out in the snow to search for him, and comes upon him walking toward home. When they stop to rest, he lies down in the snow, and she realizes that he is dying. She tucks a blanket around him and begins to sing a lullaby her grandmother had sung when she was little: “And she sang the only song she knew how to sing for babies. She could not remember if she had ever sung it to her children, but she knew that her grandmother had sung it and her mother had sung it.”

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