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- Nanapush: a tribal elder and the first of two narrators in the novel. He has lived through many years of hardships with the Anishinaabe, saying “In the years I’d passed, I saw more change than in a hundred upon a hundred before.” Nanapush’s name and character owes a great deal to the Ojibwe trickster-hero, Nanabozho. Nanapush is characterized by his humor and craftiness; he frequently jokes with and teases Margaret, but he also tells lies – as he does when he claims to be the father of Fleur’s child, thus passing his name on to Lulu.
- Pauline Puyat: a teenage girl of mixed descent and the second narrator of the novel. She abandons the traditional ways of her family, saying “to hang back was to perish,” desiring to be like her Canadian grandfather, who was white. She first meets Fleur in Argus and is drawn to her because of her power; she acts as an observer to the main events in the novel. Pauline is characterized by jealousy, obsession and masochism – as she self-inflicts various punishments as part of her religious devotion.
- Fleur Pillager: a mysterious and confident woman around whom the events of the novel unfold. Fleur is the last of the Pillagers – a family that was regarded as mystical and powerful in the old ways. Many myths and legends are attributed to Fleur: that she drowned three times, that she can transform into animals such as a bear, that she conjured the tornado in Argus, etc. Fleur is described as beautiful and sexual – but also dangerous.
- Margaret Kashpaw: a widow who develops an intimate relationship with Nanapush, mother of Eli and Nector, and grandmother to Lulu. She is at first resistant to Eli marrying Fleur but eventually warms to her daughter-in-law.
- Eli Kashpaw: Fleur’s husband. He meets Fleur one day while hunting and immediately falls in love with her. His relationship with Fleur is very sexually passionate but also tumultuous.
- Lulu Nanapush: Fleur’s daughter by an unknown father. As a grown woman, she is the passive listener to Nanapush’s narratives. She is estranged from her mother because she was sent away to a government school as a young girl. Nanapush chides her for abandoning traditional ways (for example, wearing “pointy shoes”) and urges her to reconcile with her family.