Orson Scott Card has created a captivating alternate world of colonial America: a world rich in magic, peril, and culture.
One of these cultures is the Reds, as Card calls the Indians. One of these Reds is a whisky-red named Lolla-Wossiky and he is under the tyrannical care of the white Governor Bill Harrison. Lolla-Wossiky manages to steal a keg of whisky, a necessary tool for his survival, and runs away. He searches for his dream beast, "All of life at first is a long sleep, a long dream. You fall asleep at the moment you are born, and never wake up, never wake up until finally one day the dream beast calls you" (Card 63). He finds the beast in a white boy named Alvin. Alvin is the seventh son of the seventh son, which we find out in the first book of the series, which is appropriately titled Seventh son.
With this order of birth come certain knacks, supernatural abilities, and attributes. Alvin is only eleven at the beginning of Red Prophet and is yet unaware of his powers, but Lolla-Wossiky finds him and is able to see his potential.
Lolla becomes Alvin's dream beast and teaches him a powerful lesson on the administration of his powers. Alvin, in turn, is able to be Lolla's dream beast and cures him of "the black noise". Lolla-Wossiky is then able to accept his destiny as a leader of Red men. "He would call the Reds together, teach them what he saw in his vision, and help them to be, not the strongest, but strong; not the largest but large; not the freest, but free" (Card 98). Lolla-Wossiky becomes the Red Prophet and his name changes to Tenskwa-tawa.
Alvin's life is in danger so his parents send him to Hatrack River to be a blacksmith's apprentice. On the road to his new life, Indians, who were hired by Harrison to torture white boys, stirring the whites against the Red Prophet's people, capture Measure and Alvin. Alvin uses his powers to keep them from harm but the Red Prophet senses their danger and sends his brother, Ta-Kumsaw, to save the boys' lives. Ta-Kumsaw takes the boys back with him to see his brother. Alvin and the Prophet are reunited and Alvin is taught and informed of his future. Alvin is then sent to accompany Ta-Kumsaw on his crusade against the white man. He learns to understand the ways of the land; he learns to understand the Red man. He is so in tune with the land and with the people that at the end of his journey with Red men Ta-Kumsaw tells him, "If all White men were true like you, Alvin, I would never have been their enemy" (Card 304).
Red Prophet is dripping with Archetypes. Alvin is the young hero, the only one who can save the world from being unmade. As Joseph Campbell states in his book A Hero With a Thousand Faces, "the `call to adventure'-signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight" (Campbell 58). Alvin also goes into the belly of the whale when he goes with Ta-Kumsaw into the Red man's world, "The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown and would appear to have died" (Campbell 90).
Alvin is helped in his journey by Taleswapper, a wanderer who trades stories with those he meets. Taleswapper is very wise and is able to help Alvin realize his destiny. A young girl named Peggy also aids him. He does not know of her existence or her role in his life, but she is always aware of him and keeping him safe.
Card is not as opposed to allegory as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. He openly states in his introduction his thanks to "my great-great-grandfather Joseph for the stories behind the story in this book." He is speaking of Joseph Smith. The similarities in the lives of Alvin and Joseph are prominent in the novel: Alvin is Joseph Smith's brother's name, Joseph hurt his leg the same age as Alvin, Measure and Hyrum Smith share many similarities. Yet, as author Michael Collings says, you do not have to be a Mormon to understand the book, "Card is not a `Mormon' writer. He is a writer who is a Mormon. . . He never sets out to preach, to proselytize, to convince"
The fantasy themes in Red Prophet are subtle. It almost seems that Red Prophet is a historical novel but for the knacks, charms, hexes, and beseechings that really work. They use their knacks to build, to protect, and to heal. There are special knacks that only certain people possess: a spark can start fires with their minds; a torch, which is Peggy's knack, can see people's heartfires, and the rarest is a maker, the last maker was Jesus Christ and the next is Alvin.
Colonial America never seemed so captivating as in Orson Scott Card's alternate world of the Red Prophet.