A legend, shared among Montana locals, is that if one hikes the path along Lion Creek and doesn’t make it back to the trailhead before nightfall, a distant chant can be heard coming from the forested ridges. It’s the voice of a long dead Piegan warrior named Grey Bear, lamenting the loss of his son, drowned in the icy Marias River to the east. But, he only speaks to a heart he sees.
“Fallen” intertwines the lives of Grey Bear, in the aftermath of the Marias Massacre of 1870, and Calvin, the son of an alcoholic, abusive father, escaping to the wilderness of Northwest Montana in 1997. Central to Grey Bear’s story is the relationship with his son, a strong-spirited, inquisitive boy of ten named Running Dog. After Grey Bear’s tribe is decimated by a ruthless Cavalry brigade, it is up to Grey Bear and Running Dog to lead what’s left of their people back to safety in the dead of winter. Almost home, Running Dog’s death drives an agonized Grey Bear to the mountains, in search of his spirit animal. Calvin’s tale begins with a lonely, tormented childhood riddled with abuses by his father, who ultimately abandons him. After witnessing his father’s suicide on an ill-fated attempted reunion with him at thirteen, Calvin takes solace in the only father he has known, his doting grandfather. Upon his grandfather’s death, Calvin, spiraling out of control, leaves his home in Texas and winds up in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness, guiding hunters along the remote woods of Lion Creek. It’s here where the fate of both protagonists meet, finding each other, and ultimately, redemption.