The Prologue is the author’s opportunity to introduce her readers to her main theme - the circle of life. She begins the story in the first week of August, the dog days of summer, and she likens the month to the top of the Ferris wheel, if the wheel were the year. August sits at the top of the year, and during this time, people are often led to do things they are sure to be sorry for later.
She then explains that three events, seemingly unconnected, occur and come together in strange ways: Mae Tuck sets out on her horse for the edge of the village of Treegap as she does once every ten years to meet her sons; Winnie Foster loses her patience and thinks about running away; and a stranger appears at the Foster house looking for someone. At the center of these events is the wood, the hub of the wheel.
She cautions the reader that the hubs of wheels are fixed points and best left undisturbed. For without them, nothing holds together.
The thematic presentation in the very beginning is very simplistic, but very important. The author is about to present a simple tale, but one filled with deep meanings. We are already presented with one: the idea of the wheel and its hub as representative of the ever continuance of life and its cycles.
The author introduces us to the idea of the road to Treegap. It had been trod out by cows who seemed to have a sixth sense about the wood. The creatures make their way and create their path by going around it, and so there is no path or road through the wood. As a result, we, the readers, are led to concentrate on the juxtaposition of the first house along the road, the road itself, and the wood. The wood and the house belong to the Fosters, but they never go there. Their daughter Winnie sometimes stands and looks at it, but she has never seen it.
The author tells us that it’s a good thing that the cows were responsible for the wood’s isolation, because if they had trodden a road through the woods, people would have come across the giant ash tree at its center. They would have seen the little spring that bubbles up among the tree’s roots in spite of the pebbles that have been piled up there to conceal it. That would have been a disaster that would have made the earth tremble on its axis like a beetle on a pin.
It is important to understand the concept of life as a wheel and its hub as a fixed point. The sun is the hub of the solar system and so the hub of life on earth. The year is like a Ferris wheel ever turning until it reaches the apex just before it turns to the down side of the wheel. This apex is August, a strange month that is a reminder of heat, stillness, and a propensity to make the wrong decisions.