The Song of Hiawatha
Henry W. Longfellow
Introductory Note 1
I The Peace-Pipe 5
II The Four Winds 9
III Hiawatha's Childhood 15
IV Hiawatha and Mudjekeewis 20
V Hiawatha's Fasting 26
VI Hiawatha's Friends 32
VII Hiawatha's Sailing 36
VIII Hiawatha's Fishing 39
IX Hiawatha and the Pearl-Feather 44
X Hiawatha's Wooing 50
XI Hiawatha's Wedding-Feast 55
XII The Son of the Evening Star 60
XIII Blessing the Corn-Fields 67
XIV Picture-Writing 71
XV Hiawatha's Lamentation 76
XVI Pau-Puk-Keewis 81
XVII The Hunting of Pau-Puk-Keewis 86
XVIII The Death of Kwasind 93
XIX The Ghosts 96
XX The Famine 101
XXI The White Man's Foot 105
XXII Hiawatha's Departure 110
The Song of Hiawatha is based on the legends and stories of many North American Indian tribes, but especially those of the Ojibway Indians of northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. They were collected by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, the reknowned historian, pioneer explorer, and geologist. He was superintendent of Indian affairs for Michigan from 1836 to 1841.
Schoolcraft married Jane, O-bah-bahm-wawa-ge-zhe-go-qua (The Woman of the Sound Which the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky), Johnston. Jane was a daughter of John Johnston, an early Irish fur trader, and O-shau-gus-coday-way-qua (The Woman of the Green Prairie), who was a daughter of Waub-o-jeeg (The White Fisher), who was Chief of the Ojibway tribe at La Pointe, Wisconsin.
Jane and her mother are credited with having researched,
authenticated, and compiled much of the material Schoolcraft
included in his Algic Researches (1839) and a revision published in 1856 as The Myth of Hiawatha. It was this latter revision that Longfellow used as the basis for The Song of Hiawatha.
Longfellow began Hiawatha on June 25, 1854, he completed it on March 29, 1855, and it was published November 10, 1855. As soon as the poem was published its popularity was assured. However, it also was severely criticized as a plagiary of the Finnish epic poem Kalevala. Longfellow made no secret of the fact that he had used the meter of the Kalevala; but as for the
legends, he openly gave credit to Schoolcraft in his notes to the poem.
I would add a personal note here. My father's roots include Ojibway Indians: his mother, Margaret Caroline Davenport, was a daughter of Susan des Carreaux, O-gee-em-a-qua (The Chief Woman), Davenport whose mother was a daughter of Chief Waub-o-jeeg. Finally, my mother used to rock me to sleep reading portions of Hiawatha to me, especially:
"Wah-wah-taysee, little fire-fly,
Woodrow W. Morris
Little, flitting, white-fire insect
Little, dancing, white-fire creature,
Light me with your little candle,
Ere upon my bed I lay me,
Ere in sleep I close my eyelids!"
April 1, 1991
The Song of Hiawatha is in the public domain.