The Song of Hiawatha

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Hiawatha by Edmonia Lewis, 1868

The Song of Hiawatha is an epic poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was first published in 1855. The poem was loosely based on the legends of Native American peoples. In 1857, Longfellow estimated that the work had sold 50,000 copies.

The Song is about Hiawatha and his beloved Minnehaha. It is set along the south shore of Lake Superior. The poem was very popular, but critics did not like it.

Composers and painters were inspired to create works based on the poem. A 2005 television movie was based on the poem.

Story[change | change source]

Hiawatha's birth is foretold by a "mighty" peace-bringing leader named Gitche Manito. A woman named Nokomis falls from the moon. Nokomis gives birth to Wenonah. She grows to be a beautiful young woman. Nokomis warns her not to be seduced by the West Wind. She does not listen to her mother, and Hiawatha is born.

Hiawatha has childhood adventures, falls in love with Minnehaha, slays the evil magician Pearl-Feather, invents written language, discovers corn, and other episodes. The poem closes with the approach of a canoe to Hiawatha's village. It contains "the Priest of Prayer, the Pale-face." Hiawatha welcomes him with joy.

The "Black-Robe chief" brings word of Jesus Christ. Hiawatha and the chiefs accept the Christian message. Hiawatha says good-bye to Nokomis, the warriors, and the young men. He says, "But my guests I leave behind me / Listen to their words of wisdom, / Listen to the truth they tell you." He endorses the Christian missionaries. He launches his canoe for the last time westward toward the sunset. Then he departs forever.

Gallery[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]