The Song of Hiawatha – FULL Audio Tale – by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow(1807-1882)
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I sing the Song of Hiawatha,
Brave of heart and strong of arm.
Daughter’s son of old Nokomis,
Fathered by the harsh West Wind.
With its regular, beating rhythm, the Song of Hiawatha has often been parodied, but in truth, it is a powerful, emotional epic; a hero’s life, his loves and suffering. The legends and traditions of the North American Indian swirl together through the tale like a mountain stream, tumbling white over the rocks, and caressing the mossy tree roots.
(Summary by Peter Yearsley)
[introduction by Woodrow Morris]
The Song of Hiawatha is an 1855 epic poem, in trochaic tetrameter, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, featuring an Indian hero. It is loosely based on the legends and ethnography of the Ojibwe (Chippewa, Anishinaabeg) and other Native American peoples as contained in Algic Researches (1839) and additional writings by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, an ethnographer and United States Indian agent. In sentiment, scope, overall conception, and many particulars, Longfellow’s poem is very much a work of American Romantic literature, not a representation of Native American oral tradition. Longfellow insisted, “I can give chapter and verse for these legends. Their chief value is that they are Indian legends.”
Longfellow had originally planned on following Schoolcraft in calling his hero Manabozho, the name in use at the time among the Ojibwe of the south shore of Lake Superior for a figure of their folklore, a trickster-transformer. But in his journal entry for June 28, 1854, he wrote, “Work at ‘Manabozho;’ or, as I think I shall call it, ‘Hiawatha’—that being another name for the same personage.” Hiawatha was not “another name for the same personage” (the mistaken identification of the trickster figure was made first by Schoolcraft and compounded by Longfellow), but a probable historical figure associated with the founding of the League of the Iroquois, the Five Nations then located in present-day New York and Pennsylvania. Because of the poem, however, “Hiawatha” became the namesake for towns, schools and a telephone company in the western Great Lakes region, where no Iroquois nations historically resided.
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