The Song of Hiawatha

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

with illustrations by Harrison Fisher

and decorations by E. Stetson Crawford

THE SONG OF HIAWATHA

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In a memorable rhythmic beat, this work of fiction tells the story of Hiawatha, a legendary Ojibwe leader with supernatural powers. It tells of his birth and upbringing, his many adventures, his devotion to his people, and the tragedy of his love for Minnehaha, a Dakota woman. • This epic—first published in 1855—borrows from traditional Native-American legends, setting the story on Ojibwe and Dakota lands on the shores of Lake Superior. • It was a best-seller on publication and continued to be popular well into the 20th century.
Page 6: Minnehaha (Frontispiece)
Page 175, “Hiawatha”
 

CONTENTS

Touch below to go to chapter
CHARACTERS, PLACES & LANDMARKS
0.INTRODUCTION
1.THE PEACE-PIPE
2.THE FOUR WINDS
3.HIAWATHA’S CHILDHOOD
4.HIAWATHA AND MUDJEKEEWIS
5.HIAWATHA’S FASTING
6.HIAWATHA’S FRIENDS
7.HIAWATHA’S SAILING
8.HIAWATHA’S FISHING
9.HIAWATHA AND THE PEARL-FEATHER
10.HIAWATHA’S WOOING
11.HIAWATHA’S WEDDING FEAST
12.THE SON OF THE EVENING STAR
13.BLESSING THE CORNFIELDS
14.PICTURE-WRITING
15.HIAWATHA’S LAMENTATION
16.PAU-PUK-KEEWIS
17.THE HUNTING OF PAU-PUK-WEEWIS
18.THE DEATH OF KWASIND
19.THE GHOSTS
20.THE FAMINE
21.THE WHITE MAN’S FOOT
22.HIAWATHA’S DEPARTURE
GLOSSARY
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
HENRY KETCHAM’S ANNOTATIONS
HARRISON FISHER’S ILLUSTRATIONS
Page 175, “Hiawatha”
Book cover illustration
 
Hiawatha with Iagoo’s bow
Page 177, “Give me of your bark, O Birch-tree”
Page 92, “Thus it was they journeyed homeward”
Page 129, Hiawatha and Laughing Water
Page 185, “Sailed into the fiery sunset”
† 
Longfellow wrote The Song of Hiawatha in trochaic tetrameter, a rhythmic meter where each and every line is eight syllables long—with every other syllable emphasized beginning with the first. He wrote the epic in blank verse, which means that there is no rhyming.
Book cover illustration Book cover illustration
The name “Hiawatha” is from a historical figure associated with the Iroquois, but the story Longfellow tells is based on the Ojibwe culture hero Nanabozho—minus Nanabozho’s trickster and shape-shifter aspects. Longfellow drew some of his material from his friendship with Ojibwe Chief Kahge-ga-gah-bowh, who would visit at Longfellow’s home. He was also familiar with Saulk leader Black Hawk’s Autobiography of Ma­ka­tai­me­she­kia­kiak, and he drew from the writings of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, an ethnographer and Indian agent, and from the narratives of the Reverend John Hecke­welder, a Moravian missionary who frequently journeyed through the Midwest in the mid-1700s.
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CHARACTERS

Hiawatha—our hero. His birth the fulfilment of the promise made by the Great Spirit and this is the story of his life. He is The Beloved, The Deliverer of the Nations, and his people proclaimed him Strong-Heart and Loon-Heart. He is dedicated to bringing peace and prosperity to his people. He is the son of Nokomis’ daughter, Wenonah, and Mudjekeewis, the West Wind.

Minnehaha—his beloved, his wife. She is alternately known as Laughing Water—the literal meaning of her name in the Dakota language. She is the daughter of the old Dakota arrow-maker; named after the waterfall near her home.

Nokomis—his grandmother, Daughter of the Moon. She is a goddess that accidentally fell to earth and then gives birth to Wenonah, Hiawatha’s mother. Wenonah dies of sorrow and regret soon after Hiawatha is born and Nokomis raises him. The name means grandmother in Ojibwe.

Featured Characters

Gitche Manito—the Great Spirit, the Master of Life, the creator, the Mighty.

Iagoo—the boaster. A traveler, oral historian and teller of fantastic tales, often self-aggrandizing, therefore “the boaster.” Friend of Nokomis; a hunting-bow maker.

Mudjekeewis—the West Wind, Hiawatha’s father. He became Kabeyun when he became the Father of the Winds, assigning the West Wind to himself and the other winds to his three sons.

Chibiabos—one of Hiawatha’s two best friends. “The best of all musicians” and “the sweetest of all singers.”

Kwasind—Hiawatha’s other best friend. He is the strongest man in the land, but a gentle soul. A great swimmer and diver. Misunderstood as a child.

Pearl-Feather—his name the translation of “Megissogwon,” a great and evil magician. Brings pestilence to the wetlands.

Pau-Puk-Keewis—a charming, handsome mischief-maker and malcontent. A fantastic dancer and skilled in games of skill and hazard. “Loved by the women, dismissed by the men.” He is called a yenadizze—an idler, a gambler.

Osseo—a magician and son of the Evening Star. Old, poor and ugly but with a beautiful spirit.

Oweenee—willful, wayward, loving, true. The youngest daughter of a North-land hunter, fairest of her sisters; marries Osseo

Puk-Wudjies—the Little People: fairies and pygmies. They are envious and mischievous.

Other Characters

Nawadaha—the historian, storyteller, singer and musician who tells this story to the white man.

Wenonah—the Lilly of the Prairie, first-born daughter of Nokomis and Hiawatha’s mother.

Adjidaumo—tail-in-air, Hiawatha’s little friend the squirrel

Mondamin—the Friend of Man. sent by Gitche Manito to try Hiawatha. Another word for corn and cornstalk.

Mama—the woodpecker; told Hiawatha the Pearl-Feather’s vulnerability.

the ancient arrow-maker—Minnehaha’s father. Also called the old arrow-maker.

Face-in-a-Mist—Iagoo’s nephew; Pau-Puk-Keewis’ meshinauwa—his attendant.

the Black-Robe—the Priest of Prayer, the “pale-face with the cross upon his breast,” a French Jesuit Catholic priest.

Gods and Spirits

Ahkosewin—the evil spirit that brings on fever

Bukadawin—the evil spirit of famine

The Four Winds—the North, South, East and West Winds

Gitche Manito—the Great Spirit, the Master of Life, the creator, the Mighty

Kabeyun—the Father of the Winds and the West Wind; was Mudjekeewis

Kabibonokka—the North Wind, wild and cruel; son of Kabeyun

Mitche Manito—the Spirit of Evil, the Dreadful

Nee-ba-naw-baigs—the Spirits of the Water

Nepahwin—the Spirit of Sleep

Ojeeg—the Summer-Maker, the Fish Wease; he makes a hole in heaven to let out the summer weather

Old Man of the Mountains—the spirit that dwells in the mountains; the Manito of the Mountain

Pauguk—death

Peoban—old man Winter

Segwum—the youthful stranger, Spring

Shawondasee—the South Wind, fat and lazy; son of Kabeyun

Wabun—the East Wind, sad and lonely; son of Kabeyun

Unktahee—the god of water; the god of the Dakotas

Chibiabos—Guardian of the Dead. This honor awarded to him after his death.

Keewaydin—the Northwest Wind, promised to Hiawatha after his death.

Book cover illustration
“Perhaps no single literary figure has generated more names for the American map than Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who published his Song of Hiawatha in 1855.” With this sentence Virgil J. Vogel starts his paper “Placenames From Longfellow’s ‘Song of Hiawatha’,” delivered in 1990 at a meeting of North Central Name Society at Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois. In his paper he enumerates place names inspired by this epic’s often misspelled Native American words.
Heard the Falls of Minnehaha
Next the maiden on an island
Page 121, “Painted many shapes and figures”
Page 49, “By the river’s brink he wandered”
Book cover illustration

PLACES & LANDMARKS

Gitche Gumee—Big-Sea Water; Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes of North America.

Island of the Blessed—“in the Kingdom of Ponemah, in the Land of the Hereafter. It takes four days to travel there after death.

Minnehaha Falls—“in the land of the Dakotahs.” It is near where Minnehaha Creek empties into the Mississippi River at Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mississippi—the mighty river that bisects the lower part of North America.

Mountains of the Prairies—the Badlands in the South Dakota prairie, also known as the mountains in the prairie.

Nago Wudjo—the Grand Sable sand dunes and beaches of Lake Superior.

Pauwating—a swift-running waterway. Perhaps the St. Mary’s River, the waterway that drains Lake Superior into Lake Huron.

The Pictured Rocks—thirteen miles of colorful sandstone cliffs on Lake Superior shore with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, between Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette.

the Red Pipe-stone Quarry— is in Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota, on the border with South Dakota.

the Rocky Mountains—the Kingdom of the West Wind. The mountain range in the western part of North America whose eastern foothills touch the prairie.

Taquemenaw—the Tahquamenon River, a river in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that empties into Lake Superior at Whitefish Bay.

Tawasentha—the name of the vale where Longfellow places Hiawatha’s village. In real life is the name of an Iroquois burial ground near Normanskill Creek in Albany County, New York.

Thunder Mountain—the real-life Thunder Mountain is quite a ways from this epic’s locations. It is in Utah, in Bryce Canyon National Park.

the Valley of Wyoming—a valley in northeastern Pennsylvania, originally populated by the Iroquois-speaking Scahentoarrhonon people.

Wabasso—the great snowy North on the other side of the Great Lake; today’s Canada. Also called the Land of the White Rabbit.

Book cover illustration
 
At the stern sat Hiawatha
Page 41, “Was it not to see the maiden”
Page 107, Then returned her youth and beauty
The Ojibwe are an Indigenous people from the Northeastern Woodlands of what is currently the northern Midwest of the United States and southern Canada. They are one of the Anishinaabe, a culturally-related people of the Greal Lakes region that include the Odawa, Potawatomi, Mississauga’s, Nipissing and Algonquin people. They strongly do not appreciate how Longfellow concluded his tale, asserting that Indigenous culture was dying as he put them in the care of European religious missionaries.
Book cover illustration
The Song of Hiawatha • 2024 Online Illustrated Edition
 
Original copyright for The Song of Hiawatha was filed in 1855 by Henry Wadsworth Long­fellow. The copyright was renewed in 1883 by Ernest W. Longfellow, and then in 1884, 1886, 1890, 1898, and 1901 by Houghton, Mifflin & Co., who became the sole authorized publishers of Longfellow’s works. All of these copyrights have expired.
The illustrations and decorations used in this Online Illustrated Edition were first published and were copyright 1906 by The Bobbs-Merrill Company in an illustrated book of the poem “published by special arrangement” with Houghton Mifflin. This copyright has also expired.
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