04-27-2010 07:47 PM
IX -- deals with Hiawatha's battle with Megissogwon, the Magician, the great Peal-Feather. This fight seemed resonant with so many battles between a hero and a foe who is much greater than he physically. It is quite common in myths for the hero to have to face some foe that none before have defeated and which seems beyond his abilities to defeat. I noticed that the war eagle accompanied Hiawatha, which called to mind the beasts of battle in Anglo-Saxon literature (the eagle, the raven and the wolf), scavengers who deal with the remains of the battle. I also notice that when Hiawatha defeats Megissogwon, he takes the wampum and furs that his foe has acquired and distributes the wealth among the people -- this was reminiscent of Beowulf and the dragon (dragons hoard loot and the hero distributes it) and the idea of the Ring-giver, a title given to a king (especially a good king).
X -- Hiawatha's wooing -- what an opening: "As unto the bow the cord is,
so unto the man is woman,
though she bends him, she obeys him,
though she draws him, yet she follows,
useless each without the other!"
It is interesting that Hiawatha is interested in someone from afar, and he is interested in her in part for her beauty and strangeness (like the stars or sunlight, rather than like the homey light from the fireplace), but also because their marriage can signal an end to the feuding of the two peoples. This calls to mind the role of aristocratic women in Anglo-Saxon society as "peace-weavers." It may also point to Hiawatha (the historical figure) as a man of peace.
I find the attitude and statements of her father, the great arrow-maker interesting:
"Ah, no more such noble warriors
could be fouond on earth as they were!
Now the men were all like women,
only used their tongues for weapons!"
Sounds like something Nestor, the old guy in the Iliad, would say -- "when I was a boy, I was friends with the likes of Theseus and Heracles, and no one is like that anymore."
The courting, though, came fairly quickly -- in part because the girl was willing, and Hiawatha was no slouch.
XI - Hiawatha's Wedding -- we get three figures at the celebration: Yenadizze, the Storm Fool, who is a great dancer and a dandy -- loved by the women, but not the men, who dances a great dance for the couple; Chibiabos, Hiawatha's friend, who sings songs (love songs) for the couple, and Iagoo, the storyteller ("the great boaster"), who tells the story contained in Section XII. The figure of storyteller here is larger than life -- he tells tall tales and everyone expects it of him. Strangely enough, that reputation has caused the term to be used of others telling whoppers as if they were true. When a teller tells a whopper, it's a good story, but when a regular person does, it's a lie. I wonder how much of that has to do with skill -- the tall tales told by a skillful teller seem wonderful, but when told by someone else, they just seem stupid.
XII -- Son of the Evening Star -- a story told by Iagoo, focusing on the love of the title character for a woman, Oweenee. In this story we see familiar characters -- the heroine is not like other girls (she's willful and beautiful), the hero appears to be an old man, but inside there is something different, and the sisters of the heroine are all jealous, but pay for their jealousy by being turned into birds (and not musical birds at that).