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The Song of Hiawatha, Cantos 16, 17 and 18

Canto 16: Pau-puk-keewis

While Hiawatha is away mourning the loss of his friend Chibiabos, Pau-puk-keewis, the Storm Fool and trickster figure, raises hell in Hiawatha's camp, gambling with Iagoo and others, and killing the raven in Hiawatha's lodge and the gulls.

What is this all about?  Do we get any motivation here regarding his actions?  He was the guy who danced at Hiawatha's wedding and seemed a rather positive figure there.  His nastiness here reminds me somewhat of the figure of Loki in Norse myth, who plays some vicious tricks for no other reason than he's a trickster and that's his job. Is that what we have here?

Canto 17: The Hunting of Pau-puk-keewis. 

When Hiawatha returns, he vows to track down Pau-puk-keewis and kill him.  He does this eventually, but Pau-puk-keewis is not easily killed.  He can disguise himself as a beaver and a brant, and hide out in a mountain cave. 

I have two questions here -- why is it that the beavers and brants are so willing to let Pau-puk-keewis take their form?  Why do they make him bigger?  And why does he want to be so big?  The purpose of a disguise is to blend in, but a beaver that is 10x the  size of other beavers is going to stick out.  Given the popularity of Hiawatha, and his clear anger, why do these creatures help Pau-puk-keewis out?

Canto 18: The Death of Kwasind

Here we have Hiawatha's other great friend, the big fellow, Kwasind, who is done in by the pygmies, who exploit his vulnerability to the seedcone of the pine tree and the blue cone of the fir tree. 

This seems a lot like Baldur in Norse myth, who is invulnerable except to mistletoe.  The blind god, Hodur, is tricked by Loki, when the gods are shooting arrows at Baldur (invulnerable) -- Hodur is given an arrow tipped with mistletoe and Baldur is killed.  I'm guessing that there's some significance to his weakness to these cones (as they don't seem like much of a weapon).

Why is it that the spirit of sleep agrees to knock Kwasind out? 


Dignity, always dignity.