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bdNM
Posts: 470
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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What about the hedgehog?

In ch. VII, Hiawatha asks the hedgehog for some quills -- the hedgehog is sleeping and drowsily shoots his quills (they don't really shoot quills, do they?) so Hiawatha can get them.  I like that the hedgehog, though helping, remains true to his sleepy state.  It does remind me of the fragment we have from a poem by Archilochus, translated by Richmond Lattimore as follows:

"The fox knows many things, the hedgehog only one,

One big thing."

That line led some psychologist, whose name escapes me at present, to characterize people as either foxes or hedgehogs -- someone like Mozart might be seen as a fox (clever in many areas) -- a generalist, where Bach might be seen as a hedgehog -- very deep in one area primarily. 

 

 

Dignity, always dignity.
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: What about the hedgehog?

[ Edited ]

I associate "The Fox and the Hedgehog" with Isaiah Berlin, especially as he attempted to analyze Tolstoy.   This Wikipedia article has considerably more on the subject.

 

According to what I find, no species of hedgehog is native to North America. Hedgehogs are, however, often part of the folktales of Europe.

 

The animal know for its quills in North America is, of course, the porcupine, which does not throw its quills, although it can certainly make them stand out from its body. The article linked above states:  "The North American porcupine is the only species that lives in the U.S. and Canada, and is the largest of all porcupines. A single animal may have 30,000 or more quills."

 

Porcupine Quillwork

 

This image may well be contemporary, but it indicates the beautiful embroidery that can be accomplished with porcupine quills.  The original is here:  Tipi Lifestyles.

 

For some more beautiful examples of Cathy A. Smith's work in the re-creation of historical Native American costumes, do visit this link. The following is excerpted from the site and, besides the photographs, there is more documentation on the site that is equally fascinating, including her training in the requisite skills.

 

"Cathy Smith was commissioned in January of 1996 to re-create the material culture of twelve historically important Plains Indian leaders for a private museum in Santa Fe, NM. The collection consists of the regalia, clothing, and accouterments of each personage as determined from historical photographs, paintings, and informants, both living and historically researched.

 

"Over 60 individual pieces in total, the collection required four years to execute. The research and accumulation of understanding and artistic skill took twenty-five years.

"Each item was created in the same way as it was originally made, using the same materials and techniques of production: Bighorn Sheep, antelope, buffalo, and deer hides tanned with brains, original stock seed and pony beads, naturally dyed porcupine quills, sinew or linen thread, original trade items such as wool stroud, brass hawk bells, buttons, silk ribbon, etc. The only concession to authenticity was the use of hand-painted turkey feathers in place of eagle, hawk, and owl."

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Reader-Moderator
bdNM
Posts: 470
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: What about the hedgehog?

Thanks for the detail.  It was Berlin I was thinking of (though the name blanked).  If the hedgehog is not native to NA, how is it that Longfellow includes him?  Was he confusing the porcupine with the hedgehog?  I'm assuming that there is no hedgehog in his source material, though I don't know that.  Given that Longfellow is but a mile (less than that) from Harvard, and there would be lots of scholars of all sorts in the Boston-Cambridge area, it would seem that someone would have called him on it -- it doesn't take away from the poem, but it does sseem a curious detail to get wrong. 

Dignity, always dignity.
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
0 Kudos

Re: What about the hedgehog?

it doesn't take away from the poem, but it does sseem a curious detail to get wrong.

 

 

I quite agree.  I don't figure.  But, I am suspicious of many of the legends in Hiawatha -- so many of them seem to be variations of Biblical stories.

 

Certainly there is decent criticism somewhere, but I haven't gone searching strenuously and little has come up in what I have done.  I do get a sense that standards on subjects like this have tightened significantly in the years since Longfellow wrote in this still new and raw country.  But nonetheless, it certainly feels puzzling from the perspective of 2010.

 

 

bdNM wrote:

Thanks for the detail.  It was Berlin I was thinking of (though the name blanked).  If the hedgehog is not native to NA, how is it that Longfellow includes him?  Was he confusing the porcupine with the hedgehog?  I'm assuming that there is no hedgehog in his source material, though I don't know that.  Given that Longfellow is but a mile (less than that) from Harvard, and there would be lots of scholars of all sorts in the Boston-Cambridge area, it would seem that someone would have called him on it -- it doesn't take away from the poem, but it does seem a curious detail to get wrong. 

 

 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy