05-18-2010 11:11 PM
Canto 19: "The Ghosts"
During the winter, ghosts come to Hiawatha's wigwam and spend a long time there. Hiawatha does not confront them, but lets them sit silently in his wigwam and allows them to eat as much as they would like, without commenting on their behavior. As a result they note "we have found you great and noble."
I found something in this that reminded me of Greek hospitality -- when a guest came, the host was not supposed to plague the guest with questions, but to let the guest tell his/her story when it seemed best. I couldn't quite get one point here -- were the ghosts suggesting that Hiawatha failed in proper burial and funeral rites for Chibiabos or Kwasind (not keeping funeral torches for 4 days)? It seemed that way to me, but I couldn't be sure.
Canto 20: "The Famine"
During the cold winter there is a great famine and Minnehaha eventually succumbs. This reminded me a lot of Goethe's poem, "Erlkoenig." Minnehaha suffered hallucinations which turned out to be death coming for her, just as the boy in Goethe's poem (which also takes place during a winter storm).
Canto 21: "The White Man's Foot"
Winter gives way to spring (and this is anthropomorphized as Peboan greets a young man (who seems to represent spring), and things get warmer and the sun shines.
Iagoo, the boaster, returns and he tells of a body of water salty but larger than Gitche Gumee. No one believes him or the story of the white man on a boat.
I had heard that the Native Americans, as they did not expect the large boats of the Europeans who came to America in the 16th c., that the boats didn't really register with them -- the reaction to Iagoo is one of skepticism -- they can't believe it, and he is known for big tales.
Canto 22: "Hiawatha's Departure"
The Coming of the "black robe chief" -- Hiawathat leaves (he's heading to the West to die) and leaves his people in the charge of the white missionaries. I have to say that I found this a bit upsetting -- much as I like the Jesuits (the black robes), I find it distressing that there is such an easy transition from Hiawatha to the Europeans, since it was not so easy, and it had disastrous effects on the Native culture. It all seems a bit paternalistic -- everyone can heave a sigh of relief now that the white guys are here.
I also found the statement (admittedly from the Catholic position) regarding "the Jews the tribe accursed" a bit troubling.
Here we are at the end of the "Song of Hiawatha." I still don't like Longfellow much, but I have to admit that there were moments with this work that I enjoyed quite a bit. Hope the journey through Longfellow was enjoyable too.
As I heard from only one poster regarding continuing, I think it may be time for me to head to the West along with Hiawatha (not literally) and call the postings to an end. It's been a good journey so far. Continued good traveling to all of you.
05-20-2010 04:09 PM