Although virtually unread today, there is still much in The Song of Hiawatha to appeal to young readers. In addition to the conventional epic features of heroic action, supernatural event, and thrilling adventure, The Song of Hiawatha is an entertaining source of American Indian lore. The epic story of Hiawatha is as much a rhetorical excuse for narrating tales of American Indian mythology as it is important for its own sake.
These tales are highly imaginative and interesting, such as how the lonely Wabun, the East-Wind, yearned for a lovely maiden, whom he wooed with “sighing and singing,” eventually changing her into the star of morning that is visible each dawn as the East-Wind gently blows. Many of the tales are mighty adventures of bravery and magic. In order to fight off a fever plaguing his people, Hiawatha challenges Megissogwon, the powerful magician who is the cause of the fever. After striding a mile per step in his magic mocassins, Hiawatha arrives in the land of the magician, where he battles poison serpent guards. When finally face to face with Megissogwon, Hiawatha finds that his expert bowmanship is of no avail because the magician’s wampum shirt is enchanted and protects him. A woodpecker reveals to Hiawatha the magician’s vulnerable spot, which enables Hiawatha to vanquish Megissogwon and save his village from the fever. To reward the woodpecker, Hiawatha dyes the bird’s head red with the magician’s blood as...
(The entire section is 476 words.)