'Pau -Puk-Keewis' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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You shall hear how Pau-Puk-Keewis,
He, the handsome Yenadizze,
Whom the people called the Storm-Fool,
Vexed the village with disturbance;
You shall hear of all his mischief,
And his flight from Hiawatha,
And his wondrous transmigrations,
And the end of his adventures.
On the shores of Gitche Gumee,
On the dunes of Nagow Wudjoo,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water
Stood the lodge of Pau-Puk-Keewis.
It was he who in his frenzy
Whirled these drifting sands together,
On the dunes of Nagow Wudjoo,
When, among the guests assembled,
He so merrily and madly
Danced at Hiawatha's wedding,
Danced the Beggar's Dance to please them.
Now, in search of new adventures,
From his lodge went Pau-Puk-Keewis,
Came with speed into the village,
Found the young men all assembled
In the lodge of old Iagoo,
Listening to his monstrous stories,
To his wonderful adventures.
He was telling them the story
Of Ojeeg, the Summer-Maker,
How he made a hole in heaven,
How he climbed up into heaven,
And let out the summer-weather,
The perpetual, pleasant Summer;
How the Otter first essayed it;
How the Beaver, Lynx, and Badger
Tried in turn the great achievement,
From the summit of the mountain
Smote their fists against the heavens,
Smote against the sky their foreheads,
Cracked the sky, but could not break it;
How the Wolverine, uprising,
Made him ready for the encounter,
Bent his knees down, like a squirrel,
Drew his arms back, like a cricket.
"Once he leaped," said old Iagoo,
"Once he leaped, and lo! above him
Bent the sky, as ice in rivers
When the waters rise beneath it;
Twice he leaped, and lo! above him
Cracked the sky, as ice in rivers
When the freshet is at highest!
Thrice he leaped, and lo! above him
Broke the shattered sky asunder,
And he disappeared within it,
And Ojeeg, the Fisher Weasel,
With a bound went in behind him!"
"Hark you!" shouted Pau-Puk-Keewis
As he entered at the doorway;
"I am tired of all this talking,
Tired of old Iagoo's stories,
Tired of Hiawatha's wisdom.
Here is something to amuse you,
Better than this endless talking."
Then from out his pouch of wolf-skin
Forth he drew, with solemn manner,
All the game of Bowl and Counters,
Pugasaing, with thirteen pieces.
White on one side were they painted,
And vermilion on the other;
Two Kenabeeks or great serpents,
Two Ininewug or wedge-men,
One great war-club, Pugamaugun,
And one slender fish, the Keego,
Four round pieces, Ozawabeeks,
And three Sheshebwug or ducklings.
All were made of bone and painted,
All except the Ozawabeeks;
These were brass, on one side burnished,
And were black upon the other.
In a wooden bowl he placed them,
Shook and jostled them together,
Threw them on the ground before him,
Thus exclaiming and explaining:
"Red side up are all the pieces,
And one great Kenabeek standing
On the bright side of a brass piece,
On a burnished Ozawabeek;
Thirteen tens and eight are counted."
Then again he shook the pieces,
Shook and jostled them together,
Threw them on the ground before him,
Still exclaiming and explaining:
"White are both the great Kenabeeks,
White the Ininewug, the wedge-men,
Red are all the other pieces;
Five tens and an eight are counted."
Thus he taught the game of hazard,
Thus displayed it and explained it,
Running through its various chances,
Various changes, various meanings:
Twenty curious eyes stared at him,
Full of eagerness stared at him.
"Many games," said old Iagoo,
"Many games of skill and hazard
Have I seen in different nations,
Have I played in different countries.
He who plays with old Iagoo
Must have very nimble fingers;
Though you think yourself so skilful,
I can beat you, Pau-Puk-Keewis,
I can even give you lessons
In your game of Bowl and Counters!"
So they sat and played together,
All the old men and the young men,
Played for dresses, weapons, wampum,
Played till midnight, played till morning,
Played until the Yenadizze,
Till the cunning Pau-Puk-Keewis,
Of their treasures had despoiled them,
Of the best of all their dresses,
Shirts of deer-skin, robes of ermine,
Belts of wampum, crests of feathers,
Warlike weapons, pipes and pouches.
Twenty eyes glared wildly at him,
Like the eyes of wolves glared at him.
Said the lucky Pau-Puk-Keewis:
"In my wigwam I am lonely,
In my wanderings and adventures
I have need of a companion,
Fain would have a Meshinauwa,
An attendant and pipe-bearer.
I will venture all these winnings,
All these garments heaped about me,
All this wampum, all these feathers,
On a single throw will venture
All against the young man yonder!"
`T was a youth of sixteen summers,
`T was a nephew of Iagoo;
Face-in-a-Mist, the people called him.
As the fire burns in a pipe-head
Dusky red beneath the ashes,
So beneath his shaggy eyebrows
Glowed the eyes of old Iagoo.
"Ugh!" he answered very fiercely;
"Ugh!" they answered all and each one.
Seized the wooden bowl the old man,
Closely in his bony fingers
Clutched the fatal bowl, Onagon,
Shook it fiercely and with fury,
Made the pieces ring together
As he threw them down before him.
Red were both the great Kenabeeks,
Red the Ininewug, the wedge-men,
Red the Sheshebwug, the ducklings,
Black the four brass Ozawabeeks,
White alone the fish, the Keego;
Only five the pieces counted!
Then the smiling Pau-Puk-Keewis
Shook the bowl and threw the pieces;
Lightly in the air he tossed them,
And they fell about him scattered;
Dark and bright the Ozawabeeks,
Red and white the other pieces,
And upright among the others
One Ininewug was standing,
Even as crafty Pau-Puk-Keewis
Stood alone among the players,
Saying, "Five tens! mine the game is,"
Twenty eyes glared at him fiercely,
Like the eyes of wolves glared at him,
As he turned and left the wigwam,
Followed by his Meshinauwa,
By the nephew of Iagoo,
By the tall and graceful stripling,
Bearing in his arms the winnings,
Shirts of deer-skin, robes of ermine,
Belts of wampum, pipes and weapons.
"Carry them," said Pau-Puk-Keewis,
Pointing with his fan of feathers,
"To my wigwam far to eastward,
On the dunes of Nagow Wudjoo!"
Hot and red with smoke and gambling
Were the eyes of Pau-Puk-Keewis
As he came forth to the freshness
Of the pleasant Summer morning.
All the birds were singing gayly,
All the streamlets flowing swiftly,
And the heart of Pau-Puk-Keewis
Sang with pleasure as the birds sing,
Beat with triumph like the streamlets,
As he wandered through the village,
In the early gray of morning,
With his fan of turkey-feathers,
With his plumes and tufts of swan's down,
Till he reached the farthest wigwam,
Reached the lodge of Hiawatha.
Silent was it and deserted;
No one met him at the doorway,
No one came to bid him welcome;
But the birds were singing round it,
In and out and round the doorway,
Hopping, singing, fluttering, feeding,
And aloft upon the ridge-pole
Kahgahgee, the King of Ravens,
Sat with fiery eyes, and, screaming,
Flapped his wings at Pau-Puk-Keewis.
"All are gone! the lodge Is empty!"
Thus it was spake Pau-Puk-Keewis,
In his heart resolving mischief
"Gone is wary Hiawatha,
Gone the silly Laughing Water,
Gone Nokomis, the old woman,
And the lodge is left unguarded!"
By the neck he seized the raven,
Whirled it round him like a rattle,
Like a medicine-pouch he shook it,
Strangled Kahgahgee, the raven,
From the ridge-pole of the wigwam
Left its lifeless body hanging,
As an insult to its master,
As a taunt to Hiawatha.
With a stealthy step he entered,
Round the lodge in wild disorder
Threw the household things about him,
Piled together in confusion
Bowls of wood and earthen kettles,
Robes of buffalo and beaver,
Skins of otter, lynx, and ermine,
As an insult to Nokomis,
As a taunt to Minnehaha.
Then departed Pau-Puk-Keewis,
Whistling, singing through the forest,
Whistling gayly to the squirrels,
Who from hollow boughs above him
Dropped their acorn-shells upon him,
Singing gayly to the wood birds,
Who from out the leafy darkness
Answered with a song as merry.
Then he climbed the rocky headlands,
Looking o'er the Gitche Gumee,
Perched himself upon their summit,
Waiting full of mirth and mischief
The return of Hiawatha.
Stretched upon his back he lay there;
Far below him splashed the waters,
Plashed and washed the dreamy waters;
Far above him swam the heavens,
Swam the dizzy, dreamy heavens;
Round him hovered, fluttered, rustled
Hiawatha's mountain chickens,
Flock-wise swept and wheeled about him,
Almost brushed him with their pinions.
And he killed them as he lay there,
Slaughtered them by tens and twenties,
Threw their bodies down the headland,
Threw them on the beach below him,
Till at length Kayoshk, the sea-gull,
Perched upon a crag above them,
Shouted: "It is Pau-Puk-Keewis!
He is slaying us by hundreds!
Send a message to our brother,
Tidings send to Hiawatha!"

Editor 1 Interpretation

Pau-Puk-Keewis: An Exploration of Longfellow's Use of Mythology and Symbolism

Have you ever been curious about the legends and mythologies of the Indigenous people of North America? Well, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Pau-Puk-Keewis" offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Ojibwe tribe. This classic poem, published in 1855 as part of Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha," tells the story of a mischievous trickster named Pau-Puk-Keewis who causes chaos and mischief throughout the land.

But there is much more to this poem than just a tale of a trickster. In fact, Longfellow uses a variety of literary techniques to convey deeper meanings and themes throughout "Pau-Puk-Keewis." Through the use of mythology, symbolism, and characterization, Longfellow creates a complex and multi-layered narrative that speaks to the human experience.

Mythology in "Pau-Puk-Keewis"

One of the most striking aspects of "Pau-Puk-Keewis" is Longfellow's incorporation of Ojibwe mythology. The poem is filled with references to Ojibwe gods and spirits, such as the Great Spirit Gitche Manito and the trickster deity Nanabozho. These mythological figures are not just decorative elements; they serve to deepen the meaning and significance of the poem.

For example, Pau-Puk-Keewis is often compared to Nanabozho, who is also a trickster figure in Ojibwe mythology. By drawing this parallel, Longfellow is able to explore the role of tricksters in society. Both Pau-Puk-Keewis and Nanabozho are seen as troublemakers, but they also serve an important purpose. They challenge the status quo and disrupt the established order, forcing people to question their assumptions and beliefs. In this way, Longfellow suggests that even chaos and disorder can be productive forces in society.

Another important mythological figure in "Pau-Puk-Keewis" is the Great Spirit Gitche Manito. Throughout the poem, Longfellow frequently invokes Gitche Manito as a kind of all-seeing, all-knowing force. For example, in one section of the poem, Gitche Manito intervenes to stop Pau-Puk-Keewis from causing more mischief:

Gitche Manito, the mighty, Heard, and saw the mischievous Pau-Puk-Keewis Saw him stealing in the moonlight Saw his wicked eyes reflecting From the jutting rocks and crags

By portraying Gitche Manito as a powerful deity who can intervene in human affairs, Longfellow suggests that there is more to the world than just what we can see and experience. There is a larger, spiritual realm that exists beyond our everyday lives, and it is important to acknowledge and respect this realm.

Symbolism in "Pau-Puk-Keewis"

In addition to mythology, Longfellow also uses a variety of symbols throughout "Pau-Puk-Keewis" to convey deeper meaning. One of the most important symbols in the poem is the moon. The moon appears repeatedly throughout the poem, often in association with Pau-Puk-Keewis:

Pau-Puk-Keewis, little rascal, How he sat and laughed at Hiawatha! Sang his song of satisfaction, And the evening breeze went by him, Saying, with a rustling sound, Wah-wah-taysee, little fire-fly, Little, dancing, white-fire insect, Little, flitting, white-fire fairy, Light me with your little candle, Ere upon my bed I lay me, Ere in sleep I close my eyelids!

By using the moon as a symbol for Pau-Puk-Keewis, Longfellow is able to convey a number of different themes. On one level, the moon represents the trickster's unpredictable and ever-changing nature. Like the moon, Pau-Puk-Keewis is constantly shifting and evolving, making him difficult to pin down.

At the same time, the moon also represents a kind of primal, natural force. It is a reminder that the world is not just a human construct, but is also governed by natural laws and cycles. By emphasizing the moon's presence throughout the poem, Longfellow suggests that there is a natural order to the world that transcends human concerns.

Another important symbol in "Pau-Puk-Keewis" is the bow and arrow. Hiawatha is frequently depicted with his bow and arrow, which he uses to hunt and defend his people. But the bow and arrow also have a deeper symbolic significance. As weapons, they represent power and authority. By wielding the bow and arrow, Hiawatha is able to assert his dominance over the natural world and his enemies.

However, the bow and arrow also have a more ambiguous meaning. In some contexts, they can be seen as symbols of violence and aggression. By juxtaposing the symbol of the bow and arrow with the more peaceful themes of the poem, Longfellow creates a sense of tension and conflict that underlies the entire narrative.

Characterization in "Pau-Puk-Keewis"

Finally, Longfellow's characterization of his various figures is another important aspect of the poem. Hiawatha, for example, is portrayed as a wise and patient leader who is able to see the good in even the most troublesome individuals. Pau-Puk-Keewis, on the other hand, is a more complex figure. He is at once mischievous and charming, but also capable of great cruelty and violence.

By creating such a nuanced and multi-faceted character in Pau-Puk-Keewis, Longfellow is able to explore the complexities of human nature. Are we inherently good or evil? Can we change our nature, or are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again? These are just some of the questions that Longfellow raises through his characterization of Pau-Puk-Keewis.


"Pau-Puk-Keewis" is a nuanced and complex poem that uses a variety of literary techniques to convey deeper meaning and significance. Through the use of mythology, symbolism, and characterization, Longfellow creates a narrative that speaks to the human experience. Whether you are interested in Ojibwe mythology or just looking for a thought-provoking poem, "Pau-Puk-Keewis" is definitely worth a read.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Pau-Puk-Keewis: A Masterpiece by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century, is known for his lyrical and narrative poems that capture the essence of American life and culture. His poem "The Song of Hiawatha" is a prime example of his talent for weaving together myth, legend, and history into a compelling narrative. One of the most memorable characters in this epic poem is Pau-Puk-Keewis, a mischievous and cunning trickster who embodies the spirit of the North American Indian.

In this article, we will take a closer look at Longfellow's poem "Pau-Puk-Keewis" and explore its themes, symbolism, and literary devices. We will also examine the historical and cultural context in which the poem was written and its significance for contemporary readers.

The Story of Pau-Puk-Keewis

"Pau-Puk-Keewis" is a standalone poem that appears in the middle of "The Song of Hiawatha." It tells the story of a young man named Pau-Puk-Keewis, who is known for his love of mischief and his skill at hunting and fishing. He is described as a handsome and athletic figure, with long hair and a playful demeanor.

The poem begins with a description of Pau-Puk-Keewis's exploits, including his ability to catch fish with his bare hands and his habit of teasing the other young men in his tribe. He is also known for his love of dancing and singing, and he often performs for the other members of his tribe.

One day, Pau-Puk-Keewis decides to challenge the mighty Mishe-Nahma, a giant fish that lives in the depths of a nearby lake. He sets out in his canoe, armed with only a fishing line and a hook, and after a long struggle, he manages to catch the fish. He then returns to his village, where he is hailed as a hero and celebrated with feasting and dancing.

However, Pau-Puk-Keewis's success soon goes to his head, and he becomes arrogant and boastful. He begins to taunt the other young men in his tribe, challenging them to contests of strength and skill. He even goes so far as to steal the sacred drum of the tribe, which is used in religious ceremonies.

The other members of the tribe are outraged by Pau-Puk-Keewis's behavior, and they decide to teach him a lesson. They trick him into thinking that he has been chosen to marry a beautiful maiden named Oweenee, who is actually a hideous old woman in disguise. Pau-Puk-Keewis is humiliated and embarrassed, and he learns a valuable lesson about the dangers of pride and arrogance.

Themes and Symbolism

One of the central themes of "Pau-Puk-Keewis" is the idea of the trickster figure, which is a common motif in Native American mythology. The trickster is a character who uses his wit and cunning to outsmart his opponents and achieve his goals. Pau-Puk-Keewis embodies this archetype, as he is constantly playing pranks and pulling off daring feats of skill and bravery.

Another important theme of the poem is the idea of hubris, or excessive pride. Pau-Puk-Keewis's downfall is ultimately caused by his own arrogance and overconfidence. He becomes so convinced of his own superiority that he begins to alienate the other members of his tribe and disregard their customs and traditions.

The symbolism in "Pau-Puk-Keewis" is also rich and complex. The giant fish Mishe-Nahma represents the power and mystery of nature, which can be both awe-inspiring and dangerous. Pau-Puk-Keewis's success in catching the fish is a testament to his skill and bravery, but it also foreshadows his eventual downfall.

The sacred drum of the tribe represents the spiritual and cultural traditions of the Native American people. Pau-Puk-Keewis's theft of the drum is a symbol of his disrespect for these traditions and his disregard for the values of his community.

Literary Devices

Longfellow's use of literary devices in "Pau-Puk-Keewis" is masterful and effective. The poem is written in trochaic tetrameter, which gives it a rhythmic and musical quality. The use of repetition and alliteration also adds to the poem's musicality and helps to create a sense of unity and coherence.

Longfellow also employs vivid imagery and sensory details to bring the story to life. The descriptions of Pau-Puk-Keewis's fishing and hunting expeditions are particularly vivid, and they help to create a sense of the natural world as a place of wonder and mystery.

The use of irony and humor is also a key element of the poem. Longfellow uses these devices to create a sense of lightness and playfulness, even as he explores serious themes such as pride and tradition.

Historical and Cultural Context

"Pau-Puk-Keewis" was written in the mid-19th century, at a time when Native American culture was being romanticized and idealized by white Americans. Longfellow was part of a group of writers and artists who sought to create a mythology of the American West that would capture the spirit and essence of the Native American people.

However, Longfellow's portrayal of Native American culture has been criticized for its inaccuracies and stereotypes. Some scholars have argued that his depiction of Pau-Puk-Keewis as a trickster figure perpetuates the idea of Native Americans as primitive and uncivilized.

Despite these criticisms, "Pau-Puk-Keewis" remains a powerful and enduring work of American literature. Its themes of pride, tradition, and the power of nature continue to resonate with readers today, and its vivid imagery and musical language make it a joy to read and recite.


In conclusion, "Pau-Puk-Keewis" is a masterpiece of American poetry that captures the spirit and essence of Native American culture. Longfellow's use of literary devices, symbolism, and themes creates a rich and complex portrait of a young man who embodies the trickster archetype. The poem's historical and cultural context adds to its significance, as it reflects the romanticization of Native American culture in the 19th century. Despite its flaws, "Pau-Puk-Keewis" remains a powerful and enduring work of literature that continues to inspire and delight readers today.

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