'Hiawatha 's Friends' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Two good friends had Hiawatha,
Singled out from all the others,
Bound to him in closest union,
And to whom he gave the right hand
Of his heart, in joy and sorrow;
Chibiabos, the musician,
And the very strong man, Kwasind.
Straight between them ran the pathway,
Never grew the grass upon it;
Singing birds, that utter falsehoods,
Story-tellers, mischief-makers,
Found no eager ear to listen,
Could not breed ill-will between them,
For they kept each other's counsel,
Spake with naked hearts together,
Pondering much and much contriving
How the tribes of men might prosper.
Most beloved by Hiawatha
Was the gentle Chibiabos,
He the best of all musicians,
He the sweetest of all singers.
Beautiful and childlike was he,
Brave as man is, soft as woman,
Pliant as a wand of willow,
Stately as a deer with antlers.
When he sang, the village listened;
All the warriors gathered round him,
All the women came to hear him;
Now he stirred their souls to passion,
Now he melted them to pity.
From the hollow reeds he fashioned
Flutes so musical and mellow,
That the brook, the Sebowisha,
Ceased to murmur in the woodland,
That the wood-birds ceased from singing,
And the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
Ceased his chatter in the oak-tree,
And the rabbit, the Wabasso,
Sat upright to look and listen.
Yes, the brook, the Sebowisha,
Pausing, said, "O Chibiabos,
Teach my waves to flow in music,
Softly as your words in singing!"
Yes, the bluebird, the Owaissa,
Envious, said, "O Chibiabos,
Teach me tones as wild and wayward,
Teach me songs as full of frenzy!"
Yes, the robin, the Opechee,
Joyous, said, "O Chibiabos,
Teach me tones as sweet and tender,
Teach me songs as full of gladness!"
And the whippoorwill, Wawonaissa,
Sobbing, said, "O Chibiabos,
Teach me tones as melancholy,
Teach me songs as full of sadness!"
All the many sounds of nature
Borrowed sweetness from his singing;
All the hearts of men were softened
By the pathos of his music;
For he sang of peace and freedom,
Sang of beauty, love, and longing;
Sang of death, and life undying
In the Islands of the Blessed,
In the kingdom of Ponemah,
In the land of the Hereafter.
Very dear to Hiawatha
Was the gentle Chibiabos,
He the best of all musicians,
He the sweetest of all singers;
For his gentleness he loved him,
And the magic of his singing.
Dear, too, unto Hiawatha
Was the very strong man, Kwasind,
He the strongest of all mortals,
He the mightiest among many;
For his very strength he loved him,
For his strength allied to goodness.
Idle in his youth was Kwasind,
Very listless, dull, and dreamy,
Never played with other children,
Never fished and never hunted,
Not like other children was he;
But they saw that much he fasted,
Much his Manito entreated,
Much besought his Guardian Spirit.
"Lazy Kwasind!" said his mother,
"In my work you never help me!
In the Summer you are roaming
Idly in the fields and forests;
In the Winter you are cowering
O'er the firebrands in the wigwam!
In the coldest days of Winter
I must break the ice for fishing;
With my nets you never help me!
At the door my nets are hanging,
Dripping, freezing with the water;
Go and wring them, Yenadizze!
Go and dry them in the sunshine!"
Slowly, from the ashes, Kwasind
Rose, but made no angry answer;
From the lodge went forth in silence,
Took the nets, that hung together,
Dripping, freezing at the doorway;
Like a wisp of straw he wrung them,
Like a wisp of straw he broke them,
Could not wring them without breaking,
Such the strength was in his fingers.
"Lazy Kwasind!" said his father,
"In the hunt you never help me;
Every bow you touch is broken,
Snapped asunder every arrow;
Yet come with me to the forest,
You shall bring the hunting homeward."
Down a narrow pass they wandered,
Where a brooklet led them onward,
Where the trail of deer and bison
Marked the soft mud on the margin,
Till they found all further passage
Shut against them, barred securely
By the trunks of trees uprooted,
Lying lengthwise, lying crosswise,
And forbidding further passage.
"We must go back," said the old man,
"O'er these logs we cannot clamber;
Not a woodchuck could get through them,
Not a squirrel clamber o'er them!"
And straightway his pipe he lighted,
And sat down to smoke and ponder.
But before his pipe was finished,
Lo! the path was cleared before him;
All the trunks had Kwasind lifted,
To the right hand, to the left hand,
Shot the pine-trees swift as arrows,
Hurled the cedars light as lances.
"Lazy Kwasind!" said the young men,
As they sported in the meadow:
"Why stand idly looking at us,
Leaning on the rock behind you?
Come and wrestle with the others,
Let us pitch the quoit together!"
Lazy Kwasind made no answer,
To their challenge made no answer,
Only rose, and slowly turning,
Seized the huge rock in his fingers,
Tore it from its deep foundation,
Poised it in the air a moment,
Pitched it sheer into the river,
Sheer into the swift Pauwating,
Where it still is seen in Summer.
Once as down that foaming river,
Down the rapids of Pauwating,
Kwasind sailed with his companions,
In the stream he saw a beaver,
Saw Ahmeek, the King of Beavers,
Struggling with the rushing currents,
Rising, sinking in the water.
Without speaking, without pausing,
Kwasind leaped into the river,
Plunged beneath the bubbling surface,
Through the whirlpools chased the beaver,
Followed him among the islands,
Stayed so long beneath the water,
That his terrified companions
Cried, "Alas! good-by to Kwasind!
We shall never more see Kwasind!"
But he reappeared triumphant,
And upon his shining shoulders
Brought the beaver, dead and dripping,
Brought the King of all the Beavers.
And these two, as I have told you,
Were the friends of Hiawatha,
Chibiabos, the musician,
And the very strong man, Kwasind.
Long they lived in peace together,
Spake with naked hearts together,
Pondering much and much contriving
How the tribes of men might prosper.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Hiawatha's Friends" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: A Criticism and Interpretation

Oh, what a beautiful poem "Hiawatha's Friends" is! Written by the renowned American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, this piece of literature has been captivating readers for over a century. With its vivid imagery, rhythmic verses, and a heartwarming story, "Hiawatha's Friends" is a true masterpiece of American poetry. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, symbols, and literary devices used by Longfellow in his poem and understand its relevance in today's world.


"Hiawatha's Friends" is a part of Longfellow's epic poem "The Song of Hiawatha," which was published in 1855. The poem tells the story of a Native American chieftain named Hiawatha and his people, the Ojibwe tribe. It is a celebration of Native American culture, traditions, and spirituality. Longfellow draws inspiration from the Ojibwe legends and mythology to create a narrative that is both informative and entertaining.

"Hiawatha's Friends" is a part of the fifth chapter of the poem, "Hiawatha's Fasting," where Hiawatha undertakes a spiritual journey to receive a vision from the Great Spirit. On his journey, Hiawatha encounters various animals and birds who become his friends and offer him guidance. "Hiawatha's Friends" focuses on the friendship between Hiawatha and the animals, and how they help him in his quest for enlightenment.


One of the central themes of "Hiawatha's Friends" is the interdependence of nature and humanity. Longfellow portrays the animals as sentient beings who have their own emotions, desires, and wisdom. They are not merely objects in the background but active participants in Hiawatha's journey. The animals teach Hiawatha important lessons about patience, perseverance, and the importance of self-reflection. By acknowledging the animals' agency and intelligence, Longfellow challenges the Eurocentric view of nature as a passive resource to be exploited.

Another theme that runs throughout the poem is the idea of spiritual growth and enlightenment. Hiawatha's journey is not just a physical one but a spiritual one as well. His encounter with the animals represents a test of his character and his ability to understand the Great Spirit's message. Hiawatha's willingness to learn from the animals and his humility in accepting their guidance is what allows him to receive the vision he seeks.


One of the most prominent symbols in "Hiawatha's Friends" is the eagle. The eagle represents wisdom, courage, and spiritual enlightenment. It is said that the eagle can fly higher than any other bird and see things from a perspective that is beyond human comprehension. When Hiawatha encounters the eagle, it offers him a feather as a symbol of its wisdom and spiritual insight. The feather becomes a talisman for Hiawatha, helping him navigate his journey and stay true to his path.

Another symbol that appears in the poem is the bear. The bear represents strength, tenacity, and resilience. When Hiawatha encounters the bear, it challenges him to a wrestling match. The bear is a formidable opponent, but Hiawatha manages to best it with his wit and agility. The bear becomes a symbol of Hiawatha's physical and mental strength, and his victory over it represents his ability to overcome obstacles on his journey.

Literary Devices

Longfellow employs several literary devices in "Hiawatha's Friends" to create a rich and evocative atmosphere. One of the most notable devices he uses is alliteration. The repetition of consonant sounds in words like "pattered," "plopped," and "plashed" creates a musical quality to the poem that mimics the natural sounds of the forest.

Longfellow also uses repetition to create a sense of rhythm and emphasize key ideas. The refrain "thus it whispered" appears throughout the poem, signaling the animals' guidance and Hiawatha's receptiveness to their wisdom. The repetition of the phrase "with his mittens" emphasizes the importance of the mittens as a symbol of Hiawatha's determination and spiritual strength.


"Hiawatha's Friends" is a poem that speaks to the importance of respecting and learning from the natural world. In today's world, where environmental degradation and climate change threaten our planet's survival, Longfellow's message resonates even more strongly. The poem reminds us that we are not separate from nature but a part of it, and that our actions have consequences for the entire ecosystem.

Furthermore, the poem challenges the Eurocentric view of Native American culture as primitive and inferior. Longfellow portrays the Ojibwe people as wise, spiritual, and resilient, challenging the dominant narrative of Native American cultures as savage and uncivilized. In doing so, he affirms the value of Native American traditions and contributes to a more inclusive understanding of American culture.

In conclusion, "Hiawatha's Friends" is a beautiful and inspiring poem that celebrates the interdependence of humanity and nature, the importance of spiritual growth, and the wisdom of Native American cultures. Longfellow's use of vivid imagery, rhythmic verses, and literary devices creates a rich and evocative atmosphere that transports the reader to a world where animals are guides and teachers, and the natural world is a source of wisdom and inspiration. The poem's relevance to today's world makes it a timeless classic that deserves to be read and appreciated by generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Hiawatha's Friends" is a classic poem that tells the story of Hiawatha, a Native American hero, and his friends. The poem is a part of Longfellow's epic poem, "The Song of Hiawatha," which was published in 1855. The poem is a beautiful portrayal of the Native American culture and their way of life. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, literary devices, and the cultural significance of "Hiawatha's Friends."


The poem "Hiawatha's Friends" is a celebration of friendship and the importance of community. The poem portrays the Native American way of life, where people lived in harmony with nature and each other. Hiawatha's friends are a diverse group of animals, birds, and fish, who come together to help Hiawatha in his quest to bring peace to his people. The poem highlights the importance of unity and cooperation in achieving a common goal.

Another theme that is prominent in the poem is the idea of respect for nature. The Native Americans believed that everything in nature was sacred and had a spirit. The poem portrays this belief through the interactions between Hiawatha and his friends. Hiawatha treats his friends with respect and kindness, and in return, they help him in his quest. The poem also highlights the importance of balance in nature, and how everything is interconnected.

Literary Devices

Longfellow uses a variety of literary devices in "Hiawatha's Friends" to create a vivid and engaging poem. One of the most prominent literary devices used in the poem is repetition. The poem has a repetitive structure, with each stanza beginning with the phrase "Thus said." This repetition creates a rhythmic flow to the poem and emphasizes the importance of the message being conveyed.

Another literary device used in the poem is personification. Longfellow personifies the animals, birds, and fish, giving them human-like qualities. This personification creates a sense of empathy and connection between the reader and the animals, making them more relatable and endearing.

The poem also uses imagery to create a vivid picture of the natural world. Longfellow describes the animals, birds, and fish in detail, painting a picture of the beauty and diversity of nature. The use of imagery also helps to convey the theme of respect for nature, as the reader is able to see the animals and their habitats in detail.

Cultural Significance

"Hiawatha's Friends" is a significant poem in terms of its portrayal of Native American culture. Longfellow was inspired by the Ojibwe and other Native American tribes, and he sought to create a poem that celebrated their culture and way of life. The poem portrays the Native Americans as a peaceful and harmonious people, living in balance with nature and each other.

The poem also highlights the importance of oral tradition in Native American culture. The story of Hiawatha and his friends is passed down through generations, and Longfellow sought to capture this tradition in his poem. The repetitive structure of the poem is reminiscent of the oral tradition, where stories are repeated and passed down through the generations.

In conclusion, "Hiawatha's Friends" is a beautiful poem that celebrates friendship, respect for nature, and the Native American way of life. Longfellow's use of literary devices and imagery creates a vivid and engaging poem that captures the reader's imagination. The poem is a significant piece of literature in terms of its portrayal of Native American culture and its celebration of oral tradition.

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