The Song of Hiawatha, completed


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Manabozho in the flood. (Illustration by R.C. Armour, from his book North American Indian Fairy Tales, Folklore and Legends, 1905)

Manabozho in the flood. (Illustration by R. C. Armour, from his book North American Indian Fairy Tales Folklore and Legends, 1905) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pictured above, for the second time in this little series on North American Indians, is Manabozho or Nanabozho and his “brothers:” the beaver, the otter and the muskrat. We know that Manabozho, a Objiwa, who lived near Lake Superior, Longfellow’s “Gitche Gumee,” was swallowed by the king-fish whom he killed by pounding on his heart. Manabozho is a “Culture Hero” who “made land.”

The Historical Hiawatha

Hiawatha, “the hero of these legends [Longfellow’s legends],” was not Hiawatha (who was a historical Iroquois leader of the sixteenth century”), but Manabozho[1] who “joined Huron (the Wyandot people) Deganawida in a plan to end warfare among Native Americans in what is now New York State.”[2]

In fact, as a follower of the Great Peacemaker, Deganawida, the historical Hiawatha did as “Gitche Manito, the mighty, the creator of the nations[.]” (Canto i) requests Longfellow’s Hiawatha to do. He brought peace.

In The Song of Hiawatha‘s Gitche Manito, a creator, was tired of the wars waged among Amerindian tribes and sent a prophet: Hiawatha. The Iroquois and Hurons speak related language.

“I have given you lands to hunt in,
I have given you streams to fish in,
I have given you bear and bison,
I have given you roe and reindeer,
I have given you brant and beaver,
Filled the marshes full of wild-fowl,
Filled the rivers full of fishes:
Why then are you not contented?
Why then will you hunt each other?”

“I am weary of your quarrels,…” (Canto i) 

Hiawatha (Photo credit: Gutenberg 8090)

Hiawatha (Photo credit: Gutenberg [EBook #9080]) (The artist’s name is at the top right of the image.)

From the full moon fell Nokomis

From the full moon fell Nokomis (Photo credit: Gutenberg [EBook #31922]

Westward, Westward, Hiawathat sailed into the fiery sunset

Westward, Westward, Hiawatha sailed into the fiery sunset (Photo credit: Gutenberg [EBook #31922]

Manabozho as Creator

Longfellow’s source was Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, but although Hiawatha is generally considered a Manabozho, Manabozho was a creator, in which he again differs from Longfellow’s Hiawatha. According  to Stith Thompson:

[s]ometimes we find the Creator living in a world before he has created it, and sometimes we are told of a primeval water presumably covering a not-yet-created. The latter conception is present in almost every American Indian creation story, with the probable exception of the Eskimo. It is on such a body of primeval water that the Creator, sometimes with a companion, finds himself floating about on a boat or raft. He sends various animals down to the bottom of the water to try to find some earth. One after another, they float back dead and unsuccessful. Finally, one of them, usually the muskrat, comes back with a bit of soil between his paws. The Creator takes this soil and works with it so that it expands and becomes the earth floating upon the original flood. (my bold letters)[3]

This is the story, entitled “A Legend of Manabozho,” R. C. Armour illustrated in North American Indian Fairy Tales Folklore and Legends (1905).[4] This Manabozho “made the land.” (p. 11 and p. 14) He is also the shapeshifter we have already met. As we have seen, he was able to transform himself into the trunk of a tree to escape a snake. Afterwards, his “brothers” were the beaver, the otter and the muskrat.

In short, Hiawatha described above as Manabozho, is not algogether Manabozho, in that he does not make land. (See The Song of Hiawatha, Wikipedia.) He is a hero because of his legendary deeds. Nanabozho, however, is the Ojibwa “Culture Hero” and a creator. In The Song of Hiawatha, the only deity is Gitche Manito, as his name suggests: Manito.

“I have given you lands to hunt in,
I have given you streams to fish in,
I have given you bear and bison, …” (Canto I)

One wonders why Longfellow called his variant of Manabozho, Hiawatha. It could simply be that he considered Hiawatha a more poetical name than Manabozho. Longfellow was a poet and poetry has its own imperatives, hence a degree of poetic license. Yet, both Hiawatha and Manabozho or Nanabozho, are inside the stomach of a fish.

Hiawatha and Winnehaha
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Hiawatha is the son of Mudjekeewis and Wenonah, but his birth is described as “miraculous” in Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. According to Chambers Biographical Dictionary, his name means “He Makes Rivers.”[5]

He was brought up by his grandmother Nokomis, his mother Wenonah having died at the time of his birth. Using his “magic mittens” and “enchanted” moccasins, an Amerindian variant of European seven-league boots, he goes to avenge his mother who appears to have been seduced by Mudjekeewis, the West Wind. Father and son fight but are reconciled. (Canto iv)

  • Hiawatha is the son of Wenonah and Mudjekeewis
  • Hiawatha wants to avenge his mother, who was abused by Mudjekeewis
  • Hiawatha and Mudjekeewis are reconciled
  • Hiawatha defeats Mondamin, the Corn Spirit and becomes the leader of his people
  • Maize grows from the buried body of Mondamin
  • Hiawatha kills the sturgeon Nahma (who has swollen both Hiawatha and his canoe)
  • He destroys Pearl-Feather, the sender of disease and death
  • Hiawatha marries Minnehaha, daughter of an arrow-maker and a Dakotah once hostile Dakotah, she is brought up by Nokowis, as is Hiawatha
  • Wedding feast and Song of the Evening Star: idyllic time of peace and culture. Osseo is reminiscent of “Beauty and the Beast” and Apuleius’ Golden Ass
  • Hiawatha rules until the death of Chibiabos, the musician man
  • H. kills Pau-Puk-Keewis, who has insulted him
  • Kwasing dies, killed Puk-Wudjies, the little people, a variant of Pigmies.
  • Ghosts are famished and soon so are Hiawatha’s people
  • Famine kills Minnehaha
  • Bees: fore-runner of the whites
  • Hiawatha leaves for the Isles of the Blest in Keewaydin to rule the kingdom of the Northwest Wind.”
  • Tells his people to heed a missionary offering a new religion.[6]
    The Squirrel is named Jidanneo and each seagull, a Kayoshk

The Evening Star: Osseo

I had planned to tell the story of Osseo and his wife Oweenee and will, briefly. It resembles “Beauty and the Beast,” but metamorphoses are so numerous that one is reminded of Apuleius’ Golden Ass.

Oweenee, the youngest of ten beautiful daughters, marries Osseo, an ugly old man because she loves him. Her nine sisters laugh. Osseo goes through an entry in an oak tree and emerges as a beautiful man. Oweenee, however, has become an ugly old woman. Osseo loves her as she loved him. As for the nine sisters and their husbands, they have been transformed into birds. Osseo’s father arrives just in time and tells Osseo to put the birds in a gilded cage and to bring the cage to his wigwam.

Although she looks old, Oweenee gives birth to a boy. When he learns to use his arrow, the boy points at the birds and hits one of them. The bird falls, but he is no longer a bird but a beautiful woman with an arrow in her bosom. She bleeds and her blood changes triggers metamorphoses. Oweenee is her beautiful self again and the birds are humans, but small: Puk-Wudjies. In fact, we are at the wedding again… Then come scourges.


Canto xiv is about the importance of literacy…, but I must close and we haven’t discussed Glooscap, a gigantic Creator who comes out of nothing, ex nihilo.

Stith Thompson writes about the work of ethnologists: Henry Schoolcraft (28 March 1794 – 10 December 1864), James Mooney (10 February 1861 – 22 December 1921)and, especially, Franz Boas, a famous ethnologist.

Not all tribes were removed, Southwest tribes weren’t. So anthropologists have collected hundreds of stories. However, although Longfellow was familiar with Amerindian lore, The Song of Hiawatha was written by a poet and lovingly.

It has been mocked, but it remains a favourite. For one thing, it is a tale of star-crossed lovers. Moreover, Longfellow knew that the Southeast Ojibwa had been removed from their land, knowledge that undoubtedly saddened him.

My kindest regards to all of you.


Sources and Resources


[1] Stith Thompson, The Folktale (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: The University of California Press, 1977 [1946]), p. 307.

[2] “Hiawatha,” in Una Govern, editor, 7th edition, Chambers Biographical Dictionary (Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers, 2003 [1897]).

[3] Stith Thompson, The Folktale, p. 311.

[4] R. C. Armour (illust.), North-American Indian Fairy Tales, Folklore, and Legends
(London: Gibbons & Co. and Philadelphia: Co J. B. Lippincott, 1905). Kessinger Legacy Reprints.

[5] “Hiawatha,” in Adrian Room (revised by), 16th edition, Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (London: Cassell, 2004 [1959]).

[6] “Hiawatha,” in James D. Hart with revisions and additions by Phillip W. Leininger, The Oxford Companion to American Literature, Sixth Edition (New York and Oxford: Oxford University press, 1995).

Hiawatha Melodrama

Antonín DvořákSymphony No. 9, “From the New World.”
Kevin Deas (narrator), Post Classical Ensemble conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez
Visual artist: Peter Bogdanoff & Frederic Church, George Catlin, Herbert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington …

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Photo credit: Google images)

© Micheline Walker
31 August 2015

“The Song of Hiawatha” as Amerindian Lore


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The Song of Hiawatha,” The Children’s Own Longfellow, 1908 (Photo credit: Gutenberg #9080)


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882), could create characters that would seem real to his readers. For Acadians who were deported (see Deportation of the Acadians), Longfellow’s fictional Évangéline, the heroine of an epic poem he published in 1847, is real. She spent years seeking Gabriel, her fiancé. When she found him, he was one of the dying she was attending to as a Sister of Mercy. Longfellow gave Acadians a heroic past that elevated them. Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha would not return their homes to North-American Indians, but it would mythicize them by giving them the obligatory glorious past in the person of Hiawatha, a Noble Savage.

The plight of Amerindians was greater than that of Acadians. The Removal Act of 1830 and the Cherokee Removal Act of 1838 deprived a large number of North America’s aboriginals of a territory that had been theirs since time immemorial.

The history of this Cherokee removal of 1838, as gleaned by the author from the lips of actors in the tragedy, may well exceed in weight of grief and pathos any other passage in American history. Even the much-sung exile of the Acadians falls far behind it in its sum of death and misery. (James Mooney, Myths of the Cherokees EBook #45634, p. 130.)

Henry Schoolcraft by Beal Brothers, 1855 (Photo credit: Wikipedia

Henry Schoolcraft by the Beal Brothers, 1855 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sources: Henry Rowe Schoolcraft

  • The growth of folkloristics and ethnology
  • The Jesuit Relations
  • Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (28 March 1793 – 10 December 1864)
  • The Brothers Grimm
  • Other sources
  • Manabozho

However, at that time in history, disciplines such as folkloristics and ethnology were emerging. As we have seen in earlier posts, the Brothers Grimm were folklorists.[1] The two brothers scoured German-language lands collecting folklore in the hope that tales would yield a unifying identity to scattered German-speaking Europeans.

As for Longfellow, his Song of Hiawatha would use Amerindian tales told to the rhythm of the trochaic meter of the Finnish Kalevala (see Trochaic tetrameter, Wikipedia), but he could not return to Amerindians the territory that was taken from them. Amerindians had been dispossessed and relocated. He could however ennoble America’s crushed aboriginals. To a large extent, Hiawatha is yet another chapter in the history of the Noble Savage which, according to Stith Thompson, finds its beginning in the Jesuit Relations, the yearly report Jesuit missionaries to New France sent to their superiors in France.[2]

The Jesuits (Thompson: 297-298) recorded the tales told by the Amerindians and, by the same token, were witnesses to what I will call ‘natural virtue,’ virtue that was not related to Catholicism and Christianity. One of our colleagues, Françoise Duhamel, wrote a comment associating the Noble Savage to Romanticism. French Romantic author François René, vicomte de Chateaubriand wrote Atala (1801), René (1802), Les Natchez (1790s) Voyage en Amérique (1826), thus invigorating the concept of the Noble Savage. Chateaubriand travelled to the United States in 1791. As an aristocrat, he was forced to leave France during the French Revolution. He was an émigré.

The Song of Hiawatha did elevate Amerindians. However, Native Americans also became a subject matter in emerging disciplines such as folkloristics and ethnology. In this regard, Longfellow’s main source would be Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, an Indian agent for the American government and an ethnologist. In 1846, eight years after the Cherokee Removal Act, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft “was commissioned for a major study, known as Indian Tribes of the United States, which was published in six volumes from 1851 to 1857.” (See Henry Schoolcraft, Wikipedia.) Britannica refers to two volumes.[3]

Henry Schoolcraft had been married to Jane Johnston (1800 – 1842), the “mixed race daughter of a prominent Scotch-Irish fur trader and Ojibwa mother, who was the daughter of a war chief.” (See Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Wikipedia). She had taught her husband Ojibwa. Jane Johnston is the first American Indian writer.

Longfellow also drew his subject matter from the Narratives of John Heckewelder (12 March 1743 – 21 January 1823), a missionary to the Indians, from Ojibwe[4] Chief Kahge-ga-gah-bowh “during his visits at the author’s,” and from “Black Hawk and other Sac [Sauk] and Fox Indians Longfellow encountered on Boston Common.”  (See The Song of Hiawatha, Wikipedia.) Hiawatha is an Ojibwa and there can be no doubt that Longfellow knew Amerindian tales. One need only read North American Indian Fairy Tales, Folklore and Legends (Amazon), illustrated by R. C. Armour and published in 1905. Would that this book were online! It may be, but I have not found it.[5]

R. C. Armour’s book features Mudjikewis, Hiawatha’s father in The Song of Hiawatha, the mischievous Paupukkewis (p. 15) whose name is Pau-Puk-Keewis in Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. More importantly, the book R. C. Armour illustrated, tells the adventures of Manabozho.

For instance, Manabozho is swallowed whole by the king-fish, a sturgeon named Nahma. So is Hiawatha. After giving a name—Ajidanneo (animal tail)—to a squirrel that has entered the fish, depicted in the image at the top of this post, Manabozho-Hiawatha “recommenced his attack of the king-fish’s heart, and by repeated blows he at last succeeded in killing him.” (p. 71) Gulls, whom he calls “my younger brothers” helped open the mouth of the sturgeon to free Hiawatha. As we have seen, for North-American Indians, there is no difference between humans and animals, hence the “my younger brothers” referring to the gulls. Manabozho names the gulls Kayoshk, a word meaning “noble scratchers” (p. 71). Moreover, Manabozho “made the land” (p. 11), in which he would be a creator.

The killing of Nahma is one of Hiawatha’s legendary deeds (geste, in chanson de geste). Two other legendary deeds are the killing of Mondamin, the Corn Spirit (canto v), and that of Pearl-Feather, the sender of death (canto viii). So is, to a lesser extent, the killing of Pau-Puk-Keewis (canto xiv).

Hiawatha by Thomas Ea kins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hiawatha by Thomas Eakins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Death of Minnehaha

Death of Minnehaha by William de Leftwich Dodge, 1885. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Temporary Conclusion

Were The Song of Hiawatha a fairy tale, it would end with the marriage of Hiawatha and Minnehaha. Moreover, the wedding-feast is followed by cantos that are looked upon as idyllic.

“As unto the bow the cord is,
So unto the man is woman;
Though she bends him, she obeys him,
Though she draws him, yet she follows;
Useless each without the other!” (Canto x of xxii)

Canto (xi) The Wedding-Feast (appearance of Pau-Puk-Keewis)
Canto (xii) The Evening Star (Osseo is transfigured)
Canto (xiii) Blessing of the Corn-Fields (the food of Amerindians)
Canto (xiv) Picture writing (to be able to write)

However, Hiawatha will lose his friends Chibiabos, the musician (canto xv) and Kwasind (canto xviii). We know moreover that the white man is arriving. Finally, having lost the beautiful Winnehaha, Hiawatha will walk into the sunset to go and rule the kingdom of the Northwest.

“In the wigwam with Nokomis [Minnehaha’s mother],
With those gloomy guests that watched her,
With the Famine and the Fever,
She was lying, the Beloved,
She, the dying Minnehaha.” (canto xx of xxii)

I am inserting a video, a lovely reading of the Pau-Puk-Keewis episode, and will then close because this post is already very long and my computer has slowed down.

Hiawatha was made into three Cantatas by Samuel Coleridge Taylor. This is not the music we will hear. The text and music we will hear is the Hiawatha Melodrama, based on Antonín Dvořák‘s Ninth Symphony: “From the New World,” Op. 95, B. 178.

In short, Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha is a product of its times. It partakes of the intellectual endeavours of folklorists and ethnologists.

Next, we will hear that Hiawatha is Manabozho. These were still the early years of ethnology! We should also tell more about Osseo (canto xii).


Sources and Resources


[1] Antti Aarne would publish his first index of folk-literature: Verzeichnis der Märchentypen, in 1910. Stith Thompson would continue Aarne’s work and publish his six-volume Motif-Index of Folk-Literature (1955-1958). It is an online publication.

[2] Stith Thompson, The Folktale (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: The University of California Press, 1977 [1946]), pp. 297-298.

[3] “Henry Wadsworth Longfellow”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 29 Aug. 2015

[4] Ojibwa are also called Ojibwe or Chippewa.

[5] R. C. Armour, illustrator, North-American Indian Fairy Tales, Folklore, and Legends (London: Gibbons & Co. and Philadelphia: Co. J. B. Lippincott, 1905). Kessinger Legacy Reprints.

Hiawatha Melodrama: The Hunting of Pau-Puk-Keewis

Antonín Dvořák
Kevin Deas (narrator), Post Classical Ensemble conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez
Visual artist: Peter Bogdanoff

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Longfellow (Google images)

© Micheline Walker
29 August 2015

“The Song of Hiawatha,” a Prologue


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Hiawatha and Minnehaha

Hiawatha and Minnehaha sculpture by Jacob Fjelde near Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s The Song of Hiawatha, published in 1855, will be posted today or early tomorrow, but it may require a short follow-up article. I have retold the entire story ‘succinctly,’ but it nevertheless made for a long article.

The Song of Hiawatha,

Hiawatha is given a mission by “Gitche Manito, the mighty, the creator of the nations[.]” (Canto i). He will be a “prophet” and put an end to the wars American Indian tribes wage one against another. The Song of Hiawatha is an epic poem, and therefore resembles the Epic of Gilgamesh and, closer to us, The Song of Roland in which Roland and his men defeat countless Saracens, Muslims, at the Battle of Roncevaux (778). It also brings to mind The Poem of the Cid, El Cantar de Mio Cid.

Hiawatha becomes a hero through legendary deeds and marries the beautiful Minnehaha. But we sense a tragedy. Ghosts come to haunt Winnehaha. They are famished, so she gives them food. This is a premonition. Famine kills Winnehaha and devastates Hiawatha’s people.

Much was expected of Hiawatha, much that he could not accomplish. The white man was arriving. After the death of Winnehaha, Hiawatha marches West to the Isles of the Blest in Keewaydin, where he will rule what I believe is the evanescent kingdom of the “Northwest Wind.”

“I beheld, too, in that vision
All the secrets of the future,
Of the distant days that shall be.
I beheld the westward marches
Of the unknown, crowded nations.
All the land was full of people,
Restless, struggling, toiling, striving,
Speaking many tongues, yet feeling
But one heart-beat in their bosoms.
In the woodlands rang their axes,
Smoked their towns in all the valleys,
Over all the lakes and rivers
Rushed their great canoes of thunder.

“Then a darker, drearier vision
Passed before me, vague and cloud-like;
I beheld our nation scattered,
All forgetful of my counsels,
Weakened, warring with each other:
Saw the remnants of our people
Sweeping westward, wild and woful,
Like the cloud-rack of a tempest,
Like the withered leaves of Autumn! (Canto xxi of xxii )

Before leaving, Hiawatha tells his people not to fear the Black Robes, the missionaries. I think we are now hearing Longfellow’s own voice.

Postage stamp issued on 16 February, 1940

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Postage Stamp issued on 16 February 1940 (Photo credit: Google Images)

The Song of Hiawatha (1855) was enormously successful, as had been Longfellow’s Évangéline, published in 1847.

Évangéline is the lesser tragedy. Acadians were deported. They were put aboard ships dividing families and betrothed. The Cajuns, descendants of Acadians, live in Louisiana, but many returned home or went into hiding, a large number went to Quebec, protected by Amerindians. For the most part, Acadians live in the Atlantic provinces of Canada, but their farms were not returned to them. However, they have been mythicized by Longfellow, which is a form of redemption, poetical as it may be.

To a certain extent, the same is true of The Song of Hiawatha. It ennobled a people. But Amerindians had been relocated; they had been torn away from the land that had always been theirs.

Ethnologists, two of whom are Claude Lévi-Strauss and Franz Boas, devoted long and insightful studies to Amerindians, totemism in particular, and the interest they have taken in Amerindian folklore and mythology has served to dignify North America’s Indians, which is not insignificant, but …

Évangéline (Google Images)

© Micheline Walker
27 August 2015

Comments on Aboriginal Tales


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Shoshone Indian (sic) Smoking by Alfred Jacob Miller (courtesy the Walters Art Museum)

The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, Maryland) (description)

This is a brief note. I am working on The Song of Hiawatha (1855) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882), but every Sunday I share brunch with a friend. I was in the kitchen.

About Amerindian tales

I have read several Amerindian “fairy tales.” Shapeshifting is a recurrent motif or “constant” in Amerindian tales. Shapeshifting is often a trickster’s device, but also an attempt to discover the truth and to protect oneself. It is survival through deceit, such as playing dead.

There are numerous Creation myths. They are listed in Wikipedia.

Sequoya's Syllabary

Sequoya’s Syllabary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sequoya’s Syllabary

Before Sequoya (1770 – 1840), the gifted Cherokee who created a syllabary, it is reported that Amerindians could not write. Once Sequoya invented his syllabary, literacy among the Cherokee surpassed the rate of literacy among the white. Sequoya, who may have been a Métis, developed 86 syllables, borrowing from several alphabets.

According to Wikipedia, in order to convince other Cherokees to use his syllabary, he wrote down what they were saying and called his daughter, to whom he had taught the Sequoya syllabary. She read her father’s text, and Cherokees recognized that it was what they had said.


John Ross, Cherokee Chief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sequoya moved to Oklahoma and may have done so voluntarily. But Scots-Cherokee Chief John Ross left Georgia unwillingly. Yet he organized the removal, at least part of it. He bought 12 wagons, the same wagons as the ones used to carry the white west, but each of which carried a total of 1,000 persons. I do not understand the full logistics of the removal. Some Cherokees travelled by boat, but many also walked during part of the 2,200-mile journey (3,218 km). It was a true “trail of tears.” Reports vary, but it appears 6,000 Cherokees died on their way to Oklahoma, one of whom was Chief John Ross’ first wife.

According to James Mooney, 4,000 lives were lost. (See Myths of the Cherokees, Gutenberg [EBook #45634].) In all, the population was “16,542 Cherokees, 201 inter-married whites, and 1592 slaves (total: 18,335 people).” (See Cherokee Removal, Wikipedia.)


American Indian oral tradition (

The Formulaic “A long time ago …”

Let me return to the Cherokee’s account of a deluge. It begins with the formulaic “A long time ago:”

(A long time ago a man had a dog, which began to go down to the river every day and look at the water and howl.) This formula tends to reinforce the fictional character of a story. It happened a long time ago and, if possible, elsewhere.

The formulaic “A long time ago… ” may be James Mooney’s wording. He is the person who took the tale away from an oral tradition to insert it in a learned, i.e. written, tradition. Yet it could be that storytellers have long used this kind of wording, if only to get attention.

“House [below] built in early 19th century by John McDonald, maternal grandfather of John Ross. Now called the ‘John Ross House,’ it was occupied by Ross’ daughter and her husband, Nicholas Scales. It is located in Rossville, Georgia.” (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Ross House


© Micheline Walker
23 August 2015

The Deluge and other Amerindian Myths


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Myths of the Cherokees

Myths of the Cherokees (Photo credit: Gutenberg #45634)

“In Cherokee mythology, as in that of Indian tribes generally, there is no essential difference between men and animals.” (V.15, James Mooney.)

The Deluge

We have returned to the subject of Amerindians, whose tales feature a large number of animals (see 15, James Mooney). However, their “myths” also tell about a deluge.

In his Myths of the Cherokees, James Mooney published a Cherokee tale about the deluge, which I have included in this post. Amerindians to the north, Hurons, also remembered the deluge. We will look at both and mention other characteristics of Amerindians.

I should note that James Mooney’s Myths of the Cherokees is an extract from the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology (1902). It is also dated 1900.

The Cherokee variant of the story of the deluge is as follows:

The Cherokee’s Deluge

A long time ago a man had a dog, which began to go down to the river every day and look at the water and howl. At last the man was angry and scolded the dog, which then spoke to him and said: “Very soon there is going to be a great freshet and the water will come so high that everybody will be drowned; but if you will make a raft to get upon when the rain comes you can be saved, but you must first throw me into the water.” The man did not believe it, and the dog said, “If you want a sign that I speak the truth, look at the back of my neck.” He looked and saw that the dog’s neck had the skin worn off so that the bones stuck out.

Then he believed the dog, and began to build a raft. Soon the rain came and he took his family, with plenty of provisions, and they all got upon it. It rained for a long time, and the water rose until the mountains were covered and all the people in the world were drowned. Then the rain stopped and the waters went down again, until at last it was safe to come off the raft. Now there was no one alive but the man and his family, but one day they heard a sound of dancing and shouting on the other side of the ridge. The man climbed to the top and looked over; everything was still, but all along the valley he saw great piles of bones of the people who had been drowned, and then he knew that the ghosts had been dancing.

Myths of the Cherokees, (V.14, James Mooney)


Contrary to the Bible‘s Noah’s Ark, animals are not saved in the Cherokee tale, yet a dog can sense the impending drama and he tells at least one man, Messou, who builds a raft for himself and his family, which may be consistent with the Cherokees’ belief that men and beasts were the same. They perceived a continuum between men and beasts and therefore probable animal ancestry. (See Totemism, Wikipedia)


In the Cherokee Mountains by James Mooney 1888 (Photo credit: Gutenberg #45634)


On Ononaluftee River by James Mooney, 1888 (Photo credit: Gutenberg #45634)

(Links in the following paragraph take the reader to the Canadian Encyclopedia and to Wikipedia.)

The anthologie[1] used by most students of French-Canadian or Québécois literature contains excerpts from the Jesuits’ Relations (Anthologie pp. 37-89) and the writings of other missionaries. Amerindians told Paul Le Jeune, SJ (Anthologie, pp. 56-57) about the deluge and that “Messou repared the world” (“Messou répara le monde”).

The Deluge
as told to Father Le Jeune

A man called Messou went hunting with wolves (“des loups cerviers”), instead of dogs, The man learned that there was danger lurking for his wolves near a lake. While chasing an elk, he went into that very lake and his wolves followed him. They sank immediately: “ils furent abysmez en un instant.” (17th-century spelling of abîmés as in abyss).[2] The hunter came up and started looking for his “brothers,” the wolves. A bird told him that they were being kept at the bottom of the lake by beasts and monsters. The hunter jumped into the lake and it started overflowing to the point of drowning the world. He, Messou, went about repairing the world with the help of a muskrat (un rat musqué). He then avenged his wolves (ses chasseurs [hunters]) by transforming himself into all kinds of animals, inspiring fear. This “reparateur” (sic)  then married a muskrat, now une souris musquée (a mouse), and they had children who resettled (repeupler) the world.

The existence of one god: Atahocan

Paul Le Jeune (1591 – 1664), a Jesuit (Société de Jésus: SJ) also wrote that Amerindians recognized that there was a being (une nature) superior to human beings:

“mais on ne peut nier qu’ils ne recognoissent quelque nature superieure à la nature de l’homme[.]” (17th-century spelling of reconnaissent and supérieure) (Anthologie, p. 57.) 

(“but we cannot deny that they recognize some nature [that is] superior to the nature of man[.]”) (a literal translation; Anthologie, p. 57.)

According to Amerindians, the God of the Jesuits, a god who created everything, “qui a tout fait,” was Atahocan, their god, who also created everything. In other words, both Christians and Hurons believed in one God.

In The Song of Hiawatha (1855), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s (27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882) features Hiawatha, not Manabozho.

(Images below and at the bottom of this post are courtesy of The Walters Art Museum.)

The Noble Savage

As for the concept of the “noble savage,” (le bon sauvage) it is expressed very early by Gabriel Théodat Sagard (died in 1636), who was a Récollet. You may remember that the Récollets (Franciscans) were the first missionaries sent to New France. Sagard is the author of Le Grand Voyage aux pays des Hurons (The Great/Long voyage to the country of Hurons), a Gutenberg project publication [EBook, #00]. Sagard refers to his “bons Sauvages” (Anthologie, p. 44) and tells that women have their say with respect to choosing their men.

Father Paul Le Jeune, SJ, also writes about “[t]he good things that can be found in Savages” (“Des bonnes choses qui se trouvent dans les Sauvages”) (Anthologie, p. 53). For instance, Amerindians did not get angry and were patient, which could still be the case. Le Jeune writes that he has never seen anyone so patient as a sick “Sauvage.” (See “Indian Runner” by Alfred Jacob Miller, description.)

A Sauvage, other than the Amerindians with whom Le Jeune lives, tries to steal meat. He is not punished. On the contrary, he is invited, later on, to stay with Le Jeune’s Sauvages. He goes and gets his wife, whom he has to carry because she cannot walk, his grandson, and a relative (Anthologie, pp. 53-56). Father Le Jeune also reports that Amerindians are neither ambitious nor miserly (p. 54) and that they love one another:

“Ils s’entr’aiment les uns les autres, et s’accordent admirablement bien: vous ne voyez point de disputes, de querelles, d’inimitiez, de reproches parmy eux[.]”
(17th-century French) (p. 55.)

“They love one another, and get along admirably well: one does not see disputes, quarrels, enmity and criticism [reproach] among them[.]” (a literal translation; Anthologie, p. 55.)

However, Le Jeune claims they are thankless (“ils sont ingrats”) towards strangers (étrangers) (p. 56).

Father Le Jeune is perturbed because the white man brought alcoholism (yvrognerie) to Amerindians (Anthologie, p. 53). The white often used alcohol as payment for pelts. The white man also brought smallpox (Mayo Clinic) to Amerindians.

Yet, Paul Le Jeune states that he never witnessed a truly “morally virtuous” action on the part of an Amerindian:

“et néantmoins je n’oserois asseurer que j’aye vue exercer aucun acte de vraye vertu morale à un Sauvage [.]” (17th-century French) (Anthologie, p. 56.)

“and, nevertheless, I would not dare say for certain that I ever saw a Savage   perform any truly morally virtuous act[.]”

Pierre Biard, who was a Jesuit missionary to Acadie, compares the new world to both Paradise and a desert: Bel Eden [garden of Eden], pitoyable désert) (Beautiful Paradise, pitiful desert) (Anthologie, p. 37).


Note that Father Le Jeune remains a missionary, which may explain why he claims not to have seen an Amerindian perform a truly morally virtuous act. What does he mean?

For the missionaries to New France, Huguenots, French Calvinists, were greater pagans than the Sauvages. Pierre du Gua de Monts (1568 – 1628), who founded the first permanent settlement in Canada, was a Huguenot, which he did not conceal. Champlain, who travelled with him, was also a French Protestant, but he did not tell. Huguenots left New France, or converted to Catholicism, when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes (30 April 1598), an edict of tolerance. It was revoked by virtue of the Edict of Fontainebleau (22 October 1685).

Death Ceremonials

Hurons had a Festin des âmes, a feast for the dead (Anthologie, pp. 65-72). Jean de Brébeuf met an Amerindian who removed and kept the brain of the dead and another Amerindian who went to fetch his dead sister. The man who had removed his fellow Amerindian’s sister’s brain told him to come by once he had found his sister. She seemed to be resuscitating, but she died again (Anthologie, pp. 63-65). This Amerindian was a Huron (Wyandot), who were friends of the French.

Brébeuf and seven other missionaries were tortured to death during hostilities between the Hurons and the Iroquois. The Iroquois were allies of the British. (See Canadian Martyrs, Wikipedia.)


After Messou repaired the world, he avenged his wolves by transforming himself into all kinds of animals, which is shapeshifting. Loup-Garou (werewolf) stories were quite common in Quebec.

Interestingly, shapeshifting occurs in Ovid‘s Metamorphoses (1st century CE) ApuleiusThe Golden Ass (2nd century CE) and it also occurs in fairy tales and legends (the Werewolf [lycantrophy]). In the Golden Ass, it takes place in a remarkable digression, the tale of Cupid and Psyche.

We have also encountered metamorphoses in Beauty and the Beast and Puss in Boots as well as in fables.

Modern examples are the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson (13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894: aged 44) and a 1915 novella, Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis), by Franz Kafka (3 July 1883 – 3 June 1924: aged 40).

We have seen therefore that Amerindians:

  • remembered a deluge;
  • that they believed in one god who made everything: Atohacan;
  • that the Hurons had virtues—they did not get angry; they were patient; they were not ambitious nor were they greedy;
  • that they honoured the dead;
  • that Cherokees believed men and beast did not differ (“the dog, which then spoke to him and said” [Cherokee deluge]);
  • that Hurons thought they could bring the dead back to life;
  • that they shared shapeshifting myths with the white.


Aarne, Thompson and Üther, as well as other folklorists and ethnologists, have seen variants of the same tale from country to country. Tales are shaped by culture and cultures, by elements such as the climate. However, it would be my opinion that shared myths may also be the product of the human mind and of human needs that are independent of culture.

For instance, the figure of the trickster seems to cross borders, except that he is a fox in Europe and a rabbit or a coyote in North America. He seems an archetype, or function. Moreover, tricksters everywhere may be “hoisted by their own petard.”

Some missionaries saw a degree of nobility in Amerindians, which led to the development of the notion of the Noble Savage (le bon Sauvage). French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau‘s Indes galantes (1735) portrays bons Sauvages. He had seen real Amerindians dance. Rameau was a superb composer of music for ballet.

I will close this post by emphasizing that trickster tales are common in Amerindian lore but that etiological (“pourquoi”) tales seem equally important. So are creation myths. The story of the deluge is shared by many tribes. Manabozho, an Ojibwa, experiences a deluge which he is able to repair, he can “make the land.” Moreover, there is a legend about Manabozho in which he can transform himself into what seems like the trunk of a tree. A snake wants to know whether or not the trunk is a trunk, so he squeezes it. Despite the pain, Manabozho remains quiet.[3]

So we will now have a brief look at the Song of Hiawatha, and, perhaps, totemism.

Kindest regards to all of you.


Sources and Resources


[1] Gilles Marcotte, direction, Anthologie de la littérature québécoise (Montréal : L’Hexagone, 1994), Volume 1.

[2] In this instance, abîmer means: to damage, but un abîme is an abyss, as in mise en abyme/abîme.

[3] R. C. Armour (illust.) North American Indian Fairy Tales: Folklore and Legends (London: Gibbings and Company, Limited) (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1905) (Kessinger Legacy Reprints)

Grigory Sokolov plays Rameau’s Les Sauvages (an encore)

798px-Alfred_Jacob_Miller_-_Pierre_-_Walters_37194053© Micheline Walker
21 August 2015

by Jacob Alfred Miller

Words …


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Sequoya (c. 1770-1843)

It happened once again. I was writing a post, had to go out, and obviously hit the “publish” button instead of the “safe draft” button.

Let me read what I have written down.

I’m feeling a little sad today. As you know, I am trying to sell my share of this building, one-ninth, but the co-owners of the building are sending away prospective buyers who may need to take a mortgage. In this building, if a co-owner fails to pay his or her mortgage, making payments becomes the responsibility of the other co-owners. That can be changed.

One must protect oneself, but should a co-owner not be able to pay his or her mortgage, one simply finds a new co-owner because the bigger problem is not being able to sell one’s share. Some of the co-owners of this building are very old. What will they do when they can no longer carry the groceries up three flights of stairs? The building does not have an elevator.

Moreover, what will the prospective buyer do when he or she learns there is no reserve fund. This year, we are installing new balconies and putting a roof over the top-floor balconies. This was a large bill and we had to pay it quickly. One wonders why four balconies that did not have a roof since 1968 should suddenly require said roofs.

Yet, we support a swimming pool that is seldom used but requires a great deal of maintenance and needs repairs regularly. This year pipes froze, so we had to foot yet another bill. One person uses the swimming pool. A prospective owner will not like this situation. I don’t. As far as I am concerned, the swimming pool goes!

Moreover, the co-owners rent five apartments, which may have benefitted them years ago but could not in the long term. As far as I know, it never occurred to the co-owners that they should put money aside for repairs and updates to the five apartments they were renting out, not to mention the building itself. The stairs have the carpeting and the railing they had in 1968.

If I were rich, none of this would be a problem. For instance, I would install fancy new bathrooms, hardwood floors, redo the kitchen, replace the doors, etc. And there would be money left over for emergencies. Except that I would still be living in a cardboard box—there is no soundproofing, that I would still be deprived of an elevator and that I would not be able to sell my share if I fell ill and could no longer live here.

I have reread everything I wrote. Normally, I would not post such information, but we are experiencing a heat wave, which has a deleterious effect on me. I also miss not being able to play the piano. This building has no soundproofing.

My Assignment

My realtor has asked me to speak to the co-owners of this building, but all I can say is that they are putting themselves at considerable risk. As I wrote above, a few are very old. They may need to sell their share and move into a residence. My mother fell when she was 80 and lost the use of her legs. She spent the last three years of her life in an institution.

Wish me luck. I may not be able to persuade the other co-owners that they may have to change the rules and create a reserve fund.

Back to our Amerindians

I will now return to our Amerindians. Yesterday, I read James Mooney’s account of the removal of the Cherokees from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Alabama. They were sent to Oklahoma, but not without resistance. As Mr Mooney wrote, the relocation of the Cherokees was worse than the expulsion of the Acadians.

Sequoya, featured at the top of this post, worked on developing a written language for his people: the Cherokees. They were able to publish a newspaper.

Several Cherokees were Métis.


James Mooney’s Myths of the Cherokees, Gutenberg [EBook #45634]

24314535_BG1© Micheline Walker
18 August 2015

Collecting Amerindian Folklore


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Manabozho in the flood. (Illustration by R.C. Armour, from his book North American Indian Fairy Tales, Folklore and Legends, 1905)

Manabozho in the flood. (Illustration by R. C. Armour, from his book North American Indian Fairy Tales, Folklore and Legends, 1905)

In the beginning …

When discussing Joel Chandler Harris‘ tales of Uncle Remus, I noted that, by and large, these tales belonged to the Æsopic corpus and included Reynard the Fox, Roman de Renart‘s tail-fisher narrative. In the Aarne-Thompson classification index, first published by Finnish scholar Antti Aarne 1910, but revised by Stith Thompson in 1927 and 1961. It was refined by Hans-Jörg Uther in 2004 and the classification is now entitled the ATU classification index. Moreover, although Stith Thompson published a Motif-Index of Folk-Literature (1955-1958), the word “type” seems to have replaced the word “motif.” Motif might mean the smallest meaningful element in a tale (see Narrame, Wikipedia).

In the case of Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings: The Folk-Lore of the Old Plantation, 1881, the collector was Joel Chandler Harris and the collection, Æsopic and, drawing on Reynard the Fox. Chandler Harris wrote in eye dialect, which is English in Uncle Remus, but English spelled as it was pronounced by black slaves (i.e. brother is ‘brer’).

If one looks down the table of contents in James Mooney’s Myths of the Cherokees (Gutenberg [EBook #45634]), one quickly notices that Amerindians told etiological (or ætiological) tales, which is also the case in the Tales of Uncle Remus. There are many levels to ætiological tales. They range from Rudyard Kipling‘s Just So Stories for Little Children, “pourquoi” tales and “children’s literature,” to Mesopotamia‘s Epic of Gilgamesh, c. 2100 BCE .

An Inglorious Past

  • Creation myths
  • Trickster tales
  • Myths and folklore
  • The Indian Removal Act (1830)
  • The Cherokee Indian Removal Act (1838)

The Myths of the Cherokees, published in 1902, is a collection of fables and tales that may be read by children, but they border on mythology, such as Greek Mythology, mythologie gréco-romaine FR, the Bible, and various sacred texts, the purpose of which is to explain how and why we humans came to inhabit planet Earth. In the area folklore, these are called creation myths. For instance, the story of the Cherokees includes the deluge (V.14; Mooney). James Mooney was an American ethnologist whose books were published by the US Bureau of American Ethnology.

Trickster tales are the most popular Amerindian tales, but we are looking at a wider selection. For instance, James Mooney gives an account of the plight of Amerindians in the United States. Between 1830 and 1838, Amerindians had to leave their hunting grounds one-third of the Mississippi and settle west of the Mississippi, in geographical areas often, if not always, chosen by the government. Good land was reserved for the white.

I doubt American officials could have removed Amerindians west of the Mississippi had it not been for the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Financially, Louisiana was purchased at a low-cost to the United States’ government, yet at too high a cost to Amerindians.

The Removal Act of 1830, passed into law under the presidency of Andrew Jackson, is an event we would now wish to erase from the pages of history, but it happened, just as Auschwitz happened. Andrew Jackson was a slave-owner and Amerindians were dark-skinned, the wrong “colour.” We still have white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, the American Rifle Association, anti-tax extremism, and racism, i.e. the remains of an inglorious past.

For the Amerindians who were sent west, the Removal Act of 1830 was their “trail of tears.” One cannot take a people’s land away and give it to another people without causing considerable harm.


The Trail of Tears

“The Trail of Tears” (Photo credit: Google images)

The Jesuit Relations

  • Dissemination of folktales
  • A case: George Bonga
  • the Jesuits as folklorists: the Relations
  • Epics

I have suggested that deported Acadians may have told their stories to black slaves in Georgia US. They could not leave those boats that sailed down Britain’s Thirteen Colonies. It is an honest theory, but one-third of the current contiguous United States belonged to France and French-Canadian voyageurs grew to include African-Americans and Amerindians. George Bonga,[1] who was of American African and Objiwe descent, was a voyageur and a fur trader. He was educated in Montreal. In other words, stories could circulate quite easily. (See David Vermette, RELATED ARTICLES.)

Stith Thompson (of the Aarne-Thompson-Üther classification index) has provided insightful information regarding the manner in which North-American folklore was collected. He writes that:

[s]ome of the Jesuit Fathers in Canada, however, interested themselves greatly in listening to such stories. They were, of course, much concerned to learn exactly what kinds of error they must combat in their attempt to convert these simple folk. But their curiosity went far beyond this immediate need, and they recorded a number of stories merely because they were interesting.”

With the activities of the Jesuit Fathers, the collecting of American Indian began.”[2]

During their forty-one year mission in New France, from 1632 to 1673, Jesuit missionaries sent their Relations to their superiors in France. The Jesuit Relations were a yearly and detailed report of the activities of missionaries and the daily life of the people of New France. Although converting Amerindians was the main role of Jesuit missionaries, they incorporated in their Relations stories told by Amerindians. The Relations may be read online, but the text may not be complete.

In fact, we could compare the work of the Jesuits with the Brothers Grimm travels in German-language lands, collecting a past for German-speaking Europeans. It was not long before composer Richard Wagner followed in their tracks providing a nascent Germany with operas that told its epic past. Der Ring des Nibelungen is an example. But the Jesuits also transferred an oral tradition into a learned (written) tradition.

The “Noble Savage”

Stith Thompson looks upon the Jesuits as folklorists. They recorded the “folklore” of Amerindians. However, we can also associate the Jesuit Relations with the growth of the notion of the Noble Savage. We have already linked this concept with John Dryden‘s heroic play The Conquest of Granada (1672) and to the Baron de Lahontan‘s Adario. (See RELATED ARTICLES.)

It was difficult for certain Jesuits not to see in Amerindians a form of lay virtue, virtue not associated with a religion.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

However, the development of the concept of the noble savage is also credited to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882), the author of The Song of Hiawatha (1855).

Stith Thompson writes that “[b]y far the best known of all American Indian creation myths is that made famous by Longfellow’s Hiawatha.”[3] Hiawatha was a historical Iroquois” whose name was Manabozho. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft who wrote a six-volume study of American Indians in the 1850s (see Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Wikipedia), was an inspiration as well as a source to Longfellow (see Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Wikipedia). Longfellow’s sources were Ojibwe Chief Kahge-ga-gah-bowh, Black Hawk a Sauk leader and other Sauk and Fox Indians.

Kindest greetings to all of you.


Sources and Resources 


[1] Grace Lee Nute, The Voyageur (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society 1955 [1931]), p. 39.

[2] Stith Thompson, The Folktale (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: The University of California Press, 1977 [1946]) p. 297-298.

[3] Op. cit., p. 307.

Black Robe, directed by Bruce Beresford

Black Robe, directed by Bruce Beresford

© Micheline Walker
16 August 2015

The Humming-bird and the Crane


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SHE DID NOT KNOW THAT THE CRANE COULD FLY AT NIGHT by Paul Bransom in An Argosy of Fables, 1921,

North-American Indian Fables

It has been difficult for me write this past week. My computer is not working normally. Letters jump around and so do paragraphs. I may have to schedule a very early Christmas.

However, all is not lost. Anansi, the folktale figure brought to the Americas by black slaves is not featured at the top of this post but that is my choice. I think it is more appropriate to read other Amerindian folk tales first. North America’s aboriginal people are its Amerindians.

Therefore, the image at the top of this post is by Paul Bransom, the illustrator of An Argosy of Fables. It illustrates a fable entitled “The Humming-bird and the Crane” (p. 479).

This illustration is one of Paul Bransom‘s finest. Notice, in particular, the colour of the leaves. Mr Bransom uses a mauve instead of making the leaves a darker green. As for  the composition, we have a diagonal line, a feature of Japanese prints, those that inspired American artist Mary Cassatt (22 May 1844 – 14 June 1926), Vincent van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890), and other artists and collectors. Japonisme swept Europe and was at times combined with Art Nouveau elements. In Paul Bransom’s illustration, the crane intersects the diagonal line horizontally.

As for the fable, it resembles “The Tortoise and the Hare(Le Lièvre et la Tortue, La Fontaine VI.10). There is a race. The girl will marry the winner, which she expects will be the humming-bird. He seems the faster bird. We learn however that the crane can fly at night.

The fable I have selected is not an etiological tale, but it is an animal tale whose type and motifs I will attempt to locate. Professor D. L. Ashliman wrote that there are some 2500 “basic plots” in the Aarne-Thompson classification system. As I mentioned above, this fable reminds me of “Le Lièvre et la Tortue” (The Tortoise and the Hare). It is number 226 in the Perry Index, an Index of Æsopic fables, not a classification of types and motifs. The race seems its main feature.

The ending surprises everyone. The crane is the winner, but the girl says she will not marry. If any character has been fooled, it could be the girl.


The Humming-bird and the Crane

THE Humming-bird and the Crane were both in love with the same pretty girl. She preferred the Humming-bird, who was as pleasing to look at as the Crane was awkward. But the Crane was so persistent that in order to get rid of him she finally told him that he must challenge the other bird to a race and that she would marry the winner. The Humming-bird was so swift—almost like a flash of lightning—and the Crane so slow and heavy, that she felt sure the Humming-bird would win. She did not know that the Crane could fly at night.

They agreed to start at her house and fly around the circle of the world, back to the starting point. And the one who came in first should win the girl. When the word was given, the Humming-bird darted off like an arrow and was out of sight in a moment, leaving his rival to follow heavily behind. He flew all day, and when evening came and he stopped to roost for the night, he was far ahead. But the Crane flew steadily all night long, passing the Humming-bird soon after midnight, and going on until he came to a creek, where he stopped to rest about daybreak. The Humming-bird woke up in the morning and flew on again thinking how easily he would win the race. But when he reached the creek, there he found the Crane, spearing tadpoles with his long bill for breakfast. The Humming-bird was much surprised and wondered how this could have happened; but he flew swiftly by and soon left the Crane once more out of sight.

The Crane finished his breakfast and again started on; and when evening came he still kept on as before. This time it was not yet midnight when he passed the Humming-bird sleeping on a limb; and in the morning he had finished his breakfast before the other came up. The next day he gained a little more; and on the fourth day he was spearing tadpoles for dinner when the Humming-bird passed him. On the fifth and sixth days it was late in the afternoon before the Humming-bird overtook him; and on the seventh morning the Crane was a whole night’s travel ahead. He took his time at breakfast and then fixed himself up spick and span at the creek, arriving at the starting-point about the middle of the morning. When the Humming-bird at last came in, it was afternoon and he had lost the race. But the girl declared that she would never have such an ugly fellow for a husband, so she stayed single.

(From Myths of the Cherokee, by James Mooney.)


Sources and Resources

An Argosy of Fables, selected and edited by Frederic Taber Cooper, 1921
Myths of the Cherokee, by James Mooney, is Gutenberg [EBook #45634]
Myths of the Cherokee, by James Mooney, is an Internet Archive publication

With kindest regards to all of you.


Camille Saint-Saëns: Le Carnaval des animaux

c25c8a9aa1d429d1fbcafa20be7a8ef9© Micheline Walker
14 August 2015

Paul Bransom

Childhood’s Favorites and Fairy Stories


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Thumbelina came to live with the Field-Mouse. (Gutenberg [EBook #19993])

Fairy Tales and Fables: a Page

Yesterday, I had every intention of posting a short article on Anansi, a folktale character black slaves brought to the Americas. However, I thought I should first provide a list of posts on fables and fairy tales. It turned into a lengthy process because I had not kept a list of RELATED ARTICLES for most posts on fairy tales.

The page I posted yesterday is therefore incomplete. I will add a list of fables later. I kept a record of these posts, but must add the date on which each was published. I have a list of posts of fables, but each post needs a date. It seems that posts do not exist unless they are listed.

Childhood Favorites and Fairy Stories

However, I would like to invite you to take a peek at the Project Gutenberg’s EBook #19993. It is a collection of literary works for children and it includes poems, limericks, the words to songs, and fables and fairy tales originating from several countries.

The copyright was obtained in 1909, but the book was published in 1927 by the University Society of New York. By 1927, its editors had died. These are Hamilton Wright Mabie, Edward Everett Hale William Byron Forbus. William Byron Forbus died in 1927. All three editors are well-known authors, but we may have forgotten them. Today is the day we remember them.

In this collection, the art work is not always attributed to a specific illustrator, which is the fate of the image featured at the top of this post, that of Thumbelina. It’s a little gem. But the illustration contains initials: O. A.. The editors have indicated that “[m]any of the illustrations in this volume are reproduced by special permission of E. P. Dutton & Company, owners of the American rights.”

Childhood’s Favorites and Fairy Stories is also an Internet Archive Publication. It can be accessed by clicking on its title. There are a few copies of this book online perhaps indicating its importance. Combined with An Argosy of Fables, this book is a lovely discovery.

The book is entitled:

Childhood’s Favorites and Fairy Stories
Volume 1

I have not found a Volume 2.

Several authors are represented in this collection, including Shakespeare. However, I have chosen to end this short post using a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It’s a lullaby.


Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
Blow him again to me:
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.
Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother’s breast,
Father will come to thee soon;
Father will come to his babe in the nest,
Silver sails all out of the west
Under the silver moon:
Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

With warm greetings to all of you.

Childhood Favorites is told by LibriVox on YouTube.

Johannes Brahms’ Lullaby

0554-320© Micheline Walker
10 August 2015

The Brothers Grimm’s “Ashenputten”


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Aschenputtel by Alexander Zick

Alexander Zick illustrated Cinderella with the doves, inspired by the Grimms’ version. (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I mentioned in a post entitled “How the Bear lost its Tail,” published on 4 August 2015, I pressed the “Publish” button instead of the “Save Draft” button. As a result, I published an incomplete post. The above image was also published before the post was complete.

The Brothers Grimm

  • Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1812)
  • Cinderella “the persecuted heroine” AT type 510
  • the lesser success of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1812)

(Unless otherwise indicated, links refer to a Wikipedia entry.)

I reread my post and did not modify it substantially. However, I introduced the Brothers Grimm: Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1786–1859). In 1812, they published Children’s and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen) or Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the hope of finding cultural similarities between the inhabitants of German-language lands, a quest that did not prove altogether successfully, but created a discipline, first named folkloristics.

It is in this regard that mentioning the Brothers Grimm was essential. The Brothers Grimm’s goal was to find cultural similarities between the yet-to-be unified German-language lands, an undertaking which required them to go from town to town and hamlet to hamlet collecting folklore. As I wrote above, this huge effort proved a lesser achievement than they had anticipated. Grimm’s Fairy Tales was a bestseller, but it would eventually come to light that the tales of Germany had variants in other countries.

As the 19th century turned into the 20th century, a new discipline evolved, which could be called the above-noted folkloristics, and would lead to the development of related disciplines such as ethnology, linguistics, archaeology, all of which could be included under an umbrella discipline we know as anthropology: the “study of humanity,” to quote Wikipedia. (See Anthropology and History of Anthropology).

The Aarne-Thompson Classification System

In the case of the Brothers Grimm’s collection, it led to an international classification of types and motifs which was first published in 1910 by Finnish professor Antti Aarne and which would become the Aarne-Thompson Classification System. For instance, Cinderella had variants and different titles in various lands, but Cinderella is AT type 510: “the persecuted heroine.” There was universality to a large number of fairy tales, fables and other folktales. It was as though these had travelled from Europe to the Orient and vice versa as Venetian Marco Polo and other merchants traced the silk road.

As for their specificity, it resided in the variants, either the type (i.e. tail-fisher) or the motif (i.e. the severed tail).


Kinder und Haus: Märchen, volume one of Grimm’s Fairy tales, 1812


Grimm’s Fairy Tales contains a Cinderella, entitled Ashenputten. We have a coarse stepmother, her two insensitive daughters who belittle Cinderella, a father who brings the two stepsisters the gifts they wish for, birds who provide Cinderella with the clothes she needs, three girls: the stepsisters and Cinderella, a three-day celebration, the slipper, and some mutilation, the removal of a toe and that of a heel. I doubt that mutilation would be allowed in a 17th-century French-language fairy tale, a time when bienséances (decorum) was observed in the literature, the theater in particular, of France.

In the German-language Ashenputten, we do not have a fairy godmother, nor a carriage, nor the fateful 12 o’clock, nor an extended search to find the owner of a glass or vair slipper, a mere slipper in German-language lands. Finally, the prince asks the father if perhaps he does not have a third daughter. The plot of Ashenputten is basically the same plot of as the 700 BCE story of Rhodopis “about a Greek slave girl who marries the king of Egypt” (see Cinderella, Wikipedia). However, Ashenputten differs from Charles Perrault‘s Cendrillon if only because it is a more intimate variant of Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon, which is not irrelevant, and because it features birds. So there is both specificity and universality between Cendrillon and Ashenputten. Fairy tales are “‘arrangements’ d’arrangements.”[1]

Origins: the oral and written tradition and Literature

We have just seen that the plot of Cinderella is rooted in Rhodopis, a 700 BCE written story. In more recent centuries, this ancient tale has been the story of Cenerentole, written by Neapolitan Giambattista Basile (1566 – 23 February 1632). (See Cinderella, Wikipedia). But the tale was also written by Charles Perrault in 1697, at the end of the Grand Siècle, the age of Louis XIV.

In France, Cenerentole became Cendrillon and it is one of Charles Perrault’s Histoires ou contes du temps passé (Tales of Past Times), except that Giambattista Basile’s Cenerentole had already entered a “learned” tradition. Basile himself had introduced Cinderella into the “learned” (i.e. written) tradition. In Charles Perrault, however, Cendrillon was transformed into literature, a major transformation. Charles Perrault (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703) was an affluent bourgeois, a perfect honnête homme (a gentleman), a frequent guest in the finest salons, and a writer.

A parallel can be drawn between Charles Perrault and La Fontaine, as both men transformed the material (the learned tradition) that constituted their sources into literary works of art and, in the case of La Fontaine, into masterpieces. I doubt, however, that Basile and Perrault knew Cinderella had been a work of literature as Rhodopis. It had perhaps returned to the oral tradition when Basile wrote his Cenerentole, in the early part of the 17th century.

The Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm were philologists who attempted to create a past for the nascent Germany. Most civilizations created a mythology, a pourquoi tale. This process is now known as anamnesis (anamnèse), remembering, but not the religious anamnesis. They retrieved the folklore of German-language lands believing these lands shared a national heritage. Their project did provide the German-language countries with a past of its own. Although the plot of their stories were basically the same as in other countries, there were variants and these variants could not be could not be considered as inconsequential. Variants matter.

Cenerentole, Cendrillon, Ashenputten and Cinderella are rags-to-riches narratives rooted in a story written as Rhodopis in 700 BCE and classified as AT type 510, “the persecuted heroine,” in the Aarne-Thompson Classification System. More than two thousand years had passed.


Yet, such is life. Humans have always hoped for salvation even though their fate seems inescapable. That wish is universal, so it is not in the least surprising that the people inhabiting German-language lands should have adopted and molded an Ashenputten. They needed her.

Charles Robinson illustrated Cinderella in the kitchen (1900), from

Charles Robinson illustrated (art nouveau) Cinderella in the kitchen (early 1900s), from “Tales of Passed Times” with stories by Charles Perrault.


But let us return to our animals. We don’t know how a Reynard the Fox episode, the Tail-Fisher, went from Europe to the Black population of Georgia, US where Joel Chandler Harris wrote them down as Uncle Remus: his Songs and his Sayings (1881), using an eye dialect. I have suggested in an earlier post that deported Acadians, the Cajuns, told the Blacks of Georgia the tales they knew, before leaving for Louisiana, still a French colony in 1755, or before walking back north to the Atlantic provinces of Canada. Other tales, however, were brought to America by slaves packed like sardines in the hull of a ship.


Sources and Resources


[1] Marc Soriano, Les Contes de Perrault, culture savante et traditions populaires (Paris : Gallimard, coll. ‘Tel’, 1977 [1968]), p.76.

Pletnev plays Tchaikovsky

Aschenputtel by Alexander Zick

Aschenputten by Alexander Zick

© Micheline Walker
8 August 2015


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