Downward through the evening twilight,
In the days that are forgotten,
In the unremembered ages,
From the full moon fell Nokomis,
Fell the beautiful Nokomis,
She a wife, but not a mother.
She was sporting with her women,
Swinging in a swing of grape-vines,
When her rival the rejected,
Full of jealousy and hatred,
Cut the leafy swing asunder,
Cut in twain the twisted grape-vines,
And Nokomis fell affrighted
Downward through the evening twilight,
On the Muskoday, the meadow,
On the prairie full of blossoms.
“See! a star falls!” said the people;
“From the sky a star is falling!”
There among the ferns and mosses,
There among the prairie lilies,
On the Muskoday, the meadow,
In the moonlight and the starlight,
Fair Nokomis bore a daughter.
And she called her name Wenonah,
As the first-born of her daughters.
And the daughter of Nokomis
Grew up like the prairie lilies,
Grew a tall and slender maiden,
With the beauty of the moonlight,
With the beauty of the starlight.
And Nokomis warned her often,
Saying oft, and oft repeating,
“Oh, beware of Mudjekeewis,
Of the West-Wind, Mudjekeewis;
Listen not to what he tells you;
Lie not down upon the meadow,
Stoop not down among the lilies,
Lest the West-Wind come and harm you!”
But she heeded not the warning,
Heeded not those words of wisdom,
And the West-Wind came at evening,
Walking lightly o’er the prairie,
Whispering to the leaves and blossoms,
Bending low the flowers and grasses,
Found the beautiful Wenonah,
Lying there among the lilies,
Wooed her with his words of sweetness,
Wooed her with his soft caresses,
Till she bore a son in sorrow,
Bore a son of love and sorrow.
Thus was born my Hiawatha,
Thus was born the child of wonder;
But the daughter of Nokomis,
Hiawatha’s gentle mother,
In her anguish died deserted
By the West-Wind, false and faithless,
By the heartless Mudjekeewis.
For her daughter long and loudly
Wailed and wept the sad Nokomis;
“Oh that I were dead!” she murmured,
“Oh that I were dead, as thou art!
No more work, and no more weeping,
Wahonowin! Wahonowin!”
By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.
There the wrinkled old Nokomis
Nursed the little Hiawatha,
Rocked him in his linden cradle,
Bedded soft in moss and rushes,
Safely bound with reindeer sinews;
Stilled his fretful wail by saying,
“Hush! the Naked Bear will hear thee!”
Lulled him into slumber, singing,
“Ewa-yea! my little owlet!
Who is this, that lights the wigwam?
With his great eyes lights the wigwam?
Ewa-yea! my little owlet!”
Many things Nokomis taught him
Of the stars that shine in heaven;
Showed him Ishkoodah, the comet,
Ishkoodah, with fiery tresses;
Showed the Death-Dance of the spirits,
Warriors with their plumes and war-clubs,
Flaring far away to northward
In the frosty nights of Winter;
Showed the broad white road in heaven,
Pathway of the ghosts, the shadows,
Running straight across the heavens,
Crowded with the ghosts, the shadows.
At the door on summer evenings
Sat the little Hiawatha;
Heard the whispering of the pine-trees,
Heard the lapping of the waters,
Sounds of music, words of wonder;
‘Minne-wawa!” said the Pine-trees,
Mudway-aushka!” said the water.
Saw the fire-fly, Wah-wah-taysee,
Flitting through the dusk of evening,
With the twinkle of its candle
Lighting up the brakes and bushes,
And he sang the song of children,
Sang the song Nokomis taught him:
“Wah-wah-taysee, little fire-fly,
Little, flitting, white-fire insect,
Little, dancing, white-fire creature,
Light me with your little candle,
Ere upon my bed I lay me,
Ere in sleep I close my eyelids!”
Saw the moon rise from the water
Rippling, rounding from the water,
Saw the flecks and shadows on it,
Whispered, “What is that, Nokomis?”
And the good Nokomis answered:
“Once a warrior, very angry,
Seized his grandmother, and threw her
Up into the sky at midnight;
Right against the moon he threw her;
‘T is her body that you see there.”
Saw the rainbow in the heaven,
In the eastern sky, the rainbow,
Whispered, “What is that, Nokomis?”
And the good Nokomis answered:
“‘T is the heaven of flowers you see there;
All the wild-flowers of the forest,
All the lilies of the prairie,
When on earth they fade and perish,
Blossom in that heaven above us.”
When he heard the owls at midnight,
Hooting, laughing in the forest,
‘What is that?” he cried in terror,
“What is that,” he said, “Nokomis?”
And the good Nokomis answered:
“That is but the owl and owlet,
Talking in their native language,
Talking, scolding at each other.”
Then the little Hiawatha
Learned of every bird its language,
Learned their names and all their secrets,
How they built their nests in Summer,
Where they hid themselves in Winter,
Talked with them whene’er he met them,
Called them “Hiawatha’s Chickens.”
Of all beasts he learned the language,
Learned their names and all their secrets,
How the beavers built their lodges,
Where the squirrels hid their acorns,
How the reindeer ran so swiftly,
Why the rabbit was so timid,
Talked with them whene’er he met them,
Called them “Hiawatha’s Brothers.”
Then Iagoo, the great boaster,
He the marvellous story-teller,
He the traveller and the talker,
He the friend of old Nokomis,
Made a bow for Hiawatha;
From a branch of ash he made it,
From an oak-bough made the arrows,
Tipped with flint, and winged with feathers,
And the cord he made of deer-skin.
Then he said to Hiawatha:
“Go, my son, into the forest,
Where the red deer herd together,
Kill for us a famous roebuck,
Kill for us a deer with antlers!”
Forth into the forest straightway
All alone walked Hiawatha
Proudly, with his bow and arrows;
And the birds sang round him, o’er him,
“Do not shoot us, Hiawatha!”
Sang the robin, the Opechee,
Sang the bluebird, the Owaissa,
“Do not shoot us, Hiawatha!”
Up the oak-tree, close beside him,
Sprang the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
In and out among the branches,
Coughed and chattered from the oak-tree,
Laughed, and said between his laughing,
“Do not shoot me, Hiawatha!”
And the rabbit from his pathway
Leaped aside, and at a distance
Sat erect upon his haunches,
Half in fear and half in frolic,
Saying to the little hunter,
“Do not shoot me, Hiawatha!”
But he heeded not, nor heard them,
For his thoughts were with the red deer;
On their tracks his eyes were fastened,
Leading downward to the river,
To the ford across the river,
And as one in slumber walked he.
Hidden in the alder-bushes,
There he waited till the deer came,
Till he saw two antlers lifted,
Saw two eyes look from the thicket,
Saw two nostrils point to windward,
And a deer came down the pathway,
Flecked with leafy light and shadow.
And his heart within him fluttered,
Trembled like the leaves above him,
Like the birch-leaf palpitated,
As the deer came down the pathway.
Then, upon one knee uprising,
Hiawatha aimed an arrow;
Scarce a twig moved with his motion,
Scarce a leaf was stirred or rustled,
But the wary roebuck started,
Stamped with all his hoofs together,
Listened with one foot uplifted,
Leaped as if to meet the arrow;
Ah! the singing, fatal arrow,
Like a wasp it buzzed and stung him!
Dead he lay there in the forest,
By the ford across the river;
Beat his timid heart no longer,
But the heart of Hiawatha
Throbbed and shouted and exulted,
As he bore the red deer homeward,
And Iagoo and Nokomis
Hailed his coming with applauses.
From the red deer’s hide Nokomis
Made a cloak for Hiawatha,
From the red deer’s flesh Nokomis
Made a banquet to his honor.
All the village came and feasted,
All the guests praised Hiawatha,
Called him Strong-Heart, Soan-ge-taha!
Called him Loon-Heart, Mahn-go-taysee!

Analysis, meaning and summary of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem Hiawatha’s Childhood


  1. Christina Yoo says:

    This poem was very detailed. I like this poem and I think Henry Longfellow included lots of details so that we could visualize this poem in our head. My favorite part was when Hiawatha was rewarded and was celebrating. Also, I thought since this poem was so long that this poem will be boring, but since there were lots of interesting details, I was putting all my focus on the story when I was reading. I really enjoyed reading this poem and it evoked my emotions.

  2. Joanne Lee says:

    This poem was awesome and great poem because the poem had many details how the character felt or did. I could understand the poem and imagine in my how the poem is about and what lesson or ideas author want to tell readers. I could understand how Hiawatha’s childhood was and think about it. The poem had many details on each one of the sentence. The author added some of strong words too explain.

  3. Greene Shin says:

    This poem was really detailed and my favorite part was the Henry went to forest to kill deer. Henry put many details so I can understand and imagined easily. This poem was really fun and I could see many memories and it was very interesting poem. Also this poem explains lots about Haiwatha. This poem wasn’t boring so I could focus on only this poem.

  4. Yujinia Lee says:

    Mr. Longfellow put lots of detail in his poems so that we could understand it better which is why I liked this poem. I liked the part about Hiawatha going into the forest to kill a deer and the part where the animals told him not to shoot them.

  5. Joann Park says:

    I truly liked this poem. Henry Longfellow had so many descriptive details that I really imagined everything in my head. For example, I could really see and feel the suspense of the hunting scene. I pictured in my head a deer slowly peeking out behind the bushes as Hiawatha slowly raised his bow. The hunting scene was my favorite scene. I really enjoyed this poem!!

  6. Christina Yoo says:

    This poem was very detailed. I like this poem and I think Henry Longfellow included lots of details so that we could visualize this poem in our head. My favorite part was when Hiawatha was rewarded and was celebrating.

  7. Jenny Kim says:

    This poem is very awesome! I loved it because that this poem had different tone every little detailed theree was. I thought that this poem just didn’t come out of my ears like I didn’t care. It made me picture in my head all the details. It had a meaning to this poem. It was fun even though the poem was LONG. Hiawatha’s Childhood was good because it is talking about his adventure when he was young.

  8. Daniel M. says:

    I think that this poetry gave a lot of information about Haiwatha’s Childhood. It was also in a nice tone and it was nicely written for people to read. I never knew that the words that was used in the poetry could’ve flowed this smoothly

  9. Sara says:

    This poem is one of the most surprising poem I’ve ever read. This poem explains so much about Hiawatha. There is the whole scheme with the deer, and having to decide whether or not he should kill it. And after he kiilled it, he brought it’s flesh home and celebrated for killing the dear. The beginning, which has the whole other scheme about first Nokomis and Wenonah falling from the skies and having babies. Since Nokomis falling from the tree was an act of jealousy and hatred from someone, that’s obviously what also happened to Nokomis also. they both had their children while falling and popped came beautiful babies. Hiawatha, was a small boy but then grew to be enormous. He killed the deer and was very tough. Overall, I think that this poem was outstanding. My standing ovation.

  10. Lauren says:

    This poem caught my interest. Most poems would make me fall asleep and lose interest, but this poem kept my eyes on the page. Probably because it was very long, so I didn’t want to stop reading it, and also because it told of a young boy. I liked how each line was short, but the story kept going and going until it was a happy ending. So, even though it’s in a form of a poem, it tells a great story.

  11. James B. says:

    This story was very awesome because it showed me all these different feelings because when he was about to kill the deer it gave me all these thoughts and sweat in my brain. It also pierced my heart when the timid deer die because you could see the deer in your head and see the arrow pierce the deer. It also feels good because after he kills the deer he brings it to his home and everyone cheers and gives a party.

  12. James B. says:

    The end part where he shoots the arrow gave me a pain (sort of) because if you imagine shooting a timid little deer it like tears your heart. I also like how he described the deer and how humans do these things and feel bad and I understood this poem well. I like this story because the beat went and it just told a story in a fun beat.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I enjoyed reading this poem. I was amazed at how the words flowed together for me.

  14. Alex says:

    I liked this story because it had a nice tone and it was meaningful in some ways.

  15. Jason Lee says:

    I like this poem’s tone and Indian language.

  16. simon youn says:

    I liked about the tone of the poem. It had something that made me read the whole thing even if it was so long. Hiawatha was some what unfortunate. This poem was great and I hope I would come back to it and read it again.

  17. Chaiwoon Jang says:

    I liked this poem since it show all about Hiawatha’s child hood.

  18. Debbie says:

    I teach 8th grade language arts. I am planning on reading this beautiful and image-filled poem to my class.

  19. Merv says:

    I have a colored cover of a magazine from the 30’s or 40’s showing Hiawatha kneeling on the bow and arrow with birds and a rabbit keeping him company. It’s quote says
    ” Then the little Hiawatha learned of every bird its language”. Has anyone else seen this color drawing?

  20. Jen says:

    I love it! It’s completely wonderful!!!

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