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The Myth of Hiawatha, and Other Oral Legends, Mythologic and Allegoric, of the North American Indians   By: (1793-1864)

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THE MYTH OF HIAWATHA,

AND

OTHER ORAL LEGENDS, MYTHOLOGIC AND ALLEGORIC,

OF THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS.

BY

HENRY R. SCHOOLCRAFT, LL.D.

PHILADELPHIA: J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.

LONDON: TRÜBNER & CO.

1856.

Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by

HENRY R. SCHOOLCRAFT,

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States in and for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

TO PROF. HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW.

SIR:

Permit me to dedicate to you, this volume of Indian myths and legends, derived from the story telling circle of the native wigwams. That they indicate the possession, by the Vesperic tribes, of mental resources of a very characteristic kind furnishing, in fact, a new point from which to judge the race, and to excite intellectual sympathies, you have most felicitously shown in your poem of Hiawatha. Not only so, but you have demonstrated, by this pleasing series of pictures of Indian life, sentiment, and invention, that the theme of the native lore reveals one of the true sources of our literary independence. Greece and Rome, England and Italy, have so long furnished, if they have not exhausted, the field of poetic culture, that it is, at least, refreshing to find both in theme and metre, something new.

Very truly yours,

HENRY R. SCHOOLCRAFT.

PREFACE.

There is but one consideration of much moment necessary to be premised respecting these legends and myths. It is this: they are versions of oral relations from the lips of the Indians, and are transcripts of the thought and invention of the aboriginal mind. As such, they furnish illustrations of Indian character and opinions on subjects which the ever cautious and suspicious minds of this people have, heretofore, concealed. They place the man altogether in a new phasis. They reflect him as he is. They show us what he believes, hopes, fears, wishes, expects, worships, lives for, dies for. They are always true to the Indian manners and customs, opinions and theories. They never rise above them; they never sink below them. Placing him in almost every possible position, as a hunter, a warrior, a magician, a pow wow, a medicine man, a meda, a husband, a father, a friend, a foe, a stranger, a wild singer of songs to monedos or fetishes, a trembler in terror of demons and wood genii, and of ghosts, witches, and sorcerers now in the enjoyment of plenty in feasts now pale and weak with abstinence in fasts; now transforming beasts and birds, or plants and trees into men, or men into beasts by necromancy; it is impossible not to perceive what he perpetually thinks, believes, and feels. The very language of the man is employed, and his vocabulary is not enlarged by words and phrases foreign to it. Other sources of information depict his exterior habits and outer garb and deportment; but in these legends and myths, we perceive the interior man, and are made cognizant of the secret workings of his mind, and heart, and soul.

To make these collections, of which the portions now submitted are but a part, the leisure hours of many seasons, passed in an official capacity in the solitude of the wilderness far away from society, have been employed, with the study of the languages, and with the very best interpreters. They have been carefully translated, written, and rewritten, to obtain their true spirit and meaning, expunging passages, where it was necessary to avoid tediousness of narration, triviality of circumstance, tautologies, gross incongruities, and vulgarities; but adding no incident and drawing no conclusion, which the verbal narration did not imperatively require or sanction. It was impossible to mistake the import of terms and phrases where the means of their analysis were ample. If the style is sometimes found to be bald, and of jejune simplicity, the original is characteristically so. Few adjectives are employed, because there are few in the original... Continue reading book >>




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