Study Guide

Song of Hiawatha Part XII: The Sun of the Evening Star

By Henry W. Longfellow

Part XII: The Sun of the Evening Star

  • Iagoo begins telling his story at Hiawatha's wedding. He starts by asking whether the setting sun in the west is actually the sun or a red swan that's been wounded and is bleeding purplish light onto the horizon. Don't worry. This'll make sense in a second...
  • Once there was a beautiful young girl named Oweenee who refused to marry any of the young men who tried to woo her. She eventually married a broken down old man named Osseo. People made fun of her for it, but she didn't care because Osseo had a beautiful spirit.
  • One evening, people see Osseo and Oweenee walking together. Osseo looks toward the sky and asks his father to pity him. No one knows what this means, so they assume it's just the rambling of a senile old man.
  • Osseo and Oweenee come to an old log and walk through it. When they come out, Osseo has been transformed into a handsome young man and Oweenee has become a haggard old woman.
  • Osseo returns to a feast at the village with Oweenee beside him. During the feast, he hears a voice tell him that he will be transformed into a spirit if he wants to be. Plus the people of his village can be turned into birds and freed from a life of work and torment.
  • Then everyone suddenly changes into bids except Oweenee, who remains a wrinkled old woman. Osseo lets out a cry and Oweenee is suddenly transformed her into a young woman covered with fine furs. She and Osseo go to the wigwam of Osseo's father and hang a cage filled with the people who've turned to birds. The father tells Osseo he's done this to punish the people who made fun of Osseo.
  • Osseo and Oweenee return home and later have a son together. Osseo makes little bows and arrows for him to teach him to hunt.
  • One day, the little boy shoots a bird with his arrow. But then the bird turns into a woman and falls dead at his feet. This event breaks some sort of spell and the boy feels himself falling as though he's travelling through different dimensions.
  • The boy lands on some sort of island. A bunch of birds follow him downward and they all change back into the people they once were. Osseo and Oweenee appear too, and now everyone is together again. But the people who've transformed from birds are all very small. They're basically a tribe of Little People called the Puk-Wudjies. Apparently, these little people still exist (who knew?).
  • When he's finished, Iagoo looks around the room and tells people that they shouldn't make fun of him because this story has shown what happens to people who make fun.
  • Chibiabos resumes singing and the party continues.