Study Guide

Song of Hiawatha Part XX: The Famine

By Henry W. Longfellow

Part XX: The Famine

  • Just when things couldn't get harder, Hiawatha's village is hit by one of the most brutal winters they can remember. People can hardly dig themselves out of their wigwams to go hunt.
  • People who go hunting end up dying in the woods from hunger and weakness.
  • Two new guests show up at Hiawatha's house while Hiawatha is away. But they aren't the ghostly women. Instead, two dudes who call themselves Fever and Famine arrive.
  • Minnehaha hides in bed to get away from them, but her burning body tells us she's gotten a fever.
  • Hiawatha seems to know what's up. He's out in the forest with his bow and he screams at Gitche-Manito, the Master of Life, to give him food to feed his sick wife.
  • Back at the wigwam, Minnehaha has visions of her dead father and of a beautiful grassy place that he's calling her to. Nokomis warns her not to move toward the visions.
  • Then Minnehaha can feel Death's icy hands on her wrist. Miles away, Hiawatha can hear her cries of anguish. He rushes home as quickly as he can, but he doesn't make it in time. Minnehaha has died.
  • Hiawatha buries Minnehaha and lights a fire on her grave, just like the two ghostly women instructed him to do. Now that his wife and two best friends are gone, Hiawatha doesn't have a whole lot left to live for.