Study Guide

Song of Hiawatha Part XXI: The White Man's Foot

By Henry W. Longfellow

Part XXI: The White Man's Foot

  • We look in on an old man with white hair who's sitting in a lodge beside a river. He's sad and lonely and we aren't sure right away what he has to do with the rest of this story. There's a pretty bad storm happening outside.
  • A young man enters the wigwam and the old man welcomes him. The old man wants to hear all about the boy's adventures, so he lights a peace-pipe and hands it to the young man.
  • The old man tells the boy about how the whole world goes hard and cold whenever he (the old man) blows on it. The young man just smiles and talks about how life and beauty come to the world whenever he blows on it.
  • The old man frowns at the boy's sauciness and insists that he has greater power, since it is his job to kill all life during winter.
  • But the young man responds by blowing all around him and surrounding the cabin with singing birds and flowing brooks.
  • It turns out that the old man is none other than Old Man Winter himself. He ends up crying and shriveling up into the air when he sees how much more powerful the young man is.
  • The young man looks down at where the fire was burning and sees a small flower growing out of the dirt. Then the springtime washes over the entire countryside.
  • Meanwhile, Hiawatha can hear the birds singing and he comes out of his wigwam for the first time since Minnehaha died.
  • At this same time, the great storyteller Iagoo arrives home after a long journey. People gather around to hear his exaggerations and laugh at him.
  • Iagoo tells them how he came to a huge body of water and saw a giant canoe with feathers floating toward him. It was filled with men who had white faces and hair growing on their chins. The people all laugh and say that this sort of thing is impossible. But Hiawatha sticks up for Iagoo and claims he saw all of this same stuff in a vision. He also orders his people to be nice to the white people when they arrive—which he knows they will be.
  • Hiawatha says he had a vision of the whites and his people getting along and prospering together. But then this vision was replaced by another, much darker vision of his people fighting amongst each other and being scattered. He also sees them being driven farther and farther westward. In other words, he sees everything that the white people are going to do to the Native Americans.