View Full Version : Which is more accurate?

11-14-2006, 12:13 PM
Which is more accurate; the 1896 printing or the 1964 version of Longfellows "Song of Hiawatha"?

I recently acquired a copy that was published in 1896 and have found MANY discrepancies between it and the 1964 copy that I took out of my local library. Does an epic poem like this evolve with each publishing or are the differences errors.

EXAMPLE: "Stilled his fretful wail by saying, Hush the naked bear will get thee" (1896) VS "Hush the naked bear will hear thee" (1964).

11-14-2006, 06:32 PM
Wouldn't it be great if we could get our hands on the original manuscripts of author's works :p instead of having to rely on translators and/or editors, who are a mixed blessing; more people get to read literature without having to learn myriad languages but much gets lost in translation, and often editors add their own little 'touches' or interpretation that can dilute, and/or, they can add additional background and explanation regarding the initial work. Emily Dickinson's works are a prime example of, in my opinion, the less 'interference' the better.

As for Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha, according to the Introduction of it here
(which appears to be the version on this site too, with the line "Hush! the Naked Bear will hear thee!")

Longfellow began Hiawatha on June 25, 1854, he completed it on March 29, 1855, and it was published November 10, 1855. As soon as the poem was published its popularity was assured. However, it also was severely criticized as a plagiary of the Finnish epic poem Kalevala. Longfellow made no secret of the fact that he had used the meter of the Kalevala; but as for the legends, he openly gave credit to Schoolcraft in his notes to the poem."

Who knows why on earth it has changed from the bear "getting" to "hearing" or what the initial 1855 version was. Maybe the charges of plagiarism and ensuing controversy caused people to re-write portions of it to seem less like the Finnish poem. Maybe they couldn't read his handwriting..

As you can see, there have been numerous collections of Longfellow's works published since 1855, opening the possibility of many slightly different versions : http://www.bartleby.com/226/0300.html

That's great that you have the 1896 version, are there illustrations in it too?

11-15-2006, 09:52 AM
Thanks, I've found your response & research very helpful. The only reason that this issue concerns me is that my partner & I have both recently learned to recite the third chapter "Hiawatha's Childhood" from memory. He from the 1964 version & I from the 1896 version. He scowls angrily at me every time I say "the naked bear will GET thee" and insists that I am dead wrong. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

As for illustrations; there are 4 or 5 color litho plates scattered throughout the book; but nothing like the hundreds of sketches of artifacts in the later version.

Thanks again for your help.