For many readers, William Hootkins's narration of Longfellow's classic nineteenth-century poem will evoke memories of elementary or middle school. Longfellow's extended narrative is set in a regular, easily recognized rhythm. This rhythm guides Hootkins's delivery, as this is more of a performance than a simple narration. He powerfully underscores the moments of import, giving the impression of a traditional storyteller revisiting a familiar piece. The one weakness in Hootkins's performance may come from matching Longfellow's poetry too closely. At times, the poem seems to drive on in the same vein for too long, with too many attempts at peak moments.
Longfellow's great narrative poem has been unjustly neglected in recent years though it gives a sympathetic portrait especially of Hiawatha, reared by Nokomis, daughter of the Moon, and his bride Minehaha.
It is famously underpinned by its hypnotic rhythm, which makes it ideal listening.
I bought this audio mainly because I was going to Alaska, wanted SOMEthing about Native Americans, and had never read it in high school, so I thought listening to it would be less painful than reading it. To my surprise, it turns out to be a fascinating string of legends about the mythical Hiawatha, his coming of age, taking a wife, enduring hardships, and his eventual leaving his tribe for an unknown land.
The author's skill in telling these stories within the poetic meter is matched by the narrator's ability to read the poetry in a very natural way, making the listener almost forget that the beauty of the words falls always within the meter. Any literature student assigned this poem should listen to this version, to really appreciate the best in American poery.
It is difficult to think of a narrator better suited for The Song of Hiawatha than the late, great William Hootkins. I believe he reads the poem almost better than it's written, with such feeling, grace and timing, perfect pathos and emotion. And the poem? It's enchanting, with its clear, hypnotic meter. It evokes a clear sensation of an ancient, hallowed story, of an ancient native legend. Sure, it's parodied quite widely (I myself am almost tempted to compose this humble comment in trochaic tetrameter) but it doesn't really matter.
Very highly recommended.
This has always been one of my favorite works. The audiobook is an absolutely wonderful listening experience. If you're a Longfellow fan, don't hesitate to buy this!
I liked this piece quite a bit. Hiawatha was loosely based on a real Indian chief of the 1500's.
Walt Disney has done this poem a great disservice by making it possibly one of his silliest characters ever.
Longfellow had read a history of Hiawatha and then wrote a grand poem. It surprised me but this poem really is in the stream of Beowolf and Gilgamesh.
This poem does not have the passion I found in Beowolf and Gilgamesh, but it reminds me of what it was like to live on this continent before the Europeans arrived, and long afterwards. The power of nature through its spiritual and apparent manifestations is key. In this poem all nature talks.
This great American epic poem was once a standard in American education but faded in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries when American Romanticism became passe. I had always wanted to read it but was dissuaded by English professors. By chance I found a printed edition with illustrations by Frederick Remington that I had in my personal library for years. I went to Audible.com and found the poem narrated by Hootkins. After listening to a sample, I decided to listen to the poem while reading it. This combination of written and spoken reinforced the teaching that poetry must be really heard to be appreciated. The four hours I spent were a wonderful appreciation of the genius of Longfellow and the ability of a great reading to make an old poem come alive. For those of you who love classic literature and have not experienced this poem before, the four hours with book and headset will be rewarding.
The narrator reads naturally, avoiding the temptation to overemphasize the beat. A poem like this can sound trivial and be tiring if the rhythm isn't controlled.
"To be taken in small doses"
Many people may have come across extracts from Hiawatha and - haunted by the cadence of its repetitive rhythm -may be curious to sample the whole poem.This audio book provides an excellent opportunity.William Hootkins proves to be an ideal reader:he judges well the flow and variety of the narrative,not disguising the monotonous, hypnotic quality of the verse but using this to create a coherent and convincing heroic world.Some listeners may be put off by the pervasive repetitions and often slow narrative but those who persist and become acclimatised to the world of Hiawatha will be rewarded by getting to know a most enjoyable poem. It is not Homer alas -no memorable characters, profound insight or masterful structure - and I very much doubt whether it is an authentic guide to Native American culture -but it is something unique in English poetry and there were good reasons why it was once so popular.It deserves revisiting - but I do advise listening to short extracts or one episode at a time -more extensive listening might lead to boredom or even sleep.
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