Influence of Finnish Kalevala in the Composition of Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha

In the summer of 1835 a young American poet arrived in northern Europe intent on seeking out the mysteries of Scandinavia, and in high spirits in anticipation of the romance of the North. But Henry Wadsworth Longfellow soon became disillusioned. His failure to achieve his original objectives can be attributed largely to his own personality characteristics which proved to be far from favorable in the European culture. He did not mix well with Europeans; “on the contrary, he was never quite happy unless he was consorting with Americans.” And apparently this priggish attitude accompanied him on subsequent visits.

Despite his personality difficulties and general disillusionment, however, he nurtured a fond and romantic sentiment for the countries of the North which lasted for years. The basis for this paper is found in an entry by Longfellow in his journal, the date being June 5, 1854: “I am reading with great delight the Finnish epic Kalevala. It is charming.”

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 04:2
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