The word epic originates from the Greek and it means “poem.” An “epic poem” usually tells a huge, heroic, amazing story – and takes a long time to recite.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a professor at Harvard who also wrote lots of poetry, including epic poems. His work was extremely popular in the US and Europe during the 19th century. Schools and streets were named after him and most students read his poetry at some point in their education.
One of his epic poems, set in the Great Lakes region among the Ojibwe tribe, was The Song of Hiawatha. It told the story of the mighty Hiawatha, his origins, adventures, and his love, the maiden Minnehaha. Longfellow knew the chief of the Ojibwe Tribe personally and had done research on tribal legends and history. However, Longfellow changed the name of the main character and the poem had quite a few other inaccuracies which troubled people over time. Still, the poem has inspired music by Antonin Dvorak and Johnny Cash and others, and even two short films by a major movie company.
At the beautiful Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, on Lake Superior, you can visit the setting of The Song of Hiawatha; naturally, it’s epic!
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is the final stop on our Michigan Trail!
Rebecca Blake Beech