What do the “shores of Gitche Gumee by the shining Big-Sea-Water” have in common with the “Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie”?
The Protestant American author of Evangeline and The Song of Hiawatha is not generally associated with the Catholic British author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. But there is one literary connection at least — curiously, a Finnish one. Both writers were influenced by the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.
Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha was written in the meter known as trochaic tetrameter, sometimes called “archaic trochaic tetrameter,” sometimes called “Kalevala meter.” This is rarely used in English. It is known that Longfellow had read the Finish epic — at least in a German translation and possibly in its Finnish original. Two journal entries, only a couple of weeks apart, reveal that Longfellow had recently read the epic, and soon after landed upon a meter for his own “Indian Edda” (as he called the Song). Longfellow was known to spend much time studying and meditating his subject before choosing an appropriate meter for his poem, so this is of great importance. Continue reading