A Legend of the Northland Summary in English by Phoebe Cary
A Legend of the Northland by Phoebe Cary About the Poet
|Poet Name||Phoebe Cary|
|Born||4 September 1822, Mount Healthy, Ohio, United States|
|Died||31 July 1871, Newport, Rhode Island, United States|
A Legend of the Northland Introduction to the Chapter
A Legend of the Northland is based on a story from the Old Testament in the Bible. In the ballad, Phoebe Cary reminds us what happens when we cannot bring ourselves to share with those in need. The legend, which is set in the snow-covered polar region of is quite famous and has been passed on through generations. The poet doesn’t believe in the authenticity of the story but yet is tempted to share the story because of the moral it teaches. Mythological stories may not relate to reality but they always carry a good message and that is why the poet is narrating the story.
A Legend of the Northland is a ballad. A ballad is a song narrating a story in short stanzas. Ballads are a part of folk culture or popular culture and are passed on orally from one generation to the next.
A Legend of the Northland Summary in English
The poem A Legend of the Northland is a legend about an old lady who angered Saint Peter because of her greed.
This is a legend of Northland where the days are short and the nights so long and chilly and it is difficult to sleep through them. In this part of the world reindeers are used to pull sledges on snows and the children have to be kept warm in fur clothes. In this region people tell of a strange story which I don’t believe can be true but one must listen to it as it has a moral to teach us all.
Once, when St. Peter was living in the world, and he went about preaching from place to place, he reached the door of a cottage. He saw a woman making cakes and baking them. He was tired and hungry as he had fasted the whole day. So, he asked her for one of her cakes.
The woman, who was miserly, felt the cake that she was baking was too big to be given away in charity, so she kneaded the dough again and made a still smaller one but did not have the heart to give it away either. She finally took a very small ball of dough and made a cake which was as thin as wafer but decided not to give that away as well.
She said that the cakes that seemed too small to fill her own stomach, appeared too large to be given away. So she stored them on the shelf. St. Peter, who was fainting with hunger, became angry with the old woman. He told her that she was too selfish to not fit to live in human form and enjoy food and warmth. He cursed her and transformed her into a woodpecker who has to bore in hard and dry wood to get its scanty food. Because she was wearing a red cap on her head, the colour of the woodpecker’s head is also red. Since the rest of the clothes were burnt in the chimney, the rest of the body is black. She can be seen boring in the trees for food all day.
A Legend of the Northland Theme
The theme of A Legend of the Northland is that greed and selfishness can annoy even a saint.
Long long ago, there lived an old lady in Northland. One day Saint Peter, while preaching round the world, reached her door. She was baking cakes on her hearth. St. Peter, who was fainting with hunger, asked the lady to give him a piece of cake. The selfish lady tried to make a tiny cake for him. But as it was baking, she found it too large to be given away. She tried baking two more times but even the smallest of cakes seemed too large to her. Such greedy behaviour of the lady annoyed the hungry saint. He cursed her saying that she was far too selfish to be a human, to have food, shelter and fire to keep her warm. Thus, she was transformed into a woodpecker. All her clothes except her scarlet cap were burnt black as she went up the chimney and flew out of the top. The old woman can still be seen in the forest, boring into the wood for food.
A Legend of the Northland Tone
The poet, though she declines all responsibility about the truth of the story, yet narrates it because she wishes to convey the message of generosity and kindness. Her tone is preachy and sanctimonious as she narrates the story. Though she claims she does not believe in the authenticity of the story, she ends on a warning note when she says the old woman may still be seen boring into wood for food.
A Legend of the Northland Message
The poem A Legend of the Northland is a legend, or an old traditional and popular story that is told to the children of the Northland. Though it is considered to be historical, but its authenticity is not attested. It is a “curious” and conventional story with a supernatural element present at the end of the tale. The main objective of such poems or folktales is to convey a message or teach some values. In A Legend of the Northland the poet tells us that we should not be greedy or selfish and must always be ready to help those in need. The poet seems to be warning people who are selfish that they may be punished, and that the punishment may be very severe, for the old woman is still seen boring into wood for food.
A Legend of the Northland Title
The poem has an apt title. A legend is an old traditional and popular story that is told to convey a message or teach some values. This legend, which is a foltale from Northland, teaches the lesson of kindness and generosity.
A Legend of the Northland Setting
The poem is set in Northland or the cold polar region of the North, including Greenland, northern Europe and Siberia. She says that in this region the days are short, and nights are long. When the snow falls, the people heretie reindeer to their sledges and go sledging. Because of the cold, children are made to wear heavy woollen clothes that cover them up fully and make them look like bear cubs.
A Legend of the Northland Literary Devices
Enjambment is when a sentence, phrase, or thought does not end with the line of poetry. Rather, it carries over to the next line.
Example: He came to the door of a cottage,
In travelling round the earth,
Where a little woman was making cakes,
And baking them on the hearth;
Imagery is a poetic device wherein the author uses words or phrases that appeal to any of the senses or any combination of senses to create “mental images” for the reader. Imagery helps the reader to visualize more realistically the author’s writings. Imagery is not limited to only visual sensations, but also refers to igniting kinesthetic, olfactory, tactile, gustatory, thermal and auditory sensations as well.
In A Legend of the Northland we find sensory imagery that includes vision, taste, and sound as Saint Peter approaches the cottage and sees the old woman baking the cakes, then turns the woman into a woodpecker that can be heard tapping tapping on a tree.
Rhyme scheme refers to the order in which particular words at the end of each line rhyme. The first end sound is represented as the letter “a”, the second is “b”, and so on. If the alternate words rhyme, it is an “a-b-a-b” rhyme scheme, which means “a” is the rhyme for the lines 1 and 3 and “b” is the rhyme affected in the lines 2 and 4.
Example: “Away, away in the Northland, (a)
Where the hours of the day are few, (b)
And the nights are so long in winter (c)
That they cannot sleep them through.” (b)
Imperfect Rhyme, also known as ‘partial’, ‘near’ or ‘slant rhyme’, occurs when a: poet deliberately changes the spelling or pronunciation of word so that it rhymes with the last word of another line in the stanza. Use of imperfect rhyme is fairly common in folk poetry.
Example: Where they harness the swift reindeer
To the sledges, when it snows;
And the children look like bear’s cubs
In their funny, furry clothes:
A Legend of the Northland Summary Questions and Answers
What is a legend? Why is this is called a legend?
A legend is a very old story from ancient times, which may not always be true, and one that people tell about a famous event or person. A legend often teaches a lesson. This poem is called a legend because it tells an old story of Northland. This is the story of an old greedy woman who angered St. Peter and was turned into a woodpecker because of her greed, and the poet herself says, ‘I don’t believe it is true’.
Where does this legend belong to and what kind of country is it?
The legend belongs to the “Northland”, an area that could refer to any of the extremely cold countries in the Earth’s north polar region, such as Greenland, the northern regions of Russia—Siberia, or the Scandinavian countries – Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland. It is a cold place where days are short and the nights are long.
Why does the poet say that the hours of the day are few?
In the poem, the poet says the legend is told Northland. The Northland is a cold snow-covered region near the North Pole. Here the days are shorter and the nights are longer. As a result there are very few hours in a day.
Why are the People unable to sleep through the night?
The people are unable to sleep through the night because the nights are very long and very cold.
‘And the children look like bear’s cubs.’ What have the children been compared to? Why?
Northland is a cold place so the children have to wear funny furry dresses to protect themselves from cold. These dresses make them look like bear cubs.
What does the poet tell us about the story she is about to narrate? Why does she want to tell the tale?
The poet says that she is going to tell a strange tale told by the people of Northlands. She admits that thoughthe story may not be true, still she wants to tell the story because it contains an lesson in generosity and philanthropy. She wants the readers to learn a lesson from the poem.
Who came to the woman’s house and what did he ask for?
Saint Peter, while preaching round the world, reached the woman’s door. He had been travelling the whole day and was tired and hungry. When Saint Peter saw the woman making cakes, he asked her for one of her large store of cakes.
Why was Saint Peter tired and hungry?
Saint Peter was an apostle of Jesus Christ. He travelled around the land, preaching the message of Christ. During the course of his journey, sometimes, he did not get food and water. Besides, he had to observe fasts also. This often left him tired and hungry.
What did Saint Peter ask the woman for? What was the woman’s reaction?
Saint Peter asked the old lady for a cake from her store of cakes. The woman, who was very greedy, did not wish to part with her cakes as she felt they were too large to be given away. So she made a small cake for him, but, that too, seemed to her too big to be given away. In the end, she made a very small and thin cake. But she did not give even that cake to St. Peter and she put it away on the shelf.
Why did the woman bake a little cake?
The woman in the poem has been shown as being highly stingy, miserly, greedy and mean by nature. Whenever she picked up a cake to give it away, it appeared to be too large to give away. Hence, she baked a ‘ very small cake for Saint Peter that was as thin as a wafer.