Faint with famine, Hiawatha
Started from his bed of branches,
From the twilight of his wigwam
Forth into the flush of sunset,
Came and wrestled with Mondamin;
At his touch he felt new courage
Throbbing in his brain and bosom,
Felt new life and hope and vigour
Run through every nerve and fibre.
The battle in the sunset with the corn-god gives Hiawatha new strength—necessarily so, because the fight against the paralyzing grip of the unconscious calls forth man’s creative powers.
That is the source of all creativity, but it needs heroic courage to do battle with these forces and to wrest from them the treasure hard to attain.
Whoever succeeds in this has triumphed indeed.
Hiawatha wrestles with himself in order to create himself.
The struggle again lasts for the mythical three days; and on the fourth day, as Mondamin prophesied, Hiawatha conquers him, and Mondamin, yielding up his soul, sinks to the ground.
In accordance with the latter’s wish, Hiawatha buries him in the earth his mother, and soon afterwards, young and fresh, the corn sprouts from his grave for the nourishment of mankind. (Cf. pi. lii.)
Had Hiawatha not succeeded in conquering him, Mondamin would have “killed” him and usurped his place, with the result that Hiawatha would have become “possessed” by a demon.
Now the remarkable thing here is that it is not Hiawatha who passes through death and emerges reborn, as might be expected, but the god.
It is not man who is transformed into a god, but the god who undergoes transformation in and through man.
It is as though he had been asleep in the “mother,” i.e., in Hiawatha’s unconscious, and had then been roused and fought with so that he should not overpower his host, but should, on the contrary, himself experience death and rebirth, and reappear in the corn in a new form beneficial to mankind.
Consequently he appears at first in hostile form, as an assailant with whom the hero has to wrestle.
This is in keeping with the violence of all unconscious dynamism.
In this manner the god manifests himself and in this form he must be overcome.
The struggle has its parallel in Jacob’s wrestling with the angel at the ford Jabbok.
The onslaught of instinct then becomes an experience of divinity, provided that man does not succumb to it and follow it blindly, but defends his humanity against the animal nature of the divine power.
It is “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” and “whoso is near unto me, is near unto the fire, and whoso is far from me, is far from the kingdom”; for “the Lord is a consuming fire,” the Messiah is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”:
Judah is a lion’s whelp;
from the prey, my son, thou art gone up.
He stooped down, he couched as a lion,
and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? [Hebrews 10:31]
~Carl Jung, CW 5, Pages 337-338