Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

The Huron Carol, a Singable Picture Book

Posted on: August 7, 2013

This is a hauntingly beautiful Christmas Carol with an interesting historical context.  THE HURON CAROL tells the Christmas Story in the 17th century Native American Setting of the Huron People (also called the Wyandot, in what is now Ontario, Canada).  This song provides a great opportunity any time of year to learn more about Native Americans.  Both books are beautifully illustrated and take pains to make the images that celebrate the Native American Peoples.  I read a review which suggested that neither the lyrics or the pictures are as historically accurate as they could be and these facts could be made clear in the discussion of the song and book.  But I would argue that without these books (and they are beautiful), one may not take the opportunity to have these discussions.  The books offer opportunities for enrichment on many levels.  Both books also include a page of historical information about the song.

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The Huron Carol
Words by Jean de Brébeuf (1643)
English Lyrics by Jesse Edgar Middleton (1926)
Set to an Adaptation of the 16th Century French Noel: “Une Jeune Pucelle” (“A Young Maid”)
Illustrated by Frances Tyrrell

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Huraon Carol Wallace
The Huron Carol
Words by Jean de Brébeuf (1643)
English Lyrics by Jesse Edgar Middleton (1926)
Set to an Adaptation of the 16th Century French Noel: “Une Jeune Pucelle” (“A Young Maid”)
Illustrated by Ian Wallace

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Printed music from Frances Tyrrell illustration

Huron Carol music illustr Tyrell

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THE HURON CAROL
Words by Jean de Brébeuf (1643)
English Lyrics by Jesse Edgar Middleton (1926)
Set to an Adaptation of the 16th Century French Noel: “Une Jeune Pucelle” (“A Young Maid”)

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead.

Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wand’ring hunters heard the hymn:
“Jesus, your king, is born.
Jesus is born.  In excelsis gloria!”

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender babe was found.
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapped his beauty ’round.

And as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high:
“Jesus, your king, is born.
Jesus is born.  In excelsis gloria!”

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
as was the ring of glory on
The helpless infant there.

While chiefs from far before him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt,
“Jesus, your king, is born.
Jesus is born.  In excelsis gloria!”

O children of the forest free,
O sons of Manitou,
The holy child of earth and heaven
Is born today for you.

Come, kneel before the radiant boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.
“Jesus, your king, is born.
Jesus is born.  In excelsis gloria!”

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Quick Vocabulary:

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GITCHI MANITOU: 

Gitche Manitou (Gitchi Manitou, Kitchi Manitou, etc.) means “Great Spirit” in several Algonquian languages.
More info here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gitche_Manitou

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SONGS OF MANITOU: 
Manitou are the spirit beings of Algonquian groups of Native Americans.
More info here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manitou

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It is worth noting that “Manitou” is a spirit-concept of the Algonquin Peoples and not one of of the Huron (Wyandot) Peoples.  It was clearly used by the English translator Jesse Edgar Middleton, in his 1926 translation, to stand in for a general name of a Native American Spirit.  This feels insensitive to us today and should be understood in the context of the time the work was done.  My personal feeling is that we can use this fact in addition to our understanding to continue to celebrate the Native American cultures, understand their extreme challenges, at at the same time appreciate the beauty of this carol and the history  and sentiments is conveys.

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Interesting information here, including original lyrics in Huron language and direct English translation:
http://cockburnproject.net/songs&music/ia.html

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HURON CAROL wiki:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huron_Carol

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A few additional details, here:
http://www.wyandot.org/carol.htm

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Historical information about THE HURON CAROL, here:
http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/huron_carol.htm

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Even more, here:
http://www.nativevillage.org/Editorials/Huron%20Christmas%20Carol.htm

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Learn about the Huron People (Wyandot), here:
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/277295/Huron

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Learn about the Wyandot People, here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wyandot_people

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Chanticleer sings HURON CAROL

www.youtube.com/watch?v=khQlkRcTdN0

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Elora Festival Singers of Canada sing HURON CAROL:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3D-m-PwKVsM

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I am learning to play the guitar (very slowly!) and would absolutely LOVE to play and sing this beautiful carol…someday…

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Interesting blog article with lesson for playing the piece in G-minor and embedded player to hear the guitar sound
http://www.guitarnoise.com/lessons/the-huron-carol/

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Wonderful page with guitar chords here.  You can hover over each chord to get a diagram
http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/m/misc_christmas/the_huron_carol_crd.htm

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lovely rendition of this Canadian Carol in guitar:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFD4_lhnBYc

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Related Posts

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CHRISTMAS

A Collection of Singable Picture Books that celebrate CHRISTMAS!
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/singable-picture-books-for-christmas/

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Original American Peoples

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4 Responses to "The Huron Carol, a Singable Picture Book"

Hello. Thank you so much for this posting. I belong to a Spirit Drumming group in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. They have given me the challenge to prepare this song for our upcoming Christmas gathering.
All of the information here is truly inspiring! I have one “haunting” version to add to your collection.

Here is some information about Tom Jackson, a truly dedicated to humanity performer.

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/tom-jackson/

For almost twenty years Mr. Jackson has travelled across Canada with his “Huron Carole Tour” primarily to raise funds for Food Banks to help those less fortunate, be they First Nations or not. We look forward each December for his return to Victoria. Tom is a blessing from our Creator!

Greg Shea (Lake Cowichan, BC)

Thank you for this lovely note. The Huron Carol is one of my favorite of all songs. I will enjoy listening to and researching the links you have shared and hope you will enjoy playing this most gorgeous song. Best wishes to you, Emily Gleichenhaus

I love Huron Carol! I sang it with my choir last year and then taught it to my Children’s Church. We also did a fun lesson with it in Children’s Church (which is a post on my site). Glad other people like it too!

Beccasmusicroom.com

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