Whippo’wil: A Song Inspired By the Heart of Huck Finn

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” – Mark Twain

huckAndJimWhen I read about Huckleberry Finn’s adventures, taken down by Mr. Twain, I can only think the boy has more troubles than adventures. Poor Huck says he just wants to smoke his pipe in peace without being bothered by a bunch of interfering folk who might abuse him, exploit him, or worse – sivilize him.  He wants to be master of his own life, for certain.

But something in Huck’s cry for detachment seems to contradict his actions. Maybe it’s because Huck is not very self-aware that he doesn’t see how he deprives himself of what he longs for the most—real family and friends. Huck has a profound epiphany when a moral conundrum confronts him—should he turn in the runaway slave, Jim, who has become a father-friend to him, or accept damnation and try to rescue Jim from slavery? Huck says, “I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing . . . but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie—I found that out.” Some kind of counter-cultural moral compass compels Huck to be true to himself and to his friend.

Huck’s self-realization is a tender moment of universal feeling, and brilliant writing on Twain’s part. At some time or another, most of us humans realize we can’t lie to others, or to ourselves, about who we are and what we need. I wrote Huck’s song imagining what he would sing about his heart. He probably wouldn’t sing it as high and sweet as I do, but I think it would be just as mournful for the troubles he’s seen.

Whippo’wil –by Amanda Sue Winterhalter

You don’t know me anymore than I know myself
And what’s to know about anyone
Except we all feel on our own

I get lonesome in the night
Hearing the owl cry
He’s calling out for someone gone
She’s buried in the ground

Who, who?    Who, who?

Life would be more easy
If you’d just let me be
We both could live
In ignorant bliss
Not knowing what we’re missing

I get lonesome I don’t know why
I’m happy the way I am
Don’t wanna form no ties
Don’t wanna let nobody in

Who, who?      Who, who?

Somewhere in the dark
I can hear the lid of the casket
Keeping my heart safe
No way it can break
Oh Lord please don’t let them get it

Who, who?      Who, who?

You can’t pray a lie.