by James Fenimore Cooper
The last of the Leatherstocking Tales to be written, and Cooper's own favorite, The Deerslayer turns back to the entrance into manhood of Natty Bumppo, the hero of these classic frontier sagas. This edition from 1980 is worn but readable.
Against the background of Cooper's vivid descriptions of the frontier and the wilderness, the Deerslayer and his loyal friend Chingachgook become embroiled in the conflict between the Huron tribe and Tom Hutter, the keeper of a deep secret, and his two daughters, Judith and Hetty, living on a houseboat on the lake, and Henry "Hurry Harry" March. Through a series of forest skirmishes, flights, escapes, and rescues, Cooper creates a complex picture of the inhabitants of the frontier, red and white. Although criticized many years after the fact for his "stereotypical" characters, clearly Chingachgook is a more noble figure than either Hutter or March, and Bumppo explains that some of the conduct of the Indians regarded by whites as "savage" or "brutal", such as scalp taking, is part of the cultural "natural gifts" of the red man, but does in fact constitute unwarranted savagery when practiced by whites such as Hutter and March, as their culture has no such history. With the publication of "The Spy" in 1821, James Fenimore Cooper became an international figure and the first authentic American novelist, free of the forms and conventions of the British fiction of the day. With "The Leatherstocking Tales" he became the first great interpreter of the American experience, chronicling the adventures of the indomitable Natty Bumppo, known variously as "Hawkeye," "Deerslayer," "Pathfinder," "Leatherstocking" and other names, from the colonial Indian wars through the early expansion into the vast western plains. Published between 1823 and 1841, beginning with "The Pioneers" and ending with "The Deerslayer", the tales are set against historical events ranging from 1740 to 1804, with Cooper taking some literary license with the actual chronology of events, probably to avoid having Bumppo ranging the Great Plains at over 90 years of age.
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