James Fenimore Cooper (September 15, 1789 – September 14,
1851) was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century. His
historical romances of frontier and Indian life in the early American days
created a unique form of American literature. He lived most of his life in Cooperstown,
established by his father William. Cooper was a lifelong member of the Episcopal
Church and in his
later years contributed generously to it. He attended Yale University for three years but was expelled for
misbehavior. Before embarking on his career as a writer he served in the U.S. Navy as a Midshipman which greatly influenced many of his
novels and other writings. He is best remembered as a novelist who wrote numerous sea-stories and the historical novels known as the Leatherstocking
naval historians his works on early U.S. naval history have been widely
received but were sometimes criticized by Cooper's contemporaries. Among his
most famous works is the Romantic novel The Last of
often regarded as his masterpiece.
The Deerslayer, or The First Warpath (1841)
Was the last of James
Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking
tales to be
written. Its 1740-1745 time period makes it the first installment
chronologically and in the lifetime of the hero of the Leatherstocking tales, Natty Bumppo. The novel's setting on Otsego Lake in central, upstate New York, is the same as
that of The Pioneers, the first of the Leatherstocking
tales to be published (1823). The Deerslayer is considered to be the prequel to the rest of the Leatherstocking tales. Fenimore Cooper begins his
work by relating the astonishing advance of civilization in New York State,
which is the setting of four of his five Leatherstocking tales.
This novel introduces
Natty Bumppo as "Deerslayer", a young frontiersman in early 18th-century New York. He is contrasted to other
frontiersmen and settlers in the novel who have no compunctions in taking
scalps in that his natural philosophy is that every living thing should follow
"the gifts" of its nature—which would keep European Americans from
taking scalps. Two such characters in the work who actually seek to take scalps
are Henry March ("Hurry Harry") and floating Tom Hutter.
In the dead of night
Hutter and March sneak into the camp of the besieging members of the Huron
tribe in order to kill and scalp as many as they can. Their plan fails, and Tom
Hutter and March are captured. They are later ransomed by Bumppo, his lifelong
friend Chingachgook, and Hutter's daughters, Judith and Hetty. Bumppo and
Chingachgook come up with a plan to rescue Chingachgook's kidnapped betrothed Wah-ta!-Wah from the Hurons; but, in rescuing her, Bumppo is captured.
In his absence, the Hurons invade Hutter's home, and Hutter is mortally wounded
and scalped. After the death of Hutter his supposed daughters find out that
they were not his natural daughters and he had been a notorious pirate.
Bumppo's remaining allies and friends plan how to aid his escape from his Huron