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NATTY BUMPPO: Trailing The Pathfinder


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We wish to thank Gayle Clark for this well researched & informative look into one of America's heroes!

Please note the Natty Bumppo timeline at the bottom of this page!

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CONNECTING THE DOTS

clues to the unwritten story of natty bumppo

ALMOST TWO HUNDRED YEARS AFTER THE FIRST VOLUME OF �THE LEATHERSTOCKING TALES� WAS PUBLISHED, THE ENIGMA OF THE CHARACTER OF NATTY BUMPPO AND THE CHALLENGE OF GIVING HIM AN ACCURATE PLACE IN A SPAN OF HISTORY REMAIN, FOR JAMES FENIMORE COOPER, THE ULTIMATE ACHIEVEMENT IN INTERACTIVE LITERATURE AND AN ENDLESS GIFT FOR READERS WITH A BENT FOR DETECTIVE WORK.

WHETHER BY DESIGN OR BY DEFAULT, COOPER SCATTERED CLUES TO THE LIFE AND PSYCHOLOGY OF HIS MOST POPULAR CHARACTER THROUGHOUT THE FIVE VOLUMES OF �THE LEATHERSTOCKING TALES�. SOME OF THE CLUES TO HIS LIFE ARE HANDED OPENLY TO THE READER; SOME ARE DEEPLY EMBEDDED IN LAYERS OF NARRATIVE, RUMINATION, CONVERSATION OR MONOLOGUE; SOME ARE POSED LIKE AN ALGEBRAIC EQUATION IN WHICH, AFTER ONE FINDS AND ARRANGES THE CORRECT FACTORS, THE SOLUTION CONSTITUTES BUT ANOTHER CLUE. SIFTED CAREFULLY, THE FIVE VOLUMES CONTAIN ALL THE INFORMATION NECESSARY TO CONSTRUCT A PICTURE OF THE EARLY YEARS IN WHICH NATTY�S BEHAVIOR AND ATTITUDES WERE FORMED - AND HE UNQUESTIONABLY WAS A MAN WITH AN ATTITUDE.

Cooper wrote the five books in almost inverse order, according to the life of his character. The order of publication was: The Pioneers (Natty in his 70�s), The Prairie (Natty in his 80�s), Last of the Mohicans (Natty at the age of 40), The Pathfinder (Natty at 42), and The Deerslayer (Natty at 24). He introduced Natty rather tentatively in The Pioneers, and didn�t truly lock into the character until later in the book. By the time he wrote The Prairie, Natty had become very concrete in his mind. The Prairie is the only volume of �The Leatherstocking Tales� in which Cooper has Natty state definitive ages. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that Cooper intended Natty to die in 1805 at the age of eighty eight. It is from that dot in time that we calculate Natty�s age for the other four books of �The Leatherstocking Tales� and attempt to fill in the outline of his earlier life.

Natty was described repeatedly as being a very simple person, and although his determined freedom from the structure of civilized society may have sounded like a simplified way of life, Cooper created a very complex human being who required a tremendously sophisticated store of knowledge and skills to survive in his environment. It is the consistency of behavior and psychology in the man as a whole that has led many researchers to posit that Natty was a real person rather than a fictional character.

COUNTING THE YEARS

Throughout the �The Leatherstocking Tales�, Natty wrestled with the issue of his age. It was a matter of identity for him as surely as his other identity fetish - that he was �a man without a cross�. In The Deerslayer, he struggled with the disadvantage of youth in a world of men. In The Last of the Mohicans his age served as attestation to his experience in forest living and in Indian warfare and was an instrument of encouraging the confidence of those who relied on him for their safety. In The Pathfinder, the issue of romantic attractiveness became entwined with attitudes toward aging. In The Pioneers, Natty reluctantly confronted the transition of power to a new generation. In The Prairie the accumulated wisdom and experiences of a long and active lifetime are placed in perspective as they culminate in the death of the great hunter.

To rely on Natty�s own statements to determine his age at any given point leads to a maze of confusion. Over the decades, his life circumstances effectively prevented him from keeping accurate track of his age. For many years after he moved into the forest, he was still sufficiently in contact with the settlements and the garrisons to be accurate about the month of the year, but he eventually began to lose track of the specific number of years accruing to himself. Since he could not read or write, it is unlikely he possessed even the simplest arithmetical skills, so he would have been unable to subtract his birth year from the current date to state a specific age. Once Natty left the settlements and moved west, he had access to none of the markers which track the days of the week or months of the year � no Sunday church bells, no Christmas holidays, no calendared events by which the civilized world orders its life. One day ran into another in his weary trek westward, and he could rely only on the changing of the seasons to count another year added. With the onset of winter, Natty considered a full year completed, and he gave himself another year as well. In most cases, he referred only to his decade. In The Pioneers, he referred to himself, when making a plea for compassion from the court, as being in his seventy first year, meaning simply that he had passed seventy - a general �three score and ten� was within his ability, but �three score and sixteen (his actual age), or �three score, ten and six� was a bit beyond him. It was easier to keep track of six additional winters after he had reached a round four-score in The Prairie.

Natty�s age is a constant motif throughout the series, but only in The Pathfinder does it become a central issue of the story. In terms of creating a romantic hero, as well as an adventurous one, Cooper had trapped himself in the irrevocable situation, in The Prairie, of having his hero die celibate at the age of eighty eight. He could not, without serious inconsistency, allow Natty to marry in a later-published, though chronologically earlier, book. In The Pathfinder, Natty (and the author) struggled with the issue of whether a man over forty could be attractive as a husband and lover to a girl of twenty. Cooper invested Natty with the very human tendency to be singularly circumspect regarding his age, according to the impression he wanted to make. When it was advantageous to Natty to engender respect for his experience and wisdom, he tended to be fairly specific. However, when he was attempting to court Mabel Dunham, both he and Mabel�s father, Sergeant Dunham, suddenly became very vague, preferring to hang on the light side of 40 if they were pressed on the subject. Both Natty and Sergeant Dunham knew exactly how old Natty was, and Mabel had a pretty good idea. Given the circumstances, it was more politic not to state anything at all, but this is the only book in which Natty Bumppo, maven of truth and rectitude, blatantly lies about his age. At the very outset of his acquaintance with Mabel, Natty flatly states that her father has the advantage of him by thirty years. True, Sergeant Dunham was thirty years old when, thirty years earlier, he and Natty went on their first campaign together, but Natty managed to mislay twelve years of his own somewhere in the calculations and unblushingly claimed to be thirty years old himself when he and Mabel met. Mabel entered into the game in her own clever way. Knowing full well that her father was 62 years old, her coy question about Natty being within 10-12 years of her father�s age was undoubtedly her tactful way of conveying to her father that, in her eyes, anything over 30 was not what she had in mind for a husband.

To have resolved the issue of Natty�s age in The Pathfinder would have misrepresented the effect of his actual predicament. Natty was inherently realistic about himself, despite allowing himself to indulge in some very natural and passionate fantasies, and he could not be comfortable with the falseness of his position in regard to Mabel. Throughout the book, he subconsciously searched frantically for any excuse or combination of excuses to avoid being railroaded into marriage, family responsibilities and the settlement life he abhorred. Finally, in one clever maneuver he managed to get rid of the entire problem while enhancing his reputation for noble selflessness. He stood aside and allowed his friend Jasper Western to win the bride. At the end of the book, his age ceased to be an issue, but not because Cooper had allowed it to stand in the way of romance. Natty�s destiny was already fixed, and the required romantic interlude for the hero now had been fulfilled.

A REFLECTION ON POLITICS

Given the disastrous social and political conflicts in which Cooper and his family were embroiled, it is not remarkable that Cooper created a character of fantasy as completely disinterested in politics as a human could be. To all intents and purposes, Natty Bumppo was totally apolitical. Natty himself expressed his views best in The Pathfinder when he stated �If you think I pass my days in warfare against my kind, you know neither me nor my history. The man that lives in the woods and on the frontiers must take the chances of the things among which he dwells. For this I am not accountable, being but an humble and powerless hunter and scout and guide. My real calling is to hunt for the army, on its marches and in times of peace; although I am more especially engaged in the service of one officer who is now absent in the settlements, where I never follow him. No, no; bloodshed and warfare are not my real gifts, but peace and mercy. Still, I must face the enemy as well as another; and as for a Mingo, I look upon him as man looks on a snake, a creature� to be put beneath the heel whenever a fitting occasion offers.� This gentle and peaceable outlook does not explain why Natty became a ruthless and cold-blooded killer who could pass among the bodies of slain Indians and coolly slide his knife into the heart of each corpse to assure there was no chance of survival. However, it serves to emphasize the personal nature of his deadly hatred for the Mingos and their French masters, and leads to the possibility that the explanation would be apparent in the never-written book covering Natty�s childhood and the loss of his family.

It was evident that, even though Natty had fought for the Crown and been a loyal member of the Royal Americans, he never seemed to be personally identified or persecuted as a Tory, even though in the years after the War for Independence, anyone remotely suspected of having Tory sympathies was in serious danger of harassment, imprisonment and even death at the hands of the rebel citizenry. Even so, the relentless world of political and legal structure caught up with him in The Pioneers, and he was subjected to much of the injustice and personal humiliation Cooper felt he himself had suffered at various points in his life and those with which Cooper struggled ethically in the development of the new nation.

Natty reached the epitome of apoliticism when he left Templeton and fought his last battle, on his way west, under Anthony Wayne. By Natty�s own admission, he should have understood the issues before joining the fight. It is possible Cooper was suggesting that in many cases the opportunity for a scrap is more important than the substance of the argument.

Cooper reportedly intended to write at least two more novels to be included in �The Leatherstocking Tales�. Given the rich field of historical material available to him and the immense gaps he had left in the life of his most popular character, two novels seem the least he could have proposed for an audience captivated by the adventure and romance of this series. However, the additional books were never written, leaving a sense of mystery fully as needful of solving as Dickens� uncompleted Mystery of Edwin Drood. As a result, there has been an unending but fruitless quest to tie the character of Natty Bumppo to a real person so a full biography might be brought to light.

Cooper was absolutely honest in his insistence that Natty Bumppo was a fictional character compounded of many personalities, although there is little doubt he based the character of the scout initially on the historical person of David Shipman, a famous hunter born in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. It is apparent that, by the time Cooper published The Deerslayer, he had conceptualized a complete and realistic personality for the woodsman in anticipation of adding to �The Leatherstocking Tales�.

It is tempting to speculate on the circumstances which made Natty Bumppo such a variegated bundle of saintly virtues and impetuous faults, determined fairness and rigid bias, stoic patience and passionate anger, unbreakable loyalties and intense isolation. Since the five completed volumes contain much of the information necessary to bring into focus the childhood Cooper may have envisioned for him, it is probable that the story of Natty�s childhood would have comprised one of the intended volumes. Many of the clues to Natty�s earlier life and experience were provided, not directly by Natty himself, but by other characters who bore relationship to past events in his life. It is necessary to decode the characters and their references to past events to flesh out the life of Natty.

SETTING THE SCENE

Judge William Cooper had risen from poverty and a humble background to establish the family position and fortune through land speculation. From that point on, the Cooper philosophy was dedicated to the proposition that America was to be ruled and guided by a closed landed aristocracy. According to Alan Taylor in William Cooper�s Town, �the Coopers needed significant deference from the village gentility to complete their aristocratic pretensions. They were renowned for their generous charity to the deferential poor, but they felt threatened by any display of egalitarian independence, especially by their servants. They also felt under attack from the rude folk dwelling beyond the fences surrounding their estates�. To James Fenimore Cooper, who firmly adhered to a caste-oriented political and social structure in his novels, the true claim of heroism for Natty Bumppo was not that he rescued fair maidens, killed cruel Indians and rose above the moral failings of the human race, but that he never forgot or attempted to rise above his �place� in the social order.

Cooper teased his readers with four substantial clues to the childhood of Natty Bumppo in The Deerslayer. He let us know that Natty�s early life had been fairly conventional. Then he planted in the mind of the reader the devastation of homes and lives by French and Indian raids in the colonies. He made clear that Natty had lost his father, mother and sister, but never in any of the books did Natty elaborate or dwell on the subject. Finally, Cooper led us west from the Dutch settlements on the east side of the Hudson to the scene of Otsego Lake, leaving the suggestion of the Mohawk Valley and its dramatic history as a plowed, but unplanted field of imagination for the intervening years. Many of the defining circumstances of those years can be gleaned from the five volumes, and it is obvious throughout that a moving story lies behind the young man we meet by the Glimmerglass.

BURNING THE BRIDGES

Fire was a destroyer as terrifying to the frontier settlers as Indian raids or military incursions. In �The Leatherstocking Tales�, it depicted the ruthlessness of Indian torture and the devastation of lives, homes and land. To Cooper, however, fire served a literary purpose far more significant than the obvious drama it added to an adventure story or an additional opportunity for one of the heroines to tremble and pale. Fire signaled closure - an almost existential severing of ties, cancellation of the past and starting anew with no carry-over on the new page of life.

Cooper produces one of the most intensely dramatic moments of �The Leatherstocking Tales� in the first published book of the series. In The Pioneers, Natty characteristically reveals an underlying anger of monumental proportions. His whole life has been lived with the consciousness of undeserved destruction of everything he has held dear and of his absolute helplessness in the face of man�s inhumanity to man. He attempted in his later years to build around himself a wall of protection in isolation and a lifestyle in which he did no harm to anyone and asked nothing of anyone except to be allowed to provide for himself. His life has been lived very much on the principle that what one does not have cannot be taken away, but even this has not been enough to protect him against those who believe that, simply by existing, he takes up too much space. He has no money or social status; he has no power to strike back at those who have wronged him. Therefore, he strikes back at himself, for the lifelong anger has finally reached to the point of explosion. He seeks freedom, and he reverts to the symbol of absolute severance from a way of life and all that one possesses and holds dear. He burns his cabin, which is all he has left, and severs all ties with the encroaching settlements. He will go into the forest, as he did when his life was still before him, and again, he will never look back.

In a sense, Cooper has taken his fully conceptualized hero full circle, but the solution is not yet complete. There still remains the deeply significant tie of Chingachgook, who represents the Indian alter ego of Natty�s life. Chingachgook has fallen as low as Natty has. The destruction of his nation has paralleled the progressive destruction of Natty�s world, and even has completed it - for Natty lost the father, mother and sister, and Chingachgook lost the wife and son. Natty cannot make a clean break while leaving half of himself behind. The final and irrevocable severing of the ties must come with the release of Chingachgook from the cumulative dilemma, and Cooper again uses the dramatic fire on Mount Vision to send Chingachgook to the hunting grounds of his fathers, where he may begin a new existence - young, strong, happy and free of the encroachment of �civilized� humanity.

Cooper wrote The Prairie to depict the onward progress of �civilization� into the vast untried expanses of the western plains. Superficially, it is an imaginative and enthusiastic account of the settlement of the raw frontier, but mankind makes of the new world just what it has made of the old.

In traveling west, Natty has had ten years of severe deprivation, exacerbated by age and the consequent loss of his formidable skills and physical prowess. Cooper again invokes the drama of fire to achieve a new beginning. Ostensibly, the prairie fire is simply a scenic part of the description of the western plains, much as the buffalo stampede and the roving tribes of Sioux and Pawnee are part of the picture. This fire scene proves the one exception, however, to Cooper�s use of fire as an end to a way of life, serving as a reprise to a theme as well as an end and new beginning. Out of the ashes of the fire comes the young Pawnee whom Natty sees as a rebirth of the lost Uncas. Natty informally adopts the Pawnee brave and finds brotherhood in his tribe. Once again he has a substitute family with whom to recapture the warmth of belonging and the joys of the hunt. Thus Natty truly goes full circle, and he is surrounded with the shades of his whole history as the Indians accompany him through the completion of his life�s journey.

In The Pathfinder, Cooper again invokes a symbol of fire, but having used it previously in The Pioneers and The Prairie to wipe out an entire way of life and lead to new beginnings, and possibly anticipating a similar scenario in a future novel detailing Natty�s childhood, here he must restrict its effect. Natty goes to-and-fro with the issue of changing his way of life, and fire threatens, but never takes hold. Just as Natty and Mabel are trapped together in the dilemma of betrothal, they are trapped together in the blockhouse, with the Indians making one attempt after another to set fire to their sanctuary. Natty anticipates the attempts and constantly frustrates them. Finally, the fire is started, right against the door of the stronghold, but being well prepared, Natty and Cap (who also is skeptical about the marriage) dump a barrel of water down over it and extinguish it for good.

Cooper could have freed Natty from the problem of radically changing his way of life if Mabel died in a fire or an Indian raid, but Mabel was, in reality, no threat to Natty�s freedom. Natty already had his collection of defenses in order, and Jasper Western was waiting in the wings to provide the final solution. Another drastic conflagration would have reduced the useful symbol of fire to a transparent expedient as overused as the broken twigs and the moccasin prints. For once Cooper avoided the banal and utilized a symbol rather subtly and skillfully. Fire threatened; marriage threatened; but after serving the purposes of the plot, both threats were neatly extinguished, and Natty�s life went on unaltered by any catastrophic event.

Fire appears in The Deerslayer only incidentally as a symbol of a rite of passage into manhood for Natty. The Hurons attempt to put Natty to torture and death by fire, and Natty nobly faces them down; but Hetty Hutter frustrates everybody�s purposes by rushing forward and scattering the fire just before the military comes to the rescue. Therefore, the fire never serves the literary purpose of effecting any significant changes. Natty has proven his manhood sufficiently by killing his first Indian; there is no need to obliterate his past and give him a new beginning, because, ostensibly, he is at the beginning of a life that has already been swept clean once.

THE DUTCH CONNECTION

It is evident from the many pointed associations Cooper establishes, that Natty is of Dutch, rather than English, heritage. Cooper is characteristically oblique in his associations, but he goes to a great deal of effort to tie Natty to the Dutch by virtue of habits, language, and reminiscences. Natty speaks with comfortable familiarity of the patterns and mannerisms of Dutch family life. He appears perfectly at ease joining in the society and sporting activities of the young men in the Dutch settlements, and speaks frequently of the pleasures of hunting along the Hudson and in the Catskills. He also mentions, at one point, that the sound of choir singing reminded him of the Dutch church in Albany, and though the qualifier is that he often went to that street in Albany to trade in skins and furs, it appears that Cooper has taken another opportunity to suggest a personal connection which has no relevance to the subject of the paragraph other than to drop in an additional subliminal clue to Natty�s background.

Natty is quite capable of speaking the King�s English when necessary, indicating that he probably has imbibed good language habits while learning to talk. Having moved out of settlement society and preferring to communicate at the level of those with whom he is most associated, he generally speaks a combination of Yorker and woodsman dialects. However, almost as if he were presenting a little tutorial in the midst of the story, Cooper makes his point about the Dutch background with examples which tend to appear slightly out of context, or unnecessarily interjected into the narrative. One example is the brief explanation of the various names given to the Indian tribes by the English, French and Dutch. Cooper states that �Maguas� is the Dutch name given to the Iroquois, and then proceeds to have Natty use the term �Maguas� immediately following the explanation and throughout the rest of the book. Throughout the series, Natty uses every possible term for the Indian tribes, depending on the company he is in, but Cooper makes a point here of teaching the reader, not about Indian names, but about Natty himself.

One of the most subtle but significant of Cooper�s hints to Natty�s Dutch heritage is the use of the word �younker�. Natty several times refers to himself in the past as a �younker�. �Younker� is a Dutch term meaning a young nobleman. In English it translates to �squire�, so may refer to a countryside form of upper class, and was used for a young unmarried man from the higher social standings. Even today the term is used for a young soldier who is still in training. Knowing from Natty�s own reminiscence that the Bumppos were once a family of higher status than they are in the colonies, it seems possible the word might have been a term of endearment for the first born son or used simply with the hope that he might, in his adult years, return the family to the status on which they had once prided themselves.

Only in allegiance to the Crown does Natty adhere to any identity with the English. This presumably is because of his loyalty to and admiration for Major Effingham, and because the French were considered the intruders by all the colonists, whether English, Dutch, German, Irish or of any other heritage. Otherwise, Natty makes it clear that, other than in the context of the military, he is absolutely negative to everything about the English. He has nothing good to say about their communities, their religion, their habits or their culture, and in fact, flatly states that he never follows Major Effingham into the settlements.

INDIAN NAMES

Whether living in the proximity of a civilized community, traveling with the military or living in isolation in the forests, Natty was part of a world in which Indians and settlers alike characterized people by descriptive and honorary names. For most of his lonely life, proud of his reputation and pleased with any conversation he could hold with another human being, enemy or friend, Natty seized upon the simplest opportunity to give a full account of his life and identity as represented by the names he had. The following is an account, in his own words, of his many names:

�My father was called Bumppo; and I was named after him, of course, the given name being Nathaniel. I did not go by this name, howsoever, very long; for the Delawares soon found out, or thought they found out, that I was not given to lying, and they called me, firstly, Straight-tongue. After a while they found out that I was quick of foot, and then they called me The Pigeon. From carrying messages and striking blind trails, I got at last to following the hunters, when it was thought I was quicker and surer at finding the game than most lads and then they called me the Lap-ear as, they said, I partook of the sagacity of a hound. . . . after I was rich enough to buy a rifle, then it was seen I could keep a wigwam in ven�son, and in time I got the name of Deerslayer.�

A Huron warrior, the first human being Natty killed, honored the superior marksmanship of the young hunter with his dying words by giving him the name of Hawkeye. Natty was later known by the French and the Iroquois as La Longue Carabine, a testimony to the fearsome reputation of his rifle, Killdeer. The English military honored him as Pathfinder, inasmuch as he was never known to miss one end of the trail, when there was a Mingo, or a friend who stood in need of him, at the other. As he aged and settled into hunting for his own support, he was characterized by the settlers and Indians by the buckskin leggings typical of the military and woodsmen, and �Leatherstocking� became his identity. In his final years, far removed from the scenes of his reputation and no longer able to pursue the heroic lifestyle which had earned it, Natty was known on the western prairies, simply as The Trapper.

MAJOR EFFINGHAM a.k.a. FIRE-EATER

At the beginning of The Pioneers, Cooper gives a great deal of information about Major Effingham, a father figure and strong influence in Natty Bumppo�s life, but who never appears in person in any of the other books. There was, in fact, a Lord Francis Howard of Effingham who served as a governor of Virginia, and who in 1684 conferred with Iroquois chiefs at Albany to persuade them to cease attacking the back settlements of the Chesapeake area and to acknowledge themselves subjects of England. However, it is unlikely this historical figure contributed to the character of Major Effingham in �The Leatherstocking Tales�. Lord Howard, in addition to being a Catholic, to which faith Natty Bumppo was acidly opposed, was not involved in the military at all.

From the detailed description of Major Effingham included in the beginning of The Pioneers, it is probable that Colonel Walter Butler was the historical character who appeared in �The Leatherstocking Tales� as Major Effingham. Colonel Butler and his wife maintained a large estate in New London, Connecticut, about fifteen miles east of Old Saybrook Butler was an officer in the British Army. He had come to North America to participate in the expedition against Quebec in 1711. Like Effingham�s family, Butler�s family had acquired land and established a lavish estate in Connecticut. This would have put Effingham in close proximity to the area where Natty Bumppo was born and spent his early childhood years, and it is logical that he would have encountered the boy, particularly if a local Indian raid or British/French set-to contributed to Natty�s homelessness. In 1728, Butler was posted to Fort Hunter, and in the next few years he acquired 86,000 acres of land from the Iroquois Indians through a shady land deal concocted with New York governor William Crosby. Natty would have been eleven or twelve years old when Butler moved his family from New London to the new estate south of Fort Hunter at the juncture of the Mohawk and Schoharie Rivers, and this is consistent with the age at which Major Effingham took Natty into his service and then on his first sortie with the military. At the end of his career, Butler was placed on Half-Pay and retired in New London. However, Cooper chose to have Major Effingham nobly refuse the Half-Pay or any other compensation for services that he felt he could no longer perform. In addition, Effingham retired to his estate in New York, but was later left at the estate in Connecticut by his son who returned to England to pursue the family�s claim to the American properties which had been confiscated when the colonies declared independence. This set the scene for Judge Templeton to display his munificence by returning the property later in The Pioneers, and for Natty�s identity as a former servant of the Major to be established as background for the further books in the series.

Colonel Butler�s inveterate campaigning against the French and the Indians earned him the name of the �Hellhound� of the frontier. In the interest of gentility and narrative style, Cooper exercised a bit of poetic license and tempered Major Effingham�s sobriquet to �Fire-eater�. And gratefully so. One can hardly imagine Chingachgook offering as his dying benediction, �Farewell, Hawkeye! You shall go with the Hellhound and the Young Eagle to the white man�s heaven.�.

BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS

With the foregoing information, we choose to go on the assumption that Natty was of Dutch parentage, and to build on the known fact that his character was heavily patterned after the old hunter, David Shipman, who was born in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, an area of the colonies settled by the Dutch and constantly in jeopardy from either Indian raids or cross-fire between the English and the French.

Natty had a father, mother and sister, but no brothers, and his reflections indicate memories of a warm and stable home life with honesty, hard work and simple pleasures defining the atmosphere. The chances are his sister was older than he, since her collected tokens of femininity, when Natty was still living at home, were similar to those collected by Judith Hutter, who was nineteen years old when Natty met her. Natty loved both his parents dearly and dutifully, but was too enthralled with the joys of the woods and a rifle to be obedient to any wish they might have had for him to prepare himself for life with formal schooling. He apparently had a very strong will, since he managed to achieve illiteracy in spite of the fact that there was a school available to the settlers� children. He bluntly boasted that he never spent more time in a school then he was forced to, and it is easy to imagine him playing truant to go fishing and hunting with his Indian friends whenever he could get away with it. The very tenor of his respect for his parents� memory indicates that he was no rapscallion, however, but rather a quiet, self-contained type who, from a very early age, had his own ideas about what suited him and what did not. It is easy to imagine him squirming through a Sunday Service, or sulking his way through a primary lesson in the letters of the alphabet, and breaking free at the first opportunity to fly for the fields and the woods.

Natty was described as being six feet tall in his moccasins, thin and wiry, with grey eyes, sandy hair, a large mouth and rather heavy eyebrows. Never is reference made to his being ugly, pock-marked or deformed in any way, yet he seems to have imbibed the idea that he fell far short of the ideal in terms of looks. This bespeaks a sensitive child who was the object of teasing from an older sister or his playmates, and rather than teasing in return or brushing it off, internalized it quietly and believed that he could never compete with other boys or men in romantic attractiveness.

Since Natty was still living in the security of his parents� home when he was old enough to have his first rifle and to travel a day�s journey on his own to try it out, it can be assumed that it was somewhere between about 1727 and 1729 that he catastrophically lost his home and family and was left alone in the world. Given Cooper�s tendency to use a conflagration as a vehicle for complete separation from a set of circumstances and the beginning of a new existence, it is possible that the end of Natty�s home life came with an Indian raid which claimed the lives of his only living kin and precipitated him into the world on his own. Living in Connecticut, or if his family had migrated inland to one of the many Dutch settlements along the Hudson River, such disasters were common, and Cooper does make a point of directing the reader�s thinking to the area of Kinderhook, Claverack and Poughkeepsie, the historic scenes of disastrous Indian attacks. We are left to envision a ten year old boy, lonely and frightened and grieving, who must somehow pick up the pieces of his life and make a man of himself.

It is apparent the Bumppo family was poor and not well connected, although there is no indication that the parents were indentured or otherwise employed as servants. However, a suggestion is made that, in resettling in America, they came somewhat down in the world from their former status. Cooper could not utilize the literary possibility of Major Effingham adopting the homeless boy, as this would have allowed Natty, unacceptably, to cross the invincible Cooper class lines. However, due to Natty�s extraordinary skill with a rifle, and in view of the future which had already been plotted for him, Major Effingham took him into his family as a combination valet and aide de camp who would accompany him into battle and attend to his weapons and gear. In 1729, at the age of twelve, Natty accompanied Major Effingham, for the first time, on a military campaign. It was during this campaign that Natty became acquainted with and saved the life of Sergeant Dunham, whose daughter was to be Natty�s future romantic interest. Dunham was thirty years old at that time, and over the years, he grew to respect the character and achievements of the young man to the point that he viewed Natty as an outstanding prospect for a son-in-law.

Natty�s love for the woods and his skills with the rifle had won him the admiration of a Delaware tribe living in the Hudson River area. Spending much time with the Delawares, Natty quickly became proficient in their language and their tribal customs. He began to live more with the tribe than with the Effinghams, since he had little patience with the aristocratic pretensions of English Society or British settlements in general, and when he was fourteen years old, the Delawares adopted him into their tribe.

During the years between the loss of his home and his appearance on the Glimmerglass with Harry March, Natty developed an overwhelming obsession with sin, which was to rule him for the rest of his life. One can only speculate about the atrocities the orphaned and impressionable boy may have witnessed and been subjected to in traveling with the military and in the rough and Indian-besieged atmosphere of the frontier settlements. His distaste for the men and women of his own race became all-pervasive, and he displayed a particularly strong animosity toward the English. Refusing to follow Major Effingham into the settlements between military campaigns, he made his home with the Delaware Indians, whom he saw as guiltless victims of the ambitions of the white race, but whose own forms of atrocity he excused on the grounds of inferior race.

It was during these years with the Delawares that Natty was exposed to the teachings of the Moravian missionaries. Their influence, in conjunction with the straightforward culture and justice of the Delawares, contrasted sharply with what Natty observed in the practices of the European communities, and a fundamental approach to Christian doctrine was more readily understandable to the young boy than the interpretation of convenience common to the more highly sophisticated. The Moravians apparently delineated for him the pitfalls of every imaginable depravity he might have missed in his own observations. His only salvation was to escape into the forests, where he could maintain an existence untouched by civilization and dependent only on God for survival and for judgment of his merit as a human being.

When Natty was sixteen, he formed a deep and life-long friendship with the young Delaware chief Chingachgook, and the two boys embarked on a long and famous career of hunting and Indian-fighting together. Chingachgook, as Natty�s alter ego and only confidant, accompanied Natty through all of his adventures until they were both in their late seventies.

Natty was, in many ways, the vehicle for expression of Cooper�s personal views as well as of the mores of Eighteenth Century America. He accepted the Cooper concept of a firmly class-structured society. He abhorred the French, the Iroquois and Catholics. He rigidly opposed race-mixing and adhered to a belief that God had created each race as it was for a purpose that was not to be contravened by man. He viewed men as having interesting variations in their characters, but was completely buffaloed by a woman who expressed an opinion or evidenced any degree of self-sufficiency. Nonetheless, Natty somehow took on a life of his own over which Cooper seemed to have little control. He combined the soul of a poet with the nature of a redneck; was used by all, but owned by none; craved love and the companionship of other human beings, but trusted no one with his heart or his deepest inner feelings; wished to live as ordinary men lived, but feared and despised the evils of human society.

In the words of Duncan Heyward, Natty was �a noble shoot from the stock of human nature, which never could attain its proper elevation and importance, for no other reason than because it grew in the forest.� Natty viewed his life and character from a little different perspective. In his own assessment, �I have never been father or brother. The Wahcondah made me to live alone. He never tied my heart to house or field, by the cords with which the men of my race are bound to their lodges; if He had, I should not have journeyed so far, and seen so much.�

This then, is our hero:

Straight Tongue/ Pigeon/Lap Ear/Deerslayer/Hawkeye/La Longue Carabine/Pathfinder/Leatherstocking/Trapper.

If, indeed, Cooper had allowed the Wahcondah to clear a different path for Natty, he would have given us just another predictable pulp-fiction hero. As it is, we are left to ponder whether Natty Bumppo led a remarkably full life or a painfully empty one.

Notes:

CLUES TO THE ADULT YEARS

PASSAGE OF TIME

THE PRAIRIE p. 7 Although the [Louisiana] purchase was made in 1803 . . .

THE PRAIRIE p. 9 The harvest of the first year of our possession had long passed, and the fading foliage of a few scattered trees was already beginning to exhibit the hues and tints of autumn, when a train of wagons issued from the bed of a dry rivulet to pursue its course across the undulating surface of what, in the language of the country of which we write, is called a �rolling prairie� [late Autumn 1803]

THE PRAIRIE p. 282 Springing to their feet like men who were about to struggle for their lives, they found the vast plain, the rolling swells, the little hillock, and the scattered thickets, covered alike in one white dazzling sheet of snow.

THE PRAIRIE p. 396 The water courses were at their height, and the boat went down the swift current like a bird. [Middleton returns home in Spring of 1804.]

THE PRAIRIE p. 398 In the Autumn of the year succeeding the season in which the preceding events occurred, the young man [Middleton], still in the military service, found himself on the waters of the Missouri at a point not far from the Pawnee towns. [Autumn 1805]

THE PIONEERS p. 2 Our tale begins in 1793, about seven years after the commencement of one of the earliest of those settlements, which have conduced to affect that magical change in the power and condition of the state, to which we have alluded. [Cooper]

THE PIONEERS p. 458 The events of our tale carry us through the summer; and after making nearly the circle of the year, we must conclude our labors in the delightful month of October. [1794]

LAST OF THE MOHICANS p. 119 I never read but in one [book], and the words that are written there are too simple and plain to need much schooling; though I may boast that of forty long and hard-working years.

THE DEERSLAYER p. 17 It is June, and there is not a cloud atween us and the sun, Hurry, so all this heat is not wanted.

COUNTING THE YEARS

THE PRAIRIE p. 81 Ten weary years have I sojourned alone on these naked plains, waiting for my hour, and not a blow have I struck agin an enemy more humanized than the grizzly bear. [This would justify the time frame within a year of the time he left Templeton at the end of The Pioneers.]

THE PRAIRIE p. 188 There have I been a dweller on the earth for fourscore and six changes of the seasons, and all that time have I looked at the growing and the dying trees, and yet I do not know the reasons why the bud starts under the summer sun or the leaf falls when it is pinched by the frost. [Autumn 1804]

THE PRAIRIE p. 332 �;but the glare of fourscore and seven winters has dimmed my eyes, and but little can I boast of sight in my latter days. [With the winter months signaling the completion of another year, Natty adds a year to his age]

THE PIONEERS p. 383 Is it no harm to show off a man in his seventy first year like a tame bear, for the settlers to look on!

THE PATHFINDER [The time of this third Leatherstocking romance, though nowhere precisely indicated, was probably 1759; the only date, indeed, which even roughly fits the fact of British possession of rebuilt Fort Oswego and French possession of Fort Niagara - both fundamental circumstances of the story. James Fenimore Cooper: The Leatherstocking Saga edited by Allan Nevins; Pantheon Books, New York; 1954]

ESTIMATING SERGEANT DUNHAM'S AGE

p. 88 He has been a soldier since he was sixteen. [Cap re Dunham]

p. 117 It is true, I was twenty-two years younger than I am today [Dunham when he courted Mabel�s mother]

p. 128 I was forty myself when I married her mother [Dunham]

p. 128 Pathfinder is well advanced toward forty [Dunham]

p. 284 Is he not within ten or twelve years as old as yourself? [Mabel to Dunham]

LAST OF THE MOHICANS [historically 1757, which places Natty�s age at 40. Cooper devoted this book purely to adventure, and seeded few clues to the rest of Natty�s life. However, he did provide some former battle associations and oblique references to nationality, noted in Part II .)

THE DEERSLAYER p. 13 Both these frontier-men were still young, Hurry having reached the age of six or eight and twenty, while Deerslayer was several years his junior. [stated by Cooper to take place somewhere between 1740-45]

THE DEERSLAYER p. 14 I have now lived ten years with the Delawares and know them to be as manful as any other nation, when the proper time to strike comes.

THE DEERSLAYER p. 407 It�s eight good years since the Sarpent and I began to hunt together . . .

REFLECTIONS ON POLITICS

THE PRAIRIE p. 64 �You have heard of such a man as Mad Anthony, if you tarried long among the soldiers. I fou�t my last battle, as I hope, under his orders, � returned the trapper . . . I was passing from the States on the sea-shore into these far regions, when I crossed the trail of his army, and I fell in on his rear, just as a looker-on; but when they got to blows, the crack of my rifle was heard among the rest though to my shame it may be said, I never knew the right of the quarrel, as well as a man of threescore and ten should know the reason of his acts afore he takes mortal life, which is a gift he can never return.� [This would have been the forces of Anthony Wayne on the march from fort Greenville to the Battle of Fallen Timbers at the southwestern tip of Lake Erie in July 1794.]

LAST OF THE MOHICANS p. 206 �For that matter, though the Oneidas do serve his sacred majesty, who is my own sovereign lord and master . . .�

SETTING THE SCENE

THE DEERSLAYER pp. 4,5 There was no violent stretch of the imagination, perhaps, in supposing one of civilized associations in childhood , retaining many of his earliest lessons amid the scenes of the forest. Had these early impressions, however, not been sustained by continued, though casual connection with men of his own color, if not of his own caste, all our information goes to show he would soon have lost every trace of his origin. [Preface to the Leatherstocking Tales]

THE DEERSLAYER p. 10 This glance into the perspective of the past will prepare the reader to look at the pictures we are about to sketch with less surprise than he might otherwise feel; and a few additional explanations may carry him back in imagination to the precise condition of society that we desire to delineate. It is a matter of history that the settlements on the eastern shores of the Hudson, such as Claverack, Kinderhook, and even Poughkeepsie, were not regarded as safe from Indian incursions a century since.

BURNING THE BRIDGES

THE PIONEERS p. 363 . . .he rushed up the bank, and in a moment stood on the little piece of cleared ground in front of the spot where Natty had so long lived. To his amazement, in place of the hut, he saw only its smoldering ruins.

THE PIONEERS p. 364 You have driven me, that have lived forty long years of my appointed time in this very spot, from my home and from the shelter of my head, lest you should put your wicked feet and wastey ways in my cabin. You�ve driven me to burn these logs, under which �I�ve eaten and drunk. . .

THE PIONEERS p. 395 �Can you raise the dead, child?� said Natty in a sorrowful voice; �can ye go into the place where you�ve laid your fathers, and mothers, and children, and gather together their ashes, and make the same men and women of them as afore?�

THE PIONEERS p. 433 Mohegan raised himself, as if in obedience to a signal for his departure, and stretched his wasted arm towards the west. His dark face lighted with a look of joy; which, with all other expressions, gradually disappeared; the muscles stiffening as they retreated to a state of rest; a slight convulsion played, for a single instant about his lips; and his arm slowly dropped by his side; leaving the frame of the dead warrior reposing against the rock, with its glassy eyes open, and fixed on the distant hills, as if the deserted shell were tracing the flight of the spirit to its new abode.

THE PRAIRIE p. 268 �It is nothing more nor less than the hide of a buffalo,� continued the trapper . . . the hair is beneath; the fire has run over it, as you see; for being fresh, the flames could take no hold . . . Thrusting his foot beneath the skin, it moved. Then it was suddenly cast aside, and an Indian warrior sprang from its cover to his feet, with an agility that bespoke how urgent he deemed the occasion.

THE PRAIRIE p. 292 �Young warrior,� he continued, in a voice that was growing tremulous, �I have never been father or brother. The Wahcondah made me to live alone. He never tied my heart to house or field, by the cords with which the men of my race are bound to their lodges; if He had, I should not have journeyed so far, and seen so much. But I have tarried long among a people who lived in those woods you mention, and much reason did I find to imitate their courage and love their honesty. The Master of Life has made us all, Pawnee, with a feeling for our kind. I never was a father, but well do I know what is the love of one. You are like a lad I valued, and I had even begun to fancy that some of his blood might be in your veins. But what matters that? You are a true man, as I know by the way in which you keep your faith; and honesty is a gift too rare to be forgotten. My heart yearns to you, boy, and gladly would I do you good.�

THE PRAIRIE p. 332 �And yet my brother has come among the red-skins to find a son?�. . . �Aye; but it was only that I might do good to the boy. If you think, Dahcotah, that I adopted the youth in order to prop my age, you do as much injustice to my good-will as you seem to know little of the merciless intentions of your own people. I have made him my son, that he may know that one is left behind him.

THE PRAIRIE p. 402 The old man was reaping the rewards of a life remarkable for temperance and activity, in a tranquil and placid death. . . . He had hunted with the tribe in the spring, and even throughout most of the summer.

THE DUTCH CONNECTION

THE DEERSLAYER p. 355 The [Mingos] feel their loss here, in the late skrimmage, to their heart�s cores, and are ready to revenge it on any creatur� of English blood that may fall in their way. Nor, for that matter, do I think they would stand at taking their satisfaction out of a Dutchman.

LAST OF THE MOHICANS p. 65 [Cooper note] Mingo was the Delaware term of the Five Nations. Maguas was the name given them by the Dutch.

LAST OF THE MOHICANS p. 75 �Ay, ay� muttered the scout, who had listened to this peculiar burst of the natives with deep attention; �they have warmed their Indian feelings, and they�ll soon provoke the Maguas to give them a speedy end�.

LAST OF THE MOHICANS p. 126 I remember to have fou�t the Maguas here-aways, in the first war in which I ever drew blood from man.

LAST OF THE MOHICANS p. 128 �Tis not often that books are made, and narratives written of such a scrimmage as was here fou�t atween the Mohicans and the Mohawks in a war of their own waging. I was then a younker and went out among the Delawares because I knowed they were a scandalized and wronged race.�

THE PIONEERS p. 186 I have knowed the Dutch women on the Mohawk and Schoharie, count greatly on coming to the merry-makings.

THE PIONEERS p. 194 �I was down in the Dutch settlements on the Schoharie,� said Natty, carefully removing the leather guard from the lock of his rifle, �just before the breaking out of the last war, and there was a shooting-match among the boys; so I took a hand. I think I opened a good many Dutch eyes that day; for I won the powder-horn, three bars of lead and a pound of as good powder as ever flashed in pan. . . .�

BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS

THE DEERSLAYER p. 34 It was now several years since Deerslayer had been in a spot especially devoted to the uses of females of his own color and race. The sight brought back to his mind a rush of childish recollections; and he lingered in the room with a tenderness of feeling to which he had long been a stranger. He bethought him of his mother, whose homely vestments he remembered to have seen hanging on pegs like those which he felt must belong to Hetty Hutter; and he bethought himself of a sister, whose incipient and native taste for finery had exhibited itself somewhat in the manner of that of Judith, though necessarily in a less degree. These little resemblances opened a long hidden vein of sensations; and as he quitted the room, it was with a saddened mien.

THE DEERSLAYER p. 389 Bumppo we are called, and I�ve heard it said,� a touch of human vanity glowing on his cheek, �that the time has been when the Bumppos had more standing and note among mankind than they have just now.�

THE DEERSLAYER p. 505 You love the woods and the life that we pass here . . . As I loved my parents, Judith, when they was living.

LAST OF THE MOHICANS p. 54 But the scout, who had placed his chin in his hand, with an expression of cold indifference gradually suffered his rigid features to relax, until, as verse succeeded verse, he felt his iron nature subdued, while his recollection was carried back to boyhood, when his ears had been accustomed to listen to similar sounds of praise, in the settlements of the colony.

THE PIONEERS p. 206 This I will say, though I�m white myself and was born nigh York, and of honest parents too . . .

THE PRAIRIE p. 76 I have seen the waters of two seas! On one of them I was born, and raised to be a lad like yonder tumbling boy . . . Near seventy years I dwelt in York, province and State together.

THE PRAIRIE p. 262 My own eyes were first opened on the shores of the eastern sea and well do I remember that I tried the virtues of the first rifle I ever bore, after such a march, from the door of my father to the forest, as a stripling could make between sun and sun;

THE PRAIRIE p. 304 I was long a serving-man I my youth, not one of your beck-and-nod runners about a household but a man that went through the servitude of the forest with his officer, and well do I know in what manner to approach the wife of a captain.

THE PRAIRIE p. 406 �I am without kith or kin in the wide world!� the trapper answered; � when I am gone there will be an end of my race. We have never been chiefs; but honest and useful in our way, I hope it cannot be denied we have always proved ourselves. My father lies buried near the sea, and the bones of his son will whiten on the prairies�.

THE PRAIRIE p. 406 I paid a man in the settlements to make and put a graven stone at the head of my father�s resting-place. It was of the value of twelve beaver-skins, and cunningly and curiously was it carved! Then it told to all comers that the body of such a Christian lay beneath; and it spoke of his manner of life, of his years , and of his honesty. When we had done with the Frenchers in the old war I made a journey to the spot, in order to see that all was rightly performed, and glad I am to say, the workman had not forgotten his faith.

MAJOR EFFINGHAM a.k.a. FIRE-EATER

THE DEERSLAYER p. 509 The war that then had its rise was stirring and bloody. . . . [Hawkeye�s] services were soon required by the officers of the crown, and he especially attached himself in the field, to one in particular , with whose after-life he had a close and important connection.

LAST OF THE MOHICANS p.138 Three battles did we make with the Dutch-Frenchman in a day. . . . �Ay! But it did not end there. I was sent by Major Effingham at Sir William�s own bidding, to outflank the French and carry the tidings of their disaster across the portage, to the fort on the Hudson.�

THE PATHFINDER p. 100 I was just twelve when the Sergeant took me on my first scouting, and that is now more than twenty years ago.

THE PIONEERS p. 13 Some thirty years agone, in the old war, when I was out under Sir William, I traveled seventy miles alone in the howling wilderness with a rifle bullet in my thigh, and then cut it out with my own jackknife. [1760]

THE PIONEERS p. 19 The latter had from youth, been the only employment of Edward�s father. Military rank under the crown of Great Britain was attained with much longer probation and by much more toilsome services sixty years ago than at the present time. . .After forty years� service, retired with the rank of major, maintaining in his domestic establishment a comparative splendor, he became a man of first consideration in his native colony, which was that of New York.

THE PIONEERS p. 21 We have already said that Major Effingham had served as a soldier with reputation. On one occasion, while in command on the western frontier of Pennsylvania, against a league of the French and Indians, not only his glory, but the safety of himself and his troops were jeoparded, by the peaceful policy of that colony. . . . The soldier succeeded, after a desperate conflict, in extricating himself, with a handful, of his men, from their murderous enemy; but he never forgave the people who had exposed him to a danger which they left him to combat alone. . . .it was evidently for their benefit that he had been so placed, and it was their �religious duty,� so the major always expressed it, �it was their religious duty to have supported him.� [The quote regarding the debacle in western Pennsylvania in 1755 in which the Quakers refused to bear arms or to participate in the defense of their homes is a matter of historic record. We have been unable to relocate the source to provide positive identification of the officer involved.]

THE PIONEERS p. 432 Farewell Hawkeye! You shall go with the Fire-eater and the Young Eagle to the white man�s heaven; but I go after my fathers.

THE PIONEERS p. 449 This man, whom you see helpless and feeble, was once a warrior, so brave and fearless, that even the intrepid natives gave him the name of Fire-eater.

THE PIONEERS p. 151 When I went with Sir William ag�in the French at Fort Niagara, all the rangers used the rifle;� [This would have been Sir William Johnson in the battle to retake Oswego and then attack Fort Niagara -

THE PIONEERS p. 451 Thy grandfather was left in Connecticut, regularly supplied by thy father with the means of such a subsistence as suited his wants.

THE PIONEERS p. 453 �Was Natty a servant of thy grandfather?� exclaimed the judge. �He was reared in the family of my grandfather; served him for many years during their campaigns at the West, where he became attached to the woods; and he was left here as a kind of locum tenens on the lands that old Mohegan (whose life my grandfather once saved) induced the Delawares to grant to him, when they admitted him as an honorary member of their tribe.� [�induced� was not quite the appropriate word, since Governor Crosby and Walter Butler obtained the land through burning the original deed, which had given the title to the Corporation of Albany, and falsifying the terms of the new deed to the Mohawk Indians, who could not read.]

THE PIONEERS p. 463 The morning of his life was spent in honor, wealth, and power; but its evening was obscured by poverty, neglect and disease, which were alleviated only by the tender care of his old, faithful and upright friend and attendant, Nathaniel Bumppo. His descendants rear this stone to the virtues of the master, and to the enduring gratitude of the servant. [Inscription on the tombstone of Major Effingham]

~~~~~~~

AN ADDENDUM

THE KEEPSAKE

"I knowed the parting would come hard, children; I knowed it would?" said Natty, "and so I got aside to look at the graves by myself, and thought if I left ye the keep-sake which the major gave me, when we first parted in the woods, ye wouldn't take it unkind, but would know, that, let the old man's body go where it might, his feelings stayed behind him." The Pioneers, pp. 465, 466

What was the keepsake that Major Effingham gave to Natty Bumppo when they first parted in the woods, and which Natty leaves behind him at the gravesite of Major Effingham and Chingachgook? No further reference is made by Natty to what is left at the gravesite, and Cooper's detailed physical description of the cemetery yields no clue. However, we know that when Natty first appeared on the Glimmerglass, in The Deerslayer, he carried with him only four items: his rifle, his powder horn, a hunting knife, and a shot pouch.

The rifle is the first gun Natty owned. He states in The Pioneers that he bought it himself when he was still living in his father's house. When Judith Hutter gave Killdeer to Natty, Natty kept the first rifle and, in later years, gave it to Chingachgook's son Uncas. At the end of The Last of the Mohicans, to facilitate his pursuit of Magua, Uncas abandons the rifle in the caverns, and the rifle is never retrieved.

As to Natty's knife, Natty relates the story, in The Pioneers, of a battle in which he saved Chingachgook's life and gave Chingachgook his own knife and tomahawk. In Last of the Mohicans, Cooper says Natty "bore a knife in a girdle of wampum like that which confined the scanty garments of the Indian, but no tomahawk", and Chingachgook is described as carrying a tomahawk and a scalping knife of English manufacture. This appears to account for the disposition of Natty's original knife, although, in The Pioneers, Chingachgook is buried with his bow, his tomahawk, his moccasins and his pipe - no knife.

Natty states in The Pioneers that he won the powder horn in a shooting match down in the Dutch settlements on the Schoharie. Natty carries the powder horn with him throughout the five books, and before he dies, requests that Duncan Uncas Middleton, a grandson of Alice Munro and Duncan Hayward, return the powder horn, Killdeer and the shot pouch to Major Effingham's grandson, Edward Oliver Effingham. Thus, at Natty's death, the original rifle, the powder horn, the knife and the shot pouch are all accounted for.

Natty is never depicted as treasuring or carrying any other item. Indeed, in The Pathfinder, when Mabel Dunham offers him her brooch as a token of friendship, he is bewildered as to what to do with it, as he states he has neither button nor buckle about him. Although Chingachgook wore a Washington silver medal, Natty apparently never had such a token of his service under Major Effingham. When Natty went into the woods, in about 1733, the Washington medals were not available, Washington being but an infant at that time.

With his unerring ability to anticipate and manipulate the reader's thinking, Cooper buries the clue in plain sight. The solution to the puzzle of what Natty left at the gravesite is in the interpretation of a single word, and Cooper challenges his readers to rise to a different level of thought to recognize its significance.

In The Deerslayer, when Natty is about to return to the camp of the Hurons from his "furlough", he believes the Indians will torture and kill him. "The best fri'nds must often part," [Natty] began, when he saw the whole party grouped around him. "Yes, fri'ndship can't alter the ways of Providence; and let our feelin's be as they may, we must part. I've often thought there's moments when our words dwell longer on the mind than common, and when advice is remembered, just because the mouth that gives it isn't likely to give it ag'in. No one knows what will happen in the world; and therefore it may be well, when fri'nds separate under a likelihood that the parting may be long, to say a few words in kindness, as a sort of keepsakes." The Deerslayer, p. 418

Fifty years later, as Natty is forced from his beloved forests and begins his long trek westward, he leaves to Oliver Effingham and his new wife, Elizabeth Templeton, his precious keepsake, which Major Effingham gave to him, and which he has carried in his heart, word for word, through all the dire years and events of his life.

"I pray that the Lord will keep you in mind - the Lord that lives in clearings as well as in the wilderness � and bless you, and all that belong to you, from this time till the great day when the whites shall meet the red-skins in judgment, and justice shall be the law, and not power." The Pioneers, pp. 465, 466, 468

That Natty leaves this prayer with Oliver and Elizabeth seems one of the finest ironies of The Leatherstocking Tales. The endlessly sanctimonious Templeton family has stripped Natty of his whole context of life and subjected him to the public humiliation of the stocks and prison for no greater transgression than defending his right to exist, but Natty appears to bear no bitterness, either toward them or toward "the Lord that lives in clearings as well as in the wilderness", for the dismal progression of his life. However, the final disposition of the keepsake is nicely ambiguous. As the act of a hunter and scout who is repeatedly characterized as extremely simple of mind, it would appear to represent a saintly naivete on Natty's part. On the other hand, it may serve to confirm an instinctive and very underestimated acutness of perception and a clever application of the sarcasm with which Natty occasionally has been known to spice his observations.

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Explore The MOHICAN MUSINGS INDEX

For Brief Reviews Of This Series See THE LEATHERSTOCKING TALES ... IN REVIEW

Read About JAMES FENIMORE COOPER & PARADOXES: Winners and Losers Among Cooper's Characters

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PLACING NATTY BUMPPO IN TIME

Title/Stage of LifeTimeAgeIndian Name
THE PRAIRIE1803-0586-88Trapper
THE PIONEERS179477Leatherstocking
THE PATHFINDER175942Pathfinder
LAST OF THE MOHICANS175740La Longue Carabine
Natty serves Major Effingham under William Johnson against Dieskau at Lake George.175538Hawkeye
THE DEERSLAYER174124Deerslayer
Natty moves into the forest for good; becomes friend and hunting companion of Chingachgook.173316Lap Ear/Pigeon
Natty is adopted by the Delawares.173114Straight-Tongue
Natty goes on his first campaign with Major Effingham & Sgt. Dunham.172912
Natty loses home and family and is taken into the home of Major Effingham.ca. 1727-2910-12
Natty issues forth from the door of his father's house to try his first rifle.ca. 1726-279-10
Natty is born.1717


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