Re: Tschoop/Uncas

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Posted by Elaine/Mohican Press on March 12, 1998 at 10:16:11:

In Reply to: Re: Tschoop/Uncas posted by Gayle on March 12, 1998 at 07:31:08:


First of all, welcome to Mohicanland! Thank you for your post. The intrigue revolving around Cooper's tales go on and on. Yes, he was clever indeed! There is so much more to "The Leatherstocking Tales" than meets the eye. One can go on researching, exploring, and debating the historic persons and events that Cooper masked so well by his HEAVY application of symbolism. This is evidence of the man's genius!

His primary characters Hawk-eye, Chingachgook, and Uncas; "The Pathfinder" actually doesn't present a problem because Chingachgook was a true, historic Delaware who was written about by the Moravian missionary John Heckewelder. Cooper is known to have taken his character from Heckewelder's journal. Tschoop, in all probability, was the inspiration for Cooper's Uncas, though for allegorical purposes, I assume, he chose a Mohegan sachem's name. He was a Mohican Sachem from Shekemeko (Chicomico), a village in Dutchess County, NY. He and Shahash invited Christian Henry Rauch, a Moravian missionary, to preach in 1740. He most probably resettled at Bethlehem (est. 1742) after Shahash. The Shekemeko Mohicans and their Moravian missionaries were harassed endlessly, until the majority of them were driven out. (In the New England mindset, one was either Calvinist or suspicious.) Interestingly, Tschoop did take the name John. Perhaps here is where Cooper was inspired to use the name "John Mohican"? One could go off on a totally new path questioning the son/father relationship that Cooper may have been touching upon here. The Moravian cemetery at Bethlehem is not a tourist attraction, so I think there is a legitimate claim regarding Tschoop/Uncas.

There remains much debate as to who Hawk-eye was modeled after. Though many claim he is a bit of Robert Rogers, others see him as the personification of many frontiersman. However, when Cooper was a boy, there was a hunter/woodsman/frontiersman who often visited Judge Cooper. I don't believe his name is known, (though I wouldn't be surprised to learn it was Nathaniel!) but he'd arrive at the family home bearing game, accompanied by his dogs and his unusually long rifle. He was supposedly an absolute loner as well. This man most accurately fits the Hawk-eye that Cooper created.

Cooper's literary license was certainly applied. You raise an interesting question in regards to the burial arrangements of "The Pathfinder". I am inclined to believe that his treatment of death and burial was almost always symbolic. In "The Last of the Mohicans" he presents an elaborate, "royal" burial ceremony in the Delaware village. Both Cora and Uncas are laid side by side while the people mourn them (especially the Delaware maidens who wanted Uncas for their husband). Then too Cooper uses a scene at the burial ground that was representative of Plains Indians, not Woodland Indians. The scaffold, as Cooper would have known, was not a burial practice in these woodlands. Is there symbolism to be found in this?

I had better stop here. I do think Cooper was a literary genius whose writing is yet to be fully appreciated.

Gayle, you say you are a transplanted Mohicanland person. From New York?

Thanks again!


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