Friday, June 29, 2012

Lederstrumpf: Iconic American Fictional Hero

N. C. Wyeth's "The Last of the Mohicans," Uncas, Natty Bumppo, Chingachgook

 Nathaniel Bumppo--a character created by James Fenimore Cooper and based on Daniel Boone--inhabited several novels about early America from pre-Revolution to the settling of 'the West,' meaning the Kansas prairies around where Lewis and Clark set out, just over the Mississippi River.

Nattie's secret crush.
Tomahawks flying, never a dull moment.

N. C. Wyeth famously illustrated the series of novels. The pictures relate some of the consistent action of these books.  There is a tomahawk flying, a canoe approaching a waterfall, or a backfire being set over the prairie just about every other page. Which is why these books are excellent for Grade 8 on up. 

La Longue Carabine and Kildeer
Uncas, Natty's adopted brother
 The imagery is why I loved these books. Imagery is vivid descriptive language that appeals to one or more of the senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste). I have sailed in the canoe down the Glimmerglass hearing the smoothness of the water lapping the bow. I have run the gauntlet seeing the contorted faces and feeling the thuds of weapons against my body, tasting my own sweat and blood. I have smelled the fire of the prairie inferno approaching from both directions. The sensory details are so clear, its like a personal narrative that absolutely takes you there. I have been there. I know Natty Bumppo.

The Deerslayer
Won't give away the end.
The character of Nathaniel Bumppo (portrayed in the 90s movie by Daniel Day-Lewis as Nathaniel Poe) is a hero. Period. No grousing about with 'to be or not to be.' He knows how to be.

These books take him from his teen years to old age. The author portrays the Native Americans from the northeast and their conflicts with each other and the European settlers. France and Britain try to play them. No stereotypes here. Nattie is raised by Chingachgook after his Dutch settler parents die. I won't give away too much.

There is much debate as to what order these books should be read. Frankly, I don't remember what order I read them in, just that I immensely enjoyed them. So, follow the advice you wish.
Never a dull moment with Natty.
The most well-known is The Last of the Mohicans, and if you have seen the excellent movie, you will notice the book doesn't seem to always match. The screenwriters combined some qualities from the other books. 

Chronologically from Natty's growing up, this would be the order of books: The Deerslayer, The Pathfinder, The Last of the Mohicans, The Pioneers, The Prairie.

I really enjoy Natty's monikers from the Native American tribes. Deerslayer, Pathfinder, La Longue Carabine (Long Rifle), Leatherstocking, Hawkeye., Lederstrumpf is the translation to German (he was very popular there.) Even his rifle has a nickname, Kildeer.

More info. It's been almost two hundred years since Cooper wrote these, and there is still commentary. Personally, I don't take Mark Twain's comments too seriously. He was such a smart aleck.

Leatherstocking Tales 

This is helpful if you choose to start with the most famous.
Guide to The Last of the Mohicans (1826) by James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)

Finally, Daniel Day-Lewis as Natty Bumppo. Awesome. Here is a snatch of 'The Last of the Mohicans' and the marvelous music reflecting the Scotch/Irish flavor of the colonists and participants in the British Army of the times.

The Last of the Mohicans - Promentory (The Gael)

Daniel Day-Lewis: pretty good Natty
 And a remarkably beautiful song, by the Irish group Clannad.

You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.
 Clannad 'I Will Find You' ~ The Last of the Mohicans 

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