This Day In Writing History
On February 4th, 1826, The Last of the Mohicans, the famous novel by legendary American writer James Fenimore Cooper, was first published in the United States. The second novel in Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales series, The Last of the Mohicans is set in 1757, during the Seven Years' War, also known as the French and Indian War because the French allied themselves with Native American (Indian) tribes to gain an advantage over the British. These alliances resulted in unpredictable and often tragic outcomes.
The story opens in the upstate New York wilderness as two young women, Cora and Alice, are being escorted to a fort where their father, Colonel Munro, is the commander. Escorting the ladies are Major Duncan Heyward (a young officer from the fort) and David Gamut, a traveling musician. The group's guide is Magua, a Huron tribesman. He has them take a short cut to save time. What the group doesn't know is that Magua is setting them up for an ambush.
The white travelers are suddenly attacked by a band of Indians. Frontier scout and master woodsman Natty "Hawkeye" Bumppo and his Mohican friends (Chingachcook and his son Uncas) come to the group's rescue, but unfortunately, the treacherous Magua escapes into the forest. Later, Hawkeye takes Heyward, Gamut, and the women to some sheltered caves to spend the night. They don't get much sleep.
Early the next morning, the group is attacked again, this time by Iroquois braves on horseback. Gamut is hurt and the women hide in the caves while Hawkeye and Heyward plan a counterattack. They engage the Iroquois in a bloody battle, but run out of ammunition. So, while Hawkeye and the Mohicans head for the fort to get help, Heyward stays behind to guard the women. Unfortunately, they are captured by the Iroquois before help can arrive.
Heyward tries to trick Magua into returning the ladies to their father for a reward, but Magua doesn't want a reward - he wants to take revenge on Colonel Munro by marrying his daughter, Cora. Hawkeye returns, and since the Iroquois are terrified of him, they release their captives. Magua escapes again, and Hawkeye and the others resume their journey. They reach the fort, which is under attack by the French.
Although Colonel Munro is forced to surrender his fort to the French, that's the least of his troubles, as the evil Magua kidnaps his daughters yet again. Munro, Major Heyward, Hawkeye, and the Mohicans set out to rescue them...
The Last of the Mohicans is rightfully considered a classic work of literature. It has been adapted numerous times for the radio, screen, and television. The first Hollywood feature film adaptation of the novel was a silent picture released in 1920. It's most famous for an uncredited appearance by future horror film superstars Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff as Indians. Lugosi played Chingachcook, the noble Mohican, in a German film released that same year.
The most recent film adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans was released in 1992. It was praised by critics, but loudly panned by fans of the novel, because the screenplay had little to do with the book. Daniel Day-Lewis played Hawkeye - whose name was changed from Natty Bumppo to Nathaniel Poe! The movie was directed by Michael Mann, who admittedly never read the novel.
The author, James Fenimore Cooper, would go on to write more great novels, including The Pathfinder (1840) and The Deerslayer (1841).
Quote Of The Day
"The common faults of American language are an ambition of effect, a want of simplicity, and a turgid abuse of terms." - James Fenimore Cooper
Today's video features a clip from the classic 1920 silent film adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans. Enjoy!