The Last of the Mohicans
An 1826 historical novel by James Fenimore Cooper which has experienced Popcultural Osmosis and adapted for film numerous times, most recently 1992 by Michael Mann (see below). A story about the American Frontier, The Last of the Mohicans takes place in the British colony of New York in 1757, against the backdrop of the French and Indian War, the 9-year American version of the Seven Years' War which heavily involved Native Americans on both sides. The book mainly concerns the adventures of Hawkeye, a white man accompanied by the last two surviving members of the Mohican tribe, Chingachgook and his son Uncas, as the three trackers try to protect the two daughters of a Scottish colonel.
Cooper's novel was one of the first great American novels, and was widely read during his time. It remains a commonly-taught book in America Literature courses and a staple of early American frontier mythology.
The novel has been adapted into a number of movies, first in 1911, then again in 1920, 1932, 1936 and finally one starring Daniel Day-Lewis in 1992. The 1992 film has been said by its director to be more of an update of the 1936 film than a straight adaptation of the book, so the resulting Adaptation has led to a significant level of controversy among the book's fans, although it is generally regarded as an exceptional film in terms of modern action-adventure epics. The 1920 movie was added to the National Film Registry in 1995.
For more on the 1992 film starring Daniel Day-Lewis, see below.
- Abandoned By the Cavalry: General Webb's reinforcements.
- Actor Allusion: The actual sovereign chief of the Five Nations played Ongewasgone, the Iroquois leader.
- Adaptational Villainy: While not evil, Duncan Heyward comes across as a more unpleasant character than he does in Cooper's novel.
- Adaptation Distillation: Omitted portions include redundant portions where the women are captured and quickly freed, a deranged white man at the Huron camp, a shooting contest, and Natty Bumpo disguised as a bear. The changes generally streamlined and improved on some lengthy and confusing segments in the novel.
- The Alliance: In a Slice of Life montage, we see settlers and Iroquois assembling peaceably at Cameron's frontier cabin for a Harvest dinner and a traditionally violent Indian-style Lacrosse game with basketball hoops (settlers vs. Indians).
- Always Someone Better: For most of the film, Magua is made out to be the biggest Badass on the frontier. And then he makes the mistake of pissing off Chingiskook.
- Anyone Can Die: verges on Kill'Em All in the Hamlet-style ending.
- Ass in Ambassador / Acceptable Targets / Aristocrats Are Evil: General Marquis de Montcalm is a French general, diplomat, scholar and aristocrat. How do we know he's a bad guy, aside from that? He wins every battle against the British.
- Badass Boast: Magua, and how.
Magua: The Grey Hair's children were under Magua's knife. They escaped... When the Grey Hair is dead, Magua will eat his heart. Before he dies, Magua will put his children under the knife, so the Grey Hair will know his seed is wiped out forever.
- Badass Grandpa: Chingachgook, while not old by modern standards, is treated as such by the other characters. When Magua, who up until then had been an unstoppable killing machine, finally fought Chingachgook he didn't stand a chance.
- Beat Still My Heart: Magua does this to Col. Munro.
- Best Served Cold: Magua's motivation.
- Better to Die Than Be Killed: Alice throws herself off a cliff at the end, rather than go with Magua (who'd just got done killing Uncas and making Chingachgook the last Mohican.)
- Big No: silent.
- Bilingual Dialogue: Native characters slide in and out of multiple languages, including the dead languages of Huron and Mohican, which are subtitled. Magua, being a Huron enslaved by the Mohawk who became a French war captain turned British scout, seems to speak more languages than any other character; in the final parlay, he alone understands the whole conversation (he is not pleased).  Then there's this:
Heyward: You there! Scout. Must. Stop. Soon. Women. Are. Tired.
Magua: Three leagues. Better water. We stop there.
Heyward: No, we stop in the glade ahead. Understand?
Magua: (subtitle) Magua understands the white man is a dog to his women. When they grow tired, he puts down his hatchet to feed their laziness.
Heyward: What did you say?
Magua: Magua said, "I understand English... very well."
- Bittersweet Ending: okay, Downer Ending, who are we kidding.
- Braids, Beads, and Buckskins: Surprisingly realistic; the Native tribesmen wear homespun like their colonist neighbors, and both they and the colonist wear leather breeches and authentic hairstyles for the most part.
- British Stuffiness: Heyward! With that "priggy nose of his" as one reviewer delicately put it.
- Broad Strokes / Adaptation Displacement: The film is more an adaptation of the 1936 film than the original novel. Who lives, who dies, and who hooks up with who at the end are all taken from the older film rather than the book.
- The screenplay for the 1936 film is actually credited as an alternate version. Also Hawkeye's real name, which was Anglicized from Natty Bumppo to Nathaniel Poe.
- Cave Behind the Falls: The scene was shot in a Real Life cave behind a waterfall. The dialogue had to be overdubbed and the cameramen had to be really, really careful.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: The Mohicans, primarily endurance running among other things.
- Chekhov's Gun: Quite literally -- the pistol that Cora picks up from a dead officer near the beginning of the film most likely saves her life when she later uses it to fend off an attacker during an Indian ambush.
- Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: According to the incompetent General Webb.
"You have scant need for a colonial militia... because the French haven't the nature for war. Their Latinate voluptuousness combines with their Gallic laziness, and the result? They'd rather eat, and make love with their faces than fight."
- Chiaroscuro: Particularly the fort scenes. The outdoor scenes are shot to look like a Thomas Cole painting (see above).
- Clothing Damage: Uncas uses it to his advantage to make silk bullet casings and bandaging wounds.
Hawkeye: You 'bout done holdin' hands with Miss Monro?
- Climbing Climax: Not quite the original clifftop ending, but close.
- Colonel Badass: Col. Munro.
- Color Wash: Autumnal orange and green.
- Interestingly, Director Mann who is known for his neon urban color schemes, says this is the only film he ever did that had no artificial color wash. He wanted to capture the American woods without artificial lighting because he said they are rarely seen that way in media. Of course, this results in some pretty dark scenes.
- Come with Me If You Want to Live:
Heyward: Why's he loosing the horses?
Uncas: Too easy to track. They'd be heard for miles... (picks among dead bodies) Find yourself a musket...
Hawkeye: We're movin' outta here, fast. Unless you all's'd rather wait for the next Huron war party to come along.
- Cower Power: Alice.
- Coup De Grace: See Impaled With Extreme Prejudice.
- Covers Always Lie: You might get the impression that the titular "Last of the Mohicans" refers to the white guy on the cover, but it really doesn't.
- Curb Stomp Battle: Chingachgook versus Magua.
- Every battle is a curb stomp battle. The British are on the receiving end of these, while Chingachgook, Hawkeye, and Uncas are on the giving end. Uncas ultimately is on the receiving end of these from Magua.
- Daniel Day-Lewis Is About To Dismember You: The film's cover.
- Dark Reprise: The cheerful dance music they play during the night at the fort is somberly reprised for the tragic climax of the film.
- Daylight Horror: the massacre.
- Deadpan Snarker: When Cora and Heyward ask the Mohicans how they plan to get to Kan-tuck-ee Territory, Hawkeye's reaction is priceless.
Heyward: There's a war on! How is it you are going west?
Hawkeye: Well, first we face north, then, real subtle-like, turn left.
- Hawkeye's response to someone joshing him:
- Death by Adaptation / Spared By Adaptation: Alice and Heyward live and Cora dies in the book.
- Decoy Protagonist: Hawkeye, to a certain extent, since he is not in fact the title character.
- Defictionalization: Several locations in the Eastern US, such as Chimney Rock where it was filmed, are popularly known as "Uncas Leap". This goes back to the 1800s when the story was first written, since the character of Uncas was based on a legendary Indian chief.
- Dies Wide Open: Magua.
- Dirty Business /Did What I Had To Do: Heyward: Things were done. Nobody was spared.
Munro: (sighs) Those considerations are subordinate to the interests of the Crown.
- The Dog Bites Back: Sachem's (non-) response to Magua's parting words. He nods to the heroes and says something untranslated.
- Doomed Hometown: Cameron's frontier settlement.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Magua plays this to the French General Montcalm
- Dual-Wielding: Absurd in the context of the film's setting.
- The Empire: The British Empire, of course.
Herald: Are you not a patriot!? A loyal subject to the Crown!?
Heyward: (later) British policies make the world England, sir.
- Enemy Mine: the settlers and Iroquois' reason for signing up to fight together against the French.
- Epic Movie: The music alone is freakin' huge.
- Equal Opportunity Evil: Subverted; see Wicked Cultured below. While the colonists came to see the French and their Native allies this way, the British had just as many (sovereign) native allies, not least the Confederacy of the Five Nations, and they, despite being designated heros, were reknowned jerkasses towards the tribes in general. Meanwhile, the settlers and Iroquois coexist peaceably, or so we'd like to think.
- Mr. Fanservice: Hawkeye, played by Daniel Day-Lewis. Uncas too.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Magua isn't happy with the Sachem's order to marry Alice rather than kill her, but he abides by it anyway.
- Evil Brit: The film's sympathies are with the colonists and natives, in contrast to the book where the "good" Indians are allied to the crown.
- Evil Gloating / Just Between You and Me
Magua: Grey-hair! Before you die, know that I will put under the knife your children, so your seed is wiped from the earth forever.
- Executive Meddling: Fox made Mann reduce the film's length from 3 to 2 hours.
- Fake Nationality: Wes Studi, a Cherokee, plays a Huron masquerading as a Mohawk; white extras in facepaint were cast alongside Native extras for crowd scenes. Russell Means is Sioux, Daniel Day-Lewis is English and Madeleine Stowe (Cora) is American.
- Foe-Tossing Charge: Chingachgook at the end of the film.
- Hawkeye also does this during the Huron ambush, running toward the unnamed Indian who is assaulting Cora. He pushes aside at least one guy.
- Foregone Conclusion: The title, Last of the Mohicans, says it all.
- Not to mention one of the more (in)famous book covers shows a line of Indian warriors walking into oblivion.
- Friendly Target: Cameron and his whole family.
- From a Certain Point of View: Col. Munro. "British promises are honored... and I will not release the militia unless I have more than this man's word that the settlements are being attacked."
- General Failure: The obese General Webb.
General'sColonel's Daughter: Two, Cora and Alice.
- Ghibli Hills: America. An undeveloped, unbroken forest teeming with wildlife and adventure. Specifically, Upstate New York / The Great Smoky Mountains.
- Gorgeous Period Dress: not just the women; see Braids Beads and Buckskins.
- Guns Akimbo: Hawkeye manages to shoot two Pennsylvania rifles from the hip with deadly accuracy.
- Justified as he was an expert marksman and the targets were half a meter away.
- The Gunslinger: Hawkeye is an unbuilt version of the Western Anti-Hero.
- Herald: Messages are delivered by courier, which leads to a sharpshooting sequence as the courier attempts to break through the lines.
- Heroic Sacrifice: When Magua demands revenge on Munro by burning his daughter Cora alive, Hawkeye offers himself instead. But Heyward deliberately mistranslates, offering himself. The others are released, and Heyward is burned alive.
- Well, initially, but Hawkeye doesn't leave him to suffer.
- He Who Fights Monsters: In Hawkeye's Kirk Summation, he asks Magua if he would use the ways of the Yengees and theFrancais against other Indians. Magua says yes.
- Hollywood History: The 'Company' of the 60th regiment (Really an understrength platoon) that accompany Major Heyward and the Monroe daugthers who are massacred in order to show that Standard 18th century military tactics will not work in North America. Fair enough this early in the war for a standard British unit who are ambushed. But the 60th (The Royal Americans) were a unit raised in America and trained to specifically fight under these conditions and use them to their advantage.
- Honor Before Reason: Ongewasgone, the Iroquois leader, commits to stay behind and fight on instead of break out of the beleaguered fort with the colonists.
- Hunter-Trapper: The Mohicans.
- Hurl It Into the Sun: A warrior goes to you now, swift and straight as an arrow shot into the Sun.
- I Call It Vera: Hawkeye's beloved Long Rifle, Killdeer. Not only that, an inversion: he's nicknamed after his rifle.
- I Have Many Names: as in the book: "I am
Natty BumppoNathaniel, Hawkeye adopted son of Chingachgook... I am La Longue Carabine!"
- I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy
- I Will Find You: "You submit, do you hear? You be strong, you survive! If they don't kill you they'll take you north... up to Huron land. 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's song "I Will Find You" accompanies this scene from the theatrical cut.
- I'm a Humanitarian: "When the Grey Hair is dead, Magua will eat his heart." Hey, he had his reasons...
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The final swing by Chingachgook goes right through Magua's belly and out of his back.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Straight from the book, in which Hawkeye is a frontier William Tell. Notably, Hawkeye and the Mohicans use 18th century rifles to snipe moving targets 200 yards away.
Uncas: (rips up Cora's skirt) Silk (bullet casing)... another 40 yards!
- In the climax, check out some of the outrageously improbably shots taken. Hawkeye even manages to fire two LONG RIFLES and kill two Natives at once. At least they acknowledged that they could only take one shot - No Bottomless Magazines - and simply picked up their foes' unfired weapons.
- Famed Method Actor Daniel Day-Lewis apparently learned how to reload an 18th-century musket on the run, although this troper can't picture how such a thing is possible. He also spent the entire film living in a tent and wearing leather skins which he made himself, which led him into a career as a cobbler in Italy for the remainder of the decade.
- Inevitable Waterfall - two of them.
- Ivy League for Everyone: Hawkeye says he attended Reverend Wheelock's school. This is presumably Dartmouth College, originally founded as a school to train Native Americans as missionaries.
- Injun Country: Totally averted.
- Judgment of Solomon: The Great Sachem Tamenund's ruling at the end of the film is a bit of Values Dissonance. From his point of view, it was a just ruling; the Native Americans did not mistreat captive women, but people might be punished for the crimes of their fathers. Women who ran the gauntlet, however, would be respected unharmed; they would be ransomed or allowed to marry into the tribe.
- Hawkeye tells Cora "You submit, do you hear? You're strong!" for this reason. Takes on a whole new meaning when the deleted lines are added back in: "One of the Hurons may take you as a wife."
- Ironically, the Sachem is an anachronism because at this time, the Hurons du Lacs were Jesuits, assimilated and pacifist, and they nearly got wiped out by the British as a result. (He was well aware of this and mentioned it in his speech.) Tamanund: Magua's ways are not those of the Huron.
- Just a Stupid Accent: The film has a very complex Translation Convention. In the case of General Montcalm, however, since he is a diplomat and speaks English anyhow, this boils down to him keeping a villainous French accent throughout.
- Kill Me Now or Forever Stay Your Hand: Magua's reaction to Alice at the end of the film. He puts down his knife and reaches out with his other hand. Too bad it had her lover's blood on it.
- Kirk Summation: "Magua's heart is twisted. He would make himself into what twisted him."
- Last of His Kind: The title didn't clue you in that this trope would get invoked somehow?
- Late to the Party: The quest to assure the two women safe passage to Fort William Henry.
- Ledge Gravity: Experienced by several Huron warriors in the climax.
- Literal Cliff Hanger: Uncas and Magua's fight on the edge of a precipice.
- The Lost Woods: The Appalachians, with all that blue smoke swirling about (that's why they call it the Great Smoky Mountains). Deadly for British troops.
- Love Triangle: Hawkeye - Cora - Heyward.
- Maligned Mixed Marriage: Partially averted vis-a-vis the book, wherein Cora was mixed-race, but Uncas and Alice turn out to be Star-Crossed Lovers. This is a role reversal from the book where Uncas was in love with Cora.
- Melodrama: Heroic Sacrifice! Heaving bosoms! Long, flowing hair!
- Missing Episode / Keep Circulating the Tapes: The original Theatrical Cut, which includes an entirely different sound mix, additional scenes between Uncas and Alice, different takes in action scenes and different dialogue, and a song by (Enya's alma mater) Clanaad during the lead-up to the climax, is not available on DVD in the US, due to Creator Backlash. A Widescreen/THX VHS deluxe edition from 1997, and a Region 2 British DVD are the only editions available to the public. The director's cut in turn adds an action scene at the fort and different last lines to Chingachgook which is more cynical about the death of the frontier, and now there is a third, Ultimate Cut on Blu-ray, causing much confusion between different versions.
- Mighty Whitey: Definitely present, but mostly subverted. The story does focus mostly on Hawkeye, but he isn't particularly better or worse at anything than his Mohican compatriots.
- Mercy Kill: Hawkeye shoots Heyward when the latter is being burned alive and screaming in agony. See: Heroic Sacrifice above.
- Mobile Menace - Magua.
- The Mole - Magua again.
- Motive Rant - Magua delivers one in the final debate.
- The Mutiny - semi-justified, if only because these are the forefathers of The American Revolution, so...
- The Native Rival - completely inverted in the case of Heyward and Cora.
- Neologism - The name "Cora." While not as popular as Wendy or Jessica, it still went on to become a viable name after the novel.
- Noble Savage - most of the Native Americans. Because of the extreme shortage of Mohicans, and because modern films usually like to cast people of approximately the same skin color the character is going to be, the Indians were played by members of the First Nations. (Anyone who's read the book will know why they don't call themselves Iroquois.) Thus, Magua is an aberration, not someone typical of the Iroquois. Just as well.
- Old Master: Chingachgook.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Hawkeye.
- Plot Armor: And how. In the film, Alice, Cora and Duncan are the only survivors of two massacres.
- Pet the Dog: When Alice stands at the cliff edge, ready to kill herself, Magua lowers his knife and offers her his hand. For a brief moment, it appears like he might genuinely care.
- The President's Daughter: Magua's and the heroes' motivations are all about this.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy
- Punch Clock Villain: Magua's Huron warriors.
- Put Them All Out of My Misery / Alas, Poor Villain
Magua: Magua's village and lodges were burnt. Magua's wife thought he was dead, and became the wife of another. I was taken a slave by the Mohawk who fought for the Grey Hair. In time, Magua became blood brother to the Mohawk... to become free. But always in his heart, he is Huron. And my heart will not be whole again until the Grey Hair and all his seed are dead.
- Race Lift: Cora, surprisingly enough. Results in the Unfortunate Implications of pairing Cora with the white guy instead of Uncas. Narrowly avoided in that Uncas and Chingachgook's portrayal and the other Indians are sufficiently Badass to overshadow Daniel Day-Lewis's acting, which is a neat trick.
- The film also offers Alice and Uncas as a secondary couple, although it's really subtle unless you're watching the Theatrical Cut and even then it's somewhat subdued. But it definitely comes to the fore in the last scene.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The colonists and frontiersmen.
Heyward: And who empowered these colonists to come and go without so much as a "by your leave"?
Cora: They do not live their lives by your leave! They scratch it out of the wilderness with their own two hands, burying their children along the way!
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Colonel Munro, compared to the other Brits. He refuses to honor the colonists' agreement, but he does so for legitimate military worries of losing his fort. Had his superior officers honored their commitment, he wouldn't have needed the militia. Needless to say, the colonists blame Munro for British duplicity.
- The Great Huron Sachem, too, From a Certain Point of View. He agrees to burn one of the girls alive as a form of justice for the killing of Magua's kids by Cora's father, but is willing to accept Heyward in her place. When Magua protests his ruling not to kill both of them, he lets the others leave in peace.
- Redshirt Army: The British Redcoats, by definition. Possibly an Unbuilt Trope.
- The Resenter: Heyward after leaving the fort.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Chingachgook goes on one of these after Uncas is killed. Subverted because he does it silently; even his howl of grief is inaudible, with only the music playing.
- Magua's motivation is Revenge as well.
- Scarily Competent Tracker - Surprised this hasn't been mentioned before, because it's the Mohicans' hat! Well, that and Super Running Skills...
- At one point they track a band of Huron down the middle of a streambed. They know it's a band of Huron because there's only one set of prints (underwater) and Huron always walk single file to hide their numbers.
- During the "I Will Find You" segment, the Mohicans track Cora and Alice's trail (while running) up a granite rock face.
- Scenery Porn: The Blue Ridge Mountains.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: inverted as the heroes become fashionably dirtied-up through the course of the story.
Heyward: The men of the regiment will fetch water from the lake, build fires and provide every comfort that you desire.
Alice: I cannot wait to see the bath.
- Actually, Alice's line is: "I cannot wait to see Papa."
- Shirtless Scene: The 1992 film. Hawkeye's shirt magically disappears while hunting.
- Shown Their Work: One of the first installments in the trend towards super-detailed historical reenactment. The director built a full-scale model of Fort William Henry and blasted it to smithereens, authentic reproduction muskets were made, leather items were all tanned on-set; a linguist was hired to reconstruct a dead Huron dialect for subtitled scenes.
- The Siege: The Battle of Fort William Henry, complete with cannons and operatic music.
- So Much for Stealth - these guys will pick up on any sound, even the birds not singing.
- Star-Crossed Lovers - Uncas and Alice in the film, practically with no dialogue. Poignantly so. He loved General Munro's daughter Cora, who was a Tragic Mulatto, in the book -- one of the first interracial romances in American fiction.
- Stern Chase
- Supporting Leader: Hawkeye.
- Third Person Person - Magua speaks of himself in the third person. Just like that, in fact.
- Tranquil Fury: Chingachgook shows little emotion when dispatching Magua for killing his son, and doesn't crack a tear til after his final speech.
- Translation Convention: Used and subverted. When characters who speak a French are alone, it's spoken in English (oddly, General Montcalm speaks English anyhow with Just An Accent); but Native characters slide in and out of four different languages, which are subtitled for the viewer as Bilingual Dialogue, so all three tropes are used.
- Trouble Entendre - Magua's and Montcalm's Unspoken Plan Guarantee.
Magua: Does the chief of the Canadas expect the English to honor the terms?
Montcalm: Col. Munro would. But General Webb will not honor the agreement and send the troops away. I fear that having let them go -- which I must -- I shall only fight the same men again when I drive towards Albany. (the two exchange a knowing glance)
- True Companions - the Mohicans, plus Cora, Alice and Heyward (sort of).
- Unrequited Love: Heyward's motivation.
- War Was Beginning: America 1757
- Weapon of Choice: Chingachgook's gunstock club gets a lot of use.
- Wicked Cultured: Subverted in an interesting way. Montcalm is shown receiving Indian chiefs as equals and recieving gifts of fealty from them, including a Jesuit choir of Huron Indian women. This is treated as a Pet the Dog moment showing the different French attitudes toward coexisting with natives, instead of implying that he is backstabbing his Indian underlings.
- Wild Wilderness
- World Gone Mad: "The whole world's on fire, isn't it?" (cue sweeping music and mortar explosions)
- Worthy Opponent: Montcalm specifically describes Munro as such.
- You Rebel Scum: Heyward's attitude towards the deserters.
- Ironically, the reason for the gathering is a militia levy to go fight other Indians, but the British herald is disdainful of both groups.
- It's both subtitled and translated on-screen by Heyward, who speaks French -- except for the Huron part, which only Magua understands.
- (somewhat inaccurate to the legend which is set in the Adirondacks, but hey, you know)