The Last of the Mohicans

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Thomas Cole, Clifftop Scene from The Last of the Mohicans: Cora Kneeling at the Feet of Tamenund, 1827, an early example of Popcultural Osmosis


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.

For more on the novel The Last of the Mohicans and other books in The Series, see The Leatherstocking Tales.

For more on the 1992 film starring Daniel Day-Lewis, see below.


Tropes used in The Last of the Mohicans include:

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). [2] 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."

"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."

Hawkeye: You 'bout done holdin' hands with Miss Monro?

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:

Hawkeye: I got a reason to stay here.
Jack: That reason wear a striped skirt and work in the surgery?
Hawkeye: It does. And no offense, but it's a better lookin' reason than you, Jack Winthrop!

Munro: (sighs) Those considerations are subordinate to the interests of the Crown.

Herald: Are you not a patriot!? A loyal subject to the Crown!?
Heyward: (later) British policies make the world England, sir.

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.
  • 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.
  • The General's Colonel'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.
    • Most of the film was shot in North Carolina. For example, the last fight scenes were filmed at Chimney Rock State Park. However, this was a stand-in for the Adirondacks near the Canadian border.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Hawkeye: There are too many French.
Ongewasgone: And so few of us to fight. But we have given our word to the English fathers.

  • 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 Bumppo Nathaniel, 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."
  • 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!

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.

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)

It is the third year of war between France and England for possession of the continent.
Three men, the last of a vanishing people, are on the frontier west of the Hudson river.
  1. Ironically, the reason for the gathering is a militia levy to go fight other Indians, but the British herald is disdainful of both groups.
  2. It's both subtitled and translated on-screen by Heyward, who speaks French -- except for the Huron part, which only Magua understands.
  3. (somewhat inaccurate to the legend which is set in the Adirondacks, but hey, you know)