The Leatherstocking Tales
The book series by James Fenimore Cooper.
In chronological order, the books are:
- The Deerslayer: The First Warpath -- 5th published
- The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 -- 2nd published and most famous
- The Pathfinder: The Inland Sea -- 4th published
- The Pioneers: The Sources of the Susquehanna; A Descriptive Tale -- 1st published (hence the long subtitle)
- The Prairie: A Tale -- 3rd published
They're probably most famous these days for codifying the romantic concept of the Native American Frontier, and for their heroic, chivalrous prose being relentlessly mocked by Mark Twain. (Incidentally, the Defenses are here) Nonetheless, they represent the first real American adventure stories, are the ancestors of the Western, and one of the first literary appearances of the Noble Savage. (Montaigne was the first to apply this trope to the North American Indians, and the trope itself is Older Than Feudalism -- Classical Greek writers spoke of the Gauls this way.) Anyway, back then it was a very progressive portrayal of Native Americans, and he was congratulated for presenting Chingachgook and his son Uncas as heroes (as opposed to thieving, cunning, drunken, heathen assholes). Of course, now we see it as just another stereotype -- but Cooper was the first to use this in a novel.
The main concern Natives have vis-a-vis Cooper is not so much the romantic portrayal of Stoic, slender and superior warriors, nor the prose; Native warriors were renowned as orators throughout the Indian wars and are still quoted today in Military History and Political Science classes. But the enduring stereotype is that Indians, while noble, are doomed to be eclipsed by the technologically superior white man and fade away. Although it was a common belief in Cooper's day, even among Indian rights advocates, this has become a bit of an Undead Horse Trope (pun intended) and native tribesmen (including the Mohicans themselves) are quick to note that reports of their death are greatly exaggerated.
The thing which ties the five books into a series is the recurring archetypal character of Natty Bumppo, the Long Rifle, who also goes by the names of Deerslayer, Hawkeye, Pathfinder, Leatherstocking and The Trapper. In that order. (They're called The Leatherstocking Tales because he was known as Leatherstocking in The Pioneers, the first book.) In four of the five books, he is joined by Chingachgook ("Great Serpent"), and in Last of the Mohicans by Chingachgook's son Uncas, the eponymous Last of the Mohicans, who dies in battle at the end of the novel.
- Adaptation Distillation: The 1992 film The Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis was praised by people some of whom found the book unreadable.
- Exclusively Evil: The Hurons. Really. I swear.
- One would expect the Iroquois in this role, but the Hurons were allies of the French, while the Iroquois, while hostile to the English, were mostly neutral in the Anglo-French question until they wiped out the Hurons in about the 1760s. The two cultures were very similar to each other, though; this is more a question of who's pointing a gun at the hero.
- Celibate Hero: Natty Bumppo/Hawkeye, surprisingly enough.
- Come with Me If You Want to Live: The Mohican rescue in Last of the Mohicans.
- Fail O'Suckyname: Natty Bumpo.
- The Gunslinger: First ever! And hence rather lacking in some of the more fancy tricks. This might also have something to do with the fact that Natty uses a Kentucky Rifle.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Natty and Chingachgook.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Natty/Hawkeye.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Natty/Hawkeye.
- Last of His Kind: Chingachgook after the death of Uncas.
- Lost in Imitation: The book The Last of the Mohicans has been adapted into film so many times that the 1992 film was explicitly based on an earlier 1936 screenplay in the credits, and praised for it -- due to avoiding perceived narrative pitfalls of the book. Of course, by making Day-Lewis the romantic lead, the film also conveniently avoided the book's mid-19th century interracial romance subplot, although it added another, so Your Mileage May Vary.
- Malaproper: Cooper himself. Mark Twain has a Long List of examples.
- Mighty Whitey: Arguably subverted or averted; Hawkeye's abilities come from living like an American Indian, and the whites who try to fight like whites are so ineffective that they could have been played for laughs...
- Noble Savage: Chingachgook.
- Older Than Radio
- Pistol-Whipping: Natty has a habit of using his rifle as a club once he's fired. Truth in Television given that these things were pretty dang heavy and took a long time to reload.
- Print Long Runners: Since 1826. Multiple film adaptations.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy
- Purple Prose
- Scarily Competent Tracker: all of them.
- So Much for Stealth: Origin of the trope quote. To quote Mark Twain:
Cooper wore out barrels of moccasins in working that trick. Another stage-property that he pulled out of his box pretty frequently was his broken twig. He prized his broken twig above all the rest of his effects, and worked it the hardest. It is a restful chapter in any book of his when somebody doesn't step on a dry twig and alarm all the reds and whites for two hundred yards around. Every time a person is in peril, and absolute silence is worth four dollars a minute, he is sure to step on a dry twig. There may be a hundred other handier things to step on, but that wouldn't satisfy Cooper. Cooper requires him to turn out and find a dry twig; and if he can't do it, go and borrow one.
- Spoony Bard: As a character type, not as a sub-optimized RPG class: David Gamut in Last of the Mohicans.
- Tragic Mulatto: Cora, the daughter of a Scotch colonel and a Creole mother. One of the first interracial romance plots in American literature.
- The Wise Prince: Uncas of the Mohican tribe.
- You Are a Credit to Your Race: Sort of. Played horribly, horribly straight.
- Or rather, "I Am A Credit To My Race" -- Hawkeye constantly talks about how he, "a man without a cross" of American Indian blood, can nonetheless fight effectively among them. The American Indians mostly ignore the subject...
- Your Days Are Numbered: The Mohicans.
- due to the consensus nature of tribal government, they were required to be great public speakers to attain positions of influence.