First edition title page
Author(s) James Fenimore Cooper Country United States Language English Series Leatherstocking Tales Genre(s) Adventure novel, Historical novel Publisher Lea & Blanchard: Philadelphia Publication date 1841 Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback) Pages 560 pp in two volumes ISBN NA Preceded by The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea (1840)
The Deerslayer, or The First Warpath (1841) was the last of James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking tales to be written. Its 1740-1745 time period makes it the first installment chronologically and in the lifetime of the hero of the Leatherstocking tales, Natty Bumppo. The novel's setting on Otsego Lake in central, upstate New York, is the same as that of The Pioneers, the first of the Leatherstocking tales to be published (1823). The Deerslayer is considered to be the prequel to the rest of the Leatherstocking tales. Fenimore Cooper begins his work by relating the astonishing advance of civilization in New York State, which is the setting of four of his five Leatherstocking tales.
This novel introduces Natty Bumppo as "Deerslayer", a young frontiersman in early 18th-century New York. He is contrasted to other frontiersmen and settlers in the novel who have no compunctions in taking scalps in that his natural philosophy is that every living thing should follow "the gifts" of its nature—which would keep European Americans from taking scalps. Two such characters in the work who actually seek to take scalps are Henry March ("Hurry Harry") and floating Tom Hutter.
In the dead of night Hutter and March sneak into the camp of the besieging members of the Huron tribe in order to kill and scalp as many as they can. Their plan fails, and Tom Hutter and March are captured. They are later ransomed by Bumppo, his lifelong friend Chingachgook, and Hutter's daughters, Judith and Hetty. Bumppo and Chingachgook come up with a plan to rescue Chingachgook's kidnapped betrothed Wah-ta!-Wah from the Hurons; but, in rescuing her, Bumppo is captured. In his absence, the Hurons invade Hutter's home, and Hutter is mortally wounded and scalped. After the death of Hutter his supposed daughters find out that they were not his natural daughters and he had been a notorious pirate. Bumppo's remaining allies and friends plan how to aid his escape from his Huron captors.
The brunt of Mark Twain's Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses (1895) fell on The Deerslayer and The Pathfinder. Twain wrote at the beginning of the essay: "In one place in Deerslayer, and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record." He then lists 18 out of 19 rules "governing literary art in domain of romantic fiction" that Cooper violates in The Deerslayer.
Works of James Fenimore Cooper Leatherstocking Tales novels Other novelsAfloat and Ashore • Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief • The Bravo • The Chainbearer • The Crater • The Headsman: The Abbaye des Vignerons • The Heidenmauer • Home as Found: Sequel to Homeward Bound • Jack Tier, or the Florida Reef • Lionel Lincoln • Mercedes of Castile • Miles Wallingford • The Monikins • The Oak Openings • The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea• Precaution • The Red Rover • The Redskins • Satanstoe • The Sea Lions • The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground • The Two Admirals • The Water-Witch • The Ways of the Hour • The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish • The Wing-and-Wing • Wyandotte Short stories and PlaysTales for Fifteen • No Steamboats • Upside Down • The Lake Gun Non-fictionThe Chronicles of Cooperstown • The Eclipse • The History of the Navy of the United States of America • Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers • Ned Myers • New York: or The Towns of Manhattan • Notions of the Americans • Old Ironsides • Proceedings of the Naval Court-Martial in the Case of Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, &c. Political writingsLetter to General Lafayette • A Letter to His Countrymen • The American Democrat Travel writingsGleanings in Europe: Switzerland • Gleanings in Europe: The Rhine • A Residence in France • Gleanings in Europe: France • Gleanings in Europe: England • Gleanings in Europe: Italy
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