Images of the Hunter in American Life and Literature

By Lynda Wolfe Coupe | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

Boone and Bumppo: The Emerging Hunter Figure

This account of my adventures will inform the reader of the most remarkable events of this country.—I now live in peace and safety, enjoying the sweets of liberty, and the bounties of Providence, with my fellow-sufferers, in this delightful country, which I have seen purchased with a vast expense of blood and treasure, delighting in the prospect of its being, in a short time, one of the most opulent and powerful states on the continent of North-America; which, with the love and gratitude of my countrymen, I esteem a sufficient reward for my toil and dangers. (Daniel Boone qtd. in Filson 81—82)

The general Boon, back-woodsman of Kentucky, Was happiest amongst mortals anywhere;

For killing nothing but a bear or buck, he Enjoy'd the lonely, vigorous, harmless days Of his old age in wilds of deepest maze. (Byron, Don Juan, Canto 8, LXI—LXII)

On the human imagination events produce the effects of time. Thus, he who has traveled far and seen much is apt to fancy that he has lived long, and the history that most abounds in important incidents soonest assumes the aspect of antiquity. In no other way can we account for the venerable air that is already gathering around American annals. (Cooper, The Deerslayer 9)

Daniel Boone and James Fenimore Cooper's Natty Bumppo, embody the rugged individualism so central to American self-fashioning. Boone and Bumppo's lifetimes cover the period from colony to nation. They reflect a movement in American culture away from inherited power and toward individual prowess. The basis for Boone's and Bumppo's power lies in the hunter's ability to negotiate the landscape and to lead others across the continent.

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