American Heroes, Myth and Reality

By Marshall W. Fishwick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Westward Ho: Daniel Boone

" Boone's was one of the most fully realized lives ever lived in modern times, and for that reason we cannot be sorry for him, no matter what ill fortune came his way. It was also one of the most credible; he was the American Ulysses." -- J. Donald Adams, Literary Frontiers

Daniel Boone's place in American history is unique and secure. He set the general pattern which later western heroes followed, personified the epic move westward, and "Kilt a bar" that became a myth. The prototype for Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, Paul Bunyan, and the American cowboy, he has not been outshone by more spectacular or successful adventurers. Boone was the American Moses who led us into the Promised Land.

That he was also a modest man who claimed to have killed only one Indian, an illiterate man who had difficulty writing his own name, and an unsocial man who drifted westward in search of elbow-room, only heightens his achievement. It also raises the question: how is it that Boone has been exalted, more than such equally brave companions as Squire Boone, Harrod, McAfee, and Logan?

His fame rests both upon the quality of his life and acts, and upon historical circumstances. Boone had the good fortune to be active when many writers and intellectuals, influenced by Jean Jacques Rousseau, dreamed of the noble savage who was free from the shackles of society and convention. Despite its coonskin trim and backwoods flavor, Boone's image is modeled after the Enlightenment "natural man." John Filson's biography (trans-

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