Images of the Hunter in American Life and Literature

By Lynda Wolfe Coupe | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Pocahontas and John Smith: Metaphorical Parents of the American Hunter Figure

... and with cudgels raised they were about to aim their blows, when Pocahontas, the daughter of Powhatan, when she could not prevail upon her father with ardent entreaties, rushed at Smith like a mad woman and, embracing his head with her arms, asked to receive in his stead the blows aimed at his head. (Wharton 72)

After some six weeks fatting amongst those Savage Courtiers, at the minute of my execution she hazarded the beating out of her brains to save mine; and not only that, but so prevailed with her father, that I was safely conducted to Jamestown; where I found about eight and thirty miserable, poor and sick creatures, to keep possession of all those large territories of Virginia. Such was the weakness of this poor Commonwealth, as had the Savages not fed us, we directly had starved. And this relief, most gracious Queen, was commonly brought us by this Lady Pocahontas. (John Smith, qtd. in Barbour, Three Worlds 330)

It is as a rescuer that Pocahontas is best known, and much of the mythology that has been built up around her continues to be associated with this crucial founding moment in American history. (Tilton, “American Lavinia” iv)

John Smith and Pocahontas represent an ideal amalgamation of European and Native American. Even though this ideal was never realized, the connection between Smith and Pocahontas has remained fixed in the American imagination over the centuries. Robert Tilton argues convincingly that the rescue story is the basis for the appeal of these figures, that it acts as a creation myth for America. The pair incorporates traits from European and Indian cultures essential to the hunter hero who comes to symbolize American independence.

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