by May Lamberton Becker
THERE is no hero in American fiction who takes you with him into his time and place more completely than Natty Bumppo on his life journey through the five Leatherstocking Tales.
He strides into The Deerslayer a young hunter brought up among the Delaware Indians, getting experience in Indian warfare in the wilderness of northern New York State in the seventeenforties. The perfect woodsman, he needs plenty of room; loving the forest, he has the keen senses and cool nerve needed to keep alive there. In The Last of the Mohcans: a Narrative of 1757 he is in the prime of life and at the top of his powers as a scout in the campaign of Fort William Henry. In The Pathfinder he falls in love, but you remember that less than you do the defense of the blockhouse. In The Pioneers civilization is beginning to catch up with the old scout. Leatherstocking, free hunter of the forest, is arrested for shooting deer out of season. In The Prairie he has retired still further to the western plains; frontiersman still, nearly ninety and still able to deal with forest fires and buffalo stampedes, the last tremendous effort of his life is to rise from his sickbed as the sun goes down, answer "Here," and fall back, dead. Generous, resourceful, not so fond of traders as of Indians, his way through these five romances has been that of the pioneer through a period when America was taking shape.
Those who read the Tales as they came out did not get them in this order: the first to be published was The Pioneers ( 1823)