TWT logo

Together We Teach
Reading Room

Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.

| Home | Reading Room The Last of the Mohicans

The Last of the Mohicans
A Narrative of 1757
by James Fenimore Cooper

< BACK    NEXT >




It is believed that the scene of this tale, and most of the
information necessary to understand its allusions, are
rendered sufficiently obvious to the reader in the text
itself, or in the accompanying notes. Still there is so
much obscurity in the Indian traditions, and so much
confusion in the Indian names, as to render some explanation

Few men exhibit greater diversity, or, if we may so express
it, greater antithesis of character, than the native warrior
of North America. In war, he is daring, boastful, cunning,
ruthless, self-denying, and self-devoted; in peace, just,
generous, hospitable, revengeful, superstitious, modest, and
commonly chaste. These are qualities, it is true, which do
not distinguish all alike; but they are so far the predominating
traits of these remarkable people as to be characteristic.

It is generally believed that the Aborigines of the American
continent have an Asiatic origin. There are many physical
as well as moral facts which corroborate this opinion, and
some few that would seem to weigh against it.

The color of the Indian, the writer believes, is peculiar to
himself, and while his cheek-bones have a very striking
indication of a Tartar origin, his eyes have not. Climate
may have had great influence on the former, but it is
difficult to see how it can have produced the substantial
difference which exists in the latter. The imagery of the
Indian, both in his poetry and in his oratory, is oriental;
chastened, and perhaps improved, by the limited range of his
practical knowledge. He draws his metaphors from the
clouds, the seasons, the birds, the beasts, and the
vegetable world. In this, perhaps, he does no more than any
other energetic and imaginative race would do, being
compelled to set bounds to fancy by experience; but the
North American Indian clothes his ideas in a dress which is
different from that of the African, and is oriental in
itself. His language has the richness and sententious
fullness of the Chinese. He will express a phrase in a
word, and he will qualify the meaning of an entire sentence
by a syllable; he will even convey different significations
by the simplest inflections of the voice.

Philologists have said that there are but two or three
languages, properly speaking, among all the numerous tribes
which formerly occupied the country that now composes the
United States. They ascribe the known difficulty one people
have to understand another to corruptions and dialects. The
writer remembers to have been present at an interview
between two chiefs of the Great Prairies west of the
Mississippi, and when an interpreter was in attendance who
spoke both their languages. The warriors appeared to be on
the most friendly terms, and seemingly conversed much
together; yet, according to the account of the interpreter,
each was absolutely ignorant of what the other said. They
were of hostile tribes, brought together by the influence of
the American government; and it is worthy of remark, that a
common policy led them both to adopt the same subject. They
mutually exhorted each other to be of use in the event of
the chances of war throwing either of the parties into the
hands of his enemies. Whatever may be the truth, as
respects the root and the genius of the Indian tongues, it
is quite certain they are now so distinct in their words as
to possess most of the disadvantages of strange languages;
hence much of the embarrassment that has arisen in learning
their histories, and most of the uncertainty which exists in
their traditions.

Like nations of higher pretensions, the American Indian
gives a very different account of his own tribe or race from
that which is given by other people. He is much addicted to
overestimating his own perfections, and to undervaluing
those of his rival or his enemy; a trait which may possibly
be thought corroborative of the Mosaic account of the

The whites have assisted greatly in rendering the traditions
of the Aborigines more obscure by their own manner of
corrupting names. Thus, the term used in the title of this
book has undergone the changes of Mahicanni, Mohicans, and
Mohegans; the latter being the word commonly used by the
whites. When it is remembered that the Dutch (who first
settled New York), the English, and the French, all gave
appellations to the tribes that dwelt within the country
which is the scene of this story, and that the Indians not
only gave different names to their enemies, but frequently
to themselves, the cause of the confusion will be

In these pages, Lenni-Lenape, Lenope, Delawares, Wapanachki,
and Mohicans, all mean the same people, or tribes of the
same stock. The Mengwe, the Maquas, the Mingoes, and the
Iroquois, though not all strictly the same, are identified
frequently by the speakers, being politically confederated
and opposed to those just named. Mingo was a term of
peculiar reproach, as were Mengwe and Maqua in a less

The Mohicans were the possessors of the country first
occupied by the Europeans in this portion of the continent.
They were, consequently, the first dispossessed; and the
seemingly inevitable fate of all these people, who disappear
before the advances, or it might be termed the inroads, of
civilization, as the verdure of their native forests falls
before the nipping frosts, is represented as having already
befallen them. There is sufficient historical truth in the
picture to justify the use that has been made of it.

In point of fact, the country which is the scene of the
following tale has undergone as little change, since the
historical events alluded to had place, as almost any other
district of equal extent within the whole limits of the
United States. There are fashionable and well-attended
watering-places at and near the spring where Hawkeye halted
to drink, and roads traverse the forests where he and his
friends were compelled to journey without even a path.
Glen's has a large village; and while William Henry, and
even a fortress of later date, are only to be traced as
ruins, there is another village on the shores of the
Horican. But, beyond this, the enterprise and energy of a
people who have done so much in other places have done
little here. The whole of that wilderness, in which the
latter incidents of the legend occurred, is nearly a
wilderness still, though the red man has entirely deserted
this part of the state. Of all the tribes named in these
pages, there exist only a few half-civilized beings of the
Oneidas, on the reservations of their people in New York.
The rest have disappeared, either from the regions in which
their fathers dwelt, or altogether from the earth.

There is one point on which we would wish to say a word
before closing this preface. Hawkeye calls the Lac du Saint
Sacrement, the "Horican." As we believe this to be an
appropriation of the name that has its origin with
ourselves, the time has arrived, perhaps, when the fact
should be frankly admitted. While writing this book, fully
a quarter of a century since, it occurred to us that the
French name of this lake was too complicated, the American
too commonplace, and the Indian too unpronounceable, for
either to be used familiarly in a work of fiction. Looking
over an ancient map, it was ascertained that a tribe of
Indians, called "Les Horicans" by the French, existed in the
neighborhood of this beautiful sheet of water. As every
word uttered by Natty Bumppo was not to be received as rigid
truth, we took the liberty of putting the "Horican" into his
mouth, as the substitute for "Lake George." The name has
appeared to find favor, and all things considered, it may
possibly be quite as well to let it stand, instead of going
back to the House of Hanover for the appellation of our
finest sheet of water. We relieve our conscience by the
confession, at all events leaving it to exercise its
authority as it may see fit.



Top of Page

< BACK    NEXT >

| Home | Reading Room The Last of the Mohicans




Why not spread the word about Together We Teach?
Simply copy & paste our home page link below into your emails... 

Want the Together We Teach link to place on your website?
Copy & paste either home page link on your webpage...
Together We Teach 





Use these free website tools below for a more powerful experience at Together We Teach!

****Google™ search****

For a more specific search, try using quotation marks around phrases (ex. "You are what you read")


*** Google Translate™ translation service ***

 Translate text:


  Translate a web page:

****What's the Definition?****
(Simply insert the word you want to lookup)

 Search:   for   

S D Glass Enterprises

Privacy Policy

Warner Robins, GA, USA