The Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper

This series of five novels written in the mid-1800’s and taking place in the mid-to-later 1700’s is one of my all-time favorite reads. Regardless of what the “scholars” say, I like to read the novels in the order not in which they were written, but in the order as if lived chronologically by the main character, Nathaniel Bumppo/Deerslayer/Hawkeye/Long Rifle (he has new nicknames in each book). In that case The Deerslayer is read first, then The Pathfinder, Last of the Mohicans, The Pioneers, and The Prairie. These are properly termed as historical fiction; Cooper did his research and to my mind gives us a view into the sentiments of a day and the conditions of a country long gone. You will not find political correctness in the narratives, but you will find a Christian frontiersman trying to be upright and honest as he seeks to honor God in his dealings with men and harsh conditions. Example: from The Deerslayer: As was his practice, however, a habit gained by living so much alone in the forest, he then began again to give utterance to his thoughts and feelings aloud. “I didn’t wish your life, red-skin,” he said, “but you left me no choice atween killing or being killed. Each party acted according to his gifts, I suppose, and blame can light on neither. You were treacherous, according to your natur’ in war, and I was a little oversightful, as I’m apt to be in trusting others. Well, this is my first battle with a human mortal, though it’s not likely to be the last. I have fou’t most of the creatur’s of the forest, such as bears, wolves, panthers, and catamounts, but this is the beginning with the red-skins. If I was Injin born, now, I might tell of this, or carry in the scalp, and boast of the exploit afore the whole tribe; or, if my inimy had only been even a bear, ‘twould have been nat’ral and proper to let everybody know what had happened; but I don’t well see how I’m to let even Chingachgook into this secret, so long as it can be done only by boasting with a white tongue. And why should I wish to boast of it, after all? It’s slaying a human, although he was a savage; and how do I know that he was a just Injin; and that he has not been taken away suddenly to anything but happy hunting-grounds. When it’s onsartain whether good or evil has been done, the wisest way is not to be boastful . . .” Pros: Growing in awareness and appreciation of the beauty, babyhood, bounty, bad behavior, and bravery in the colonial days of our country. The tales are interesting, adventuresome, heart-warming, and entertaining. I was so sorry when I had to say good-bye to the people in the books! Cons: You could be doing something productive rather than reading fiction? I love these books, so that’s as strong a condemnation of them as you will get out of me. [rating:3/5]

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