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The Deerslayer: or, The First War-Path (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – July 9, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This novel, Cooper's last contribution to his five-volume "Leatherstocking Tales," introduces Natty Bumppo as a young frontiersman in early 18th-century New York and keeps him busy rescuing white women from Indians. Since Cooper actually wrote this book last in his series, one would expect it to be competently written. However, it's impossible to listen to it without thinking of Mark Twain's savage essay "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," in which he calls The Deerslayer a "literary delirium tremens." Very apt. The book takes forever to go nowhere, and its dialog is a tortuous blend of stilted literary English and wholly imaginary frontier dialect. Such imperfections may be passed over on the printed page, but they are impossible to ignore when given voice. Narrator Raymond Todd reads descriptive passages just fine, but no one can make Cooper's dialog sound like real speech. This is better left to print editions. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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“James Fenimore Cooper was the first great American novelist.”—A. B. Guthrie
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (July 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375760873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375760877
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,155,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Karl Janssen on November 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Originally published in 1841, The Deerslayer was the last book written by James Fenimore Cooper in his series of five novels known as the Leatherstocking tales. In terms of the narrative sequence of the series, however, it is chronologically the first installment in the story line. The five historical adventure novels which comprise the Leatherstocking saga all relate episodes in the life of Nathaniel Bumppo, a hunter and trapper in colonial America who, though a white man, lives among the Native Americans. Bumppo is known by many names throughout the five books, but in this first volume he is primarily referred to by the appellation of Deerslayer.

The novel takes place in the early 1740s in New York State. Deerslayer and his traveling companion "Hurry Harry" arrive at a secluded, placid lake where resides the Hutter family. Thomas Hutter has built a house on piles in the center of the lake, known as the "castle," where he lives with his two daughters--Judith, who is renowned for her incomparable beauty, and Hetty, who is considered simple-minded. The family also travels the lake's waters in a sort of houseboat called the "ark". While Hurry has come to the lake to court Judith, Deerslayer has come to rendezvous with his friend Chingachgook, a Delaware Indian. At this early point in Deerslayer's life, he is renowned for his hunting skills but has never killed a man. As war has been recently declared between the British and French, along with their Indian allies, the two young friends have come together to embark on their first warpath, in hopes of proving themselves as warriors.

The lake is besieged by a band of Huron Indians, who are loyal to the French. They capture members of Deerslayer's party, and he and his remaining companions strive to rescue them.
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Format: Paperback
Had "Deerslayer" been James Fenimore Cooper's first "Leatherstocking" tale -- who knows? Maybe it would have been his last! But his mythic hero, Nathaniel Bumppo (a.k.a. Natty, Deerslayer, The Long Carrabine, Hawkeye, et. al.)had such a mid-19th Century following that Cooper was practically guaranteed an eager, receptive audience for his tales.
I won't say straight out that "Deerslayer" is a terrible book. If nothing else, Donald Pease's introductory essay informs us of several plot complexities that are intertwined with Cooper's personal life, such as the re-invention of Natty Bumppo to buttress and justiry Cooper's real-life legal property claims. But, if "Deerslayer" is not a terrible book, it is for hundreds of pages something less than scintillating. Why? I think it comes down to this. Patient readers can endure quite a lot of moralizing, or wide swaths of verbosity. But put the two together and it's hard to endure.
The story takes place on Cooper's real-life ancestral home, Lake Otsego in mid-upstate New York (my friends tell me the pronunciation is "Otsaga" with a short "a") where we first encounter a youthful Natty Bumppo and his unlikely fellow traveler, Harry "Hurry" March, an indestructible, Paul Bunyonesque figure whose credo can be summarized as "might makes right." Natty (given the sobriquet, Deerslayer, by his adopted Delaware tribe) has arrived at the lake to join his companion, Chingachgook, (the "Serpant"), in his quest to liberate his future bride, Wah-ta-Wah, who was kidnapped by a band of Huron Indians.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Held my interest throughout the entire book. The historical references were accurate as far as I was able to reference the locations on the map. I read this years ago while in high school, but didn't enjoy it as much. I also saw a film by the same name. The book is much better today because I am in my retirement and have ample time to enjoy things such as a great novel by a significant author of early colonial history.
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Format: Paperback
Cooper's final Leatherstocking Tale, The Deerslayer, depicts young Natty Bumppo on his first warpath with lifelong friend-to-be, Chingachgook. The story centers around a lake used as the chronologically subsequent setting for Cooper's first Leatherstocking Tale, The Pioneers. Tom Hutter lives on the lake with his daughters and it is here that Deerslayer (Bumppo) intends to meet Chingachgook to rescue Chingachgook's betrothed from a band of roving Iroquois. A desperate battle for control of the lake and it's immediate environs ensues and consumes the remainder of the story.
Throughout this ultimate Leatherstocking Tale, Cooper provides Natty much to postulate upon. Seemingly desiring a comprehensive finality to the philosophy of Bumppo, Cooper has Natty "speechify" in The Deerslayer more so than in any other book, though the character could hardly be considered laconic in any. Though the reason for this is obvious and expected (it is, after all, Cooper's last book of the series), it still detracts a tad from the pace of the story as Natty picks some highly inappropriate moments within the plot to elaborate his position. And, thus, somewhat incongruently, Cooper is forced to award accumulated wisdom to Bummpo at the beginning of his career rather than have him achieve it through chronological accrual.
All things considered, however, The Deerslayer is not remarkably less fun than any other Leatherstalking Tale and deserves a similar rating. Thus, I award The Deerslayer 4+ stars and the entire Leatherstocking Tales series, one of the better examples of historical fiction of the romantic style, the ultimate rating of 5. It was well worth my time.
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