The Deerslayer, or The First War-Path, by American novelist James Fenimore Cooper, was first published in 1841. It was the last of Cooper’s series of five novels featuring the character of Nathaniel (Natty) Bumppo, also known as Deerslayer, Pathfinder, Hawkeye, Leatherstocking, and Trapper. Set in the wilderness area around Lake Otsego, New York, during one week in June between 1740 and 1745, The Deerslayer is an exciting story about the adventures of the woodsman known as Deerslayer and his Delaware Indian friend, Chingachgook. They meet at the lake to plot a rescue of Chingachgook’s betrothed, a Delaware girl who has been abducted by the hostile Huron Indians. Deerslayer has never been on the warpath before, and this is a test of his manhood. Deerslayer’s impetuous and lawless friend, Hurry March, the grizzled old trapper Thomas Hutter, and his two daughters—one beautiful and vain, the other pious and simple-minded—complete the main cast of characters. The novel presents the violence and unpredictability of life in a place where only a few white hunters and hunting parties of Indians have ever set foot. The interface between the wilderness and civilization, the pristine life of nature and the impact being made on it by human beings, makes this a fascinating story about a clash of values, a conflict which continued to shape the North American continent for the remainder of the century and beyond.
In the early 2000s, The Deerslayer may have far fewer readers than it did one hundred and fifty years before, but it has, together with the other four Leatherstocking Tales, become a classic of American nineteenth-century literature.