Literature / The Leatherstocking Tales
aka: Leatherstocking Tales
The further comics
of J.F. Cooper
The book series by James Fenimore Cooper.
One of the first Franchises
of modern literature
In chronological order, the books are:
- The Deerslayer: The First Warpath
— 5th published
- The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757
— 2nd published and most famous
- The Pathfinder: The Inland Sea
— 4th published
- The Pioneers: The Sources of the Susquehanna; A Descriptive Tale
— 1st published (hence the long subtitle)
- The Prairie: A Tale — 3rd published
They're probably most famous these days for codifying
the romantic concept of the Native American Frontier
, and for their heroic
, chivalrous prose
being relentlessly mocked
by Mark Twain
. (Incidentally, the Defenses are here
) Nonetheless, Cooper, starting with The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground
(1821), became the father of the American novel and wrote the first real American
adventure stories. He followed the lead of Sir Walter Scott
, adapting it to an American environment and democratizing it: where Scott (like Shakespeare) limited his lower-class characters to comic relief roles, Cooper made commoners like Harvey Birch and Natty Bumppo central characters of the work they appeared in. He also instituted an American archetype, that of the misfit or outsider hero at odds with society. The Leatherstocking Tales (1823-1841) are the ancestors of the Western
, while The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea
(1824) was the first of a series of sea novels based on Cooper's personal experiences in the merchant marine and the U.S. Navy, which established another new literary genre and became direct inspirations for Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad. (He also spent several years living and working in Paris, which may or may not have inspired later American writers). Cooper also wrote some the earliest spy novels
and is credited with some of the first serious portrayals of black and African-descended characters in American literature. During his lifetime Cooper was the first American writer to achieve worldwide renown and commercial success, and also the first one to impress and influence European writers, including not only the makers of the European strain of the Western like Friedrich Gerstäcker and Karl May
, but also Honoré de Balzac
, Alexandre Dumas
, Victor Hugo
and Émile Zola. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
reread The Pioneers
before describing a tiger hunt in his Novelle
(1826). And while Twain tried to tear him down, Cooper still found admirers of his writing in writers as diverse as Henry David Thoreau, George Sand, Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence and Arno Schmidt.
The Leatherstocking Tales are one of the first literary appearances of the Noble Savage
. (Montaigne was the first to apply this trope to the North American Indians, and the trope itself is Older Than Feudalism
— Classical Greek writers spoke of the Gauls this way.) Anyway, back then it was a very progressive
portrayal of Native Americans, and he was congratulated for presenting Chingachgook and his son Uncas as heroes
(as opposed to thieving, cunning, drunken, heathen assholes). Of course, now we see it as just another stereotype — but Cooper was
the first to use this in a novel
. In many ways, his noble savages exemplify a way European-descended North Americans made sense of the values dissonance between their society and that of the Native Americans, who from their point of view simultaneously and most irritatingly embodied both extremely repulsive (cruelty, vengefulness etc.) and attractive (hospitality, courage etc.) qualities.
The main concern Natives have vis-a-vis Cooper is not so much the romantic portrayal of Stoic
, slender and superior warriors
, nor the prose; Native warriors were renowned as orators throughout the Indian wars and are still quoted today in Military History and Political Science classes.note
But the enduring stereotype is that Indians, while noble
, are doomed to be eclipsed
by the technologically superior white man and fade away
. Although it was a common belief in Cooper's day, even among Indian rights advocates, this has become a bit of an Undead Horse Trope
(pun intended) and native tribesmen (including the Mohicans themselves) are quick to note that reports of their death are greatly exaggerated
. But that may overlook that in the 19th century for many observers the "fading away" primarily referred to the Native American nations' ability (or lack of it) to preserve their traditional societies and way of life. Also, one has to remember that Cooper wrote from a New York perspective and in that state the number of Native Americans really did dwindle dramatically during his lifetime. Here for instance the last existing community of Mahicans ("Mohicans")
at Stockbridge, NY, was relocated to Wisconsin in the 1820s and 1830s under the U. S. government's policy of Indian removal, where they merged with a Lenape community to form the Stockbridge-Munsee community
The thing which ties the five books into a series is the recurring archetypal character
of Natty Bumppo
, the Long Rifle
, who also goes by the names of Deerslayer
and The Trapper
. In that order. (They're called The Leatherstocking Tales because he was known as Leatherstocking in The Pioneers
, the first book.) In four of the five books, he is joined by Chingachgook ("Great Serpent")
, and in Last of the Mohicans
by Chingachgook's son Uncas
, the eponymous Last of the Mohicans, who dies in battle at the end of the novel
In the 19th century a number of Cooper's novels were adapted for the stage. Later the Leatherstocking Tales were adapted several times into films and television series. These include
- At least seven film versions of The Last of the Mohicans
- The 1913 American silent film The Deerslayer, shot on the real location on Lake Otsego.
- Lederstrumpf ("Leatherstocking"), a two-part German adaptation of The Deerslayer and The Last of the Mohicans starring Bela Lugosi as Chingachgook (1920).
- Chingachgook, die große Schlange (1967), an East German adaptation of the same two novels.
The Leatherstocking series and Cooper's other works provide examples of:
- All Myths Are True: Versions of this occur. In The Last of the Mohicans one is voiced by the Delaware women at Cora Munro's funeral. In The Prairie the dying Natty Bumppo is more doubtful, but in his discourse to Hard-Heart at least admits the possibility that the Christian God of the white men and the Great Spirit of the Pawnee will in the end be revealed as identical and that Natty and Hard-Heart will meet again in the afterlife.
- Always Chaotic Evil: The Hurons in The Last of the Mohicans and the Tetons (Sioux) in The Prairie.
- One would expect the Iroquois in this role, but the Hurons were allies of the French, while the Iroquois, while hostile to the English, were mostly neutral in the Anglo-French question until they wiped out the Hurons in about the 1760s. The two cultures were very similar to each other, though; this is more a question of who's pointing a gun at the hero.
- Anachronic Order: How the five volumes of the Leatherstocking Tales were written (and published).
- Animated Adaptation: Three of the "The Last of the Mohicans" by Hanna-Barbera, Burbank Films Australia and Mondo TV respectively. The last of these three is the only one with a plot that resembles that of the book.
- Asshole Victim: Scalp-hunting former pirate Tom Hutter in The Deerslayer.
- Big Brother Instinct: Or sister. Cora towards Alice in The Last of the Mohicans.
- Bilingual Bonus: The Last of the Mohicans contains quite a bit of Gratuitous French.
- The Captivity Narrative: Played with.
- Subverted in the case of Alice and Cora being captured in The Last of the Mohicans. In that novel it is actually played straighter with Magua's back story: He was captured by the Mohawks, adopted into their tribe, but eventually returned to the Hurons where he found that his wife had married someone else in the meantime.
- In The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (1829), an inversion occurs with Conanchet, a Narraganset boy captured by Connecticut Puritans, resists all efforts to turn him into one of them and escapes. Later, Ruth Heathcote and Whittal Ring are assimilated into the tribe after being captured in a raid by the Narragansetts. Ruth as Narra-mattah becomes the wife of Conanchet and the mother of his son. She only returns to her white family after the death of her husband. There is no happy end for her either.
- The Cavalry: The British army in The Deerslayer.
- Cavalry Betrayal: The garrison of Fort William Henry falls victim to this in The Last of the Mohicans.
- Celibate Hero: Natty Bumppo/Hawkeye, surprisingly enough.
- Cloudcuckoolander: David Gamut, the Puritan psalmodist in The Last of the Mohicans. Mistaking him for insane, the Hurons spare his life and allow him to roam their camp freely.
- Come with Me If You Want to Live: The Mohican rescue in Last of the Mohicans.
- Comic Relief: David Gamut in The Last of the Mohicans, Dr. Obed Bat ("Battius") in The Prairie.
- Composite Tribe: Cooper's Mohicans confound the Mahicans of the Hudson Valley with the Mohegans of eastern Connecticut (both speakers of Algonquin languages), but that was something even the experts of the day did, including one of Cooper's prime sources, the Moravian missionary John Heckewelder, who assembled extensive first-hand knowledge of the Delaware (Lenni-Lenape) nations. However three years later in his 1829 novel The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, which is set in 17th-century Connecticut, Cooper correctly identifies the Mohegans as a tribe of the Pequods.
- Cunning Linguist: Duncan Hayward is fluent in French, which enables him to fool a French sentry and also gets him the job of negotiating with the Marquis de Montcalm.
- Dawn of the Wild West: Mostly set in the wilderness of northern and western New York during the middle to late 18th century. The Prairie is set in the Midwest, in the new territories acquired through the Louisiana Purchase.
- Dead Guy Junior: Captain Duncan Uncas Middleton in The Prairie. He's the grandson of two characters from The Last of the Mohicans.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Occurs quite a bit in Cooper's frontier and other historical novels. This is most noticeable in the rather different set of values held by the white and Native American societies side by side and at the same time. In The Deerslayer Natty Bumppo tries to dissuade Tom Hutter and Harry March from raiding a Huron camp to cash in on the bounties offered by the governor for Huron scalps. For him taking the scalps of enemies is okay for Indians (like Chingachgook) because it is part of their culture (or, in his terminology, part of the gifts of their nature), but it is entirely wrong for white Christians to do the same thing because it violates their values or "gifts".
- Democracy Is Flawed: Many of Cooper's political tracts and some of his novels, most notably the Littlepage Manuscripts trilogy, bespeak of a growing scepticism towards the American political system, which in many ways overlaps with Democracy in America by his contemporary Alexis de Tocqueville. Cooper was a bit of a social conservative who found the emergent Jacksonian democracy, where the masses' influence gradually eclipsed that of the landed and propertied classes, off-putting. The fact that American democracy in his day happily coexisted with slavery and that Cooper sympathized with the American Indians, who were definitely getting the short end of the stick under Andrew Jackson and the administrations that followed, cannot have helped. Still Cooper generally did not hesitate to portray the American republic as superior and more progressive than the monarchies of old Europe.
- Dressing as the Enemy: A half-comical example occurs in The Last of the Mohicans, where it entails dressing up in the Huron medicine man's bear costume. In The Spy, Harvey Birch pretends to work for the British in order to entrap Loyalist conspirators and spies.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Cooper's unsuccessful first novel Precaution (1820) is a story of three families in England wanting to marry off their childrens, an uninspired imitation of the genre started by Jane Austen. He wrote it because he disliked an English novel of this type so much that he said he could write a better one, and his family took him up on it. He then switched to historical novels of the type created by Walter Scott, but in American settings.
- Egopolis: The Pioneers is set in Templeton on Lake Otsego, which is lorded over by its founder Marmaduke Temple. It is an expy of the real-world down of Cooperstown, NY, which was founded by the author's father William Cooper.
- End of an Era: Cooper's frontier novels to a large extent reflect the devastating impact of the advance of white civilization on traditional Native American culture and the landscape and wildlife. As Lenape prophet Tamenund sadly notes in the final words of The Last of the Mohicans:
"It is enough," he said. "Go, children of the Lenape, the anger of the Manitou is not done. Why should Tamenund stay? The pale faces are masters of the earth, and the time of the red men has not yet come again. My day has been too long. In the morning I saw the sons of Unamis happy and strong; and yet, before the night has come, have I lived to see the last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans
- Even Mooks Have Loved Ones: Played straight and very effectively in The Last of the Mohicans. After a battle in which Hawkeye and his companions kill a number of nameless Hurons who for the most part are described without individual traits, the perspective switches to the Hurons and Magua eulogizes them in a speech to the other braves. The reader then learns that the dead have names and that they are and will be mourned by their friends and families, some of whom are also mentioned by name. Later on there is a scene which shows the deep emotional pain felt by the father of another Huron warrior. Because his only son was executed for cowardice and disowned by the tribe, the father is forced to deny he is his son and not to show sorrow over his death, but his pain is so palpable that the tribal elders show some consideration.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Subverted in The Last of the Mohicans. Although according to Anglo-American standards of the time a white woman living with a "Heathen Savage" is considered this, Cora seriously considers acquiescing to becoming Magua's wife if that is what it takes to rescue her father and sister's lives.
- Firewater Is Bad: That the white men teaching Indians to drink alcohol was not a good thing is demonstrated with Magua's life story in The Last of the Mohicans. Even Chingachgook gets drunk along with the citizens of Templeton during the Christmas celebrations in The Pioneers. (By the way, Cooper most probably was the first one to use "firewater" — the translation of an Algonquian term for whisky — in a work of fiction).
- Going Native: Natty clearly feels most at home living among the Mohicans and later the Pawnees than among whites. In the process he even absorbed the Mohicans' hereditary enmity towards the Iroquois-speaking nations including the Hurons.
- Guile Hero: Harvey Birch, the eponymous hero of The Spy.
- The Gunslinger: First ever! And hence rather lacking in some of the more fancy tricks. This might also have something to do with the fact that Natty uses a long rifle (then usually called a Pennsylvania Rifle, later a Kentucky Rifle).
- Half-Breed Discrimination: A few examples.
- Cora Munro, the daughter of a Scotch colonel and a Creole mother, in The Last of the Mohicans. One of the first interracial romance plots in American literature. Her case is a subversion, as such discrimination is mentioned as existing and referenced by her father, but in the course of the novel Cora inspires love and admiration in pretty much anyone who meets her. And at her funeral the Delaware women see her mixed blood as something that makes her superior to her bland sister Alice. Ironically, the only person to actually display a prejudice against mixed blood is Hawkeye, who gratingly often takes pride in his own pure white blood and the pure Mohican blood of his friends Chingachgook and Uncas.
- When Narra-mattah (Ruth Heathcote) shows her baby to her mother in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, the latter is at first not exactly happy about learning that she has a half-Narragansett grandson. However, she does eventually change her tone.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Natty and Chingachgook.
- Historical-Domain Character: George Washington in The Spy, Colonel George Munro (or Monro) and the Marquis de Montcalm in The Last of the Mohicans, John Paul Jones in The Pilot, Conanchet (Canonchet), Metacom ("King Philip") and Uncas (the Mohegan chief) in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, Christopher Columbus in Mercedes of Castile.
- Historical Fiction
- Honour Before Reason: In The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish Conanchet dies affirming the warrior's code of the Narragansetts, refusing either to convert to Christianity or to make peace with the Mohegans in order to save something insignificant as his own life.
- Humans Are Bastards: A frequent theme of Cooper's, especially as he became more critical of American society and its land-grabs after his return from Europe. The growing corruption of individuals as "civilization" expands became a the major theme of his Littlepage Manuscripts trilogy of Satanstoe, The Chainbearer and The Redskins, or: Indian and Injin (1845-1846).
- Hunter Trapper
- I Have No Son: A tragic posthumous variation ("I had no son") occurs in The Last of the Mohicans: Reed-that-bends, a young Huron warrior guilty of cowardice is condemned to be killed and forgotten by the tribe's elders. A short while after the execution, Magua arrives not knowing what occurred, and has the misfortune to mention his name, so suddenly everybody looks at Reed-that-bends' father, which obliges him to publicly disown his own son to uphold the warrior ethos. He manages to go through with this "bitter triumph", but it breaks him.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Natty/Hawkeye.
- Injun Country: Cooper's works can be seen at the Trope Codifier for Western literature, stressing how well the Native Americans are attuned to life in their environment through their "gifts".
- Karmic Death: In The Deerslayer Tom Hutter tries to make money by raiding a Huron camp for scalps. He ends up dying after being scalped alive by the Hurons.
- A Kind of One: Hawkeye moves between the societies of the whites and the Native Americans without properly belonging to either, and he lives an autonomous life that makes it impossible for him to have a family. In the final chapter of The Last of the Mohicans he thus identifies with Chingachgook:
"The gifts of our colors may be different, but God has so placed us to journey in the same path. I have no kin, and I may also say, like you, no people."
- Knight in Shining Armor: Natty/Hawkeye.
- Last of His Kind: Chingachgook after the death of Uncas. It should be noted that strictly speaking the kind in question is "Mohican warrior and chief", not "Mohican" per se, as Cooper in the foreword to The Last of the Mohicans pointed out remnants of the tribe were still living in New York, dispersed among other tribes, in 1826, i. e. after the death of Chingachgook in The Pioneers.
- The Last Title: The Last of the Mohicans.
- Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Taken almost to parody with Alice (Light Feminine, all the way to golden hair and utter helplessness) and Cora (Dark Feminine, at least as far as her looks and refusal to be anyone's doormat) Munro in "The Last of the Mohicans".
- Lost in Imitation: The Last of the Mohicans has been adapted into film so many times that the 1992 film was explicitly based on an earlier 1936 screenplay in the credits, and praised for it — due to avoiding perceived narrative pitfalls of the book. Of course, by making Day-Lewis the romantic lead, the film also conveniently avoided the book's mid-19th century interracial romance subplot, although it added another.
- The Maiden Name Debate: James Cooper added "Fenimore" to his name in order to honour the wish of his mother that her family name be preserved after her death. During the 19th century this was still often treated as a double-barrelled surname, thus both George Sand and Mark Twain wrote articles in which Cooper is mentioned as "Fenimore Cooper" in the title.
- Malaproper: Cooper himself. Mark Twain has a Long List of examples. Subverted in that these examples demonstrate that - surprisingly enough - Cooper writing in the early 19th century conformed to early 19th century usage and not to the somewhat different usage of Mark Twain's day. Oh, and scholars were unable to find some of Twain's examples in Cooper's works.
- Martial Pacifist: As The Deerhunter relates, Natty Bumppo used to be one, having been received his religious education from the pacifist Moravian Brethren. This completely changed when he first killed a man (a Huron warrior) in self-defense.
- Meaningful Name: As most of the characters in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish are 17th-century Puritans, the novel abounds in biblical names and names like Charity, Content and Submission. There are also two preachers, Meek Wolfe and Meek Lamb.
- Mistaken Age: Chingachgook is frequently portrayed as being elderly or middle-aged. In "The Pioneers", which is set in 1793, Chingachgook is stated to be seventy telling us he was born in 1723 and thus since "The Last of the Mohicans" was set in 1757, he was thirty-four at the time.
- Although this is more likely an example of Writers Cannot Do Math or Cooper changing his mind between "The Pioneers" and "The Last of the Mohicans", in which Chingachgook's son Uncas is already a feared and famed warrior in his own right. With the added complication of "The Deerslayer" — in which Chingachgook has to rescue his betrothed Wah-ta-Wah — being set in 1740-1745. This in turn means that Uncas would have been seventeen at the oldest or twelve at the youngest when he was killed.
- Mistaken for Racist: In The Last of the Mohicans Colonel Munro flies into a rage when Major Heyward asks for his daughter's hand in marriage and it turns out that the one he wants is not Cora (whose mother was part-black), but her younger younger-half sister Alice (whose mother was white). Heyward has a hard time convincing convincing Munro that he just happens to be attracted to Alice more than to Cora (the novel at that point already has established that he in fact greatly admires Cora for her spirit and inner strength). It did not help that Heyward is English, as the crusty Scotsman Munro sees racism against blacks and people with black ancestry as a very English prejudice.
- Moustache de Plume: Inverted. With his first novel, the anonymously published Precaution, Cooper successfully created the impression that it was written by an Englishwoman (it even went to two printings in Britain). He later published two short stories as "Jane Morgan".
- Named After Someone Famous: Reflecting the customs of the times in which the novels are set, some black characters, both slaves and freemen, have names from Roman history and Greek mythology, such as Caesar in The Spy, Agamemnon ("Aggy") in The Pioneers, and Scipio Africanus and Cassandra in The Red Rover. In The Last of the Mohicans, Uncas has the name of a number of historic Mohegan chiefs.
- Named Weapon: Natty Bumppo's long rifle Killdeer.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: It is the tragic paradox of Natty Bumppo and people like him that he helps to bring about the westward advance of a society he himself finds impossible to live in, which leads to the destruction of his hunting grounds and forces him to move further west, where he is once again followed by "civilized society".
- Noble Savage: Chingachgook in four novels, Uncas and Hard-heart in one each. Natty Bumppo has also on occasion been labeled one by readers and publishers.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: As Cooper explained in a letter, Hard-heart (The Prairie) is based on the real-life Pawnee chief Petalasharo, an acquaintance of his.
- Non-Indicative Name: At least to white Western tastes Chingachgook ("The Great Snake") and Hard-heart, the Pawnee chief from The Prairie, qualify.
- One Steve Limit: Uncas from The Last of the Mohicans (a Mahican from New York in the 18th century) and Uncas from The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (a historic Mohegan chief from Connecticut in the 17th century).
- Pistol-Whipping: Natty has a habit of using his rifle as a club once he's fired. Truth in Television given that these things were pretty dang heavy and took a long time to reload.
- Prequel: The Last of the Mohicans to The Pioneers, The Deerslayer to the other four Leatherstocking Tales.
- Print Long-Runners: Since 1823.
- Prophetic Name: David Gamut is a Puritan psalmodist. His first name is that of the Biblical king to whom most Psalms are credited, his last name is a musical term (a complete scale).
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: The way different tribes and nations are portrayed to a large extent depends on whether they belong to the protagonists or antagonists of the novel in question. For instance, the Mohican Uncas is a protagonist of The Last of the Mohicans and portrayed very positively, while his namesake Uncas, the Mohegan chief in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, is a more sinister character. Cooper however does not paint the antagonists entirely without sympathetic qualities. And at one point in Last of the Mohicans the narration even chides Hawkeye for being unfair in his judgement regarding Hurons due to his prejudice against them when he denounces one for refusing to meekly let himself be killed.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy
- Public Domain Character: Tamenund in The Last of the Mohicans is based on the historic Lenni-Lenape chief Tamenend (died ca. 1701), who became a mythical figure as Tammany, the "Patron Saint of America". By now, Natty Bumppo, Chingachgook and others have become part of the public domain themselves.
- Purple Prose: Cooper wrote during the age of Romanticism, and his style often reflects that.
- Race Name Basis: In The Last of the Mohicans members of different tribes will often address each other by their tribal name even if they know each other's names, e. g. Uncas addresses Magua as "Huron".
- Scarily Competent Tracker: all of them.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Harvey Birch in The Spy refuses the money George Washington offers to reward him for his patriotic services: "not a dollar of your gold will touch; poor America has need for it all!" This is based on a real-life case related as an anecdote by Cooper's friend John Jay.
- Sea Stories: The novels The Pilot, The Red Rover, The Water-Witch: or the Skimmer of the Seas, Homeward Bound: or The Chase, Mercedes of Castile: or, The Voyage to Cathay, The Two Admirals, Afloat and Ashore, The Crater, or, Vulcan's Peak: A Tale of the Pacific, Jake Tier: or The Florida Reefs, and The Sea Lions: The Lost Sealers, as well as the short stories No Steamboats and An Execution at Sea. The Pathfinder, set on Lake Ontario, is a cross-breed between the frontier novel and the sea novel. Cooper also wrote non-fiction works on the history of the U.S. Navy and biographies of famous American sailors and his former shipmate Ned Myers.
- So Much for Stealth: To quote Mark Twain:
Cooper wore out barrels of moccasins in working that trick. Another stage-property
that he pulled out of his box pretty frequently was his broken twig. He prized his broken twig above all the rest of his effects, and worked it the hardest. It is a restful chapter in any book of his when somebody doesn't step on a dry twig and alarm all the reds and whites for two hundred yards around. Every time a person is in peril, and absolute silence is worth four dollars a minute, he is sure to step on a dry twig. There may be a hundred other handier things to step on, but that wouldn't satisfy Cooper. Cooper requires him to turn out and find a dry twig; and if he can't do it, go and borrow one.
- Spoony Bard: As a character type, not as a sub-optimized RPG class: David Gamut in Last of the Mohicans.
- Spy Fiction: The Spy (1821) and The Bravo (1831, set in Venice) are two of the earliest examples of the genre.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Roderick in The Red Rover.
- Sympathetic P.O.V.: In The Last of the Mohicans this occurs despite the overall Protagonist-Centered Morality. The passages which focus on Magua and the other Hurons make their motives more understandable and show that they have their own tragedies to bear, some of which have nothing to do with the novel's protagonists.
- Take a Third Option: In the 1850 preface to The Last of the Mohicans Cooper admitted that he had made up the name Horican for the lake on which Fort William Henry is situated. Disliking the names given by the Europeans (French: Lac du Saint-Sacrement, British: Lake George) and finding the Indian one a bit of a mouthful (Iroquois: Andia-ta-roc-te), he renamed it after a tribe that once lived nearby.
- The "The" Title: Most of Cooper's novels have titles conforming to this pattern, starting with The Spy (1821) and ending with The Ways of the Hour (1850). Of those that don't, many have a secondary title that does, such as Lionel Lincoln: or The Leaguer of Boston, Homeward Bound: or The Chase: A Tale of the Sea, and Wyandotte: or The Hutted Knoll.
- Together in Death: Cora and Uncas in The Last of the Mohicans. The Delaware women at the funeral even chant about how they will enjoy life together in the Happy Hunting Grounds. Conanchet and Narra-wattah (Ruth Heathcote) in The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish.
- Tragic Villain: Surprisingly, Magua.
- Uncleanliness Is Next to Ungodliness: Subverted. In the first edition of The Spy, Harvey Birch has the disgusting habit of spitting tobacco juice. Leatherstocking in a defining scene of The Pioneers is shown wiping his nose with his sleeve.
- Unfortunate Names: Natty Bumppo.
- Vague Age: Uncas has got to be seventeen at the oldest or twelve at the youngest in "The Last of the Mohicans" since "The Deerslayer" is set between 1740-1745.
- Villain Has a Point: Magua is the main villain of The Last of the Mohicans, but he is on point in his oration to the Huron elders where he expounds on the sufferings of black slaves and the the insatiable greed for land of the whites. However since he wishes to make Cora, who has black ancestry, his wife and treat her like a slave he comes across as hypocritical at that point.
- The Western: The frontier novel genre launched by the Leatherstocking Tales developed into the Western genre or can be said to be Westerns avant la lettre. Trying to make a distinction between the two tends to result in an arbitrary decision.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A common staple of many of Cooper's novels. Subverted in The Deerslayer, where Hawkeye proves unable to find out Judith's ultimate fate.
- The Wise Prince: Uncas of the Mohican tribe.
- Whodunit: Cooper's last novel, The Ways of the Hour, a courtroom mystery which among other things contains criticism of the American judiciary. It appeared in 1850, a few years after Edgar Allan Poe's seminal C. Auguste Dupin stories.
- Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Most of Cooper's sea novels and his non-fiction naval books fall into this category.
- You Are a Credit to Your Race: Sort of. Played horribly, horribly straight.
- Or rather, "I Am a Credit to My Race" — Hawkeye constantly talks about how he, "a man without a cross" of American Indian blood, can nonetheless fight effectively among them. The American Indians mostly ignore the subject...
- Your Days Are Numbered: The Mohicans.