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Dawn of the Wild West

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Sub-trope of The Western, Dawn of the Wild West involves stories set in the western part of North America between the late 18th century and the 1840s, which was a time of continental exploration (e.g., Lewis and Clark), fur trapping, trailblazing, and westward expansion.

In stories covered by this trope, you'll usually encounter bold explorers, mountain men, missionaries, and Native Americans. The latter's depiction will vary considerably and be often colored by the attitudes from the time the work was produced.

There are also stories about pioneers under this trope but their efforts to settle and civilize the "savage" land often involve wilderness that's east of the Mississippi. Stories about pioneers moving into the Far West (i.e., the North American Great Plains and territory west of the Rockies) signify the end of the time period covered under Dawn of the Wild West trope (i.e., the early 1840s).

In addition, this trope covers works about the Battle of the Alamo and the Texas War for Independence.

As indicated in the title, this trope covers the beginning of the period covered in the Wild West and represents the Dawn of an Era. It's the opposite of Twilight of the Old West which covers the End of an Age for the Wild West.


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    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics Hawk, Son of Tomahawk was about the half-Indian son of the Revolutionary War hero Tomahawk and was set in the early years of the 19th Century in the American midwest. The backup, Firehair, was set around the same time, though Hawk and Firehair never met.
  • Writer RenĂ© Goscinny and artist Albert Uderzo launched Ompa-pa the Redskin a year before they started working on Asterix. It is a comedy series about Oumpah-Pah, a warrior of the tribe of the Shavashavas in New France (modern Canada) in the 18th century.
  • The massive French historical adventure series Les Sept Vies de l'Épervier ("The Seven Lives of the Sparrowhawk") takes is set during the 17th century, and a number of its albums take the heroes and heroines across the Atlantic to the wilds of New France.
  • Tejano was a back-up feature that ran in Jonah Hex about the exploits of a band of Texas Rangers during the days of the Texas Republic.

    Film — Live-Action 

  • The American Girls character Josefina lives in what was then Mexico, but is now New Mexico, in the 1820s.
  • The four novels that make up Larry McMurtry's Berrybender Narratives take place in the American West of the 1830s.
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is based on the exploits of the Glanton gang, a band of violent marauders who terrorized the U.S./Mexico border region in the late 1840s and early 1850s. The book is exceptionally bleak, showcasing the brutal violence, racism, and sexual abuse which characterized life on the frontier for many in this period, and it's often been read as a sort of Deconstruction of more idealized depictions of the birth of the Wild West.
  • The Discworld introduces the concept of a vast, largely unexplored, region of the Central Continent, which is described in The Compleat Discworld Atlas in a way very suggestive of Eagle Land in its formative years in the late 18th and 19th centuries, and which ticks practically all the boxes for this trope.
  • James Fenimore Cooper's The Leatherstocking Tales take place in the "wild west" of colonial America (i.e., western New York). As does his pessimistic trilogy The Littlepage Manuscripts (Satanstoe, The Chainbearer, and The Redskins). Cooper goes even further east with The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, a frontier story set in 17th century Connecticut.
  • J.T. Edson's Ole Devil novels are set during the Texas War of Independence (1835-37).
  • One of the earliest German Western novelists, Friedrich Gerstäcker, became successful with Die Regulatoren in Arkansas (1846, "The Regulators in Arkansas") and Die Flußpiraten des Mississippi (1847, "The River-Pirates of the Mississippi"). In the 20th century there was Fritz Steuben (real name: Erhard Wittek), who wrote a cycle of eight novels about the Shawnee chief Tecumseh and a few other books, including Mississippi-Saga about the 17th-century French explorer Sieur de la Salle.
  • Johnston McCully's Zorro stories (and the movies and TV series based on them) take place in California when it still belonged to Spain and Mexico so they would fall under this trope.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The mini-series based on the James Michener novel, Centennial, is set in Colorado, and details much of the early history of the North Platte River plains. Beginning in 1795, the first five episodes follow the coming of traders and settlers until a town is formed in 1868.
  • Daniel Boone is set in Kentucky during the late 18th century.
  • The Disney version of Davy Crockett takes place in the early part of the 19th century beginning in newly-settled Tennessee and ending in 1836 in Texas at the Battle of the Alamo.
  • Frontier (2016) chronicles the North American fur trade in late 1700s Canada, and follows Declan Harp, a half-Irish, half-Cree outlaw who is campaigning to breach the Hudson's Bay Company's monopoly on the fur trade in Canada, which has become corrupt and engages in illegal activities to enrich itself.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed III is set during the Revolutionary War, with the large untamed frontier west of the Alleghenies to explore.
    • Ditto for Assassin's Creed Rogue, the prequel to III which takes place during the earlier French-Indian War.
  • A generation of Americans who were schoolchildren in the 1980s and early 1990s learned about hunting buffalo, floating their covered wagons across rivers, and dying of dysentery in 1848 on The Oregon Trail.
  • The Lewis and Clark level of Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? takes place here, of course.