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The Pioneers, or The Sources of the Susquehanna

By: James Fenimore Cooper

The Pioneers, or The Sources of the Susquehanna; a Descriptive Tale is a historical novel by American writer James Fenimore Cooper. It was the first of five novels published which became known as the Leatherstocking Tales. Published in 1823, The Pioneers is the fourth novel in terms of the chronology of the novels' plots.

The story takes place on the rapidly advancing frontier of New York State and features an elderly Leatherstocking (Natty Bumppo), Judge Marmaduke Temple of Templeton (whose life parallels that of the author's father Judge William Cooper), and Elizabeth Temple (based on the author's sister, Hannah Cooper), daughter of the fictional Templeton. The story begins with an argument between the judge and Leatherstocking over who killed a buck. 


Through their discussion, Cooper reviews many of the changes to New York's Lake Otsego and its area: questions of environmental stewardship, conservation, and use prevail. Leatherstocking and his closest friend, the Mohican Indian Chingachgook, begin to compete with the Temples for the loyalties of a mysterious young visitor, a "young hunter" known as Oliver Edwards. The latter eventually marries Elizabeth Temple. Chingachgook dies, representing European-American fears for the race of "dying Indians", who appear to be displaced by settlers. Natty vanishes into the sunset. 

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James Fenimore Cooper was an American writer of the first half of the 19th century. His historical romances depicting frontier and Native American life from the 17th to the 19th centuries created a un...

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