They’re both in this blog post, of course!
I haven’t been lazy with my reading this summer, but I have been a teensy bit obsessed with Elizabeth Gaskell. I’m reading Wives and Daughters, which is amazing. And, you know, over a thousand pages long, like any Victorian novel worth its weight in antimacassars and ostentatious lampshades.
It doesn’t quite qualify as historical fiction, but I do wish I’d had Elizabeth Gaskell around when I was about seventeen to explain weird boy behavior to me. I didn’t believe my parents (“Boys are just intimidated because you are so smart and beautiful!”), but I might have believed Mrs. Gaskell. I just keep saying (out loud), “That is a true story, Elizabeth Gaskell. True story.” Oh, well. Good thing I married a man I have about zero chance of intimidating.
But enough (as if there ever is) about Elizabeth Gaskell—or EG, as I now affectionately call her because we are tight.
I’ve decided to spend the next couple of weeks talking about some of my favorite historical fiction movies. These have been through a long vetting process which involved my thinking, “I should write about movies sometime,” and then jotting down the ones that came to mind.
This week, I’m writing about Last of the Mohicans (1992), which is based on a series of books I haven’t read.
This movie is up there in my estimation, because what’s not to like about Daniel Day-Lewis in the French and Indian War?
Note: In both middle and high school I was given to understand that the French and Indian War and the Seven Years War are exactly the same thing. While this was a good effort on the part of the American educational system to make “French and Indian” sound a bit more PC, it’s not actually true. The French and Indian War refers to the North American theater of the Seven Years War, which is in fact often considered the first global war.
Last of the Mohicans (the movie) is only loosely based on James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales (1827-1841), which are widely regarded as the first truly American novels. You’ll be glad of this once you’ve read Mark Twain’s hilarious essay, “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.”
One of Fenimore Cooper’s literary offenses might be giving his protagonist, Natty Bumppo, so many nicknames that it takes a while to figure out that they’re all the same guy. Natty Bumppo was renamed Nathaniel Poe in the film because producers thought moviegoers might make fun of the name Natty Bumppo.
“Wonder why they thought that?” says my wisecracking husband.
They also call good old Nathaniel “Hawkeye,” “Deerslayer,” and “Long Rifle” (or “le longue carabine” en Français) because he is amazing at shooting targets that are humanly impossible to shoot.
“He couldn’t really do that,” says my myth-busting husband. “He didn’t allow for the wind, and those rifles couldn’t shoot that far. And he didn’t load the rifle first, and I’m pretty sure you have to load the rifle first.”
Nicknames aside, I do get all choked up whenever I see the tagline: “The first American hero.”
Because American literature.
I may have to read the Leatherstocking Tales someday.