Congratulations to Alison (agboss) who won Susanne Dietze's The Reluctant Guardian!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Natty Bumppo Slept Here

 Cue the soundtrack, cause this is Debra Marvin reporting from the wild frontier known as New York.

The Last of the Mohicans – At least ONE part was right.

Uncas, the Last of the Mohicans really did die in the book. 

Of course, my brain tells me then that Chingachgook (dad) was really the Last of the Mohicans and was that what the author meant?
During the last year, I’ve made a point to catch up on "the classics" by listening to as many as possible on Audiobook.
Always a nut for history, and New York State history at that, my most recent choice was James Fenimore Cooper’s LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Sure I’ve seen the movie countless times, and let it play in the background of my life just this past month.  Cooper is considered one of the first real American authors and his Leatherstocking Tales even lent its name to a ‘tourist’ region of New York State (The Leatherstocking Region).

Imagine my surprise when my narrator started to get it wrong. 

Well, that’s how it felt.

Lt. Duncan Heyward wasn’t pressing Cora Munro to marry him.  Then they got that "behind the waterfalls scene" all out of order. Hawkeye was  middle-aged, but you’ll be glad to know that Magua was just as nasty in the book as in the movie. Okay maybe not that nasty.  Golly  Wes Studi can do one mean meanie!

So, am I reviewing the book or the movie here?

Neither. I’m tossing out the gauntlet instead.  Yes, shoot me!  (By the way, did Hawkeye ever mention his long rifle by name in the movie? Because he is just a bit obsessed with Kildeer in the book)   

MY POINT IS... I was disappointed by the book after thinking I knew the story…at least the movie’s version. And I used to think the fact it was filmed in North Carolina was bad!

Seriously.  It was pretty much like a whole new plot.  If you read it before you saw the movie, what did you think? OR, like me, did you read the book after the movie and wonder how Cooper got it all so wrong?

Hollywood’s LAST OF THE MOHICANS was gritty, compelling and completely romantic if you could get past all the tomahawk business (and oh my... that soundtrack!)

As readers, we often complain that “the movie wasn’t as good as the book.”
I guess I’ll leave it at this--I can probably list 20 plot points that differed from book to movie. My apologies to Mr. Cooper, but I don't think you would have sold that book in today's market but then we'd never have this awesome movie. 

Deb's Cliff Notes:
Natty Bumppo aka Hawkeye aka Daniel Day Lewis aka "The Scout"  aka Long Rifle, is a white man who has excelled in the Indian world (or to be politically correct,  the aboriginal/First People's world.) During the French and Indian War aka the Seven Years War, Hawkeye and his friends, the last Two Mohicans get tangled up in the mess between the French forces and their Huron allies and the English forces and their allies (who were really just trying to stay neutral)  Bad things happen when Colonel Munro at Ft William Henry up on Lake Champlain has to face a French Siege with no help from the fort down the road and Worse things happen when his two daughters choose that week to visit.

From there on the movie and book part ways. Suffice to say, the book is mostly about Cooper's 'good guys' trying to save  the Munro girls from Wes Studi.  Some people die.

True historical fact. Colonel Munro's forces had to surrender after a thirteen day siege and when the French forces under Montcalm prohibited their Huron allies from taking scalps and goods from the defeated force (after a lot of effort to win the fort) they (the Huron) took matters into their own hands and attacked the "under white flag of truce" English as they dragged themselves to the next fort.

Any thoughts on this movie/book debacle? Have you seen this happen in other movies, and did it just bug the heck out of you or were you okay with the screenplay's take on things?


  1. In general it seems that more recent movies from books try to stay as true as possible to the story. I guess they got tired of hearing people grumble!

    I read The Help, (which I loved) then when the movie came out I saw the movie. The casting was fantastic. But one of the few things that they changed was ditching the stalker subplot, and I thought that was brilliant. It was sort of left hanging in the book. No resolution. And the story was just more focused without it. It really wasn't needed.

  2. I am in the last chapter of TLOTM audio book this morning. And I really do love Cooper's take on the action. It's definitely not a love story and it's about Hawkeye's view of the mess France and England made of trying to befriend yet take advantage of the native people. I'm not here to start an argument about the Mother Countries or the countless broken treaties with the native peoples. Like slavery, (the fact one or another African tribe gladly sold their "slaves" off to new slavery across the ocean) there are no innocent parties in American history either.

    At times my mind wandered during the story and I wondered if I'd missed an important plot point.

    I know the ending to come will be completely different from Hollywood's and I'm okay with it.
    We can enjoy both!

  3. I read the book first -- several times -- before I ever saw the movie.

    It wasn't that it was a bad movie. It was just...wrong. I'd have liked it so much better if they'd just given the characters different names to go with the completely different plot. Pretty much every character who died in the book, lived in the movie. And vice versa.

    And Hawkeye as a romantic hero??? That was just wrong.

    What I liked about the book is that it was very forward-thinking for its time. But it was also limited by its time, and I think that's why Cooper killed over the Indian-white romance. It was the only way he could resolve that.

  4. C.J. I can completely see this as you do so. I want to like the book on its own merits but instead, the movie version created roadblocks in my enjoyment!

    One thing I laughed at each time was how Cooper says "the reader may well imagine better than any words we could use to describe"... ah, so true, yet we can't quite get away with that any more, eh?

    Hawkeye was a romantic hero in the true sense of the word. Bigger than life, so rich and intriguing. Cooper scores top marks for all his characters. Except Col Munro who seems to uncharacteristically stay in the background waiting while his daughters are held captive (he seemed rather helpless - but I guess that was better than 'heart-less' nyuk nyuk nyuk...)

    You've made it easier for me to imagine YOUR disappointment when you and thousands of others saw the MOVIE AS ALL WRONG! Which it was. Definitely adjusted with a whole new plot for a movie generation!

    I'm going to post about Cooper and Washington Irving next month, but I don't expect to watch "Sleepy Hollow" with Johnny Depp.

  5. Deb, I should have added that I've only seen the movie once -- probably because it's just so different from the book.

    I do think that the ending of the BBC's North and South was better than Gaskell's version in the book. I thought the way the Beeb wrapped up the financial issues made more sense.

  6. Oh, and a note to Hollywood -- if you pay me enough money, you can rewrite the plots to my books however you want...

  7. Some of the movies based on Tom Clancy books have differed quite markedly from the books. Can't think of the one (um, Patriot in the title?), but I remember when I saw the movie I wasn't surprised. There was one aspect of the book that I'm sure was just not PC enough for Hollywood.

  8. I'm really procrastinating, huh?

  9. Like CJ, I read the book first. I actually read it not long before I saw the movie. I think it was on a Thanksgiving Day when I watched it. I don't remember details, I only remember telling everyone it was wrong. Just wrong. In spite of that, everyone except me enjoyed the movie.

  10. I haven't read the book and barely remember the movie, so I'm afraid I don't have much to contribute. I'm not surprised that a lot was changed, though. Old books move very slowly, which make them hard for me to get through unless its some kind of assignment.

  11. This got me thinking about Nicholas Sparks who nowadays writes books with the film and specific actors in mind...

    I agree with you C.J. Though I can't see why they'd want to change your plots at all! just perfect as is and I'll applaud you on your way to make a nice bank deposit!

    Dina - yes, this one did start to feel LOOOONG about 3/4 of the way through. I kept waiting for them to get out of the Huron camp ( I guess I was anxious to see some of the movie plot happen. It never did!)

    The success of Cooper's book is his characterization, and strength in setting and educating/entertaining his and subsequent generations on what was once everyday America. I happen to live on land that was an Indian village. This is very real to me to look out and know who I share this view with.