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Prairie - A Tale

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By: (1789-1851)

The story opens with Ishmael, his family, Ellen and Abiram slowly making their way across the virgin prairies of the Midwest looking for a homestead, just two years after the Louisiana Purchase, and during the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. They meet the trapper (Natty Bumppo), who has left his home in New York state to find a place where he cannot hear the sound of people cutting down the forests. In the years between his other adventures and this novel, he tells us only that he has walked all the way to the Pacific Ocean and seen all the land between the coasts (a heroic feat, considering Lewis and Clark hadn’t yet completed the same trek).

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By J. Fenimore Cooper


"The Prairie" was the third in order of Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. Its first appearance was in the year 1827. The idea of the story had suggested itself to him, we are told, before he had finished its immediate forerunner, "The Last of the Mohicans." He chose entirely new scenes for it, "resolved to cross the Mississippi and wander over the desolate wastes of the remote Western prairies." He had been taking every chance that came of making a personal acquaintance with the Indian chiefs of the western tribes who were to be encountered about this period on their way in the frequent Indian embassies to Washington. "He saw much to command his admiration," says Mrs. Cooper, "in these wild braves... It was a matter of course that in drawing Indian character he should dwell on the better traits of the picture, rather than on the coarser and more revolting though more common points. Like West, he could see the Apollo in the young Mohawk."

When in July, 1826, Cooper landed in England with his wife and family, he carried his Indian memories and associations with him... Continue reading book >>

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