The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Pathfinder, The
PATHFINDER, The. ‘The Pathfinder; or the Inland Sea,’ third in the order of events of Fenimore Cooper's Leather-Stocking tales, was published in 1840, 13 years after Natty Bumppo had ended his career in ‘The Prairie.’ Although Cooper had questioned the wisdom of reviving that hero, and although he was at the time engaged in fierce litigations with the newspapers, he brought to his task the remarkable freshness and vigor with which he always handled the fortunes of his chief character. It is true that ‘The Pathfinder’ shows Natty at his old trick of guiding tender damsels through the dangerous woods, and that the siege at the blockhouse and the storm on Ontario are considerably like other of Cooper's sieges and storms. The book suffers little, however, from these parallelisms. Chingachgook has all his proud, affecting, forest stoicism and competence. Natty, here commonly called La Longue Carabine, keeps in a hardy middle age his simple and honest nature, which is severely tested by his love for a young girl. She is a conventional heroine of romance who would not have deserved Natty had she loved him. But a certain soft amiability about her turns for a time, and convincingly enough, all the thoughts of the scout to the world of domestic affections. More talkative than ever before, he reveals new mental and moral traits. With the same touch of realism which had kept Uncas and Cora apart in ‘The Last of the Mohicans,’ Cooper separates these lovers, not, of course, without certain fine gestures of renunciation which have the due romantic flavor, sends her to the arms of a younger suitor, and restores the hero to his true home in the wilderness. The adventures of the plot are varied and stirring, particularly those on the water, which take authority from the fact that Cooper had as midshipman actually seen service on Lake Ontario. In language, method, ideas ‘The Pathfinder’ resembles the rest of the series, but it is a real distinction to be the only book which shows Natty Bumppo in love and the first which made important imaginative use of the Great Lakes.