Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
From the very first page of The Pathfinder, the eighteenth century New York wilderness is established as a powerful, awe-inspiring, mythic force, wherein forest training, and neither book learning nor map reading, keeps one alive. Natty Bumppo, here called Pathfinder, appears in these first few pages, establishing his reputation for finding his way “where there is no path” and sharing his vision of the wilderness as God’s temple. He is Cooper’s archetypal frontiersman, guide, hunter, and trapper, a model of rugged American individualism, democracy, and transcendental spirituality. As he does in the early pages, Cooper uses place in the remainder of the novel to articulate and test the values and skills that frontier life has given Pathfinder.
*Oswego River. Tributary of Lake Ontario that rises near Syracuse, New York. Cooper’s preface and footnotes make it clear that his depiction of his characters’ encounter with the Oswego River is based in reality. There, as in the thick of the forests, wilderness training and the frontier’s power to shape are spotlighted. Chingachgook, the Iroquois warriors, Pathfinder, and Jasper represent the “cunning of the woods”; Cap is disrespectful yet also afraid of the wilderness; meanwhile, Mabel’s experience of the frontier begins to teach her bravery. As in other novels, Cooper is careful to distinguish for his nineteenth century audience the difference between those educated in the wilderness (Pathfinder and Jasper) and those of the wilderness (Chingachgook and the Iroquois). Pathfinder’s kill-only-when-unavoidable attitude depicts the justice that is learned by “living much alone with God in the wilderness” when one has white gifts.
*Fort Oswego. Frontier outpost near the mouth of the Oswego River on Lake Ontario. Once the characters reach the fort, the fast-paced action of the river scenes slows to a standstill as Cooper uses place to showcase the romance portion of what he once called his “nautico-lake-savage romance.” His descriptions here evoke a kind of democratic Eden: perfect climate; boundless game, so much so that every one, not just the wealthy, can feast; Pathfinder as Adam, indifferent to class distinctions and judging only on personal merit. In the midst of Eden, Cooper introduces the historically valid sharpshooting contest, which further spotlights both the great frontier skills of Pathfinder and his generous heart.