Chingachgook is a fictional character in four of James Fenimore Cooper's five Leatherstocking Tales, including The Last of the Mohicans. Chingachgook was a lone Mohican chief and companion of the series' hero, Natty Bumppo. In The Deerslayer, Chingachgook married Wah-ta-Wah, who bore him a son named Uncas, but died while she was still young. Uncas, who was at his birth "last of the Mohicans", grew to manhood but was killed in a battle with the Huron warrior Magua. Chingachgook died as an old man in the novel The Pioneers, which makes him the actual "last of the Mohicans," having outlived his son.
|Leatherstocking Tales/The Last of the Mohicans character|
Gojko Mitić playing Chingachgook the Great Serpent, in an eponymous East German western film.
|First appearance||The Pioneers|
|Last appearance||The Deerslayer|
|Created by||James Fenimore Cooper|
|Alias||Le Gros Serpent, Indian John, John Mohican|
|Religion||Mahican tradition, Moravian convert|
The Leatherstocking Tales
In the series The Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper, Chingachgook is the best friend and companion of the main character Natty Bumppo, aka Hawkeye. He appears in The Deerslayer, The Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder, and The Pioneers. He is characterized by his skills as a warrior and forester, his bravery, his wisdom, and his pride for his tribe.
Etymology and pronunciation
Chingachgook is said to have been modeled after a real-life wandering Mohican basket maker and hunter named Captain John. The fictional character, occasionally called John Mohegan in the series, was an idealized embodiment of the traditional noble savage. The French often refer to Chingachgook as "Le Gros Serpent", the Great Snake, because he understands the winding ways of men's nature and he can strike a sudden, deadly blow.
The name is derived from the Lenape language, which is closely related to the Mohican language. In Lenape, xinkw- means 'big' and xkuk means 'snake'. Chingachgook is derived from Lenape xinkwi xkuk, 'big snake', pronounced [çiŋɡwixkuk]. The digraph ⟨ch⟩ in the spelling used by John Heckewelder, the source for the name, and the letter ⟨x⟩ in modern Lenape spelling both represent the voiceless velar fricative sound [x] (as in "Bach") and the voiceless palatal fricative sound [ç] (as in German: Ich), not the voiceless palato-alveolar affricate [t͡ʃ] (as in "church").
Cooper got the name from Heckewelder's book History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations who once inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighboring States (1818), which cited a Lenape word as "chingachgook" (in Heckewelder's spelling which was influenced by German), meaning "a large snake". He gave this word as such in the context of how to use the adjective xinkwi (pronounced IPA: [çiŋɡwi]) 'large', which Heckewelder spelled "chingue".
Portrayals in film and television
The first film portrayal of Chingachgook was by Wallace Reid in a 1913 film version of The Deerslayer.
Bela Lugosi played Chingachgook in two German silent films, Lederstrumpf, 1. Teil: Der Wildtöter und Chingachgook (Leatherstocking 1: The Deerslayer and Chingachgook) and Lederstrumpf, 2. Teil: Der Letzte der Mohikaner (Leatherstocking 2: The Last of the Mohicans), both filmed in 1920.
Chingachgook was played by Ned Romero in the TV versions of The Last of the Mohicans (1977) and The Deerslayer (1978), by Russell Means in the 1992 film adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans, by Rodney A. Grant in the 1994 TV series Hawkeye and by Graham Greene in the 1996 TV version of The Pathfinder.
Many films portray Chingachgook with long hair, braided or flowing. A notable exception is the 1920 adaptation which faithfully represents him with a tuft on his shaved head, according to the novel.
In Boy Scout legend
In the Ordeal Ceremony of the Order of the Arrow, a program of the Boy Scouts of America, the Legend of the Order refers to an imaginary Lenni Lenape chief named Chingachgook. In the legend, Chingachgook's son, Uncas, is the original propagator of the Order. Chingachgook wanted to create a band of volunteers from all the nations of the Delaware River valley to support and protect their collective interests. Uncas volunteered to be the first member of such a group, and thus the Order of the Arrow was founded.
According to the Boy Scouts of America's Ordeal Ceremony, the correct pronunciation of the name is ching-gatch-gook. Professor William A. Starna, of SUNY Oneonta, says the initial "ch" sound would be pronounced more like the German guttural "h" than an English "ch". Chingachgook is an Algonquian word meaning big (ching) snake (achgook); hence the references to the character in the book as The Great Serpent.
- "Uncas will be the last pure-blooded Mohican because there are no pure-blooded Mohican women for him to marry." Craig White, "Guide to The Last of the Mohicans (1826) by James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)", LITR 4232 coursesite, University of Houston–Clear Lake
- The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper.
- "Last of the Mohicans". Xroads.virginia.edu. Retrieved 2013-04-11.
- The Pathfinder; Or, The Inland Sea by James Fenimore Cooper.
- "The Pioneers, by J. Fenimore Cooper". www.gutenberg.org. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
- "xinkw-". Lenape Talking Dictionary. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
- "xkuk". Lenape Talking Dictionary. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
- "xinkwi xkuk". Lenape Talking Dictionary. Retrieved 2018-08-23. This page includes an audio file of the words being pronounced by a native Lenape speaker.
- Slotkin, Richard (1998). The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 93–94. ISBN 0-8061-3030-X. Retrieved 2012-10-28.
- Heckewelder, John (1876). History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations who once inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighboring States. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania. p. 431. Retrieved 2012-10-28.
- Boy Scouts of America. "Order of the Arrow Ordeal Ceremony Pamphlet". Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
- Starna, William. "Cooper's Indians: A Critique". State University College of New York. Retrieved 2018-03-22.