Monday, September 13, 2010

Marguerite Henry and THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS

Part of what I am doing with this website (American Indians in Children's Literature) is documenting the intersections of (1) writers who write for children and young adults and (2) American Indians or something meant to signify American Indians, whether it is accurate, romanticized, flat out wrong, etc.

This morning, I was trying to find information about a picture book called The Last of the Mohicans. Its a very old shape book, published by Raphael Tuck & Sons. As I started digging for info, I came across one of those intersections. Maybe 'intersection' is not the best word for what I'm trying to describe...

Anyway, I found a biography of Marguerite Henry on the website for the Greenville Public Library in Rhode Island. Here's the passage that stood out:
On Christmas Day, 1909, seven-year-old Marguerite was greeted by the sight of a little red table that her father had set up for her. The table was complete with a small pitcher containing an array of pencils, scissors, paste, a hole punch, paper clips, and even a pencil sharpener. Best of all, were the stacks of colored paper that her father had included. On the top sheet was a hand-written note: "Dear Last of the Mohicans: Not a penny for your thoughts, but a tablet. Merry Christmas! Pappa Louis XOX." [6] It was this gift that started her on the road to her future writing career.
I wonder why her father called her "Last of the Mohicans"? Did he read that book to her? And, I wonder if the books she wrote for children include Indians? If so, are they like the ones that Cooper came up with?


veejane said...

I don't know about "Last of the Mohicans," but I did read most of Marguerite Henry's books in my own childhood. Brighty of the Grand Canyon and The Medicine-Hat Stallion (that last has been published under a couple of different titles) both take place in the historical west, and the latter treats with Plains Indians (note the horse's description) though only at a considerable remove. I don't recall any Indian characters in Mustang; the protagonist was white and her rancher antagonists were also white. It's been 20 years since I read any of these, so forgive the vaguery.

Sounds really interesting! I'll be glad to see what else your commenters can find out.

jpm said...

I also went through a "horse" period during which I read Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague and numerous follow-ups, along with Walter Farley's Black Stallion franchise. I recall occasional references to "Indians" -- though as veejane said, only at considerable remove -- but no Native characters.

No earthly idea why a child would have been referred to as "the last of the Mohicans". Hope you will keep us posted.

Debbie Reese said...

In MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE, page 40, Maureen asks who discovered the ponies on the island. Her grandpa says "Why, I heard tell 'twas the Indians chanced on 'em first. They comes over to hunt on Assateague, and 'twasn't only deer and otter and beaver they finds. They find these wild ponies pawin' the air and snortin' through their noses, and they ain't never seed to critters like that, blowin' steam and screamin' and their tails and manes a-flyin'. And the Indians was so affrighted they run for their canoes."

Maureen asks what happened next, and he says:

"Why, the ponies was left to run wilder and wilder. Nobody lived here to hinder 'em none, nobody at all. White men come to live on our Chincoteague Island, but Assateague was left to the critters."

MISTY was published in 1947.

Debbie Reese said...

STORMY, MISTY'S FOAL, published in 1963

page 11:
"The early Indians who poled over from the mainland to hunt deer and otter and beaver named this wind-rumpled island Chin-co-teague, "the land across the water."

page 11-12:
"The Indians called it [a neighbor island] Assa-teague, or "outrider." They named it well, for it acts as a big brother to Chincoteague, protecting it from crashing winds and the high waves of the Atlantic."

p. 108
It is bedtime, and Grandpa:
"got down on the floor, wrapped himself up lik an Indian, and began breathing in deep, rhythmic snores."

p. 174
The Beebes go to see Misty's colt at Dr. Finney's:
"In absolute silence the three Beebes walked one after the other Indian file behind him."

Debbie Reese said...


Page 125:
"All the crew were assembling---workmen in clean shirts, Indians bare to their waists, and boss-men in trim khaki."

Page 142: Brighty fights a wolf or coyote. The texts reads:
"There were man-enemies, too. Indians crept soundlessly on moccasined feet, trying to steal the burros. They were smarter than wolves, coming always when the wind blew their scent away. But Brighty lost only a few foals to them, for his eyes were sharp, and the mares and colts could outrun the fleetest Indian."

Page 200:
Uncle Jim is feeling queasy and decides to make a pot of "Moon Lily tea." He says:
"The Piute Indians thought a heap o' Moon Lilly tea," he went on, his breath slow and even now. "Used it for the stummick, and other troubles. Wisht we had us some canned milk, but its flavory even this way."

On page 201, Uncle Jim says that:
"The Piutes had a great use fer it asides fer the stummick." He interrupted himself with a belch. "Now take, f'rinstance, if some thief stole a hoss...[] they'd fine a way to get a cup o' this-here tea into 'im, and in a little while the tea'd loosen his tongue and he jest couldn't stop blabbin. He'd tell 'zackly where he stole that hoss and where he'd hid it."

At the top of page 202, Uncle Jim says to Homer who has been drinking the tea and just confessed to stealing peaches:
"By thunder! [] Ye're still guzzlin' yer tea and already ye're confessin'! The Piutes used to say, "Big crime take longer.'"

A moment later, Jake Irons starts confessing, too.

Debbie Reese said...


Page 12:
"Assateague is an Indian word for 'outrider.'

Published in 1992, the mother (Sandy) read MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE when she was a kid and is taking her own daughter to see the island.

Debbie Reese said...

Ok.... Here's the last one for now, and I'm not going to do any more than provide the title:


The subtitle? "The sacred horse of the Sioux"

Debbie Reese said...

Thanks, veejane, for pointing to BRIGHTY and MEDICINE HAT. I'll look into MUSTANG another day... And maybe do more with MEDICINE HAT.

jpm said...

I had forgotten how tortured the dialect of some of Henry's main characters seemed to me as a child reader. Not sure my response to it has gotten any more favorable. Wonder how the characters speak in Medicine Hat? Sounds like at least a few of them will be "Sioux".

hschinske said...

Coming back to this post very late to say that I think MH was probably called the last of the Mohicans because she was the youngest child.