Study Guide

Magua in Last of the Mohicans

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Dumb Like A Fox

Known as "Le Renard Stubil" to his French comrades, or "The Sly Fox" in English, Magua is a member of the Huron tribe and the Big Bad of this novel, even though he has a super-cool nickname. He also represents the Native American way of life in decline.

Unable to conform to British military discipline, he was whipped by General Munro for drunkenness and has sworn revenge on Munro. When he rants to Cora about the indignity of being whipped, he says: "The spirit of a Huron is never drunk; it remembers forever!" (11.32)

From Magua's point of view, the story of The Last of the Mohicans is the story of his attempt to regain a lost honor and revenge himself on those who have wronged him. Fair enough, right?

This dude is amazingly resourceful and cunning in his attempts… you know, like a fox. Cooper notes several times that Magua would have made a wonderful diplomat, because his understanding of human nature and human relationships allows him to manipulate others. (Cooper clearly doesn't like diplomats.) In this respect Magua strikes a contrast to the "good" Native Americans in the novel, who rarely open their mouths and let their actions speak to their character.

The Devil In Disguise?

Although Magua is at one point described as a "Prince of Darkness" (27.46), let's not write him off as pure evil just yet. We'll admit we felt sorry for him when we realized that the "neglected hut" where David Gamut had been hanging out belonged to Magua.

He has no wife, no kids—ultimately we think he's just kind of a lonely guy: one who had a drinking problem, but who was also humiliated by white settlers encroaching on his land. Our understanding of Magua is particularly complicated by the novel's closing scenes as he twice threatens to kill Cora if she refuses to marry him… but then falters both times. Clearly Cora won that game of chicken.

He wants to marry Cora, not because he loves her, but because he really wants to possess Munro's daughter as his wife. This is super-gross, sure, but he never actually plans on harming Cora. His notions of marriage as a business transaction and a wife as a glorified servant aren't actually that far off from the normal, everyday business of marriage in the mid-eighteenth century.

But this isn't Magua's story. And Magua, even though he exhibits some glimmers of humanity, makes for a pretty awesomesauce villain. We love to hate him, and his dastardly deeds (like kidnapping the Munro sisters) drive the novel's plot forward and allow us some "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" -type closure when he ultimately bites the dust.

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