Chapter 40

A Study of the Construction of the Daniel Boone Myth

This chapter represents the beginning of Part 7, "Contemporary Myth ." Found just before this chapter, the introduction to this part can help orient you with respect to what you can learn from the upcoming series of chapters.

The story of Daniel Boone, the American frontiersman, was shaped into patterns that had—and continue to have—meanings for storytellers and their audiences. This chapter's reading comes from Richard Slotkin's comprehensive work on the American frontier from 1600 to 1860. Slotkin focuses on the life of Daniel Boone written by John Filson in 1784. Slotkin's analysis provides an opportunity to study a myth in the making. Some of Filson's process involves ignoring historical and sociological facts about Boone's actual accomplishments and the role of Native Americans in the colonists' lives, while adding elements that enhance his status as hero and his wife's role as the ideal pioneer woman.

Your first impulse may be to consider Filson a dishonest narrator, but it is worthwhile looking for ways in which he tried to be truthful. This discussion takes us back to our attempts to define myth in Chapter 1 and our statement that "mythological stories reveal true things about the culture that originated them." Consider Filson's story in this light, and see if you can support this statement.

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