MY KINDA SCENE: John Gwynne on The Last of the Mohicans

So many scenes from within pop culture to choose from. I’d like to highlight a scene from a film, because in the writing of the Faithful and the Fallen films have been almost as much of an inspiration to me as books. Films like Braveheart, Gladiator, Spartacus, Last of the Mohicans, and more recently The Revenant.

The scene I have in mind is from The Last of the Mohicans. It took my breath away when I first saw it, and still does on countless repeated viewings. It’s where the British have surrendered Fort William to the French and are marching south, a long column winding through a forested wilderness. There are various characters that we have become attached to, Nathaniel (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) who is a prisoner of the English and under guard, his adopted father and brother, and Miss Cora Monroe, along with her sister and father. Mugua, the leader of a Huron war-party is allied to the French, but extremely unhappy about the French decision to allow the English to leave Fort William unharmed. Because of some serious blood-feud history and an obsession with revenge, Mugua has taken things into his own hands.

The English march into an open glade, flanked on both sides by dense forest. It is beautiful, the sun shining, birds singing. But Mugua and his warband are watching. From the shadows they howl, hundreds of them, a fear-inducing moment, you can literally feel the tension thickening. And then they attack. 

It is savage, brutal and heart-poundingly tense. A great wave of Huron warriors charge at the unprepared English, terror and bloodshed sweeping away the idyllic beauty of moments before. And it is filmed brilliantly, the course of the battle switching between epic shots of the overall battle to close and personal beats, charting Nathaniel’s father and brother rescuing him from his guards, a running combat as the English are overwhelmed, the reunion of Nathaniel and Cora, the death of Cora’s father, and our protagonists escape to canoes and frantic flight away from the battle.  

When I write battles and combat I often think of this scene, and I’d be more than happy if my writing managed to capture just a small  something of the vivid imagery and emotion that is on display in that battle in a forest glade. Perfection.

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John Gwynne is the author of the exceptional fantasy epic Ruin, out today in paperback, and its prequels Malice and Valour. Find out more about all three by clicking the images below!