Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Cub of the Panther: A Hunter Legend of the ''Old North State'' >> Appendix: Historical and Textual Commentary >> Page 275

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Page 275

Novel (Romance) | The University of Arkansas Press | 1997
became so expanded that it filled an entire chapter in The Cub of the
Panther, "The Adventure of Whiteside Mountain."
By age fifteen the Cub of the Panther had attained quite a reputa-
tion for his fearlessness, stealth, and calmness as a hunter. Having dis-
covered the cavern in Whiteside Mountain, the Cub planned to "shoot
the bear, cut the throats of the cubs and achieve the exploit wholly by
himself." The Cub suddenly met a bear on the ledge "not twenty steps
asunder." Too late to shoot, the Cub "rose up with shout and shriek, and
yell, and arms wide extended, in the very face of the beast. . . . Such a
shriek and howl —a blending, as it were, of the human and the savage
speech; not a cry of terror, but a yell, as it were, of exultation." The fate
of the cubs, like those in the lecture, was to be slaughtered and tumbled
over the edge after their mother.
Finally, Jim Fisher, a veritable legend in his own time, also served as
prototype for the Cub and for Sam Fuller, as well as for several other
characters in the novel. The journal entries frequently record elaborate
tales of Fisher's hunting adventures, but often they are just notes to
"Rem'ber Fisher's Indian story" or to "see" another mountaineer for
details. In some ways this "Fisher material" was more useful to Simms
than any other in the mountain journal. Simms's notebook cites in good
detail a half dozen bear, wolf, and panther fights won by Fisher. He
emphasized Fisher's appearance, his rude house, his family, and most
of all, his rifle and dogs. Fisher pervades the journal. But, like the German
influence that can be felt throughout Simms's works, the importance of
the near-legendary Fisher on Simms's later career can best be seen not in
parallel passages but in atmosphere.
Occasionally, however, Simms did use information in a form very
similar to the journal material. For example, two 1847 entries combined
to give an episode about Fisher in the 1856 lecture are subsequently
adapted for use in The Cub of the Panther. The journal reads:
Jim was about 70 . . . has been all his life a hunter His first hunt kills
a buck—scared—His first bear . . . his fight with a panther... .
Do not forget the encounter of JFi. with a Bear, when his daugh-
ter accompanied him & was sent back to bring assistance, The girl but
12 years old, showed no alarm, but followed Fisher where he shot the
beast remarking "Why daddy, he climbs tree jest like a frog." He found
the bear too large for him to manage & sent her back for assistance.
These two items clearly are the germ of the following anecdote in the
1856 lecture: