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Myths and heroes : We can ask ourselves if the story around the first thanksgiving is a myth or reality ? And, if it doesn’t, why ?

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I would like to present the notion ‘Myths and Heroes’. We can understand by ‘myth’ a story or a popular belief that include ideals of a society. A ‘hero’ is a legendary figure admired for his achievements, his great courage and noble qualities. Here, the documents we studied in class remind us of the myth created around the Pilgrim Fathers and the First Thanksgiving. These persons were a group of persecuted protestants who left England in 1620. They had a sixty-two-day-trip on a ship called the Mayflower, and when they arrived in North America, in Massachussets, they founded the Plymouth colony.

Of the 102 colonists, 35 were members of the English Separatist Church (a radical faction of Puritanism) who had earlier fled to Leiden, the Netherlands, to escape persecution at home.

We can ask ourselves if the story around the first thanksgiving is a myth or reality ? And, if it doesen’t, why ?

How are the qualities revealded ?


In American colonial History, the Pilgrim Fathers are considered as heroes because they had the courage to defy the authority of King Jame I so they decided to settle down in New English colony in North America, hoping that the King would leave them undisturbed. Crossing the Atlantic / the Ocean Blue was considered, at the time, as a feat. They risked their lives during a 62-day-trip, with a hundred of passengers. They arrived in winter sot hey had’nt any food and they were still alived.

So they formed a relationship with the Wampanoag tribe (Native Americans, incorrectly referred to as “Indians”). The Wampanoags taught the colonists about planting, fishing and hunting. That meant that by the following autumn they had enough food for a big feast and for the rest of the winter. It was a three-day feast. They ate corn, codfish and lobster, but they probably had goose rather than turkey. The feast is now considered as the first Thanksgiving. This is what the famous painting of Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, called The First Thanksgiving, painted in 1915 (63 x 88 cm) illustrates. We can see a meal taken in peace and conviviality. Women and men are talking together, they’re sharing food, etc.

II- History and documents can revealed that they were not as supermen as they seemed to be

It gives us an idealized version of what happened in 1621. The clothes and the settings don’t seem very realistic. But what strikes us most of all that aloso the party seems convivial and peaceful, there is a lot of condescension involved. There are two definite groups : the Europeans in the top right half and the natives in the bottom left half. The natives are sitting on the ground, next to the dog and

The participants are not mixing at all, which contradicts the legend of a meal taken in peace, friendship and harmony. Moreover, the subsequent tratment of the native Americans proves that was not as genius as it seems to be at first sight on this painting.

The cartoon is set in a restaurant. It is the end of the meal and the Pigrims are leaving the place, leaving a native American to foot the bill. This document is a criticism of the ‘legend’ of the First Tahnksgiving, where, in believes, food was shared in a spirit of friendship. But, History tells us that Native Americans suffered a lot at the hands of the colonists.


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