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What were the lower Mississippi River, Gulf Coast regions, and Appalachians of North America like in the earliest colonial days? Full of untamed forests, wild animals, nuts, berries, and Indians. Chateaubriand spent many years exploring the area, and this early (somewhat autobiographical) novella was inspired by his years spent with various Indian tribes, (described in his Introduction--included after the story), primarily the Natchez. Amongst these natives, as the story goes, was a blind old patriarch named Chactas, revered for his wisdom and knowledge of the affairs of life, including many years spent learning the ways of Europeans. In 1725, a Frenchman named René (Chateaubriand himself?), driven thither by his misfortunes in Europe, arrived at Louisiana. Old Chactas adopted him as a son, and slowly reveals his hardships and adventures. One such story was about Atala, a beautiful indian maiden, who had been converted by French missionaries to Christianity . . . . of their passionate attraction . . . and all the conflict and heartache that arose thereby. (Summary by Michele Fry)

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