From The Inconvenient Indian: A curious account of native people in North America (2012) by Thomas King
... My favourite old chestnut features Pocahontas and Captain John Smith. The original story, the one Smith told, is that he was captured by the Powhatan in 1607, shortly after arriving in what is now Virginia. He was taken to one of the main villages, and just as the Indians made ready to kill him, he was saved by the daughter of the head man, a young woman whom all of us know as Pocahontas.
It's a pretty good tale. And 1607 wasn't the first time Smith had used it. Before he came to America, he had been a soldier of fortune, had found himself in a number of tight spots, and, according to the good Captain, had been befriended and / or saved by comely women. Smith makes mention of three such women in his writings, the Lady Tragabigzanda in Turkey, the Lady Callamata in Russia, and Madam Chanoyes in France, all of whom "assisted" him during his trials and tribulations as a young mercenary.
Of course, the story of heroes being saved by beautiful maidens is a classic and had been around for centuries. Personally, I don't believe that Smith knew Pocahontas. I certainly don't believe that she saved him or that they had any sort of relationship. His first mention of her doesn't come until Pocahontas arrived in England in 1616. By then, as an authentic American Indian princess, she had acquired a certain fame and notoriety, and Smith, I suspect, eager to bathe once again in the warmth of public glory, took the stock story out of storage, dusted it off, and inserted Pocahontas's name in the proper place.
Helen [King's wife] likes details, and she is inordinately fond of footnotes. I'm not. But because I love her, I try to accommodate her needs. So, here are the facts, as we know them. Smith does come to Virginia in 1607. He is most likely captured by the Powhatan people. Whether they want to kill him or not is a moot point. The reality is they don't. He gets back to the colony in one piece, is injured in a gunpowder explosion, and returns to England in 1609. Did he know Pocahontas? There's nothing to indicate that he did. Did he have a relationship with her as the Disney folks suggest in their saccharine jeu d'esprit? Well, at the time of the supposed meeting, Smith would have been twenty-seven and Pocahontas would have been about ten, maybe twelve years old. Possible, but not probable.
Still, the story, false though I believe it to be, has been too appealing for North America to ignore. And we have dragged the damn thing--with its eroticism and exoticism, its White Hero and its dusky maiden--across the continent and the centuries. p. 8, 9