Roguish Poacher
Poachers weren't always the bad guys
Better Name

(permanent link) added: 2013-02-12 10:01:28 sponsor: johnnye (last reply: 2013-03-26 14:17:57)

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When those boys are out on the beat,
I'm gonna catch what I'm gonna eat,
With my longdog. I am a poacher!
-- Show Of Hands, "Longdog"

As an inversion of Evil Poacher, some older works, particularly fairy tales and Folk Music, pitch a Loveable Rogue Poacher against an Evil Fatcat Landowner in a Peter Rabbit-vs-Farmer MacGregor kind of relationship.

These are generally from a time when even kids' stories admitted that animals have to be killed for people to eat meat (and this kind of poacher always does hunt for food, usually for his starving family), and the conflict is more about the morality of claiming ownership of natural resources.

Whereas the Evil Poacher is a Great White Hunter out for endangered "charismatic megafauna", the Roguish Poacher hunts prey animals like rabbits, fish and game birds (the only quarry the two might compete over are deer). Where the Evil Poacher is a Glory Seeker who wants to put trophies on his walls, the Roguish Poacher wants to feed his family and maybe scratch a living selling the meat and skins.

Naturally, in real life it's more complicated than this -- how you would classify a poor African hunting bushmeat would be much more open for debate. But fiction is usually more willing to take sides.

As this guy is still a criminal, he'll either have a Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist, or the police/sheriff will be in the pockets of the Corrupt Hick landlord (or even both).

Subtrope of Karmic Thief. Often a Guile Hero, who may be portrayed as Just Like Robin Hood. Compare Hunter Trapper. Sympathetic portrayals of The Rustler may also fall under this trope.


Examples:

Film
  • In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the boy Robin finds trapped up a tree by some soldiers is accused of shooting a deer. When asked by Robin (after chasing the Sheriff's men away and branding himself an outlaw) the boy confirms it's true (although Robin doesn't seem to care either way).

Literature
  • Roald Dahl's book Danny the Champion of the World where the poacher, Danny's father, is a good guy and a Guile Hero, showing a germ of the character of Fantastic Mr. Fox. The bad guy is the man who owns the land they live on, who is a pompous, heartless, cruel man. It probably helps that the animals being poached are pheasants being readied for an upcoming hunt, and so are due to die whatever happens. Moreover, England has a bit of a cultural trope about the hearty countryman who is not above a little poaching now and then. It also helps that the father came up with increasingly clever ways of going about it and the landlord kept trying to find more and more trivial ways to force the family to sell their gas station that you have to root for them, regardless of your stance on hunting, trespassing, and poaching.
  • The aforementioned Fantastic Mr. Fox, who combines this with Carnivore Confusion by stealing chickens from industrial-scale farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean.
  • Carter the Poacher in the Discworld novels.
  • Black George in Tom Jones is a gamekeeper on an estate (the guy supposed to stop poachers) but also does some poaching himself- a combination of feeding his family and being a (lovable) scoundrel. At the end of the novel, the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue indicates he was ultimately transported for his crimes.
  • The Hunger Games opens with Katniss and Gail hunting outside their District's perimeter in order to feed their families, which is described as a harshly-punishable crime.
  • Several of the minor characters in Phoenix and Ashes poach the Fenix woods with the tacit permission of Reggie Fenix -- it's a source of protein that isn't affected by rationing.

Theatre

Music
  • The traditional English folk song "The Lincolnshire Poacher".
  • "Longdog" by Show Of Hands, thus inspiring the band's Fan Community Nickname. A longdog is a variety of sighthound popular with hare- and rabbit-coursers, and the hero's ownership of one is used as circumstantial evidence to send him to jail.
  • The Australian folk song "Waltzing Matilda" is about a "jolly swagman", i.e. a sheep rustler.
  • The German song "Das Jennerwein-Lied", a romanticised tale of Real Life Folk Hero Georg Jennerwein.

Mythology and Folklore
  • Robin Hood and his Merry Men are often wanted for illegally hunting deer in the king's wood, either alongside his other crimes or as the crime that drives him to brigandry in the first place.
  • The Homeric Hymn to Hermes has the titular Trickster, not yet part of the pantheon, stealing the herd of cows entrusted to Apollo and managing to charm his way out of trouble when he's caught. He then divides up the meat into sacrifices for all the gods... including a portion for himself, so that their acceptance of the sacrifice implicitly acknowledges him as a fellow god.
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