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Bindle Stick

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Sterotypical Hobo outfit. The Bindle is the bag behind the back, together with the stick they make a Bindle Stick.

The stereotypical way for runaways and Hobos alike to carry their belongings: wrap a bunch of objects in a bedsheet or large kerchief, tie it to a stick and sling it over your shoulder. The cloth of the bindle itself will usually be depicted as polka-dotted.

In hobo slang during and after The Great Depression, someone who carried a Bindle Stick around was referred to as a "bindlestiff".

Even after the Bindle Stick usage in real life virtually disappeared in The '50s due to availability of backpacks and other more convenient carrying methods, the usage of Bindle Sticks in media remained.

Compare the Shopping Cart of Homelessness, a modern urban counterpart to this trope.


    open/close all folders 
  • The company mascot for Traveller's Tales is a raccoon sitting on a cliff with a bindle stick.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Episode 32 of Fresh Pretty Cure!, Tarte carries one when he and Chiffon are called to return to the Sweets Kingdom.
  • Jewelpet: Magical Change: The Kiraras' seal stamper carries one around in episode 18b since he's run away after a magic spell from Ruby backfires and makes all seal stampers useless.
  • In Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, Kirby uses one when he runs away.
    • Waddle Doo also carries one when he realizes all his fellow Waddle Dees have gone from the castle and decides to leave.
  • Hare of Monster Rancher carries one around.
  • In GO-GO Tamagotchi! episode 18b, Orenetchi carries a bindle stick when he starts to run away from home after breaking his sister Neenetchi's music box and making her mad.

    Asian Animation 
  • Episode 20 of Happy Heroes, titled "Running Away from Home", does not actually depict characters carrying a bindle stick in the episode itself, but the title card shows one in one of the Chinese characters in the episode name.
  • In the Lamput episode "Dr. Lamput", Fat Doc and Slim Doc grab some bindle sticks and carry them out of the lab with them after reporting that they still haven't successfully captured Lamput.

    Card Games 
  • In the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, the Fool (Card 0 of the Major Arcana) carries a bindle stick.

    Comic Books 
  • Douwe Dabbert has a magical one, which provides him with everything he needs in case of emergency.
  • A comic by Michael Kupperman shows a woman who has a tendency to date hobos getting romantic help from a small robot. In one panel, the robot advises her, "Ask him, if he is not a hobo, why does he have a bindle?"
  • In The Sandman (1989), when Destruction is leaving again, after being found the first time, he asks to borrow Morpheus' handkerchief expressly for the purpose of changing it to a polka-dotted design and carrying his belongings on a stick.
  • Sensation Comics: When the Blue Boys run away out of boredom they pack their belongings in handkerchiefs tied to sticks.
  • The Smurfs in the comic book stories "Traveling Smurf" (with its Animated Adaptation) and "The Finance Smurf" carried these.

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts
    • One strip lampshaded it — Linus was going to pack a suitcase before Lucy corrects him and points out that every little boy running away from home always carries his things wrapped up on the end of a stick. He then walks away holding the stick in front of him and feeling "somewhat akin to a fool."
    • In the next strip, Charlie Brown sees Linus and asks, "Carrying everything on your back?" Linus responds with, "Just my bowling ball."
    • In another Peanuts strip, Snoopy carried a bindle stick when running away after he yawned and lost Lucy's balloon: "Make one mistake, and you pay for it the rest of your life."
    • In yet another strip, Charlie Brown himself puts one of these together in order to run away from home. He gets halfway down the sidewalk before the knot fails, sending all his belongings flying.

    Fan Works 
  • Mendacity: Bon Bon gathers her supplies in a bindle when she sets off to find Lyra, despite the logistical problems of using one when you're a quadruped — to hold one, a pony needs to hobble along in a very awkward three-legged gait. He preference would have been to use saddlebags, but Aldrovanda stole hers.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live Action 
  • The kung-fu film The Bells of Death revolves around a farmer whose family died in a bandit attack, and went on a five-year training regiment to become a Master Swordsman and seek revenge. Turning to Walking the Earth, he spends the whole movie carrying his belongings in a bundle wrapped in a stick, which is even depicted on the DVD cover.
  • In Bill, William Shakespeare takes a bindle stick on his trip to London. This version of London being such a Wretched Hive, it gets stolen off of the stick when he isn't looking.
  • The Flying Deuces: In this Laurel and Hardy feature, Stan is using a bindle stick in the last scene when he's tramping around alone, without Ollie.
  • Gooby: After (temporarily) ending his friendship with Willy, Gooby runs away from his home and carries a bindle stick with him.
  • Buster Keaton does this in Go West when he hops on board a freight train and goes west after failing to find a job in the big city.
  • In The Muppets Take Manhattan, during the "Saying Goodbye" song, Fozzie carries one while he boards a freight train and sings about how he's going to miss his friends.
  • Parodied in the film Mystery Team. Jason, the "Master of Disguise", dresses up as an old-fashioned hobo in order to talk to a real homeless person. The bindle stick is part of the outfit.
  • In Pass the Gravy, dimwitted teenager Ignatz uses one of these while skipping town, after realizing that he has just cooked his neighbor's chicken.
  • In Pee-wee's Big Adventure, when Pee-wee starts hitchhiking to Texas he is carrying one.
  • The poster for the Peter Rabbit sequel, The Runaway, depicts Peter as using a giant carrot as one of these, the bindle containing other fruits and vegetables.
  • In Song of the South, the character Br'er Rabbit is frequently shown carrying a bindle stick.
  • In Sullivan's Travels, Sullivan uses one of these when dressing up as a hobo.
  • In Up the Chastity Belt, Lurkalot carries a bindle stick when he sets off to walk (and swim) from England to the Holy Land.

  • There was a literary character called Bindle, but he doesn't carry one. He's a cockney Lovable Rogue with a wife and home, but he still subsists on odd jobs and tweaking the nose of authority like any self-respecting hobo would.
  • Blinky Bill is depicted carrying one on the cover of The Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall. He also carries one in the ABC animated adaptation.
  • Standard traveler equipment in A Canticle for Leibowitz, at least in the first era shown. A monk leaving the monastery always carries a book in it.
  • Almost any illustrated version of Dick Whittington has a bindle stick.
  • The Franklin TV storybook Adaptation Distillation of the television story "Franklin Runs Away" has Franklin Turtle carrying a bindle stick loaded with cookies in one hand and his stuffed dog Sam in the other.
  • The title page of Little Princess: I Want to Go Home! has Little Princess's cat holding one of these.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: When Littlefinger left his home to seek his fortunes, he carried all his worldly possessions with him. It helped to fuel his lifelong obsession with power.
  • Lazarus Long has one packed for him in the 1910s by a kindly doctor's spinster sister (who keeps house for her apparently also unmarried brother) in Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein, though he re-packs it soon afterward, as it's actually a liability on the road to look like a "bindle stiff."
    • Averted in Sixth Column, where a protagonist heading out to do recon among the hobo population refuses one, so he won't look disreputable.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In "What If (There Was No Big Blue House)" from Bear in the Big Blue House, Tutter the mouse imagines being homeless and carrying his possessions in one of these.
  • The Book of Pooh:
    • In "Scaredy Cat", when Tigger is asked by Owl to housesit, he brings his possessions to Owl's place using one of these.
    • In "Over the Hill", when Pooh prepares to go on an adventure, he carries things like a jar of Hunny in one of these.
  • El Chavo del ocho uses one, which is weird because he has no known possessions and is always wearing the same clothes.
  • On Good Eats, the infamous burping yeast sock puppets use these after being laid off by Alton as a result of viewer complaints about them being "unrealistic." They do return, and they help Alton get rid of the "realistic" (but boring) yeast dolls that have overtaken his kitchen.
  • An episode of Impractical Jokers featured a segment where Murr ran afoul of a friend of the restaurant manager where they were filming, saying Murr should be fired for incompetence. When Murr failed to convince him to tell the manager to let him keep his job, he made a bindle stick out of a plastic bag.
  • On It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, when Charlie and Mac decide to fake their own deaths and wander the streets, one of the first things we see Charlie do is attempt to assemble a bindle stick and lament its limited carrying capacity.
  • In the sketch titled "Laron Can't Laugh" on Key & Peele, after literally blowing his friends' eardrums with his horrifying shriek of a laugh, Laron decides to leave with his bindle that he apparently brought to the hangout.
  • In The Magic House episode "The Wishing Tree", PC Pot carries one of these when he leaves the Magic House. It has disappeared the next time he appears, however.
  • The Mighty Boosh: When Vince Noir tried to run away from home as a child, he didn't get very far, as he was using a bindle stick to carry stuff several times his own body weight.
  • Murdoch Mysteries :
    • Rupert Newsome is carrying one theatrically at the end of the episode "My Big Fat Mimico Wedding", following the loss of the Newsome fortune, apparently viewing poverty as just another hobby to throw himself into.
    • Llewellyn Watts carries a less cartoony one in "The Ballad of Gentleman Jones" when he's undercover as a hobo.
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Top Hat, White Tie and Bindle", Benny Romero shows up at Miss Brooks' carrying one, having run away from home.

  • In the third verse of The Rocky Road to Dublin, the bundle part of the narrator's bindle stick is stolen, leaving a bare stick:

    In Dublin next arrived, I thought it such a pity
    To be soon deprived a view of that fine city
    Well then I took a stroll, all among the quality
    Bundle it was stole, all in a neat locality
    Something crossed me mind, when I looked behind
    No bundle could I find upon me stick a wobblin'
    Enquiring for the rogue, said me Connaught brogue
    Wasn't much in vogue on the rocky road to Dublin

  • Chance Cards that advance you in Monopoly show Uncle Pennybag carrying one of these.


  • Any pantomime or stage play featuring characters Setting Out into the World to Seek Their Fortune will include a bindle stick. Especially Dick Whittington. The hankies used as bindles are almost always red-and-white polka dots, for some reason, probably due to the high contrast and visibility.

  • In the Tamagotchi virtual pets, Nazotchi always carries a bindle stick with him.

    Video Games 
  • In Anachronox, the logo for the Democratan "Planet Abroad" project (that is, shrinking it down to fun-size and have it follow the main character around) is the planet, with a bindle stick and a beaten hat.
  • In Final Fantasy IX, Steiner's plan to smuggle Princess Garnet through the South Gate border crossing involves carrying a bag of stinky gysahl pickles... and her using one of these. It works. (A concept art can be seen here.)
  • Hobo Cat Adventures have you playing as the titular andromorphic hobo cat, who travels across several levels with his belongings in a pouch on a stick.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, most of the hobo enemies in the Hobopolis zone will drop bindle sticks, which can be used as weapons. You can also get a miniature bindle stick for the hobo monkey familiar you can get in the zone.
  • Kirby:
    • Kirby's Adventure (and its GBA remake, Nightmare in Dream Land) has an illustration in the intro of Kirby carrying one as he sets off on his quest.
    • Kirby Star Allies: One of the pictures you can assemble shows Kirby leaving while carrying a bindle.
  • The Nano Kitty and Nano Puppy virtual pets would walk offscreen carrying one of these with a "Bye Bye" text if you neglected to take care of them for a long time (or if you used the "Discipline" option excessively.)
  • Portal 2 makes a brief reference to this in the 70's era test chambers, when Aperture Laboratories was reduced to hiring hobos due to impending bankruptcy.
    Cave Johnson: You could leave here with a hundred and twenty [dollars] weighing down your bindle if you just let us take you apart, install some science stuff in you, then put you back together.
    • One of the signs also depicts a test subject still carrying one while in his orange jumpsuit.
  • In Psychonauts, Razputin carries one of these when he leaves home (as shown in one of his Memory Vaults), despite wearing a backpack. How else would we know he's Romani?
  • The Sims in the original game, if they lost a fight, would occasionally leave the lot permanently, carrying a runaway stick.
  • In the Updated Rereleases of Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, you can "Say Goodbye" to a Chao with the "Chao Machine", whereupon it leaves with a bindle stick to a faraway forest where it will never see you again.
  • Your skeletal avatar carries one in Where the Water Tastes Like Wine.

    Web Animation 


    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In the "Sonic Says" segment from "Tails' New Home", Coconuts carries one when he considers running away from Robotnik. When Sonic tells Coconuts one of the disadvantages of running away, one of the robots Coconuts encounters takes the bindle stick from him.
    • In "The Robots' Robot", the titular Robot runs away from Robotnik's fortress carrying one. One of the things inside it is the Butual Lepton Atomic Material Moficiation Oscillator device, or BLAMMO for short, that can easily implode the entire planet if it gets set off.
  • Chuck Wagon arrived at the Seville residence with one in The Alvin Show.
  • On Beat Bugs, Jay ties up one of these and takes off with his stuff in it when he runs away in "Get Back."
  • In the Claymation special Follow That Bunny, Clarice packs her things inside one of these when she runs away.
  • In some episodes of Futurama we see homeless robots whose bindles are actually part of them, replacing one of their arms.
    Bender: Hey chief, someone's stealing your handkerchief full of crap.
  • The cover artwork of the DVD release Kaboom! Back to School (which features installments of Franklin, George Shrinks, Elliot Moose, Timothy Goes to School and Pippi Longstocking) has an image of Franklin holding one of these in one hand and a book in the other.
  • Felix the Cat has wielded a bindle stick a few times, for an example, at the beginning of "Uncle Tom's Crabbin".
  • Two instances in Hanna-Barbera's animated series of The Little Rascals:
    • In "Beauty Queen for a Day", Darla carries a bindle stick, intending to leave home with Pete when she feels that most of the boys have abandoned her, but reconsiders after hearing about the upcoming beauty pageant.
    • In "King of the Hobos", Porky does this after being exiled from the treehouse.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • During a flashback sequence in "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" when young Applejack goes to meet her relatives in Manehatten. How she manages to carry it over her shoulder despite her lack of hands is a question best not asked, as she looks utterly adorable doing it.
    • "Owl's Well That Ends Well" showed Spike carrying one after running away from home.
    • Seen again with Spike in "Dragon Quest" when he decided to join the Great Dragon Migration.
    • In "Bloom and Gloom", Apple Bloom carries one in a nightmare sequence where her family kicks her out of the house.
    • Applejack picks one up when she has to go to Manehattan (again) in "Brotherhooves Social".
  • On The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Rabbit ties a sack of carrots to one and heads off when running away in "How Much Is That Rabbit In the Window?"
  • When Flick fantasizes about running away in "Ducking Out on Valentine's Day" on PB&J Otter, a bindle stick is sitting next to him in the train he's riding on.
  • Pingu carries one in the opening sequence as he walks along the Antarctic land, stops in the middle and winks at us. He carries the same one in the episode, "Pingu Goes Away".
  • The 1939 Popeye cartoon Never Sock a Baby: After Swee'Pea gets a (very gentle) spanking from Popeye, he runs away from home with a bindle — full of stuffed animals.
  • Chuckie in Rugrats (1991), in "Chuckie's Wonderful Life", packs his toys in a bindle when he attempts to run away after his dad's favorite music CD was stolen.
  • Apparently there's a writer on The Simpsons who loves the word "bindle".
    • When Homer joined hobo boxing, one of the hobos he fought kept stopping to "check on his bindle". (It's John Swartzwelder, according to DVD commentary).
    • Again when Bart befriends a hobo— Chester J. Lampwick, the real creator of Itchy.
    • When Homer became "Mr. X", upon going public, Nelson brought him a rumor about the school's cafeteria cooking hobos - he had the bindle sticks to prove it.
    • In "Lisa's First Word", Bart has one during the time he intends to run away from home.
  • Spongebob Squarepants:
    • In one episode, SpongeBob prepared one of these when he ran away in "Life of Crime". Patrick was unable to carry his, as it had his entire house inside.
    • Later, in "Have You Seen This Snail?", Gary packs one when he leaves SpongeBob due to his negligence.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "On the Run", Steven and Amethyst pack themselves bindle sticks when they decide to run away and live on the road like the heroes of Steven's new favorite book series, the No Home Boys.
  • In the Super Mario World episode "Born to Ride", Yoshi carries one when he decides to run away from Dome City.
  • In The Venture Brothers episode "Home Insecurity", Dr. Venture creates a new guard robot, so the old robot H.E.L.P.eR packs a Bindle Stick and runs away.
  • In Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers, Gromit carries one of these out to the dog house and then leaves.

    Real Life 
  • This has become something of a Dead Horse Trope in Real Life, as most hobosnote  use backpacks and other camping bags these days. Actual poor people are more likely to use discarded plastic shopping bags. Or entire shopping carts if they can get one.
  • In Germany there is a tradition still practiced today called "auf die Walz gehen" originating to medieval times. After completing apprenticeship as a craftsman, people wander the country for a certain time in a special outfit, carrying all their possessions in a kerchief called "Charlottenburger" attached to a walking stick.
  • In Japan the equivalent is called a Furoshiki, which is essentially a fabric form of wrapping paper using intricately decorated squares of cloth, tied in such a way as to make it easy to pick up and hold like a bag. Largely forgotten after WWII due to the ease of the plastic bag, although there are folks trying to popularize them again as a more ecologically sound method of carrying things.
  • This was exactly how Roman legions on the march carried miscellaneous items, often using a purpose-designed bindle. The ubiquity of the method and its frequent representation in Roman art and sculpture depicting marching legions could probably explain why the image has persisted down over the centuries and is still with us now. See here for a visual example.
  • Prior to the Thirteenth Amendment's abolishment of most forms of slavery in the United States, wanted posters for escaped slaves frequently included a caricature of one with a bindle stick. Historians would retrospectively cite this imagery as the origin of bindles being used as a shorthand for The Runaway.


Video Example(s):


Running Away From Home

Rebecca is seen wandering the woods carrying a bindle, while also explaining its origins of use during the Great Depression. We're led to believe that she's running away, but she's actually using it to set up a picnic.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheRunaway

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