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Roguish Poacher

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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 or to share with the community), and the conflict is more about the morality of claiming ownership of natural resources.note 

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. If the two come into conflict, you might have a case of Evil vs. Evil.


Naturally, in real life it's more complicated than this — how you would classify a poor African hunting protected 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 Classical Hunter and 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, with the Cattle Baron as the bad guy.



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  • 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).
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights has Robin similarly rescue a boy from the guards. And later, Robin barges into Prince John's castle and plops down a poached boar right on his table.
    Robin: No, that's a wild pig. (points at Prince John) THAT's a wild bore.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen hunting illegally to feed starving family and stick it to The Man? Check.
  • The 1923 version of Scaramouche begins with a peasant having been executed for poaching on the Marquis' land. We are meant to sympathize with the slain poacher, who was presumably desperate for food, and to see the Marquis as evil. In fact, this is how the Marquis is first established as the bad guy.

  • Aunts Arent Gentleman: Herbert "Billy" Graham is the local poacher in a particular Somerset village, whom all the gamekeepers of local landowners like Cook and Briscoe can never catch. Bertie Wooster unsuccessfully enlists Graham to return a cat to a horse's stable (It Makes Sense in Context).
  • 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. 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.
  • Discworld:
    • Carter the Poacher in Lords and Ladies.
    • In Pyramids, Pteppic spends some time under the wing of a roguish poacher, whom his absent minded father mistook for his tutor.
  • Black George in The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling 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.
  • San Francisco Bay illegal fishermen and oyster pirates in Jack London's 1905 Tales Of The Fish Patrol are in a somehow sporty competition with authorities over fishing resources. London does not shy from portraying them as quick to beat, shoot or stab people, but, at the same time, they are mostly trying to feed themselves and their families, rules be damned.
  • Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Land" is about a line of countrymen named Hobden, who the narrator (who may be Kipling himself) imagines tending the land which the narrator owns since the time of the Romans or before. The narrator knows full well that Hobden is a "flagrantly a poacher", but considers that really the Hobdens have a better claim to the place than its legal owners (and anyway, his advice on the land is beyond price).
    I have rights of chase and warren, as my dignity requires.
    I can fish — but Hobden tickles — I can shoot—but Hobden wires.
    I repair, but he reopens, certain gaps which, men allege,
    Have been used by every Hobden since a Hobden swapped a hedge.

    Shall I dog his morning progress o'er the track-betraying dew ?
    Demand his dinner-basket into which my pheasant flew?
    Confiscate his evening faggot under which my conies ran,
    And summons him to judgment ? I would sooner summons Pan.

    Live Action Television 


  • 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.
  • The Eric Bogle song "Poachers Moon" is about the traditional Scottish pastime of poaching salmon from the laird's stream.

    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. Since being outlaws means that they can't exactly go into town to buy groceries, poaching would have been their primary source of food.
  • 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.

  • The Stanley Baxter's Playhouse episode "The Pool" is about a salmon poacher on a Scottish estate being caught by the laird, and eventually revealing that he's the son of the local blacksmith, who many years earlier taught the laird to poach on what was then his father's estate.

    Video Games 
  • Derek Badger of Poacher is one of these, being an Unfazed Everyman from Oop North who mostly hunts small game such as rabbits to feed himself and his wife. Fittingly, he spends a fair chunk of the game pursued by his rival, Gamey the game warden.

    Real Life 
  • The imfamous Twin Foxes - Albert Ebenezer Fox 1857-1937 and Ebenezer Albert Fox 1857-1926 were notorious poachers based around Stevenage just north of London. They never went poaching together so that they couldn't be caught together, and also that one could pretend to be the other in order to provide alibis. Interestingly, they were the sons a relatively prosperous small farmer, so they didn't need to poach for food, at least at the beginning. Whilst they were mostly successful, both Foxes did complete a few small prison sentences, usually for possesion of poaching equipment rather than being caught in the act. The Twin Foxes were imortalised in a pub in Stevenage - which has sadly closed - and are now commemorated in the Twin Foxes housing estate in nearby Knebworth.


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