Tracing developments in the literary representations of four famous West-European bandits - Cartouche, Bakelandt, Jan de Lichte and Schinderhannes - this paper shows how most of the tales about these bandits revolve around two stereotypical images: the Noble and the Ignoble Bandit. Both images can be regarded as inversions of the equally stereotypical self-image of established West-European citizens. Though many of the bandit-tales at first sight belong to 'popular' culture, their readership in fact could be designated as a 'mass-audience' from a broad social spectrum. The literary 'careers' of these four robbers show that bandits only acquired a positive image if members of the middle strata in their societies could in some way identify with their activities. Finally, the prominence of both the negative representation of bandits (as a dangerous counter- society) and the positive version (as an idealized community) from the 16th until the late 19th century, is related to processes of state formation and 'internal pacification' in Western Europe.
How to Cite
Egmond, F., (1987) “The Noble and the Ignoble Bandit”, Ethnologia Europaea 17(2), 139–156. doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/ee.1376