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Noble savage stereotype


  • Here are entered works on the idealized perception of indigenous peoples as innately virtuous, innocent, or uncorrupted by civilization.
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  • Variants

    • Noble savage
    • Savage, Noble (Stereotype)
  • Broader Terms

  • Closely Matching Concepts from Other Schemes

  • Earlier Established Forms

    • Noble savage
  • Sources

    • found: Ellingson, Ter. Myth of the noble savage, 2001:(Noble savage myth; myth of the noble savage; mythical noble savages; posits an essential nobility ...according to the myth, 'savages' were noble by nature; shared moral superiority to Europeans ...state of moral superiority engendered by their natural way of life) (OCoLC)906845168
    • found: Rowland, M.J. "Return of the 'noble savage': misrepresenting the past, present and future." Australian Aboriginal studies, vol. 2004, no. 2, 2004, via WWW, viewed March 1, 2021:('noble savage' stereotype ; myth of the 'noble savage'; noble savage myth; stereotypes of the 'noble savage' or 'ecologically noble savage' can in fact serve to oppress indigenous peoples)
    • found: Cultural survival quarterly magazine, March 1991, via WWW, viewed March 1, 2021:(myth of the noble savage; noble savage myth; noble savage; shorthand term for the idealized European vision of the inhabitants of the New World ... idealized the naked "savages" as innocent of sin; For many Europeans, these Indians were dwellers in an earthly Garden of Eden; the idealized figure of centuries past had been reborn, as the ecologically noble savage)
    • found: Facing history and ourselves WWW site, viewed March 1, 2021:Stolen lives (Noble Savage myth; Some Europeans, like the American painter George Catlin, looked at the Indigenous Peoples of North America as a representation of indigenous people before Western civilization developed: pure, bold, and noble beings. Some Europeans imagined the indigenous communities as an ideal primitive society, living freely in a simpler and more peaceful state than in Europe. Such Europeans called the indigenous people they encountered "noble savages." This frustration was shown in yet another stereotype. By the middle of the nineteenth century, European policy makers became impatient with the slow progress of their plans to civilize indigenous groups who insisted on maintaining their traditions. Now, not only were the Indians savage: they were also known as wretched Indians.)
    • found: Wikipedia, viewed March 1, 2021:(noble savage; literary stock character who embodies the concept of the indigene, outsider, wild human, an "other" who has not been "corrupted" by civilization, and therefore symbolizes humanity's innate goodness. Besides appearing in many works of fiction and philosophy, the stereotype was also heavily employed in early anthropological works. The "noble savage" often maps to uncorrupted races in science fiction and fantasy genres)
    • found: TeacherServe WWW site, viewed March 1, 2021:American Indians: the image of the Indian (It is a given today that the idea of the American Indian has been historically significant. It shaped the attitudes of those in the nineteenth century who shaped Indian policy. Indian policy cannot be understood without an awareness of the ideas behind it. ... Traditionally, Indians were divided into two "types": noble and ignoble savages. The Indian woman was either a princess or a drudge, the Indian man an admirable brave or a fiendish warrior ... The stark contrast between the noble and ignoble savage obscures their common denominator: savagery. Savagery referred to a state of social development below civilization and, in some calculations, below an intermediate step, barbarism. Since savagery was inferior to civilization, the reasoning went; a savage was naturally inferior to a civilized person. The noble savage might be admired for certain rude virtues, and the ignoble savage deplored as brutal and bloody-minded, but the fate of each was identical. In time, both would vanish from the face of the earth as civilization, in accordance with the universal law of progress, displaced savagery ... In confronting white civilization, the reasoning went, Indians lost their savage virtues--independence, hospitality, courage--while retaining only their savage vices; worse yet, they added civilization's vices to the mixture, ignoring civilization's virtues)
    • found: The Lone woman and last Indians digital archive WWW site, viewed March 1, 2021(the term Noble Savage became part of European explorers and settlers' vocabulary for discussing the indigenous peoples they encountered in the New World, and the term continued circulating widely throughout the early twentieth century. As racial and ethnic "others," Indians were alternatively celebrated and vilified, as the contemporary meaning of the two words comprising the term Noble Savage reflects. Indians, viewed as unburdened by the trappings of civilization that alienated one from the natural, became prized for their purity and innocence. Rhetorically, Noble Savages presented a means of critiquing European decadence. Being untutored and untamed by Christian teachings, Indians were also viewed as having fewer constraints against brutish or barbarous behavior. Ferocity in war and cruelty enacted in the name of honor were compatible with Noble Savagery. Noble savages had savage virtues, but also savage vices. When actual Native peoples were removed from the landscape of the Eastern United States during the mid-nineteenth century and no longer a threat to settlers, the concept of the Noble Savage reemerged with force. Noble Savages, now vanished, could be celebrated as American heroes with town streets named after chiefs and romantic statues of Indians erected on village greens.)
    • found: Frank, Adam. Avatar: science, civilization, and the noble savage in space, December 22, 2009, via NPR.org WWW site, viewed March 1, 2021(Noble savage; story of the noble savage is often a meditation on the ways we are corrupted by the civilization we create. It's a myth that tells us only in the more natural state of the hunter-gathering tribe do we retain a pure connection with the world. While the concept and its embodiment in story dates back to the 16th and 17th century, 'Avatar' moves the myth to 2154 AD and adds a significant ecological theme to its telling. As with many noble savage narratives the main character begins as a member of an advanced civilization but "goes native" after living with the pre-technological tribe. The ... Na'Vi aliens... live in a state of ecological grace. They inhabit their Eden-like moon at peace and in balance with the life around them.)
  • General Notes

    • Here are entered works on the idealized perception of indigenous peoples as innately virtuous, innocent, or uncorrupted by civilization.
  • Change Notes

    • 1986-02-11: new
    • 2021-05-14: revised
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