The Noble Savage Myth and Travel-Ethnographic Literature

Ter Ellingson

in The Myth of the Noble Savage

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2001 | ISBN: 9780520222687
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520925922 | DOI:
The Noble Savage Myth and Travel-Ethnographic Literature

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In the interval between Lescarbot's invention of the Noble Savage concept at the beginning of the seventeenth century and its reemergence as a full-blown myth in the 1850s, the Noble Savage appears to have receded into a state of virtual nonexistence. In the few cases where the terms “noble” and “savage” occur in different ethnographies, a closer look reveals that juxtapositions of nobility and the savage reveal only the most ambiguous and vestigial links with either Lescarbot's Noble Savage concept or the later myth. This chapter considers some of the characteristic features of the myth itself. The myth vaguely associates belief in the Noble Savage with the egalitarian ideals of the Enlightenment, an association implicit in its linkage with Rousseau, and whose significance only becomes clear when one looks into the history of the myth itself.

Keywords: Noble Savage; Lescarbot; ethnography; myth; Rousseau; savage; Enlightenment

Chapter.  8036 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural Anthropology

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