Noble savage

stock character; idealized indigene or otherwise wild outsider with noble characteristics

A noble savage is a 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.


  • Historically the focus on resistance had powerful political uses in emancipating individuals from feudal authority. The priority of the individual was an artificial device, which (although everywhere contradicted by the real life dependency of individuals on hierarchical social structures) helped to free men from bondage. The fiction preceded the reality: in fact, the fiction created the reality, for it was meant not as a defense of preexisting individuals against encroaching authority, but a justification for the forging of individuals from socially constructed subjects. The point was not to legitimize natural individuals, but to legitimize individuation in the face of "natural" (historical and traditional) collectivism. The "natural" man was merely a hypothetical contrivance whose wholly rhetorical significance was not to be mistaken for the kind of anthropological conjectures that would in time be favored by the romantics (noble savages and all that).
    • Nancy L. Rosenblum, Liberalism and the Moral Life (1989), p. 60

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