For the past 85 years, the song “Waltzing Matilda” has been central to Australian national identity. The hero in the song is a vagabond swagman who steals a sheep and, when confronted by the authorities, commits suicide. While the swagman is in many ways typically Australian, there are distinct parallels with popularly celebrated social bandits such as Antonio Silvino, Salvatore Giuliano, Jesse James and Rob Roy. Such characters challenge our assumption that society negatively amplifies deviance. This paper reviews the dominant histoncalklass-based understanding of the anti-hero, arguing that it is fruitful to conceptualize the criminal hero as a manifestation of the mythological figure of the trickster.
Journal of Popular Culture Vol. 35, Issue 3, p. 127-141