Date of Performance/Collection: 4/26/2016
Primary Language: English
“Ned Kelly came from a very poor family. There are many stories about him and his exploits. The main story is that the police always gave him a hard time. One day, a police officer called Fitzpatrick turned up and was having a go at Ned Kelly’s sister. He tried to defend his sister. It ended in a fight the policeman, which meant that Kelly and his brother had to run away and become outlaws. This forced them to turn to a life of crime to sustain themselves. They started always robbing from the rich people. They would then go back to their community and share the money they stole. Eventually, two others joined him, and they became the Kelly gang. The police hired special trackers to find hunt them down. The gang soon got cornered in this town called Glenrowan. They knew they would get cornered, so they build armor for Ned to wear to protect him from the police’s gunfire. All the gang members were shot and killed except for Ned, who was captured. He was tried and hung for robbery and murder since he had killed some cops. He died very young. Allegedly, his last words were “such is life”.”
The legend of Ned Kelly is one that is often retold all over Australia. During the late 19th century, Ned was a real criminal and outlaw who rebelled against the British forces that had been ruling over Australia by stealing from them and distributing their money to the lower classes. There are many stories that Australians enjoy telling about him, but probably the most famous concerns the suit of armor that he wore to protect himself. The original suit still exists today and is held in a museum in Australia.
The informant, Angus Guthrie, is a 20-year-old student who was born and raised in Australia. Because he and his family have been in the country for a very long time, he believes that he is quite familiar with Australian folklore and traditions. Angus read story of the Kelly gang as a child in an Australian folklore book that had been written for children. He feels that people enjoy the legend because it is a truly fun story that is an integral part of Australia’s cultural history. Many, including Angus, see Ned as a national hero because he is a symbol of the fight against the tyrannical British government.
The story of Ned Kelly perfectly exemplifies the reason why some outlaws can become local legends and heroes. Although Ned Kelly and his gang did kill innocent people and steal property that did not belong to them, their battle against the British forces was interpreted as a futile but courageous stand against their oppressive government. His stoic death only cemented his position as a cultural icon. Because the Australian people had been suffering so much at the time, it is likely that they were seeking a source of strength and hope to make their days easier. Clearly, they found their source in Ned.
For more research on Robin Hood characters (including Ned Kelly), see Seal, Graham. “The Robin Hood principle: Folklore, history, and the social bandit.” Journal of Folklore Research 46.1 (2009): 67-89.