Obviously, many of the white characters in the original Wild West epos were, in a certain sense, outcasts or refugees from “civilization”, but the main thing in their position was, as I see it, not in this. In general, they can be attributed to two types: researchers or visitors in search of something that can not be found anywhere – money plays the last role – and people who have established in these wild places a symbiosis with nature, in its human and non-human form . They do not carry with them the modern world, except for what is in their own minds and equipment. The most vivid example of a visitor-researcher is a young Jacobin from Wales, who in the 1790s went to test the hypothesis that the Mandan Indians speak Welsh and are descendants of Prince Madog, who allegedly discovered America long before Columbus ( This legend, beautifully analyzed by Gwen Williams, was believed by many, including, for example, Jefferson. John Evans single-handedly went all the way upstream of Mississippi and Missouri, discovered that these noble Indians, known to us all from portraits, did not speak Welsh, and died returning to New Orleans from drunkenness at the age of 29.
Thus, the original myth of the Wild West, like America itself, was a utopia — but in the case of the West, the utopia consisted in recreating the lost kingdom of nature. The real heroes of the Wild West were Indians and hunters who learned to live with the Indians and according to their rules – in essence, the Leather Stocking and Chingachguk. It was an ecological utopia. Cowboys, of course, could not fit into it while the West was within the borders of the old North-West, in the future – the Mid-West. But even when the cowboy fully appeared on the scene of the western performance, he was just one of the characters – along with gold miners, buffalo hunters, United States cavalry, railroad plotters and various others. All the main themes of the international myth of the Wild West are well illustrated in the novels of Karl May, which brought up all German boys since the 1890s, when the Vinnetu trilogy first appeared. I mention Karl May, because his version was (and remains) the most influential among European versions of the Wild West. By the way, the incredible success of films based on Winnett in the early 1960s in Germany (in the Balkan nature) brought Italian and Spanish producers to the idea of mass production of spaghetti westerns, which in turn brought great luck to Clint Eastwood and once again changed the image Wild West.
The American West of May came out entirely from literature, including from the serious works of travelers and ethnologists who he had the occasion to read when he was a prison librarian: his talent for invention did not immediately lead him into fiction, at first he hunted for fraud. At its core, his books are about the rapprochement of a receptive, educated European who masters western lands with the noble savage opposed to the Yankees, who defile and destroy the ecological paradise he does not understand. The German hero and Apache warrior become blood brothers. This story can not end tragically, the noble and beautiful Vinnetu must die, because the Wild West itself is doomed: this is the common thing that unites the European myth with later versions of the American western. But in this version of the myth, the real barbarians are white. Karl May, of course, first appeared in America much later than he wrote about her. And a similar topic does not arise in any of his works about other parts of the world, in particular, about Islamic territories, to which he dedicated many volumes.