stickmaker (stickmaker) wrote in little_details,

First Masked Hero in Literature

This is an off-and-on pursuit of mine, and one for which I have done considerable research, but only in brief spurts. What is the first mention in print or other popular media of the costumed and/or masked hero or villain? Not the period in which the story is set. The period in which the story is created.

Most of the characters which first spring to mind - Zorro, The Scarlet Pimpernel - are actually from the early Twentieth Century. (BTW, I found a rather interesting silent serial _Les Vampires_, about a sophisticated gang of thieves who had a "uniform" of black leotard and black fabric mask. One of their number, Irma Vep ("vampire" scrambled, the character played by a rather striking woman) appears to be a precursor of Cat Woman.

The earliest appearance I've found so far is fictional versions of Springheeled Jack. These seem to have begun appearing about a decade after the reports of this character in early Nineteenth Century London. The fictional versions appeared in print and on stage, including in musicals. Often he was portrayed as wearing a distinguishing costume and/or a mask.

Does anyone know of earlier occurrences of this trope?
Tags: ~literature

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