A folk hero or national hero is a type of hero, real, fictional, or mythological. The single salient characteristic which makes a character a folk hero is the imprinting of the name, personality and deeds of the character in the popular consciousness. This presence in the popular consciousness is evidenced by mention in folk songs, folk tales and other folklore. Folk heroes are also the subject of literature and some films.
Although some folk heroes are historical public figures, they generally are not. Because the lives of folk heroes are generally not based on historical documents, the characteristics and deeds of a folk hero are often exaggerated to mythic proportions.
The folk hero often begins life as a normal person, but is transformed into someone extraordinary by significant life events, often in response to social injustice, and sometimes in response to natural disasters.
One major category of folk hero is the defender of the common people against the oppression or corruption of the established power structure. Members of this category of folk hero often, but not necessarily, live outside the law in some way.
Ishikawa Goemon – Japan, bandit hero notorious for robbing the rich and giving to the poor, though some accounts suggest he may have kept much of his ill-gotten gains. Before being boiled in oil, he saved his infant son at the cost of his own life.
Jesse James – A Wild West outlaw who supposedly robbed from the rich and gave to the poor (in reality his crimes only profited himself and his gang).
Juraj Jánošík – Slovak outlaw living in the Tatra mountains, defending Carpathian peasants from the tyranny of Hungarian landlords
Casey Jones – United States, railroad engineer who remained in his locomotive and died in a collision while braking in order to save his passengers and sounding the whistle to warn the crew of the other train
Kaluaiko'olau – United States - Hawaiian who evaded deportation for leprosy by hiding in the Hawaiian rain forests
Pemulwuy - Australia, an aboriginal resistance leader.
Ustym Karmaliuk – Ukrainian counterpart of Robin Hood, who led a peasant rebellion
Ned Kelly – Australia, Bush ranger and Leader of the 'Kelly Gang,' most famous for crafting bullet proof armor.
Ned Ludd – Britain, leader of the Luddites in the 1810s
Louis Mandrin - France, bandit of the 18th century liked by the population because he attacked the tax collectors
Prince Marko – Serbia and Bulgaria, a Serbian prince and son of a ruler of Macedonia and most powerful nobleman of Serbian empire, who lived during time of Ottoman invasion, known for opposing the conquerors in his sovereign lands, and a source of many epic poems.
Jack Mary Ann – a folk hero from the Wrexham area of north Wales whose fictionalised exploits continue to circulate in local folklore.
James Mckenzie – New Zealand, outlaw and inspiration to landless immigrants in early colonial New Zealand
Juan Moreira - Legendary Argentine outlaw, famed as a skillful knife fighter he is considered one of the most important figures in Argentine history
Mohamed Bouazizi - Tunisian fruit vendor who immolated himself in protest of government mistreatment and sparked a successful revolution in that country and the Arab Spring
Yue Fei – China, general in the Jin–Song wars, his role in the war was exaggerated by later folk legends
Paul Revere - an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution whose 'Midnight Ride' warned of the arrival of the British.
Samuel Steele - Canada, an mountie who bring peace to Canada West, and the Yukon for laws and order.
Big Joe Mufferaw- Canada, a larger than life French Canadian woodsman took his life as a lumberjack in Ottawa.
Joan of Arc- A peasant girl who led the French in the Hundred Years' War after she claimed saints told her it was God's will. Burned as a heretic she became a martyr, folk hero, and eventually a saint. She is now one of the patron saints of France.
Hekimoğlu Turkish folk hero who led a campaign against feudal lords.