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Gold! GOLD! Eheheheh!
A character who searches for mineral resources, traditionally gold.
The profession of prospector is actually quite an old one, for as soon as humans understood that there were valuable minerals to be had, some of them spent their lives looking for new supplies. But it came into its own in The Wild West, with its large tracts of unexplored land.
In particular, the California Gold Rush brought many people west to seek their fortune. (See Forty Niner for this specific incident.) After the initial gold rush was over, some miners stubbornly refused to quit the profession and spread over the Western territories. At first, gold and silver were the desired commodities, but later oil, radium and uranium became the hot items to search for.
The stereotypical image of the Prospector is an older man dressed in faded work garb, with a grey beard, missing teeth, a pickaxe and a trusty mule or burro. (Find a picture of Gabby Hayes in costume. Like that.) He'll be subject to intense bouts of Gold Fever, wild celebration when he does find a rich deposit, and suspicion of anyone who gets too close to his claim.
Typical plotlines include: "Claim jumpers" try to get the prospector out of the way by swindle or force to steal his claim; a dying prospector gives the protagonist a map to his lost mine; a "worthless" claim turns out to be extremely valuable because there's a different mineral than what was expected.
See also Mountain Man.
- In the story "The Electric Man" in Strange Adventures #54 (published by DC Comics), an old-fashioned prospector looking for gold shares a waterhole with a young scientist prospecting for "earth power."
- As seen in the works of Carl Barks and Don Rosa, Scrooge McDuck did some prospecting in the Yukon territory on his way to becoming the richest duck in the world.
- Bearded prospectors with ten-gallon hats made many, many appearances in Lucky Luke.
- "And no sidewindin', bushwackin', hornswagglin' cracker croaker is gonna rowway BISICUTTER!"
- Walter Huston's character in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a classic example.
- Spoofed in the 1958 B-Movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, where a stereotypical grizzled prospector is seen carrying a Geiger counter and griping to his mule about how everyone wants uranium instead of gold these days.
- The protagonists of Pale Rider (except the Preacher) are part of a prospecting camp.
- Spur in The Man from Snowy River covers this and the Mountain Man trope, complete with a bushy, unkempt beard and typically rough clothing. His stubborn insistence that his mine will one day pay out is Played for Laughs throughout the first film, and vindicated in the second, which reveals that shortly after his death a motherlode of gold was discovered there.
- Tell Sackett more or less stumbles into becoming a prospector in Louis L'Amour's novel Sackett.
- There's an unnamed Old Man (well, two of them, maybe, the evidence is inconclusive) in The Belgariad who works as one of these (or at least claims to).
- What Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars was doing in Arizona when he got transported to Mars.
- The live rehearsal version of a never aired SNL skit on the best of Will Ferrell DVD featured an old prospector named Gus Chiggins who was embedded with an US army unit that was headed to Afghanistan.
- "The Prospector" is a character who serves as the narrator for several of the Deadlands supplements.
- This is one of the professions in the Settlers series of computer games.
- The MECC game The Yukon Trail, unsurprisingly, is all about prospectors.
- Stinky Pete from Toy Story 2, especially the behavior of his marionette in the Show Within a Show.
- Good old Yukon Cornelius from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
- Yosemite Sam has played claim jumpers in a couple of Looney Tunes shorts.
- Inspector Gadget met a paranoid prospector who assumed that everyone was after his gold.
- The Lone Ranger sometimes masqueraded as a prospector, referred to as "Old Prospector".
- Some fantasy dwarves will do this, although most seem to prefer working already-established mines with their brethren.
- There is a restaurant chain called "The Claim Jumper."