Created By: Goldfritha on July 9, 2013 Last Edited By: Goldfritha on January 6, 2014

Loyal Guardsman

A soldier's chief motive is loyalty to his commander

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Many motives drive a soldier. One common one has been his personal loyalty to The Leader of the forces.

In the Middle Ages, the Feudal Future, a Samurai society, or other like societies, this is right and proper. A soldier's duty is to obey his leader, to seek Revenge for his death, to protect his lands and his family — as long as the leader is the proper Blue Blood who is entitled to it by birth. (Loyalty to upstarts may get the character more grief.) In plot terms, it provides even the Riches to Rags character with supporters for his future rise

In more professional forces, such as the Roman legions, the soldiers are expected to be loyal to more abstract concepts. This is treated as a problem, because it limits the higher-ups ability to freely move officers around and replace the dead or incompetent. Still it tends to appear, even if it does not go to full strength. A new officer often finds himself the Bait-and-Switch Tyrant for it.

Among mercenaries, this trope has variable effects. It gives them a motive other than money, but it can lead to atrocities if the commander orders them, or just doesn't care.

Usually the flip-side of A Father to His Men, and men with it also are Fire-Forged Friends with each other. A military form of Undying Loyalty.

Compare the Old Retainer. This trope is seldom concerned with any form of propiety except the necessity of protecting the superior.

Examples

Ballads
  • In Robin Hood and the Monk, one of the oldest recorded Robin Hood ballads, Little John rescues Robin from the monk's treachery, despite Robin's refusal just before to pay up on a bet. With Much the miller's son, he wheedles The Pardon from the king, who can do nothing when he learns the truth but praise Little John's loyalty.
  • In The King's Disguise, and Friendship with Robin Hood, the king in disguise is caught in the woods by Robin. He observes how Robin's men show him more courtesy than the king's show him.
    And when they came bold Robin before,
    Each man did bend his knee;
    "O," thought the king, "'tis a gallant thing,
    And a seemly sight to see."

    Within himself the king did say,
    "These men of Robin Hood's
    More humble be than mine to me;
    So the court may learn of the woods."
Film
  • Billy Fish from The Man Who Would Be King was loyal to a fault to his two bosses. When they are beset by an angry mob of natives that Peachy and Dravot duped, Billy steps up and covers their escape.
    Billy Fish: Gurkha foot soldier, not cavalry! Rifleman Majendra Bahadur Gurung wishing you many good lucks! [Draws kukri and charges the mob alone]
Literature
  • In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, Colonel Nilas Imfray's men come to rescue him from his death sentence for treason. One jestly tells him that it was his duty, that he hadn't heard he was removed; Imfray points out that it was proclaimed, and he claims to have suffered from a hearing problem ever since Imfray saved him from a rockfall, whereupon Imfray points out that hearing problems could take him out of the service.
  • Many of Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts are motivated by loyalty to Gaunt. Bragg at one point says they would, of course, jump off a cliff if Gaunt ordered it, asking if it's a trick question — though he was feigning stupidity at the time.
  • In Andre Norton's Forerunner Foray, the sensitive who revived Turan's body is greeted by a guard who tells him that he was in the army when Turan led it once, and finds some loyal men still, though they alert him that his most loyal forces were sent away by his malicious widow.
  • Beregond in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings toward Faramir, from the first moment when he sees the desperate retreat to the city. When Denethor's madness erupts, he regards it as disloyalty to him.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain series, Jurgen. As Cain's aide, it works even in the Imperial forces.
  • In Michael Flynn's Spiral Arm novel On the Razor's Edge, Donovan, by giving Five a name, wins over the magpies assigned to him, and by winning a Let's You and Him Fight bout with Eglay, wins him over.
  • The classic example would be a Barrayaran Armsman in Vorkosigan Saga. Or any Vor Lord to the Emperor; when a weapon is drawn in the presence of the Emperor in The Warrior's Apprentice, it causes a stampede toward the wielder, except for the lords nearest him, who throw themselves in the line of fire.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", after Conan realized that Salome was an imposter, and a fight ensued, during the After Action Patch Up, Valerius still feels obliged to babble to Ivga that they had not fought against the true queen Tamaris.
    Some of us grabbed up such weapons as we could and fought back. We hardly knew what we were fighting for, but it was against Constantius and his devils—not against Taramis, I swear it!
  • Lampshaded twice in Sharpe's Rifles.
    • First with Harper, caught out on his own and technically a prisoner of his own side for mutiny.
    Man in Black: I will give you one hundred guineas in gold, and safe passage to America.
    Patrick Harper: America? That'd be nice. But you see, the King of England, owes me last month's wages. And I'd never sleep easy in America knowing that that bastard owes me a shilling!
    Man in Black: You would die for a shilling?
    Harper: That's what I signed on to do
    • And later with Sharpe himself:
    Sharpe: Rise up? Do you really believe men will fight and die for a rag on a pole?
    Major Hogan: You do, Richard, you do.
  • In the Videssos Cycle, Gaius Philippus admits that this is the case regarding Scaurus, the commander of the Romans lost in Videssos. Not as much of a problem as it would normally be in the Legion, because they're cut off in another world.
  • Valentinian and Anastasius from the Belsiarius series are Belisarius' loyal bodyguards, who will do anything he orders them, unless they think it will negatively affect his safety.
  • The Companions from The General are Raj Whitehall's cadre of loyal officers, who will happily commit treason to keep him safe.
Live Action TV
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation a guest Klingon tells Worf that he (the guest Klingon) has x number of Klingon shops which are loyal to him and will follow him when he tries to overthrow the Klingon High Council.
  • Revolution: The episodes "Clue", "Children of Men", and "The Dark Tower" show that Major Mark Franklin's only motive is loyalty to General Bass Monroe. The fact that he remains loyal to Monroe, despite Monroe steadily losing his sanity is quite telling. Tom Neville kills him off once he takes over, because he feels that a Monroe loyalist is too dangerous to be left alive.
  • Farscape: Peacekeeper soldiers were loyal to their commanders above all else, as per their duty, which was explicitly stated in one episode. There was no particular state or governing authority which the Peacekeepers as a whole were subject to (although there was a High Command, they generally gave individual Peacekeeper commands a lot of latitude).
  • Atlantis has Ramos, Chief of Minos' Guards. His loyalty is exclusively to the king and the heir, something that turns out to be important in the season one finale.
  • Zoe is this to Mal Reynolds in Firefly. And so is the rest of the crew, to a lesser extent.

Myth and Legend

Tabletop Games
  • Occasionally seen in Warhammer 40K, where some officers of the Imperial Guard actually care about the men enough to earn their respect and loyalty (the vast majority rightfully see them as Cannon Fodder, with the infantry correspondingly (and accurately) seeing them as hopelessly inept at commanding and fighting).
    • Some Space Marines fell into this during the Horus Heresy: even though they could see their Primarch was turning rogue/going insane/falling to Chaos, they stayed with him anyway, feeling more loyal towards him than to the Emperor.

Webcomic


Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • July 10, 2013
    OlafMerchant
    Film

    • Billy Fish from The Man Who Would Be King was loyal to a fault to his two bosses. When they are beset by an angry mob of natives that Peachy and Dravot duped, Billy steps up and covers their escape.
      Billy Fish: Gurkha foot soldier, not cavalry! Rifleman Majendra Bahadur Gurung wishing you many good lucks! [Draws kukri and charges the mob alone]
  • July 10, 2013
    DAN004
  • July 10, 2013
    Goldfritha
    Undying Loyalty covers a lot more ground, including the superior's loyalty back, and the loyalty between the men.
  • July 11, 2013
    DAN004
    Explain more about the differences, then.
  • July 22, 2013
    jatay3
    I assume Loyal Guardsman is specifically about a personal soldier or other type of enforcer, My Master Right Or Wrong can be found in any kind of servant(though usually a guardsman as obviously a valet is unlikely to be told to do something evil anyway). And Undying Loyalty is just supertrope for characters who have a pronounced degree of loyalty.
  • July 22, 2013
    jatay3
    The classic example would be a Barrayaran Armsman in Vorkosigan Saga.
  • July 23, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In Star Trek The Next Generation a guest Klingon tells Worf that he (the guest Klingon) has x number of Klingon shops which are loyal to him and will follow him when he tries to overthrow the Klingon High Council.
  • July 23, 2013
    jatay3
    Grilka's bodyguard in DS 9, Looking for Parmach in all the Wrong Places is either a subversion or an aversion. He interferes with her relationship with Quark and insists on challenging him to a Dual.
  • July 29, 2013
    TiggersAreGreat
    Revolution: The episodes "Clue", "Children of Men", and "The Dark Tower" show that Major Mark Franklin's only motive is loyalty to General Bass Monroe. The fact that he remains loyal to Monroe, despite Monroe steadily losing his sanity is quite telling. Tom Neville kills him off once he takes over, because he feels that a Monroe loyalist is too dangerous to be left alive.
  • December 25, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    • Farscape: Peacekeeper soldiers were loyal to their commanders above all else, as per their duty, which was explicitly stated in one episode. There was no particular state or governing authority which the Peacekeepers as a whole were subject to (although there was a High Command, they generally gave individual Peacekeeper commands a lot of latitude).
  • December 26, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Occasionally seen in Warhammer 40 K, where some officers of the Imperial Guard actually care about the men enough to earn their respect and loyalty (the vast majority rightfully see them as Cannon Fodder, with the infantry correspondingly (and accurately) seeing them as hopelessly inept at commanding and fighting).
      • Some Space Marines fell into this during the Horus Heresy: even though they could see their Primarch was turning rogue/going insane/falling to Chaos, they stayed with him anyway, feeling more loyal towards him than to the Emperor.
  • January 5, 2014
    CrypticMirror
    • Atlantis has Ramos, Chief of Minos' Guards. His loyalty is exclusively to the king and the heir, something that turns out to be important in the season one finale.

    • Exiern has this apply to all the guards of King Urtica's court. They will obey his orders without question out of loyalty to his leadership no matter how dangerous the foe facing them. It takes serious magic to break that loyalty, and even on those rare occasions they still try to find ways to fight back.

    • Lampshaded twice in Sharpe's Rifles.
      • First with Harper, caught out on his own and technically a prisoner of his own side for mutiny.
      Man in Black: I will give you one hundred guineas in gold, and safe passage to America.
      Patrick Harper: America? That'd be nice. But you see, the King of England, owes me last month's wages. And I'd never sleep easy in America knowing that that bastard owes me a shilling!
      Man in Black: You would die for a shilling?
      Harper: That's what I signed on to do
      • And later with Sharpe himself:
      Sharpe: Rise up? Do you really believe men will fight and die for a rag on a pole?
      Major Hogan: You do, Richard, you do.
  • January 5, 2014
    Sligh_Br
    Zoe is this to Mal Reynolds in Firefly. And so is the rest of the crew, to a lesser extent.
  • January 6, 2014
    Dalillama
    Literature
    • In the Videssos Cycle, Gaius Philippus admits that this is the case regarding Scaurus, the commander of the Romans lost in Videssos. Not as much of a problem as it would normally be in the Legion, because they're cut off in another world.
    • Valentinian and Anastasius from the Belsiarius series are Belisarius' loyal bodyguards, who will do anything he orders them, unless they think it will negatively affect his safety.
    • The Companions from The General are Raj Whitehall's cadre of loyal officers, who will happily commit treason to keep him safe.
  • January 6, 2014
    CrypticMirror
    ^^ The Firefly example is problematic, they aren't in the Military. If this is a military trope, then it needs to be made clear that it is for people actually serving in a military. The bit about the crew needs chopping off at the very least, Zoe and Mal is probably okay since she follows him out of the military, but it needs to be clear that that is based on speculation and inference.
  • January 6, 2014
    Sligh_Br
    ^ The trope description specifically refers to mercenaries, so I think the Firefly crew is ok. Also, Mal is a Captain and the crew is most definitelly HIS men. Would the trope be suddenly innaplicable if we were talking about a pirate ship?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=01ch33lcu0bvavevhzgagdol