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Good Samaritan

Part of being a Hero is taking up arms to fight the wicked and righting wrongs, even (or perhaps especially) when no one else will. Some even have to fight the people they want to help, but a rare few can count on the help of a Good Samaritan.

The Good Samaritan is a character who, despite owing nothing to the hero helps them when they're at their weakest, often at risk or cost to themselves. There are many variations, but they generally follow this form: a wounded hero wanders in, while others pass him by (or even further harm the hero), the Samaritan takes him in, tends his wounds and extends as much hospitality as she's able. This has the bonus of roping the hero into owing her a debt and giving him a reason to stick around the Adventure Town and fight off the Corrupt Corporate Executive threatening the Samaritan. Also, in a pinch, she makes an excellent Love Interest what with having proven she's got a heart of gold. (Good Samaritans who do not complicate the hero's life like that may come across as a Deus ex Machina.)

Not coincidentally, the Samaritan is almost always a part of the blue collar or underclass of society. There's almost no such thing as rich Samaritans in fiction. (Of course, in reality, one usually needs money if he wants to make any real difference donating to a legitimate charity, let alone starting one.) Interestingly, this is despite a pertinent aspect to the original Biblical story that is often overlooked: "No-one would have remembered the Good Samaritan if he'd had only good intentions. He had money as well."

If the Samaritan follows the protagonist into the męlée, expect her to be an Action Survivor to his Action Hero. Often overlaps with The Chick, Innocent Bystander, Determined Homesteader, and Heroic Bystander.

A nasty subversion is that the Samaritan hasn't taken in a Hero, but a Viper intent on doing him harm. If the villain the Samaritan helps is instead confused and curious at their generosity, it may lead to the Samaritan becoming their Morality Pet prior to a Heel-Face Turn.

A lot of Superheroes are considered to be Good Samaritans taken Up to Eleven.

The Trope Namer is one of Jesus' parables from The Bible, in which an Israelite is mugged and left injured and naked on the side of the road. Several of his own people (including a priest) simply walk past, and the only person who helps him is a Samaritan. However, this parable carried some racial and cultural baggage lost to modern audiences. To Israelites, Samaritans were a hostile if not enemy peoplenote . So when the traveler falls on the wayside and the only one to help him is an enemy of his people, it carried a humanizing message akin to Dark Is Not Evil (certainly, a story where a Samaritan was portrayed in a positive light would have been a shock to the likely audience that Jesus was telling it to); the modern day equivalent might be a Palestinian stopping to help an Israeli, or vice versa. The closest trope to the above moral is probably I Was Just Passing Through. To further complicate the story, the Israelites passed by the wounded man because the Sabbath was beginning and it would be laborious to carry the man to safety, or in the case of the priest, falling back on the excuse that he could reasonably assume the man was dead and that being in contact with corpses was a gross impurity for a priest. The Samaritan story shows that goodness is more important than blindly following the law. In many modern uses of this trope, the Samaritan will protect and heal the hero even if the hero is explicitly a hunted fugitive.

Sub-Trope of A Friend in Need. See also Samaritan Syndrome. Compare with Bad Samaritan, this character's moral opposite.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Winry's parents were doctors who treated people on both sides of the Ishvalan War. This didn't end well for them. They were the first victims of Scar's Roaring Rampage of Revenge after he woke up surrounded by Amestrians and assumed, incorrectly, that he had been taken prisoner.
  • Rin stopped to help Sesshoumaru when he was wounded after a fight with InuYasha. He later repaid the favor when his sword, Tenseiga, demanded that he bring her back to life. She became his Morality Pet and he went from full-on villain to Aloof Big Brother.
  • Rakushun found Yoko almost dead in The Twelve Kingdoms, and after he helped her they ended up hanging together.
  • This is the backstory of Hakkai and Gojyo in Saiyuki. Coming home from the bar one night, Gojyo tripped over a very badly injured Hakkai; Gojyo took him home, got him a doctor, and spent a month nursing him back to health. Unsurprisingly they're good friends now.
  • Nurse Joy in Pokémon (all of them). Her services are free to anyone who needs them, and the only time she's ever had to turn someone away from a Pokémon Center is because it was overcrowded. (Exactly where she gets her funding is a mystery, but then, her family does seem very large...)

Comic Books
  • Jaime Reyes encountered one of these just after the events of Infinite Crisis when his Clingy MacGuffin dumped him naked in the desert.
  • The origin of the superhero Plastic Man involved a gangster named "Eel" O'Brien who got shot during a robbery and was abandoned by his gang- but was found by a monk who helped him recover in his monastery. By the time he was healthy, O'Brien had changed into a good person who used his newfound powers to fight crime.

Film
  • Zeus Carver from Die Hard with a Vengeance doesn't know anything about John McClane other than he's a white man in Harlem wearing nothing but a racist sandwich board sign. Despite being a rather unrepentantly bitter and biased man when it comes to white people, he saves him from a gang. Not that he necessarily wanted him to live, but he was afraid of what would happen if a white guy was killed on his block. Throughout the film, Simon Gruber calls him "The Samaritan".
  • Michael in Underworld is a very good samaritan. In the opening firefight he risks leaving safe cover to help a woman who got shot. Later, when Selene basically kidnaps him, holds him at gunpoint, and crashes the car they're in into a river, he pulls her up, swims to shore, gives her CPR and bandages her wound. Is it any wonder they develop an awkward relationship afterwards?
  • Firefly: "Shepherd Book always said, if you can't do something smart, do something right."
  • In Groundhog Day, once Phil is resigned to the fact that he can't escape the loop and has grown to accept it, he starts doing good deeds, doing them over and over, and adding new ones as he finds new opportunities each day. He saves a boy from falling, saves a man in a restaurant from choking, he buys enough insurance from Phil to help Phil meet his quota (which becomes even more amazing when you realize that this is February 2nd), and so on. Eventually, the whole town loves him, and when he finally becomes such a selfless person that Rita truly falls in love with him, he escapes the loop.
  • The leading male in Cellular helps the female lead simply because he's the only one who can. She randomly dialed out on a broken phone and the odds of her being able to get an actual number again without being caught are slim to none. He then runs around all day, stealing cars, shooting guns, fighting with the Dirty Cop squad, and generally getting "in deep shit!" And he never quits.
  • An interesting use in Training Day: The hero stops to rescue a little girl, and gets a Laser-Guided Karma reward for it later. The twist? The hero is an on-duty police officer, and only in the Crapsack World he's just stumbled into could the rescue be considered a noteworthy act.
  • The Blind Side has a rare example of a rich samaritan. Leigh Anne helps Michael Oher, a homeless black student at her children's school, by giving him a home, tutoring, and general emotional and vocational support to enter the football team.
  • In Treasure Planet, Jim goes to help Bones after he crashlands.
  • ''A Patch Of Blue": Often cited as a Cinderella story, the film is a better example of a Good Samaritan story, with Gordon, a black man, breaking taboo by helping an blind white girl escape from her abusive mother.
  • In X-Men: First Class, Charles as a kid generously offers food and a place to stay to a hungry and homeless young Raven.

Literature
  • Haidee in Lord Byron's Don Juan.
  • In Neverwhere, Richard Mayhew chose to help the badly wounded Door, who was to all the world above a bleeding bum, despite his shrewish girlfriend insisting he leave her so he could meet her boss. This act of kindness backfired rather badly on him, as it made him fall out of perception. Still, it did get him a far more satisfying life (and a Magical Girlfriend!)
  • The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted. The hero, Jim diGriz, encounters an entire planetful. He wasn't lucky to find a safehouse by randomly knocking, any door would have done.
  • In The Quest for Saint Aquin, a Catholic priest is attacked and left subconscious by the road. Two people walk by; he can tell by various clues that they are also Catholic. He is helped by a Jew — who observes a little tartly that he is not a Samaritan.
  • Old Horghuz and several other tribeless wanderers help out Temujin and his family in Wolf of the Plains when they are exiled from their own clan. Hence the following passage when Tolui kills some of them:
    [Temujin] knew in a moment of revelation that they had been his tribe, his family. Not by blood, but by friendship and a wider bond of survival in a hard time. He accepted their revenge as his own.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files novel Dead Beat, Kumori stops to revive a random dying stranger. What makes this so peculiar is that performing Necromancy rots the mind such that she should not have been performing good deeds if she could perform so powerful a spell.
  • In Les Misérables, the act that righted Jean Valjean back into heroism was a parish priest he had just robbed from covering for him to the cops who had caught him, and giving him more. The dumbfounding degree of kindness shown gave him a good Heroic BSOD and helped him avoid truly becoming a criminal.
    • Following the example set by the priest, Valjean later becomes a Good Samaritan to several of the other characters, including Fantine, Cosette, Marius, and even Javert.
  • In Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood: His Odyssey, Dr. Peter Blood is arrested for giving medical aid to rebels, even though he wants no part in the actual rebellion.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men, early in the book Sing returns back late from an afternoon expedition and then leaves after the meal. It turns out he helped a shipwrecked man in that interval.
  • For the titular character of Beachwalker, acting as a Good Samaritan is her entire identity and reason to live.
  • In Devon Monk's Dead Iron, Cedar looks for a missing boy from a town that treats him like dirt.
  • In Michael Flynn's In the Lion's Mouth, a Good Samaritan gives Dominic Tight "booster" after the ambush injured him. Only when he reads the directions does he realize that the man is not a Confederal agent, but from their foes, the League.
  • Lori and her family play the Good Samaritan to the man they find collapsed in their driveway at the beginning of Aunt Dimity's Christmas; Willis Sr. even calls out an RAF helicopter to airlift the man to hospital when the roads are blocked by snow.
  • An interesting example in Isaac Asimov's Three Laws Of Robotics: The second part of the First Law says that a robot may not, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm. In other words, all robots are programmed to be Good Samaritans. This idea is frequently played with in his stories.
    • One of Asimov's "Black Widowers" stories is called "The Good Samaritan", and focuses on a victim trying to locate her Good Samaritan helper to repay him.

Live-Action Television
  • Deconstructed in a sketch on That Mitchell and Webb Look, which reenacted Jesus teaching of the parable to his disciples. One of them interrupts to rail against the implications of Positive Discriminationof course a Samaritan stopped to help, they're perfectly lovely people, they'd give you the shirts off their backs. Why would you automatically assume that someone from Samaria would walk straight past a man in need?
  • Edith Keeler from the classic Star Trek: The Original Series episode "City on the Edge of Forever" embodies this trope perfectly. She runs a soup kitchen for the homeless and downtrodden in Depression-era New York and truly believes in the inherent goodness of man. So of course, she's fated to die.
  • In the Doctor Who serial Frontios, the Doctor is trying to obey the rules about non-intervention when he sees there are wounded.
  • In the Supernatural episode "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" (S09, Ep01), a pickup truck driver believes Castiel is dehydrated or mentally ill and gives him a lift to a service station as well as some cash to make a phone call and buy a sandwich.
  • In The Flesh played this almost Biblically straight with Dean and Ken. Dean is put into a zombie pen because he was bitten, even though by then he and his friends in the HVF knew bites weren't contagious. Being a diabetic, he needed something to eat to keep his blood sugar up. He asks a boy and an old woman for help; the boy tells him off and the old woman spits in his face. When Ken walks by, he's the only one to actually help him, much to Dean's shame after he aided Bill when he killed Ken's wife.

Real Life
  • The Red Cross. If you put your field hospital or even field medics under the protection of the Red Cross sign, you are obliged to help anyone.
  • Any doctor who is deserving of his or her degree is supposed to be a Good Samaritan. That's the whole point of the Hippocratic Oath.
  • During World War II's North African Campaign, field hospitals on both sides would treat wounded without distinction by uniform.
  • Most Western militaries will treat enemy wounded.
  • Many countries try to encourage this behavior by implementing Good Samaritan Laws. In the United States and Canada, civilians helping people in need are protected from liability if they acted rationally and with good intentions, while in Europe it is a crime to ignore a person in danger.

Tabletop Games
  • This is how a character with the Charity Virtue in the New World of Darkness regains Virtue - by stepping forward to help somebody who needs it at significant risk or cost to the self. Examples might include an untrained man running into a gunfight to pull a child to safety, a woman who gives her last twenty to a homeless man even though she needs to buy supplies for an upcoming fight, or similar.
  • The Book of Exalted Deeds for the Dungeons & Dragons setting has rules for playing ascetic characters, who are supposed to act like this; by taking the Vow of Poverty Feat and never violating it (which means voluntary poverty) and giving everything valuable to charity, these characters gain potent Exalted abilities.
  • In the Planescape campaign, there's a small group (well, rather large for any group not big enough to be a full-fledged Faction) called the Ring-Givers who believe that everything that you give to others will eventually come back to you, and that you only get as good as you give. Members of this group provide charity to others, and live by accepting it from others. (No easy feat in this setting, where most folks believe that Every Man Has His Price.). Most members are, indeed, Good Samaritans, but unfortunately, there are plenty of Bad Samaritans in the group too.

Video Games
  • In the beginning of Red Dead Redemption, Marston is shot and left for dead in front of a bandit hideout. Bonnie risks her life to rescue him, and then takes him back to her ranch to treat his wounds. Even though she isn't seeking any sort of payment, a grateful Marston spends much of the game repaying her kindness by helping her keep her ranch safe.
  • Litchi Faye-Ling in BlazBlue tends to help those who are mostly ignored, such as Linhua when she first arrived to Orient Town and ignored by the majority, or for the Kaka clan who are doomed to extinction with nobody to care about, and especially on Arakune, whom everyone else considers a 'lost cause'. She ends up getting tangled with a Bad Samaritan (Hazama) and was Forced Into Evil, but at that point, when she met a distraught Carl, who is supposed to be none of her business at best, enemy at worst, she willingly lets him cry on her hug until he calms down and calls out Relius' parenting skills when he appears, regardless if he's supposed to be her boss.
  • Disgaea 4 - This trope resulted in Artina being executed by her own countrymen because she dared to be nice to Judge Nemo, who was a prisoner of war at the time.
  • This is sort of a staple of Pokémon. While the game has lots of merchants and guys who trade you stuff, there's also plenty of NPCs who give you things for free, if you simply talk to them, everything from Technical Machines, Hold Items, and Evolution Stones. The most recent games, Pokémon X and Y takes this Up to Eleven, where you can get a Lapras and a Lucario (two powerful Pokémon) as gifts with no strings attached.
    • A Pokémon that fits the Trope is Delibird. Most of its PokéDex entries claim that it shares the food it stores in its tail to travelers that are lost and hungry in snowy mountains.
  • Dark Souls: "Benevolent Invasions" are a rare but documented phenomenon among the playerbase. Usually, an Invader attacks whoever he invades for the purpose of killing them and gaining humanity from them. Thus, players who are already weak and struggling are easy targets. But some Invaders, upon entering a struggling player's game, will not attack and will instead drop useful items before banishing themselves away. There is absolutely no reward for doing this in-game; the only reason to do so would be out of the goodness of one's heart.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • In Family Guy, in a flashback, Peter was driving down the road when he stopped and a stray dog/bum came up and did his windows. Peter wasn't happy. After talking with the dog, Peter offered to take him home for some dinner. And that is how Brian and Peter met.
  • Phineas and Ferb not only often help their friends, but also complete strangers they've only just met.
  • In The Simpsons, Ned Flanders may have fallen victim to the Trope named for him, but he and his family has honestly acted like this several times, such as in "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?" when they help Homer's homeless brother Herb when he shows up at their house by mistake.
  • In the very poignant episode of Batman: The Animated Series "It's Never Too Late", there was Father Michael, the brother of aging crime boss Arnold Stromwell. Michael saved Arnold from being run over by a train when they were kids, and lost his leg in the process, and in the present day, still tries to help his brother see reason and agree to Batman's terms after the new crime boss Rupert Thorne is set on killing him. (Stromwell asks Michael why he even bothers helping him, reminding him that he lost his leg the first time, implying that he blames himself for it.)

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