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Humble Hero
"If I wanted all the glory... I wouldn't wear a mask."

This is a special kind of hero who just doesn't care about their great power, or the fact that they're a world famous adventurer, or the idol of millions, and so on. Despite the great power they possess, they always defer to their friends or allies, and rarely want to take the spotlight, even when their friends encourage them to do so. This isn't caused by low self-esteem nor by guilt. The character honestly and truly doesn't think of himself as any better than anyone else, despite the great deeds they've done, or the inspiration they've become. In fact, such praise usually just embarrasses them. Tends to overlap with the All-Loving Hero as humility is usually one of their defining character traits and the Magnetic Hero as it's their humility to endears them into the hearts of everyone around them. Also usually a charcter trait of The Paragon as this type of hero wishes to set the example that power rest in the hands of everyone.

The traditional line for this sort of hero is "I was just doing my job" or "It was what anybody would have done" or "I'm Not a Hero, I'm...".

This is often a main characteristic of The Cape. See also Heroic Self-Deprecation, where the hero acts humble because he thinks he's a loser. Can turn into Martyr Without a Cause when taken to ridiculous extremes. Opposite of the Glory Seeker.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Tenma in Monster, who never takes credit for his good deeds and maintains that all people are equal despite conspicuously being better than everybody else in every imaginable way.
  • Ippo Makunouchi from Hajime No Ippo. Aaaaaaw, Ippo.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann's own Simon, who sees himself as nothing more than "Simon the Digger."
  • Ranka Lee from Macross Frontier remains modest even after becoming a super-star, and claims that saving people's lives with her songs isn't anything special.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger is considered to be mostly a joke of a superhero by his bosses and by people who watch HeroTV. Nonetheless, not only does he refuse to quit, but he insists on putting his heart and soul in superheroics, to the point that he gets a bit irritated when others don't show the same devotion to their jobs. When Karina/Blue Rose is struggling over her own priorities, she decides to ask him what makes him stick to it despite the frustrating, thankless nature of the job. His answer?
    Kotetsu: I'm a hero because I want to save people. Isn't that enough of a reason? I don't really care if anyone acknowledges me or not.
  • Takiko Okuda of Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden. (Overlapping, at least initially, with Refusal of the Call and consistently with Heroic Self-Deprecation.)
  • Despite their obsessional attitude towards training and breaking their own limits the heroes of Dragon Ball never bother about fame and being recognizable. Although later they are quite annoyed by Mr. Satan's Fake Ultimate Hero behavior they never make any attempt to correct the official version and eventually in GT give him the role of the leader convincing people to evacuate from Earth.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Touma Kamijou saves anybody in trouble he sees and has even saved the world a few times, but he doesn't care at all that nobody really notices his efforts.

    Comicbooks 
  • Being a reporter in his Secret Identity, there is no way that Superman is unaware of how the world views him. But he's denied being the world's greatest hero multiple times, usually remarking that The Real Heroes are the people who work to change the world every day who have no special powers. Humility is one of the character's core traits. Batman notes in one issue of Batman/Superman that the temptation to use his powers in order to force his will on others isn't something Superman battles, because the thought never even occurs to him. And that, more than his powers, makes Superman such a great hero.
  • While he would rather devote his free time to saving more lives, Samaritan of Astro City attends tribute dinners and accepts awards only because he doesn't want to hurt the feelings of the people who give them to him.
  • Lucky Luke, probably inspired by the same Western trope as The Lone Ranger (see below). He never stays around after the problem is solved, when the townspeople (or sometimes the president of the United States) want to reward him for his heroic feats.
  • Captain America, and to be honest, that's the Aesop to his character. Captain America embodies what he believes to be the idyllic and optimal standards of his countrymen. If he believed he were better than everyone else, his principles would be wrong by default.
  • In Before Watchmen: Minutemen, Silhouette saves hundreds of children from exploitation, and yet never expects any adulation for it. This is sharply contrasted with the Silk Spectre, who actually hires people to pretend to rob jewelry stores so that she can very publically "thwart" them and look like a hero.

    Fan Works 
  • Racer and the Geek gives us Sunny Breeze, a badass veteran and unsung hero with a tendency towards self-depreciation.
  • The uncle of Songs Uncle Sings is like this.
  • Greg from Friendship Is Optimal Always Say No is very modest about his heroic actions, and quick to pass them off as nothing special.
  • Surprisingly, Stormfront from Stories From The Front. Surprisingly, because as a nymphomaniac Pegasus mare, she's exactly the sort of character whom one would expect to boast, but she doesn't — about anything. Save by implication, and only to her own diary.
  • In Bait and Switch Lieutenant Commander Reshek Gaarra got a medal for saving the USS Spruance from a warp core breach, but he doesn't consider what he specifically did to be all that noteworthy, even though his captain did.
    "I knew enough to operate a welding torch and reseal the coolant line and I suppose they considered that worth a medal."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Sandlot, the fact that Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez is the best baseball player in the neighborhood isn't something he particularly cares about; he just loves playing the game with his friends. In fact, the first thing he does when he knocks the cover off a baseball is berate himself for ruining their last one.
  • The eponymous gunfighter in Shane refuses to be held up as a hero by the people he helps, and outright tells young Joey Starrett that the real heroes are people like the boy's parents, who are struggling to make a new life on the prairie.
  • Peter Parker/Spider-Man as portrayed by Tobey Maguire in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Trilogy even though he temporarily acts like a Big Name, Big Ego Jerkass in the third movie as a side-effect of the alien symbiont.
  • Steve Rogers' humility in Captain America: The First Avenger is his defining trait and a major contributor to why Dr Erskine chose him for the experiment.
    Red Skull: What makes you so special?
    Captain America: Nothing. I'm just a kid from Brooklyn.
  • Padme is like this in The Phantom Menace. Boss Nass is reluctant to ally himself with the Naboo because they have more-or-less treated the Gungans as an inferior species for years. So she doesn't bother trying to make excuses for it; she simply kneels and pleads with him for his help. Fortunately, it works.

    Literature 
  • Harry Potter is mostly like this. Ron and Hermione have to convince him to teach them Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry hates being famous for having survived the night of his parent's murder, hates being on the front page all the time, has to be brow-beaten into giving an interview despite the fact that giving it would help him, and doesn't want much to do with the Ministry of Magic and their propaganda plans, either.
    • Of course, a lot more than just humility is at work there. Any time his name appears in the paper, he has to deal with people pointing and whispering wherever he goes for the next few weeks. And it can't exactly be fun being remembered for surviving something that killed your parents when you were just a baby. It's true Harry's no glory hound, but looking at the price of his glory, who would be?
    • Severus Snape refuses to believe that Harry is this and had him pegged as a Glory Hound with a swelled head even before he ever met Harry, thanks to Harry's strong resemblance to his former Jerk Jock who Took a Level in Kindness father, who apparently did have a swelled head. Snape's willful ignorance of Harry's humility is a major reason the two had such a terrible relationship throughout the entire series even though Snape had made it his life's goal to protect Harry since he was also the son of the only woman Snape ever loved.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf describes the essence of heroism: "So it is often with great deeds. Small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere".
  • Captain Carrot of the Discworld is likely to be the King of Ankh-Morpork, (almost) never uses violence or lies, obeys orders, and pays for taking away items used as evidence. He's always described as being simple. The "Hero" part comes from the fact that "simple" isn't the same as "stupid".
  • In the X-Wing Series, Wedge is like this to a certain degree. He demurs when called the greatest pilot alive, calls himself "regular old Wedge Antilles", and doesn't mind being in the background. That said, he's supposedly got a huge ego which only shows at all a few times, and even then they are minor displays.
    • By Legacy of the Force, now, he's got the ego. Once he tells someone that they know he wasn't involved in a plan, because that plan failed. He doesn't fail even when he tries.
    • Justified. Character history has shown him to be generally "perfect", but he can recall someone who died by way of involvment in many of his tales. He feels intense guilt over what he does, but takes pride in it. A bit of a Tear Jerker to see a guy mentally torture himself for things that aren't his fault.
  • Aquilius in Dark Creed. He's a Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine, who are usually well aware that they're worth ten Guardsmen in a straight fight and cop a massive attitude about that. Instead, Aquilius remains humble and respectful of the Guard even when he's lauded as the White Angel and exaggerated stories of his deeds are used to keep the morale of the entire planet's military up. (It must be noted that he had to be ordered to let the stories spread.)
  • Honor Harrington, even after racking up an admiralty, uncounted medals, a wildly successful business enterprise, and a noble title in two different star nations, still gets flustered when someone decides to give her some new accolade.
  • Jake from Animorphs. From the very start of the series his friends look to him as their de facto leader, even though he is reluctant and sees nothing special about himself. He assumes command because the group needs and expects him to. After the war, the world looks to him as a famed hero, showering him with praise and admiration, but he definitely doesn't see himself as worthy of praise.
  • In Arthurian legend, Sir Gareth of Orkney comes in disguise as a kitchen boy who only asks food of King Arthur despite his noble appearance. He later gets knighted by Sir Lancelot by equaling him in combat and he later goes on the lady Lynette's quest to save her sister without revealing his noble blood for most of their journey and enduring her constant berating of his apparent kitchen boy status.
  • Wilbur from Charlotte's Web. His only reason to achieve fame and admiration from others with the help of Charlotte is so that Farmer Zuckerman would let the pig live out his days instead of killing him for food. "Humble" is even one of the words Charlotte wrote on her webs praising Wilbur.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars
    "I do not believe that I am made of the stuff which constitutes heroes, because, in all the hundreds of instances that my voluntary acts have placed me face to face with death, I cannot recall a single one where any alternative step to that I took occurred to me until many hours later. My mind is evidently so constituted that I am subconsciously forced into the path of duty without recourse to tiresome mental processes. However that may be, I have never regretted that cowardice is not optional with me."
  • Ruth Mallory of Someone Else's War genuinely thinks she's unintelligent and talentless, even though she's the one who puts an end to the evil army and makes it possible for the Child Soldiers to go home.
  • Saionji Kiyohiko of Stone King never really feels he did anything worthy of a title like 'Ishio, the Stone King of Ibaraki'.
  • Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain goes to great lengths to invoke this trope as part of his reputation. As Vail notes, however, he frequently seems to actually fit the role, without even noticing: he is astounded when targeted by assassins, when there are so many more crucial targets — neglecting to notice that his death would have horrific effects on morale — and when assigned to General Zyvan's staff, attributes his success in persuading the general to anything except that it's him who's doing the persuading.
  • Tortall Universe:

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Lone Ranger. People normally figured out it was he who solved their problems only after he left.
  • Hercules in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Not only is Hercules humble, but he is quite proud of his best friend Iolaus, being sure to point out to the attractive woman Iolaus is talking to that Iolaus has saved Hercules many times.
  • Captain Apollo from Battlestar Galactica. One of the good examples is shooting the marooned Cylon Red-Eye to save a town in the planet Equilus without any thought of recognition and leaves the planet soon afterwards.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor, although capable of extreme, often horrifyingly destructive displays of arrogance when pushed too far, is extremely humble compared to his own race, the Time Lords. He's even stated that he really only wants a quiet life of sightseeing with his friends.
  • Exploited in The Good Wife when Eli coaches A.D.A. Finn Polmar on a campaign interview. As a career campaign manager, Eli knows that humility plays well on TV, so he tells Finn to play straight the fact that he doesn't feel like a hero regarding the courtroom shooting where Will was killed.

    Video Games 
  • Even though he's a Silent Protagonist, (Super) Mario is usually characterized like this.
  • Mario's contemporary, Link from The Legend of Zelda is as well. Along with his trademark courage, being humble is generally his only canon personality trait.
  • Despite saving the world twice from invading aliens, Kurt the janitor from MDK 2 refuses the fame he has garnered and is perfectly content to continue his cleaning duties aboard the Jammy Dodger.
  • This is made into a sub-theme of Brütal Legend, where Eddie Riggs' profession as a roadie leads him to do all the saving-the-world work in the game, but defer all the credit to well-intentioned but functionally useless Rebel Leader Lars, echoing what he does in our world, where he does all the real work in managing the worst band in the world, but never shows his face.
  • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, Ike is the poster boy for this trope, eventually renouncing his title of nobility and going back to his humble roots.
    • Edward from Radiant Dawn also counts. Despite being a core member of the Dawn Brigade, having lived his life on the streets and barely survived, by the end he decides to be a simple commoner, against the wishes of Queen Micaiah.
    • Prince Seliph from Fire Emblem Seisen No Keifu is this too. He's always kind and almost a little shy when not fighting, and openly wonders if he's truly fit and strong enough to bring down The Empire. His cousin Leif from Thracia 776 is pretty similar, too.
      • And so is their companion, Ced, who remains kind and down-to-Earth while leading the Magi Squad and fighting for the freedom of the countries under the Grandbell tyranny. And when Seliph's group comes to recruit him, he even berates himself for not doing enough for the people in his eyes.
    • Even more so, Morva from The Sacred Stones. He both led the Five Heroes and dealed the fatal strike to Fomortiis the Demn King, but refused to take credit for his heroic actions and instead of founding his own nation like his friends, he led a quiet life taking care of both Caer Pelyn and the Darkling Woods alongside his adoptive daughter, Myrrh, who later joins Ephraim and Eirika's quests. (Sadly, by that time poor Morva... was killed and turned into a Draco Zombie. )
  • Zero of Mega Man X and Zero series qualifies, as he doesn't recall ever calling himself a hero. In addition, he openly claims that the world is in good (X's) hands, and that X will always be the better hero between the two of them. Yeah, you can see it: a humble Badass.
  • Mass Effect: Paragon Shepard is like this. A sufficiently noble Shepard will eventually get a mission to rescue drugged hostages wandering among the terrorists. If you manage to save every one of them, when Admiral Hackett calls back to thank you, you can tell him you were "just doing your job." Given what a Scrappy Level this mission is, that's one humble hero.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Miles "Tails" Prower is more humble than his speedy, blue friend.
  • In Disgaea 4, no matter what he accomplishes (be it starting a rebellion, defeating Badass Freakin' Overlord Zetta, or challenging God himself), Valvatorez will always insist he is merely a simple Prinny Instructor that relies on his comrades and the power of sardines.
  • T. Hawk from Street Fighter IV. He's become quite beloved by his people, the Thunderfoot tribe whose lands he recovered from M. Bison... but he has repeteadly refused to become the chieftain despite his merits, since he believes he's too inexperienced and young for such a task.
  • White Knight Chronicles: You. No, seriously. The game features an incredibly robust character creator that you use to create the "Avatar" character. In terms of the game, the avatar serves as Exactly What It Says on the Tin for online multiplay, but also tags along as a Heroic Mime for the main story quest. the story plays out and the avatar generally keeps silent, but is clearly with the main party in the cutscenes, despite being one the main players in a fight for the fate of the world. That is until the post-game final boss and Avatar Storyline DLC, in which you are the ONLY one able to save the world.
  • In Dawn Of The Dragons, the turnip-picking farmhand turned dragon-rider isn't exactly thrilled about his/her rising status as a Living Legend, but plays along to keep up morale.
  • Although Terry Bogard is known by his massive badassery all around the world (and sometimes even crossover universes), he doesn't boast about it half as much as he has right to. Many of his quotes in KOF XIII are borderline self-deprecating.
  • Star Trek Online: Ja'rod, son of Torg, captain of the IKS Kang and the first genuinely good member of the House of Duras we've ever met. In the backstory he was offered a seat on the Klingon High Council for his exploits but refused:
    "Until I have fully proven my worth to the Empire, I do not deserve to be in your number. I will return to Qo'noS as a hero, or not at all."

    Webcomics 
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Bob once got a Congressional Medal of Honor for saving the world. He keeps it on his mantle, tends to forget it's there, and most of his neighbors don't seem to realize he has it.

    Western Animation 
  • Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man, frequently has chances to snatch up glory in both his personal and superhero life. He avoids such chances, not only because of risk but because he's just not that kind of guy. Still snarky, though.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Twilight Sparkle is the personal student of the local God Empress, perhaps the most powerful unicorn alive, and has personally been involved in saving the world on two separate occasions. Despite all this, she doesn't brag and actually gets a bit timid when her assistant Spike brags about her. She seems more interested in learning about magic and spending time with her True Companions.
    • Although she is still an Insufferable Genius.
      • An extremely minor case, as she's more inclined to use her smarts to help others, rather than lording over them.
    • Twilight retains her humble nature even after she is turned into an alicorn princess.
  • Kim Possible fights supervillains and saves the world as a hobby, but plays it down whenever she gets attention for it, and when a movie producer decides to make a film about her, it doesn't seem to have ever occurred to her that her adventures would be worth retelling.
  • Bugs Bunny can sometimes be this, or at least act the part. In his earlier cartoons he tended to be an Attention Whore with Jerk Ass tendencies, but those traits were handed over to Daffy Duck, and Bugs became much humbler, even if he did take a casual level of pride in his fame and fortune that annoyed Daffy to no end. (Of course, this being Bugs, it's just as likely that he's annoying Daffy on purpose.) In one short, a mad scientist tries to take his brain:
    "Sorry, Doc, but I need what little I've got."
  • Shadow Raiders: Graveheart who has kept The Alliance together in their war against The Beast, his catchphrase is "I'm just a miner".
  • Saint Walker from Green Lantern: The Animated Series, when asked who he is when first meeting Kilowog, introduces himself as "merely a conduit of hope." This is of course, right after he takes down a giant Red Lantern battleship with a single punch.
  • Mike Chilton in Motorcity has done a lot of good for the residents of the titular underground civilization is somewhat famous (infamous in Detroit Deluxe) for it, but is still very down to earth about his accomplishments.
  • Optimus Prime in Transformers is this in his many incarnations.
  • In the Spiral Zone episode "Profiles in Courage", a reporter tries to get each of the Zone Riders to describe his/her own heroism. Instead, they praise their teammates and the brave civilians who have helped them out. Lampshaded when the frustrated reporter asks Dirk "Don't you people ever talk about yourselves?"; Dirk's response is a Little "No".

    Real Life 
  • Cincinnatus: In 458 BC, when the Romans needed someone to lead them during their war with the Aequians and the Sabines, they gave retired-Senatory-turned-farmer Cincinnatus absolute dictatorial authority when it came to dealing with the situation. Sixteen days later, after winning the war, he resigned as absolute ruler of Rome and went back to his farm. Twenty years later, in 439 BC, when the Romans were at war with the Plebians and again needed effective leadership, they again gave Cincinnatus absolute power, and again, as soon as the crisis was over, he gave it back and went back to farming.
  • The 1st American President, George Washington. After the Constitution was written he was selected as the first president unanimously by the Electoral College and while various parties thought up ideas like fancy garments and royal titles, Washington himself insisted on setting a precedent of humility, dressing in standard gentleman's attire (for the time) and came up with and enforced the simple term, "Mr. President." He was reluctant to take a second term as President but did when asked, again being elected unanimously. However he flat out rejected a third term, setting a precedent for two term presidents (something that would only be written into law a century and a half later when FDR finally broke the precedent) and retired to his plantation. As a Cultured Badass, he was greatly inspired by Cincinnatus.
  • Einar Gerhardsen, Norwegian prime minister for eighteen years. He was known for his modest living - he lived in a flat at the eastern part of Oslo, not having a standard that surpassed any other citizen at the time. When he visited a factory or industrial plant, he made a point in making small talk with the workers, stressing the point that he was one of them - and in fact, he started out as one. This tradition was not held up by later Labor prime ministers in Norway, who, rather than speak with the workers, preferred to speak to them.
  • Most if not all living recipients of the Medal of Honor, Victoria Cross or any other countries highest decorations for valor in combat insist they were just doing what they had to do, and there's nothing special about them.
    • Of particular note is Captain Charles Upham, the only combat soldier ever to earn the Victoria Cross twice. On being told of the award, his response: "It's meant for the men."
  • El Santo claimed in a newspaper interview that he was utterly confused about how he got so popular. To this day, almost thirty years after his death, he's still a legend.
  • By all means, Jackie Robinson was an example of this.
  • The donors behind the Kalamazoo Promise.
    • And, by extension, anyone that donates their time or money anonymously.
  • Just three words . . . Fred. Mother-F&*$cking. Rogers. Nuff Said.

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