The White Knight by Walter Crane
"While evil flourishes and wrongs grow rank, while men are persecuted and women wronged, while weak things, human or animal, are maltreated, there is no rest for me beneath the skies, nor peace at any board or bed. Farewell!"
The medieval Knight Errant
stems from the Chivalric Romance
, where individual Knights In Shining Armor
would wander the land, searching for evil to slay
and ladies to rescue
, guided by the Damsel Errant
. Since then, knights have declined in popularity, but the Knight Errant is still around in full force — instead of knights, they are now often samurai, cowboys, or Samurai Cowboys
Historically a knight errant would refer to a landless knight who would travel with his lord in service and hope of earning his own land. If he is traveling because he was sent by someone it might be a case of My Master, Right or Wrong
Knights Errant have some or all of the following traits:
- They, by definition, have Chronic Hero Syndrome. They may or may not request compensation, but will always try to do the right thing.
- They have no fixed home, and spend their lives Walking the Earth (Errant means "wandering"). When they're finished smiting the local evil, they'll up and leave.
- They have a code of honor. If they are heroes, they can be a Knight in Sour Armor, but will always have some degree of idealism inside. On the rare occasion they're a villain, they're usually a Noble Demon or He Who Fights Monsters.
- They seek out wrongs to right, generally on a small scale — a town beset by bandits, a dragon preying on the locals, etc. Only occasionally will they be pitted against an Evil Overlord with earth-conquering ambitions. They often have one specific quest they are on, but you can count on them running into unrelated trouble along the way.
- They are loners. They do not have any True Companions and are not part of a Five-Man Band. They may travel with a squire or two, but not with peers; they leave allies behind when they leave town. Their love interests, if any, are left behind or bumped off by the bad guys.
- Sometimes, they are The Stoic, almost to the point of being less a character and more a physical incarnation of justice. They are very prone to having a Mysterious Past. This type generally overlaps with The Drifter.
- The classic Knight Errant of Chivalric Romance is often accompanied by his Distaff Counterpart and complement the Damsel Errant. He is seeking adventure and she knows where adventures are to be found.
There are many variations on the Knight Errant outside of Knights In Shining Armor
. The Western
very often stars a Knight Errant in the form of a wandering gunslinger
or cowboy. Samurai
are often, and Ronin
are almost always, Knights Errant. Wuxia
heroes are Knights Errant. Because of the shared archetype, stories about one type of Knight Errant
can easily be Recycled IN SPACE
— New Old West
and Space Western
are examples of this.
Compare The Drifter
, an accidental Knight Errant
See Knights Errant
for the webcomic
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Anime & Manga
- Ash Ketchum from Pokémon.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, this seems to be the job description of a Magister Magi.
- Kenshiro of Fist of the North Star is definitely one of these.
- As were Goku and his True Companions during the early parts of Dragon Ball.
- Tenma in Monster, especially as he decides to join the MSF.
- Porco Rosso's lead character does this for a living in his crimson seaplane.
- Rurouni Kenshin: Kenshin did this for ten years prior to the series, which starts with him temporarily suspending his Walking the Earth to stay in a dojo in Tokyo. His variation is that unless he's actively kicking butt, his looks, natural personality, and Obfuscating Stupidity work together to make sure nobody takes him seriously.
- Trigun: Vash the Stampede does this, too, with his Obfuscating Stupidity turned Up to Eleven. He's a little less formal about it than Kenshin, because he hasn't got a vow, this is just his lifestyle, and he only learned to fight out of necessity, so he doesn't have quite the same type of warrior ethos as a proper knight or samurai.
- Jin of Samurai Champloo, prior to the series. After objecting to his master's choices, he was forced to kill him in self-defense and flee. Rejecting bushido as a code that binds people to mindlessly follow villains and idiots, he wanders around Japan searching for a purpose until Fuu makes him her bodyguard.
- The Elric brothers seem like this at the beginning of Fullmetal Alchemist, before the wider-reaching plot arcs start up—they travel from place to place, righting wrongs and searching for leads on how to get their bodies back. Especially true in the 2003 anime version, which had a few extra filler episodes near the beginning that consisted almost entirely of the Elrics going somewhere, righting some wrong, and going along their merry way, with the episode tying in minimally or not at all to the long-term plot.
- Parn from Record of Lodoss War. He is known as the Free Knight because he officially holds loyalty to no kingdom and helps anyone in need, no matter their allegiance or nationality.
- Digimon: Gankoomon of the Royal Knights, according to supplemental materials, wanders the Digital World putting a stop to anything unusual, in-between mentoring the younger Hackmon. This makes it different from every other Royal Knight, who only ever show up when the Digital World's experiencing disaster, and as a result Gankoomon has a lot of friends all over. Gankoomon is working hard to pass on his title of knight to Hackman, for whatever reason.
- Miyamoto Usagi from Usagi Yojimbo.
- The titular character of Lucky Luke embodies this, to the point where the last panel of every album is him riding off into the sunset, singing I'm a lonesome cowboy.
- Dark Horse and Star Wars are coming out with a comic book series called Knight Errant. What's known is that it will have a lone Jedi Knight during the dark time before the final battle of Ruusan, where the Sith outnumber the Jedi, and the Republic has been whittled down to just the areas around the core. The lone Jedi will be going around to planets in the Sith zone and fighting the good fight.
- DCU's "The Warlord" seems to be based on this trope. Travis Morgan, aka "The Warlord", was a USAF lieutenant colonel who crash landed in Skartaris, a world inside the hollow Earth. A modern man injected into a world of sword & sorcery, he falls in love with and marries Tara, the warrior-queen of Shambhala. The character avoids a bad cliché by not becoming Skartaris’ leader and attempting to impose his values on it, but neither can he sit idly by at the royal court whilst knowing how much is 'wrong' in the rest of the world. As a result, he is constantly absent- journeying around Skartaris as a knight errant, enjoying the role of an adventurer far more than that of a king.
- Invoked by Gilbert in The Sandman, who insists upon being Rose Walker's "Knight Errant" in her search for her brother.
- The Ghost Rider has shades of this, depending on which verison of him you're dealing with, as well as who's writing the books at the time.
Live Action TV
- The A-Team, similarly: the knight-errant needs to be solitary.
- Angel: Parodied when Wesley attempts to be this when first introduced.
- In Doctor Who, the Doctor often fits this trope, even if he's not actively seeking wrongs to right, he seldom hesitates to get involved when he runs into one. He's had many companions, but they act more like "squires" than true partners and none of them stay with him forever. His sixth incarnation outright calls himself a Knight Errant at least once.
- Dr. Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap is a time-traveling Knight Errant who "strives to put right what once went wrong" one life at a time.
- Paladin, the protagonist of Have Gun — Will Travel.
- In The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Brisco and Lord Bowler fit this perfectly. Bounty hunters travelling the West looking for bad guys, and usually finding them.
- Both Gwaine and Lancelot at times in BBC's Merlin
- Sam and Dean in Supernatural fit this trope, especially the former. While they have some other overarching goals each season - finding their father in Season One, trying to negate Dean's contract in Season Three, averting the Apocalypse in Season Five, fighting the Leviathans in Season Seven - they always stop by in whatever wayward towns are being haunted even if they don't have personal reasons to, and deal with the supernatural threats there. Although they ARE involved in criminal activity - false credit cards, fake IDs - this is done for sustenance and to further their goals each time, as they don't get paid for their work. Other Hunters probably count as well - particularly John Winchester before his death, Bobby Singer, and Ellen & Jo Harvelle as of the Season Two finale.
- Seems like pretty much everyone in their line of work that doesn't stay in one fixed location (i.e. most of them, as hunters tend to leave messes behind, and there are only so many monsters in one location) have to engage in some level of criminal activity. Frequent ones are grave desecration and breaking and entering, but on the Headscratchers page for the series, it's been mentioned that the boys probably at least loot the corpses of those killed by the monsters they hunt. Gas isn't cheap.
- The Master, a show about an aging ninja master and his apprentice, traveling in a van and righting wrongs.
- Caine from Kung Fu.
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
- RPG adventuring parties aren't normally an example of this; a key part of this trope is that the knight is solitary. "Solo" campaigns, with a single player and a DM, are not uncommon however.
- Bretonnia, one of the factions in Warhammer Fantasy Battles, has a unit type called Knights Errant, representing the young, impetuous knights whose courage sometimes outpaces their skill. Their special rules reflect these details. A better example of this trope, Questing Knights, are knights who have given up their feudal responsibilities to quest for the Grail and the Lady of the Lake; their oaths command them never to stay in one place for too long, and they keep righting wrongs until they die or drink from the Grail.
- In Warhammer 40,000, the Legion of the Damned fit this trope to a T. Trapped in hyperspace for about a hundred years and cursed with some Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane warp disease/curse, the last one hundred survivors wander the galaxy searching for other marines, coming to their aid in their hour of need, vanishing as mysteriously and silently as they came, never straying from their dedication to the Emperor even as their bodies and minds slowly break down.
- "The Knights Errant" is also the official name for the 8 founding members of the Grey Knights.
- Magic: The Gathering has Gideon Jura. Elspeth Tirel as well, who actually bears the title of Knight-Errant. Elspeth's defining trait is that she doesn't want to planeswalk; she just wants to find paradise and stay there.
- Of course, this is Magic. Her first home was destroyed by Phyrexia, and her adopted home of Bant became culturally contaminated when the shards of Alara merged. Now she's trying to take the fight to Phyrexia, and the outlook is very bad.
- And then of course there is the vanilla card from even further back, Knight Errant.
- Knight Errant is one of the possible careers in Ironclaw, though not all of the traits are necessary, many are essentially mercenaries of noble birth.
- Many open-world RPGs are basically built around being a Knight Errant. The player is given a Wide Open Sandbox populated by people who need help, and they wander around finding those people and solving their problems.
- Samara, an asari party member in Mass Effect 2 is a Justicar, a sort of vigilante warrior monk. According to her "the closest human equivalent would be a knight errant, with perhaps a bit of samurai".
- Paragon Shepard can spend most of their time travelling the galaxy and selflessly going out of the way to put right any wrong they encounter.
- Sanger Zonvolt from the Super Robot Wars series, the Sword That Smites Evil who will show up whenever evil arises. And will do anything to protect his girl, namely Sophia Nate.
- Erwin's, the hero of DerLangrisser personal theme is the titular Knight Errant, traveling through El Sallia in his quest (which depends on which story path he is following).
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, after performing a service for the city of Leyawiin, you and a jovial NPC receive this title.
- The Warden from Dragon Age, who goes where they must and where they are most needed.
- The Witch Hunt DLC for Dragon Age: Origins can end with the Warden (the Knight Errant) and Morrigan (the Damsel Errant) stepping through the Eluvian, beyond the Fade and into the unknown.
- Hawke in Dragon Age II, part of the reason why they came to be Champion of Kirkwall.
- Warden Blackwall in Dragon Age: Inquisition. He has spent years wandering Thedas protecting the innocent, "conscripting" villagers to train them to fight bandits, and of course fighting random darkspawn. He's actually a wanted criminal impersonating the deceased Blackwall throwing himself into the Grey Wardens' ideal of heroism to atone for his past.
- Samus is often seen as one.
- Adol Christin of Ys decided when he was a kid that he'd travel the world, righting wrongs and nailing chicks. Well, the second part's mostly inferred.
- Kingdom Hearts gave us Sora, who constantly travels from world to world, never stopping or staying very long, righting whatever wrongs he happens to come across along the way, from finding lost dogs to toppling local tyrants. He might have a few too many friends to count as a truly classical example, but 90% of them are the "leave them behind when you leave town" variety. By Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, it's earned him an official knighting by then-Princess Minnie.
- Samurai Jack is an homage to this trope, among many others.
- Finn and Jake, the heroes of Adventure Time, are a rather absurdist take on this trope.