Knight Errant

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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!"
Solomon Kane, The Blue Flame of Vengeance

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. They are basically the feudal equivalent of The Stateless.

Knights Errant have some or all of the following traits:

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 SPACENew Old West and Space Western are examples of this.

Compare The Drifter, an accidental Knight Errant.

See Knights Errant for the webcomic.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • This initially seems to be the life of magical girls in Puella Magi Madoka Magica—wander around on your own, saving people from monstrous "witches" whenever you find them. But this is subverted in various ways; Mami eventually reveals she's Not So Stoic, and would much rather fight on a team instead of solo. Sayaka takes the hero concept too seriously, and becomes a Knight Templar. Kyouko was originally more knight-esque than Mami, but became a Knight in Sour Armor masquerading as a Blood Knight after a disastrous event broke her faith in goodness and justice. Homura seems to be the antagonist, but she's really attempting to save Madoka from Kyubey; this, too, gets turned around when Homura fails and Madoka tricks Kyubey, giving herself the ability to wander all of time and space on her own heroic quest.
  • In the K series, Kuroh Yatogami was this after his master's death, until he finds a new master in the first series. Then, when his immortal new master apparently dies, he spends a year searching for him, sometimes with Neko as his companion. The prequel manga Stray Dog Story covers the first time, and a midquel manga covers the second.

    Comic Books 
  • 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, a.k.a. "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.
  • Judge Dredd has this as a retirement option for Judges who don't want to take an academy teaching post or a desk job. They can either head out into the Cursed Earth or down into the Undercity to take the law to the lawless.

    Film 
  • Seven Samurai are organized by a Knight Errant, and have a very Knight Errant-y M.O. despite their team size.
  • The Man With No Name from the Dollars Trilogy might be the ultimate Western example. His Japanese counterpart in Yojimbo even moreso. He just stumbles on the town the film takes place in while wandering aimlessly and gets involved in the Mob War for both justice and profit.
  • William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet has Romeo symbolically dressing up as a knight errant at the Capulet's party as he calls himself a pilgrim who has traveled to the shrine of Juliet.

    Literature 
  • The Knights of the Round Table were a squadron of Knights Errant. Even though they were a team, they typically adventured alone. The Trope Namer is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in which Gawain is referred to as a "knygt erraunt".
  • Don Quixote is a deconstruction of, among other things, Knights Errant.
  • Wuxia novels, films, plays, etc. are full of such figures, and the term even translates to something like "wandering knight." This derives from Chinese knighthood, which isn't a widely-known subject in the West.
  • The protagonist of Knight and Rogue Series is a knight errant who lives about 200 years after errantry has gone out of fashion. His squire is a former con man who at first comes along mostly because it keeps him out of jail, and later to look after his employer, who's prone to Honor Before Reason.
  • Loyal Enemies has an entire group of those, who decided to band together to be more effective. They are now called the Order of White Raven and their life mission is to defend people, whatever race they might belong to.
  • The Dark Tower: Roland Deschain is a Gunslinger from another dimension who is descended from Arthur Eld and wields guns that were forged from Excalibur. He's on an epic quest to reach the Dark Tower and fight the forces of evil. The story is very loosely based on the poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came," which is itself based on The Song of Roland.
  • Colonel Next from Thursday Next is consistently described as a "time-travelling Knight Errant", usually turning up in the nick of time to save the world.
  • Malik ibn Ibrahim from the ebook anthology Wandering Djinn seems to fall into this category constantly.
  • The Knights of the Cross in The Dresden Files fit this archetype; even Michael, who has a home, a wife, and a small army of children spends much of his time traveling the globe, righting wrongs and fighting evil. Their main job, as it turns out, is somewhat different - they're actually supposed to get the Denarians' hosts to repent and give up the Denarians. The doing random good seems to only be their secondary function.
  • Alana from the Tortall Universe starts out in The Woman Who Rides Like a Man to escape court and find adventure.
  • In Patricia A. McKillip's "The Kelpie", Nice Guy Ned is suggested for this in a painting; he wishes he could be evil for once, and is asked if he can settle for triumphant.
  • The Justicar, hero of Paul Kidd's trilogy of Greyhawk novels White Plume Mountain, Descent Into The Depths Of The Earth, and Queen Of The Demonweb Pits does everything but travel alone. Much to his discomfort, he accumulates ever more companions through the series. He starts with just a sentient hellhound skin, and collects a faerie princess who is also an accomplished mage, a drunken human teamster (who later becomes a drunken badger), a female sphynx, a young male human soldier, a talking sword, and a non-evil demon (who just wants a nice clean, calm, safe place to settle down with her boyfriend).
  • A Song of Ice and Fire typically subverts or deconstructs the concept. Masterless knights are called hedge knights and are generally seen as one step above common mercenaries. And, then there are the knights that become rudderless thanks to losing their position or sponsors, even if they prefer not to think of themselves as hedge knights, but exiles between masters, rather.
  • Tales of Dunk and Egg, a Prequel series to A Song of Ice and Fire, plays with this concept.
    • Ser Duncan appears to embody a classic knight errant. He's (relatively) young and quite idealistic, believing in the code of honor that knights are supposed to follow. Indeed, he believes that "The Hedge Knight", i.e., the wanderer who sleeps in meadows and beneath trees, is closer to a "true knight" than the more political, class-conscious, power-playing knights he witnesses. After the first story, the pattern is established that he'll wander into a new area, encounter a problem, help solve it (though not in the way he originally intended) and then move on.
    • Subverted in that he isn't really a knight.
    • Deconstructed when the main series reveals that some of the problems he dealt with weren't truly resolved and came back to bite him later. For example, when he solved the Blackwood-Bracken issue, the solution created a different set of problems in the long term.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: as mentioned above under "Film", this is sometimes (ostensibly) the Jedi ideal, although they often act more or less as a branch of the Republic. In the New Jedi Order in particular, a few Jedi are known for avoiding the sometimes highly political Jedi Order and making their own way, such as Master Eelysa (and the Wild Knights, a band of Jedi she trained more or less on her own), Tyria Sarkin and her children, and, for a time, Corran Horn. Jolee Bindo from Knights of the Old Republic did much the same thousands of years before. In the earlier period, "Gray Jedi" were those who voluntarily separated from the Order, often over philosophical issues, yet were acknowledged not to have fallen to the Dark Side.
  • In the popular medieval legend of St. George and the Dragon, St. George liberates a town and saves a princess by killing a fearsome dragon. There is no explanation on what business brought St. George to the town, making St. George the Trope Maker of a travelling knight that helps out people he meets by accident along the road.

    Live Action TV 
  • 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.
  • In Supernatural
    • Most Hunters in general are Knights Errant. They tend not to stay in fixed locations, since their work tends to leave suspicious messes behind and there are only so many monsters in one location. They work mainly on the small scale, tracking down individual monsters, and work out of concern for the mission rather than for compensation, since few of the people they help even know what they do much less are willing or able to pay for it. Finally, most work alone and have few friends except other scattered Hunters—many of them became Hunters because they lost their loved ones to monsters, and they are consequently wary of getting too attached to people who might be endangered by their work or used against them by their enemies.
    • Sam and Dean are the main examples, especially the former. While they have other overarching goals each season, 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 such as false credit cards and fake IDs, this is done for sustenance and to further their mission.
    • Sam and Dean's father, John Winchester, was another notable example, who trained his sons to follow in his footsteps. His journal detailing the monsters he hunted in various locations around the USA has played a major role in the series.

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, Solkzagyl used to be a member of the order in Ul'dah, a group of Paladins dedicated to the Sultana. He broke away from the order to wander throughout Eorzea and help people in need.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Finn and Jake, the heroes of Adventure Time, are a rather absurdist take on this trope. Although they do have a home base that they return to frequently, they are otherwise traveling warriors who beat up baddies and save innocent villagers. Finn even for the first few seasons treats Princess Bubblegum like his designated lady, as though he was a knight in a courtly romance.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/KnightErrant