Lovable Coward

"Some barbarian is waving my shield, since I was obliged to leave that perfectly good piece of equipment behind under a bush.
But I got away, so what does it matter? Life seemed somehow more precious. Let the shield go; I can buy another one equally good."
Archilochus, responding to the Spartan saying, "Come home with this shield or upon it."

The flip side of the Dirty Coward is the Lovable Coward. Not quite a hero, completely lacking in heroic impulses, but even as he shamelessly runs and hides we somehow still find ourselves rooting for him. His cowardice is sometimes played for comedy, sometimes portrayed as simply the most sensible course of action; it seldom if ever endangers innocents. The Lovable Coward never (or hardly ever) puts Honor Before Reason - and considers this a point of pride. The Lovable Coward is often a Trickster, specializing in weaseling his way out of dangerous situations. He may be a Cowardly Sidekick; if he is the main hero, he may find himself an Accidental Hero for all the wrong reasons.

Generally, what differs the Lovable Coward from his far more vicious cousin is honesty. While the Dirty Coward acts intimidating and cruel when in control of the situation, only revealing his true yellow streak when he realizes the possibility of being injured or killed, the Lovable Coward admits up front he's not the person you want watching your back in a dangerous situation, and tries to avoid being forced into a situation where others have to suffer for his lack of valor. If his friends get set on going to the Doomed Valley of the Eternal Torment, he advocates that maybe it's a good plan to avoid anywhere in the same country from then on and, if critical that he goes, will actually tag along (heavily armored, and grumbling). If he becomes renowned for his "heroism", the pride never goes to his head, and even if he only admits it internally, he's the first one to openly sing the praises of the actual heroes and may even grow depressed they're not the ones enjoying his fame. Ultimately, the Lovable Coward is never a bully; whereas the Dirty Coward gleefully takes any opportunity to flaunt and abuse any security he has, the Lovable Coward generally takes the opportunity that safety to breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the sensation of death being something very, very far away.

Contrast: Dirty Coward, The So-Called Coward, Miles Gloriosus, Cowardly Lion.


Example subpages


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    Comic Books 
  • Volstagg the Voluminous, of Marvel Comics' trio "The Warriors Three", is a cowardly, tremendously fat braggart with a bizarre amount of success in battle, partly due to his own lies. Then one day he is the only one mobile when an army threatens Midgard. He manages to pull together a defense and Took a Level in Badass. Judging by his name, he is probably based on Falstaff. At least this was true in Volstagg's original appearances. In more recent years, he's a Boisterous Bruiser, but keeps the flair for outrageous bragging. Averted in the movie where, while we don't see much of him in combat, for what we do see he's kicking ass as much as Fandral and Hogun.
  • Gus from Mini Monsters, a cute, shy and unfortunate ghost. He sometimes can be brave, though.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Dog of Footrot Flats talks himself up (metaphorically) but tends to run away very fast from any hostile dog (and some cats) bigger than him. Although he's still a competent sheepdog.
  • Sir Rodney from The Wizard of Id gets most of his humor out of being a complete chicken.

    Films — Animation 
  • The entire Boxtroll species. They’re completely unwilling to fight back against Snatcher. Eggs helps them grow out of it.
  • The error-prone inept and immortal wizard Schmendrick from The Last Unicorn was not only a Lovable Coward but found himself in the role of the Accidental Hero, until the more conventional hero and Knight in Shining Armor Prince Lir turned up in the latter half of the story. Both Schmendrick and Lir were uncommonly Genre Savvy; they knew what roles fate had destined them to play, to the point of Lir's Heroic Sacrifice to save the unicorn from King Haggard's monstrous Red Bull.
  • In The Swan Princess, Derek's friend Bromley is not nearly as courageous as he pretends to be, but comes through in the end. Jean-Bob, the frog who thinks he's a prince, has shades of this as well.
  • Fear from Inside Out definitely qualifies. It's his job to be fearful of the world as he's the "voice in the head" that keeps one safe from dangerous situations.

    Theater 
  • The classic example is William Shakespeare's Falstaff, the originator of the timeless saying, "The better part of valor is discretion, and in that better part I have saved my life."
  • Papageno in Mozart's The Magic Flute.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Norman Smiley, a goofy British-born wrestler in WCW. He was loved by fans for his entertaining dance moves, but was such a coward that he'd wear heavy padding during his matches and would scream like a little girl whenever it seemed like a villain was about to get the better of him in the ring. Even when he somehow managed to win the Hardcore Championship, he was terrified of having to defend it in Hardcore Matches and kept trying to deliberately lose the title (which didn't work for a long time).
  • Santino Marella fluxuates between this and Suicidal Overconfidence, with the funniest moment coming when he entered the 2009 Battle Royale to be glared at by Triple H and John Cena. There's a notable pause in the action for a few seconds (with every contestant in the ring stopping to look at him) before Santino grips the bands of his singlet and throws himself out of the ring.
  • Veda Scott, whom the audience immediately fell in love with on her Sparkle debut but was out of her depth on SHIMMER proper, cowering away from confrontations with bigger meaner wrestlers like Melanie Cruise and Sweet Saraya. Scott remained enthusiastic despite apprehension towards wrestling, which allowed her to retain a connection to a sympathetic audience.

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