He's an Old Soldier
, all right—a very
old soldier who is adamant he's Made of Iron
and good for another battle, even though it's woefully clear that said iron is showing a lot of wear and tear
and his fighting days are behind him.
To fit this trope, the subject must be far too old and feeble to do battle anymore, or perhaps seriously disabled (either from previous battles
or illness), or both. The subject must also be in denial and insist they're good for another round
. Remember: Perilous Old Fool
Quite often, did have a well-earned Bad Ass
reputation way back when, but has suffered some very literal Badass Decay
. Very often ends up with a bad case of dead, and Curb Stomp Battles
are pretty much the norm.
If the soldier is willing to sacrifice himself because
he's old and infirm and the others have their lives ahead of them, or knows he's too old for a fight but wants to go out in a blaze of glory, that's Death Seeker
— or More Hero Than Thou
— not this trope. If they're going to die anyways and decide to fight to the last breath, that's Face Death with Dignity
and possibly Taking You with Me
. If someone's old as dirt but still has the chops, that's Badass Grandpa
(or Never Mess with Granny
if it's a woman) and should only be listed here as a subversion if they're believed
to be this. Definitely related to (and possible Sub-Trope
of) Too Dumb to Live
- One Archie comic showed several veterans chasing a thief—but they no longer had their youthful stamina. The thief even said "This is where I lose the geezer brigade".
- The whole idea of Batman-is-no-longer-a-young-man in The Dark Knight Rises is lifted almost verbatim from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, where Batman tries to fight a (much younger, stronger, and faster) leader of the Mutants on his terms and ends up battered and with a broken arm. For the rematch, Bruce accepts his age and fights the way an old man should fight a young upstart: by choosing the battlefield to his advantage, using precise, practiced techniques to disable the opponent—and avoiding direct brute force stand-offs.
- Bluddbeak, the redkite from Triss, is one of the Trope Namers. He has rheumatism. He's blind. And he's adamant that he's still the great adder-killer he once was and can take on a trio of the snakes. Oh, is he wrong. The other "fool" Skipper is referring to in the quote is Ovus the owl, who feels the need to help Bluddbeak out despite his own great age and rheumatism. He fares better only in that he gets some Last Words and a decent burial, while all that's left of Bluddbeak are scattered feathers.
- The David Gemmell book Legend is a subversion of this. By all standards of the setting Druss is way too old to fight another war and Death itself mocks him about it. He has crippling arthritis in his hands and his body is wrecked by decades of fighting. However, he quickly proves that he is still the deadliest man alive and still strong enough to kill hundreds of enemy soldiers in hand-to-hand combat.
- In one Ciaphas Cain novel, a retired Imperial Guard veteran joins the militia to help fend off a Chaos invasion, and although he's very enthusiastic it's clear he's not quite all there.
- Defied in By The Sword when a mercenary is left behind because he'd be tempted to take part in "one last battle", despite being very old and having only one arm.
- Ajax the Archer in Myth Conceptions.
- Cohen the Barbarian of Discworld is edging close to this by his first appearance in The Light Fantastic, with his bad back and lack of teeth, but once he gets his back straightened out and a pair of (diamond!) dentures, he returns to being a full-time Badass.
- Corporal Jones in Dad's Army, a veteran of wars going right back to 1886, who saw fighting in The Sudan (1886), South Africa (1899-1902), a bit of WW1 (1914-1918)... and who in 1940, aged 80, wants to come back for his fourth...
- Doctor Who: The Doctor thinks Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is one of these in "Battlefield", if his line over the Brig's unconscious (assumed dead) body is any indication.
- Kor in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Once More Unto The Breach." Worried that he is being left out of the Dominion War and a chance to die in battle, Worf manages to have him assigned to General Martok's flagship. In the middle of a raid on a Dominion supply base, both Worf and Martok are injured, leaving Kor in command. At that moment, he starts to believe he is actually in the middle of a battle against the Federation nearly a century earlier, costing the raid at least one ship.
- A common complaint against several venerable and famous wrestlers is that they're too old and physically damaged (either from their work or from drugs) to properly wrestle anymore but insist they're the stars they once were and thus hog the limelight from younger, fresher talent. Let's leave it at that, please.
- In Dungeons & Dragons this is the typical way for giff to die. Their culture has no respect for the infirm, so aging giffs will usually stay in active military duty, trying to prove they still have it.
- Metal Gear Solid 4 does the classic subversion - Snake keeps insisting he's able to fight, partly because he's a Death Seeker and partly because he is still able to fight out of sheer Determinator factor. However, he limps around in cutscenes, is missing half his face and has developed some form of lung disease from what had been badass smoking when he was younger.
Truth in Television
- Subverted in Mulan; her father is aware that he is not in the best condition to fight, but is willing to die for his country and honor. Naturally, Mulan doesn't find this acceptable.
- Lampshaded and subverted by Toph in The Legend of Korra: she's the greatest earthbender in the world, but she's also 90-plus and her back is killing her. Sometimes you just gotta let the kids win the war. (This is also the reason Katara never showed up for the Water Tribe Civil War.)
- Several veterans of the Boer War wanted to fight in World War II, being turned away because they were too old. There was one case where the man in question dyed his hair—but the heat made the dye run, revealing his gray hair and thus his age.
- Theodore Roosevelt wanted to fight in World War One also, but was likewise refused a commission by President Wilson.
- At the outbreak of World War I, Anatole France, a French writer, presented himself at the enlistment center, aged 70.