Draw out Sauron
's armies. Empty his lands. Then we gather our full strength and march on the Black Gate.
Éomer: We cannot achieve victory through strength of arms.
Not for ourselves. But we can give Frodo
his chance if we keep Sauron's Eye fixed upon us. Keep him blind to all else that moves.
The Supporting Leader is a secondary character who leads the forces of good
in their struggle against the Big Bad
. He isn't the main protagonist of the series, but generally gets a spotlight episode
focusing on some important battle right as the actual heroes are off performing whatever task winds up actually saving the day. This character is often the Deuteragonist
and The Captain
may be his underlings. The heroes who actually defeat the Big Bad
may also be in his or her chain of command, but they're more likely to be an independent force of their own; their personal struggle is usually for the Golden Snitch
while the Supporting Leader keeps the Big Bad
from winning by default.
Pretty much found in any story where a kid is the hero. One of the surrounding adults will take on the role.
A variation of this is common in gaming, where following an initial battle, the player's nominal superior will tell them that the main battle is in hand and they need to proceed to the special objective that is the real centerpiece of the mission.
Sometimes this character will be the true hero of the story, and the central character will be the Supporting Protagonist
. When the leader is
the protagonist, rather than a secondary hero, it's A Protagonist Shall Lead Them
Compare Big Good
, and The Lancer
. Contrast with Hero Protagonist
. If the battle scenes seem like they'd be pretty interesting in their own right, this character may be the Hero of Another Story
A specific Sub-Trope
to The Leader
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Anime and Manga
- An event in Mahou Sensei Negima! that happened before the series takes place the main character's parents had this kind of relationship with the mother, Princess Arika, serving as The Aragorn to the father, The Thousand Master in his fight against the Big Bad who was known as "The Life Maker" and "The Mage of the Beginning". Though neither Arika nor her forces actually help the Thousand Master in his fight as he defeated the Mage of the Beginning shortly before they arrived. But they DID suppress and seal the World Destroying Apocalyptic Magic that was released as "The Ritual to Return the World to Nothing" was completed. So after saving the world they at some point had hot sex and thus the greatest Chick Magnet/Shounen Lead the world has ever seen was born.
- King Fahn in Record of Lodoss War, and King Kashue in its sequel, Chronicles of the Heroic Knight. The main hero of the former, Parn, becomes another Aragorn in the latter as the focus shifts to a younger hero.
- In Star Blazers / Space Battleship Yamato, Admiral Gideon fills this role taking on the Comet Empire's main space fleet while the Hero's ship is engaging a smaller task force. This of course leads to the Hero's ship being the only one to survive.
- Griffith from Berserk, during the Golden Age arc (the bit that was adapted into an anime, twice). He's the commander of the Band of the Hawk, but somehow Guts always winds up doing all the grunt work.
- In The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Mendoza is very much a Supporting Leader to the child hero Esteban. Subverted a bit in that he's a lot more morally ambiguous than most other examples of this trope, being more the Lovable Traitor than anything else.
- In Dragon Ball, Master Roshi and Tenshinhan take this role. Roshi also has the role of The Obi-Wan or The Mentor.
- Sonic the Hedgehog in season 1 of Sonic X. Let's not kid ourselves. Chris is the main character there.
- Gaara in Naruto. Despite being relatively young, he commands an entire battalion and is Regimental Commander to boot.
- In a way, this has been Kakashi's role since the start of Shippuden as well.
- Shikamaru often plays this role also. He even got his very own story arc.
- In the Weatherlight storyline of Magic: The Gathering, Eladamri, king of the Skyshroud elves, and Lin Sivvi, champion of the Vec tribe of humans, lead the ground forces of Dominaria's Coalition against the demonic Phyrexians while the scruffier main cast of heroes takes the fight directly to the Big Bad, Yawgmoth.
- Miho is a silent and deadly ninja woman who is one of the most skilled "heroes" in Sin City. She is usually the one Dwight McCarthy relies on to kill mooks while he carries the plot as the main character. She has never been the protagonist in any of the stories she has appeared in.
- Nightwing, whenever he appears outside of his own series, is inevitably leading something, be it the Outsiders, the Titans, or even the Justice League.
- Professor Xavier usually serves as this when he is leader of the X-Men, especially in the early days. Even though he founded the school, he's rarely in the spotlight.
- Henry and Takeru during the final battle in the Tamers Forever Series lead the main offensive against Daemon and his army respectively while Takato is dying.
- Inner Demons: During the Final Battle, this role falls to the Princesses and Shining Armor, who lead the charge against Queen!Twilight's armies while the Element bearers and Apple Bloom go after Queen!Twilight herself.
- In Ace Combat The Equestrian War, Rainbow Dash takes this role whenever the Mirage squadron splits. She leads one group while Firefly leads the other.
- Ditto for Twilight Sparkle, who, in later part of the story, commands a strike team selected to liberate Canterlot and pony ground forces during the Final Battle.
- The Immortal Game: Princess Luna serves this role for most of the story, especially after Twilight Sparkle is appointed official leader of the Loyalists. During the Final Battle, she ends up sharing the role with Celestia.
- Star Wars:
- Princess Leia, despite being the trope image for The Chick, is a much better fit for this trope. She's the defacto leader of the Rebellion through all three movies, her main strength is diplomacy, she's tough as nails and withstood Cold-Blooded Torture during her imprisonment on the Death Star and didn't give up any information (she did talk plenty of shit to her captors even after said torture though, and even with the threat of her people being genocided she still put the Rebellion over her own interest) and she engages in every firefight in every movie! The instant Luke breaks her out of her cell she takes charge of the situation and gets them to safety. She has to almost literally be dragged out of the Rebel HQ on Hoth even when it's being bombed to crap. She leads the charge to save Han; she's the first of the group to sneak into Jabba's Palace and almost succeeds in freeing him, and afterwards despite ending up in an outfit that's the epitome of fanservice, ultimately is the one who ends up killing Jabba (in a surprisingly brutal way). Then on Endor she's the one who softens the Ewoks up to make way for an alliance that ultimately wins the war. She leads the strike team against the shield generator, and is prepared to go out in a blaze of glory, taking as many Stormtroopers with her as she can even after getting shot.
- Mace Windu personally leads the Jedi Order in rescuing Obi Wan and Anakin in Attack of the Clones.
- Admiral Ackbar commands the Rebel fleet during the climax of Return of the Jedi, while Lando Calrissian personally destroys the second Death Star from within, and Han Solo leads a band of rebels to take down its shields on the forest moon of Endor.
- Optimus Prime was mildly downgraded from main hero to Supporting Leader for protagonist Sam in the live-action Transformers movie.
- Prince Barin in Flash Gordon. Vultan fills this role to a certain extent as well, but Barin more so.
- Hector Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean. At the climax of At World's End, as Jack seeks out the Dead Man's Chest and fights Davy Jone, but s for it, Barbossa engages the Flying Dutchman itself. Hector gets some real zippy one-liners in the process.
- Ardeth Bey in the first two Mummy movies. He leads the secret society tasked with keeping Imhotep in his sarcophagus, but Rick and Evie are the main heroes of the series.
- Madmartigan in Willow is something of an expy Han Solo who eventually leads the rebel army while Willow takes care of the Big Bad.
- Airk fits the trope better though, since he's in command of the rebel army for most of the movie, whereas Madmartigan is basically a lone wolf and only takes charge after Airk is killed by General Kael.
- Throughout the first Smokey and the Bandit, it's the Bandit's entire purpose to keep the cops distracted (essentially a professional Aragorn if he weren't the main character) so his partner Snowman can break every speed limit in the world and get their cargo in on time. However, when the cops start to get really serious, and it looks like the end for The Bandit, Snowman decides to take some heat off his friend for a change and show everyone what an 18-wheeler can do to a police barricade only expecting to stop a trans-am.
- In Casablanca, Victor Laszlo. The resolution to the romantic plot revolves entirely around Rick acknowledging that Victor is way, way more important than he is.
- The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, the group groans when Game Master Lodge introduces Sir. Osric as the accompanying NPC that will hog all the glory. Subverted when he is De Powered and subsequently killed, leaving them to figure out the Final Boss by themselves.
- In Inglourious Basterds, Lt. Aldo Raine could be seen as this, since he leads the "good" soldiers in a Pay Evil unto Evil Rampage that plays into Shosanna's more personal revenge plot. It's all in your point of view, really.
- Stella Yamada of Lemonade Mouth. She's the one who's in charge of the band, You might as well have her the main character and lead singer of the band than Olivia.
- The Muppets: Kermit the Frog acts as supporting leader in movies where he isn't the focus, playing Captain Smollett in Muppet Treasure Island and As Himself in Muppets from Space. Gonzo and Rizzo even lampshade his Rousing Speech in the commentary of the latter because he pretty much gets one in every movie.
- Buliwyf in The 13th Warrior is the hero Viking leader, but Ibn is the protagonist.
- Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings. Remarkably, he is completely Genre Savvy about the fact that his role is to divert enemy forces away from the real heroes, rather than actually saving the day himself. Bard, the secondary character from The Hobbit who slays the dragon Smaug and leads the men in the final battle is another Middle Earth example. Arguably, Tolkien uses the ability to see oneself as merely one strand of a larger struggle or story as a mark of the humility that MAKES a leader great. He's the former Trope Namer for a reason.
- In broader terms, Gandalf's entire reason for being could be considered this. As a Wizard sent to Middle-earth by the gods, his role was to oppose Sauron and his influence and to aid those opposing him. He often acts as The Chessmaster and The Man Behind the Man but also gets down and dirty himself.
- Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series subverts this trope by having a supporting character act as an Aragorn in the first book, leading the Royal Army, and then turning traitor and leading the Army in a coup in the second book.
- Merriman Lyon in Susan Cooper's "The Dark Is Rising" series. In the first book, he plays the friendly uncle and acts as a sort of guide and guardian to the main characters. In the second book, he's graduated to serving as the mentor figure to another main character. By the third book he finally starts doing things the audience is made privy to, but he's still clearly playing second fiddle to the main characters of the earlier books. He basically skips the fourth book entirely, only to assume a bit more importance in the finale (but still not as much as the other main characters).
- In some ways, Will (The Hero of the second book) becomes the Aragorn to Bran in the fourth book. While the story is still told from Will's point-of-view, most of what is actually accomplished in the book is entirely Bran's doing.
- Another example of the "child protagonists" type - Konstam Khan in The Homeward Bounders. He's genuinely noble and heroic, and the Five-Man Band wouldn't have a hope of winning against Them without him, but it's not his story.
- Polgara in The Belgariad. True, the Army of the West were inspired by Ce'Nedra and led by the Alorn Kings, but they all look to her for guidance. She even goes as far as bluntly saying that all they do is "make a lot of noise so Belgarion can slip over to confront Torak"
- Professor McGonagall in The Deathly Hallows leads the defense in the Battle for Hogwarts to give the Power Trio the time to find the final horcrux, even though she has to trust Harry by his words alone.
- Also Neville Longbottom, yes that Neville Longbottom, serves as this amongst his classmates while Harry spends most of the book searching for horcruxes.
- Dumbledore in general in the Harry Potter series.
- Kingsley Shacklebolt essentially takes on Dumbledore's role in leading the Order after the latter's death (well, Moody arguably did first, but he dies about a month later), but he and Harry barely interact in the seventh book.
- Bernard in the Codex Alera, sort of. In the first two books, he organizes the militia's defense against the invading threats. If it hadn't been for him, the reinforcements would have come too late. Something similar happened in the sixth book, although it can't really count as this trope because by then the person leading the reinforcements is the Big Good himself. In later books this trope doesn't really fit, but in the first two he definitely qualifies.
- Gaius Sextus is the official ruler of Alera, and he's good at it. The only problems are (a) he's getting old enough that he can't take care of everything himself, (b) a Succession Crisis is undermining his legitimacy, and (c) a big Outside-Context Villain has been awakened. If not for that stuff, he wouldn't be a Supporting Leader, he'd just be the actual leader. Several books follow Tavi as he deals with problems that Sextus could have taken care of himself except for the fact that he was incapacitated, or busy doing something even more important.
- Ehren is an... odd example. As he developed, he Took a Level in Badass, eventually becoming adviser to the First Lords Gaius and Attis (and I doubt Tavi will be quick to ignore his advice, either). Looking back on things, the entire war might not have been won had it not been for the little (or big) things he did.
- Robb Stark in A Song of Ice and Fire is the leader of the "good" Stark forces, but isn't one of the books' many PoV characters - his actions are viewed from the perspective of his mother Catelyn.
- Bigwig from Watership Down. He faces off against the Big Bad in the Burrows, and Woundwort actually thinks he's the Big Good - and is even successfully bluffed into retreating, after the two have fought to a mutually exhausted standstill, by Bigwig's admission that he is NOT the warren's chief (and Woundwort expects anyone who can boss Bigwig to be an even bigger and tougher rabbit... not a thinker who is still semi-lame from an old injury.) Turns out Bigwig is just buying time for Hazel's plan to come into fruition.
- Bluestar in Warrior Cats: The Original Series. She usually sends Fireheart off to do important tasks while she holds off the villains long enough for him to complete them. And, in Omen Of The Stars, Ivypool seems to be taking this role.
- In the X-Wing Series, squadron leader Wedge Antilles is kind of an odd example, since he's one of the main characters and is along for the ride the whole time. He counts, though, because except in Starfighters of Adumar he undergoes no character development and is slightly out of focus, and the people under his command are usually the ones who score the absolute critical hits.
- The four Great Captains in the Wheel of Time - they each command one of the Light's armies in Tarmon Gaidon, but only three of them have even been PoV characters, and only two of them for more than three books prior to that role.
- Matrim Cauthon grows into this role for the Dragon Reborn, the Seanchan Empress, and the later commands the final battle of Tarmon Gaidon. By the end of the that battle he's generally considered to be the most brilliant general in the world. Despite all of that, he's not a reincarnating prophesied savior with enough magical power to challenge Satan.
- Elayne also plays this role as strategic leader for the forces of Light in Tarmon Gaidon.
- Several factions have institutionalized this role, especially when it's a commander supporting a Channeller.
- Sword of Truth has both sides go through a large number of these. Given that half of the series is devoted to fighting a war, it's not that surprising.
- Honor Harrington may be a certified badass who leads entire fleets into battle, but even she is just one of many admirals who serve Queen Elizabeth of Manticore and Protector Benjamin of Grayson (two different Supporting Leaders, due to Honor swearing fealty to two different monarchs. It's a bit complicated.) In the earlier books, Admiral Hamish Alexander, Earl of White Haven, served as this for Honor when she was a starship commander.
Live Action TV
- John Sheridan started out as this (and The Captain) in Babylon 5, but morphed into the main character for the whole series.
- In some early episodes of the original Doctor Who series, the Doctor was an Aragorn for companion characters such as Ian Chesterson, although the Doctor was clearly the main protagonist. This was most likely because the first actor to play the Doctor, William Hartnell, was elderly (or close to it) and mostly unsuitable for physical action. As a result,the Doctor would do the thinking, planning, and handle the purely cerebral battles with the villains, while a younger companion took care of the physical action as necessary. This was especially true near the end of Hartnell's tenure when his health was failing. Actually, according to the original series bible for the show, the role of the Doctor was initially intended to be secondary to the companions Susan, Ian and Barbara. But then again, the initial format was intended to be more of an educational show than an actual sci-fi series.
- By the Third Doctor era, The Brigadier was this. It was usually a case of UNIT holding off the Monster of the Week while the Doctor deals with the Big Bad, or the Master, or both.
- Jack is generally this to the Doctor whenever he turns up.
- On ER, the doctors with the most authority are usually the least-seen. In the early seasons, the chief of Emergency Medicine (that is, the boss of the titular emergency room) wasn't even a regular character. Only once was the star of the show also the Chief (Luka), and that lasted less than two seasons.
- Name a cop show, and chances are the lead character(s) will be street-level detectives while The Captain or whoever they report to are supporting characters. The Chief of Police, the Commissioner, or anyone higher than The Captain likely won't be seen much, and may even be a Bad Boss. The exception to this rule is when the main/central character is THE Chief (The Commish, Blue Bloods).
- Kamen Rider Wing Knight/Len has become one of them for being a cool leader.
- Tsuyoshi Kaijou/Akaranger becomes this in the legendary war in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger
- Jason of Star Command; Commander's Canarvin (James Doohan) and Stone (John Russel) were this to the titular Jason.
- Lara Roslin in Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) was the leader of the fleet and (technically) Bill Adama's boss. Lee Adama got in on the act during the New Caprica arc, leading the counterattack when the fleet made their escape.
- Merlin, in which the legendary King Arthur is the deuteragonist.
- Richard The Lionheart plays this role in most adaptations of the Robin Hood legend. Robin has no hope of ever being anything but a bandit as long as Prince John rules England, but "when the true king returns" to overthrow John's corrupt administration, he knights Robin and pardons his men.
- Although Specs is the Big Good and The Leader of the Dino Attack Team, he is only a supporting character in Dino Attack RPG, which instead puts the spotlight on his soldiers.
- BIONICLE has Toa Helryx, the first Toa and leader of the Hero Secret Service. She and her organization coordinated forces throughout the Matoran World to unite against the Brotherhood of Makuta. After the organization blew its own cover, she temporarily became a prisoner of the Big Bad, and now, her role as a leader has basically diminished.
- In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the Galactic Federation commander, Admiral Dane, serves this role, showing up to send Samus off on a special mission as the rest of his forces fight the bulk of the Space Pirates. In fact, this happens twice, on two consecutive missions.
- The Griffon in American McGee's Alice. He gathers the allies Alice has met and has them storm the castle while Alice goes to face the Queen. Too bad you would soon have to take his place.
- In Halo 2, Master Chief becomes this to the Arbiter. While Master Chief is supposedly the hero of the series, it is the Arbiter around whom the vast majority of the game's plot revolves, and ultimately he's the one to stop Tartarus and save the galaxy (temporarily, at least). Master Chief retakes the role of The Hero in Halo 3, with the Arbiter dropped down to Sidekick / Proud Warrior Race Guy status.
- Admiral Terrence Hood is the supreme commander of earth's forces, with Commander Keyes, Sgt. Johnson, and the Master Chief under his command.
- Shipmaster Rtas 'Vadum, better known as Half-Jaw, takes this role from Admiral Hood in the second half of Halo 3.
- Eternal Sonata has Jazz, a playable character and the leader of a revolutionary group known as Andantino.
- Admiral Hackett plays this role in Mass Effect 1, leading the human fleet against Sovereign and the geth fleet while Shepard goes after Saren.
- He does it again in Mass Effect 3, where he's more or less the leader of the human race. What's more, any forces the other races commit to the war effort fall under his command, and he's in charge of the Final Battle to retake Earth and the Citadel from the Reapers.
"Never before have so many come together from all quarters of the galaxy. But never before have we faced an enemy such as this. The Reapers will show us no mercy, we must give them no quarter. They will terrorize our populations. We must stand fast in the face of that terror. They will advance until our last city falls, but we will not fall. We will prevail. Each of us will be defined by our actions in the coming battle. Stand fast, stand strong. Stand together. Hackett out."
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Captain Maritus, Burd, and Martin Septim all take up the role of the Aragorn and hold off deadra, exiting the Oblivion gates while you run in to seal off the gates.
- It could be said that Martin is the hero, and the Player Character is in fact the Aragorn, and this is most likely how the in-universe historians will record it. Especially considering that Martin is ultimately the one who defeats Mehrunes Dagon in a Heroic Sacrifice. So could this be considered a case of multiple, alternating examples?
- You actually can be the one who defeats Mehrunes Dagon if you use Wabbajack. Martin gets himself killed anyway.
- In Final Fantasy XII every character not named Ashe, Vaan, or Penelo including the guests in the party.
- This seems to be a pattern for Ivalice stories: Final Fantasy Tactics puts most everyone not named Ramza into the Aragorn mode. Especially Delita.
- In Warcraft II, Lothar serves as one of these for most of the Alliance campaign. He is killed by orcs in the second-to-last mission, requiring the player character to take command.
- In World of Warcraft, almost any friendly NPC that appears after the very beginning of a dungeon is this. In the Icecrown 5-man instances, for example, Jaina or Sylvanas is leading a bunch of regular soldiers on a covert mission into the backdoor to the citadel, and your party is just a group of elite, irregular forces helping.
- The Halls of Stone makes the player characters The Aragorn when your only role in-story in the second half of the place is to protect Brann Bronzebeard long enough for him to hack into the Titans' computer and deactivate the defense systems you're fighting.
- Bolvar Fordragon fits this trope, as he leads the Alliance forces at the battle of the Wrath Gate.
- Takeda Shingen from Sengoku Basara, a Hot-Blooded Cool Old Guy and mentor to one of the protagonists. Though not a main character, he is easily one of the most powerful and influential, and holds a lot of sway over Yukimura.
- Flynn from Tales of Vesperia fits this trope, as he is always one step behind the heroes, providing them with aid as Captain of the knights.
- The PS3 remake removes most of this however as now he generally meets up with the heroes in time and helps out for most of the end of chapter events, before joining the party for good towards the end.
- One could make a case for Ocelot of the Metal Gear series. He'd been scheming to take down the Patriots, and without him as a diversion for the Patriots' wrath, it's questionable whether Snake and co would have lasted as long as they did, much less saved the day. And, yes, this was all according to Ocelot's plan.
- Snake himself is the Aragorn of Metal Gear Solid 2. Raiden gets the lion's share of the gameplay, but it is clear that he is inferior to Snake and Snake is busy being awesome off-screen.
- In Metal Gear Solid 4, Mei Ling, as commander of the Missouri, is leading the only visible resistance (paltry as it may be) against the Patriots and Ocelot. Of course, during the final battle she and her men weren't really providing a distraction as much as desperately trying to just survive until Snake could get to GW's server room. They still pulled a little of the heat off of Snake, though.
- If the Big Damn Heroes moment is to be taken as this, then The Group from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess serves this role to a certain extent.
- Dragon Age: Origins starts out with King Cailan Theirin and Duncan, continues with Arl Eamon, and, finally concludes with either Alistair or Queen Anora fulfilling this role, depending on the player's choices. Before the final battle, the player can also choose one of the remaining party members to stay behind and lead a brief gaiden encounter.
- Chun-Li of the Street Fighter series tends to be one of the few characters trying to stop the Big Bad of each game. While Guile could also qualify for this role, he only really started opposing Bison story-wise in Street Fighter Alpha 3 due to being Out of Focus. Chun-Li however has been trying to stop Shadaloo since Street Fighter Alpha 1 and continues on to fight the Illuminati in Street Fighter III when Guile is retired.
- The player character in Majesty, despite being the protagonist, has a lot of similarities to this archetype.
- Final Fantasy VI: Banon, leader of the Returners, is this to the PCs.
- Both Chief of Security Franklin Delarose (a decorated soldier) and Headmistress Elizabeth Carson (better known as superheroine Lady Astarte) got a chance to be a Supporting Leader in the Halloween stories set at Super Hero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, when an unstoppable super villain led a small army against the school.
- Lonely Girl 15 has (at least in its first season) Tachyon filling this role - as she runs around the world fighting the Order, she occasionally stops to lend a little aid to our band of refugee heroes. Their first major victory happens almost entirely because she was in town at the time.
- Ultra Magnus crosses this with Big Good in Transformers Animated, leading the Autobots' military forces in back-and-forth skirmishes at the fringes of the galaxy while the heroes thwart the Decepticon plans on Earth.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender , Iroh leads an army to reconquer Ba Sing Se in the name of the Earth King while the Gaang is fighting Ozai.
- The Grand Finale pretty much gives this role to all the supporting characters; Zuko and Katara go to the Fire Nation to ensure that he is ready to ascend to the throne (and deal with Azula), Iroh leads the army which reclaims Ba Sing Se, and Sokka, Toph and Suki go to sabotage the airship fleet, all ensuring that everything that comes after Aang beating Ozai will be positive.