The Creon is basically the right-hand man
, king's advisor
, chief general, The Dragon
, or other somesuch person of considerable power or influence who is not himself at the pinnacle of the pyramid. He's the second-in-command. However, unlike The Starscream
, The Creon is decidedly not
gunning for the first spot. Maybe he doesn't want the responsibility; maybe he's just fine where he is; or maybe the top spot is just too dangerous a place for a person like him. He fits his job as second, and even if offered the top spot he just won't take it - regardless of how lucrative the offer.
Creons are not always good people. Their motivations may be completely selfish. On occasion, a Creon will be perfectly willing for his superior to be replaced by someone else - but not by the Creon himself. Most often however, The Creon will be the best right-hand a leader could ask for.
To qualify as a Creon, the character must have had at least one chance to take all the power for himself, and actively refused to do so, whether for altruism, cowardice, lack of interest in leadership, or any other personal reason. If there was no other choice, and the Creon did in fact have to take the top spot, he must have relinquished it voluntarily
as soon as the actual leader returned. The Creon always gravitates back to the second spot on his own accord, rather than being forced to stay there by circumstances, etiquette or regulations.
This trope is the opposite of The Starscream
, who spends almost all his time scheming to get rid of his superior and assume the top spot. The Creon
may be The Good Chancellor
, a Sarcastic Devotee
, or even a Poisonous Friend
- there are many options.
- The Trope Namer is Creon of Thebes, a character who appeared in several Ancient Greek Dramas. In Oedipus Rex he actually says quite frankly that he's not interested in being king, and finds it much more pleasant to be the one with the power and not the responsibility. However he does become leader of Thebes in Antigone, and sure enough, doesn't do very well.
- Commander Riker of Star Trek: The Next Generation is another famous example of this. During the many seasons and movies he's been repeatedly offered his own command of various starships, yet chose to remain as second-in-command on the Enterprise regardless.
- Before Riker, Spock was this on Star Trek: The Original Series. He did become Captain of the Enterprise at the start of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but relinquished command as smoothly as half-humanly possible - and not just because Kirk outranks him either.
- In the Original Series episode "Mirror, Mirror", alternate Spock is this too: claiming to have no desire for the Captaincy, for the same reasons as the original Creon did.
- This is fairly standard for first officers in Star Trek. In Deep Space Nine, Major Kira starts out quite irate that the Federation placed one of their own people in charge after her people had spent decades fighting the Cardassians. She eventually turns around and becomes extremely loyal to Sisko, and not just because he's technically The Messiah of her religion.
- In Voyager, Chakotay starts out as the captain of his own (doomed) ship, making his position as Commander something of a demotion. Nevertheless, he immediately becomes one of Captain Janeway's strongest supporters, and even makes it clear to his Maquis that he doesn't want them even thinking about mutiny.
- Saul Tigh from the new Battlestar Galactica. He is forced to take command of the fleet briefly when Boomer shoots Adama but it doesn't go very well and he happily returns command to Adama.
- Zoe from Firefly fits this trope perfectly - she's always supportive of Mal.
- Cid in Final Fantasy VII. While he's older than Cloud, far more learned than Cloud (e.g. a science education and an accomplished pilot as compared to Cloud's Informed Ability) and arguably shouldn't have given Cloud leadership back after Cloud's incident... decided to do so anyway because being The Leader wasn't his thing.
- Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins. First, he gives up leadership of your group (he actually never brings up the leadership issue, despite being the senior Grey Warden still alive in Ferelden). But much more than that, he refuses to inherit the kingdom because leadership is not his thing.
- Seneschal Varel from Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening. He is effectively the ruler of Amaranthine while the Warden-Commander (you) is off adventuring, yet maintains his subordinate position.
- Tower of God - The three Lords Mollic, Joochun and Flux, who govern taking turns while King Zahard is hibernating.
- The Bene Gesserit from the Dune universe do this for many, many centuries. They hold that if you grab supreme power, you're going to fall just as hard. Instead they manipulate power in the known universe from the position of a "trusted advisor" to Emperors and great houses. In addition, much of what they do is a huge breeding program designed to create a super-being to serve as the ultimate emperor and be directly under their control, so even at their greatest moment of triumph they're still not looking for the top position, just to have full control of the person in the top position. Naturally this fails once the super-being comes to existence and basically turns the tables on them.
- Part of the purpose of the 3,000-year highly oppressive reign of Leto II was to force the Bene Gesserit to get out of the shadows and take over. Millennia later, they have started to do so, controlling dozens of worlds directly. Herbert's notes (thoroughly ignored by the "sequel" writers, whose sequels were in turn ignored by devotees) indicate that the Bene Gesserit were to form the nucleus of a new democratic galactic government.
- Faramir from The Lord of the Rings is this - and especially in the novel: He outright rejects the power that The One Ring could've given him, contrary to his brother Boromir who desired that power (albeit briefly). In the movies Frodo convinces him that the Ring is just too dangerous to wield, somewhat blunting this point.
- Furthermore, whereas Faramir's ancestors (and particularly his father) ruled as Stewards while coveting the kingship, Faramir himself does not covet that title at all: He gratefully accepts the titles of Steward and Prince under Aragorn after the war without so much as a question.
- Watch-Commander Vimes in Discworld to King-in-hiding (for a certain value of "hiding") Captain Carrot. The twist is Carrot doesn't want to rule either and is content to be a good copper, and Vimes's own second-in-command, while Lord Vetinari actually runs the city.
- Gekkei from The Twelve Kingdoms is a Double Subversion of this trope. Firstly, although he is initially portrayed as loyal to the king, he later leads a rebellion and kills him. The subversion is doubled because it was what he needed to do, and once the revolution is succesful he rejects the other officers' pleas for him to take the throne, and is even about to quit his charge after the incident. He then reconsiders and stays in charge - not because he wants to, but because if there's nobody in charge, the kingdom will fall (literally, since each kingdom is ruled by a Fisher King. He is just faithfully holding the throne for the next true ruler.
- In The West Wing, Leo McGarry describes himself and Josh Lyman as not wanting to be the guy, but instead being the guys that that guy depends on.
- Cyclonus from Transformers is smart, strong, and sane enough to rule the Decepticons outright or as a power behind the throne, but instead dedicates his life to carrying out Galvatron's every whim.
- On the Autobots' side, we have Optimus's second-in-command, Ultra Magnus. Strong, brave, respected, and honorable to a fault, he's naturally the dying Optimus Prime's first choice to succeed him as leader. Magnus accepts the post very reluctantly, feeling he isn't worthy—and sure enough, he actually doesn't do a very good job because he's too inflexible. Yet when Rodimus becomes leader, Magnus goes back to being second-in-command and excels at it.
- Ser Kevan Lannister, non-ambitious yet highly competent younger brother to the powerful Lord Tywin, is this, both in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, the HBO adaptation. Set up as a yes-man with no ambition, but it is revealed he followed Tywin because he believed his decisions were mostly right. A Dance With Dragons reveals that he fits this trope even better than previously thought; many characters (while acknowledging him as an exceptional Hyper Competent Sidekick,) believed he would be completely lost without someone strong to follow, but in the aftermath of Cersei's Epic Fail at ruling, he takes the reins in his own right (though not in name,) and does an excellent job.
- Soundwave from Transformers Prime. Officially the communications officer of the Decepticons, he's unofficially Megatron's right-hand man and most reliable soldier. It's hinted that he's actually stronger than Megatron, but unlike Starscream he has no desire to usurp Megatron's position.
- In The Departed, undercover cop (and aspiring Hyper Competent Sidekick to The Don) Billy Costigan diverts suspicion from himself by suggesting the existence of a plot against Frank from his subordinates. When Frank asks Billy if he wants to lead, Billy says that he thinks he probably could do it, but doesn't want to be Frank. Perhaps surprisingly for a profession that one would expect to be a breeding ground for starscreams Frank has no problem accepting that "Heavy lies the crown", with an implied increase in respect towards Billy for recognising this. Franks's lack of suspicion at this excuse is possibly because he has a genuine Villainous Friendship with Mr French, who has been totally reliable and never tried to take over, but whether French himself is an example of The Creon is unclear; we never see whether his acceptance of second fiddle is due to a lack of ambition or because he recognises he wouldn't do as good a job of ruling as Frank.