Venice ain't what it used to be.
An old archetype, the ferryman is a character (and sometimes Deus ex Machina
) who acts as a guide or aid to another character way of allowing them to travel over near impossible obstacles to reach (or at least help
reach) a specific destination.
The most classic depiction is Charon of the River Styx, who aided souls across said river
if he was paid, as there was a worse price to pay if you tried to swim through the waters. And like Charon, the archetype's representative need not be good or even evil; the character need not also be a literal
ferryman; practically anything that can transport something/someone from one place to another is considered acceptable, including flight, teleportation, or even "dream walking".
In some cases the Ferryman is the neutral counterpart to the Mentor
, even adviser, as the ferryman can guide through more than just the obstacles of the physical spectrum...though usually at a price/reason of fair enough degree (be it a coin of burial gold, or a promise to aid the nation's resistance against the Empire
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Anime and Manga
- Botan of YuYu Hakusho note is the Japanese equivalent of the Ferryman, which is why she wields a paddle as a weapon.
- Oddly enough, Truth in Fullmetal Alchemist (only in the manga and second anime). He is neutral, requires a toll, is oddly personal, knows more than he's saying, and is connected to death.
- In Saint Seiya, the heroes come across the Acheron river after arriving on Hades's Underworld. In order to get across it, they need to be escorted by Acheron Charon, one of the Specters under Hades. Like its classic counterpart, he allows the Saints of Athena to embark on his boat even though they're enemies, as long as they can pay the equivalent toll, which is paid by Shun with a pendant he had as a memento of his mother.
- Enma Ai's job in Hell Girl is to ferry people across the Sanzu River to Hell after they are sent there by means of Hell Correspondence.
- Sylvan Ferrylotus in the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG. In his artwork, he's guiding Marshalleaf to his next destination. In Sylvan Waterfall Ride, Ferrylotus looks scared and steadies himself by holding onto the lotus leaf. Despite this, the Peaskeeper trio is still heading for their next destination.
- In The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael (and the Dead Left in His Wake), the ferryman appears as a grizzled old prospector type who carries each soul down the river towards judgement.
- In the series All-Star Superman, Lex Luthor has his niece Nasthalthia, who acts a ferryman by rowing Clark Kent to safety.
- There's a character in The Amber Spyglass who is basically Charon, though he's not named. He (unwillingly) ferries Lyra and Will to the land of the dead.
- The Ferryman plays a very important symbolic role in Herman Hesse's Siddartha, where he enables Siddartha to pass between various phases in his life.
- In An Elegy for the Still-living Acheron himself shows up...as the name of an ocean, which then proceeds to play this trope straight.
- In The Friendship Song, the ferryman appears as Harper and Rawnie's school principal, demanding gold or something worth gold.
- In Warrior Cats, this role is shared by all of StarClan. They pick one of their warriors to guide a cat who is dying to them, usually one who was important in the dying cat's life.
- In the Incarnations of Immortality novel "For the Love of Evil", when Satan has just assumed the Office, he tries to order Charon to take the soul of a woman who is struggling in the Styx. Eventually, he succeeds through the power of song (one of his main gifts).
- Chris de Burgh's early-'80s hit "Don't Pay The Ferryman" is a rather straightforward retelling of the Ferryman trope.
- Charon is the Trope Codifier.
- Although there is also the lesser known Phlegyas
- Phlegyas is only a ferryman in Dante's Divine Comedy. Originally, he was a soul in Tartarus with a huge boulder suspended over his head by a thread.
- The Great Mizuti is happy to be this and the deus ex machina for Baten Kaitos! Ta-ladi-da-di-da, Ta-ladi-da.
- The Ferryman is a recurring character in the Castlevania series. He has appeared in Castlevania II Simons Quest and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
- The Curse of Monkey Island has one, but it's the Lost Welshman who needs a compass so that he can send Guybrush to Skull Island.
- In Tales of Monkey Island, when Guybrush arrives at the Crossroads Gateway as a Ghost Pirate, he encounters a skeletal Ferryman with a gold tooth who keeps his boat clean and bears a slight resemblance to the Lost Welshman; except that this Ferryman needs to be paid with "the golden eyes of everlasting sleep", i.e., two gold coins that are placed on the eyes of the dead, so that he can ferry arriving souls to the Center of the Crossroads (just like in Greek mythology), after which he'll no longer appear once his journey is complete.
- Final Fantasy has the techno genius Cid, who, in most of his incarnations, has eventual access to an airship that can sometimes even go beyond the main world in question!
- In Grim Grimoire, the Ferryman Charon is a unit you can create. In addition to being a troop transport unit, it can also ''throw'' its passengers at the enemy in a pinch.
- In Sam & Max season 2 episode 5, Harry Moleman takes the literal role of Charon as a conductor for the Soul Train.
- The Boatman in MediEvil is surprised to see Sir Dan again, since he usually only takes passengers on one-way trips. He offers you transport to the next level if you find him some Lost Souls (what with the dead rising, he lost track of them).
- Komachi Onozuka, a Shinigami, usually works as a Ferrywoman for the Sanzu river... that is if she actually works.
- King's Quest II: Romancing The Throne has one to help Graham to the vampire's castle. The Fan Remake version gets creepier as he Was Once a Man, and knows why Graham is there, but will ferry him anyway. A second one is in King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, literally ferrying the souls of the dead across the underworld's river—if they have their fare, that is.
- In Secret of Mana, you meet a cute creature named Karon (a mistranslation of "Charon") in the desert, who will ferry you through the Sea of Stars to the Moon Palace... without cost, of course.
- In Secret of Evermore, there is a desert ferryman who will ferry you across the desert to the Nobilia Trading Market... at the cost of one Amulet of Annihilation. He's chatty for a skeleton, constantly remarking on the desert scenery like a tour bus captain.
- In the NES game Day Dreamin' Davey, one of the stages of Ancient Greece has Charon in Hades' underworld lair who will guide Davey through the River Styx at the cost of one coin.
- In The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard, the ferryman is a large upper half of a skeleton attached to the ferry itself. Though silent, he will take you to the Isle of N'Gasta only when you pay three gold pieces.
- Charon himself appears in God of War: Chains of Olympus. You kill him.
- Zork: Grand Inquisitor has you paying Charon, who appears as a skeletal ferryman in a jaunty blue and white cap, in order to cross into Hades as part of your quest. Of course, calling Charon in the first place is a puzzle in itself, as is getting back when he refuses to let anyone make return trips.
- Charon is in Dantes Inferno as the boat that leads damned souls to their judgment in Hell. Since so many people went to Hell, he's had to grow to gargantuan sizes.
- Across the Shin Megami Tensei series, he has appeared with some regularity - he appeared as a Persona of the Death Arcana in Persona 2 and in an actual gameplay role in Shin Megami Tensei IV. Should you die, you will be taken before him at the shores of the Styx - except he's massively overworked and quite willing to look the other way to take you back. The problem is doing so is technically against his duties as a ferryman, but no worries there... Macca opens all doors.