The Patriarch

"By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact. But I am prouder — infinitely prouder — to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build, the father only builds, never destroys."

This is the Spear Counterpart to an Apron Matron. He is a tough family male elder and he just oozes authority wherever he goes. Likely he will be head of The Clan, a Cool Old Guy and of course a Badass Grandpa. But younger versions are allowed though usually not too young. Just as an Apron Matron is a Badass woman whose formidability is tied to running the family, he is a man whose formidability is associated in the same way.

He will naturally have traditional ideas about how family responsibility should be run, thinking for instance that Manly Men Can Hunt, but women should Stay in the Kitchen. There may be subtleties to his opinions in this matter of course, but that does not change the basic theme. These specialty differences will naturally distinguish him from an Apron Matron as well as causing Values Dissonance with many.

He will likely be an Overprotective Dad and perhaps a Knight Templar Parent. On the plus side he will almost certainly be a very efficient Papa Wolf if any of his people are in danger. And he will definitely be the family's Team Dad, whatever else he is. Villainous Patriarchs will often be Abusive Parents, and/or a Fallen Hero . They might also be The Don in the Mafia. Heroic ones will tend to have rough edges, though they will often be the Mentor for children, nephews, and grandchildren. This kind of character is often also a Determined Homesteader, and a Wasteland Elder.

A common plot is where the Patriarch is too much The Stoic to give a So Proud of You until the very end, which of course will likely be a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming (unless it is meant to tragically come too late). And if a Patriarch is married to an Apron Matron, then we shall have something to see... This trope may be less common now and milder father-figures seem to be somewhat in vogue, but it still persists.

Similarly, the Patriarch's overbearing authority may crush his sons into mere Nice Guys, whom he can not respect for their spinelessness. A nastier sort may try to crush rebellion with the threat of his will and finally despise them as the spineless Nice Guys and Dutiful Sons he made them, declare them Inadequate Inheritor, and opt for Passed-Over Inheritance. This may be why the Black Sheep is his favorite..

See also Reasonable Authority Figure, A Father to His Men. Indeed, if there's a Blue Blood in a society where this is important, it will frequently overlap with these tropes.

Might be the eldest generation of the Three Successful Generations.



  • Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Michael too.
  • Tommy Lee Jones plays a surrogate for this in Man of the House. He is also this to his daughter in the same movie.
  • Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music.
  • He's barely hanging on to life, but the respect the rest of the family gives to the grandfather in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) says everything.
  • Charlie Anderson in Shenandoah.
  • A benign example with Ichirō Yashida in The Wolverine, and his death triggers the problems. He turns out to be a Evil Patriarch
  • In Spielberg's Munich, the main character encounters a maxed-out Papa Wolf version of The Don - The Patriarch of a crime family, who is just as attentive and reasonable as a regular fiction farm daddy, and also performs a "man test" for the main character - specifically, if he can hold his own in a kitchen (he can, on account of being raised in a kibutz). Plays out all the tropes of a wise old Don to a tee, with BIG emphasis on family.
    Papa: Let me see your hands.
    [he grabs Avner's hands and compares them to his own]
    Papa: Too big for a good cook. That was my problem too! I would've been a master, but I have thick, stupid butcher's hands just like yours. Oh, we are tragic men. Butcher's hands, gentle souls.

  • Rebbe Saunders in The Chosen.
  • Denethor and Théoden in The Lord of the Rings.
  • The Bible : Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. David too. Not to mention our heavenly Father.
  • In Scipio Africanus: The Man Who Defeated Hannibal by Ross Leckie, Scipio's father is portrayed as almost a stereotype of the Roman version of this trope. He is stern and stoic, yet has a great tenderness underneath and raises Scipio to love and admire Rome and its values and understand his duty to it.
  • In Wen Spencer's Endless Blue, Viktor was this in the Back Story.
  • Funny Boy: Arjie's father has ultimate authority over the family. For example, his wife wants to go to Canada to escape the conflict, but he would rather stay, so they stay. Arjie experiences him as someone who is not involved in the day-to-day life of the family, but who makes the major decisions.
  • Tywin Lannister provides a villainous example, both in A Song of Ice and Fire and the TV adaptation.
    • Eddard Stark is the stern-but-loving Papa Wolf variant.
    • To a lesser extent, Walder Frey and Doran Martell both qualify as well.
  • In L. Jagi's Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, Prospero.
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's A Daughter of the Land, the father is an iron-handed version of this.
  • Aral Vorkosigan in Vorkosigan Saga.
  • God in The Bible is given metaphors like "father", "king", "lord of hosts", "judge" and so on which makes one conclude that Hebrews thought of Him as being like a tribal chieftain combining familial, political, judiciary, military and other functions much as a human chief would.
  • Gemma the Elder, who is also called the Ancestor, is the oldest of the progenitors of Furtig's tribe and now leads his own tribe of science-minded cats in Andre Norton's A Breed to Come.

Live-Action TV
  • In NCIS Eli David is an antiheroic version of this. He crossed the Moral Event Horizon too many times to be a hero per se, but he is at least a Fallen Hero and a Knight Templar . He also is something of a Woobie, for one can pity him and regret how far he fell.
    • Leon Vance is also a Patriarch though it is seldom shown. He has stronger family ties then most of the characters.
    • Rene Benoit: "I am protector and provider in equal part..." .
  • Tony Soprano in The Sopranos thinks he is this. He is fooling himself, and that is kind of the point of the show.
  • President Bartlet in The West Wing is a True Companions-induced version of this.
  • In the Korean TV serial epic Emperor of the Sea Jang Bogo's owner-then-adopted parent was a great Korean merchant chieftain in the Middle Ages. He was an honorable and very formidable man.
  • Ben Cartwright in Bonanza.
  • Adama in the old Battlestar Galactica.
    • It is hard to imagine Lorne Greene NOT being a patriarch.
  • Grandfather Vanderbilt on Gossip Girl. Two episodes featuring him are even titled "the Grandfather" and ""the Grandfather Part 2"" in reference to The Godfather.
  • "Old Man" from Pawn Stars rules the Pawn Shop and everyone knows it. Even Rick, his son, even though he's co-owner.
  • Rupert Giles, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He said it himself.
  • Frank Reagan in Blue Bloods.
  • Jang Bogo's adopted father in Emperor of the Sea.
  • Phil Robertson in Duck Dynasty.

Manga and Anime
  • Kyosuke and Kirino's dad in Oreimo is this. Is permissive to his children so long as they follow certain conditions, such as his allowing Kirino to be a model if she excels at schoolwork. He doesn't take very well finding out that she is an otaku, not because of any stupidity concerning the Animation Age Ghetto, but because of the attached stigma of being one, which he does not want her to suffer. However, no amount of reasoning can make him accept her ownership of eroge (since Kirino's still in junior high), so Kyosuke takes the heat for that.
    • Who then gets punched in the face for claiming he's going in his sister's room to use her computer to play games about Brother-Sister Incest.

Tabletop Games
  • Vampire: The Masquerade:Has Augustus Giovanni
  • All thirteen Dragonmarked Houses in Eberron have a patriarch or matriarch, except for House Cannith, who has three operating in distinct regions.
  • A Genestealer from Warhammer40000 will turn into a mighty Broodlord if it successfully infiltrates a planet and starts "mating". The resultant family of hybrids and cultists start worshiping the Broodlord, helping it grow even larger and deadlier, and it even starts manifesting Psychic Powers.

  • Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
  • Mr. Antrobus in The Skin of Our Teeth. He's Adam and Noah!
  • Dodge in Sam Shepard's Buried Child is a subversion and a deconstruction. Nobody even pretends that Dodge is still in control of the family and he ends up mercilessly bullied.

Video Games
  • Winfred Kitaki (Tsunekatsu Kitaki) in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney is a mob/yakuza boss who is trying to leave the criminal world to get legal money for an operation that is needed to save his son's life.
  • Deconstructed in Mass Effect 2, where you meet a Krogan on Omega who's referred to as Patriarch, because he was given that nickname as a Stealth Insult by Aria, the Asari who beat him and kept him around as a trophy, since the Asari, being a One-Gender Race, don't even have an equivalent term. Depending on your actions you can turn this around and have it be reconstructed and help him regain his confidence so he sees the title as a positive thing again.
  • Sun Jian in the Dynasty Warriors series.


Real Life
  • In tarot, this trope is represented by the Emperor arcana.
  • George Washington was a great family man as well as "The father of his country". It might be fun in a way to be his stepchild (he had no biological children), but boy would it be scary.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte was this to his relations.
  • Many famous Royals and Nobles for obvious reasons.
  • Ironically, Douglas MacArthur (see page quote) was a rather flawed patriarch by many accounts, being overbearing and apparently even adulterous. But he tried and in any case it is not a bad sentiment.
  • The original meaning of the word "king" is "head of kin" or in other words chief.