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Unstoppable Mailman
"I'll deliver these letters, even if it means I have to waterproof 'em and scuba-dive down to the damn mailbox!"

Fiction has a tendency to treat the mailman as an unstoppable force. Come downpour, blizzard, flood, end of the world, or big, friendly dogs, your mail will still be delivered. Sometimes, it's even exaggerated to the point where the mailman will find you and deliver the letter no matter where you are in the world.

Keep in mind that this isn't merely about unstoppable characters who happen to be mailmen, it's about mailmen who display impossible persistence in the process of delivering the mail.

The source of the page quote itself is nearly a direct quotation from the description of the Persian messenger system in The Histories of Herodotus written between 450 and 420 BC.

Compare the Non-Giving-Up School Guy who's ridiculously persistent in giving you an education rather than delivering your mail, the Determinator who's merely ridiculously persistent in general, and the Implacable Man who's just not playing fair. See also: Courier.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 

  • In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, the United States Post Office released a commercial reassuring the nation that, despite everything that had happened, the people of the United States could still count on them. It's actually pretty heartwarming, and its message fits this trope:
    "We are mothers and fathers and sons and daughters who every day go about our lives with duty, honor, and pride. And neither rain, nor snow, nor heat, nor gloom of night, not the winds of change, nor a nation challenged will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever."

     Anime and Manga  

  • The Letter Bees from Tegami Bachi are given a companion and told to deliver their mail no matter what monster tries to stop them. There are often many complications with the letters themselves, such as the intended recipient having moved or being in a difficult area to reach.
  • In a filler episode of Naruto, Jiraiya's newest novel draft gets mixed up with a diplomatic message from one kingdom to another, and Naruto desperately tries to chase the mailman down, despite his adamant refusal to listen to what Naruto is saying. In the end, Naruto fails, but the Daimyo turned out to be a fan of Jiraiya's work, so things turn out well.
  • While a very specific type of courier, the News Coo seagulls in One Piece seem capable of bringing a newspaper to almost everybody in the world, regardless of if the recipients are sailing out in the open ocean, in areas with dangerous weather, in ultra-secure locations, or even in hiding. The only known exception is the Calm Belt region; the sea monsters that live there are apparently too much for even the News Coos.

     Comic Books  

  • In the Carl Barks comic story "The Persistent Postman," Donald Duck is a persistent postman who delivers the mail on a nearly impossible route. He buys a helicopter to try and make the route go faster, and gets into a fight with a giant eagle who steals his sack of mail, but in the end still manages to deliver everything.
  • In another Carl Barks story, "My Lucky Valentine", Donald gets a job as a mailman and has to deliver a valentine by walking miles in a blizzard. When he realizes the valentine is addressed to Daisy from his "dirtiest rival," Gladstone Gander, he throws it away, but then feels guilty and goes through all kinds of trouble to get it back and deliver it.
  • And in a story by Don Rosa, Scrooge gets a telegram from the Tsar of Russia. While he (Scrooge, not the Tsar) is in the middle of the polar waste, near the North Pole. (The delivery man gets no tip from Scrooge, though. Cheapskate!)
  • Then there is another story where Scrooge, due to his complaining about the postal service, becomes the mailman and having declared that every real place must receive mail, has to deliver a letter... to the planet Venus. To his credit, he accomplishes the task in the end.
  • In the DC Comics Crisis Crossover Final Night, at least one Metropolis mailman is still on his rounds when everyone is certain that the world is about to end.
  • Similarly, during Marvel Comics' Onslaught mega-crossover, Hulk and Onslaught are slinging punches hard enough to shatter windows of buildings across the city. A mailman (one who appears in the Fantastic Four once in a while) tries to push through the crowd and begins to deliver the famous passage... but even he gives pause as the two behemoths battle.

    Film 

  • The Western Union Man in Back To The Future Part II is able to deliver a letter at the exact minute specified despite a thunder storm and an obscure delivery site. Granted, they had decades of advance notice.
  • Cast Away: FedEx manager Tom Hanks leaves one of the packages that wash up on the island with him unopened. After five years, he escapes the island and delivers the package. He also kept track of the addressees for the packages he opened, and bought replacements for many of the items he used, which he was delivering to their intended recipients at the end.
  • Independence Day - Will Smith's character notes that his mail was still delivered despite an Alien Invasion.
  • A non-Postal Service example in Overnight Delivery. The main character sends a breakup letter by 24-hour parcel service, then changes his mind and tries to get it back. The driver absolutely will not give up on getting his packages delivered.
  • The Postman lives this trope, naturally. For starters, Costner's character (the eponymous postman) is delivering letters in a Post Apocalyptic world. Despite originally only doing it to get food and a warm bed, the letters give people hope and the role grows on him. The younger couriers take it even more seriously than the protagonist does, as his first apprentice declares "I would die to get a letter through."
  • Tol'able David is a 1921 silent movie about a young rural man who ends up fighting the local thugs to deliver the mail - this movie played in the theater at the climax of The Tingler.

    Literature 

  • Codex Alera features the Cursors, the mail service funded and operated by the First Lord. They're also his spies, saboteurs and assassins. In Alera, everybody is a badass, and that includes the mailmen.
  • The Discworld novel Going Postal obviously has a few examples.
    • The book features a slightly damaged version of the page quote: "Neither rain nor snow nor gl om of ni t will stay these mes engers abo t their duty.note " It had been complete once, but some of the letters were stolen.
    • The golem mail carrier once failed to deliver a message to a king before the kingdom was destroyed. Roughly 10 thousand years later, he still carries the message in the belief that time is cyclical and he'll eventually get another chance to deliver his message. His personal version of the motto is "Neither Deluge Nor Ice Storm Nor The Black Silence Of The Netherhells Shall Stay These Messengers About Their Sacred Business.note "
  • The Postman is about this trope: After the End Of The World As We Know It, some guy puts on a postman's uniform, and reconnects the world that fell apart.
  • Harry Potter:
    • No matter where you are, an owl with a letter for you will find you, even if you've moved (like Harry in the first book) or are deep in hiding (Sirius). The letter will even have the correct address. Justified as a wizard literally did it.
    • Also, Hagrid: to prevent Harry from getting his Hogwarts letter, the Dursleys had moved on a shack in the middle of the North Sea, with a powerful storm preventing navigation, and yet Hagrid arrived, punched down the door, bent the barrel of the shotgun Vernon was threatening him with, delivered the letter, and forced the Dursleys to let Harry read it. You may stop a post owl, if you know what you're doing, but not Hagrid in mailman mode.
  • In Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, the same mailman finds the four horsemen of Apocalypse anywhere they are (from an African country torn by civil war to good old England) to hand them their symbols/weapons of power. He even kills himself to meet Death and deliver him his package. Note that he is a regular guy, with no powers or special skills.
  • A delivery man in the Knight and Rogue Series carries a letter meant for Fisk for three months, and devises a method to track him through a number of towns to deliver the darn thing.
  • In Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle's Lucifer's Hammer, not even a comet impact is going to stop Harry the mailman from the completion of his appointed rounds. (Not that there's much mail from out of town afterwards.)

     Live Action Television  
  • Babylon 5 has the Earthforce's mail service, who won't be stopped by a meteor swarm (so they claim), nor by a revolution and a blockade from the rest of Earthforce (shown on screen). There's just one problem: the revolution tripled their prices on the station...
    • Bonus points for featuring an Unstoppable Mailman who was able to consistently outfox all of Chief of Station Security Garibaldi's zany plots to get his package without paying the markup.
  • Cliff Clavin on Cheers played with this.
    • One episode had Cliff come down with a cold in the middle of his route. He convinces Norm to finish it for him and gets him arrested. He spends the rest of the episode debating whether or not to admit to it.
    • Subverted in the episode with the raging thunderstorm which turns out to be a dream of Diane's.
    Cliff: You know, in my line of work, we have a saying.
    Woody: What's that, Mr. Clavin?
    Cliff: Nor rain nor snow nor hail nor dead of night will stay these couriers from their appointed rounds.
    Another patron runs in.
    Patron: Hey, Clavin. My battery's dead. Can you give me a jump?
    Cliff: What? And catch my death? Hit the bricks!

    Manhwa 

    Poetry 

  • Rudyard Kipling's "The Overland Mail":
    Is the torrent in spate? He must ford it or swim.
    Has the rain wrecked the road? He must climb by the cliff.
    Does the tempest cry "Halt"? What are tempests to him?
    The service admits not a "but" or an "if";
    While the breath's in his mouth, he must bear without fail,
    In the name of the Empress, the Overland-Mail.

     Video Games  

  • The postman from the Zelda games is of the track-you-down-anywhere variety. Specific examples:
    • The postman's endurance is most noticeable in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, where he becomes an Implacable Man who can't even be deterred by the twilight that is gradually reducing everyone else to spirit form.
    • Majora's Mask deconstructs this trope with a mailman who can't stop, no matter how much he wants to. In the face of the impending apocalypse, he just keeps delivering the mail.
  • The mailman Psychopath Carl Schliff in Dead Rising 2. Even a Zombie Apocalypse isn't enough to keep him from his appointed rounds - or from demanding a signature on delivery. When he finds out who you are (that is, the guy who's been framed for starting the zombie outbreak), he attacks you - not for causing the death of thousands of innocent people, but for screwing up his schedule. Even killing him won't stop him from making one last delivery, life saving Zombrex to the hero.
  • Final Fantasy IX has you being the Unstoppable Mailman for the Moogles, who are save points. While you rarely have to go out of your way to deliver their letters, you have to wonder just for what reason the Moogles are hanging around in deadly dungeons.
  • The much-revered Mailer Daemon in NetHack. If properly set up in a UNIX system, he/she/it can deliver actual e-mails from your mailbox. Normally invincible, people have devised creative and exciting ways to kill him.
  • The Courier, the Player Character from Fallout: New Vegas. The game starts with you tied up, getting shot in the head and the package stolen. The first half of the game involves you tracking your would-be murderer across the Mojave to take it back. You still deliver the packagenote .
  • The nameless courier(s) in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim WILL deliver that museum pamphlet to you. Typically he'll find you in a town (even if a dragon is attacking), but on occasion he will cheerfully track you down at a remote and hazardous ancient ruin, the frigid dragon-infested mountaintops of northern Skyrim, the polar-bear-bestowed ice floes off the northeast coast of Winterhold, or the top-secret hidden entrances to the Thieves' Guild and the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuaries. Even if bandits have taken all of his clothes, he'll still get that letter to you, pants be damned.
  • Lucien Lachance, of the Dark Brotherhood in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, finds new recruits for the guild of assassins. He visits the first time the player wakes from sleep after murdering an innocent person, to extend the greeting of the player's "new family," before casting an invisibility spell and walking off. The implication is that Lachance has been stalking you the entire time without your notice, whether you've been clearing bandit camps or storming the gates of Oblivion. That's frightening enough, but the lengths to which Lachance will pursue you are nothing short of uncanny. One quest requires you to enter another character's dreams to pull him out of a days-long sleep. You invade the dream by wearing specialized jewelry, and then falling asleep with the assistance of another mage. If you haven't slept since your first murder, Lucien will be there, in the dream, to welcome you to the Brotherhood. The boundaries of human consciousness and the physical universe pose no challenge to Lucien Lachance.
  • In one Final Fantasy Tactics Advance mission, you must intercept a Bangaa postman before he can deliver a message to a place it should not be going. He will end up fighting your clan over the mission, and while he is not especially difficult, he puts up a fight.
  • Howard Blackwood. He has been delivering his mail and giving sage advice to whoever is damned to the mad hellhole that is Silent Hill for at least a century, whatever unspeakable horrors are in his way. As of yet he's only an NPC and as such the player never sees the obstacles he faces, but it can't be any less than the rest.
  • Parakarry in Paper Mario constantly receives more mail throughout the course of the game. While he's unstoppable in spirit, he's not in physical capability, as he often requires Mario's help to reach difficult locations.
  • Mirror's Edge: The main characters' group are one. Neither lack of routes, nor dizzying elevation, nor hails of gunfire, nor the entire force of the police-state stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

     Web Comics  

     Western Animation  

  • The Little Man From the Draft Board from the Looney Tunes short "Draftee Daffy", who will stop at nothing to give Daffy Duck his conscription notice, even follow him all the way to Hell.
  • Parodied on Jimmy Two-Shoes, when Heloise wakes up to find Beezy in her bedroom, now a mailman, to deliver her a package. The joke being that Beezy's sloth is legendary.
  • One episode of The Simpsons briefly shows a mural on the wall of the Post Office depicting a mailman delivering a letter despite being struck by lightning and attacked by dogs in a blizzard.
  • The title character of SpongeBob SquarePants (and Squidward) for an episode, assuming you replace Unstoppable Mailman with Unstoppable Pizza guy.
  • "Telegram, telegram for Lucky Luke!"
  • An episode of KaBlam!!, in the short of "Life with Loopy", she has to deal with one unstoppable mailman who never stopped at anything to deliver bills to her dad. She even inflated her home like a balloom to avoid him, and yet he used a flying machine to get there!
  • This is essentially Baloo's job in TaleSpin. The cargo he receives is almost always dangerous—either the material itself is hazardous, or it attracts dangerous people. He's determined to always deliver the packages on time, even if doing so brings harm to himself.
  • The entire premise of Get Ed: The main characters have to be Unstoppable Mailmen when their main competition tries to force them out of business via death every time they deliver something.
  • The mailman from Hey Arnold! still has to do his job after the city gets hit with a ton of snow. He makes a song out of it just to lament his situation and to keep going.
    I hate the snow. (takes a step) I hate the snow. (takes a step) I hate the rain, (takes a step) and I hate the sleet (takes a step) but man, I sure do hate the snow. (takes a step)
  • An episode of Mike, Lu & Og has one (with a Canine Companion) delivering air mail to the island who was undeterred by a ferocious storm and Lu's attempts to get rid of the "invader".
    Mike: Neither rain, nor sleet, nor pain-in-the-butt princess wannabees will stop the mailman from delivering the mail.
  • Parodied in Futurama. Many of Professor Farnsworth's contracts are deliveries to places that no sane company would attempt. He even produced a commercial showing a guy in a spacesuit dodging lasers, minefields and so forth to deliver a package.
    "Our employees are expendable- your package isn't."
  • In one episode of Garfield and Friends, Garfield is trying to get some sleep, but is continually harassed by Binky the Clown, who's running a birthday greeting service and thinks Garfield's house is the home of one Edna Fogerty, to wish her a 97-seventh birthday. Since Garfield can't tell Binky he's at the wrong house, all he can do is keep throwing the clown out. Eventually, Garfield hits upon a solution- he dresses up as an old lady and lets Binky think he's made his delivery. Alls well that ends well, right? Nope! Turns out it's also Garfield's birthday, and Jon hired Binky! Cue the tubby tabby fleeing into a desert, only to find Binky waiting for him atop the mesa he climbs.
    Binky: Neither rain nor sleet- or cat with bad disposition- will keep this clown from completing his rounds!

     Real Life  
  • The Pony Express (as noted on the Briefer Than They Think page, it only lasted a year and a half, but during that time it was vitally important).
  • The Barefoot Mailmen who provided delivery service between Palm Beach and Miami, Florida between 1885-1892.
  • The main post office of San Francisco was both damaged by the 1906 earthquake and the subsequent fires, but the postal workers fought off the fires using empty mail bags, saving the building and all the mail therein.
  • When a post office burned down to the ground in a suburb to Stockholm, Sweden in the 80s, destroying all the records of who lived where, the mailmen still managed to deliver all the overnight mail the next day only a few hours late, working entirely from memory.
  • Not the mail but close enough: the NY Times let it be known that no matter what happened during Hurricane Irene, they still would deliver. The fact that Irene ended up not being as bad as thought does not change how insanely badass that is.
  • The U.S. Postal Inspectors are, by some measures, the country's most effective law-enforcement agency. They consistently maintain a 98-100% conviction rate.


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