Follow TV Tropes


A Protagonist Shall Lead Them

Go To

The Hero of a character, frequently a Chosen One who rises out of adversity to unite and lead their people. The people in question also tend to be threatened; by disunity, by the villain, by being a dying civilization, or other variations on the theme "their hour of greatest need". Through the leadership of the hero, the people see a considerable boost in quality of life and a renewed sense of pride, and masses will flock to his banner.

In a sense, this is a much older interpretation of the Messianic Archetype - you could call this the Destined Leader Archetype. Before Christianity came along and gave us what most westerners understand as the Messiah with love and self-sacrifice, the Jewish people understood Messiah to mean "someone who will come in our time of need and unite the tribes of Israel" (because that's what the Bible said he would be). It's not impossible or unheard of for the two to overlap.

Older Than Feudalism. May overlap with The Paragon. If the people are pressed by a foreign power, the heroic leader may become part of La Résistance, or a Moses Archetype if the goal is to free them from slavery and/or lead them to a homeland. Their story will frequently include an Awesome Moment of Crowning. When a secondary hero rather than the protagonist is the leader, it's a Supporting Leader.

Sister Trope to Rightful King Returns and Offered the Crown; this trope is not exclusive to lost royalty, nor will the protagonist always gain an official title afterwards. Very often also a Magnetic Hero. Inverted Trope to Led by the Outsider. Though they often share many character traits, the difference lies in the fact that one rises up to lead and represent their own people while the other leads another people that they weren't born into.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

  • Neo, "The One" of The Matrix is a weaker example than you might think originally (based on details from the 2nd film). He is a prophesied savior whose "return" raised morale and inspired humanity in their fight for survival, but he is not actually the leader of Zion nor does he hold any actual formal authority. In fact, he's overridden (and outranked) by individual captains on a few occasions.
  • Jake Sully in Avatar.
  • William Wallace in Braveheart.
  • Caesar for the apes in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its two sequels.

  • Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings is a counterexample: he's not the protagonist (Frodo is); he's the Supporting Leader.
  • The Pevensies and later Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia
  • King Arthur in Arthurian Legend
  • Paul Atreides in Dune.
  • Referenced in an Isaac Asimov story, "Robot Dreams", where a robot has this kind of messianic dreams (complete with references to the story of Moses). Susan Calvin shoots him in the head.
  • In The Wheel of Time, a good chunk of the prophecies surrounding The Dragon Reborn and Rand Al'Thor talks about this kind of stuff.
  • Eragon from Inheritance Cycle fits the "leader of La Résistance" type. His cousin Roran does this on a smaller scale, literally leading his village out of the Empire.
  • Bastian from The NeverEnding Story.
  • Arren/Lebannen from The Farthest Shore.
  • Belgarion, when he becomes Overlord of the West in The Belgariad.
  • In Sax Rohmer's The Mask of Fu Manchu the eponymous Yellow Peril villain seeks to pass himself off as the prophesied "Masked Prophet" who will unite all Asiatic peoples (Arabs, Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, etc.) against the hated white race. This may have been suggested to Rohmer by the general British understanding of the Islamic idea of the Mahdi, which became widespread in Rohmer's boyhood.
  • Played with in Lawrence Watt-Evans' Touched by the Gods: Malledd is chosen by the gods to lead his people, but nobody, including Malledd, knows he's the Chosen One. He ends up leading accidentally but never actually becoming king, because he doesn't want to.
  • Hazel-rah in Watership Down.
  • Rhys in the Tales of the Branion Realm series is this, touched by the Gods and having been born literally so that he can unite his fractured faith (it's technically under the leadership of people who follow a different one).
  • Reaper's Gale, the seventh volume of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, sets out to deconstruct this with the character of Redmask. He walks out of the Wastelands claiming he's the Chosen One who once was banished but is now back to unite the tribes of the Awl against the invading and oppressive Letherii. He forcibly takes leadership of the tribes and initially it seems like he was right all along. But, eventually, he badly miscalculates a battle and is slain by his own giant pet lizards. Left to their own devices, leaderless and defeated, the Awl never recover and are assimilated into another invading tribe. In the end, it turns out that Redmask himself was not even an Awl, but a Letherii who was kidnapped by the Awl as a boy and then driven out into the Wastelands for some minor transgression.
  • In The Oaken Throne, a prequel to the Deptford Mice trilogy, the main character is a squirrel princess named Ysabelle. When the Silver Acorn literally falls into her paws, she must embark on a perilous journey to the war-ravaged land of Greenreach to take her place as the new Starwife (queen regnant of the squirrels).
  • Sword of Truth: The hero Richard Rahl is revealed as the heir of the D'Haran Empire, the initial enemy after he defeats its leader as the first book concludes. He initially resists taking up the role but accepts this when another, worse threat is revealed who everyone must unite against to stop.
  • Youko of The Twelve Kingdoms is thrust into this, at first unwillingly. All the emperors of the world are chosen by the kirin and without a ruler, the kingdom falls into chaos. Some successions are more smooth than others though, and Youko had to be sought out in "our" world by Keiki.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Locke in Lost gets this down pat: He comes to lead the Others after being dead for three days. Except it wasn't him.
    • Jack ultimately volunteers himself to succeed Jacob to become the "true" leader of the island, though only for one episode before passing the torch to Hurley.
  • Pres. Laura Roslin from Battlestar Galactica.
  • Sheridan from Babylon 5 leads the fight both against the corrupt President Clarke and also the Shadows and the Vorlons.
  • Despite Castiel's many missteps, the angels of Supernatural continue to ask him to lead them.
  • The first two seasons of The 100 show Clarke gradually becoming acknowledged as her people's leader and the one held responsible for ensuring their survival on the Ground.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • Many in the Hebrew scriptures:
    • Moses
    • King Saul and his successors David and Solomon.
    • The Maccabees.
  • Jesus in the New Testament, who gathers a lot of followers and was/is often called a king (though he didn't fulfill this trope in his lifetime). If the Book of Revelation is any indication...
  • Speaking of scriptures, this trope is also present in Islam: Muhammad (PBUH) was the Amirul Mukminin, the Leader of the Faithful (the Muslims). He led the diverse people of Madinah (Muslims, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, pagans, etc) to take back the city of Makkah. After his death, this role is continued by the four Khulafaur Rasyidin (Rightly-Guided Caliphs). In fact, "Caliph" means successor to Muhammad's leadership. Some Muslims also believe that nearing the end of the world, this trope will come in full effect with the coming of Imam Mahdi (basically, a Messiah).

    Video Games 
  • Brütal Legend: "To summon a warrior into this world who would lead our armies to BRUTAL VICTORY. It was made for a god, not for you... not for... a ROADIE..." Good thing Eddie Riggs has The Power of Rock.
  • Thrall is this for the Horde in Warcraft III and World of Warcraft.
  • Mega Man X ends up in this role as of Mega Man Zero. Unfortunately, being near-immortal and fighting the never-ending battle with no help pretty much tore his psyche up, making up half of his motivation for a Heroic Sacrifice. His replacement then helps steer everything into hell.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Link in the adult half of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time must unite the various races of Hyrule in order to get into Ganondorf's castle. He does so by visiting the temples in each race's land and awakening the powers of the sage of that temple.
    • Zelda in the backstory of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild did much of the work guiding the excavation of the ancient Sheikah Magitek and preparing the Champions to pilot the Divine Beasts, though her father often overruled her desire to research that technology. In the present, Link works with the various races to remove The Corruption from the Divine Beasts so they can be used for their original purpose of attacking Calamity Ganon.
  • The Nerevarine from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind fits both this and Messianic Archetype pretty well. His background and predicted traits fit right in with the Jewish messiah, and the way s/he turns out to be is more like the Christian notion (i.e., didn't come to wipe out all the occupying foreigners and restore ethnic purity after all).
  • Approximately halfway through Skies of Arcadia, Vyse becomes the captain of his own pirate crew, with his own flagship and base of operations.
  • Shepard of Mass Effect is another combination of this trope and Messianic Archetype. Of course, the definition of who exactly s/he is defending varies with Paragon and Renegade.
  • The protagonist of Dragon Age: Origins is another. You spend most of the game trying to unite everyone in the land against the Darkspawn invasion.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition gives the player a similar task across an even broader setting.
  • A main quest in Guild Wars is actually named "And a Hero shall lead them". The whole point of the Nightfall campaign (and the other to a lesser extent) is the hero (i.e. the player) leading others to save the day.
  • In many a 4X games, this is generally you. A God Is You.
  • Tears to Tiara 2 has Hamil, the last of the Barcids leading first the revolt in Hispania and then The Alliance against The Empire.
  • The Trails Series has the protagonists of their respective series, Estelle Bright in the Liberl arc, Lloyd Bannings in the Crossbell arc, and Rean Schwarzer in the Erebonia arc, leading the team.

    Western Animation 
  • Aang of Avatar: The Last Airbender. All Avatars have this, as it is their job to 'keep the balance of the world', but Aang in particular as he must end 100 years of war.
    • Interestingly, he might not be the most straight example, despite being a prime contender. Sokka seems to do a lot more of the day to day leading, being the strategist of the group, while Aang would much prefer to go around and play. (Although, Sokka does let Aang make choices on Avatar matters). By the end of the series Zuko also takes this role, becoming de facto leader of the Gaang while Aang's away, and then becoming Fire Lord.
  • Dreamy Smurf in The Smurfs (1981) who dreams of being taken to the land of the Pookies where his Second Coming portends a deliverance from the tyrannical Norf Nags.

Alternative Title(s): Leader Archetype