- Wisdom is a lot wiser the further away it is; any old thing written down by some bald old man with lots of Xs and Zs in his name is bound, under this rule, to sound more wise than the same thing written by the man next door. This especially applies if the putative wise man lives above the snowline. No-one says "If he's so wise, why isn't he on the beach?"
The Hermit Guru lives on a mountain, in the desert, or anyplace suitably remote. The guru is usually a male, but even the wise witch that lives in a cave could qualify.
The guru could be crazy in a comedy or parody.
While this trope has died out in the real world due to greater modernization and population density, in fiction it still thrives as a way for protagonists to gather wisdom.
- Muten Roshi of Dragon Ball fame starts out as this. He eventually gets a turtle, then a woman with alternate identities, then finally one of his students as room mates.
- In the Pokémon anime, when he isn't opening a can on anyone who opposes him as a member of the Elite 4, Bruno trains alone up in the mountains and tries to catch strong Pokemon, such as his massive Onix.
- Tibet in the Axis Powers Hetalia webcomic. He's replaced by a talking panda in the anime for obvious reasons.
- Maken-ki!: Tesshin Kushiya was so awed by Atsuma's Blood Pointer ability that, despite defeating her her, he sealed himself away in a cave on Okino Island in order to study and perfect the technique himself. Over time, he became such a formidable combatant, that not even S-rank Maken users could best him. Yet, he still believes his "fist" is only a pale imitation of hers.
- Baikinsennin from Anpanman. He has a house high up in the mountains (complete with natural hot springs) and gives advice to Baikinman on how to defeat Anpanman (that fails thanks to Baikinman's own stupidity).
- L is a downplayed version of this in Death Note, as he has a nasty tendency of locking himself away and refusing to deal with the world in-person, at least until Light Yagami draws him out of his shell... at which point we quickly discover just how lacking he is in social aptitude.
- Double Subverted in Quantum and Woody when Eric travels to Africa to learn "The Way of the Black Lion". After the desert guru sends Eric off with a mystic pendant and a quest, he loots Eric's wallet and drives off in a car loaded with pendants. Then, after Eric confronts the black lion without a fight, the guru reappears and accepts him for training.
- The Ancient One, Doctor Strange's mentor, lives in an isolated lamasery in Tibet. The Aged Genghis lives somewhere relatively close by in a cave with a single acolyte to help him remember to eat (because the Aged Genghis isn't entirely sane these days...)
- B.C. had a guru who lived on the top of a mountain, and would often provide a punchline for this three panel, gag-a-day comic.
- Hägar the Horrible sometimes met them too.
- One Charles Addams cartoon has a line of people climbing a mountain to consult a guru who is surrounded on three sides by massive banks of 1960's-style computers.
- This character is common in Ziggy as well.
- In one gag in the F Minus comic strip, a mountaintop hermit offers the advice, "Don't major in philosophy."
- Crock has a guru who lives in a cave, with only his eyes visible to the reader.
- The Lion King Adventures plays this trope straight with the Hermit of Hekima, a giant golden eagle who can see into the future. He helps Simba, Nala and Haiba in Series Five.
- Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space. TuMok of Mars talks of how he consulted a 900-year old sage on Olympus Mons. After months of Ice Cream Koans and Word Salad Philosophy, he loses patience and bangs the sage's head against the hardest rock he can find. On recovering consciousness, the sage tells Tumok that he's discovered the wisdom he was looking for. "For it is only when you stop screwing around with this existential rubbish that you ever achieve anything."
- Kill Bill 2 has Pei Mei, a kung-fu master living in an ancient temple who trained the Bride. He is an evil prick who probably ended up living alone on a mountain because very few people are crazy enough to spend more time in his company than is absolutely necessary.
- Tom Hanks' character in Cast Away became a guru by unintentionally living a hermit's life after an airplane crash.
- Star Wars:
- In A New Hope, Old Ben Kenobi seems just to be an old man who wanders the desert apart from society. It turns out he's Obi-Wan, a Jedi Knight who has given up worldly desires in favor of the wisdom of the Force. It is his brief instruction that allows Luke to overcome the Empire's man-made monstrosity by submitting to the will of the Force.
- In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke learns from Ben's ghost that there exists a Jedi Master, Yoda. Luke finds him on a swamp planet totally devoid of sentient life and is shocked to find a tiny old alien instead of a great warrior. This and the rest of their time together teaches Luke that being a Jedi Master is about the light within and the mastery of the passions than it is sword-fighting and heroics.
- Luke himself is this in The Force Awakens, having gone into self-imposed exile on Atch-To after his attempt to rebuild the Jedi Order was undone by his own nephew.
- Played with in Batman Begins. To be trained by the League of Shadows, Bruce Wayne must pick a rare blue flower and climb to his monastery at the top of a snow-bound mountain. This is presented the same way as this trope, with Ducard presenting Ra's al Ghul as a mentor who will help Bruce seek enlightenment, even though the path he teaches is a lot more antagonistic than most gurus.
- In Skin Deep by E. M. Crane, Honora Menapace is a modern female reimagining of the trope. She is a reclusive bohemian artist who likes to meditate, often goes barefoot and shares her wisdom with the main character Andrea, helping her overcome her life troubles.
- In Mostly Harmless, Douglas Adams describes a whole colony of Hermit Gurus- one of whom replies to most questions by running off a copy of her biography, advising that if you read it and do the exact opposite of her choices, you won't end up living alone in a cave, on a mountain, answering dumb questions.
- There are several in Discworld.
- One in Soul Music is yer quintessential hermit, dispensing advice and vague, heartwarming platitudes with a meaningful glance towards the begging bowl.
- Small Gods also features St. Ungulant (whose first initials are actually "S.T."), who lives up a pole in the middle of the desert, and is stark raving mad. But don't say that to his Imaginary Friend Angus! Ungulant also makes an appearance in the second Discworld PC game. S.T. Ungulant is also very proud of being a self-taught hermit, although he admits that trying to apprentice yourself to an older hermit "ruins the point of herming."
- Witches Abroad and Thief of Time both address the question: If people seek wisdom from old men on mountains because wisdom seems wiser when it's a long way away, where do the people who already live on the mountains go to seek wisdom? Answer: To Ankh-Morpork to learn from a working-class housewife.
- One lives on the Ramkin property in Snuff (see Real Life, below). Herming from father to son, with a week's vacation every year, and all the snails you can eat.
- In one short fantasy story, a rich Jerk Ass decides he is going to be the first to climb an extremely dangerous peak in Nepal. He runs across a "wise man" in one of the villages at the base of the mountain and makes some comment about how the stupid natives admire the dirty, lazy, almost naked old man, the natives thinking the old man is wise. When the Jerk Ass finally, after a great deal of effort, reaches the top of the mountain, he finds the Wise Man there. When the Wise Man asks how he got there, the stunned Jerk Ass just waves his arm, indicating the climb. The Wise Man says, "You walked??!?"
- In the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the eponymous Mariner visits a hermit in order to beg forgiveness for shooting the Albatross.
- In the Xanth series, there is the Good Magician Humphrey, a reclusive gnome-like man who lives alone in a castle, south of the more civilized regions of Xanth. He allows anybody who makes it to his castle (and past a series of tests) the right to receive the answer to any single question, in exchange for a year of servitude (or an equivalent bargain).
- A staple character of the folklore of Asia. In one such tale, The Tiger's Whisker, a young woman seeks the aid of a wise old mountain hermit after her husband has returned psychologically damaged from war. She begs him for a spell to return her husband to his old, loving self, from the cold violent man he's become. The hermit says she must bring the whisker from a living tiger as an ingredient for such a spell. The young woman spends months gaining the tiger's confidence with food and patience before snipping its whisker. When she returns to the hermit he throws the whisker in the fire and when she protests, tells her that if she can use such patience to tame a tiger, surely she can do the same for her husband?
- The eponymous prophet of Also sprach Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche lives as a hermit in the mountains for ten years. The framing narrative begins when he descends to civilisation again, intent on spreading the wisdom he has acquired during his long contemplation. He is less than warmly received by the masses.
- There are several examples in The Glass Bead Game.
- The Christian hermits Father Josephus and Father Dion in one of the stories written by the protagonist.
- The old yoga guru sought out by the Music Master during a particularly bad time in his youth. The old man helps the Music Master by making him realize he's neglected his meditation exercises.
- Elder Brother, the recluse the protagonist visits and stays with for several months to learn the I Ching.
- The most stereotypical example is the ancient Hindu hermit encountered by Prince Dasa in another of the stories written by the protagonist.
- Tough Magic has Uncle Rick who lives in a mountain and away from town, all by himself; until he invites Yiltry over for the summer in order to help train him.
- In the backstory of The Lost Prince, Stefan Loristan once spent an entire night in conversation with a hermit on a ledge high up a mountain in India, and gained a new worldview as well as a renewed sense of hope and purpose after a particularly low point in his life's work.
- Phoenix and Ashes: Eleanor's teacher is an Elemental spirit who takes the form of a hermit (specifically, The Hermit from the Rider-Waite Tarot) for purposes of dream-instruction.
- K'anpo Rimpoche/Cho Je from the Doctor Who serial "Planet of the Spiders" (also mentioned in "The Time Monster") was a hermit who the Doctor approached in his youth at what was at that point the worst day of his life. Another example is Dojjen in "Snakedance".
- A female version appears in Blackadder, in the form of "The Wisewoman". Not so wise, since her every answer to Blackadder's problems was killing greater and greater amounts of people. From himself to everyone in the world.
Blackadder: I seek information about a Wisewoman.
Young Crone: Ah, the Wisewoman... the Wisewoman.
Blackadder: Yes, the Wisewoman.
Young Crone: Two things, my lord, must thee know of the Wisewoman. First, she is... a woman. And second, she is...
Young Crone: You do know her then?
- The Wise Man from the Mountains in Raumschiff GameStar.
- The Old Man on Millennium monitors the signs of the Apocalypse from what a one-shot character calls a "Unabomber shack" in the Washington woods.
- Dungeons & Dragons, adventure S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. A hermit (with psionic powers yet) lives in a cave in the Yatil Mountains of the Greyhawk campaign setting. If approached politely he will give the PC's some information and will trade a useful item.
- On Rocket Age's Mars many Kastari, the priest caste, live as hermits at various shrines, seeking wisdom. There is also Yil, a Soviet suffering from the effects of volcanic gas on Olympus Mons, who believes he is a reincarnated Ancient Martian. Most of the local Kastari are concerned for him and attempt to look after him.
- Parodied in the Monkey Island adventure games by Herman Toothrot.
- Eudy and Nessiah in Blaze Union. It's played with, as neither of them is really isolated by choice.
- Does Jolee Bindo count? The old Jedi did live in the Shadowlands for at least twenty years more or less by choice. And he isn't rusty in the slightest.
- The first weapon you can (and must) get in Cave Story is stolen from a character conveniently named Hermit Gunsmith, who lives in a room in the further end of a hidden cave. If you come back to him, he will take that weapon (if you still have it) and turn it in the best one of the game.
- Yen Sid takes this role whenever he appears in the Kingdom Hearts series. In this universe, he's a Retired Badass who lives in a Mage Tower on an island floating in space, but offers advice to anyone who can actually find him.
- Touhou has Kasen Ibaraki, AKA Ibaraka-Sen, star of the official manga Touhou Ibarakasen ~ Wild and Horned Hermit. This caused a bit of confusion in the Western fandom because the term "sennin" was officially rendered into English as "hermit", but Kasen is far from isolated, usually hanging around the Hakurei Shrine and just as active as any other member of the cast. That said, she does fit the mold in most other regards, including living in a hard-to-reach mountain dojo, and she seemingly didn't get out much before she was officially introduced in WAHH.
- The Guru from Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, an aboriginal guru who can possess people by jumping on their backs.
- Sahasrahla, and to some extent the old man on Death Mountain, in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
- One appears in Black & White; if the player manages to stealthily follow him to his place of meditation, he rewards them by helping three times against the opposing god.
- Played straight in A Dark Room.
- The Pokémon Oranguru, as its name suggests, is a highly intelligent simian that leads a solitary life deep within forests, where it spends its time meditating and providing aid to other Pokémon in need.
- In most Might and Magic games, you need to find a trainer so that your characters can gain a certain skill level. These experts, masters, and grandmasters often live in quite remote locations.
- In Koan of the Day, the guru advises his student to travel to visit a hermit who will answer any question.
- The Oracle in The Order of the Stick was this, then subverted when he had a village built nearby just to spite his assassin, who was under the influence of a mark of justice and would become dreadfully ill if he killed in a populated area.
- Guru Pathik in Avatar: The Last Airbender, pictured above. He's a bit odd (the man lives on onion-banana juice smoothies!) but essentially good-natured. His origin is never explained; no one else of his ethnicity or culture has ever appeared in the setting.
- Toph has become this in Legend of Korra, living in the giant swamp, and is considerably less good-natured.
- The Simpsons: Played for laughs with the Kwik-E-Mart guru in "Homer and Apu". Apu had come all the way from Springfield (and Homer tagged along) to ask the Guru a question. Visiting pilgrims are permitted three questions.
Homer: Are you really the head of the Kwik-E-Mart?
Guru: Yes. I hope this has been enlightening.
Guru: Thank you. Come again.
- A U.S. Acres cartoon in Garfield and Friends had Wade seeking one.
- The Old Man of the Mountain in The Twelve Tasks of Asterix lives, well, on a mountain and gives a riddle to those who can reach him. The riddle is which pile of clothes was washed in Olympus, the detergent of the gods.
- The Guru Kid from Recess is a parody of one
- Tron in the eponymous TRON: Uprising.
- Zecora in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
- The pillar hermits from late Antiquity would live atop a column of stone for years at a time. The most famous one lived on a pillar for 37 years until his death. So this is Older Than Feudalism. Rather ironically, they rarely succeeded very well at the "hermit"-bit. People from all over the nation tended to come to them pestering them with all sorts of holy questions, and sometimes threw rocks if they didn't like the answers.
- St. Anthony of the Desert spent most of his life living, well, in the desert trying to devote his life entirely to God. It worked so well that people kept coming to him for advice and he wound up basically forming an early monastic community, much to his chagrin.
- This has continued in eastern Christianity. A Russian equivalent is the starets, the elder who lives as a hermit and grows in wisdom and holiness, until he is sought out for his guidance (and by then, is usually willing to break his isolation).
- In the eighteenth and nineteenth century non-religious hermits were employed by the owners of stately homes in order to provide a living feature to a folly. Some hermits are still employed today for the purpose of novelty.