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Hermit Guru

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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 Discworld Companion, Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs

The Hermit Guru lives on a mountain, in the desert, or any place suitably remote. The guru is usually male, but even the wise witch who lives in a cave could qualify.

Very often, he is an Old Master and/or has Enlightenment Superpowers.

The guru could be crazy in a comedy or parody, often as a direct consequence of his seclusion.

Although 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.

Compare Reclusive Artist and Intelligence Equals Isolation. Sub-trope of The Hermit. Often overlaps with Barefoot Sage, Bald Mystic, and To Be a Master.


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  • A man climbs a mountain to consult the guru's wisdom, which involves the advertised mobile phone plan. When the guru gets a call on his mobile, the man realises he could have avoided climbing all the way up there in the first place.

    Anime & Manga 
  • 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).
  • Ayakashi Triangle: The Gogyosen are Really 700 Years Old wizards who practice their magic while living in isolation. This is given a comedic twist crossing over with Hikkikomori, where they show themselves to be incredibly out of touch, for instance thinking bowling and go-go dancing are recent trends.
  • 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.
  • 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 roommates.
  • Tibet in the Hetalia: Axis Powers 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, 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.
  • In Pokémon: The Original Series, 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.
  • Old Master Dohko from Saint Seiya lives in a remote hermitage somewhere in China and oversees the training of the Dragon Saint. When he finally comes out of retirement in the Hades arc he also restores his former young appearance.

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Strange: The Ancient One, 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...)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992): Sahasrahla is an ancient, secluded wise who lives in the Eastern Palace rather than just near it and forks over the Pendant of Courage. In the game, Link must defeat the Armos Knights to claim the Pendant; this is mirrored in the comic by soldier mooks crashing the temple.
  • Quantum and Woody: Doble subversion 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.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Magala is an Amazon witch and seer who lives apart from the rest of the Amazons, but is visited by the queen and others for advice. Her isolation is used against her by Circe who decides she wants to add Magala's magical knowledge to her own and ambushes her and imprisons her mind which she is only able to do without the other Amazons' knowledge due to her isolation.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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 1960s-style computers.
  • 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.
  • Crock has a guru who lives in a cave, with only his eyes visible to the reader.
  • In one gag in the F Minus comic strip, a mountaintop hermit offers the advice, "Don't major in philosophy."
  • Hägar the Horrible sometimes met them too.
  • Italian comic strip Nirvana has a big-nosed, bearded hermit as the protagonist, sitting on a tall rock and having to deal with people asking for advice, a bad poet, aliens, or boy scouts who think he's in need of assistance.
  • Pearls Before Swine has the Wise Ass on the Hill, whom characters frequently visit for advice. (The fact that he's a donkey probably helped Pastis get away with using the word "ass" in the strip.)
  • This character is common in Ziggy as well.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has Gorakhnath, who looks vaguely like an Indian farmer in late middle age and lives at a small shrine/farm in a valley in the Himalayas. In fact, he's a tulpa (psychic Energy Being) rather than a human guru, and mostly just enjoys the peace and quiet. He does advise and teach - indeed, he once taught Doctor Strange (they have certain philosophical differences) - but only people who actually want to learn. Apparently, even being a cosmically enlightened millennia-old being does not render one immune to the temptation to give tourists, domestic or foreign, a thick ear.
  • 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 relates 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."

    Fairy Tales 
  • A staple character of the folklore of Asia. In 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?

    Film — Animated 
  • 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.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Batman Begins: Played with. 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.
  • Cast Away: Tom Hanks' character became a guru by unintentionally living a hermit's life after an airplane crash.
  • Kill Bill Vol 2 has Pei Mei, a jerkass kung-fu master living in an ancient temple who trained the Bride.
  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians: Worried about how restless his kids Bomar and Girmar have become, King Kimar seeks the advice of a Martian hermit named Chochem. He tells Kimar the children of Mars are tired of their Mechanistic Alien Culture and need a little fun in their lives again.
  • Simon of the Desert revolves around an ascetic who has spent 6 1/2 years standing on top of a ten-foot pillar in the desert, praying to God.
  • 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.
  • The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar: The levitating yogi that taught Imdad Khan how to see without his eyes lived deep in the Indian jungle.

  • 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.
  • Subverted and played straight in Beware of Chicken. Jin really is an immensely powerful master who intentionally resides in a remote and unlikely location so as to avoid the politics and struggle of the Qi cultivating sects, and those who spend time with him tend to leave having grown in ability and in awe of his skill and power; the signs of a classic Hidden Master. However, Jin is seriously underestimating how powerful he's become and thinks he's just getting some help running his farm. He also has no desire to be a hermit, just to be away from the politics and strife, and is very close with the local villagers. Nearly everyone just assumes he knows more than he lets on and that the farm work is actually cleverly disguised training.
  • Discworld:
    • One in Soul Music is yer quintessential hermit, dispensing advice and vague, heartwarming platitudes with a meaningful glance towards the begging bowl.
    • Witches Abroad and Thief of Time: 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? To Ankh-Morpork, to learn "The Way of Mrs. Cosmopolite" from a working-class housewife.
    • One lives on the Ramkin property in Snuff. Herming from father to son, with a week's vacation every year, and all the snails you can eat.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Magic Cottage: Before her untimely death, healer Flora Chaldean, in solitary cottage Gramarye, guards, from sinister interference, the cottage's ethereal secrets.
  • Part of the backstory of the Modesty Blaise novels is that Modesty once spent studying with a wise hermit named Sivaji, who taught her to be Master of Your Domain.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • The Son Of The Ironworker: As fleeing and wandering around the mountains, Martín stumbles upon the lonely cottage of a hunter-hermit called Cornelio de Quejigares, erstwhile scion of the Spanish nobility who had been captain of the Thirds of Italy and field master of Diego Colón until he forsook his position, wealth and titles, and moved to the mountains so that he might spend his remaining days hunting boars, praying to the Virgin Mary, and feeding whoever knocks on his door. Martín finds him a bit eccentric, but undoubtedly kind-hearted.
  • "The Sword of Saint Ferdinand": Subverted with Agatín, a reclusive hermit. He claims he lives alone in the countryside because he is dedicated to contemplative life -and he is certainly knowledgeable at matters of theology, astrology, medicine and ancient languages-, but Fortún does not buy it, guessing Agatín is a double spy for both the Castilian army and the Taifa kingdom of Seville.
  • Tough Magic has Uncle Rick who lives on 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 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).
  • In one short fantasy story, a rich jerkass 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 jerkass 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 jerkass just waves his arm, indicating the climb. The Wise Man says, "You walked??!?"

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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...
    Blackadder: Wise?
    Young Crone: You do know her then?
  • Doctor Who
    • K'anpo Rimpoche/Cho Je from the 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", who has retreated to a life in the desert to contemplate the Mara's mysteries.
    • Parodied in "Survivors of the Flux" with the legendary Nepalese seer consulted by our heroes. He complains that they took so long to climb up to him, wants to know the latest gossip, and gets annoyed that they didn't bring something to eat or the latest Arthur Conan Doyle novel. Turns out he's just trolling them—because he doesn't have the opportunity to do that much either. And then he only grants them three words of wisdom, which turn out to be "Fetch your dog." Fortunately, Yaz and Dan actually know what that means.
  • The Old Man on Millennium (1996) monitors the signs of the Apocalypse from what a one-shot character calls a "Unabomber shack" in the Washington woods.
  • The Wise Man from the Mountains in Raumschiff GameStar.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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 PCs some information and will trade a useful item.
    • The 3.5 Edition Cloud Anchorite Prestige Class is themed around a monastic order who live in seclusion at high altitudes, seeking wisdom and self-perfection in the harsh climate. Mechanically, they gain Magic Enhancements that support mountaintop survival, a Field Power Effect in mountainous terrain, and eventual agelessness.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Eudy and Nessiah in Blaze Union. It's played with, as neither of them is really isolated by choice.
  • 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 into the best one in the game.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, many master-level trainers of various skills, some notable enough to receive mentions in in-game books, live out in the wilderness or in the ruins of ancient Dunmer strongholds.
    • Abelle Chriditte, master trainer of Alchemy, lives in the Valenvaryon Stronghold.
    • Adibael Hainnabibi, master trainer of Athletics, is an Ashlander living in a yurt south of Molag Mar.
    • Alfhedil Elf-Hewer, master trainer of Axe, lives in the Falensarano Stronghold behind a trapped door.
    • Qorwynn, master trainer of Enchant, lives in the Indoranyon Stronghold and will actually attack the player on sight, requiring you to use a Calm spell or sneak up on him to receive his services.
    • Missun Akin, master trainer of Archery, lives in the Falasmaryon Stronghold.
    • Ababael Timsar-Dadisun, master trainer of Mercantile, is an Ashlander living in the Zainab Camp and is one of the richest merchants in the game despite living in a basic yurt.
    • Khargol gro-Boguk, master trainer of Unarmored, lives in an abandoned wizard's tower near Dagon Fel.
  • Niime from Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade is Famed In-Story as the "Mountain Hermit", to the point where she's known to "every mage" even twenty years prior to the game's start, and is very knowledgable about the Scouring and ancient magic. Her ending has her disappear into her mountain hone, where it's speculated that she solved many of the world's mysteries.
  • 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.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: 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 Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Sahasrahla is the wise elder of Kakariko Village, who has gone into self-imposed isolation in the ruins of the Eastern Palace, and shares his knowledge with Link when needed.
  • 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 addition one of main tasks of VI to get one of votes for The Council requires you to reach an NPC literally called The hermit, who lives in a house on mountains requiring Fly spell to get to him. He's very powerful mage that can stop a snowstorm in a second.
  • Parodied in the Monkey Island adventure games by Herman Toothrot.
  • 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.
  • Street Fighter III introduces one to the series in the form of Oro. He's an extremely powerful, over-140-year-old master of senjutsu (said to be the fighting style from which ninjutsu sprung from in-universe) who lives in a cave in the Amazon Rainforest with just some animals to keep him company.
  • Touhou Project 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.

    Web Comics 
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: Played with. The Master Swordsman Meti-ten-Ryo lived in a barrel in the middle of a marketplace of the Yellow City of Kesh, but was no less a hermit for it; she paid no attention to the goings-on of anyone around her and was considered Beneath Notice by its citizenry because she was just a mad old beggar woman who lived in a barrel. Kesh was destroyed in the Universal War, but Meti refused to let that change her lifestyle and kept living in her barrel in the middle of the ruined shell of an abandoned city.
    Upon meeting me, you might find that my appearance is quite dreadful and unkempt. I have been spat upon by priest, king, and merchant alike. I have no retainers, and possess nothing except a straight sword six hand spans (five and a half kret) long (this is the proper length). This is because I am Royalty and the undisputed master of the principal art of Cutting. I will fight naked with ten-thousand men.
    • The Red City of Throne has a hermit guru living in a tower in the green space in the 17th district of the ring of Ashton, being the Sole Survivor of the Monks of the Silent Voice and one of two remaining masters of Ki Rata, The Greatest Style in The Multiverse. People in the district come to him for advice, but no-one joins him on top of his tower.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Guru Pathik in Avatar: The Last Airbender. 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.
  • Cuddlywhiskers becomes this in Bojack Horseman after disappearing from Hollywoo life.
  • A U.S. Acres cartoon in Garfield and Friends had Wade seeking one.
  • Zecora in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
  • The Guru Kid from Recess is a parody of one.
  • 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.
    Homer: Really?
    Guru: Yes.
    Homer: You?
    Guru: Yes. I hope this has been enlightening.
    Apu: Bu—
    Guru: Thank you. Come again.
  • Tron in the eponymous TRON: Uprising.

    Real Life 
  • 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 centuries, non-religious hermits were employed by the owners of stately homes in order to provide a living feature to a folly. Some "ornamental hermits" are still employed today for the purpose of novelty.