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The relationship between servant and master can take many forms in a work of fiction. It can be one of strict professionalism, where they are bound only by duties and wages but perfectly civil. It can be antagonistic, where the master sees the servant as a lower form of life, and the servant would love to slip poison into the master's drink. This trope features a third possibility - the master and the servant have some kind of personal connection.

The likely aristocratic master can fire up a reader's imagination, being fabulously rich and otherwise privileged. The (most likely) commoner servant is more likely to draw the reader's sympathy, being a more "real" person to the reader with similar needs and feelings. If the servant dislikes the master, then the reader is more likely to side with the servant for this reason. To keep both sympathetic and still have them argue, they are presented as akin to family.

This can be a link between two adults, for example if a lord and his footman fought in a war together and now they consider the other to be more like his brother than his actual brothers. Or perhaps a young aristocrat has known one of their family's servants since early childhood and thus views them as a kind of surrogate parent. Or a young lady chooses her maid as her friend and confidante and eventually starts treating her like a sister. This one can overlap with Maid and Maiden, where the maid has Big Sister Instinct for her younger charge.

However, other nobles, especially snobs, might sneer at their choice of companions, or consider their overly intimate relationships with their employees unprofessional. It also isn't unusual for employers to claim to feel this way but fail to practice it.

A Lonely Rich Kid is likely to love their nanny or their friendly butler more than their distant parents who are hands-off and busy with other things. It also pops up with Trophy Child where the parents couldn't be bothered to do any of the actual parenting. This is particularly common with, but not limited to, professional nannies and governesses. It should be noted that any child/adult relationship of the noble or rich child who is practically raised by their nanny or another servant is is extremely significant. Doubly so if their biological parents are dead and the orphaned rich kid has nobody else in their life. No grandparents, no aunts or uncles, no cousins... it's their trustworthy loyal servant who takes care of them.

Related tropes:

  • Adopt-a-Servant: The rich family takes a child to do some work for them. They sometimes become attached to them and start to treat them like their own kids.
  • Interclass Friendship: Certain variants may involve masters and servants.
  • Legacy of Service: The servant's children also become attached to the family and continue to serve them.
  • Marry the Nanny and Uptown Girl: A master and servant become family by marriage.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Treating servants well. It's similar, but this is way more personal and it goes several steps above it.
  • Old Retainer: The old servant who feels very loyal to their master and the family to whom they served and will likely care for them 'til their death; and if the master is a decent person, they will be grateful for the years of loyal service, they will treasure their old family's servant and if need be, they will take care of their well-being.
  • Sympathetic Slave Owner: Depicts a master-slave relationship similarly.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Lu's parents are so busy, her (numerous) valets, maids, and chefs act like Doting Parents. When Lu says she can get by on a camping trip without them, they all shed Tears of Joy that she's growing up.
  • Black Butler: Ciel's own aunt says that Sebastian is "like family" to the boy, which doesn't quite cover it, and the servants of Phantomhive, Sebastian in particular, all freely express themselves towards their Earl in a way that other nobles would never tolerate.
  • Food Wars!: Hisako is Erina's personal aide and didn't see her as anything more than that—in fact, her primary motivation in cooking is to become Erina's worthy Number Two. However, she was defeated in the first round of the Autumn Festival, and her opponent points out that limiting herself in this capacity has deterred her skills. In despair, Hisako left Erina because she feels unworthy of being with Erina until both Souma and Erina herself point out that she sees Hisako as not just an assistant, but a friend.
  • Saikawa from Gakuen Babysitters serves as a butler/secretary to the Morinomiya family, but is treated as a family member by the household. Ryuuichi sees him as a parental figure (along with the Chairwoman), as he takes care of most of the family's household needs. The Chairwoman herself explicitly calls him a family after she gets a cold after taking care of him while he was sick.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Hayasaka's family has a long-running Legacy of Service with the Shinomiya family, and she in particular is shown to have a close sisterly bond with Kaguya despite technically being her valet. Both of her parents are also implied to be surrogate parental figures for Kaguya (her father in particular is Kaguya's godfather, and her mother attended Kaguya's parent-teacher conference in season 3).
  • Kill la Kill: Satsuki's butler is treated as a personal friend of hers and the closet thing to a Parental Substitute she has considering her mother is an utter tyrant siding with a parasitic alien life that's trying to take over Earth. Through the entirety of the series, he stays with her through thick and thin, and both respect the other in kind. The fact his nephew likewise helps in her operations doesn't hurt either.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Setsuna was brought on as Konoka's bodyguard while they were young, but they quickly became good friends. However, when Konoka got into an accident and Setsuna was unable to save her, Setsuna decided that she couldn't properly protect her if she was treating her as an equal; Konoka, however, just wanted her friend back. Ultimately over the course of the manga, they manage to regain their friendship and eventually get married.
  • In Violet Evergarden, Princess Charlotte is very attached to her elderly lady-in-waiting Alberta, because ever since Charlotte's mother died soon after giving birth to her, Alberta has been the sole maternal figure in her life.

    Comic Books 
  • The Avengers: Edwin Jarvis, the butler of the Stark family, is treated with a great respect by the Avengers. Tony Stark personally treats him like a close friend and almost like a family member.
  • Batman: In most depictions, the Waynes' butler, Alfred Pennyworth, is treated as a beloved member of the family, to the degree that when Thomas and Martha Wayne are murdered, Alfred takes their son Bruce under his custody and raises him like his own son. The feeling is quite mutual, with Alfred and Batman mourning each other as "my son" or "my father" when one believes the other has died.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In My Country: The black gardener at the Malans' farm was born there and has a good relationship with the Malan family.
  • Knives Out:
    • Harlan Thrombey, a patriarch of the rich Thrombey family, feels closer to his nurse Marta than his actual kin.
    • Subverted. Several members of the Thrombey family refer to Marta, their patriarch Harlan's nurse, as "part of the family". As the film goes on, however, it becomes increasingly clear that this is empty politeness masking their subtle racism and xenophobia: several members say that "[they] wanted her at [Harlan's] funeral but [they] were outvoted", none of them actually know where her family is from and say different Latin American countries, and most damningly, they turn on her when she is named the sole Unexpected Successor to the family fortune and threaten to have her family deported.
  • In The Parent Trap (1998), Martin the family butler and Chessy the family nanny/maid are treated like family by their respective employers. It's really telling when Elizabeth (the twins' mother) kisses Chessy on the cheek after not seeing her for many years, while Meredith (Nick's young, opportunistic, gold-digging fiancee) treats Chessy as a servant who should be summoned with a bell.
  • Mr. Holmes: The elderly Holmes forms a surrogate family with his housekeeper and her son.

  • Alex Rider: Alex and Jack's relationship. Several years prior to the start of the series, Jack came to London as a student and was employed by Alex's uncle as a housekeeper and as a babysitter for Alex. She went on to become Alex's close friend and big sister figure. After the death of his uncle, she also becomes his legal guardian.
  • David Copperfield: Clara Peggotty is Mrs Copperfield's housekeeper and David's nurse. She is absolutely devoted and loyal to both of them. Peggotty never leaves the family even when David's young widowed mother marries Mr Murdstone, and the Murdstones want to get Peggotty out of the house. David is grateful for her friendship and devotion. (Peggotty is so loyal, self-sacrificing, and utterly selfless that she comes off as a stereotype: the ideal of what a rich gentleman would want his servants to be, a model of a working-class woman in classist and class-segmented society).
  • Eccentric Neighborhoods: Miña Besosa starts as baby Clarissa's wet nurse. In addition to eventually nursing all of Clarissa's siblings and serving as housekeeper to the Rivas de Santillana family, she often advises or rebukes Clarissa as an older sister or beloved aunt would. Miña tells her that all women should have the right to vote, not just the educated ones&mdas; and Clarissa listens. When Clarissa gets cold feet the night before marrying Aurelio, she is the one to soothe her nerves.
  • Emma: Miss Taylor was hired as a governess to work for the Woodhouse family after Emma and Isabella's mother died. The narrator says she has fallen 'little short of a mother in affection' and that she was less a governess than a friend. She's like another beloved daughter to Mr. Woodhouse and something between a sister, mother, and close friend to Emma.
  • In Everything, Everything, Madeleine's nurse Carla is seen by her as a member of the family, but Surprisingly Realistic Outcome after her mother finds out Carla has allowed Olly to come and visit Madeleine. She fires her and replaces her with another nurse who is most definitely not considered a family member. Carla is rehired later as a form of bribery to get Madeleine to toe the line, and is the person she turns to when she and Olly try to run off together.
  • The French Lieutenant's Woman: Mrs. Tranter is a kindly and very affectionate spinster (Mrs. is an honorary title) who must love someone. She has her niece Ernestina to love, but she only comes to stay with her aunt once a year. The narrator says that Mrs. Tranter is very motherly to her servant girl Mary and notes that it would be considered extremely inappropriate by other upper-class Victorians.
  • The Goblin Emperor: Ino and Mirean's nurse has done a lot more to raise and care for them than their mother, and they are more upset by the idea of their nurse leaving than they are about their mother's exile.
  • The House on the Lagoon: After Isabel Monfort marries into the Mendizábal family, Petra, who has been working for them since the beginning, ends up becoming a mother figure to Isabel.
  • Jane Eyre: Bessie is a maid at Gateshead. She's the only person in Jane's early childhood who treats her kindly. She's hot-tempered and impatient, and behaves rather inconsistently to Jane (being affectionate, bringing her little treats, telling her stories or singing her songs, but also smacking her for no particular reason or forgetting her completely), but she's the closest thing Jane has to a mother figure or an ally while she lives with her abusive aunt Mrs. Reed and her jerk cousins. Bessie's only a maid so her authority is not great, and she also feels loyalty to the Reeds. But Jane is fond of Bessie both as a child and an adult, and she's always very happy to be reunited with her. Jane — who is very independent and rather proud of her mind and accomplishments — is secretly pleased that Bessie praises her education and calls her 'quite a lady'.
  • Judge Dee: Sergeant Hoong was the Dee family's steward and took good care of their son Jen-Tchieh, even following him as his manservant for more than thirty years (being named tribunal sergeant in the various cities his master was sent to) and eventually dying in the judge's service. He's mentioned to have had a son, but it's not mentioned if Hoong's family travels along with him.
  • In "Degrees of Separation", a novella set in the Liaden Universe, the protagonist is orphaned at a young age and taken in only out of obligation by his mother's brother, who had a grudge against her. His uncle basically hands him over to the household servants and tells them to look after him, and they end up being more like family to him than his uncle; the cook in particular becomes a maternal substitute.
  • In Little Women, the servant Hannah is like a family member to the March family.
    [She] had lived with the family since Meg was born, and was considered by them all more as a friend than a servant.
  • Catarina from My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! has the Past-Life Memories of an ordinary Japanese Otaku and doesn't really consider herself to be nobility. As a result of this, she tends to treat everyone as if they were her social equal. This is most prominently seen with her personal maid Anne, who she views as somewhere between an older sister and close friend. Her late grandfather is stated to have been the same way (minus the Past-Life Memories) and is established in a side story as having been best friends with the family's head gardener.
  • Oeroeg is about the friendship between the child of a wealthy Dutch family in Indonesia and the son of two of their indigenous servants. Their relationship grows increasingly strained throughout the book due to the political situation in Indonesia.
  • Pride and Prejudice: Late Mr Darcy (Mr Darcy's father) liked and respected his steward Wickham a great deal, and he loved Wickham's son George almost like his own. He was his godfather, supported him in school to give him a gentleman's education and meant to promote him in life as best as he could. Too bad George Wickham turns out to be a scoundrel.
  • Secret Santa (2007): While not stated in so many words, Mindy Yee and her family's housekeeper Carmela have this dynamic in the third book, Spring Fling. Carmela is usually joking, concerned, or encouraging whenever she's talking to Mindy. She doesn't hesitate to caution her about her bad choice in friends to her face, and Mindy never gets angry or indignant when Carmela talks to her that way.
  • Spinning Silver: Irina's Old Retainer Magreta is also her Parental Substitute who raised her from infancy since her father the Duke has little interest in her. They care deeply for each other and each risks her life to protect the other at some point.
  • Calpurnia in To Kill a Mockingbird is a servant to the widowed Atticus and, though abrasive and unsentimental, is probably the closest thing his children Jem and Scout have to a mother.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Addams Family, the titular family has two servants: Lurch, a butler, and Thing, a disembodied hand. Both of them are considered surrogate family members and the family becomes very sad if something bad happens to either of them.
  • All Creatures Great & Small (2020): Audrey Hall is far more than just Skeldale's housekeeper. Not only is she a surrogate mother figure to both Tristan and James, but she is also, by all appearances, the closest friend Siegfried has in the world and the only person he will truly confide in without reservation. It is made quite clear through the series that they would all be utterly lost without her.
  • Downton Abbey: The serving staff often have personal connections to the noble Crawley family. And if it's not personal, the Crawleys are shown to respect them or appreciate them as their employees, while the staff are usually loyal and hard-working.
    • Carson is a butler, very much respected by the whole family. The eldest daughter Lady Mary is his particular favourite and he remembers fondly what a sweet child she was. Lady Mary is rather proud of her beauty and her blue blood, but she always respects Carson and appreciates his loyal service, seeks his opinion and approval.
    • Likewise, Mary will go above and beyond for Anna, her Lady's Maid; when Anna is in prison on false charges, Mary openly visits her and doesn't care who knows about it, and later rushes her to London in the night for medical treatment. When Anna goes into labor, Mary calmly shoos her into giving birth in her (Mary's) own bed, and Anna's son has a place in the nursery with the other Crawley children. Anna is one of the few people whose opinion Mary actually values, and she later explicitly calls Anna a friend.
    • Lord Grantham hired John Bates as his valet even if he wasn't quite fit to fulfill all of his duties because Bates didn't have any other place to go. He served under Lord Grantham in the Boer War as his batman, i.e. his military valet/gofer/bodyguard.
    • Lady Sybil is a socialist at heart and she develops two meaningful relationships among the staff: she befriends Gwen the maid and helps her land her dream job, and she befriends and falls in love with their chauffeur Tom Branson. She also wants to work as a nurse during war years, and she kindly asks the kitchen staff to teach her to cook and take care of herself a bit, so that she doesn't look completely hopeless during the training.
  • In Freaks and Geeks, Ken mentions that his parents are wealthy workaholics and he was "mostly raised by the nanny".
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Despite his snark and the occasional tiffs considering salary, Geffory is considered as much as family to the Banks family and has helped him, so much so in two cases where he quit, the family goes out of their way to get him back. He in turn has helped them without having to be ordered, offering advice and aid where needed. By the series finale, they're more than sadden to have to part with him (he having decided to move back to London to be with his son) to which Hillary gives him a portrait of her with a sound clip calling for him and, in a final gesture, he helps Hillary load up her bags in the car despite her joking about needing his help.
  • In Galavant, King Richard's parents largely ignored him when he was young, and his older brother Kingsley abandoned the kingdom to go adventuring. Young Dickie thus spent his childhood being watched over by his personal bodyguard Gareth, and the two treat each other very much like brothers. He also saw his wet nurse Pearl as a surrogate mother figure, but Madalena points out that any affection she showed him was probably compelled, considering that she worked for his family.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The Starks are a major noble house in Westeros and their ancestors were Kings in the North. Their house has the best attitude in taking care of their common folks, fulfilling their Noblesse Oblige, and they feel strong attachment to their servants both from other noble houses or mere commoners.
      • All the Stark children love and respect Maester Luwin who is their teacher and acts like an adviser to Lord Stark. When Lord and Lady Stark leave Winterfell, he's shown to particularly care for 'little lords' Bran and Rickon and he acts like their parental substitute.
      • Osha is a captured woman of the Free Folk, grateful that her life has been spared and she's made work in Winterfell. She becomes extremely fond and very protective of the youngest two boys, Bran and Rickon. She says that Bran means the world to her, and Measter Luwin pleads with her to take care of them and protect them when they have to flee their home.
      • Hodor is a kindhearted simpleton who has served his whole life to the Starks and is extremely loyal. Despite his simple mind, he's one of the most trustworthy people taking care of the young Starks. The elder generation — Lord Eddard Stark — was shown to appreciate him and thinking of him as their peer, though Hodor's nan disapproved and told the noble siblings that he's no lord.
      • All the boys and tomboy Arya are shown to love and respect Ser Rodrik Cassel who taught them how to fight and use weapons. When Theon Greyjoy takes over their castle and wants to execute Rodrik, both youngest Stark boys have a major freak-out and Bran pleads with Theon to spare him.
      • Sansa Stark is the eldest daughter who is fond of Septa Mordane, her governess and tutor. Her septa is so loyal she gives up her life for Sansa.
      • Arya, the younger daughter, absolutely hero-worships her 'dancing master' Syrio Forel, a sword master hired to teach her to fight properly. He gives up his life protecting her, and she swears revenge on his killers.
    • Princess Shireen, a daughter of King Stannis Baratheon, loves her father's Hand, Ser Davos Seaworth the Onion Knight. His position at court is very high (second after the King) but he was originally a pirate so other noble lords sneer at him. Not so sweet little princess Shireen. She teaches him how to read during his imprisonment, sneaking books to the jail and keeping him company. She's a lonely and sickly girl, separated from other people because she has a disfigured face. Her father is distant and busy with politics and the war, while her mother clearly resents Shireen, projecting on the girl her own disappointment with the failure to produce a son and heir. Davos however loves her as if she was his own child.
    • Missandei is a freed slave who becomes Queen Daenerys's handmaiden and then her closest adviser and personal friend. Since Daenerys has no other family member (that she knows of) alive, they're like sisters. Daenerys has other loyal servants who are quite close to her but her relationship with Missandei is special.
  • Gilmore Girls: Paris is a prep-school trust-fund kid who has a much closer relationship with her childhood nanny than with either of her parents. When she graduates from high school, neither of her parents attends the ceremony but the nanny does with a bunch of her grandchildren. Paris is often harsh and annoying but she is very nice to her nanny and the kids.
  • Green Acres: Eb Dawson begins to refer to the Douglases as his parents not long after they hire him as a farmhand. Lisa also seems to think of him as their son, and, although he insists Eb isn't their son, Oliver is willing to do things like sending him to college.
  • One Day at a Time (2017): Schneider's rich father was distant, and he was mostly raised by a string of nannies, at least one of which went on to become his stepmother. He does not view this in a positive light at all.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Empress Celene was raised alongside her elven servant, Brialla since the two were children. Despite Celene being a spoiled, entitled brat who saw Elves as lower-class, she developed a Race Fetish for Briala and the two of them became secret lovers. Although Celene would swiftly cast Briala aside if it appeared someone was catching on and mistreated Briala with all manner of Domestic Abuse, the two of them maintained this relationship until Celene ordered the slaughter of 3,000 Elven citizens to put down a minor rebellion simply to prove that she is not "soft on Elves" as her dissenters rumor. This event causes Briala and Celene to be bitter enemies in Dragon Age: Inquisition, which the player can exploit in numerous ways to have one defeat the other, both being crushed by a third party, or the two reconciling and resuming their relationship.
  • Fallout 4: Filling the affinity meter of Codsworth whose model of robot Mister Handy are usually employed as domestic servants reveals that he considers the Sole Survivor, their spouse and their son Shaun as family which you can choose to admit to or deny feeling the same way.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Dedue is Dimitri's knight and acts as his servant, wanting above all else to repay him for taking him in after he lost everything. However, Dimitri sees him as a close friend and gets very frustrated whenever anyone - Dedue included - treats Dedue as inferior to him.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, Alisa Reinford hails from a wealthy family in charge of the local Megacorp dealing with orbal technology. Because of Parental Neglect from her mother Irina, Alisa was mostly raised by her family's maid Sharon Kreuger, who she sees as a big sister figure to her, even if Alisa doesn't want to admit it publicly. It becomes more personal in Cold Steel IV when it's revealed that Sharon is a member of Ouroboros, and immediately sides with them following the revelation that Alisa's father Franz is still alive, whom Sharon made a deal with in the past. This prompts Alisa to fight Sharon to try and get her back on her side, and she succeeds.
  • Mortal Kombat: Princess Kitana was raised alongside fellow Edenian Jade, who became her bodyguard, devoted follower, and best friend. In reality, however, Jade had been secretly trained as a child to spy on Kitana, prevent her from snooping where Khan doesn't want her to, and also eliminate her if necessary. However, the two became as close as sisters during these years, so that when Jade has to choose between loyalty to her friend or to her Emperor, Jade chooses her friend without hesitation. In Mortal Kombat 11, Kitana even tells Jade that she considers her more of a sister than Mileena, and the feeling is quite mutual.
  • In Rune Factory Tides Of Destiny, Maerwen the dark elf maid is seen this way by the Saint-Coquille family who employs her. It's why they keep her around despite the fact that their fortune has dried up and paying her is a significant financial strain—they love her too much to let her go. For her part, Maerwen doesn't quite understand their attachment but is grateful to them nonetheless.

    Visual Novels 
  • Peko Pekoyama from Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair was taken in by the Kuzuryu clan as a newborn and raised alongside the heir to the clan, Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu, as his personal hitman and bodyguard. The two of them care for each other a lot and develop romantic feelings for each other but Peko sees herself as nothing more than a tool and Fuyuhiko could never properly communicate how much he cares about her as a person until it was too late.

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, Weiss was practically raised by her butler, Klein Sieben, because her parents were either neglectful or abusive. Weiss is clearly more affectionate to him than either of her parents, loosening up and laughing around him and giving him a hug before running away from home. After she returns to Atlas, she's devastated to learn that he'd been "let go" for his role in her escape.

    Western Animation 
  • In Arthur, the wealthy Crosswire family has a butler named Bailey and they're all on pretty good terms with him, but Muffy in particular sees him as a pal.
  • In both DuckTales (1987) and DuckTales (2017), Mrs. Beakley is Scrooge's housekeeper and friend but doesn't quite qualify as family. Her granddaughter Webby, on the other hand, does. Scrooge treats her like his surrogate granddaughter or grandniece. He is about as close to her as he is to his grandnephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
  • In The Jetsons, the family has a Robot Maid named Rosie, who they consider to be practically family as shown when they refuse to replace her despite more advanced technology existing and they are sad when she runs away.
  • The Venture Bros.: Brock Samson gradually becomes close to his charges Rusty, Hank, and Dean over the course of the series. At the start, he's pretty stoic and really only comes to their aid just because it's his job and seems more annoyed by the fact he's essentially on "babysitting duty" which he considered way below the caliber of his skills. He slowly warms up to the family that Rusty and he even reminisce fondly about their past adventures and often argue Like an Old Married Couple. He has threatened a few foes not to mess with the family for any malicious reason unless it's just part of the arching job. When he quit, he still continued to watch the family incognito while working for another organization, he offers advice to the boys on occasion, and even when he's offered reassignment, he actually refused because he considered the Ventures family by that point. The family in turn has likewise recuperated; the boys more than Rusty but even he has gradually come around to seeing Brock more than just hired help.

    Real Life 
  • Charlotte Bill, professional nanny to the British royal family, ended up having to look after George V's youngest son John well into his teens owing to his epilepsy (and possible autism). After he died young, she kept a photo of him and a letter expressing his love for her in her house for the remainder of her life.