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Old Retainer

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"I always thought you were like a... well, slave's the wrong word, but... really? Mother pays you?"
Sterling Archer (to Woodhouse), Archer

Many servants are deeply attached to the person (or family) they work for. The old retainer is indeed often elderly, and his service has often been long, but the essential trait is his loyalty and propriety. He identifies his interests with those of his employer, regards himself as slighted by any injuries to them, and strives mightily to keep things going properly.

Sometimes an Old Retainer will have served several generations of an old and respected family (or his own family may have done so for even longer), perhaps one of noble or even Royal Blood. An Impoverished Patrician frequently has one working for him even after the rest of the staff have been let go.

Children who live in a family with an Old Retainer usually regard him as a member of the family, even if his manner is rather rough. Indeed, if the parents are absent, the Lonely Rich Kid may be more attached to the servant than to their father or mother. If the parent has vanished, this is the natural person to be asked to Tell Me About My Father.

If the employer doesn't live up to the standards he expects (particularly in keeping up traditions), this isn't a person afraid to Speak Truth To Power — expect chilly criticism, uttered With All Due Respect. (May function as the Greek Chorus) Unlikely for him to leave, though. His authority in this matter may be assisted by his having worked for the family while the employer was a child. And he may do what he deems proper behind the employer's back. Female examples who do this are likely to be Silk Hiding Steel.

Deep personal affection is likely, but the Old Retainer won't infringe on propriety to display it, though gestures such as Your Favorite are likely. Not, however, First-Name Basis. Even the children are likely to be addressed as "Master Jack" and "Miss Jill," since one must keep up the proprieties; however, once the child has grown, the servant may continue with "Master Jack" and "Miss Jill" in an interesting mix of They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! and First-Name Basis. An heir who tries to insist on Don't Call Me "Sir" will find the atmosphere arctic.

Common in such feudal societies as Feudal Future, where, indeed, his family may have worked for the employer's for generations.

Sister Trope of The Jeeves, Battle Butler, Crusty Caretaker, Creepy Housekeeper, Matron Chaperone. Not to be confused with used orthodonture.


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  • Higson, the (very) elderly looking and slightly deaf butler (played by Ron Moody) of Lord Brassick, who is otherwise very skint, in this 2013 ad for Aviva car insurance.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You: The only trait of this trope that Mei lacks is being of an advanced age. That being the case, she's still older than the students at Rentarou's school, and one of the other maids calls her an older sister despite not being her blood relative.
  • ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.: Abend to the Dowa royal family, and Nino's father to Abend's family. This continues after they leave Dowa district to watch over Princess Schnee and her family, after she fakes her death.
  • Baaya, the Fujiwara family's maid in Ojamajo Doremi. Having watched Hazuki's mom grow up, she's been able to help mother and daughter work things out.
  • The Itoshiki family butler in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. Has shown to have taken the place of parents to force the protagonist get married, via a bizarre tradition where anyone who makes eye-contact in the premesis of the family mansion during a specific night is instantly married with who they made eyecontact with.
  • Madlax: "The Bakers have served the Burtons for centuries!"
  • The old Usagi appears in one scene in K: Return of Kings, but in the manga and novels, there is a lot of heartwarming backstory about how he was this to the Gold King. He also comforts the Silver King, the Gold King's oldest friend, after the Gold King dies, and helps the Silver King accomplish what he needs to do - and encourages him to return to his friends even when he isn't quite as they remember him.
  • Mori, to Honey, in Ouran High School Host Club. Other characters comment that the Morinozuka family has served the Haninozuka family for generations, and even invoke the trope directly by envisioning the pair in a classic "young master and devoted retainer" scene.
  • The old man Coco, a Beastman created to serve Nia in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
  • Walter Dornez, the Hellsing family retainer in Hellsing is one of these to the point in which he introduces himself as the family's retainer.
  • Raymond Bishop from Mobile Fighter G Gundam, who pretty much raised George de Sand (he mentions having taken care of him as a toddler).
  • Genji Ronoue from Umineko: When They Cry is so loyal to Kinzo that he has no problem dying for the sake of reviving Kinzo's dead mistress. He is actually helping Kinzo's child to commit the murders; Kinzo himself has been dead for more than a year.
  • Ohatsu and Katou from Sakura Gari are pretty tragic versions of the trope, as they're first-rate witnesses of all the tragedies surrounding the Saiki clan. Sakurako's tragic suicide throws Katou over the edge, as he was her caretaker and servant much more than the family butler... so he stabs Souma few afterwards. And Ohatsu doesn't have it much easier, as she did know about Sakurako's mom abusing Souma but couldn't denounce her because of what it'd do to the family, and that left her an emotional wreck.
    • And in regards to Katou, he actually was Sakurako's father, since he was involved with Sakurako's mom when young. No wonder he's pissed when the kid commits suicide.
  • In The Story of Saiunkoku, Shi Seiran to protagonist Kou Shuurei and her father Kou Shouka. He is more of a family than anything else.
  • Hanaoka from March Comes in Like a Lion has been Nikaidou's butler since the latter was a child. He's loyal and always concerned and attentive to Nikaidou's well-being.
  • Pretty Cure:
    • In Yes! Pretty Cure 5, Karen's butler is the closest person who lives in her family's mansion, since Karen's parents are always absent.
    • In Doki Doki Pretty Cure, Alice's butler Sebastian is one of her most important people, he's a Secret-Keeper regarding the Pretty Cures, and he's highly respected by the family and the other servants.
  • Tsuyuko from Gourmet Girl Graffiti isn't really that old, but she acts like one. She is loyal to the Shiina household and really emotionally attached towards the teenage daughter.
  • Tanaka in Black Butler.
  • The Fruits Basket manga has an unnamed middle-aged woman who works as the head maid of the Sohma household, and was Akito's caretaker after her father Akira died of illness and her mother Ren began openly abusing her. She's pretty much the only woman that Akito gets along with.
  • The Duke of Death and His Black Maid has Rob, the Duke's butler, and former head butler of his family's main estate. After the Duke was cursed, Rob pretty much raised him in place of his parents, and when the Duke was exiled from the main estateTranslation note , Rob was also thrown out due to his old age. He has followed the Duke loyally ever since. Of course, he's missing an eye, is losing his sight in the other, and is becoming slightly senile, all of which is a bit of a problem when the man he serves is cursed to instantly kill anything that touches him, and has no control over it. Interestingly, he refers to everyone with the honourific of "-dono"note , even Alice, the titular Black Maid, despite her being the younger and lower-ranking of the Duke's two servants.
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: High Wizard Razen has served the royal family and country of Falmuth for centuries, extending his lifespan via stealing the bodies of others after destroying their original souls once his current one gets too old. He's especially proud of this legacy of service.


  • On Vivian Stanshall's comedy LP, Sir Henry At Rawlinson End, the butler to the Rawlinson family is "Old Scrotum, the wrinkled retainer".

    Comic Books 
  • Pneumann (from Alan Moore's Tom Strong comic) was built by Tom's father, and helped raise Tom from infancy. Now he helps the Strong family fight crime and perform acts of derring-do. Particularly impressive in the Robots of Doom where Pneuman essentially shrugs off a 70-year old robotic lobotimization because his "first loyalty will always be to you."
  • Alfred Pennyworth of the Batman mythos was the friend of Thomas and Martha Wayne before they got murdered in their Death by Origin Story. He continues to refer to Bruce and Dick as "Master Bruce" and "Master Dick" mostly as a term of affection; he still sees them as his boys, rather than grown men.
    • One of the more recent comics actually explored this aspect of Alfred. He never intended to be in their employment forever, but then he got a late night phone call.
  • Superman's Kryptonian robot servant Kelex, inherited from Jor-El by way of the Phantom Zone, tends the Fortress of Solitude and worries in a detached way about the master. Until Steel's niece reprograms him with a hip-hop attitude...
  • Skink from Scion, though he's not old, fits this trope as he has served the Heron royal family for many years, especially Ethan, whom he has always been closest to. Skink also has elements of The Igor (looks-wise, anyway) and Battle Butler.
  • Tony Stark's butler Jarvis, especially when he is put in charge of maintaining Avengers Mansion. He opts to remain in Tony's service, even after being severely injured in a vicious attack by the Masters of Evil.
  • Doctor Strange has Wong, his manservant, associate, and most trusted friend. They have been a pair since Strange first set up shop in New York, and Strange acknowledges Wong as his master in matters of physical combat.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In The Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen, it is an old servant woman who tells the knight that the thief's last tale is true, and furthermore that the knight is the baby he saved during it.
  • In The Brothers Grimm's Faithful John, the dying king orders Faithful John to prevent his son from going into a certain room. When this fails and the new king falls in love with a portrait he sees there, Faithful John accompanies him, and when he learns of perils, protects the king and his bride at the price of looking like a madman. Finally, to avoid execution, he explains, and is turned to stone.
  • In Joseph Jacobs's "Tattercoats", Tattercoats is ignored by her grandfather and abused by all the servants, except for one faithful nurse, who looks after her all the time she is growing up.

    Fan Works 
  • Undocumented Features: "For every Dessler, there is a Dragonaar."
  • In The Dark Lady, after assisting in Gideon's birth, Rumpelstiltskin hires Mrs. Potts on as their full-time maid, having been an unofficial part of their family ever since.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hobson in Arthur. In fact, when Hobson dies, Arthur says his father died.
  • The Disney movie Candleshoe features a butler that has served an old woman for years. When she starts to fall on hard times, he fires her gardener—then dresses up as him and takes care of the garden as well, in his stead. When most of her old friends die or move away, he creates another fictional character to dress up as and be her friend. Later on in the movie, it's revealed she's known all along it was him, but allowed him to continue pretending for her so they would both be happy.
  • Fearless: The personal servant Huo Yuanjia had as a child is still there to tend for the abandoned family estate when Huo comes back after years of self-imposed exile.
  • Clifton, faithful valet to down-on-his-luck movie star George Valentin in The Artist. He remains steadfast to Valentin even after being hired by Peppy Miller.
  • James Bond
  • Aunt Katherine's butler Henry in After the Thin Man. After almost falling over due to the weight of Nick Charles's coat, he and Nick do a variation on the old Walk This Way gag:
    Henry: Walk this way. [shuffles off]
    Nick: Well, I'll try.. (does so)
  • In The Parent Trap, the butler Martin has a fond, forthright relationship with both his employer and her daughter. He is also expected to accompany them on interstate trips, although this causes a bit of dissonance when Elizabeth sees him in his swimming trunks.
    Elizabeth: Martin! What are you doing?
    Martin: Going for a dip, madam. Do you mind?
    Elizabeth:, it's fine.
  • In The War Lord, 11th century Norman warlord Chrysagon de la Cruex (Charlton Heston) is constantly accompanied by Bors (Richard Boone), an old warrior who already served his father long ago and has sworn to protect Chrysagon.

  • Older Than Feudalism: Odysseus's old nurse in The Odyssey.
    • This is probably the Trope originator for the Old Nurse subtrope of this trope.
    • Phoenix to Achilles in The Iliad is the male version.
  • Nan Ho in David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series. He was the Master of the Inner Chambers to the T'ang of City Europe, and continues to be so to his son Li Yuan. He is even tasked with choosing three wives for Li Yuan, who accepts his choices without question.
  • Susan in L. M. Montgomery's Anne's House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley, Rilla of Ingleside
  • Judy in L. M. Montgomery's Pat of Silver Bush, who is basically Susan with an Irish accent.
  • Warhammer 40,000 Expanded Universe:
    • In the Blood Angels novels, Fenn, having failed to qualify as a Space Marine, has worked for Caceus so long and so well that he has received longevity treatments.
    • Ciaphas Cain has Jurgen. Not only is he unfailingly loyal, he has very strict notion on what is improper for a commissar to do because it is his aide's job, and even Cain can not sway him from them. When Jurgen is apparently killed in the first novel, Cain goes into shock.
    • In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only, in the flashbacks, Gaunt is close to his father's cook, Oric, who would watch the arriving spaceships with him, humoring his statements that his father was coming on one, and point out the constellations. (A mustered-out Jantine veteran, ironically enough in view of his later conflicts with the Jantine Patricians.)
    • In the Horus Heresy novel The Flight of the Eisenstein, Garro has a housecarl, Kaleb, as his equerry, claiming him according to an old tradition allowed after he failed to qualify as a Space Marine himself. Some fellow Death Guard Space Marines sneer at that as a tradition that makes no sense, smacking of sentiment. When the sneering marines are going to firebomb the betrayed loyalist marines on the planet, Garro's efforts to stop them do not end in his own death only because of Kaleb's Heroic Sacrifice and death.
  • Harry Potter: House elves. Most of whom regard freedom as disgrace and strongly prefer to serve Blue Blood families. Kreacher strongly exemplifies the "upholding of standards" against the disloyal son whom he goes out of his way to antagonize and manages to betray to his death in Order of the Phoenix and later his halfblood heir, Harry; it is when Harry, Ron, and Hermione set out to do what he needed to do for Master Regulus in Deathly Hallows that his loyalty is won over. Also note the "Master Regulus" to refer to a son of the house who was an adult at the time.
  • Mervyn Bunter is this to Lord Peter Wimsey. The two made a pact during WWI, and Bunter has been Wimsey's valet since that war ended in 1918. Wimsey tries to encourage a more egalitarian relationship with Bunter, especially during and after WWII; this leads to a Don't Call Me "Sir" moment in The Attenbury Emeralds after Wimsey inherits the Dukedom of Denver which is only resolved by Bunter returning to using the title he's used for years instead of Wimsey's new one. Bunter also discourages his son Peter (PB) from believing himself equal to his schoolmate Bredon Wimsey, despite Wimsey's and Harriet's efforts to the contrary.
  • Despite already being a man of advancing age - and a battle-scarred veteran with hundreds of battles behind him - by the start of David Eddings' The Elenium, Sparhawk still keeps his old Squire/Manservant, Kurik, around. When one of his companions suggests it might be time to retire the old fellow so he can spend some more time with his family, Sparhawk admits that he can't even imagine it - they've been together so long, he feels as much a part of him as his sword and armor. He also states that he would've had Kurik knighted ages ago (He regularly tosses the rest of the knights around on the practice-field), but Kurik is oldfashioned and maintains that a commoner can't become a knight. Sadly, Kurik dies in the last book, and for the sequel series his son Khalad — who is quite a bit like Kurik but obviously isn't an old retainer — has to step up.
    • Kurik also has quite a few prejudices against knights, most prominently that they always place Honor Before Reason, have no common sense, and in general couldn't find their own arses with both hands and a map if he wasn't there to tell them where to start looking.
      • Also, at the peak of her time as Duchess of Erat, Polgara had a family of servants for several generations.
  • For possibly the Oldest Old Retainer ever we have Jenkins, the robotic butler in Clifford Simak's novel City.
  • Discworld:
    • Willikins, the Ramkin/Vimes family butler. Although in later appearances he seems to have been retconned to about the same age as Vimes, making him more believable as a Battle Butler.
    • Igor in Carpe Jugulum. He's served the Magpyr vampire family for generations (human ones), but his loyalty is sorely tested by its latest scions, who have a distinct disrespect for the Good Old Ways of vampirism of which he, Igor, is a major part. In the end, after they cross one line too many, he gets fed up and resurrects the previous Count Magpyr to put the young'uns in their place.
    • Albert. He's two thousand years old (or at least, has been around for two thousand years, but has been sixty for most of them), but that's nothing compared to the age of his employer. And much as he may sometimes appear resentful or suspicious of his position, he is ultimately loyal.
  • Butler of Artemis Fowl, although at this point in time he's only old compared to Artemis. The Butlers have worked for the Fowls for generations, and Butler also has a strong personal loyalty to Artemis.
    • Although Butler DOES refer to Artemis by his first name, for the most part. He uses the more formal "sir" or "master" one or two times per book.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Madam Corte, the Countess Persephone's cantankerous chaperone, is this. Naturally, Duke Nobel has a few of them himself. His steward is so old that he is blind.
  • Lini in The Wheel of Time has been a nursemaid for the royal family of Andor for at least two generations and soon to be a third. Even though her charges are all grown up, she still plays a parent/advisor role to them. They, for the most part, respect her opinions and it's not uncommon for one of them to think or say out loud "Lini always said..." .
  • In The Secret Garden, Ben Weatherstaff, the gardener. His mistress Lillias had asked him to take care of her roses; after her Death by Childbirth, his master had locked up the garden, but he climbed the wall to do it.
  • Paul Atreides in Dune has not one, but three Old Retainers—Gurney Halleck, Duncan Idaho, and Thufir Hawat. Then again, this is for good reason, since his ascent to the head of House Atreides happens rather early.
    • Miles Teg and Patrin.
  • In Mary Stewart's The Merlin Trilogy series, a character called Ulfin is rescued from effective slavery as a boy by King Uther. He repays this with absolute loyalty and rises to be Uther's most trusted servant, going on to a similar position with King Arthur after Uther dies. He's also the only person who actually seems to mourn Uther's death.
  • In Patricia A. McKillip's The Bell at Sealey Head, Lady Eglatyne's cook is distraught as the lady is dying. She can find another place, but she had served Lady Eglatyne since she was a little girl.
  • Good old Gabriel Betteredge from Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone.
  • Sergeant Hoong is a faithful Old Retainer of Judge Dee's family. Though he watched the Judge grow up he gave up trying to understand how his mind worked long, long ago.
  • Kostas Matsugae, from the Prince Roger series, has been assigned to generally look after Prince Roger for most of Roger's life, and it's implied — and then later outright stated — that Kostas is a father-figure to Roger (who never knew his father, growing up, and is not terribly impressed when he finally does meet the man). Kostas actually does mention how proud he is of Roger, once the prince starts pulling his head out of his arse and taking on the responsibilities he needs to. So when Kostas is killed by a damncroc, Roger's Heroic BSoD is only natural - as is the depression he sinks into, for some time afterwards.
  • Variation in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Santa Sofi­a de La Piedad is actually the mother of three of the Buendias (Remedios The Beauty and the twins Aureliano Segundo and Jose Arcadio Segundo), but she's always treated and seen as a maid. Even more, Santa Sofia not only doesn't mind it, but she likes such a treatment since it lets her help the family from the shadows, which is her speciality.
  • John and Elisa Barrymore from The Hound of the Baskervilles. John's family, on his account, have served the Baskervilles for generations. On the other hand, they've got a secret of their own: Elisa's younger brother is a Serial Killer that's on the loose, so they're morally obligated to cover up for him (he doesn't really want to, but she's very adamant into doing it, and cries bitterly when Selden bites it).
  • Arguably, Mac from the Honor Harrington series. He is one of the few people in the galaxy who can make her give in to something, although unlike many other examples he didn't come into her service until she was an adult.
    • This attitude seems to be standard for stewards in the RMN.
  • Anne McCaffrey likes for her Spoiled Brats to have Old Retainers.
    • Kylara of Pern is doted on by old Rannelly.
    • Earless Tapha in Acorna is looked after by Aminah.
  • Mammy, the house slave from Gone with the Wind, loyally stays with the main character even after emancipation.
  • A Long Petal of the Sea: Juana Nancucheo, the housekeeper to the Del Solar family, has been with them for so long, than when she reluctantly asks if they could they please pay her a little bit, they are shocked. To them, she is family, so why would they pay her? She has to remind them that she is not family but an employee.
  • In Dead West, Thomas and his family for the MacArkills. They were once, in fact, slaves with a pretty good relationship with their masters, as they were explicitly bought after Thomas' father made an Oath to Niall's grandfather that his family will continue to serve the MacArkills, no matter what. Since that, Thomas and his family has been freed, but they still consider themselves slaves. It sounds quite impossible, as they get paid, educated, and evidently considered more like family members by their masters. Niall gets quite worked up when somebody tries to assault Thomas, and (with Gervas) delivers a swift Curb-Stomp Battle to the hapless idiots. Cedric orders the photographer at Niall's wedding to take a photograph of "the family" first. It is quite heartwarming, when he gets his baby brother and sister-in-law, Gervas, and the servants together for this photograph. Thomas explicitly states that he loves his young master as much as his own sons.
  • Subverted in Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day (and the film adaptation by James Ivory): Mr. Stevens very much sees himself as the Old Retainer of Darlington House, but his dedication comes at the price of painful self-denial, and his blind obedience results in accommodating his master's prejudices. The story is ultimately An Aesop on the dangers of loyalty taken too far.
  • Chrestomanci: Mr. Amos (among others) in Conrad's Fate. Subverted at the end, when it turns out that he is actually the Count himself gone undercover to maintain the family fortunes.
  • Grigory Vasilievich in The Brothers Karamazov initially was a serf on the Karamazov estate who acted as his house servant, but even after the serfs were emancipated and his wife suggested the possibility of using their savings to start a shop in the city, he proudly declared that it was his duty to serve the Karamazov estate, even if his wife could not comprehend the duty. If he had a master other than Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov this might be understandable.
  • In James Stoddard's The High House, Carter's best friends growing up are three old retainers, Brittle, Enoch, and Chant.
  • In "A Witch Shall Be Born", Salome tells Tamarais that Krallides, her faithful councillor, had been caught and killed. Cold-Blooded Torture had ceased to affect her, but this brings her to tears again.
  • Aerin's nurse Teka in The Hero and the Crown.
  • Hannah in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.
  • Hogg to Daniel Leary of Bantry, in David Drake's RCN novels, as a gamekeeper/groundsman (in theory, anyway - Hogg is far from above illicit activities) when Daniel was a boy, and as a very informal valet/batman to him as an adult. Given Corder Leary's frequent absence due to his political career, Hogg also serves as a surrogate father for Daniel.
  • Song of the Lioness:
    • Coram Smythesson, Alanna's manservant and man-at-arms. Smythessons have been serving Trebonds for as long as anyone can remember, and he faithfully sticks by Alanna's side through her page years, Bazhir deserts, and the Roof of the World. He's the one who changed her diapers, taught her how to hunt and fight, and takes a fatherly interest over her love interests. When her father dies, he acts as steward of the Trebond lands.
    • In the last book, Lioness Rampant, Buri reveals that her family has served Thayet's mother's family for generations.
  • In Jane Austen's Persuasion, after Louisa's injuries in Lyme, the old family nursemaid goes to nurse Louisa.
  • Collins is this for both Falkland and Caleb in Caleb Williams. He is Falkland's faithful steward (the only one who can bring Falkland back from his nighttime hikes), but also a father figure to Caleb, who calls him "[m]y best, my oldest friend!"
  • In P. G. Wodehouse's Jill the Reckless, Wally Mason comments on his lack of one.
  • In Lisa Shearin's All Spell Breaks Loose, Tam meets up with a family Old Retainer, with whom he finds easier to meet than his own family. Later, he is included among the sacrifices to hurt Tam as much as the sacrifice of Tam's own family.
  • In Patricia C. Wrede's Mairelon the Magician, Hunch. Censorious about much of what Mairelon does, including taking on Kim, and prone to addressing him as "Master Richard".
  • In Susan Dexter's The Wind-Witch, Enna freely tells Druyan what she should be doing, and often does things as she deems proper in spite of her, such as feeding Kellis meager rations.
  • In Poul Anderson's Sargasso of Lost Starships, Donovan's slave Wocha has been his since he was a child and Wocha a cub; he wouldn't know what to do if liberated. At the end, he resolves the Betty and Veronica situation by killing the alien Veronica as she tries to lure Donovan away.
  • Loristan's manservant, Lazarus, in The Lost Prince, who has served the family as long as Loristan's son Marco can remember and treats them with rigidly proper respect even though the family's circumstances are now more likely to involve poky rented rooms than mansions.
  • Tanglebones, Elric's manservant in "The Dreaming City", and his modern-day analogue John Gnatbeelson in The Cornelius Chronicles.
  • In Noob, Bold Explorer Törk in well into his years and is mentioned to have served both Emperor Keynn Lucans and his father.
  • In Walter Jon Williams' Drake Maijstral series, Roman, a Kholasi, is from a family which has been in service to Drake's family for generations. He does not particularly approve of his master's chosen line of work, feeling it is beneath Drake's dignity, but he nevertheless offers his help and support out of strong sense of duty.
  • The Cat in the Stacks Mysteries: Azalea Berry, who was a part-time housekeeper for Charlie Harris' Aunt Dottie for years and continues in the role for Charlie after Dottie dies and Charlie inherits the house, in part since she's not ready to stop working (unusually for the trope, she also works part-time for other families). Azalea's daughter Kanesha, a deputy for the local police, is not happy about this and just wants her mother to retire, blaming Charlie for Azalea's refusal to do so.
  • The protagonist of The Dresden Files seems to be becoming one. Being in his forties has slowed him down not at all; he still fights for Molly, Lady of Winter as fiercely as he did for her father. (Apparently he likes having a surrogate family to be attached to.) Although he does find it difficult to obey someone he's known since she was in grade school.
  • In Heralds of Valdemar, a Queen's Own Herald will become this trope if they don't die prematurely: they're supposed to serve all monarchs of Valdemar, past, present and future. Most of the problems in the Arrows trilogy stem from Talamir, the previous Queen's Own, having been so old and so serious that the adolescent princess wasn't comfortable sharing her feelings with him...though they both tried.
  • Spinning Silver: Magreta is Irina's nurse and lifelong Parental Substitute. She entered Irina's father's service after he sacked the city where she lived, started tending to Irina so she'd be useful to him, and promptly fell in love with her. It's reciprocated; Irina faces off against a demon to protect her.
  • The Locked Tomb: Crux is the elderly Number Two to the ruling family of Drearburh. He's fanatically loyal to them, but is an evil old mummy of a man who makes Gideon's life hell and sabotages a shuttle to explode because its passengers insult the dignity of the House.
  • The titular character in The Nanny from Moscow by Ivan Shmelyov. She is so deeply loyal to her employers that she stays with them even when they are impoverished after the October Revolution, and then accompanies her young charge Katya (the only surviving member of the family at that point) to emigration. Moreover, when in Istanbul she gets a temporary job with a rich Turkish family who treat her better than Katya or her parents ever did, she refuses to stay with them for good and goes with Katya instead when the latter leaves the city.
  • Hwyll from Sword of the Rightful King has served Queen Morgause and the late King Lot's household for years and is absolutely loyal to his mistress. His loyalty is such that he has no compunction killing on her command.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Baldrick to Lord Blackadder. Naturally, this earns him no favours whatsoever:
    Blackadder: You're fired.
    Baldrick: But I've been in your family since 1532!
    Blackadder: So has syphilis, now get out.
    • Nursie from Blackadder II, who was Queen Elizabeth's nurse as a child. Now quite addlepated (and was probably addlepated back then too), she's still got a chair next to the Queen in Her royal chambers. If one imagines she was responsible for Elizabeth's education as well, a lot of the pieces start to fall together.
  • Uncle Pete from Damages. Tom introduces him as "the one who really runs things around here" which is the kind of patronising joke you'd expect from a law firm partner towards someone from the domestic staff. But as it turns out, it may actually be true. Not only is he in on every plot and scheme that goes down, but he talks to Patty in a way that suggests that he actually has some dominance over her.
  • Mrs. Hall the loyal housekeeper from All Creatures Great And Small
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Ser Rodrik Cassel is is Master-at-Arms at Winterfell and a loyal servant of House Stark. He is of a very old age.
    • Maester Luwin is the Maester of Winterfell and a loyal servant of House Stark. He is a surrogate parent to Bran Stark and Rickon Stark in the absence of their family.
  • House of the Dragon: Lord Lyman Beesbury is the most elderly and longest continuously serving statesman in the Small Council until his death. In Episode 9, he states that he's known Viserys longer then anyone else at the table. One of those people is Otto Hightower, who has been Hand since Jaehaerys' reign, meaning Beesbury was around before even him.
  • Upstairs Downstairs is practically made of this trope. But especially notable are Mr Hudson and Mrs Bridges.
  • Jiiya, from Kamen Rider Kabuto, fits this role to his master Tsurugi. He's even aware that Tsurugi is a Worm, while Tsurugi himself is unaware of this until the final arc.
  • As the twenty-first-century Spiritual Successor to Upstairs Downstairs, Downton Abbey also gets a lot of mileage from this trope. Mr. Carson, the butler, and Mrs. Hughes, the housekeeper, have both given their whole lives to working for the aristocratic Crawley family. Mrs. Hughes gave up her chance to marry, and Mr. Carson says outright of the Crawleys, "They're the only family I've got."
  • The Palace had Jeremy, a footman with a particular devotion toward Queen Charlotte.
  • Niles from The Nanny. His father was the butler for the previous generation of the Sheffield family. Niles grew up alongside Max, and even followed him to America.
  • Gaius the court physician from Merlin.
  • On The West Wing, President Bartlet inherited his secretary Mrs. Landingham from his father.
  • A subplot of Three Kingdoms has the eighteen-year-old Sun Quan inheriting the de facto state of Wu from his brother Sun Ce, including the officers such as right-hand-man Zhou Yu and veterans who'd served under their late father Sun Jian. Unfortunately Sun Quan has no power base (and no claim to legitimacy except Sun Ce's deathbed words) is not only younger than his officers, but he's younger than some of their sons too. When one of the veterans "misspeaks" in suggesting in Sun Quan's presence that Zhou Yu return to take over, Sun Quan puts two and two together and, upon Zhou Yu's return, offers him the throne and to become one of Zhou Yu's officers. This is resolved when Zhou Yu refuses and then learns from Sun Quan's mother that her son actually expected to be usurpednote , and believed that simply abdicating now would prevent a Succession Crisis and thus protect Wu, after which Zhou Yu makes a point of leading the officers in officially swearing loyalty to Sun Quan.
  • Jii in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger is Takeru Shiba's loyal retainer. Like Alfred, he acts half as a servant and half as a parental substitute, to Takeru for his whole life and to the other Shinkengers once they gather in the Shiba house.

  • In WHO dunnit, Butler is this to Victoria; he used to work for her mother, and she hires him as her manservant. He's really her father, Walter, and stays loyal to her due to his Happiness in Slavery.

    Tabletop Games 

  • Hoke from Driving Miss Daisy, who becomes one to the titled Miss Daisy. Also, Aedelia from the same play.
  • Anfisa, in Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters is too old and feeble to be much good as a servant anymore, but is kept on out of loyalty, until the brother's new wife starts running the house.
  • Same goes to Firs in The Cherry Orchard. He's left behind after Madame Ranevskaya and Co. have to go, and actually dies onstage as the orchard trees are cut down.
  • Adam in Shakespeare's As You Like It. Tradition holds that Shakespeare himself played this role.
  • Ruddigore has Old Adam Goodheart, who remains Robin/Ruthven's servant after his Face–Heel Turn - though he does change his name to Gideon Crawle and start acting a lot more like The Renfield.
  • Zazu in The Lion King, even more so than in the original Disney movie. At one point he consoled Mufasa regarding Simba's rebellious streak; "I seem to recall a young lion cub, more willful than wise. And he achieved some prominence." (As of The Lion Guard, Zazu has officially served three generations of the royal family.)
  • A standard trope in Greek tragedy; appears in e.g. Aeschylus's The Libation Bearers and Euripides's Medea. A direct line exists from these to characters such as Juliet's Nurse.
  • Lucky in Waiting for Godot.

    Video Games 
  • EXTRAPOWER: Daitoku Igor, the loyal butler of the Forcestar family.
  • Cyan of Final Fantasy VI served a royal family for at least two generations before joining the party.
  • Kei Nanjou's butler Yamaoka in Persona. Kei is, indeed, more attached to him than to his parents and takes it very badly when he dies. In fact, his ultimate Persona is best described as Cyber-Yamaoka wielding a naginata, protecting him even in death.
  • Fire Emblem has a few of these, such as Oswin for Ostia in the seventh installment and Marcus in the sixth and seventh installments.
    • Mind you, Oswin is only in his 30s and really dislikes being called old, so he comments he'd rather be called a gentleman than an old man in a support with Hector. Compared to bona fide geezer Marcus, who in that game is at least in his 40's...
    • In fact, most Crutch Characters in the Fire Emblem series tend to be such.
      • Unless they're of the "Oifey" archetype like Seth from Sacred Stones, Titania from Path of Radiance / Radiant Dawn and Oifey himself from Holy War. They're all in their 30's too.
  • Mr. Nakamura, butler of the Daidouji family for at least two generations in Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army.
  • In Animamundi Dark Alchemist, Sebastain is set up to look like a reliable Old Retainer - having helped Georik raise Lillith, and the two referring to him as Uncle... and then immediately subverts the trope by having him immediately sell out Lillith to Witch Hunters and revealed that he's a spiteful little coward.
  • Impa appears to be this to Zelda across The Legend of Zelda, at least when she is in fact portrayed as an old woman such as in The Legend of Zelda, The Legend of Zelda CD-i Games, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. It's rather more complicated in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; she's stated to not be that much older than Zelda when they were first acquainted (Zelda was 17 at the time, while the diary of Impa's older sister Purah indirectly implies that Impa was in her mid to late 20s), but the events of the Great Calamity lead to Impa taking The Slow Path over a century while Zelda fights Ganon, leading Impa to fill this role in the main story itself.
  • Winston is this to Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider series.
  • In the Mass Effect series, Joker and Dr Chakwas can be said to serve this role, being the only Alliance crew members to (potentially) serve with Shepard in all three games, on both the original Normandy and it's successor vessel.
  • World of Warcraft has Morose, the caretaker of Karazhan tower. First appearing in the novels, he was valet and housekeeper to the magus Medivh, and already quite old. In-game, not even death has prevented him from carrying out his duties, as he returns for a boss fight as a reanimated corpse determined to keep the players from "making a mess" of his master's tower.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Toadsworth is a classic case, although he wasn't introduced until Super Mario Sunshine. Unsurprisingly, "Master Mario" is his preferred form of address for our hero. Even before Toadsworth there were characters similar to him in appearance and function, such as the Chancellor from Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. The Chancellor may even be a precursor to Toadsworth.
    • Kamek refers to Bowser as his master, even when the latter is a baby like in the Yoshi's Island games.
  • Resident Evil 4: Leon can happen upon a diary entry from the butler of the Salazar family. The diary entry talks about how the Los Illuminados that Saddler controls is a successor to a prior cult that Ramon Salazar's ancestor (the original owner of the castle) stamped out centuries ago. The reason why the cult harassed the original Salazar? The Las Plagas was buried underneath the castle, and centuries later Saddler came to collect. The butler laments that Saddler's rhetoric of how Salazar needs to atone for the sins of his ancestor is unfounded, and that the new cult is just as dangerous as the old one. Sadly, Salazar does not pay the butler any mind and obeys Saddler without question, but the butler resigns himself to serving his master, just as he did Salazar's father before him. The fate of the butler is never shown, but all the same his situation is unfortunate.
  • One of the files found in the Lost in Nightmares DLC of Resident Evil 5 is a diary left behind by Patrick, the loyal butler of Ozwell E. Spencer. Through it he explains how he has been devoted to the Spencer family all his life, following in the shoes of his father who was their butler beforehand, and even how the Spencer family treated him quite well and as a friend of the family. Notably, not only is he pretty much the only human being on the planet to actually like Ozwell and be actually loyal to him, but Patrick also appears to be the only person ever who Ozwell seemed to like and trust: Ozwell even dismisses Patrick once his duties are complete, a rare move for a man who typically has people murdered when they're of no use to him anymore, and one that effectively (and possibly knowingly) spared him from death at the hands of Albert Wesker.

    Web Media 

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: It's implied that Mel's assistant followed her into exile from Noxus and has been serving her for years.
  • Played with in Archer, where Archer regularly treats his servant Woodhouse like crap. It's obvious he still cares about him in his distorted way, though.
  • The Miraculous Ladybug character Nathalie oversees the Agreste family as well as its business, protecting the former's secrets with imperturbable yet unquestionable devotion. (For example, she knows that Gabriel Agreste is also the supervillain Hawkmoth, and he trusts completely that she will conceal and enable his nefarious deeds.) In some ways, she has more authority than the family's actual heir.


Video Example(s):


The Enchantress

For the better part of the movie, the enchantress is cold, aloof, and seemingly indifferent towards everything.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / EmotionlessGirl

Media sources: