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"HERMIT, n. A person whose vices and follies are not sociable."
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
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Hermits are folks who don't live around other folks — and they like it that way. They never say I Just Want to Have Friends and they aren't afraid of Dying Alone. Hermits aren't banished or cut off from society as punishment — they willingly chose to leave it, for whatever reason.

Despite their reclusive lifestyle, fictional hermits may be either friendly or hostile. If a hermit is friendly, their reason for living alone will be that they simply enjoy the solitude. If the hermit is hostile, it's because they're misanthropic. On occasion, the hero will encounter a religious hermit.

Nice or not, almost all hermits are quirky. That's because Loners Are Freaks; they don't conform to society's rules about cleanliness, politeness, footwear, or edibleness. Heck, they don't conform to society's standards at all. Hermits generally have a high tolerance to Going Mad from the Isolation, but they're not completely immune. See "quirkiness" above.

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Most classic hermits to live in swamps, jungles, deserts, or caves. Modern hermits are more likely to live in cities or towns, but be highly, highly withdrawn, to the point of never interacting with the outside world. Hikikomori, Basement-Dweller, and the Reclusive Artist are some examples.

If a hero seeks out this person for guidance or training, chances are you're dealing with a Hermit Guru. Other times when a hero meets up with them on a journey, they may become a kind of one-person Wacky Wayside Tribe.

Use caution when adding examples from Eastern media — "hermit" is a popular translation for the Chinese xian and Japanese sennin, but not all xian/sennin embody this trope.

Compare The Aloner, for whom social isolation is a terrible punishment, and those Sent Into Hiding. Contrast Hates Being Alone, for when a character really doesn't want to be isolated from others. See I Work Alone for when they don't rely on others.

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Has nothing to do with hermit crabs.


Examples:

Anime & Manga

  • K: Adolf K. Weismann took off in a blimp after his experiment ended up accidentally making him immortal. He lives up in the sky alone for decades until... plot comes along. He's not ill-adjusted to being around others, though — he is actually incredibly charming, though a lot of that may be due to the fake memories.
  • Kotoura-san: Deconstructed. It's a part of Hurting Hero Haruka's facade and deliberately having nobody else in her life is taking its toll against her. She does live alone in the Present Day, but the difference between solitude and loneliness is made quite clear as the show goes on.
  • My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected: Because of his terrible social experiences before high school, Hachiman Hikigaya became the embodiment of this trope in the series, a loner who doesn't want nor care interact with other people, or at least at the beginning of the story.
  • Soul Eater: Eibon the wizard lived alone for centuries (at least, in the manga) on Lost Island.
  • The Voynich Hotel: Zepis, the legendary second-rate Boiler Engineer, lives in an abandoned mine on the island where the titular hotel stands.

Comics

  • Archie Comics: There have been a few stories about hermits — one was about a hermit teen who ran away from foster care and lived in a cave. He chased away any intruders, until Betty got in trouble — then he swooped in, rescued her, and decided he liked people and wanted to live among them again.
  • Copperhead: Ishmael lives alone outside town. He claims the choice is due to prejudice and lack of employment opportunities. It's unclear how often he interacts with the community before Clara's arrival; everyone knows who he is but only by reputation.
  • Le Scorpion: Gottfried dwells in the middle of the desert, protecting the Cross of Peter.

Fairy Tales

  • In Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou, Prince Houssain, having lost out in the competition for Princess Nouronnihar, became a hermit. At the end of the tale, he remains one because he found himself happy in it.

Fan Fiction

  • Don't Keep Your Distance: Morris the Iguana left the big city he was from on his motorcycle out of grief when a friend died and drove mindlessly into the forest, eventually happening upon the village Sunny Clearing and deciding to start a new life there when the locals took him in. Quickly, however, he realized he didn't much get along with them owing to their closed-minded mentality, but he does participate in communal activities anyway, it being only fair. One of these activities, a search for food in the woods, was when he found the protagonist, Paint, as a helpless infant.
  • Egypt on Anur Khufos: Elias Amsude. Working as a journalist in Giza for nearly 15 years, he's grown bored with modern Egyptian life and wishes more for what the country was like thousands of years ago, and as such he lives under one of the smaller pyramids in a makeshift underground apartment. He's actually a Thep Khufan scribe named Elastamun, who was stationed on Earth to research humans while disguised as one. By the time the story starts, he's called back to his homeworld Anur Khufos by his master, because since he was away, their species had started dying from a mysterious plague while under the rule of a ruthless pharaoh.
  • In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, the four are sent by the Circle to speak to a hermit in a cold piney woods about the whereabouts of a piece of the Nine-part Key. They're warned that he may not be too friendly, that he may be guarded, and that he may require some kind of service done for him before he will make with the information. What they're not warned about is that there is no hermit, just an empty cave and an ambush by the Circle.

Film

  • The Hobbit: Radagast the Brown. Unless you count the animals he seems capable of speaking with, in which case he's a very social person indeed.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian has at least one scene with a traditional religious hermit, who's had his eye on a particular bush of berries.
  • Star Wars:
    • At the beginning of A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi is living in this way on a desert planet called Tatooine, as is Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back in a swamp located in Dagobah. The prequel films show that both are effectively in hiding from the Empire.
    • In The Force Awakens, Luke Skywalker becomes a hermit on an isolated island after his nephew and former apprentice massacred the new Jedi order.
  • The Wailing: The man suspected for the deaths lives in an old decrepit house in the woods near the village of Goksung.

Literature

  • A Canticle for Leibowitz: Benjamin, who may or may not also be the pilgrim from the first portion of the book, the Old Jew from the third, and/or Leibowitz himself, lives in isolation on one of the mesas surrounding the monastery, only coming down to trade with the monks from time to time,
  • Several of Carl Hiaasen's novels include a recurring hermit named "Skink" who's sworn off society and lived the last 40-some years wandering the Florida Everglades, subsiding off roadkill and occasionally surfacing to lend his hand to a struggling individual or exact some vigilante justice on those who he feels have wronged nature. Only a few people know that he's actually Clinton Tyree, a former Governor who famously resigned and went missing after becoming disenchanted with the rampant corruption that permeated Florida politics.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: In the backstory, Willy Wonka became this for a time after he closed his factory due to corporate espionage on the part of his rivals, completely breaking off contact with other people and vanishing from the public eye. Eventually he discovered the Oompa-Loompas and hired them as a new workforce, though he remains an in-universe Reclusive Artist.
  • City Of Bones 2007: Madame Dorothea doesn't like leaving her apartment, and only interacts with Jocelyn Fray.
  • Discworld:
    • St. Ungulant in Small Gods is a religious hermit. The Omnian Church encourages them, since if people are going to ask questions about the nature of belief, it's best they do it out in the wilderness where no one can hear them.
    • Snuff introduces a hermit who lives on Sybil's countryside property, because apparently having a hermit on one's land was once fashionable among the nobility and they like to keep up traditions. This one wanders around speaking cryptic philosophy and being filthy, but gets a week's vacation each year during which he behaves normally and is actually popular with the ladies, ensuring that he will have sons to carry on the profession.
  • In The Divine Comedy, the seventh sphere of Heaven (Saturn) houses those who left their worldly possessions to live a monastic life.
  • Edenborn: Halloween has the whole continent of North America to himself.
  • In The Faerie Queene, many knights encounter hermits — these are either genuinely religious or Evil Sorcerers in disguise.
  • Goodnight Mister Tom: Tom Oakley became this at the start of the book after losing his wife and his son, but he still has his dog Sammy for company.
  • In Green Angel, Green becomes a non-religious hermit out of grief at her family's deaths. Over the books she lives largely alone except for her dog; the boy Diamond stays for a while due to heavy face burns, and they fall in love until he leaves to search for his mother. In the second book, she's less of a hermit since people come to her to tell their stories, and it takes the end of the book for Green to finally start living with Diamond and his mother.
  • The Horse and His Boy had the protagonists helped by a nameless (but friendly) hermit once they reach the end of the desert and cross into Archenland.
  • Judge Dee: The titular judge is rather skeptical of hermits as a whole, but he does meet one that gives him important clues to solving a murder.
  • A Little Bush Maid: Norah Linton discovers a hermit living in the Australian bush. He is quite friendly to Norah and her friends but has a Dark and Troubled Past which explains why he prefers to live in isolation.
  • The Lorax: The Once-Ler lives near the wreckage of his old factory and never ventures outside. This is largely due to his guilt complex.
  • Mungo City is about a world where commercialisation runs rampant. People are allowed to leave Mungo City and get away from the capitalistic society, but only if they agree to live isolated in the wilderness forever. The main character decides to chose this option to get away from his incredibly annoying friend. The friend follows him into isolation.
  • The Night Garden: A hermit lives on the edge of Franny's family's farm's property. Zebediah visits him quite frequently during his time there and gets the code to activate the Argot for Fixing Bob from him.
  • Noob: The Ashentäk Oracle had to leave the city to settle in the Ashentäk Bubblegloop Swamp, due to being a Blessed with Suck Seer who would get regularly harassed. She's aware that whoever goes though the trouble of paying her a visit must really need her help, so she's as good a hostess as living in a half-sunken castle can permit her.
  • Nursery Crime: The Quangle-Wangle is a notoriously reclusive figure, specifically the type of extremely rich person who avoids contact with society at large. An in-universe joke goes that, when recluses meet up, they remark on how nobody's seen the Quangle-Wangle of late. As it turns out, the reclusiveness is due to his having been killed some time before the books.
  • Tough Magic: Uncle Rick lives by himself a few miles away from town, is anti-social, not much of a talker and resides in a mountain.

Live-Action TV

  • Boy Meets World: One episode features an Imagine Spot after the group of friends begin playing pranks on one another in which this causes a rift between them and breaks them apart. In this fantasy, Eric becomes a hermit living alone purifying and re-drinking his own urine, having changed his name to Plays-With-Squirrels. He wrote an immense manifesto (claiming that every hermit has one), which includes a thousand blank pages and only one with writing on it- "Lose one friend, lose all friends, lose yourself."
  • Doctor Who: In "The Time Monster", the Doctor refers to visiting a hermit who lived on a mountain behind his house on Gallifrey. (Fanon has it that this was K'anpo Rinpoche, the Buddhist Time Lord from "Planet of the Spiders".)
  • In Merlin (2008), the titular character's father Balinor lived as a hermit.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: Parodied in a sketch about hermits living in caves on a mountainside, who act like cooped in housewives and often meet up for a chat!
  • The Path: Kodiak is a mystic and Willing Channeler, founding member of the Meyerist faith, he has lived alone in, literally, Siberia (perhaps studying shamanism there) for the past twelve years, until called back to the main community by their doctor, to help her unravel leader Cal's schemes. He is a Nature Lover. Along with mystic/counselor Richard, he becomes The Seeker.
  • The Walking Dead: It's no big surprise that he would enjoy being alone, but the circumstances at hand make it tragic. Daryl Dixon becomes a hermit in Season 9 Episode 5. After Rick Grimes blows up the bridge the communities were building to destroy a massive walker herd and seemingly sacrificed himself, Daryl cried over the loss of his "brother". He then silently realizes that his and Maggie's actions trying to kill Negan ended up getting Rick "killed" instead. As a result, Daryl walks off alone and lived in the woods for six long years. In the six years he spent in the woods, Daryl desperately tried to find Rick's body or evidence of survival for closure. At some point he did find a dog he simply called "Dog" who he trained and kept around for company. However, it can be presumed that Daryl spent a vast majority of the six years living in the woods completely by himself.
    • It's partly subverted because he encountered Michonne looking for Rick's body on the riverbank about eight months after Rick blew up the bridge. Later on the next day, he helps her find Judith and the other missing children who were kidnapped by Michonne's old friend Jocelyn and her group. It is also subverted partially because Daryl told Carol where to find him if she wanted to see him. However, dialogue between Henry and Daryl suggest that Carol hasn't seen much of Daryl after the bridge explosion. As such, Daryl spent many years completely cut off from his allies who cared about him.
  • Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Stinger/Sasori Orange prefers solitude as he doesn't want to associate with anyone. Dark and Troubled Past is major cause for this. He can be roughly kind under the right circumstances.

Music

  • Warren Zevon: In "Splendid Isolation", this is the ultimate goal of the narrator — to remove himself from the rest of humanity as much as physically possible.

Tabletop Games

  • Deadlands: The Fire & Brimstone supplement included a Hermit archetype for Blessed characters.
  • Pathfinder: Bronze dragons are the least sociable of the metallics and prefer to spend their time alone with their books and research, often spending years or decades at a time holed up in seclusion before being forced to return to society to acquire new reading material.

Theatre

  • Arcadia: A Mad Mathematician hermit is a major plot point. By the end of the play, we know it was Septimus.
  • Samuel Beckett: This trope is a very common feature of Beckett's male protagonists (like the "seedy solipsists" of Murphy, Krapp's Last Tape and Eleutheria) who often try to detach themselves from the outside world entirely.
  • Timon of Athens: Timon becomes a hermit once he is sufficiently Maddened Into Misanthropy, and, unlike most examples, he's not friendly to visitors at all.

Video Games

  • Avencast: Rise of the Mage: The nameless hermit doesn't figure into the game, but he's critical to the backstory and serves as the audience for the framing device.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • A mad hermit features as part of the Nature of the Beast questline. The player character must either seek his help to reach the centre of the Brecilian forest or retrieve an acorn from him for a poetic sylvan. He is also a powerful blood mage who once occupied a tower raised from the ground with magic.
    • Solas of Dragon Age: Inquisition is an elven hermit, displeased with society as a whole and particularly the direction the elves have gone. Unsurprisingly, seeing as he's actually one of their gods.
  • Evolve: Crow chose to live alone in the wilds of Shear for his retirement, surviving off the land with only a little tech to help him. His job before that was essentially the same thing, being dropped alone onto alien worlds for a few years to learn about its survivability before being retrieved, debriefed, and tossed to a new world.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, Niime is known as the Hermit on the Mountain, and, after the end of the game, she's stated to have returned to her reclusive life to continue her research into the Scouring and Elder Magic. It's thought that she was able to unlock many of the world's mysteries, but she never left any written records.
  • Knights of the Old Republic Jolee Bindo. You find him living in a hut on the surface of Kashyyyk, which is largely populated by dangerous animals and reckless young Wookiees.
  • In Kult: Heretic Kingdoms, one of Alita's tasks is to track down a hermit who lives in the woods, as a favour to the forest's guardian. He's found, but only as a ghost. Since he's a religious hermit, and Alita's job is to enforce a ban on religion, their interaction is a bit rocky, but the hermit's new posthumous status makes their debate purely academic.
  • Quest for Glory I: So You Want to be a Hero: 'Arry the 'Ermit is very friendly and loves company, but is still very much a 'ermit.
  • Stardew Valley: Linus is an old man who made the conscious decision to live in a tent by the lake in the mountains near Robin's house, living off wild forage (and leftovers fished out of people's garbage cans). He's something of an outcast among the other villagers, but if the player befriends him he'll teach them a few cooking recipes, and how to make Wild Bait for fishing.
  • Touhou has Kasen Ibaraki, The One-Armed, Horned Hermit. She lives on her own, and is about as eccentric as most people in Gensokyo. However, she is also tasked with aiding people with her wisdom, so she's not a complete recluse. Though called an Evil Hermit, Seiga Kaku is not much for isolation (what with masterminding religious takeovers and living with a zombie).

Web Animation

  • RWBY: In the Remnant fairytale, the Story of the Seasons, The Old Wizard lived in an isolated cabin in the middle of a forest. He received no visitors and hadn't even left the house to step outside in centuries when the four heroic sisters encountered him. Through their compassion and persistence, they encouraged him to accept their presence, their help and to even step into the sunlight, transforming his life for the better. In return, he rewarded them with his magical powers so they could use them to help humanity.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Batman Unlimited: Mech vs. Mutants sees Mr. Freeze perfectly content with being one and staying in the Arctic until the Penguin talks him into returning to Gotham.
  • The Legend of Korra: Toph is revealed to have become one, living in solitude except for the occasional raid on the swamp tribes. She claims she knows what's happening all over the world via the roots of the World Tree.

Other

  • There's of course the Tarot card named "The Hermit", which represents contemplative solitude.

Real Life

  • The early Christian hermits who lived in the deserts of Egypt and Palestine in the fourth and fifth centuries AD; indeed, words like "monk" and "monastery" derive from the Greek word monos, "alone". Hermits began to congregate into loose collections (now known as "sketes"), where hermits would live around a central place where they could gather for worship; these evolved into monasteries. However, there are still monks and nuns who follow this tradition and live as hermits (they'll tell you they aren't really living alone, but choose solitude in order to experience God more fully).
  • Ditto with monastic traditions in other religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.
  • In 18th century England, the best gardens would have an "ornamental" hermit. This person was hired to live on the grounds in a hovel and appear occasionally for guests... at a distance. They weren't allowed to bathe or cut their nails and hair over their tenure. After several years, the hermit would be let go and paid a large sum of money. Most modern interpretations of hermits are modeled after this fad.
  • Somewhat Truth in Television with people who have Schizoid personalities. This isn't the same as Schizophrenic: people with this disposition do not suffer from social anxiety as do Hikikomori, nor do they particularly desire to go out and interact with others, and many hold jobs and spouses. They simply prefer to be alone, and cut themselves off from the "usual" social interactions. With the new DSM-V criteria it won't be considered a disorder any more.
  • Somewhat of a Downplayed example, but there's a perception that this trope is a common reason for why some Americans choose to move to Alaska.
  • Famously, Henry David Thoreau spent a bit over two years living in comparative solitude at Walden Pond, which formed the basis for his book Walden. He often entertained visitors, however, and returned to society once his time was over, so his stay at Walden was more of a social experiment in simple living than an official hermit lifestyle. Oh, and his mom did his laundry for him.
  • The Lykov family lived in seclusion for nearly 40 years after fleeing religious persecution during the early years of the Soviet Union, living some 150 miles/240 kilometers away from the nearest settlements in the Siberian wilderness. They were completely unaware that World War II had occurred, or even that men had landed on the moon, and were amazed at some of what then modern society had to offer, such as cellophane. It should also be noted that their life was pretty hard, and they were under constant threat of starvation (which the mother died from in 1961) due to not having a lot of modern tools for wilderness survival many people take for granted today, such as cooking utensils or hunting gear. Additionally, three of the children died within days of each other, two from kidney failure, likely due to their diet, and a third from pneumonia. Sadly, only one of the daughters, Agafia who is now in her 70's, is still alive.
  • The North Pond Hermit lived for over 25 years in the woods of central Maine with virtually no interaction with other people (other than breaking into their camps) until he was finally caught and arrested in 2013.

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