Follow TV Tropes


The Patriarch

Go To
King of the castle, whether you like it or not.

"By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact. But I am prouder—infinitely prouder—to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build, the father only builds, never destroys."

This is the Spear Counterpart to an Apron Matron. He is a tough family male elder and he just radiates authority wherever he goes. Likely he will be head of The Clan, a Cool Old Guy, and possibly an Old Master. Younger versions are allowed, though usually not too young. Just as an Apron Matron is a badass woman whose formidability is tied to running the family, he is a man whose formidability is associated in the same way.

He will naturally have traditional ideas about how family responsibility should be run, thinking for instance that Manly Men Can Hunt, but women should Stay in the Kitchen. There may be subtleties to his opinions in this matter of course, but that does not change the basic theme. These specialty differences will naturally distinguish him from an Apron Matron as well as causing Values Dissonance with many.

He will likely be overprotective and perhaps a Knight Templar Parent. On the plus side he will almost certainly be a very efficient Papa Wolf if any of his people are in danger, especially his young daughters, doubly so if he only has one daughter among several sons. He will definitely be the family's Team Dad, whatever else he is. Villainous Patriarchs will often be Abusive Parents, and/or a Fallen Hero. They might also be The Don in The Mafia, or a General Ripper in the military. If put in charge of a country, they'll always be The Generalissimo. Heroic ones will tend to have rough edges, though they will often be Mentors for their children, nephews, and grandchildren. This kind of character is often also a Determined Homesteader, and a Wasteland Elder.

A common plot is where the Patriarch is too much The Stoic to give a So Proud of You until the very end. It may be meant to tragically come too late. And if a Patriarch is married to an Apron Matron, then we shall have something to see... This trope may be less common now and milder father-figures seem to be somewhat in vogue, but it still persists.

Similarly, the Patriarch's overbearing authority may crush his sons into mere Nice Guys, whom he can not respect for their spinelessness. A nastier sort may try to crush rebellion with the threat of his will and finally despise them as the spineless Nice Guys and Dutiful Sons he made them, declare them Inadequate Inheritor, and opt for Passed-Over Inheritance. This may be why the Black Sheep is sometimes his favorite..

See also Reasonable Authority Figure, A Father to His Men. Indeed, if there's a Blue Blood in a society where this is important, it will frequently overlap with these tropes.

Might be the eldest generation of the Three Successful Generations.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Kyosuke and Kirino's dad in Oreimo is this. Is permissive to his children so long as they follow certain conditions, such as his allowing Kirino to be a model if she excels at schoolwork. He doesn't take very well finding out that she is an otaku, not because of any stupidity concerning the Animation Age Ghetto, but because of the attached stigma of being one, which he does not want her to suffer. However, no amount of reasoning can make him accept her ownership of eroge (since Kirino's still in junior high), so Kyosuke takes the heat for that.
    • Who then gets punched in the face for claiming he's going in his sister's room to use her computer to play games about Brother–Sister Incest.
  • Kichikujima- A more villainous example is Yoshikazu who is the big bad of the series.

  • God is unambiguously male in the ceiling fresco of the Sistine Chapel, with his giant beard and exaggerated muscles, while frequently being posed in dynamic positions that emphasize his power over creation. At the same time, he looks at Adam and Eve with a fatherly look in his eye and he talks to Eve with paternal care in the image of her creation, making him a fit for the ideal image of a Patriarch.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: The Caped Crusader himself is this to the Batfamily, being the adoptive or biological father of most of the younger members, the boss of most everyone else, and the general undisputed leader of the family who isn't afraid to lay down the law when he needs to. His success varies and he is prone to being overly strict or insisting on doing everything himself, but nobody disputes that he's the one in charge it's rare that the others don't follow his lead.
  • Reed Richards serves as this to Fantastic Four, both as a team and as a family. He's firmly the leader of the family and everyone tends to defer to him out of respect.
  • Kalish becomes one in the Distant Finale of Universal War One. This trope is even the last issue's title.
  • Professor X acts as an uncharacteristically sensitive and warm patriarch to the X-Men despite not being physically related to any of them. He was the one who brought the Family of Choice together and kept them together in their difficult early years, takes care of everyone else emotionally, usually handles the finances, and is generally deferred to unquestionably as the head of the family or at least a head. Even when rebelled against or questioned or criticized, he never really stops being seen as the Team Dad.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Ratatouille: Django can easily command an entire clan of rats and will leap right into the action himself to help out Rémy if the situation calls for it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • He's barely hanging on to life, but the respect the rest of the family gives to the grandfather in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) says everything.
  • Shenandoah: Charlie Anderson has seven children and one daughter-in-law in his household and imparts a lot of wisdom and authority to them about some things, while behaving detachedly about others. His main goal and focus is to keep his entire family out of the war. When push comes to shove, he's quite the Papa Wolf while rarely ever raising his voice.
  • A benign example with Ichirō Yashida in The Wolverine, and his death triggers the problems. He turns out to be a Evil Patriarch
  • In Spielberg's Munich, the main character encounters a maxed-out Papa Wolf version of The DonThe Patriarch of a crime family, who is just as attentive and reasonable as a regular fiction farm daddy, and also performs a "man test" for the main character—specifically, if he can hold his own in a kitchen (he can, on account of being raised in a kibutz). Plays out all the tropes of a wise old Don to a tee, with big emphasis on family.
    Papa: Let me see your hands.
    [he grabs Avner's hands and compares them to his own]
    Papa: Too big for a good cook. That was my problem too! I would've been a master, but I have thick, stupid butcher's hands just like yours. Oh, we are tragic men. Butcher's hands, gentle souls.
  • In Crooked House, Aristride Leonides ruled over everyone in his family, controlling everything they did. And then someone murdered him.
  • The Iron Claw's Fritz Von Erich, the family's original wrestler turned abusive middle-aged Stage Dad towards his sons/protegees.

  • City of No End has the feuding examples of Kavin Norn and Odham Kendar. Lord Norn is portrayed more positively, although there is definitely tension between him and his children; whereas Lord Kendar is a brutal authoritarian hated by his only son.
  • In Scipio Africanus: The Man Who Defeated Hannibal by Ross Leckie, Scipio's father is portrayed as almost a stereotype of the Roman version of this trope. He is stern and stoic, yet has a great tenderness underneath and raises Scipio to love and admire Rome and its values and understand his duty to it.
  • In Wen Spencer's Endless Blue, Viktor was this in the Back Story.
  • Funny Boy: Arjie's father has ultimate authority over the family. For example, his wife wants to go to Canada to escape the conflict, but he would rather stay, so they stay. Arjie experiences him as someone who is not involved in the day-to-day life of the family, but who makes the major decisions.
  • The Holts: Toby very much became one, as he advised and criticized his children as they went into their adult professions as he felt needed.
  • Many — if not most — of the clans in A Song of Ice and Fire and the TV adaptation are lead by patriarch.
    • Tywin Lannister is the rather abusive patriarch of House Lannister.
    • In House Stark, Eddard Stark is the stern-but-loving Papa Wolf variant.
    • Walder Frey is the patriarch of the huge House Frey. He's a Dirty, Grumpy Old Man, but dammit, he takes care of his family. If anyone (else) insults his family members, they are dead. The Red Wedding cannot be stressed enough. He also keeps a firm lid on the feuding and jockeying within his family.
  • Gemma the Elder, who is also called the Ancestor, is the oldest of the progenitors of Furtig's tribe and now leads his own tribe of science-minded cats in Andre Norton's A Breed to Come.
  • The person who represents the author's entire ancestry in The Divine Comedy is the departed soul of his great-great-grandfather, who spends the afterlife with Mars with his fellow martyrs and soldiers. He acts as a voice of authority on the beauty and goodness of Dante's native city of Florence before the greed and corruption that forced Dante to abandon his home forever.
  • The elderly Colonel Kraft in Victoria, who manages his orderly family (wife, son, and two daughters) with quiet authority, in addition to his military duties.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Our Miss Brooks, Mr. Conklin is The Patriarch of his family. In addition to being the dictatorial principal at Madison High School, he views himself as head of his family in the traditional sense. He is very pompous, having a large photo of himself above the fireplace. He is unmovable when he makes a decision, as his daughter Harriet well knows. He shouts out orders. In "Bartering With Chief Thundercloud" (he orders the visiting Miss Brooks to answer the door). In the "Yodar Kritch Award", Walter Denton relates how Mr. Conklin couldn't find a sock and shouted orders at everyone in the house. However, Mr. Conklin's authority isn't absolute. Episodes like "The Embezzled Dress" and "Connie and Frankie" show that Mrs. Conklin can also put her foot down.
  • Game of Thrones: All the major houses have one, of course, but Tywin Lannister wins the prize. His very first appearance has him giving Jaime an impassioned speech about the importance of the family legacy while skinning a deer. He orders his children around all he wants, and even his psychopathic boss and grandson King Joffrey (who outright threatens to kill his own mother and tried to assassinate his uncle) is scared of him.
    Lord Tywin: The house that puts family first will always defeat the house that puts the whims and wishes of its sons and daughters first.
    Lord Tywin: Your mother's dead, before long I'll be dead, and you...and your brother, and your sister, and all of her children. All of us dead, all of us rotting in the ground. It's the family name that lives on. It's all that lives on. Not your honor, not your personal glory, family.
  • In NCIS Eli David is an antiheroic version of this. He crossed the Moral Event Horizon too many times to be a hero per se, but he is at least a Fallen Hero and a Knight Templar . He also is something of a Woobie, for one can pity him and regret how far he fell.
    • Leon Vance is also a Patriarch though it is seldom shown. He has stronger family ties then most of the characters.
    • Rene Benoit: "I am protector and provider in equal part..." .
  • Tony Soprano in The Sopranos thinks he is this. He is fooling himself, and that is kind of the point of the show. His "associates" all treat him with a mix of fear and respect, but in his own family his wife is nagging, his daughter is usually trying to piss him off, and his son is an overemotional underachiever.
  • President Bartlet in The West Wing is a True Companions-induced version of this.
  • In the Korean TV serial epic Emperor of the Sea Jang Bogo's owner-then-adopted parent was a great Korean merchant chieftain in the Middle Ages. He was an honorable and very formidable man.
  • Grandfather Vanderbilt on Gossip Girl. Two episodes featuring him are even titled "the Grandfather" and ""the Grandfather Part 2"" in reference to The Godfather.
  • "Old Man" from Pawn Stars rules the Pawn Shop and everyone knows it. Even Rick, his son, even though he's co-owner.
  • Julius Caesar is the patriarch of his family in Rome, as he was in real life. After his death this role is taken up by Octavian (Augustus)—despite being the youngest member of the Julii, he's the only man.
  • Breaking Bad has Hector Salamanca, he may be paraplegic but his nephews treat him like the authority ad he beats the importance of family into their brains when they were small. Better Call Saul shows that the Salamanca family has been a crucial and influential family among the Cartel and Hector is willing to insult his boss if he perceives disrespect toward the Salamanca's name.
    Hector: Who you think you are? You should be kissing my ass right now. Me and my family? We built this whole business.
    Bolsa: We all did. Together.
    Hector: No, no! Salamanca did! Salamanca money! Salamanca blood!
  • The titular family's patriarch on The Fall of the House of Usher (2023) is Roderick, the billionaire grandfather who grudgingly presides over his variously competent brood.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: King Durin III holds a strong grip around his family. Prince Durin and Disa are not happy with this, because they cannot take any decisions without his permission.
  • Johnny Rose is this on Schitt's Creek. His hard work built the family's fortune, and when they go broke, he's the one who holds the family together.

    Myths & Religion 
  • God in The Bible is given metaphors like "father", "king", "lord of hosts", "judge" and so on which makes one conclude that Hebrews thought of Him as being like a tribal chieftain combining familial, political, judiciary, military and other functions much as a human chief would.

    Tabletop Games 
  • All thirteen Dragonmarked Houses in Eberron have a patriarch or matriarch, except for House Cannith, who has three operating in distinct regions.
  • A Genestealer from Warhammer 40,000 will turn into a mighty Broodlord if it successfully infiltrates a planet and starts "mating". The resultant family of hybrids and cultists start worshiping the Broodlord, helping it grow even larger and deadlier, and it even starts manifesting Psychic Powers.

  • Dodge in Sam Shepard's Buried Child is a subversion and a deconstruction. Nobody even pretends that Dodge is still in control of the family and he ends up mercilessly bullied.

    Video Games 
  • Winfred Kitaki (Tsunekatsu Kitaki) in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney is a mob/yakuza boss who is trying to leave the criminal world to get legal money for an operation that is needed to save his son's life.
  • Deconstructed in Mass Effect 2, where you meet a krogan on Omega who's referred to as Patriarch, because he was given that nickname as a Stealth Insult by Aria, the asari who beat him and kept him around as a trophy, since the asari, being a One-Gender Race, don't even have an equivalent term. Depending on your actions you can turn this around and have it be reconstructed and help him regain his confidence so he sees the title as a positive thing again.
  • Saul Buchanan in Wasteland 3 rules over post-apocalyptic Colorado with an iron fist, and was nicknamed The Patriarch by his citizens. The game's plot revolves around the players helping him resolve a Succession Crisis by rounding up his three insane children who have their own plans for the wasteland.

    Web Comics 

     Western Animation 
  • Rick and Morty: At the end of the first episode of Season 3 "The Rickshank Redemption", after Beth tells Rick about her divorcing Jerry, Rick Sanchez brags to Morty about how he usurped Jerry as head of the family. Subverted in the season 3 finale, when Morty, Summer and Beth finally has enough of Rick, and reunite with Jerry in hiding. When Rick tracks them down, with the intention of outright KILLING Jerry this time, the whole family stands up to him, and Rick reluctantly accepts, in his own words, being the lowest-status character in his idiot family.

    Real Life 
  • George Washington was a great family man as well as "The father of his country". It might be fun in a way to be his stepchild (he had no biological children), but boy would it be scary.
  • Thomas Jefferson was referred to as "most blessed of the patriarchs" and his family regarded him as such, with even his enslaved relatives commenting the respect they had for the pater familias after his death.
  • Ironically, Douglas MacArthur (see page quote) was a rather flawed patriarch by many accounts, being overbearing and apparently even adulterous. But his ideas on fatherhood are generally agreed to be not bad sentiments.
  • The original meaning of the word "king" is "head of kin" or in other words chief.
  • The spiritual leader of any division of the Eastern Orthodox church (encompassing one or several nations) is called a Patriarch, seeing as the people are his "children". This is a bit different to cardinals and the Pope in the Catholic church, in that while there is an Eicumenial Patriarch (in Constantinople, which was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and thus the center of Orthodox Christianity), he is a first among equals and the other patriarchs are autocephalous, i. e. don't defer to him.