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Wise Old Folk Façade

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It's amazing what being tortured turns you into.
An old villain lures their much younger victim by giving an image of a wise, caring and soft-spoken old man/woman, only to drop the mask and showing their true colors as soon as their target is vulnerable. Expect them to rely on pet names (e.g. "My dear child", "(young) lad", "sweetheart", "sweetie", etc,) to strengthen the bond with their prey.

Their usual modus operandi is giving their victims a glimmer of hope and yanking the chain soon after. Among the main goals of this habit can be counted blackmailing, getting richer, soul/body stealing or, more simply, pleasure in hurting others. An evil smirk, Freudian Slips or a Traitor Shot are often used to remind the audience the villain is just biding their time and has no intention of mending their ways.

This trope is closely related to Evil Old Folks, Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, Faux Affably Evil, and Manipulative Bastard (while being a form of Nice Character, Mean Actor). Also compare with Bad Samaritan, Bait the Dog, and Evil Mentor.

Given the Plot Twist nature of this trope, even mentioning a work or character may spoil the work, so the major part of the spoilers may be unmarked. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the 2003 anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist, Dante first appears as a kindly old woman and the Elric's teacher, Izumi's, former mentor, but in truth, she's the Big Bad who created the Homunculi and a Body Snatcher who takes over her students since she's changed bodies so many times to stay alive that they decay after only a few years. She takes over her latest protégé, Lyra, during the story.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has Enya (Enyaba in the official translation). She shows up somewhere in Pakistan and invites the protagonists to to stay at her inn. What is interesting about this example is that the reader has known since almost the beginning of the story of Enya's nature, leading to suspense as the reader wonders when Jotaro et al will find out about her vendetta against Polnareff.
  • One Piece: In the backstory, Mother Carmel was an elderly nun who ran an orphanage, which Charlotte Linlin used to live in. She was a kindly mother figure to all of the children, no matter where they may come from. However, it's revealed to be a façade; she regularly sells the children to the highest bidder so they'll grow up to become assassins or soldiers.
  • Ranma ½: The perverted old man, Happosai, likes to try to present himself as a wise old mentor to Ranma and the gang, but it fails to come off because he just cannot contain his underwear-stealing and lascivious-groping behaviors for more than a few minutes at a time in order to sell the wise and benevolent part.
  • Tweeny Witches: Eva begins having visions of a wise old man who advises her to stay hopeful even in the bottom of despair, which causes her to become more competent at magic than before. Long after she's disabled by the Mystical Plague, he visits her once again and offers to give her back her magic with the True Book of Spells. As it turns out near the Grand Finale, the old man is an illusion created by the Big Bad Grande, who uses the visions to manipulate her into casting dark magic.

    Comic Strips 
  • One Perry Bible Fellowship comic has an old sex offender masquerading as a sea god to approach little children. In one case, he uses this disguise to comfort a child whose castle is washed away by the sea, telling him he, too, lost a kingdom.

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin: Jafar uses his old man disguise (though being himself a middle-aged man) to interact with Aladdin in the dungeons of the royal palace. Although Aladdin is initially suspicious of his true nature, Jafar quickly teaches him the "golden rule" and tells him he needs a young lad to bring out the treasure hidden inside the Cave of Wonders, even showing him some gems and a hidden escape route as proof of this trustworthiness. It is only after taking the lamp and having Aladdin at his mercy that he decides to drop the façade and give the lad his "eternal reward".
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Similarly to the much more benevolent Preston Withmore, Commander Lyle Tiberious Rourke develops a strong bond with Milo Thatch during the first phase of the expedition as if to soften the recent loss of the latter's grandfather (with whom he also successfully retrieved the Shepherd's Journal three years earlier) and use his charisma and decennial experience in the military to act as a new grandfatherly figure and role model. This is ultimately exploited when he reveals to Milo his plan to steal the Crystal and sell it on the black market, even advising him to not follow his grandfather's steps and instead join the mercenaries. As soon as Milo refuses, things go very, very downhill. Even though he actually offered Milo a chance to side with him, the following scenes show he didn't really care of him in the first place (e.g. punching him in the gut, nonchalantly stepping on his grandfather's picture and finally attacking him with a freaking fire axe in the climax). This selfishness and lack of empathy appear much more evident when he decides to kill Helga to make sure he will be the only one to get the sum paid for the Crystal.
    Rourke: You're an idealist, just like your grandfather. Do yourself a favor, Milo; don't be like him. For once, do the smart thing.
    [Milo stares at him defiantly]
    Rourke: I really hate it when negotiations go sour. Let's try again. (orders his henchmen to take Kida hostage and blow up the throne room's entrance)
  • Kubo and the Two Strings: Kubo sees a kindly old man in his dreams who tells Kubo to go to his father's old fortress to find the last MacGuffin. This old man is later revealed to be Kubo's evil grandfather, the Moon King, luring Kubo into a trap set by one of the Sisters.
  • The Little Mermaid
    • In the first movie, Ursula starts her plan to overthrow King Triton by inviting Ariel in her lair. Even though Ariel is aware of the sea witch's reputation as a traitor of the court, Ursula quickly points out in her Villain Song to have changed in better and started helping the "poor, unfortunate souls" of the sea as if she were some kind of Fairy Godmother. Needless to say, Ursula didn't even care of Ariel in the first place, even calling her a "tramp" after the former almost kept up the end of the bargain. The handbook Disney Villains: The Top Secret Files lampshades this trope.
    • Ursula's sister Morgana from The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea uses the same trick to gain the trust of Ariel's daughter, Melody. In particular, she uses the last remaining magic filter of Ursula to turn Melody into a mermaid and asks her to retrieve the trident from Atlantica, so that she could extend the duration of the spell. It doesn't help they both have Mommy Issues at the time of their meeting and Morgana already tried to kill Melody as an infant twelve years earlier, only to fail and promise King Triton to find him and his precious granddaughter again in the future.
  • In Up, Carl Fredricksen at the age of 78 gets to meet his childhood idol, the great explorer Charles Muntz (who is about 15 years older than Carl). Muntz is initially quite cordial with Carl and Russell, but turns against them when they refuse to help him hunt down the bird he's been pursuing.
  • Toy Story 2: Woody becomes part of a collector's exhibition and is conflicted whether to join or return to his owner, Andy. One of the other toy's, the Prospector, Stinky Pete, gently encourages Woody to choose the exhibit, while appearing to be sympathetic and insightful to his plight. When it becomes obvious he can't convince Woody however, he drops the compassionate façade and attempts with increased viciousness to physically sabotage his and the other toys attempts to leave (and thus ruin Stinky Pete's future as a preserved attraction).
  • Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear from Toy Story 3 is a kind old teddy bear who acts as a wise advisor to Andy's toys when they arrive to Sunnyside Daycare. He's actually a ruthless dictator ruling over the other toys. Among other heinous acts, he resets Buzz Lightyear to turn him against his former friends.
  • Megamind: The titular character uses a holographic watch to disguise himself as a glowing white-haired old man, in order to train a new Arch-Nemesis. Later, Megamind reveals the deception to goad his mentee into fighting him.
  • Tangled: A Wicked Stepmother version happens with Mother Gothel, who steals baby Rapunzel and raises as her own daughter, teaching her own values and being a "caring mother". That, until her true colors are revealed and the façade is out after Rapunzel knows the truth about her origins and powers.
  • Downplayed in The Land Before Time VIII: The Big Freeze. Although Mr. Thicknose is not evil, he does pass himself off as an old mentor just so he can get some attention. When snow falls down on the Great Valley and Little Foot reveals that he had told Mr. Thicknose before it happened and that Mr. Thicknose refused to believe him, everybody becomes aware of his lies. He does redeem himself in the end with even Littlefoot referring to him as the oldest and wisest.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Judge Claude Frollo paints himself as a caring Parental Substitute to Quasimodo, but he's actually an abusive figure to his adopted ward, only taking him when the Archdeacon of Notre Dame intervenes and stops him from killing him just because he was born deformed in the opening. He teaches Quasimodo to hate himself, tells him that the world is dark and cruel, and keeps him locked away from sight to prevent being associated with him. That, until his true colors are revealed and the façade is out after Quasimodo calls him out for his crimes, similar to the example above with Rapunzel and Mother Gothel.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Blob (1988): Dr. Christopher Meddows initially appears to be a helpful old government scientist who wants to protect the town and the protagonists from the rampaging Blob. As it turns out, he created the Blob by sending the Blob sample into space and is using the quarantine to create a suitable testing ground for the Blob.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: When Apex Cybernetics leaders Walter Simmons and Ren Serizawa approach Dr. Lind for help accessing the Hollow Earth, Simmons (who's played by the 50-something Demián Bichir and has silver hair to boot) presents himself as a caring, soft-spoken and grandfatherly man who just wants to help the world stop Godzilla's seeming Face–Heel Turn, and he appears to connect with Lind over their shared proclivity for crazy ideas. Once Simmons heads to Hong Kong to oversee Mechagodzilla's completion, he's revealed to be a manipulative, amoral Psychopathic Manchild who is just using the Hollow Earth expedition for his own ends and doesn't care what happens to them.
  • Hot Fuzz is predicated on the absurdity of a small town's Neighborhood Watch, which consists mostly of the town's elderly residents, forming a murderous conspiracy. The leader of said conspiracy is none other than the local police chief, who happens to be the father of one protagonist and initially does his best to establish himself as a parental figure to the other.
  • Scanners: Dr. Paul Ruth uses the "benevolent old grandfather" look to his advantage. Cameron trusts him implicitly and tries to infiltrate Revok's organization on his orders, but Ruth's actual motive is to weaponize his younger son against his older one, both of whom are psychic in the first place because of him.
  • Palpatine (AKA Darth Sidious) from Star Wars plays this role in the prequel trilogy. While his public persona is that of a wise old politician who only wants to act in the best interests of the Galactic Republic, in truth he is actually a ruthlessly power-hungry Sith Lord who desires to rule the whole galaxy as a supreme dictator. It's especially shown in Revenge of the Sith where Palpatine actively deceives and manipulates Anakin Skywalker, fooling the emotionally troubled young man into believing that he is his only friend and the only person he can trust; until finally persuading him to betray the Jedi Order and become Palpatine's Sith apprentice.

  • Played with in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. One of Voldemort's Death Eaters, Barty Crouch Junior, disguises himself as Alastor Moody by means of the Polyjuice Potion, so that he could lure Harry to Voldemort, who needed Harry's blood to gain a new physical body. In order to accomplish his mission without raising suspicion, he pushes his impersonation of Alastor, who is known in the wizarding world as an experienced retired Auror, to the point of teaching Harry how to fight the Unforgivable Curses, and gives him advice how to compete in the Triwizard Tournament.
  • Ignacius Cooper, a pretty evil and power-hungry Archmage from Nick Perumov's Keeper of the Swords series, likes to pretend to be a wise, grandfatherly Gandalf-like wizard.
  • The Stormlight Archive: The God of Evil Odium appears to Dalinar as a regal-looking old man with powdery white hair and a tidy beard, addresses him as "son", and chats with him about their duties and motives. The façade falls away when he reveals his true intention to drive Dalinar over the Despair Event Horizon and make him his Champion.
  • At one point in The Last Unicorn, the elderly and extremely competent wizard Mabruk is introduced. He briefly seems friendly enough, including talking to Schmendrick about Schmendrick's old teacher and giving Schmendrick encouragement about Schmendrick's struggles with performing magic. The second Mabruk is crossed, however, his kind and grandfatherly façade drops hard and fast and he becomes a terrifying figure. The description of him in the text explicitly foreshadows this as soon as he is encountered.
    His beard and his brows were white, and the cast of his face was mild and wise, but his eyes were as hard as hailstones.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Hawaii Five-0, the team encounters an elderly criminal who just got out of prison after serving decades behind bars. By all appearances he is a guy who regrets the bad choices he made when he was young and wants to live out his days in peace and quiet. He gladly helps the police when his unique criminal expertise is required. At the end of the episode it is revealed that he is back to his old ways and he used his interaction with Five-0 to rip off a group of thieves. By his second appearance he has committed multiple murders and once the cops see through his façade, they realize that he is a spiteful, unrepentant criminal.
  • On Justified, Arlo Givens is in his early 70s so most strangers regard him as an adorable, harmless old man, and Arlo takes advantage of that assumption whenever he can. However, anyone who actually knows him, including his Deputy US Marshall son Raylan, knows Arlo to be a dangerous, hot-tempered, petty, and violent criminal.
  • Resurrection: Ertuğrul: Kurdoglu Bey makes himself appear venerable and trustworthy to his nephew Gundogdu, providing him with advice while scheming behind his back as part of his plan to take the marquee from Suleyman Shah.

    Video Games 
  • Geoffrey from Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice is Mao's elderly butler who is constantly guiding him and aiding him. Late in the game, it is revealed that he is really Superhero Aurum, who has been training Mao to be the next overlord so he has an opponent to defeat so that he can still be relevant.
  • God of War Ragnarök: this is Odin's modus operandi while interacting with Atreus. Being a master manipulator and aware of the boy's sheer curiosity, he aims to win's Atreus' trust by offering answers to his many questions about his role in Ragnarok during his stay in Asgard and presenting himself as a more reasonable parent figure than Kratos. The only reason Atreus doesn't trust him completely is his knowledge about Odin's countless crimes, but still he sees some good in him despite the evidence to the contrary. The real motivation behind this grandfatherly facade is to gain the knowledge behind the Rift by means of a magical mask carved with inscriptions that only Atreus could understand. Unsurprisingly, when Atreus permanently closes the rift by breaking the mask in the climax, Odin completely loses it and drops his own mask for good.
  • I. M. Meen:
    • Implied with I.M. Meen himself. He owns a library, and we see children already inside the library, studying, which indicates that they must have trusted Meen enough to go there alone. However, we never actually see Meen act kind towards the kids. All of his scenes paint him as a deranged old wizard who openly despises children. He maybe feigns innocence in a mocking way a few times, but otherwise never hides his villainy.
    • Downplayed in Chill Manor. In the brief opening Villain Song, Ophelia Chill at first acts like a nice old lady ("I'm so very glad to meet you / you're most welcome in my home"), but a few seconds later, the tone changes ("I've been waiting for you, dearie / and I've got a big surprise / watch me change the course of history before your very eyes!"). Then she does an Evil Laugh, and from that point on, she is just as much of a Card-Carrying Villain as Meen.
  • Jade Empire: Master Sun Li is introduced as a stern but fair and wise teacher of martial arts who cares a great deal about his students, especially his protégé, the player character. However, as a major plot twist, he reveals his true colors by murdering the player without hesitation after they've fulfilled the goal that he raised them since infancy for — namely killing his elder brother, Emperor Sun Hai, so that Master Li (Sun Li the Glorious Strategist) can take for himself the throne and the stolen power of the Water Dragon (which he originally helped Hai steal while orphaning the player in the process).
  • Kor in Jak II: Renegade appears to be an old man who is allied with the Underground, has a seemingly calm demeanor, and is knowledgeable about the oncoming Metal Head forces. Just a few missions before the endgame, Kor reveals himself as the leader of the Metal Heads, kills Baron Praxis, and is actually impatient and super-unpleasant when it comes to his true personality.
  • Kingdom Hearts series Big Bad Master Xehanort, despite being the epitome of Obviously Evil, pulls this off in Birth by Sleep. Since his last encounter with Master Eraqus was a violent clash of opinions over the power of darkness, Xehanort cozies up to his former friend by acting remorseful and humbled over succumbing to the dark. Then, after setting Eraqus's pupil Terra up to fail his Mark of Mastery exam, Xehanort presents himself to Terra as being more open-minded over the inner darkness that Terra struggles with. This slowly erodes Terra's faith in his mentor and friends for their prejudice against the darkness, allowing Xehanort to play Terra like a fiddle right up to coaxing Terra into helping him kill Eraqus. From then on, Xehanort never bothers with the act again for the duration of the series, as Terra and the entire cast's hatred of him only works in Xehanort's favor.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords plays a little with this, as Kreia is hardly a kindly old woman — she's a bitter and sharp-tongued mentor who often picks apart the morality of the Star Wars franchise and RPG tropes like the Karma Meter, often mocking the player's choices in the process. Regardless, as a mentor figure and teammate, it seems like she's just trying to apply some tough love. But in the end, it turns out she's The Big Bad, Darth Traya, and however well-intentioned her goals are, her ultimate plan was to groom The Exile into a weapon she could use to kill The Force, in the vain hope that the resulting wreckage of the universe that follows would at least no longer be at the mercy of either Jedi or Sith.
  • Mega Man ZX Advent: Master Thomas, while being a bit sterner and straight-laced than most people in this page, is still a wise and respected old figure in-universe as one of the Sage Trinity. However, in The Stinger for the Hard Mode, it's revealed that he - like his traitorous colleague and Big Bad, Master Albert - has a plan to Restart the World, although he disagreed with Albert's methods.
  • Persona 5: Madarame poses as a genius artist and a father figure to Yusuke, but in reality he is a plagiarist whose only interest is money, and he is willing to take full advantage of his students to get it.
  • TinkerQuarry: Stella, an old, albino toy bat, initially presents herself as a kindly, humble old woman running a simple coffee shop. Then she tells the protagonists that she knits clothing too, and invites them to the back room in her shop... which is filled with parts and scraps from other, dismembered toys. She uses their parts to make her clothing, and she wants the human protagonist's "leather" next. However, it is hinted that she really was a sweet old lady at one point, and went through Sanity Slippage. This is supported by her appearance in the spinoff game JingleQuarry, where she is hardly malicious.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1: Dickson is mostly characterized as Dunban's more loyal war buddy and Shulk's father figure, helping the heroes on their journey to Mechonis. When Shulk attempts to make peace with Mechonis through Egil, Dickson shoots him in the back, revealing that he was only catering to Shulk to get him to release Zanza, whom he was really loyal to, to inflict a Telethia-infested apocalypse. From that point on, he plays the Heel to Large Ham degrees.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night: In the Heaven's Feel route, when Shirou first meets Zouken Matou, Zouken presents himself as a well-mannered grandfather who thanks Shirou for being good friends to his grandchildren, Sakura and Shinji. He's the main antagonist of the route (the only one he appears in) who was responsible for everything horrible happening to Sakura, Shirou's love interest in this route. Downplayed as his design makes it clear that he is not a good guy, and he drops the façade rather quickly.
  • Ernest Amano in Ace Attorney Investigations is an old man who dotes on his son Lance and is generous with his wealth and influence towards Miles, arranging for Miles's sabbatical abroad to study the legal systems of other countries. Amano affectionately calls Miles "my boy" and frequently urges everyone "Now, now, now" to calm panicked situations... a gesture that takes a darker tone when Lance is accused of murder, and Amano uses his money to literally buy the crime scene to keep the investigators out of it.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The title character of the episode "The Puppetmaster" is an elderly waterbender named Hama, who appears as a kindly old lady who invites the Gaang to her inn and offers to teach Katara some particularly advanced waterbending. Eventually, Katara learns that Hama is a particularly crazy and vengeful woman who, when imprisoned by the Fire Nation, mastered a particularly dark form of waterbending called "bloodbending", i.e. manipulating the water in people's bodies to control them, and she uses it to imprison innocent Fire Nation citizens.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: "The Quilt Club" features Elisa and Eliza Stitch, a pair of elderly Conjoined Twins running a quilt shop. They make polite conversation with Muriel when she asks about their quilt club, but then shoot down her attempts to prove herself worthy of joining the club. When the Stitch Sisters finally allow Muriel into the club, it turns out that the whole thing is a ruse to steal the souls of master quilters and prolong the Stitch Sisters' lives.
  • The Legend of Zelda (1989): In "Stinging a Stinger," Link sees an old traveller in the woods being mugged by some goons. Link beats up the goons to save the old man. The old man introduces himself as Sleezenose, and offers Link a new sword as a reward for saving him. Link is reluctant to give up his current sword, but Sleezenose manipulates him into making the switch. It then turns out that the goons were working for Sleezenose, and let Link "save" him as part of a con to get Link's sword. Sleezenose then tries to sell the sword to Ganon, but sets too high a price, infuriating Ganon, who orders Sleezenose to be fed to Gohma with Link and Zelda. Sleezenose opens the cage, then attempts to escape on his own and lock Link and Zelda in. Fortunately, Link and Zelda stop him this time, and force him to assist them in defeating Ganon.
  • Star Wars Rebels: Darth Maul introduces himself to the teenage Jedi apprentice Ezra as a simple scholar of the Force and assists him against their mutual enemy. Ezra continues to vouch for him after he's revealed to be an Old Master of The Dark Side and even knowingly accepts him as an Evil Mentor for a short time.