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Old Soldier / Literature

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  • Kat from All Quiet on the Western Front.
  • The Arts of Dark and Light:
    • Corvus is the Four-Star Badass version, an old general who feels he is getting too old for generalship. However, he is then forced into politics instead, a field which is far less straightforward and even more dangerous.
    • Lodi the Dwarf is a veteran of the famous Siege of Iron Mountain. In Summa Elvetica, he tells the story of it to Marcus and the rest of the fellowship.
  • Bob Shaftoe eventually becomes one of these in The Baroque Cycle.
  • John Carter of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series has, by his own admission, been soldiering for literally longer than he can remember, but for some never-explained reason still has the appearance, strength, and stamina of a man in his prime. The combination of peak physical form and decades of sword=fighting experience makes him rather formidable even on Earth, and when translated to Barsoom where the lower gravity allows him to leap moderately-sized buildings with a single bound, he's essentially a one-man army.
  • Belisarius Series: Maurice is the best example. There are others who have seen quite a bit of war, but these are often Proud Warrior Race Guy s whereas Valentinian is closer to the classic model of this trope, having a cynical, practical and plebian outlook on war. Flavius Belisarius himself, both in the series and in the real life. He was a Syrian Greek of peasant stock, a bunch that was noted for their practical outlook, and it was repeatedly said that he viewed the war not as an honor or a joy, but as a work that has to be done, which is why he was so good at it.
  • The Dansker in Billy Budd, an old sailor "of few words, many wrinkles, and some honorable scars," who always addresses Billy as "Baby."
  • The Black Arrow: Nick Appleyard, one of the archers of Sir Daniel, is a veteran of the Hundred Years' War and the battle of Agincourt. An old, wrinkled, grey-eyed man who is constantly grumbling and prating about the late King Henry V, his eyesight is still as sharp as his wits, and although he would rather be left alone with his cabbages, people still trust him to put together a garrison and hold a fort.
  • In The Black Company series, this trope was written for Croaker and all of the rest of the Company kept in a decades-long magical stasis in the later books, where he also becomes a Four-Star Badass: especially after the Old Guard is resurrected from the magical imprisonment in Water Sleeps.
  • Bolo: Bolos can spend years or decades on the front lines. Of course, they're self-aware tanks armed with a Wave-Motion Gun and whatever else the designers could bolt on, so they tend to fight on a larger scale than most examples here. Seeing as they don't age and can eat a near miss from a nuke, so some of them end up as really old soldiers.
    • One of the books is even called Old Soldiers.
  • Camp 30: The guards at the camp are all older soldiers, veterans of World War I and members of the Veteran Guards of Canada who wer too old to serve on the frontlines in World War II. Jack and George were skeptical of their ability to keep the prisoners in because of their age.
  • Les Dillon is a Marine sergeant in the Harry Turtledove Days of Infamy novels who was a World War I veteran who is called back into action in World War II and soon proves himself as the toughest Marine sergeant in the Pacific War.
  • The Dresden Files has Ebenezar McCoy, Brave Scot, Old Master, and former captain of the Wardens. He doesn't too much fighting anymore, but when he does, he does fun party tricks like killing 200 people with a couple usages of the Blackstaff and dropping satellites with pinpoint precision onto an enemy's stronghold.
  • The narrator in Elfstruck found here.
  • In the Harry Potter books, Aurors are somewhere between cops, spies, and soldiers, but Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody and Rufus Scrimgeour unquestionably fit this trope. Mad-Eye specifically is covered with war wounds, he's an old friend and confidant of Dumbledore's and considered by Dumbledore to be the most trustworthy and reliable wizard in England. Sure enough, when the Order of the Phoenix gets back together (with many roster changes) Moody is part of its backbone. His death early in the last book is a big sign of just how harrowing things are going to be.
  • Common in the Honor Harrington, where the prolong anti-aging therapy allows for very long careers. The title character is in her 60s and many admirals, such as Hamish Alexander, are centenarians. Horace Harkness is a particular example, being in his 70s with a tendency to take less experienced officers and enlisted under his wing for seasoning.
  • Nestor from The Iliad. He's described as having at least a generation on the next oldest soldier present in the battle.
  • The Kingdom and the Crown has an old Roman Centurion named Sextus Rubrius.
  • Druss "The Captain of the Axe" in Legend by David Gemmell. Right down to being brought out of a 'leave me alone' retirement to become the heart of a heroic defense against an overwhelming foe. There is a strong implication that without Druss there the defenders would have routed within a few days of the Nadir army arriving at the gates of the fortress. Druss's presence not only provides a massive morale boost but he also provides invaluable tactical advice since in his life he has participated in dozens of similar sieges as both the attacker and defender. He also has an almost supernatural instinct for the ebb and flow of battle and what to do when it looks like your side might be about to break.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Gamling. He expresses concern that the army mostly consists of men his age and their grandsons, because of the high casualty rates Rohan has suffered recently.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen:
    • Whiskeyjack has been fighting Imperial wars for decades. He is quite disillusioned with most of it, and tells the young Ganoes Paran to find himself a more worthy dream than becoming a soldier in the prologue of Gardens of the Moon, but he himself keeps going nonetheless. He is grizzled, greying, gruff and down-to-earth, despite having been a commander once, and is now the Sergent of the 9th squad of the Bridgeburners. He immediately develops a Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough dynamic with the (now) Captain Paran when the latter is assigned to the Bridgeburners, and turns out to be a Four-Star Badass and a Master Swordsman in Memories of Ice.
    • Fiddler becomes this as the series goes on. He starts out as a member of Whiskeyjack's squad and is said to have joined the army together with the latter. After technically deserting at the end of Gardens of the Moon, he rejoins the army under a different name because he can't think of of doing anything else than fighting for the Malazan Empire, and though everyone can tell he's a deserter who came back, they value his experience more. He is assigned a squad and inadvertently takes on the role Whiskeyjack used to have in his old squad, constantly grumping about how he is too old for this and how the recruits are still all green, but he keeps the squad together and is the leading Demolitions Expert of the Bonehunters.
  • Several of the characters in George MacDonald Fraser's McAuslan series, particularly the Colonel, and Wee Wullie, the battalion disciplinary problem, both of whom joined up in 1914 and are still there in 1947.
  • Sergeant Jackrum from Monstrous Regiment has been on the Borigovian Army's payroll for six decadesnote . His most recent term of service was supposed to be twelve years, and he managed to keep ahead of the discharge papers for another four years after that.
    • And though not technically soldiers, the Silver Horde consists of barbarian adventurers who are all at least eighty. The fact that they are all still alive after more than half a century each — in a line of work that kills most people that go into it in a year or two — means that they are very, very good at not getting killed.
  • Moongobble and Me: The Rusty Knight, who is mostly retired due to age wearing on him (he claims to have had one joust too many, and now his ears are always ringing). This doesn't stop him from coming to help Moongobble on his quest in book 1 when they convince him they really need his help.
  • Ajax the Archer in Robert Asprin's Myth Conceptions.
  • Fighting in secret war, but Griffin from President's Vampire qualifies. He has been Cade's partner for over three decades and there's little that would surprise him anymore. Even before this assignment, he was FBI agent, so he has a lot of experience to draw from.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Grymbart, a mercenary with a wife in every major city, plays this straight. He's the first man onboard the Quicksilver to befriend Reynard.
  • Sergeant Jean in Seven Men of Gascony by R. F. Delderfield. Nicholette is this in a sense and is an interesting enough character to deserve mention. She is a camp-follower selling wine to Napolean's army, not a soldier per se (that is she doesn't carry a musket). However she grew up in her circumstances and was an Old Lady of War at age sixteen. She knew the tricks of surviving including those specific to her circumstances such as avoiding giving away more of the other kind of refreshments than she was willing to give by the adroit use of a Death Glare, and by a non-canonical(presided over by the sergeant not a priest that is) but faithfully kept marriage to each of the members of The Squad until they were killed. I know Squick y but It Makes Sense in Context. She is one of the most interesting characters of the book.
  • Ser Rodrik Cassel from A Song of Ice and Fire. A tough, loyal, dependable, and sensible knight, who, unfortunately, is very much given the short end of the stick in the series. Barristan the Bold A.K.A Barristan the Old from the also qualifies.
  • Starship Troopers: Sergeant Zim (no relation), and a few other veterans like Jelal probably qualify. It's also not uncommon for older men (such as Juan Rico's father) to enlist in the Mobile Infantry, those who make it through training are often fast-tracked.
  • Colonel Kraft in Victoria, the chessmaster rebel tactician who is already aging when first introduced and quickly steps down from active duty once the Confederation is established.
  • Broxigar "The Red Axe" of Warcraft definitely qualifies. As an orc who lived through the wars of all three games, he was greatly respected by Thrall and revered by the soldiers. Despite his age and maturity, he gets a good amount of Character Development through his Survivor Guilt.
  • The Warlord Chronicles: Most of the characters who survive until the third book are Old Soldiers. Sagramor, who has been a soldier nearly his entire life and main character Derfel are major examples, but one of the coolest examples is Culhwch. There's a bit very close to the end of the series where he walks out in the space between two opposing armies and dares someone from the other side to try to become famous by killing him in single combat. When no one comes out, Culhwch taunts the entire army about their cowardice and reluctance to take on a bald old man. When Culhwch turns his back to return to his own side, one of the enemy Mooks does in fact try to backstab him, but Culhwch effortlessly guts the poor bastard. He then waits for a minute to see if anyone else is going to come forward before really returning to his place in the shield wall.
  • Will in Scarlet: Sir Osbert is about sixty, has served the Shackleys since he was Will's age, and is still eager for a fight against people like Guy of Gisbourne. The family members like to joke about just how long Osbert's been a soldier.