Follow TV Tropes


Retired Badass / Literature

Go To

  • Rather common in fantasy fiction. Many fantasy authors will return to the same setting again and again, progressing the time line, cranking out more novels, and retiring earlier heroes to give newer generations their own chance to shine. And it's particularly common in novels franchised from games like Dungeons & Dragons or Warhammer 40K, where you'll have multiple authors all progressing the plot in the one setting. Sometimes it gets to the stage where you can't move for kindly old priests, world-weary old nobles, and rough-around-the-edges old innkeepers who were asskicking adventurers five or six books ago. And if the new crop of heroes ever needs a seasoned adventuring veteran to show them the ropes and give them a hook to connect with an existing storyline, they can't swing a cat without hitting at least one gruff mysterious stranger who turns out to be the famous heroic whatsisname in the flesh.
    • This is cited as one of the reasons Forgotten Realms was moved forward a good century! Drizzt and Elminster are just about the only two still around, and they're both very, very busy.
  • After the Golden Age has The Hawk, a Non-Powered Costumed Hero who is officially retired but who still keeps an eye out for criminal activity in Commerce City.
  • In the Belisarius Series, Valentinian and Anastasius are last seen enlisting in the bodyguard of the Indian Empress Shakuntala, not to mention becoming sons-in-law of her chief counselor providing one of the best retirement packages available in the early Medieval World.
  • Advertisement:
  • A Brother's Price has Jerin's grandmothers, who "rescued" his grandfather from a heavily guarded castle under siege, and were knighted later on. They retired to a quiet farmlife.
  • The heroine of Patricia C. Wrede's Caught In Crystal, a middle-aged innkeeper with two young children, is a retired swordswoman. She's dragged out of retirement when both her former employers and their enemies come looking for information about her last disastrous mission. Notably, years of being sedentary and eating rich food has left her too overweight to fit into her old armor and too out-of-shape to fight until a few chapters (and months) of cross-country hiking and training slims her down and toughens her up again.
  • Coll from the The Chronicles of Prydain. Taran is quite surprised to learn his bald, peace-loving, pig-tending father figure is not only considered a hero, but responsible for rescuing a certain pig from the Big Bad's lair. (It was a very special pig.)
  • Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM) is ostensibly retired in Cain's Last Stand, though that does little to slow him down when the hordes of Chaos come calling to the sleepy little planet he's spending the rest of his days on.
    • He wants to be this, but that darn heroic reputation of his means he keeps getting called back into service, seemingly being killed in action, only to reappear and save the day. It got to the point where the Munitorum just considers him permanently alive despite his now being dead and buried.
      • Just for added reference, Cain managed to actually live to retirement. In the Warhammer universe.
  • Codex Alera has Valiar Marcus. In this Roman-influenced society, he earned his way into the House of the Valiant after a one-man rescue operation when he tracked a group of 8ft tall yetis with ice magic who kidnapped some children several miles deep into their territory and killed the horde. He is regarded as one of the greatest centurions in the Antillus Legions. After his tenure in those Legions, he would tell you he retired to a quiet steadholt until he was commissioned once more to serve in the First Aleran Legion. He would say this because in truth, he became Fedilias, one of the best Cursors for the Crown. The Cursors are the personal messengers, spies, and assassin of the First Lord. For decades he serves the First Lord before betraying him.
  • Twice in the works of Bernard Cornwell.
    • Uhterd Uhtredson of The Saxon Stories, narrating in first person as an old man.
    • Derfel Cadarn, the narrator and hero of The Warlord Chronicles, who is telling the story as an aged monk.
  • Arganthone in The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids used to be the Scarlet Wings' most renowned physical fighter, but is happily retired and now serves as an instructor to younger generations of Clockwork Cherubs.
  • Colonel Freeleigh in Dandelion Wine. The boys in Green Town enjoy visiting him and hearing his stories about fighting in the Civil War.
  • Jack Random of Deathstalker by Simon Green is a professional rebel against the Empire who finally led one losing campaign too many, and disappeared into retirement as a gymnasium janitor. Or at least, he tried to.
  • Deeplight: He might be old and frail now, but in his younger days Quest stole the Hidden Lady's heart (which killed her), then engineered the Cataclym that killed the gods and was the only one to survive the mission.
  • Discworld:
    • Subverted with Cohen the Barbarian. Despite age, wealth, taking over an empire, and plenty of other reason to retire, Cohen and his Silver Horde comrades utterly refuse to retire. Even after their deaths in a Rage Against the Heavens arc, their spirits refuse an afterlife that seems to be everything they want.
    • Played straight in The Last Hero with Vena.
    • In Reaper Man, Death is forced into retirement.
    • Later, Death chooses retirement to leave things to his granddaughter (and heir apparent) Susan. She was not happy about it. REALLY not happy about it. (And it's not a good idea to piss her off). Unfortunately, no matter how many times she quits, You Can't Fight Fate and she still keeps getting dragged back in.
    • Lu-tze. He's just your average sweeper. Who can kick the anthropomorphic representation of time's ass!.
    • Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are supposedly permanently retired yet they always find their way to the center of, well, everything.
    • Sam Vimes intended to retire when he got married (and his wife gave him half the city as a wedding present). As he was having a really bad day at the office, he did retire... for about three hours. Then he realized he had to be himself and went back to work.
  • In Dragonlance many of the characters that survived the first set of books, like Caramon Majere, fell into this. Few of them enjoyed long or peaceful retirements...
    • Considering that after Legends, Caramon retires for 30 years, has one last adventure, then dies another 30 years later at the age of 90, and most of the other heroes to retire for 30 years as well.
  • In David Gemmell's Drenai saga, Druss the Legend — in his forties and already retired when he fought at Skeln Pass and in his sixties when he came out of retirement again to fight at Dros Delnoch in Legend. Death offers him another twenty years' life, or a glorious death, at the beginning of the novel...
  • In Forging Hephaestus, Fornax was one of the most badass supervillains of his day, able to go toe-to-toe with most capes and win. Only Lodestar was able to beat him in a one-on-one fight, and only after a titanic battle. After the rowdiness of his youth, Ivan Gerhardt, formerly known as Fornax, works as a corporate middle manager and does his best to preserve his secret identity. He lives alone, except for every other weekend, when his kids come to visit. They have absolutely no idea who their mild-mannered father used to be (their mother does, but she's keeping quiet). Ivan still has occasional involvement in the Guild of Villainous Reformation, but only as a representative of all retired villains. He wears a generic-looking mask, while at Guild HQ, and everyone calls him Pseudonym. Only the top brass know of his former identity, well, and his new apprentice Tori. Despite being retired for a decade, Pseudonym is still in his prime and extremely dangerous when pissed off.
  • In The Gate Of Ivory, Dorothea learns that the "Old Man" that she does tinaje for is actually the former legendary bandit and military commander, Annurian. He successfully stays in retirement until his death, in part because while all of the villagers know his identity, they also know that he's still incredibly deadly.
  • The Hunger Games : Once the war is over both Katniss and Peeta withdraw to District 12 and spend the rest of their lives in as much peace as they can find.
  • Prudence 'Roo' Jones starts Hurricane Fever having retired from the Caribbean Intelligence Agency and devoting himself to his boat and raising his nephew Delroy, until a message from a dead friend pulls him into One Last Job.
  • The Inheritance Cycle
    • Eragon has Brom, who's living as an old storyteller in Eragon's home village. The badass part comes from him being a former Dragon Rider.
    • Oromis (and his dragon Glaedr) from The Inheritance Cycle were among the oldest and wisest Dragon Riders even before the Fall. They only retired because Glaedr lost a leg and Oromis was afflicted with a magic-inhibiting, seizure-causing curse during an ambush by the Forsworn. Even with these disabilities, on the rare occasion they choose to engage in combat there are very few forces capable of standing against them.
  • Journey to Chaos: Henry Pupil Senior is an archiver working for Ataidar's royal government and, at some point in his immortal life, he endured "a thousand years of bloodshed". Quelling all the personal demons that come from such an experience might be why he's content to spend his time recording history in a tower.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: Taurok stepped down as general in favor of his granddaughter because he's The Emperor now.
  • Les Misérables has Georges Pontmercy, the father of Marius Pontmercy. While he served in the French army, and under the command of Napoleon, he survived a number of incidents, having his arm splintered, showing a daredevil attitude a number of times, challenging the might of the British navy with only one small vessel, and was generally a badass of the first order. After the battle of Waterloo, Pontmercy retired to a degree that nobody would have guessed that this mild-mannered man who wept a the slightest provocation, and tended to flowers, could be such a badass — were it not for a number of visible scars.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen:
    • For a good chunk of the main series we hear rumors that the dead 'Old Guard' loyal to the former Emperor are lying low and waiting for a chance to strike back against the Empress. This plan reaches fruition in Return Of The Crimson Guard, when literally an entire army of retired badasses — including many characters who had previously been encountered in other books and merely thought of as fishermen, farmers or guys living by themselves in some random tower — re-emerges to take some names and dish out some pain. In addition, there are a whole other bunch of retired badasses who arrive to fight on the side of the Empress. Seriously, this novel is this trope made manifest.
    • In House of Chains, the fourth book of the series, Karsa Orlong meets Keeper, better known as Urko Crust, one of Emperor Kellanved's valued Old Guard, who has retired to a lonely tower a ways outside of Ehrlitan to collect and rebuild what amounts to dinosaur fossils. He's still got a mean punch, though, as Karsa finds out first hand.
    • Book 8, Toll the Hounds, reintroduces the reader to the Bridgeburners, who had previously retired to run a bar in Darujhistan at the end of the third book, Memories of Ice. For some reason, someone has contracted the Assassins' Guild to kill them all and Picker & Co. have to spring into action in order to not only save themselves but to also find out who is behind the contract.
  • In MARZENA, Anika From Bremen is a famous writer from the future (i.e. the future after the 2030s)), and is coming out of retirement to write the book series.
  • In G. Gordon Liddy's The Monkey Handlers, Michael Stone is a lawyer by profession...and a former SEAL. He keeps "the tools of his former trade closed up in a trunk" but before he opens the trunk and averts an international terrorist plot, he warms up by kicking a motorcycle gang's ass in a bar.
  • Most of the Iron Sisters from The Mortal Instruments are retired Shadowhunters. Abigail Shadowhunter, in particular, founded them because she was frustrated at becoming this, and still wanted to help in the fight against demons.
  • Kvothe from The Name of the Wind became the world's most famous hero and retired long before he turned 30. Now he runs an inn. But probably not for long.
  • The novel Path of Fury starts out giving the operational history of the main character, just before dropping her into retirement on a farming colony for a dozen years. That's when she becomes not so retired.
  • Older Than Radio: Leatherstocking of The Pioneers.
  • Retired Witches Mysteries: How "badass" they used to be varies, but in the first book it's stated that Boca Raton is an entire community full of former witches who gave up their powers and retired, and it's where the main characters intended to move once they'd found younger witches to replace them in their coven.
  • Sammy's friend Hudson in the Sammy Keyes books. Nobody knows if he worked for the CIA or the NSA or what, but he knows stuff like safecracking and cryptography. Or maybe he's just a Cool Old Guy.
  • Sherlock Holmes deduced that Watson was an Afghan war veteran.
  • The badass who refuses to retire is played straight with Ser Barristan Selmy in A Song of Ice and Fire, who at the age of sixty-something is forced into retirement against his will and is so annoyed by it that he kills two heavily-armed men half his age sent to arrest him before crossing half the planet to join forces with a rival ruler, in whose service he later swims through a foul sewer into the heart of a heavily-fortified city to open the gates from inside.
    • Killing the two armed men was incidental, one might note; he'd already sneered at the collective swordsmanship of his own elite guard, saying he could tear through all four of them present without difficulty. Part of the reason he's such a badass is because he's more or less The Last of His Kind. In the Kingsguard, Selmy served with and was trained by luminaries like the Lewyn Martell, and Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning — men that he claims were twice the knight he was.
      • Although in that particular case he was probably not referring to their martial abilities (or at least not exclusively) but to their character.
  • The Star Wars EU books (or whatever you call them now) have supporting character Raynar Thul, who by the later books is basically retired because of major trauma. When a squad of Mandalorian commandos storms the Jedi Temple:
    Raynar: I am Jedi Thul. I have not fought for real in many years. I should be a pushover. Come get me.
  • In Super Powereds, the HCP staff at Lander University is almost exclusively made up of former Heroes (the one who is stated to never having been a Hero used to work for a corporation and is extremely good at combat despite his age). This is necessary, since the program is designed to put dozens of Super students through a Training from Hell until only ten are left in the graduating class (only the best of the best are allowed to be given such great responsibilities), so only those who have themselves gone through the program can properly train them. Blaine Jeffries, the Dean of the HCP at Lander, is himself from the so-called "Class of Legends" and is considered by many to be one of the strongest Heroes alive due to his Power Nullifier ability. Both Coach George and his successor Professor Fletcher firmly believe that Asskicking Equals Authority and prove themselves to their students by thoroughly beating all of them at once.
  • Robin Hobb's Tawny Man Trilogy starts with the main character being called back from his retirement from being an assassin, a spy and king's man, to serve and teach the new generation.
  • A Time Of Predators by Joe Gores features Curt Halsted, who wants to go on Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the gang of Juvenile Delinquents who raped his wife. The local cop says he doesn't think Halsted should even TRY doing this, because he's checked him out in the records in Washington, and Halsted, not having been in uniform of any kind during WWII, has no training. But Washington wouldn't have any records of an American living in England who volunteered for the original Special Air Service after Dunkirk...
  • Kit Carson of Time Scout was forced into retirement by math. If he had continued to work, he would have died. Full stop. (To clarify, Kit's job was to scout time portals which could lead anywhere in history...but if they led into a point in time where Kit had already visited, he would immediately die. Eventually the odds got to be too bad even for him, and he gave it up.)
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird the children of mild mannered lawyer Atticus Finch were unaware of his badass marksmanship, until a dangerous mad dog wanders into town and someone needs to be able to safely put it down.
  • Treasure Island: The renowned Long John Silver, Flint's old quartermaster, starts the story semi-retired, Happily Married, and running his inn and tavern. This is after years of piracy. Of course, once he hears that Billy Bones and the map to Flint's trove have been found, he jumps right back in the game and takes the title of captain for himself. Unusually for most examples of villains coming out of retirement, he still makes it out of the story unscathed and is able to go back, as far as we know, to his mundane life.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga: Cordelia Vorkosigan retired after a legendary Mama Bear incident and has been happily mentoring the younger generation ever since. She's never needed to come out of retirement, barring a few well-deserved verbal smackdowns.
    • Aral Vorkosigan hasn't retired; he's physically unable to. That said, he has gone from being Prime Minister and an active voice in the Council of Counts to the Viceroy of Sergyar, with Miles taking over the Council duties. With Aral, that's as close as he'll get.
    • Barrayaran Armsmen tend to be this. No Count is allowed more then twenty personal musclemen for understandable reasons. Therefore these tend to be picks of the best soldiers, cops, spies or whatever that can be found in a whole planet that have done enough service to prove themselves worthy to decorate a petty aristocrat's court.
  • In The Wheel of Time Rand thinks his father Tam (later revealed as his adopted father) is a simple farmer whose handiness with a bow is simply down to a lifetime of hunting and hard outdoor work. Naturally it turns out his father was a badass warrior and infamous soldier, the second-in-command of the elite Illianer Companions and a blademaster who won great distinction in four or five major wars. Tam is forced out of retirement in Book 4 when Rand's home village comes under attack by hostile forces and by Book 11 is leading armies into battle again. Tam's badassery is slightly undone by the fact it took him eleven books and 22 years of in-universe time to work out that Rand is the Dragon Reborn (although some fans suggest he's been living in denial instead).
  • Habim from The Witchlands is a Marstoki soldier (more specifically, a famous Marstoki general) who chose to retire after his country signed the Twenty-Year Truce and now works as a tutor. He can still kick all the ass when necessary. He returns into service after the Truce is broken, although with different motives.