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TV Tropes Monday: The Paladin



Tweet of the Day: Wasted Youth 

The Paladin, that staple of modern fantasy stories and video games, thanks in large part to our old friend, D&D. The Paladin is a heroic champion of good, nearly incorruptible (we will get to that later), fighting the worse evil can offer with a stout heart secured in the knowledge that he is always right. They are the embodiment of the knightly ideals, chivalrous, honorable, and good to a fault.

And there lies the problem.

For you see, a character that starts out (at least in the archetypal/stereotypical sense) as perfect doesn’t have any character flaws that can lead to character growth. It is an unchanging character with little to offer except as either a path for the author to define what they thing is good and right or as a foil to the villains. So what can we do to change that? They are three common paths of character growth/change for the Paladin.

  1. Corruption: The Paladin falls from grace and either embraces the darkness, often becoming a champion for the other side, or finds a path to redemption.
  2. Changing World: It is not the Paladin that changes, but the world around them. Their church, order, nation collapses or they find out it is imperfect all along. Here the Paladin doesn’t change much, but must persevere in a world that actively fights them at every turn.
  3. Breaking the Haughty: The Paladin thought they were perfect, that their world view was incorruptible, but it turns out they were and are only human. Here the Paladin doesn’t fall out of grace so much as realize that they must temper their world view with the realities of the world they live in.

I for one like both a well crafted redemption arc (Avatar: The Last Airbender comes to mind), as well as a good character that faces the challenges of a world that doesn’t fit their views. Then again, the Paladin unwavering commitment to their ideals is perfect for a Greek style tragedy as well. Your choice writers, your choice.

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