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Many soldiers in fiction are rough, abrasive grunts who wouldn't know a work of poetry if it hit them during an artillery barrage.

The Cultured Warrior is somewhat different. He (it's usually a he; if it's a she, she's usually also a Lady of War) knows his history and culture. He'll happily quote Byron or Keats during a battle. Often a Blue Blood, he likes fine wines and opera music, and may have gone to a Boarding School. Oftentimes, they simply believe that things like culture are what they are fighting for; without the fine things in life, there is nothing but more war to look forward to.

It does not need to be evident at first. This is a common form of Hidden Depths.

Can be good or evil. Compare Officer and a Gentleman and Warrior Poet (usually positive), Wicked Cultured (negative) and Cultured Badass (either way).

Examples of Cultured Warrior include:

Anime and Manga

  • Bloody thirsty and ruthless mercenary captain Askeladd in Vinland Saga likes to school fools in history and religion, usually right before he ends their lives in a spectacularly bloody fashion.
  • The first thing Rider of Fate/Zero, Alexander, did, was getting from a library an atlas (to plan the world conquest) and a copy of Iliad, which he likes to read. He gets somebody else to read it aloud if he wants to read it during battle.
  • The girls of Gunslinger Girl are exposed to various amounts of culture and actually take classes on them. We are also shown that Henrietta is actually skilled violinist, Claes is very well-read and she and Triela are seen discussing Balzac and Tosca. On the other hand, all of this culture has little effect on Rico (probably due to her handling) and Angelica can't remember anything anymore.
    • The "cultured" in Henrietta's case was a side effect of a more pragmatic notion, though: if memory serves, Jose ordered her to play violin partly to improve the sensitivity of her fingers, which was lower than expected after the cyberneticization surgery. He could, of course, have picked another, less cultural exercise for her, so it wasn't an entirely unexpected side effect, either. Triela, Claes, and Angelica on the other hand, have had very educated handlers who treated them like own daughters, hence the culture.
  • Jet Black from Cowboy Bebop is an interstellar ex-cop turned Bounty Hunter who reads enlightenment-era literature, tends bonsai, and and is a jazz aficionado.
  • In Maiden Rose, several members of the main cast are this, given how many of them are also Blue Blooded. Katsuragi is the one who really flaunts it but he's also more of a Desk Jockey than the others.
  • Combining Mecha pilot and former prince Sirius in Genesis of Aquarion. He can fly a jet fighter, is a master swordsman, and keeps reciting that damn poem about roses.


  • Steve Rogers' Captain America has generally been shown to be an artist before and after he was recruited and enhanced by Project Rebirth. For a while, he was even the artist for a comic book about his own hero identity.


  • This trope laid the foundation for an interesting conflict in the submarine thriller Crimson Tide. Colonel Badass -like Capt. Ramsey (Gene Hackman) points out that when he joined the Navy, they wanted basically "hard-ass grunts who only knew war" but now they seem to want people like his Executive Officer (Denzel Washington) who are more "cultured". He makes the remark "When I was at the Academy they taught us metallurgy and physics. Not 18th century philosophy".
  • General Chang, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, is shown to be the smart and sophisticated Klingon, because he tosses out Shakespeare quotes whilst trying to destroy everybody in his path.
    • Star Trek likes to do this in general. Even proudly working-class SCPO Miles O'Brien has various intellectual interests, and plays cello at a near-professional level. (Granted, it's hard to call him a "warrior" rather than an engineer who happens to be in the military, but he shows how universal this trope is in Trek.)
      • Though he was a soldier before he became an engineer.
    • Khan Noonien Singh of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is this too. Even in his exile he has a copy of Moby-Dick, Paradise Lost and King Lear on his bookshelf.
    • It's true, Trek does like its heroes cultured. Note; at the beginning of Star Trek: First Contact, Riker (himself a trombonist) walks in on Picard who's listening to an opera. Riker asks if it's Bizet, Picard tells him it's Berlioz. Also, Picard came from a wine-making family, fenced (as in the modern Olympic sport) and played a wind instrument.
    • Foes as well: A good number of Cardassian officers see themselves as defenders of Cardassian culture and will extol the virtues of their cuisine, arts, family values, etc. ad nauseam.
    • See also Spock, with his Vulcan harp, not to mention all of the human high culture he seems to be an expert in. Like recognizing Johannes Brahms' musical handwriting and Leonardo da Vinci's painting technique on sight (neither of which is necessarily impossible or difficult; it just takes a serious fan)—and that the works he's witnessing weren't on the historical record (again, serious fan).
  • Half the cast of The Proposition.
  • Vin Diesel's character in The Pacifier is revealed to be one of these when he finds out that the rebellious son of the family he is protecting is secretly rehearsing for The Sound of Music and is impressed.
  • Beast of X-Men is like this. His intro in the third film has him hanging by his feet from the ceiling... reading Scientific American. He spends the first half of the film or so in a suit.
  • Colonel William Travis in The Alamo is a flawlessly dressed lawyer who uses impeccably proper English but impresses Davy Crockett (John Wayne) and his men. For example he shoots a charging cavalry soldier with a single-shot dueling pistol as the soldier charges him. This could also be an example of a "real life" Cultured Warrior (see below).
  • Sonarman Jones in The Hunt for Red October is fond of classical music.


  • Captain Jack Aubrey plays the violin.
  • John Christian Falkenberg III, Colonel of Falkenberg's Legions.
  • Grand Admiral Thrawn of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. If it were not for his willingness to lie, cheat, express destructive hints of temper, and even destroy art if it would win him a battle, he might even qualify as an Officer and a Gentleman. (He certainly does in the Outbound Flight prequel.)
    • In Death Star, we've got Nova Stihl, a trooper whose stash of illicit holos are all lectures on philosophy. Also Force-Sensitive.
    • A great deal of the Jedi Order and quite a few Sith Lords would fit well into this trope. Count Dooku for instance was very well known for his cultured nature as a Jedi Master, and even later as a Sith Lord this was maintained in his speech and mannerisms. He was also the hereditary Count of the planet Serenno.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Fulgrim, a concert is heavily attended by officers, and when the musician, prima donna, refuses to play for a noble in the audience, Fulgrim himself appears and asks her to play for him. Later, when other soldiers complain of the remembrancers tasked with commerating their work, Fulgrim speaks highly of the concert.
    • More generally, this trope was the hat of Fulgrim's Emperor's Children legion before their corruption into sadistic Sense Freaks.
  • Lord Suffolk from The English Patient: a learned aristocrat who contributes to the war effort by training and leading sappers in defusing Axis bombs.
  • Glen Cook's novella "Soldier of an Empire Unacquainted with Defeat" mentions that all the soldiers of the Dread Empire, Shinsan, are required to be literate in at least two languages. The main character, a former senior NCO, remarks that to become a soldier in his country (he's not telling the locals he's from the Dread Empire) requires an education comparable to that of a priest elsewhere. The NCO is literate in six languages, prides himself on his cooking, shows that he's a skilled engineer, and is able to stitch up wounds as well.
  • Chosen Man Harris from Sharpe series is well educated, has a deep knowledge of classical literature, is fluent in several modern and ancient languages and was even employed as a private teacher before joining the Rifles. He also masks it quite well under his mischievous and hedonistic persona.
  • Kvothe of The Kingkiller Chronicle attends a magic university, is a skilled craftsman of many magical items, is one of the best musicians in history, and has an extensive knowledge of literature, theater, and courtly manners. He's also a talented hand-to-hand fighter who took on a bandit camp nearly single-handed using Blood Magic.
  • As of the most recent book in the Discworld series, Wee Mad Arthur is growing into this. Having discovered and embraced his Nac Mac Feegle heritage he remains as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than ever while calming his ever present rage at the world. However being raised by gnomes means that he has also acquired an appreciation for the finer things in life like a night out at the opera.
  • Lord John of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, not to mention his own.
  • This is the hat of S.L. Viehl's Jorenians, a Proud Warrior Race (albeit one unlikely to start fights without plenty of provocation) who are also artsy.
  • In The Regiment by John Dalmas, the Private Military Contractors from planet Tyss are all, even at the very lowest ranks, educated to a level that makes them sound to an offworlder like the best kind of college professors.

Live Action TV

  • Stringfellow Hawke of Airwolf plays the cello.
  • Brother Mouzone on The Wire reads Harper's Monthly, The Nation, and other intellectual magazines, in between performing drug executions. Stringer Bell tries to put on this air, but never quite succeeds.
    • The end of Stringer Bells character arch leaves this open, (McNulty picks up The Wealth Of Nation in Stringers apartment) "Who the fuck was I chasing?"
  • "Fruity" Rudy Reyes from Generation Kill. He's extremely into East Asian spirituality/philosophy. Possibly subverted in that Rudy is also the most Macho. Seriously, the guy jogs around with a bag filled with rocks and a gas mask faster than the other marines in their PEs. See?
    • Colbert also qualifies. Just before a battle he quotes Shakespeare. Then, just to contrast, Person talks about eating pussy.
  • An example of the Hidden Depths version of this trope is Kara Thrace—the boozing, frakking, brawling Ace Pilot of the new Battlestar Galactica series. In one episode someone has left a poetic death threat in Colonel Tigh's quarters, and Lee Adama says it couldn't possibly be Kara because "you wouldn't know poetry if it was hot-soldered across your helmet." Kara proceeds to quote the entire stanza from memory, as well as giving her critique. We later find out this is due to the influence of Kara's artistic father.
  • Unlike many of his enlisted fellows in Easy Company, who are mostly farmboys and street kids, Private Webster was actually college educated when he enlisted, was a good writer and knew how to speak German.
  • Faith of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel is a subversion: while definitely a warrior and often Waxing Lyrical or coming across as a (pop) Cultured Badass, she is rather Book Dumb, so she'll mess up a famous quote.

Newspaper Comic

  • Plato from Beetle Bailey is the intellectual one, who is well educated about anything in the humanities and sciences.

Role-Playing Game

Tabletop Game

  • Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt received a classical education with the Schola Progenium as a candidate to become a Commissar, and while he tries to lead and identify with his men above all else, his cultured background bleeds through on occasion.

Web Comic and Web Original

  • In the webcomic Operator, Hpt. Jaeger randomly quotes Macbeth at one point.
  • Nathan Hale and Alexander Hamilton in The Dreamer.

Video Game

  • Hakha from Killzone despite being a Helghan enjoys a bit of poetry and philosophy outside of combat despite growing up being in a Space Nazi country.
  • Gunnery Sergeant Ashley Williams of Mass Effect happens to have a liking for classical poetry and makes a point to correct Shepard on his/her errors in military history.
    • As of the the third game, she's quoted Henley, Tennyson, and Whitman at Shepard.
    • Shepard is at least her equal in this, at least the ones she quotes.
  • Genesis in Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. He spends half of his screentime quoting poetry, and the other half being a Badass.
  • Zidane Tribal of Final Fantasy IX: Warrior, thief and actor.
  • Cyan Garamonde is not only a mighty swordsman, he's also remarkably gifted at creating hand-made silk flowers and writing poetry. He's rather embarassed when the party discovers this, though it comes with the territory (he's a walking reference to the Tokugawa era).

Western Animation

  • Wolf Bronsky, of all people, starts tending towards this after falling in love with the college-educated Resistance fighter Eve Hanley in the Exo Squad episode "Art of War".
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Sokka's swordsmanship instructor Piandao is quite like this.
    • Really, all of the Order of the White Lotus people are this to some degree, being very old and experienced and belonging to an organization dedicated to preserving balance in the world, and they try to introduce their proteges to this philosophy and lifestyle as well. Piandao is just the most obvious about it.
  • Beast Wars is loaded with these, Dinobot being the most evident example as he's a blood thirsty raptor with a passion for Shakespeare and history. But Megatron's a good example of Wicked Cultured. There's also the chain-gun wield, flower and science loving Rhinox.

Real Life

  • The samurai. There was a saying "bunbu ichi" meaning "pen and sword in accord". Samurai were expected to be able to do things like the tea ceremony and to be able to compose haiku. They often engaged in poetry duels with each other, sometimes on the battlefield. This is to say nothing of their ability to kick arse and take names though.
    • For instance, the title character of Usagi Yojimbo is very good at calligraphy and will always justify that this talent is fully in keeping with his calling.
    • This was mainly because of the efforts of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Before the Tokugawa Shogunate, many Samurai were very uncultured. Most anime and other fictional depictions of the Samurai focus more on the sword than the pen side of things.
      • It was, however, the ideal (much like the knights of medieval Europe), and was even occasionally achieved, before the rise to dominance of Tokugawa. Case in point: Takeda Harunobu, known to take part in multiple poetry duels, in Chinese. As impressive as this sounds, however, Classical Chinese was to upper-class Japanese as French was to the Russian nobility before Napoleon's invasion. They all spoke, read, and wrote it, though unlike the Russians they did actually use Japanese (most Russian nobles couldn't even speak Russian). The original Japanese alphabet is also based on Classical Chinese.
        • It was not a universal ideal. The Bunbu Ichi debate had strong adherents on either side. Some daimyo required their retainers to study poetry and calligraphy, while others imposed harsh punishment on any who practiced any but martial disciplines.
          • Flower arranging and poetry, along with zen rock gardening, were considered Martial Arts by samurai.
  • The knights of Europe were also expected to be cultured, in addition to their status as warriors.
    • This was only after contact with the Arab world during the Crusades. It was a trait they learned from their Middle Eastern opponents.
      • Not really.
      • Indeed. There is also good reason to believe that knights took up lute playing and poetry writing because it was a great way to get girls. Why let the troubadors have all the fun?
      • Not to mention many of the founding aspects of what would become what is now the currently dying lifestyle of chivalry, and all that it entailed for all social strata of Europe, instituted by the dark aged Church to get Medieval Knights to be less dickish in their dealings with the peasantry. Accomplishing it by scaring the shit out of the knightly class with promises of damnation if they didn't stop being dicks.
  • Many US military personnel, due to the emphasis placed on education within the armed forces, which is far more than many civilians would think or expect. The dumb grunt becomes more of a Discredited Trope the higher in the officer and NCO ranks you go, as college courses and additional certifications are key to standing out in a group of candidates for promotion.
    • Real Life Civil War Union Army Colonel Robert Gould Shaw from the movie Glory was extremely well-read, intelligent, and was most certainly Officer and a Gentleman.
      • Colonel Chamberlain (Gettysburg) goes it one better. He was a College Professor (of rhetoric and languages), before he got a sabbatical and enlisted.
      • College and certifications and all that aside, the armies of the developed nations are moving towards this as a whole. If nothing else, anyone in uniform today most likely knows how to read and write. That wasn't the case even during World War Two.
  • Patton in Patton
  • Frederick the Great has a number of musical compositions credited to him.
  • The Horse Artillery Captain Cavalie Mercer who held off the French Cavalry at Waterloo. Especially notable since artillery was a technical division, so an artillery captain would be one of the few officers expected to be 'uncultured' rather than a Rich Idiot With No Day Job A Purchased Commission.
    • Objection: The artillery and engineers were considered the "smarter" branches, as opposed to the infantry and cavalry.
    • In this case, cultured and smart seem to be different concepts. The artillery division are required to understand the mechanics of their weaponry, thus their educations were more likely to be in the fields of science, as opposed to culture, such as literature.
  • Winston Churchill. Soldier, journalist, historian, statesman, badass. Complete with a Nobel Prize for literature (although that was probably more of a lifetime achievement award).
  • Theodore Roosevelt, America's best-read President (perhaps second after Jefferson) and Medal of Honor recipient.
  • Several senior Nazis were like this.
    • Though, not so much in the highest ranks. Early in his rule, Hitler attempted to make it mandatory for his top advisers (Göbbels, Göring, et al) to go with him to the opera every week. However, being largely comprised of uncultured thugs, they did not take to this at all, and he ended this requirement shortly after instating it.
      • True in the case of Joseph Göbbels, who had a PhD in literature. Unfortunately, and to his bitter regret, he failed at the "warrior" part of this trope.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the Spartans were just as rigorous about education and courtesy as they were with physical fitness, to the point where they were universally lauded for their scrupulous manners. One anecdote describes an old man looking for a seat at the Olympic Games. As he stumbled about from one section to the other, the spectators laughed at him. But when he came to the Spartan section, all the Spartans stood to offer him their places – and there was universal applause.
  • Noor Inayet Khan, SOE radiowoman, was not only the daughter of a Sufi master but personally a collector and publisher of children's fairy tales.
  • Admiral Raymond Spruance, USN was a coffee gourmet before that was fashionable.
  • Roman aristocrats often were fond of stoicism. The values taught sort of overlapped with their rather soldierly concept of duty (at its best anyway).