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The Hermit Guru lives on a mountain, in an ancient temple, or anyplace suitably remote. The guru is usually a male, but even the wise witch that lives in a cave could be considered a Hermit Guru.

Very often, he is an Old Master.

The guru could be crazy in a comedy or parody.

It's a Discredited Trope, and is rarely used without parody outside of the kung-fu spectacular. But it has enough cred from ancient legend that it will make its comeback sooner or later.

Compare Reclusive Artist. Sub-trope of The Hermit.


Anime and Manga

  • Old Master Dohko from Saint Seiya.
  • Muten Roshi of Dragon Ball fame starts out as this. He eventually gets a turtle, then a woman with alternate identities, then finally one of his students as room mates.
  • In the Pokémon anime, when he isn't opening a can on anyone who opposes him as a member of the Elite 4, Bruno trains alone up in the mountains and tries to catch strong Pokemon, such as his massive Onix.
  • Tibet in the Axis Powers Hetalia webcomic. He's replaced by a talking panda in the anime for obvious reasons.
  • Annerose von Grunewald from Legend of Galactic Heroes is a female example.

Comic Books

  • Double Subverted in Quantum and Woody when Eric travels to Africa to learn "The Way of the Black Lion". After the desert guru sends Eric off with a mystic pendant and a quest, he loots Eric's wallet and drives off in a car loaded with pendants. Then, after Eric confronts the black lion without a fight, the guru reappears and accepts him for training.
  • The Ancient One, Doctor Strange's mentor, lives in an isolated lamasery in Tibet. The Aged Genghis lives somewhere relatively close by in a cave with a single acolyte to help him remember to eat (because the Aged Genghis isn't entirely sane these days...)


  • Kill Bill 2 had a kung-fu master living in an ancient temple who trained the Bride.
    • As a minor subversion, he is an evil prick who probably ended up living alone on a mountain because very few people are crazy enough to spend more time in his company than is absolutely necessary.
    • And he probably saw to them pretty quickly.
  • Tom Hanks' character in Cast Away became a guru by unintentionally living a hermit's life after an airplane crash.
  • Yoda.
    • And who was that other guy?... oh yeah, Obi-Wan Kenobi.


  • In Mostly Harmless, Douglas Adams describes a whole colony of Hermit Gurus- one of whom replies to most questions by running off a copy of her biography, advising that if you read it and do the exact opposite of her choices, you won't end up living alone in a cave, on a mountain, answering dumb questions.
  • There are several in Discworld.
    • One in Soul Music is yer quintessential hermit, dispensing advice and vague, heartwarming platitudes with a meaningful glance towards the begging bowl.
    • Small Gods also features St. Ungulant (whose first initials are actually "S.T."), who lives up a pole in the middle of the desert, and is stark raving mad. But don't say that to his Imaginary Friend Angus! Ungulant also makes an appearance in the second Discworld PC game. S.T. Ungulant is also very proud of being a self-taught hermit, although he admits that trying to apprentice yourself to an older hermit "ruins the point of herming."
    • Witches Abroad and Thief of Time both address the question: If people seek wisdom from old men on mountains because wisdom seems wiser when it's a long way away, where do the people who already live on the mountains go to seek wisdom? Answer: To Ankh-Morpork to learn from a working-class housewife.
  • In one short fantasy story, a rich Jerkass decides he is going to be the first to climb an extremely dangerous peak in Nepal. He runs across a "wise man" in one of the villages at the base of the mountain and makes some comment about how the stupid natives admire the dirty, lazy, almost naked old man, the natives thinking the old man is wise. When the Jerkass finally, after a great deal of effort, reaches the top of the mountain, he finds the Wise Man there. When the Wise Man asks how he got there, the stunned Jerkass just waves his arm, indicating the climb. The Wise Man says, "You walked??!?"
  • In the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the eponymous Mariner visits a hermit in order to beg forgiveness for shooting the Albatross.
  • In the Xanth series, there is the Good Magician Humphrey, a reclusive gnome-like man who lives alone in a castle, south of the more civilized regions of Xanth. He allows anybody who makes it to his castle (and past a series of tests) the right to receive the answer to any single question, in exchange for a year of servitude (or an equivalent bargain).
  • A staple character of the folklore of Asia. In one such tale, The Tiger's Whisker, a young woman seeks the aid of a wise old mountain hermit after her husband has returned psychologically damaged from war. She begs him for a spell to return her husband to his old, loving self, from the cold violent man he's become. The hermit says she must bring the whisker from a living tiger as an ingredient for such a spell. The young woman spends months gaining the tiger's confidence with food and patience before snipping its whisker. When she returns to the hermit he throws the whisker in the fire and when she protests, tells her that if she can use such patience to tame a tiger, surely she can do the same for her husband?
  • The eponymous prophet of Also Sprach Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche lives as a hermit in the mountains for ten years. The framing narrative begins when he descends to civilisation again, intent on spreading the wisdom he has acquired during his long contemplation. He is less than warmly received by the masses.
  • There are several examples in The Glass Bead Game.
    • The Christian hermits Father Josephus and Father Dion in one of the stories written by the protagonist.
    • The old yoga guru sought out by the Music Master during a particularly bad time in his youth. The old man helps the Music Master by making him realize he's neglected his meditation exercises.
    • Elder Brother, the recluse the protagonist visits and stays with for several months to learn the I Ching.
    • The most stereotypical example is the ancient Hindu hermit encountered by Prince Dasa in another of the stories written by the protagonist.

Live Action TV

  • K'anpo Rimpoche/Cho Je from the Doctor Who serial Planet of the Spiders (also mentioned in The Time Monster) was a hermit who the Doctor approached in his youth at what was at that point the worst day of his life.
  • A female version appears in Blackadder, in the form of 'The Wisewoman'.

 Blackadder: I seek information about a Wisewoman.

Young Crone: Ah, the Wisewoman... the Wisewoman.

Blackadder: Yes, the Wisewoman.

Young Crone: Two things, my lord, must thee know of the Wisewoman. First, she is... a woman. And second, she is...

Blackadder: Wise?

Young Crone: You do know her then?


Newspaper Comics

  • B.C. had a guru who lived on the top of a mountain, and would often provide a punchline for this three panel, gag-a-day comic.
  • Hagar the Horrible sometimes met them too.

Tabletop RPG

  • Dungeons and Dragons, adventure S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. A hermit (with psionic powers yet) lives in a cave in the Yatil Mountains of the Greyhawk campaign setting. If approached politely he will give the PC's some information and will trade a useful item.

Video Games

  • Parodied in the Monkey Island adventure games by Herman Toothrot.
  • Eudy and Nessiah in Blaze Union. It's played with, as neither of them is really isolated by choice.
  • Does Jolee Bindo count? The old Jedi did live in the Shadowlands for at least twenty years more or less by choice. And he isn't rusty in the slightest.
  • The first weapon you can (and must) get in Cave Story is stolen from a character conveniently named Hermit Gunsmith, who lives in a room in the further end of a hidden cave. If you come back to him, he will take that weapon (if you still have it) and turn it in the best one of the game.
  • Yen Sid takes this role whenever he appears in the Kingdom Hearts series. In this universe, he's a Retired Badass who lives in a Mage Tower on an island floating in space, but offers advice to anyone who can actually find him.

Western Animation

  • Guru Pathik in Avatar: The Last Airbender, pictured above.
  • Played for laughs in The Simpsons with the Kwik-e-mart guru.
    • Apu had come all the way from Springfield (and Homer tagged along) to ask the Guru a question. Visiting pilgrims are permitted three questions.

 Homer: "Are you really the head of the Kwik-E-Mart?"

Guru: "Yes."

Homer: "Really?"

Guru: "Yes."

Homer: "You?"

Guru: "Yes. Thank you! Come again!"

    • D'oh!
  • A U.S. Acres cartoon in Garfield and Friends had Wade seeking one.
  • The Old Man of the Mountain in The Twelve Tasks of Asterix lives, well, on a mountain and gives a riddle to those who can reach him. The riddle is which pile of clothes was washed in Olympus, the detergent of the gods.
  • The Guru Kid from Recess is a parody of one

Real Life

  • The pillar hermits from late Antiquity would live atop a column of stone for years at a time. The most famous one lived on a pillar for 37 years until his death. So this is Older Than Feudalism. Rather ironically, they rarely succeeded very well at the "hermit"-bit. People from all over the nation tended to come to them pestering them with all sorts of holy questions, and sometimes threw rocks if they didn't like the answers.
    • St. Anthony of the Desert spent most of his life living, well, in the desert trying to devote his life entirely to God. It worked so well that people kept coming to him for advice and he wound up basically forming an early monastic community, much to his chagrin.
    • This has continued in eastern Christianity. A Russian equivalent is the starets, the elder who lives as a hermit and grows in wisdom and holiness, until he is sought out for his guidance (and by then, is usually willing to break his isolation).
    • In the eighteenth and nineteenth century non-religious hermits were employed by the owners of stately homes in order to provide a living feature to a folly. Some hermits are still employed today for the purpose of novelty.