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In settings where combat is common and an integral part of the story, a common way to contrast characters is to contrast their attitudes towards combat. This trope is a Power Trio of characters that are distinguished by their attitudes and experiences regarding combat and war.

  • The Knight is the trained officer or soldier with a more optimistic outlook towards battle. He'll relish the opportunity to defend his lord, country or values in honorable combat. The Knight is frequently an Officer and a Gentleman and will go absolutely no farther than Type III on the Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes. The main defining point behind The Knight is that he fights for something else, whether it's his country or his values. Depending on where the story falls on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, the Knight can get called out on his idealistic view of combat.
  • The Knave is the more pragmatic and cynical warrior. If he has military training, his relationship with The Knight will frequently be Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough. More frequently, he will have self-taught combat abilities as a mercenary, smuggler, bounty hunter or other warrior. He's pretty much always an Anti-Hero. If he is The Hero, the pragmatism will likely be toned down to make him more likable. The main defining point behind the Knave is that he fights for himself, at least initially. A badly done Knave can be prone to The Complainer Is Always Wrong.
  • The Squire is either a noncombatant or someone with little actual experience in fighting. If he's in the military, he will be New Meat, possibly an Ensign Newbie. The Squire is often the Hero in The Hero's Journey, with The Knight and The Knave serving as alternating paths for him to follow. The Squire's inexperience, naïveté and optimism are his defining traits, and he will often look to the Knight and, less often, the Knave as a role model.

The three will often, but not always, fall under one of the other Power Trio tropes. Compare and contrast with The Hecate Sisters, which are mono-gendered tropes displaying the three stages of a person's life. Also compare The Three Faces of Eve, which looks at three different corresponding personalities of women: the Wife corresponding to the Knight, the Seductress corresponding to the Knave, and the Child corresponding to the Squire.

Not to be confused with Knights and Knaves.

Examples of Knight, Knave, and Squire include:
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. Brenner is the Knight, Lin is the Knave, Will is the Squire.
  • In Disgaea Hour of Darkness, Laharl is the Knight, by Underworld standards at least, Etna the Knave and Flonne is the Squire.
  • At the beginning of the first Golden Sun, Isaac is the Knight (based on his characterization in the subsequent games), Garret is the Knave (not underhanded, but he's quite impulsive and aggressive) and Ivan is the Squire (being younger than the other two and not as worldly). This dynamic lasts until Mia turns up.
  • Legend of Dragoon has Lavitz, Dart and Shana as a toned down version with Lavitz as the Knight, being a commander of a Basil Knighthood, Dart being the Knave, having wandered the Earth on a quest for revenge, and Shana as the Squire, having done nothing besides learn how to use a bow. The relationship gets kicked in the pants when Rose joins as she takes over the Knave position and Dart switches roles to the Squire, having the least experience of the three. This dynamic is especially noticeable when Shana is poisoned, leaving the others without her.
  • In the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Jack is the Knave, Will is the Knight and Elizabeth is the Squire. A defining moment of both Jack and Will's characters is during the sword fight between the two. By the second movie, the dynamic is more or less dropped and they all become Knaves, especially in the third.
  • The three protagonists of Samurai Champloo fit the bill. Jin is The Knight, a Ronin Samurai who was taught swordsmanship in a dojo, he is chivalrous and only battles worthy opponents considering everyone else beneath his notice. Mugen is The Knave, and is completely self taught, with a battle style that is all over the place, he's a Combat Pragmatist and has a bad attitude, he'll pretty much fight with anyone. Fuu is The Squire, she has pretty much no fighting abilities and often ends up being a Distressed Damsel.
  • Star Trek: Voyager has this type of relationship among Janeway, Paris and Kim, with Kim as the wet-behind-the-ears Ensign Newbie, Paris as the pragmatist who's trying to influence Kim and Janeway as the moral beacon for Kim and the rest of the crew.
  • Star Wars has The Hero Luke Skywalker as the Squire, with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Han Solo as the Knight and Knave, respectively. A key point in Luke's character development in the original movie is when he rejects Han's pragmatism, leading to Han second-guessing his own beliefs.
    • Similarly, Star Wars: The Clone Wars has Ahsoka Tano as the Squire, with Obi-Wan Kenobi taking on the role of Knight once more and Anakin Solo as the Knave. Ahsoka's character development seems to be headed toward the Knave sid of things, however...
  • Final Fantasy IX has Steiner, Zidane, and Vivi.
  • Cid (Knight), Adelle (Knave), and Luso (Squire) in Final Fantasy Tactics a 2. Cid's a paragon of might and fortitude, Adelle is a duplicitous thief, and Luso is unskilled and new to Ivalice.
  • Eyeshield 21 has a football example in the beginning. Kurita is gentle and understanding teacher while Hiruma is a sadistic Drill Sergeant Nasty, Sena is their pupil (to an extent).
  • The three lords in Fire Emblem 7. Lyn is the Knight, just, honorable, and skilled. Hector is the Knave, brusque and quick to resort to violence. Eliwood is the Squire, young and not very powerful.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has one of these in the timelines Homura went though before determining to stop Madoka from becoming a magical girl: Madoka as the Knight, Mami as the Knave, and Homura as the Squire. Especially true once Mami learns the awful truth about Magical Girls and decides the best option is to kill the others and then herself so they won't turn into witches, which results in Madoka having to kill Mami to save Homura's life.
  • In George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire third book, A Storm of Swords, Jaime Lannister, Brienne of Tarth and Cleos Frey journey to king's landing. During this period, Brienne, the idealistic amazon is the knight; the pragmatic Type 5 Anti-Hero Jaime is the Knave and Cleos Frey is the squire. Since the work is rather pessimistic, you'll probably guess who is often right...
  • Radiant Historia has Rosch as Knight, Stocke as Knave (though he's more idealistic than most), and Kiel as Squire.
  • Les Légendaires gives us the Faboulous, a team of heroes consisting in this. The Knight position is assumed by Michi-Gan, a swordman with a serious, responsible attitude and clearly concerned with the sake of his home planet, Alysia. Shaki, a brooding warrior from an extincted tribe and primarly motivated by revenge, can be considered as the Knave. Finally, Toopie, a kid Genius Girl who possesses no fighting skills and relies on her inventions to fight, serves as the Squire.
  • In The Dragonlance Chronicles, Sturm is the Knight, Tanis is the Knave (and The Hero), and Caramon, although an experienced warrior from the beginning, is still young, naïve and impulsive.
  • In a non-military sense, Yes Minister, with Jim Hacker as the Knight (at least, he likes to think so), Sir Humphrey as the Knave, and Bernard as the Squire.