Gentleman Adventurer

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Prisoner: But who in blazes is that?
Othar: Why, I am OTHAR TRYGGVASSEN, Gentleman Adventurer!
Sanaa: Uh oh.

Girl Genius, "Othar!"

A Dead Horse Trope which used to be common in adventure, mystery, and espionage fiction where the hero was an independently wealthy (or at least doesn't do much work for a living) "gentleman of leisure" whose adventures were initially motivated by a lust for adventure and hatred of idleness, even if the character ultimately acted for heroic/patriotic motives. It seems probable that the Rich Idiot With No Day Job is an outgrowth of this character type. Has some overlap with the Adventurer Archaeologist and Great White Hunter. Often ends up a Cool Old Guy and insists on wearing an overblown Adventurer Outfit. His Distaff Counterpart is the Lady of Adventure, and if he marries one you can expect a Battle Couple.

Examples of Gentleman Adventurer include:

Anime and Manga

  • Arsène Lupin III of Lupin III, gentleman thief. He's such a discerning burglar that he once broke into someone's house only to leave a note letting the owner know that he would return once the reproductions were replaced with something worth stealing.
    • Probably a shoutout to the original Arsène Lupin, who once did the exact same thing.
  • Similarly, the Kaitou Kid of Magic Kaito returns each gem he steals, as he is looking for one in particular. He's also known to be quite charming and gentlemanly, even once cracking a safe for one of his enemies to save their trapped dog at no cost.

Comic Books

  • Green Arrow started out this way. When he then lost his fortune, he suffered an identity crisis over whether he'd been superheroing out of a legitimate desire to do good, or just for fun. He thereafter became a much more passionate and socially-conscious do-gooder.
  • Polly of Polly and The Pirates has a father who definitely falls under this category. He even makes his entrance being lowered on the ladder of a hot-air balloon.
  • Richie Rich's butler Cadbury loves to reminisce about his escapades with his former employer Sir Ruddy Blighter, "adventurist and time-waster extraordinaire."
  • Charles Fort and H.P. Lovecraft in Atomic Robo

Fort: We were adventurers!
Robo: You guys don't look like adventurers.
Fort: Adventure was more a hobby. We're writers, really.


  • James Bond is in this tradition but in a darker direction - there is a comment in either Casino Royale or From Russia With Love that he is done playing "Cowboys and Indians", which lampshades this type of character's outlook.
    • Of course, his determination to get out of the spy business never sticks.
    • Well... in the novels at least, the desire to quit playing Cowboys and Indians actually referred to his decision to quit having fun catching field agents and to start striking directly at SMERSH, the subsection of the KGB that enforced undying loyalty to the Soviet Union. This was right after the fear that SMERSH was after her drove Vesper to suicide in Casino Royale.
  • Back to The Future seems to suggest that "Doc" Brown is a subversion. He was rich enough to own a huge mansion in 1955, but by 1985 he's a recluse living in a garage (the mansion burned down according to a newspaper article seen in the opening) and says he spent his entire family fortune to pay for his Time Travel experiments.
    • By the second film, he's acquired a briefcase full of cash from different eras. Considering his objection to Marty using future knowledge to bet on sports, how he acquired this money is unexplained.
      • I think Doc's smart enough to use the Compound Interest Time Travel Gambit.
      • I had always assumed that the changes Marty had caused kept Doc from squandering his fortune trying to figure out what the flux capacitor did and how to get the time machine to work.
      • He could simply sell some patents. While the time machine is his greatest invention, it's hardly the only one, and there has to be something marketable among his many gadgets.
  • George (Jane's boss) in 27 Dresses is actually a very well-done modern version of this character.
  • At one point, Emmet describes himself and Delmar as adventurers. They are not, however, gentlemen. Just gentle men.


  • Allan Quatermain in adaptations, although in the original H. Rider Haggard novels, his pals Sir Henry Curtis and Capn. John Good fit the trope much better than him.
  • Rudolph Rassendyl in The Prisoner of Zenda
  • Richard Hannay in John Buchan's novels.
    • Some of the novels. In others, he's a hard-working officer in the war and Intelligence doesn't have an easy time getting him away from active service. Which may be a subversion of this trope. Hannay's so annoyed about it.
  • The unnamed protagonist of Rogue Male appears to be one of these. Apparently just for the fun of it, he tries to see if he could get into a position to assassinate a dictator (implied to be Hitler), but is captured and brutally tortured. His experiences afterward resemble a much darker version of Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps, until it turns out that he is an Unreliable Narrator with motives very different from any thirst for adventure. The dictator's regime murdered the hero's probably Jewish girlfriend, and he really was trying to kill him. The book ends with the hero preparing for another attempt.
  • The Gentleman Thief Raffles from the short stories by Ernest William Hornung affects the style of an adventurer, but really relies on crime to support himself financially.
  • The Jackal in Day of the Jackal is supposed to be the Evil Counterpart of this kind of character.
  • The Time Traveler in The Time Machine.
  • Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows.
    • Or so he'd describe himself. The rest of the world regards him as a Upper Class Twit.
  • While as noted, the Rich Idiot With No Day Job is more of a modern variation, and that character tends to motivated by a quest for justice more so than adventure, the ur-example of that trope, The Scarlet Pimpernel, fits this trope as well.
  • Phileas Fogg from the Jules Verne classic Around the World in 80 Days.
  • Lord John Roxton in Conan Doyle's The Lost World.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.
  • Simon Templar, although most of the money he has was extracted from crooks he'd taken down.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo.
  • Prince Florizel of Bohemia in Robert Louis Stevenson's New Arabian Nights
  • Agatha Christie had a fair number of these in her novels. Sometimes, they would be the hero, such Colonel Race who appears in several books, but sometimes subverted, as Lombard, an amoral gun-for-hire in And Then There Were None or whenever the traditional type turned out to be the murderer in the book.
  • The Stainless Steel Rat once wrote a paper on this trope. He held that society moving past the stage where a man could be both a respected member of society (Gentleman) and totally apart from society (Adventurer) forced individuals to choose which they wanted to be, and stay with that choice for the rest of their lives. DiGriz himself chose to be outside of society, as a thief.
  • Bilbo and later Frodo in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Neither of them had obvious means of support, and they lived relatively well. Neither wanted adventure at first, but after some prodding found they had a talent for it, and a taste for it. Contrast this to Frodo's companions Merry and Pippin, who were both heirs to working farm estates, and Sam, who was an actual handyman/laborer. We never find out much about Fatty Bolger's source of income.
  • Biggles was a borderline example in the inter-war period, since he never seems to be in real financial difficulties and apparently comes from money, but the "adventurer" part tended to happen to him largely against his will: The usual formula for a short story of that era was that Biggles and his chums would take on some seemingly innocuous freelance aviation job and have skullduggery of some sort (often involving Sky Pirates or smugglers) abruptly become their problem whether they liked it or not. Occasionally they'd also get hired by a straighter example of this trope to fly him to some remote destination and then have to bail him out when the expedition went pear-shaped.

Live-Action TV

  • The TV series of The Saint and The Persuaders (both starring Roger Moore).
  • The Doctor from Doctor Who. At least at first. He doesn't worry about money, worked as UNIT's scientific advisor for several years without pay, and the Eleventh Doctor implied that taking over Craig Owens' job while he lay ill was one of, if not his first job in his 900 years.
  • Dixon Bainbridge of The Mighty Boosh.
  • Lord John Roxton from Sir Arthur Conan Doyles the Lost World.
  • Higgins from Magnum, P.I., in his younger days. In fact, he seemed to fit an extraordinary amount of adventuring into a comparatively short time...
    • In point of fact his stories when compared to each other sometimes give the impression that he was on opposite sides of the world at the same time. Despite the slight implausibility of this Higgins is very much a Retired Badass.
  • Mr. Fuddle of Turkey Television was one of these in the same sense as Commander Mc Bragg below.
  • Adam Adamant of Adam Adamant Lives! was one of these, frozen and then revived in the (then) modern era.


Tabletop Games

  • Being a game set in the style of pulp serials, White Wolf's Adventure! game allows you to play as this as a type of Heroic build.

Video Games

  • The titular Professor Layton spends his first game solving an inheritance issue (and lots and lots of puzzles) without any thought for reward or concern for expense. He certainly qualifies as a gentleman, although whether he's an adventurer depends on how dangerous you think matchstick puzzles are. Extremely, as it turns out.
    • Certainly he exhibits some elements of an adventurer. Aside from puzzles, he is a skilled fencer, and regularly makes his own way out of dangerous situations, such as using what's lying around to create a homemade glider and a machine gun.
  • Recent example in On The Rainslick Precipice Of Darkness: Tycho and Gabe. Although they certainly run a detective agency (Startling Developments!), they certainly don't seem to have too many clients. Indeed, the entire plot of episode one begins with them following a very large robot out of curiosity.
  • The titular character in Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is a Quintessential British Gentleman example.
  • Setzer Gabbiani, although in reality this is all a smokescreen to cover up the fact that He is a nihilistic Death Seeker who blames himself for the death of his fiancee, and would rather catch bullets instead of ladies' handkerchiefs until he meets the party.
  • The recurring Gentleman trainer class from the Pokémon games. They have a tendency to use Pokémon based on loyal pets, such as Growlithe.
  • The boxer Dudley has become this in the Street Fighter series, as a contrast to the thuggish M.Bison (Japan)/Balrog (North America).
  • Herbert Dashwood from Fallout 3.

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation

"I am no gentleman; I am AN ADVENTURER!"

  • Aquaman on Batman: The Brave and the Bold easily falls under this. Although he takes his kingly duties seriously, Aquaman actively looks for various adventures, and spends all his time not adventuring by boisterously recounting his various exploits to whoever happens to be standing next to him - complete with Hardy Boys-esque titles.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television: Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Winston Churchill, anyone?
  • Charles Darwin, who Jumped At the Call. And promptly was seasick for the rest of the next few years. When he got back to England, he never left again, and busied himself with experiments in his garden and documenting the sex lives of barnacles, among other things.
    • And completely overturning the scientific and religious paradigms of Western civilization, can't forget that.
  • Sir Edmund Hillary.
  • The late Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, Prince of the Netherlands, was part this and part Lovable Rogue. Though the "Gentleman" part is disputed.
  • George Gordon, Lord Byron: Poet, Aristocrat, Infamous Jerkass womanizer, and by virtue of this trope... a national hero in a country that absolutely had nothing to do with his own.
  • The Grand Tour was the 18th to early 19th Century equivalent of a gap year for the upper class, and it was more or less about a Gentleman (or woman) going Adventuring for some time before settling down.
  • Sean Flynn, son of movie actor Errol Flynn, took photos of the Vietnam War for Time Magazine, Going for the Big Scoop. He disappeared (and was apparently killed) while traveling by motorcycle in Cambodia some time around 1970. Flynn wasn't in Vietnam because he needed the money, and, according to Michael Herr in "Dispatches," none of the press corp respected him until they actually saw the photos he was taking. He occasionally left Vietnam to star in motion pictures, then returned to get shot at some more.
  • Brian Blessed: When he isn't shouting in films or shouting on the television, he's trying to climb up Mount Everest. He's also boxed with the Dalai Lama.
  • In an interview on CSPAN's Q and A, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat described William F. Buckley Jr. as one of these after describing his experience of skinny-dipping with the (at that point, very old) Buckley after he (and other young National Review interns) had eaten a fancy meal on his boat.