Good Old Ways

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"It's your father's lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more... civilized age."

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars

This character dresses in an old-fashioned manner, uses old courtesies and practices things that have fallen by the wayside since Ye Goode Olde Days. Obviously a good man—the writer is using his adherence to the Good Old Ways to signal it, as a convenient shorthand.

The Hero, the Old Master, and other characters may explicitly affirm their loyalty to the Good Old Ways. If the Defector From Decadence has left a culture that has lost (in his eyes) its former virtues and defends his behavior, he will invoke this.

Not all 'Good Old Ways are entirely good; the characters may concede their faults but point out that only their virtues have been lost, as when a violent and courageous race loses their courage but not their taste for violence. Even Evil Has Standards can be a form of Good Old Ways.

May overlap with Good Is Old-Fashioned, with villains and other characters taunting him as old-fashioned, but this is when the writer uses the shorthand, or the character himself, and those who admire him. Note that being uniformly old-fashioned is not necessary; the character can pick and chose the best of both eras, as long as those characters he is contrasted to reject the best of old times as old-fashioned.

The Noble Savage and the Arcadians run on this trope. Ludd Was Right is a subtrope. Sacred Hospitality often invokes this.

In Real Life, Good Old Ways are often used symbolically. The Soviet Union's flag showed an old-fashioned sickle, not a tractor. Swords are routinely used in military ceremonies. And the British Royal Family's horse-drawn carriage, used at weddings, in fact post-dates their owning an automobile. (This is a common source of Newer Than They Think.)

It's similar to Disco Dan, in that both involve someone longing for a "simpler," or "better time." The main difference, though is that Good Old Ways tends to have more to do with traditions, values, and high culture, whereas Disco Dan has more to do with pop culture. The two can and sometimes do overlap, however.

Contrast Man of Wealth and Taste. Compare They Changed It, Now It Sucks; Nostalgia Filter; and all of their related tropes.

Examples of Good Old Ways include:


  • "Pepperidge Farm remembers"
    • Parodied on Futurama with Fry watching recordings of old TV shows which include lines such as

TV: Remember when women couldn't vote and certain folk weren't allowed on golf courses? Pepperidge Farm remembers.
Fry: Those were the days.

Remember when you hit that pedestrian with your car at the crosswalk and then just drove away? Pepperidge Farm remembers, but Pepperidge Farm ain't just gonna keep it to Pepperidge Farm's self free of charge. Maybe you go out and buy yourself some of these distinctive Milano cookies, maybe this whole thing disappears.

Anime and Manga

  • Played with in Samurai Champloo—set in medieval Japan, most characters behave like it's modern day, which is the whole premise of the show. Jin, the one character who acts appropriate to the age, is remarked upon as being "old fashioned."
  • Rurouni Kenshin The titular character speaks in the same way one would speak to a Japanese feudal lord (even though it's the Meiji era), and this is commented on by other characters more than once.
  • Bartender dwells a lot on the difference between traditional cocktail bartending and modern nightclub bartending, usually to the effect of how much better the old ways are.

Comic Books

  • Captain America is sometimes seen as a practitioner of these. He grew up in New York during the Great Depression, and sometimes he attributes his Cape-like morality to his past.
    • This is more pronounced in Ultimate Marvel, where there's a bigger gap between Cap getting frozen and thawed, and he has had far less time to get adjusted. For instance, while dating the Wasp, she was annoyed that his chivalry bordered on patronizing, he was bewildered by what she wore and watched on TV, and talked like her grandfather. To his credit, Cap was ahead of his time in some respects such as in the Ultimates Annual which has a World War II photo of him in costume, proudly standing with the African-American Tuskegee Airmen at a time when doing so was considered taboo by mainstream American society.
  • There is also Turner D. Century, a supervillain who is dedicated to forcing society to change back to what it was before World War I. He was eventually killed off by the Scourge of the Underworld, a character created specifically for killing off minor and/or ill-conceived villains.
  • Hawkman and his partner/lover Hawkgirlwoman frequently use maces, spears and other primitive weapons against criminals. Justified in that they're reincarnations of ancient Egyptian lovers. Subverted during the Silver Age when they were extra-terrestrials from a world that had developed FTL starships.


  • I Robot: Detective Spooner is portrayed as 'old fashioned' because he wears Converse and has a non-voice-activated entertainment system. His mentor lives in a very old-school Big Fancy House. In contrast, the villain is a highly futuristic-looking AI.
    • Also subverted in that the other hero of the story is also a highly futuristic-looking piece of technology.
  • Star Wars: Invoked by Obi-Wan in the quote above.
  • Saving Sarah Cain : Amish are kind of an Ur-example.
  • Blast from the Past, stars Brendan Fraser as the son of a nuclear physicist and his wife who was born in a fallout shelter where he lived for all of his life until his parents deemed it safe(a wrongly triggered air raid siren led them to believe that nuclear war was on in the '60s, so he had never left the shelter in 35 years). Fraser's character, Adam, was unfailingly polite and gentlemanly to everyone he met in the present day, to the point where the female lead(Eve, of course) found him insufferably snotty, while her gay cousin realized that Adam simply believed that that was how people should treat each other.
  • Ghost Dog is entirely about this trope. The title character lives as a samurai in nineties Jersey City, working as a hitman for the mob. The film is interspersed with quotes from the Hagakure demonstrating how Ghost Dog is doing his best to live by the code of the samurai in the modern age. It doesn't go so well.
  • Casino Royale 1967 features David Niven as the original, retired James Bond, who considered spying to be a noble calling and expressed contempt for the current breed exemplified by his namesake.


  • In Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey novel Gaudy Night, the work at the university is presented as Good Old Ways, and explicitly described as a rearguard defense.
  • In The Caves of Steel the majority of the Earth population are 'medievalists' and cling to old fashioned views like not having robots do every job and not talking in public restrooms. The main hero lampshades it, thinking about every era has it... and one day, his own times will be viewed as such.
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Ragnar's Claw, Ragnar informs an inquisitor

We hold with the old ways from the time of Russ. The truths do not change.

  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Warriors of Ultramar, the Space Marines have a weapon to deal with the tyrannid queen itself, but they explicitly say they must get to her "the old-fashioned way" -- "with flesh, blood and steel."
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Galaxy In Flames, this is the core of Keeler's appeal to Qruze "the half-heard". She repeatedly tells him that he is the only one who remembers the ideals of the Astartes. When he kills Maggard to allow their escape, he is heartened because he killed him face to face, not with treachery, from far away, and tells how they used to fight that way, respecting their enemies.

I also know that your counsel is not heard because yours is the voice of a past age, when the Great Crusade was a noble thing, not for gain, but for the good of all humankind.

    • Then, when Horus addresses the iterators, he declares the ideals of the Crusade are dead, but he will restore them, bringing it back to its rightful path. For which, he doesn't need them, so he stages a massacre.
    • In James Swallow's The Flight of the Eisenstein, Kaleb explicitly thinks of how he has seen the old ways of the Death Guard fade. His master Garro prizes his sword partly for its age (and is scorned for keeping a human retainer, which smacks of sentiment).
    • In Graham McNeill's Fulgrim, Vespanian watches his companies slide into decadent arrogance, and few companies held to the ideals that founded the legion. Then he learns that Fulgrim tried a Uriah Gambit on Captain Demeter, and Fulgrim murders him.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Chessmen of Mars, the ancient I-Gos is perpetually praising his days. So thorough is his admiration that he changes his loyalties on realizing who is The Hero.

Then I did not fully realize the cowardice of my jeddak, or the bravery of you and the girl. I am an old man from another age and I love courage. At first I resented the girl's attack upon me, but later I came to see the bravery of it and it won my admiration, as have all her acts. She feared not O-tar, she feared not me, she feared not all the warriors of Manator. And you! Blood of a million sires! how you fight! I am sorry that I exposed you at The Fields of Jetan. I am sorry that I dragged the girl Tara back to O-Tar. I would make amends. I would be your friend. Here is my sword at your feet.

  • In Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum, Igor revives the old vampire to deal with the odious innovations of the younger generations. The witches and the mob agree that the old master had been better: he had played fair.
    • In The Fifth Elephant, Angua complains that barbaric as her father had been, he had played fair with such customs as the hunt; her brother had corrupted things.
    • In Unseen Academicals, the wizards are big on traditions, the changing of rules is justified by finding an old set of rules in the urn, and Glenda objects to mucking with the rules because football is not supposed to keep up with the times.
    • In Eric, a demon grumbles about how the new King of Hell is ruining things, there was a time when the damned were not just numbers, but victims.
    • In yet another example from Unseen University, the changing of the guard ceremony seems to be based on a time one of the guards lost his keys. But tradition is tradition, and "Damn, swore I just had them," etc, becomes an official part of the process.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Most of the people of the North (and, by extension, House Stark) worship the old gods and keep old traditions instead of having burned their Godswood and converted to worship of The Seven like the rest of Westeros. It is implied that said gods are responsible for the Psychic Dreams for Everyone.
    • Similarly, many characters appear to view being a true chivalric knight to be a sign of following the Good Old Ways, Rhaegar Targayren and Barristan Selmy other examples of this trope. (Eddard Stark, while he is as fiercely honorable as any "true" knight, worships the Old Gods, and is therefore not a Ser, as knights are anointed by a Septon, a cleric of The Faith of the Seven.)
    • That being said, there are some old ways that even traditionalists have attempted to toss out. The Starks, for example, have attempted to outlaw the right of first night (i.e. the right of a lord to bed a woman any smallfolk or bannerman of his wants to marry), but according to Roose Bolton, it is still practiced, by the Boltons and even the Umbers, who are staunch allies of the Starks when the lord is strong.
  • In Brian Jacques's Redwall, Impoverished Patrician Squire Julian of Gingivere disdains his ramshackle estate and repels Matthias's sympathy because he knows nothing of loneliness or trying to preserve standards.
  • William Shakespeare, in "Sonnet 68", laments how things have declined: they didn't use to rob corpses of their hair for wigs.
  • In "Scott-King's Modern Europe" by Evelyn Waugh, Scott-King refuses even to consider teaching anything but classics, even though that may mean he will be out of a job.

They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the modern world. You can hardly blame them, can you?"
"Oh yes," said Scott-King. "I can and do."
"If you approve, headmaster, I will stay as I am here as long as any boy wants to read the classics. I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world."

  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Age, The Phoenix Exultant, and The Golden Transcedence, Helion and the Silver-Gray movement he helped found intensily support this to provide discipline and structure in a way that can't be enforced by law.
  • Harry Dresden likes to act old-fasioned, partly because he's a wizard, and partly because it annoys Murphy. This is taken Up to Eleven by some of the older supernatural entities
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 story "The Returned", Tarikus and Thryn shake hands "the old way" -- palm to wrist.
  • Inverted in the Harry Potter series. Villains like Lucius Malfoy uphold Black Magic and Fantastic Racism as "the old ways".
  • Also inverted and Deconstructed with Resthaven in The Ear, the Eye and the Arm. It's a natural preserve of pristine beauty, and it's a very good place to live - if you're a man. If you're a girl, you can look forward to polygamy and drudgery for the rest of your life, and if twins are born, one of the twins will be killed. Yes, probably the girl.
  • Alice, Girl from the Future features an old fashioned man who doesn't trust modern tech. That is, he refuses to use air cars, preferring the old fashioned personal wings, he doesn't like a new electronic food distribution computer installed in the zoo, insisting old fashioned robots are better (well, the computer does prove to be bugged)... and he is the only man capable of urgently repairing some advanced alien equipment.

Live-Action TV

  • Leonard McCoy from Star Trek: The Original Series both enforces and subverts this trope. He's rabidly in favor of fighting the dehumanizing effects of too much technology (especially the transporter) in favor of enjoying "the simple things in life", and yet sees "primitive 20th-century medicine" as just above trepanation, leeches, and blood-letting in its barbarity, preferring the "high tech approach" to healing.
    • In general, he embraces the positive, constructive aspects of technological progress rather than the destructive or dehumanizing ones.
  • Fraser in Due South is like this. He continues to be a stereotypical Mountie in a modern age. At one time he is even complimented by calling him "the old breed".
  • Jacob from Lost is implied to adhere to a (possibly negative) version of this, especially in seasons 3 and 5.
  • Pretty much the hat of the Minbari in Babylon 5. Quite well drawn though less mundane than similar human cultures actually are in practice. Both the virtues and the faults of traditionalist cultures are well shown. Minbari, are often loyal, brave, and honorable but they can also be bigoted and vicious. Still when one sees Minbari act, one can actually belief in them and it is a tribute to the writer and perhaps the actors(Mira Furlan was a Croatian exile and might have had the advantage of being able to act what she knew to some extent).
    • Word of God says that the Minbari were modeled on the Japanese. Personally the connection doesn't seem that obvious; they seem like a number of human cultures and in some ways more typical of humanity throughout history then the humans on the show which are more like modern westerners.


Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • A persistent Chinese legend is of a traveler who finds an Arcadian village living peaceful and happily in some out-of-the-way corner. Talking with them, he learns they are under the impression that they are still living under the last dynasty, or the one before that. In Communist China, they are said to have asked "Who now sits on the Dragon Throne?"
    • The Mao Dynasty, of course.
  • There is a persistent myth in the study of Greek warfare that the Greeks in the Olden Days used to fight honourably, agreeing where and when to engage, refusing to exploit advantages and even banning missiles to keep fights fair. This myth is almost entirely based on a single passage in Polybius praising the Good Old Ways. There is practically no real evidence backing up his statement.
    • More likely they fought the same way because they had low training and their way worked with low taxes. They fought in the same place, because that is how geography worked out. And they refused to exploit advantage because they wanted to be back on their farms.

Tabletop Games

  • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, most of the tribes rely on old-fashioned melee weapons and shamanism, often frowning upon the Post-Modern Magik used by the Glass Walkers, Bone Gnawers, and other urban Garou.
    • Justified by that the old-fashioned weapons and spirit magic works just as well as the Post-Modern Magik of the urban tribes.
      • Unfortunately, this also leads to one of the biggest examples of Gameplay and Story Segregation: The two tribes who were supposedly the champions of the Wyld, the spirit and force of change, were the most static and rigid, to the point where one of them was frozen in place, an evolutionary dead end, doomed to extinction by their own choice and statement. The two tribes supposedly most in thrall to the Weaver, the force of stasis, were the most adaptive and flexible.
  • In addition to the literary entries above, the Imperium of Man from Warhammer 40,000 is generally reluctant to improve on its millenia-old technologies, let alone adopt those from other alien races. They seem to have culturally dead-ended themselves as well, as their quasi-state religion primarily revolves around the worship of their half-dead, demi-god Emperor.
    • "Quasi-state religion" nothing, by the "current" time of 40K, the only effective difference between the Ecclesiarchy and the Imperium government is who your direct superior is. There's also implications that "the good old ways" are just that, and if the Mechanicum were somehow able to retrieve and revive ALL of the old Standard Template Constructs, Mankind would never again need fear an external threat. Internal threats, however.. Then again that's what the Inquisition is for.
    • In a less depressing example from the setting, this is the entire shtick of the Snakebites clan, who appear to be four parts tribalistic counterpart to the rest of the Orks, and one part expy of the WFB Orcs.

"Live off the land. Go to find war. Kill wot comes close. The old ways are best."


  • The Amish in Plain and Fancy defend their Good Old Ways in the song "Plain We Live."

Video Games

  • Hakumen—of BlazBlue—uses archaic words and phrases ("How dare you interrupt me, Grimalkin!"), at least in the English dub. He's also polite enough to formally declare doom on most of his opponents before cutting them in half, and generally holds himself as a Knight in Shining Armor, going so far as to warn all of humanity that they'll need to reform or die. His status as a practitioner of the Good Old Ways is heavily subversive, though: not only is his Pride so intense it violates physical laws, but he dips into Knight Templar territory often. Oh, and he's actually from the future, not the past. Kind of.

Web Comics

  • Inverted in Girl Genius: For Mechanicsburg, it's the Evil Old Ways. The Heterodynes who are usually Mad Scientists and Evil Overlords have for the last and immediate generations been The Heros. Specifically it shows up when the grandson of the Old Retainer goes Squee over one of the security measures for the town going active.
    • This very history made the town a great tourist trap, however. So the locals are still proud of their roots, but as they still prosper, happy to have it either way, or both, and most of them would gladly follow the old Heterodynes, Heterodyne Boys or Agatha. A few did prefer the new ways enough to see the return of Heterodynes as a threat. But this being Mechanicsburg, their conspiracy was noticed by a guy whose loyalty was set to "fanboy", and a series of "unfortunate accidents" happened before their plans could go too far.
    • Meanwhile, the Jägermonsters, the Super Soldier minions of the Heterodynes who were banned from Mechanicsburg until "The Heterodyne" was found, are still trying to figure out what kind of Heterodyne Agatha will be, and hoping that she'll turn out to be vun ov de fun vuns!
  • The Dreamland Chronicles: The king defends receiving humans as this trope. Nicodemus is less than impressed.