Good Shepherd

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

The Good Shepherd is a good man concerned about his community and the people over all, even if this means being Reassigned to Antarctica by the uncaring or corrupt bishop, being terrorized by the local gang or becoming a martyr sooner than they ever expected...

Besides spiritual guidance, he may also see to medical needs, take care of orphans and foundlings, and attend to the dying and dead.

He may be a Badass Preacher because as the quote says, wolves come and the flock need protection. If all his fellows are are fighters, they are Church Militant. At the other extreme, he may be an Actual Pacifist (not that it makes him any less awesome), and despite Men Are the Expendable Gender, attacks on him are particulary evil. When he is a military chaplain, he can encompass either type; under The Laws and Customs of War, he is a noncombatant and required not to fight.

The Saintly Church is, of course, replete with them, but even the Corrupt Church may have several—usually low-ranking. Indeed some can be found ministering to the unfortunate of the Wretched Hive. Voluntarily. The downside of their being able to act as the Good Samaritan is that they have many more people who need help, and indeed, The Hero may find himself needing to give more help than he gets. He may also feature as The Missionary, in which case The Hero may find help in even less likely locations—but again, will be limited in resources. May also assist as the Turbulent Priest.

Because Good Is Not Nice, he can also be the Dark Shepherd, whether on occasion or frequently. Contrast Sinister Minister for the Evil Counterpart.

The Preacher Man is usually a Good Shepherd.

The word "shepherd", due to various biblical stories, has definite positive connotations in and of itself.

Not to be confused with The Shepherd, though it's not unlikely that there's some overlap. Also do not confuse with the Matt Damon film The Good Shepherd.

In terms of rank, the Authority Tropes arguably equal are Badass Preacher, Corrupt Corporate Executive, Irish Priest, Preacher Man, Pedophile Priest, Schoolteachers, Sexy Priest, Sinister Minister and The Vicar. For the next step down, see Student Council President. For the next step up, see Dean Bitterman.

Examples of Good Shepherd include:

Anime and Manga

  • Abel Nightroad from Trinity Blood. A priest/special agent for the post-apocalyptic Vatican. Abel is very kind, and through a combination of comedic melodrama and sheer feather-brainedness tends to come off as a harmless ditz. But when the wolves come...
  • Father Juliano from Witch Hunter Robin comes off more as this despite the generally dark religious tone. He genuinely thought witches were dangerous but couldn't kill Baby Robin, despite knowing what she was. Instead he raised her as his own and admitted that his fear of witches (the emotion driving the Big Bad) is a weakness of his own heart, and no fault of the witches. He blesses the protagonist and encourages her endeavors.


  • Fr. Conelly from the 1930's Angels With Dirty Faces
  • Fr. Barry from On The Waterfront
  • Fr. Merrin from The Exorcist
  • Robbie Coltrane's character on The Pope Must Die
  • Kiril Pavlovich from The Shoes of the Fisherman
  • Fr. Kiernan from Stigmata
  • Fr. Damien of Molokai, as played by David Wenham, fits the trope. Based on a true story; he was canonized in 2009.
  • Fr. O'Malley from Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary's
  • Mr. Beebe from A Room With A View.
  • Fr. Moor from The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
  • Don Pietro from Rome Open City, who works for the Resistance against the Nazis and eventually is killed for his collaboration.
  • Reverend Oliver from The Patriot.

"A shepherd must tend his flock...(snatches off wig and puts on black, broad-brimmed hat) and at times, fight off the wolves."


  • Ayatani Zweil in Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels. He first joined them when they were heading toward the Saint's shrine, declaring that therefore they were pilgrims, and his job was providing guidance to pilgrims.
  • The Bishop of Digne from Les Misérables
  • Discworld:
    • Reverend Mightily Oats is a bit short on faith to be exactly this, but he's a priest and one of the Good Guys, so close enough. A better example is Brutha of Small Gods, whose unswerving belief in Om makes him the only thing keeping Om from disappearing entirely.
    • Oats appears only in the backstory of Unseen Academicals, but from Nutt's memories of him, he appears to have grown into the role.
    • Brutha ends up shepherding his god.
    • Small Gods also deconstructs the whole "shepherd" concept, by suggesting the Omnian church might have been different if Om's first encounter with a human had been with a goatherd:

"For sheep are stupid, and must be driven. But goats are intelligent, and need to be led."

    • Though not religious, Granny Aching of the Chalk was an example of this trope in every other respect, the literal one included.
  • The parson from The Canterbury Tales

He was a shepherde and noght a mercenarie.
And thogh he hooly were and vertuous,
He was to synful men nat despitous,
Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne,
But in his techyng discreet and benynge.

  • The wandering septon encountered by Brienne in the fourth volume of A Song of Ice and Fire. Mind, given the nature of the setting he'll probably turn out to be evil, or die in a horrible fashion. Winds up head of the church and, as a bonus, gets to put Cersei in her place several times. He could still die horribly though.
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Wolfblade, the Space Wolves find Brother Malburius, ministering and acting as The Medic, in the horrors of the Terra underhive.
  • Mercedes Lackey's first Free Bards novel had a venial priest refuse to marry two wandering bards. A few days later the bards found one of these Good Shepherds, voluntarily exiled to a little backwater, who obliged.
  • Page quote: Jesus, obviously, complete with ministering to the lepers, prostitutes and dregs, being harassed by Pharisees and becoming a sacrifice to atone for the sins of Mankind.
    • Note that The Bible specifically uses the title Good Shepherd to distinguish him from the shepherds of his day, whose profession carried with it an unsavory reputation.
  • Don Camillo Tarocci, title character of a series of stories by Giovanni Guareschi, is the hard-fisted, hot-tempered, but good-hearted priest of an Italian village in the '50s and '60s. The local Communist party, especially the village mayor, gripe about him as a reactionary—but they don't want anyone else performing their religious sacraments, thank you very much.
    • Don Camillo is also very much a Badass Preacher. He and the mayor often settle their differences with their fists. (At one point the mayor leaves an unexploded WWII bomb outside Don Camillo's door with the words "Eester Gift" written on it. Don Camillo picks it up by himself and leaves it outside the mayor's door with a note that the mayor needs to work on his spelling of "Easter".)
    • Some of the earlier stories make pretty clear that the local bishop at the time is also a Good Shepherd, a wise and kindly old man who, for instance, can see that the Communists in Camillo's village are basically good people even if they do claim to be atheists (except when it's time for baptisms, marriages, funerals, and the non-commercial aspects of Christmas, Easter, etc.). The Communists speak to him with respect ... and when they talk about the trouble Don Camillo gives them, it's hard to tell if they're complaining or bragging.
      • In one arc, the communists manage to talk the bishop into reassigning Don Camillo to another parish. The bishop replaces him with a total wimp. The communists are so disgusted with the new priest that they beg the bishop to give them Don Camillo back.
  • Rebbe Saunders in The Chosen is this in some ways, though he is hard to understand and something of a Well-Intentioned Extremist .
  • In The Dresden Files, Father Forthill. Doubles as attorney for his parishioners and is a Church Militant as part of the Ordo Malleus, though more a Non-Action Guy to Michael's Knight in Shining Armour. Also a Retired Badass, as his backstory includes him and a group of other seminarians hunting down and killing a vampire plaguing the town they were visiting.
  • In Connie Willis's Doomsday Book, the priest faithfully ministers to the dying until he succumbs to the Black Death himself.
  • In Steve Parker's Warhammer 40,000 novel Gunheads, Confessor Friedrich. Wulfe trusts him with his confidences—and is particularly moved by his retrieving the bodies of the dead from tanks.
  • Maikel Staynair, Archbishop of Safehold's Church of Charis, radiates a strong but gentle aura wherever he goes, which only the most bigoted can deny. A common habit of his, as he walks down the alter to his pulpit, to stop and speak to people, bless those in need, and see their children, and he continues to do this even after it almost gets him assassinated. Also of note is Paityr Wylsynn, a member of the Inquisition who discharges his duties in full fairness, in stark contrast to all the other members of the Inquisition.
    • As of the fourth book, A Mighty Fortress, Vicar Rhobair Duchairn is making a sincere effort to become this in the wake of Grand Inquisitor Clyntahn's latest crossing of the Moral Event Horizon, largely because it's all he can do without becoming a victim of the Inquisition himself.
    • Zhaysyn Cahnyr qualifies, though his actions have been off-screen until he's had to flee his archdiocese.
  • In 1634: The Galileo Affair, a young man who isn't even Christian at all notes that Father Larry Mazzare "could have served as a poster model for Priest, Catholic, small town, finest example thereof."
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Space Cadet, when persuading the hero that an apparent accident was a real one and not a put on job to scare the candiates, someone asks him whether he has ever heard of St. Barbara, explains that she is the Patron Saint of those in dangerous occupations, and tells him that if he goes to the chapel dedicated to her, he will find that the priest is saying Mass for those who died in the accident. This convinces him, because of course the priest would not fake such a thing.
  • In Mary Doria Russell's novel The Sparrow, the Jesuits send linguist and priest Emilio Sandoz to minister to a newly discovered civilization in the Alpha Centauri system. Sandoz is a model clergyman—kind, intelligent, curious, idealistic—to the point where he is widely considered as a candidate for sainthood. Too bad he ends up undergoing one of the worst cases of Break the Cutie EVER.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Jewels of Gwahlur" Conan the Barbarian is astounded by one.

"No. He believes in his gods, and is incorruptible. He knows nothing about this. He will obey the oracle. It was all Thutmekri's plan. Knowing the Keshani would consult the oracle, he had Zargheba bring me with the embassy from Zembabwei, closely veiled and secluded."
"Well, I'm damned!" muttered Conan. "A priest who honestly believes in his oracle, and can not be bribed."

Live-Action TV

  • Shepherd Book from Firefly
  • Father Francis John Patrick Mulcahy from M*A*S*H.
  • The Rev. Geraldine Granger from The Vicar of Dibley.
  • Rev Bem from Andromeda, who partly subverts the trope by being a bug-eyed monster from a Wretched Hive, plays it straight by travelling with the Five-Man Band, then is pressed into service of The Dark Side; and having passed the test, leaves on a journey of self discovery to see if his conversion was true or false.
  • Norman Balthus from Carnivale. Unfortunately, his adopted son is The Antichrist...
  • Rev. Alden from Little House On the Prairie
  • Fr. Hugh O'Flaherty in The Scarlet and the Black, which is based on the real story of a priest working at the Vatican, who took in Jews and POWs, hiding them from the Nazis.
  • Vedek Bareil in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Allowed himself to be blamed for a massacre, so as not to destroy the people's faith in Kai Opaka, and brokered peace between the Cardassians and the Bajorans.
    • Kai Opaka was herself an example. Her sucessor ... not so much.
  • The Rev. Adam Smallbone in Rev. He may be flawed, but when it comes to it, he always does the right thing.
  • Mark the hospital chaplain in Being Human (UK). He's a man of genuine faith and courage, including standing his ground when faced with vampires - and holding them off. Twice.
    • His equivalent from the Boston-set remake, not so much… (at best he's a dark subversion of the trope)
  • Eric from 7th Heaven.
  • Shepherd Schlag from Seventeen Moments of Spring is a rare example of a Good Shepherd in Soviet media.
  • Rev. Reuben Gregory from Amen
  • Reverend Cole in Hell on Wheels who is also The Atoner for muders commited in Kansas.

Oral Tradition


Video Games

  • Billy Lee Black in Xenogears.
  • Father Raul in The Longest Journey.
  • Priest Bruno in Dark Chronicle. As a support character, he can revive you from death once and sell you status recovery items.
  • Simon in Final Fantasy Tactics is an example of a Good Shepherd in a Corrupt Church.
  • Daleyon in Ys SEVEN more or less fits this description. He is a kind man who genuinely cares for other people.
  • Grand Cleric Elthina of Dragon Age II is a kindly old lady who advocates peace above all else and is a Reasonable Authority Figure trying to keep the Templars and Mages from murdering each other. Her death sets off the civil war of Kirkwall for the final act.
  • Su Raja in Phantasy Star IV. He is glad he was made to leave the mecca of his religion however.

Web Comics

Peter: The most important thing I've learned as a preacher... It's that it's not as important to remember people's names so much as what they have to teach you.

Western Animation

  • The Archdeacon in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Besides Phoebus, he really seems to be the only truly accepting authority figure around.

Real Life

  • During WWII, on the Greek island of Zakynthos, the Nazis told the local bishop to go to the mayor's office and come back with a list of all the Jews on the island. The bishop came back with a list that had only two names: the mayor's name, and his own.
  • Another World War II example, Father Maximillion Kolbe was a prisoner in Auschwitz. Father Max volunteered to replace one of the men, who had a wife and children, who was condemned to die after one of the men from the barracks went missing. He was canonized as a saint in 1982.
  • One Father Damien stayed on the island of Molokai to tend to those with Leprosy, eventually contracting the disease himself and dying. He was canonized as a saint in 2009.