Lovable Coward

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Some barbarian is waving my shield, since I was obliged to leave that perfectly good piece of equipment behind under a bush.
But I got away, so what does it matter? Life seemed somehow more precious. Let the shield go; I can buy another one equally good.

Archilochus, responding to the Spartan saying, "Come home with this shield or upon it."

The flip side of the Dirty Coward is the Lovable Coward. They're not quite a hero, and may even be completely lacking in heroic impulses, but even as they shamelessly run and hide, we somehow still find ourselves rooting for them. Their cowardice is sometimes played for comedy, and sometimes portrayed as simply the most sensible course of action that seldom, if ever, endangers innocents. The Lovable Coward never (or hardly ever) puts Honor Before Reason - and considers this a point of pride. The Lovable Coward is often a Trickster, specializing in weaseling their way out of dangerous situations. They may be a Cowardly Sidekick - if one is the main hero, they may find themselves an Accidental Hero for all the wrong reasons.

Contrast: Dirty Coward, The So-Called Coward, Miles Gloriosus, Cowardly Lion.

Examples of Lovable Coward include:


  • Cereal mascots Count Chocula and Frankenberry. They seem to be afraid of everything: ghosts (often including Boo Berry, who's much braver), other monsters, people (except children), cats, mice, thunder, you name it. Frankly, if they ever met Scooby-Doo, they'd likely be just as scared of him as he would be of them.

Anime and Manga

  • Usopp from One Piece, though in later chapters he's begun to grow a backbone.
  • Grasshop from Spider Riders becomes one after his transition from a Dirty Coward.
  • Misora of Mahou Sensei Negima Her artifact is a pair of running shoes that lets her flee with great haste when danger appears. However, when push comes to shove, she can do some daring rescues, which could blindside villains since she's the last person you'd expect to do daring rescues.
  • Ranma ½
  • GB from Ginga Densetsu Weed
  • Ookiku Furikabutte: Mihashi. Although you're supposed to take his backstory of bullying seriously, his nervous tics are mostly played for laughs. He mostly expresses this by being an Extreme Doormat to his catcher Abe.
  • Protagonist Dr. Onotera in Emerging, at least in the beginning. He freaks out twice during his initial operating room examinations of victims of the virus... a mistake that could have cost both his life and the lives of the other hospital staff. Despite this, it's easy to root for him as he attempts to overcome his fears and put a stop to the disease spreading through Tokyo.
  • In Bleach, Keigo Asano. At first, anyway.
  • Italy from Axis Powers Hetalia.
  • Tsunayoshi Sawada from Katekyō Hitman Reborn! is the perfect example of both a Lovable Coward and a Accidental Hero. But that was just in the start of the series.
  • Takayuki Furuichi from Beelzebub

Comic Books

  • Volstagg the Voluminous, of Marvel Comics' trio "The Warriors Three", is a cowardly, tremendously fat braggart with a bizarre amount of success in battle, partly due to his own lies. Then one day he was the only one mobile when an army threatened Midgard. He managed to pull together a defense and Took a Level in Badass. Judging by his name, he is probably based on Falstaff.

Films -- Animation

  • The error-prone inept and immortal wizard Schmendrick from The Last Unicorn was not only a Lovable Coward but found himself in the role of the Accidental Hero, until the more conventional hero and Knight in Shining Armor Prince Lir turned up in the latter half of the story. Both Schmendrick and Lir were uncommonly Genre Savvy; they knew what roles fate had destined them to play, to the point of Lir's Heroic Sacrifice to save the unicorn from King Haggard's monstrous Red Bull.
  • In The Swan Princess, Derek's friend Bromley is not nearly as courageous as he pretends to be, but comes through in the end. Jean-Bob, the frog who thinks he's a prince, has shades of this as well.

Films -- Live-Action

  • Bob Hope, in many of his movies.
  • Valentine in Mirror Mask.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail has Sir Robin, the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot, who had nearly fought the Dragon of Angnor, and who had nearly stood up against the Chicken of Bristol, and who had personally wet himself at the battle of Badon Hill:

Brave Sir Robin ran away
Bravely ran away away.
"I didn't!"
When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled
Yes Brave Sir Robin turned about
"I didn't!"
And gallantly he chickened out. Bravely taking to his feet
"I never did!"
He beat a very brave retreat
"All lies!"
Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin!
"I never!"

  • Dimly from The Snow Queen.
  • Lee Taylor, the not-so-Intrepid Reporter in Doctor X.
  • Roy O'Bannon in the Shanghai Noon series.
  • Asta (yes, the dog) in The Thin Man movies.
  • Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow.
  • Star Wars' C-3PO. He has mild elements of Cowardly Lion in that he will run into danger after his friends, but that's as far as it goes.
    • Given that he's a droid, this probably has more to do more with his programming telling him to stay close to his master than any sense of loyalty...
  • The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, naturally, overlapping with the Trope named after him. The Scarecrow and Tin Man too, in a few scenes.
  • Averted with the film version of Volstagg the Voluminous (see Comic Books, above) -- while we don't see much of him in combat, when we do we see he's kicking ass as much as Fandral and Hogun.


  • Yossarian in Catch-22.
  • Rincewind of Discworld fame.
    • To some extent, Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs, though they've seen trouble before and usually square up to it if there's no other option, or Vimes needs them to do so. But mostly, "When the time came, he [Nobby] would not be found wanting. He would not be found at all."
      • "He had always thought heroes did heroic things for God and Country and mother's apple pie. He never thought they might did them because they might be yelled at if they didn't." (Actually, Colon isn't so concerned with being yelled at in that scene as with having Vetinari raise his eyebrow at him.)
  • Flashman... maybe. On a good day. Usually a pretty shameless Dirty Coward, but he has his moments.
  • Ciaphas Cain definitely counts... okay, maybe not "definitely".
  • The title character of The Bartimaeus Trilogy.
  • The Humbug in The Phantom Tollbooth.
  • In Castle in the Air, the sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, Sophie describes Howl as being cowardly (as well as sly and selfish and vain as a peacock). When Abdullah comments that she seems strangely proud of Howl's vices, she states that she's just describing him. (She does really love him, including his bad traits.)
  • Horace Slughorn of Harry Potter prefers to take the easy option over a direct confrontation with the enemy, but proves his inner bravery when he rallies reinforcements in Hogsmeade during the Battle of Hogwarts and leads the Slytherins into battle after previously evacuating them. And even before that, he's still a likeable guy.
  • Pierre Gringoire from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He tries to do his best to help save Esmeralda, but when his own neck is at stake he decides he'd rather not.
  • Piglet of Winnie the Pooh is almost certainly this, a timid stammering Neat Freak who fears every superstition and mythical animal his friends make up. The Disney adapted version dials this Up to Eleven (along with adding Lumpy to the list as well).

Live-Action TV

  • Maverick: Bret Maverick. The entire Maverick clan, of which there are a massive number, have made cowardice their family motto for generations.
  • Vinton Harper from Mama's Family.
  • Vila from Blake's 7: cowardly but cute and funny, and able to unlock any door to get himself or other main characters out of trouble...

Vila: There isn't a lock I can't open... if I'm scared enough.
Blake: Are you scared enough for that one?
Vila: What d'you think?

  • Merton J. Dingle from Big Wolf on Campus. Despite being a guy who has hidden behind girls during fights with supernatural beings, has regularly redirected the Big Bad towards his best friend and show's hero in order to keep himself safe and has outright apologised to enemies if a plan or strategy he used against them doesn't work; he's still an incredibly lovable (and funny) character.
  • Kaamelott‍'‍s Bohort. He's mostly a coward, but then again his all-around good nature makes him rather endearing, all the more so since many other characters are brutes.
  • Rodney McKay from Stargate Atlantis. Well, usually.
  • Pirate Percy from Candle Cove is a pirate who's almost too cowardly to even go into caves to look for treasure.
  • Rimmer of Red Dwarf is a Dirty Coward, a consummate backstabber, a human danger detector... and also, as he points out himself, rather sweet. Sometimes. He improves over the course of the series.

Rimmer: Follow the Rimmer-shaped blur.

  • Captain Blackadder in Blackadder Goes Forth tries everything to get out of the war. But since the war is portrayed as a completely pointless waste of human life, the audience roots for him.
  • Patrick Jane of The Mentalist sometimes acts as this. His cowardly moments make him more endearing because it reveals that under his cool facade he still experiences the same fears as everyone else.

Newspaper Comics

  • The Dog of Footrot Flats talks himself up (metaphorically) but tends to run away very fast from any hostile dog (and some cats) bigger than him. Although he's still a competent sheepdog.
  • Sir Rodney from The Wizard of Id gets most of his humor out of being a complete chicken.


  • The classic example is Shakespeare's Falstaff, the originator of the timeless saying, "The better part of valor is discretion, and in that better part I have saved my life."
  • Papageno in Mozart's The Magic Flute.

Professional Wrestling

  • Norman Smiley, a goofy British-born wrestler in WCW. He was loved by fans for his entertaining dance moves, but was such a coward that he'd wear heavy padding during his matches and would scream like a little girl whenever it seemed like a villain was about to get the better of him in the ring. Even when he somehow managed to win the Hardcore Championship, he was terrified of having to defend it in Hardcore Matches and kept trying to deliberately lose the title (which didn't work for a long time).

Video Games

  • Axel from Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is a fallen "Dark Hero", one-man Goldfish Poop Gang and all-around goofball, frequently making up excuses whenever his can gets kicked. However, much like his spiritual predecessor Mid-Boss from the first game, he winds up helping out Adell and company late in the game (but not out of the kindness of his own heart).
  • Super Mario Bros.: Luigi, originally nothing more than a sprite recolor of his older brother Mario, has slowly developed into one of these.
    • To say nothing of the Toads: even at his worst, he's still braver than these guys.
  • Captain Linebeck in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is one of these for most of the game.
  • Gilgamesh from Final Fantasy V runs away when battles turn against him, generally claiming urgent business has suddenly come up. Later he does the opposite with a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In the sidekick (and mostly comedic) vein, how about Arnaud G. Vasquez from Wild ARMs 4? At one point in game, he actually runs away and cowers behind a box, leaving the rest of the main characters behind. He does get better, in a 'true bravery means working around your fear' way. And by working around your fear, we mean smashing him with a squadron of fighter jets.
  • Louis from Left 4 Dead. It seems in the Canon, his fear of the infected seems to get him and the rest of the gang in trouble, due to his tendency for flight over fight. Despite this, his ridiculously optimistic attitude and emphatic enthusiasm makes him one of the more entertaining characters for many players.
  • Saemon Havarian from Baldur's Gate II is either this or a Dirty Coward, with a heavy dosage of Your Mileage May Vary. During the course of the game he ends up dumping you in the cacky no less than five times out of pure self-interest and tends to teleport away whenever things go bad for him. On the plus side, associating with him gives you access to the Infinity+1 Sword, at least one of said dumpings is into an extremely lucrative Sidequest, and the two last are against foes you could beat while asleep at that point (and he is very much aware of this) and ends up saving you a frontal assault against an enemy stronghold.
    • The first game has poor Khalid, a shy, nervous, but kind-hearted fighter with decent dexterity and at least 1/3 more hit points than many other party members. Given tons of armor he's a fantastic tank, it's just he has this tragically low morale score..."Better part of valor! Better part of valor!" In some circumstances this is actually helpful though, like when he's an inch from death and you can't get a healer into melee to save him.
  • The Spathi of the Star Control series are like this. Their ship is even designed to fight while running away. It's also one of the more powerful ships in the game.
  • In World of Warcraft Flynn Fairwind fits (unless you're a Horde player, in which case he's a Dirty Coward). He tends to panic at the sight of abominations, dragons, and other monsters of supernatural origin, but is pretty brave when fighting pirates, naga, and Horde soldiers.

Tabletop Games

Web Comics




Western Animation


Eddie Izzard: We love Shaggy and Scooby because they were cowards! Because we can identify with them. We love them! The other guys driving the van? Fuck off!