HERMIT, n. A person whose vices and follies are not sociable.
—Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
The Doctor: Bit of a hermit.
Hermits are folks who don't live around other folks—and they like it that way. They never say I Just Want to Have Friends and they aren't afraid of Dying Alone. Hermits aren't banished or cut off from society as punishment—they willingly chose to leave it, for whatever reason.
Despite their reclusive lifestyle, fictional hermits may be either friendly or hostile. If a hermit is friendly, their reason for living alone will be that they simply enjoy the solitude. If the hermit is hostile, it's because they're misanthropic. On occasion, the hero will encounter a religious hermit.
Nice or not, almost all hermits are quirky. That's because Loners Are Freaks; they don't conform to society's rules about cleanliness, politeness, or edibleness. Heck, they don't conform to society's standards at all. Hermits generally have a high tolerance to Going Mad from the Isolation, but they're not completely immune. See "quirkiness" above.
Expect most classic hermits to live in swamps, jungles, deserts, or caves. Modern hermits are more likely to live in cities or towns, but be highly, highly withdrawn, to the point of never interacting with the outside world. Hikikomori, Basement Dweller, and the Reclusive Artist are some examples.
If a hero seeks out this person for guidance or training, chances are you're dealing with a Hermit Guru. If a hero meets up with them on a journey, they may become a kind of one-person Wacky Wayside Tribe.
Compare The Aloner, for whom social isolation is a terrible punishment.
- Gottfried from Le Scorpion.
- There have been a few Archie Comics stories about hermits—one was about a hermit teen who ran away from foster care and lived in a cave. He chased away any intruders, until Betty got in trouble—then he swooped in, rescued her, and decided he liked people and wanted to live among them again.
- At the beginning of Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi is living in this way on a desert planet, as is Yoda later on in the Original Trilogy in a swamp. The prequel films show that both are effectively in hiding from the Empire.
- Monty Python's Life of Brian has at least one scene with a traditional religious hermit, who's had his eye on a particular bush of berries.
- St Ungulant in Small Gods is a religious hermit. The Omnian Church encourages them, since if people are going to ask questions about the nature of belief, it's best they do it out in the wilderness where no-one can hear them.
- The Canadian novel Mungo City is about a world where commercialisation runs rampant. People are allowed to leave Mungo City and get away from the capitalistic society, but only if they agree to live isolated in the wilderness forever. The main character decides to chose this option to get away from his incredibly annoying friend. The friend follows him into isolation.
- Benjamin from A Canticle for Leibowitz, who may or may not also be the pilgrim from the first portion of the book, the Old Jew from the third, and/or Leibowitz himself .
- The Once-Ler in The Lorax. He lives near the wreckage of his old factory and never ventures outside. This is largely due to his guilt complex.
- In the Doctor Who story "The Time Monster", the Doctor refers to visiting a hermit who lived on a mountain behind his house on Gallifrey. (Fanon has it that this was K'anpo Rinpoche, the Buddhist Time Lord from "Planet of the Spiders".)
- Parodied in a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch about hermits living in caves on a mountainside.
- One episode of Boy Meets World features an Imagine Spot after the group of friends begin playing pranks on one another in which this causes a rift between them and breaks them apart. In this fantasy, Eric becomes a hermit living alone purifying and re-drinking his own urine, having changed his name to Plays-With-Squirrels. He wrote an immense manifesto (claiming that every hermit has one), which includes a thousand blank pages and only one with writing on it- "Lose one friend, lose all friends, lose yourself."
- Timon of Timon of Athens becomes a hermit once he is sufficiently Maddened Into Misanthropy, and unlike most examples, he's not friendly to visitors at all.
- A Mad Mathematician hermit is a major plot point in Arcadia. By the end of the play, we know it was Septimus.
- 'Arry the 'Ermit from Quest for Glory I: So You Want to be a Hero is very friendly and loves company, but is still very much a 'ermit.
- Touhou has Kasen Ibaraki, The One-Armed, Horned Hermit. She lives on her own, and is about as eccentric as most people in Gensokyo. However, she is also tasked with aiding people with her wisdom, so she's not a complete recluse.
- The Ren and Stimpy Show episode "Hermit Ren", where Ren becomes a hermit to get away from Stimpy.
- There's of course the Tarot card named "The Hermit", which represents contemplative solitude.
- The early Christian hermits who lived in the deserts of Egypt and Palestine in the fourth and fifth centuries AD; indeed, words like "monk" and "monastery" derive from the Greek word monos, "alone". Hermits began to congregate into loose collections (now known as "sketes"), where hermits would live around a central place where they could gather for worship; these evolved into monasteries. However, there are still monks and nuns who follow this tradition and live as hermits.
- In 18th century England, the best gardens would have an "ornamental" hermit. This person was hired to live on the grounds in a hovel and appear occasionally for guests...at a distance. They weren't allowed to bathe or cut their nails and hair over their tenure. After several years, the hermit would be let go and paid a large sum of money. Most modern interpretations of hermits are modeled after this fad.