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I've seen this plot multiple times, the main character (either alone or with his squad) arrive into a village where there's no warriors but they face a menace, it can be monsters, bandits, raiders, criminals, etc. So the MC teaches them how to defend and most of the time it resolves with the village beating their attackers.

Examples like these there are many, just for reference:

The Mandalorian S1 Chapter 4

This is the first appearance of Cara Dune, she teams up with Mando in order to train and defend a village against raiders

IP Man 2

IP Man teaches some villagers how to defend themselves against mobsters

I believe it also happens in Goblin Slayer, the MC prepares a village to defend themselves against well... Goblins.

What's the first instance in science fiction or fantasy in which this plot was used?

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  • 9
    sounds like an ancient theme, literally thousands of years old and oft repeated.
    – releseabe
    Jan 16, 2023 at 16:19
  • 27
    I know this plot structure was invented (or at least popularised in film) by Seven Samurai, but that's neither sci-fi nor fantasy.
    – F1Krazy
    Jan 16, 2023 at 16:20
  • 13
    tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheMagnificentSevenSamurai for the trope, which has an earliest example of "Seven Against Thebes" (which probably is not SF&F).
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 16, 2023 at 16:22
  • 1
    If the first time a hero does whatever, isn't in The Odyssey, The Iliad, or Oedipus Rex, then does it even matter?
    – Mazura
    Jan 17, 2023 at 1:54
  • 22
    Just to say it out loud, if you're not previously familiar with the Seven Samurai (1954) and The Magnificent Seven (1960), then you should definitely track them down and watch. They're big cultural touchstones, and the properties named in the question are all homages to them. Jan 17, 2023 at 3:06

4 Answers 4

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One of the earliest known examples of a story where a hero helps a defenseless village against enemies is the Epic of Gilgamesh, a Mesopotamian epic poem that dates back to around 2100 BCE. In the story, the hero Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, comes to the aid of the village of Kullab, which is being terrorized by the giant Humbaba (Also the first ever depiction and story about a giant!). Gilgamesh, with the help of his companion Enkidu, defeats Humbaba and saves the village.

The two heroes then teach the people of Uruk how to defend themselves, making them a strong and powerful community.

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  • 6
    Not just save, but to train the village to defend themselves.
    – Mrc4t987
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:09
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    They did in seperate occasion, first defeated Humbaba then tought the people of Uruk. Good point though if you take it literally, the enemy isn't defeated by teachings.
    – Timmetje
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:38
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    Also one of the earliest known stories in the world, full stop. If this is admitted as a valid answer, it's going to be hard to beat. @Mrc4t987
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 17, 2023 at 6:41
  • 8
    I always like the fact that the first ever written story in history (found), is an awesome fantasy kick butt story about giants helping villagers kill evil giants in some quest for immortality. IMO proof that fantasy is one of the best genres since written stories exists, but more importantly Die Hard is the best Christmas movie.
    – Timmetje
    Jan 17, 2023 at 6:57
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    So they teach the people of Uruk, not [only] Kullab? Jan 19, 2023 at 11:36
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Since I mentioned it in the comments, "Seven Against Thebes" by Aeschylus in 467 BC might be the ur-example.

When Oedipus, King of Thebes, realized he had married his own mother and had two sons and two daughters with her, he blinded himself and cursed his sons to divide their inheritance (the kingdom) by the sword. The two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, in order to avoid bloodshed, agreed to rule Thebes in alternate years. After the first year, Eteocles refused to step down, leading Polynices to raise an army of Argives (captained by the eponymous Seven) to take Thebes by force. This is where Aeschylus' tragedy starts.

Within the mythology of the Seven against Thebes, there are seven defenders who fight the eponymous Seven attackers, and there are multiple examples of the gods intervening, including the striking down of Capaneus by Zeus's thunderbolt. The play, focusing on the citizens of Thebes and their king, but they mention the likely intervention of the gods in the narrative, so I feel like it might count as close enough.

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  • 2
    This does kind of put us in that murky ground of mythology and whether that crosses our boundary for not messing with religion, but I don't think anyone includes Aeschylus as a holy text.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 16, 2023 at 16:36
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    I have a feeling that this counts as "historical fiction," not "fantasy." In the same way that a mediaeval European writer would ascribe certain actions to God (because their worldview included His direct involvement in the world and they would perceive things in that light), an ancient Greek writer would fit the actions of the gods into the narrative, because of course they were involved.
    – DavidW
    Jan 16, 2023 at 16:45
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    Thebes was one of the largest cities of the ancient world, hardly a village.
    – user14111
    Jan 16, 2023 at 22:35
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    This makes me want to read Seven Against Thebes, but it sounds like a mismatch for OP, because "hero whips locals into a fighting force" seems importantly different from "political leader raises an army."
    – Tom
    Jan 17, 2023 at 19:44
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    @FuzzyBoots - Your sad devotion to that ancient religion.
    – Adamant
    Jan 19, 2023 at 6:00
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If you're looking for a more explicitly SF&F answer, Roger Corman's 1980 Battle Beyond the Stars might be the answer.

Sador of the Malmori (John Saxon) and his crew of mutants roam the galaxy in a huge spaceship armed with a Stellar Convertor, the most powerful weapon in the universe. When Sador claims the peaceful farming planet of Akir as a colony, young Shad (Richard Thomas) volunteers to take Sapient Ship Nell and seek out mercenaries who are willing to fight him. They find Gelt (Robert Vaughn) a Professional Killer who just wants to live on a planet where no-one's trying to kill him, Space Trucker Cowboy (George Peppard) of Earth, Nanelia (Darlanne Fluegel) a Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter, Saint-Exmin (Sybil Danning) of the Valkyrie—a warrior woman looking to prove herself in battle), Nestor (Earl Boen) a Hive Mind seeking new experiences, and Caymen (Morgan Woodward) of the Lambda Zone—who'd like to settle accounts with Sador for destroying his species. Counting Shad that makes seven. Sound familiar?

....

Training the Peaceful Villagers: The mercenaries and Shad/Nell do all the fighting in space, but there's some ground fighting by Cowboy-trained Akirans too.

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  • I considered tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/MessageFromSpace, but there's no mention of training the villagers, merely of the eight heroes being located to fight.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 16, 2023 at 16:44
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    Down the page a bit, there's a potentially earlier example: "The Lord of the Rings - the "Scouring of the Shire", where the pacifistic hobbits, previously subdued by the barrel-scrapings of Saruman's armies, are roused to fight by the return of the four adventurers of the Ring. Becoming an efficient guerilla army, they destroy Saruman's mooks and effectively become their own Rangers, now the original protectors of the Shire have moved to Minas Tirith."
    – DavidW
    Jan 16, 2023 at 16:51
  • If acceptd, this would technically be a dupe of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/169275/… but not really.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 16, 2023 at 16:51
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    If you're going to count Battle Beyond the Stars, then you need to back up to The Magnificent Seven and before that Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. The (cheesy) movie Battle Beyond the Stars is almost a spoof of both movies.
    – JRE
    Jan 16, 2023 at 20:43
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    @jre: Yes, but they aren't fantasy or sci-fi.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 16, 2023 at 21:38
4

This can't beat the accepted answer, but I think it truly worths a honorary mention:

A True Story (Ἀληθῆ διηγήματα) by Lucian of Samosata (2nd century CE)

In chapter 4, they end up inside the belly of a huge whale and find out there are people and civilizations in there. They manage to set a fire and kill the whale, and free themselves and others!

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