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Are knights overused in fantasy fiction?

Are knights overused in fantasy fiction?

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The answer may be yes and no. In some cases, yes, they can be set as a cliche (nondescript knight in shining armor). But there are SO many ways you can use the idea of a "knight" that I don't think it's overused. Song of Ice and Fire is a great example of knights that are not-so-shining, or who seem to be. So a "knight" can be a lot of things, and it's up to you to define what they are in your world. :)
I'm with the two answers above. I also happen to really like them anyways. So, no vote given it goes both ways. I will happily use the romanticized versions and the ones in sour armor and the ones that, to quote from ASoIaF, nothing more then a man with a horse and a sword. Or the dragon riding ones. Or the ones that ride dinosaurs (because that's also cool).

I've knights with codes and honor and fancy armor who sometimes face off with those playing at it. I've, as per the name, got orcs as knights. Monster knights. Goblin knights. Knights of Hearth and Home. Drow knights (tremble and fear in the face of exploding peaches and neon armor). Golem knights. Night knights. Sorry, had to do the last. But I really don't care that much as they are as much a staple in fantasy as stew is. All in how they get used and wrote. I also happen to love Arthurian stuff, so more then a few allusions to those knights are often made. The Green Knight in particular has crossed even into my sci-fi attempts. That and the Golden Knight is another thing that shows up in some form or another too. Usually with something to do with dragons. Anyways, that's my long winded answer to your question.
Much as with dragons, I think the best knight stories give the framework of the knight a good deal of layered depth. I want living breathing characters, not hollow suits of armor. Give me a great character, who also happens to be a knight, and I'm in. Give me a knight who's nothing more than their shield, armor, jousts and writ vows, no matter how much the author may excel at such descriptions or understand the historical workings of the position, and I'll lose interest fast.


toujours gai, archie
Yes. Or No. Take your pick.

I can't help but wonder why the question was asked. And what the OP means by "overused" and how one might measure level of use.


Are knights are overly romanticized and overused in fantasy fiction?

Yes and no. I think the idea of feudal knight or chivalry might be overused. But knight is essentially a landowning heavy cavalryman. In Roman Republic, a class of equites (knights) were merely people rich enough to afford a horse and equipment to fight as shock cavalry. Roman (Byzantine) Cataphract of Middle Byzantine period is a knight, for all intents and purposes, yet he does not exist within confines of Western feudalism. Tolkien essentially used that to create military of Gondor, where he used "knight" to describe merely a type of heavy shock cavalry - Gondorian system does not have much in common with western feudal system, it is much more similar to medieval Roman thematic system.

Specifically for Gondor, if you are interested, you can read more in following two articles (second one is mine and expands on what I wrote above):
Gondor, Byzantium, and feudalism
Military organization of Gondor
It could give you an idea on how to think about your own knights, if you want to avoid fantasy cliches.


Yes and no. I think the idea of feudal knight or chivalry might be overused.
I concur. There are so many types of what can basically be called a knight. The romanticised western medieval version seems to be the go to, even when they’re not chivalric. So that’s a yes. But you have samurai, Eagle and Jaguar knights of the Aztec, Sipahi, and so many more. It seems to me that these are beginning to influence fantasy nowadays. So that’s a no.


toujours gai, archie
If we start to fuss over historical accuracy, then a whole vocabulary has to be revised. We might as well ask whether kings are overused. Or peasants or merchants or clerics.

As long as the author is making no pretense to historicity, I let it slide. In most cases, it's not a matter of changing how they present their knight, it would be necessary to change their entire view of the Middle Ages. If they've told a good story, I'm happy.

Rather than debate whether or not Aztecs had knights (to pick an example that happened to be on my screen as I type this), why not regard all of that as sources of inspiration and ideas? I would *include* the stereotypes of knight-in-shining-armor. To give but one example, T.H. White took that and absolutely ran with it, with eternal success. His portrayal of knights, courts, kings, and the rest would be torn to shreds on the grounds of 5th or 6th century accuracy. But it remains a great work of literature and imagination.

To the OP I say: has X been overused? Never! It's been used badly, but so have sunrises and daffodils and lasers at eight o'clock. But, and this is the point: they've also been used well. You be one of those.

Miles Lacey

I live in a country where we have an honours system where people get knighted, right down to having the Governor-General doing all that stuff with the sword. Yet, they bear little, if any, resemblance to the knights you read about in myths and legends.

Anyway, knights aren't a cliche unless they look and act like Sir Lancelot or one of the other knights of King Arthur's round table. Unlike dragons knights are fairly rare in fantasy so they haven't really become as much of a cliche as one might think.
To be honest, I would argue that the idea of the ranger is more overused than that of a proper night. I see more Aragorns than Lancelots on average. Not that I'm mad at it, there's always ways to make an idea your own.


That is true, but there is also a good reason for that. Ranger-type military units (rangers, scouts etc.) tend to act in small groups or even individually, and are largely independent of the central command. This makes it easy for them to be integrated into the story proper, or rather, for story to be built around them. With battleline units, that is much more difficult. Nevermind the fact that essentially every battle would be described as "he clonked/stomped/marched until two lines met and started bashing enemy heads in" (you have good description of battle from PoV of a line infantryman in Return of the King, battle at Black Gate), but line infantry is rather constrained in freedom of action. Using line infantry for protagonists means that story would be about a unit - and often a very large unit, on the order of a cohort or a legion - not about the individual.