Blow-in Saviour describes a character who travels from place to place fixing the joint, or spreading joy, then moving on. We assume the cycle will continue.
Blow-in Saviour characters are found mainly in Westerns, detective stories and comedies. They are also found in children’s stories. Sometimes the Blow-in Saviours of children’s stories are children, sometimes they are adults. As I’ve noted before, characters in children’s stories are not always rounded to the point that they are treating others wrongly in some way. This is less true of contemporary adults’ stories.
Blow-in Saviours tend to turn up with a community is in trouble. (But not always.) Mary Poppins turns up when a household is in trouble. (Middle grade fiction is about the household more than about the community). They fix the problems, then move on.
The Blow-in Saviour trope is a benevolent outworking of the ‘walking the Earth’ trope.
EXAMPLES OF THE BLOW-IN SAVIOUR TROPE
- Into The Wild — Chris McCandless goes from place to place offering (pseudo-) wisdom and seeming to improve other people’s lives, until his philosophies turn in on himself and lead to his own downfall.
- Tinkerbell of Peter and Wendy
- Snufkin from The Moomins is similar. He plays a harmonica wherever he goes, distributing the joy of music.
- Crocodile Dundee (Australian film) — comedy, adventure
- Red Dog is another Australian film — in a heartwarming story, a red dog goes from place to place spreading joy.
- True Grit — anti-Western, adventure
- Amélie (film) — French comedy romance — Blow-in Saviour comedies are popular in France for some reason
- Chocolat (book and film) — drama, romance
- Good Morning, Vietnam (film) — biography, comedy, drama
- Mary Poppins (family musical based on a series of books by P.L. Travers) — children’s book — comedy, fantasy, Nanny Story
- Shane (classic Western) — about the only non-ironic Western movie made since the world wars — includes drama and romance
- Anne Of Green Gables — Anne starts off as a scattered character who causes chaos wherever she goes despite her best efforts. But her character arc turns her into a Blow-in Saviour, which starts the night she saves the Barry girl by knowing what to do for her illness. After she grows up, Anne doesn’t leave Avonlea for good, she is back and forth, and tends to win crotchety people over so long as they are basically good in the first place.
- Wanda from The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes is wise and humble beyond her years. She visits a school temporarily, changes the social structure for the better, teaches kindness then moves on.
- Jack Reacher goes from town to town solving mysteries.
- Xena Warrior Princess and her sidekick Gabrielle go from place to place fighting warlords. The backstory is that Xena is atoning for her past as the worst warlord of them all.
- Superheroes have Blow-in Saviour attributes. They seem drawn to saving everyone and will travel far and wide to do so.
- Santa — the ultimate Blow-in Saviour!
- Miss Rumphius is a bit of a Blow-in Saviour character, walking from place to place spreading flower seeds, beautifying the area.
Related: Angelic Tropes at TV Tropes
THE BLOW-IN DASTARD TROPE
An inversion of this trope can be found in less optimistic, borderline misanthropic stories. Annie Proulx has upended the Blow-in Dastard trope in several of her stories, notably “Heart Songs” and in “Negatives“, both from the Heart Songs collection. Well-heeled outsiders enter a poor, rural community, wreak havoc then move on, only to do the same to the next town, we deduce.
In children’s literature we have Wolf Comes To Town! by Denis Manton and similar stories in which a villain goes from place to place wreaking havoc. Classic fairytales tend to end with the goodies defeating the baddies, but new re-visionings sometimes eschew the happy ending.
When Nellie Bertram joins The (American) Office cast, inserting herself as boss, she describes herself as their blow-in saviour by comparing herself to Tinkerbell (a genuine Blow-in Saviour). In doing so, she describes the Blow-in Saviour perfectly:
Jim: Yeah, that’s the thing. I don’t know if you can even give raises.Office Quotes, Season 8, Episode 19
Nellie: Jim, have you ever heard of a character named Tinkerbell?
Nellie: I’m Tinkerbell.
Nellie: Mm-hm. I’m a magical fairy who floated into your office to bring a little bit of magic into your lives, to give you all raises.
Stanley: And we are grateful.
Nellie: But here’s the thing about Tinkerbell, Jim. Everyone has to believe in her or she doesn’t exist.
Jim: She dies.
But Nellie is full of bluff and bluster, a charlatan and a terrible boss. From the outset she is presented as a Blow-in Dastard instead. This works best when the audience understands what she is trying to do, which is why having her explain this is effective.