ISTJs in fiction have many virtues that bring out their inner heroes, from their loyalty to their quiet determination.
My father is an ISTJ, one of the eight introverted personality types based on the work of Carl Jung. The mind of an ISTJ tends toward reflecting on internal impressions of sensory experiences (or the Introverted Sensing function), with the ability to organize the world around them through deliberate judgments rather than spontaneous reactions (or Extroverted Thinking). This is why the Myers-Briggs system characterizes them as the introverted (I), sensing (S), thinking (T), and judging (J) type.
When I was younger, I thought my dad was rigid, lacked confidence, and was a little too obsessed with pointless details. But as I’ve come to understand the ISTJ better — and as I’ve found some great ISTJ role models in fictional stories — I see the strengths of the ISTJ: loyalty, dedication, honesty, earnestness, and quiet determination. My dad always starts what he finishes, stays true to his principles, and shows he cares through generous acts of service.
In this article, the third in a series about introverts in fiction, I’ve chosen four of my favorite ISTJ book characters to highlight. (Here are my pieces about INTJs and INFPs.) For ISTJs, and those of us with ISTJs in our lives, hopefully this will help us realize the strengths they can develop.
Thanks for being a good ISTJ, Dad. You’ve taught me a lot about being an introvert and how to embrace my strengths, from quietly persisting in difficult projects to deeply investing time in those you love.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)
4 Fictional ISTJs Who Show Us How Introverts Can Be Heroes
1. Samwell Tarly from Game of Thrones
Samwell Tarly, the bravest self-professed coward in Westeros, plays an important role in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones book series. Sam is a young man of many contradictions. He finds himself banished to the rough soldier’s life of the Night’s Watch because his father thinks him insufficiently masculine to inherit his noble title. He makes friends with the charismatic Jon Snow because Jon feels bad for him when the other boys bully him. He’s mocked for being overweight, bad with a sword, and clumsy. However, he alone has the presence of mind to use an obsidian dagger to kill one of the supernatural Wight Walkers North of the Wall in battle.
Sam has the rare skills of excellent reading and writing, but his father mocks him as merely “reading about the achievements of better men.” More fond of food and books than fighting or scouting terrain, Sam could easily give up in the brutal, bullying environment of the Night’s Watch. Instead, he takes on assignments to research old texts by candlelight, schemes behind-the-scenes to have Jon elected leader of the Watch, and is trusted to take an important message to the maesters of the Citadel far away, where he will be trained in academic learning — a perfect use of his excellent ISTJ memory.
What we can learn from Sam: Although Sam isn’t much of a self-advocate, he is a loyal friend. He isn’t much of a warrior, but he’s firm when it counts. And he may not be good with speaking words, but he can read, write, and take responsibility — even for a child who isn’t his own.
He teaches us that ISTJs may not be able to posture like extroverts, and may not be eloquent, but they’re dependable and sincere — they’re always loyal to their principles and always there when you need them.
2. Edward Ferrars from Sense and Sensibility
Edward Ferrars, Elinor Dashwood’s love interest in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, is not the typical heartthrob of any generation. Edward mumbles, trips over his words, sits awkwardly in the corner, and lives in fear of displeasing his overbearing mother. (She will only give him his inheritance if he makes something grand of himself, like becoming a member of Parliament.)
Yet, under the surface, he is a true gentleman: He respects others’ feelings, does not boast of his virtues or the wealth he is supposed to inherit, and shows care and concern for the suffering of others. An example of the latter is how compassionately he treats the Dashwood sisters, whom his relatives have treated so ungenerously.
Edward may not be a man of charm or wit, but he is a man of great character and integrity. While he develops a close friendship with Elinor, he does not promise her a relationship he cannot give her. Elinor comes to find out that in his younger years, the aimless and desperate Edward became engaged to another woman. Although Edward had not thought the relationship would make either of them happy, he would not break up with her, because that would have meant breaking his word.
As an ISTJ, he is often caught in reverie and longs for a quiet, private life, away from the self-seeking competition of other nobility. His unassuming nature and simple integrity are traits that his former fiancée eventually spurns as she leaves him for his more fashionable and gregarious brother. Yet this turn of events allows Edward to marry Elinor and become a county parson, living the quiet life of a clergyman that will truly make him happy.
What we can learn from Edward: Edward shows ISTJs that while honor, integrity, and avoiding the limelight may not be appreciated nowadays in worldly circles, they can be the foundation of good relationships. They can also help us weather the challenges of life to find how to be truly happy.
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3. Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter
While he only plays a supporting role in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Neville Longbottom is an inspiring example of an ISTJ with heart and determination. The unremarkable son of two heroic wizard parents — who were severely disabled after the first battle with Voldemort — Neville lives in the shadow of their legacy. His grandmother pushes him to meet their standard of magical prowess, but despite his best efforts, his transfigurations go awry, his potions turn awful, and his hands shake when he tries to duel with a wand.
His true talents lie elsewhere: Neville loves plants and the natural world. He shows integrity and concern for school rules and doing things the right way, even standing up to his friends for sneaking out. And he is doggedly loyal to his friends, such as Harry Potter, not caring if their achievements outshine his in comparison. When Harry sets up Dumbledore’s Army to teach the students defensive magic, for example, Neville puts his whole heart into learning, even though he starts out as one of the weakest of the group. He is one of the few who accompanies Harry to the Department of Mysteries to battle with Death Eaters, and he continues to support him all the way through the final battles.
At one point, Professor McGonogall tells Neville that he should focus on his talent with charms and herbology. When he says that his grandmother wants him to learn other advanced skills instead, McGonogall tells him to tell her that she should appreciate the grandson she has, not the one she wishes for.
What we can learn from Neville: Neville shows us that ISTJs don’t need to be flashy to be heroes. Hard work, sincerity, and loyalty can be much more valuable than dramatic heroics. And even if the extroverted world values other talents, we can find our true selves and true place when we develop our genuine talents and appreciate fellow introverts for who they really are.
4. Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings
Sam Gamgee, Frodo’s loyal companion in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, exemplifies the quiet virtues of the introvert. Sam accompanies his beloved Mr. Frodo from the time he leaves the Shire to destroy the Ring of Power to the moment when the Ring falls into the chasm at Mount Doom. When Frodo decides to leave the Fellowship to destroy the Ring on his own, Sam follows. When Frodo struggles to stay motivated with the Ring’s corrosive influence, Sam keeps him going and takes care of the everyday details of food, supplies, and rest. He also reminds him of the simple joys of their home in the Shire, like strawberries, feather beds, and the comforting company of friends.
While some people place Sam as an ISFJ, I see him as an ISTJ because of how he complements Frodo’s idealistic and trusting INFP nature with tough, but loving, reminders to stay alert and grounded in reality. For example, Frodo takes on the creature Gollum as a guide. Even though Gollum is murderously committed to retaking the Ring, Frodo sees the good that is still left in him and believes he can change.
Sam, however, is wary of Gollum from the start, and while he ultimately goes along with Frodo’s wishes to keep Gollum with them, he keeps a close watch over him. Frodo’s open heart and Sam’s wary eye prove to be a perfect balance as they journey toward Mount Doom, since Gollum is both a valuable guide and a dangerous foe. This balance keeps Gollum with them long enough to fulfill his purpose in the journey and to play his part in destroying the Ring.
What we can learn from Sam: ISTJs like Sam aren’t the ones we usually tell stories about. But as Frodo tells Sam on their journey, even though people might tell stories someday about Frodo and the Ring, the story would be incomplete without mentioning him — because Frodo “wouldn’t have got far without Sam.” Sam’s loyalty, devotion, and courageous persistence not only save the world from the Dark Lord, but they also forge a bond of friendship that is an inspiration to us all.
Appreciating ISTJs’ Quiet and Unassuming Nature
Overall, these story characters remind us to appreciate the quiet, unassuming ISTJs in our lives: Even if their concern for doing things the right way seems rigid or stodgy, if their caution and prudence seems cowardly, and if the extroverted world currently doesn’t understand the value of their talents. They remind us to be sincere and seek what really matters in life.
This is my tribute to you, Dad, and to unsung heroes everywhere.
If you want to learn more about introversion, Jungian types, and how the mind works, subscribe to my podcast Introvert University, available on Apple, Google, Spotify, and more.
You might like:
- 21 Signs That You’re an ISTJ, the Most Common Personality Type
- 9 Things I Love About ISTJs
- 4 Introverted Book and Movie Characters Who Make Me Feel Seen
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