Created By: Goldfritha on September 9, 2012 Last Edited By: Goldfritha on October 3, 2012
Nuked

Releasing From The Promise

The character who received a promise releases the promise-maker.

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Trope

A promise is a promise. (And an agreement is an agreement, and a contract is a contract.) It will bind for whatever term it stated or until whatever condition was required is fulfilled -- forever if neither was -- or leave a character The Oath-Breaker forever.

Unless you're let off.

Normally, only the person you made it to can do it, though sometimes the person on whose behalf it was made can -- if Sir Jack promised Queen Alisandrine to protect Princess Esmeralda, either the queen or the princess might be able to let him off, provided he accepts it. Oaths made to a god -- or sometimes just on the god's name -- can be absolved by a religious authority, sometimes. A Magically Binding Contract can mean that only the attempt can be made, though it still indicates Character Development.

Usually this is a way to indicate development, and a shift from an almost contractual (if not actually contractual) relationship to an open-ended one powered by love, friendship, or trust. There is always drama inherent, particularly if it started out as a Leonine Contract, in that this will demonstrate whether those things really have that power at this point. Or not.

Delicacy may be required to prevent hurt feelings, and if it's lacking, the promise-maker may feel insulted and even rejected. A powerful More Hero Than Thou argument often ensues if the promise-receiver is trying to break the association for the other character's good. Honor may insist that he can not be freed even by the promise-receiver. And insult may be taken in some cultures, where being released from the oath carries the implication that the promise-maker was so flawed that the promise-receiver doesn't want to keep him on.

On the other hand, if the promise-maker lacks scruples, or if it was a Leonine Contract, he may be pretty earnest in efforts to convince the other to give up the promise. Exact Words may be used toward this end as well as evading the spirit of the oath.

If the character received things in return for the promise, things can get interesting. If the thing is no longer possible or applicable, it may merely be a gracious acknowledgement of the fact. However, if the character gets to keep the things anyway, he will often feel guilty. If he doesn't get to keep it, his reaction may vary from fury in high drama, or despair, to a Hilarity Ensues attempt to weasel the promise-receiver out of freeing him.

An exchange of vows often requires mutual agreement, and is very ticklish to bring up. Betrothals are a special case; depending on the culture, it may be only by mutual agreement, only by some flaw, or only by the woman.

Examples

Fan Fic
  • There's an old Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic series by Robert Brown and Francis Tolbert (found here) which has an OC called Dorian Lexford. Snively (one of the villains of the story) saves Dorian's life. Being extremely honourable, Dorian chooses to serve Snively until his debt is repaid. Snively eventually chooses to release Dorian from his debt so that Dorian can be with the woman he loves.

Film
  • In Tangled, Flynn presents his efforts to persuade Rapunzel to release him as a generous offer to release her -- she's feeling guilty about abandoning her mother, so he will bring her back without showing her what he promised, and she will give him back what he stole. When that doesn't work, he brings her to the Snuggly Duckling in an attempt to show her the thugs she fears and persuade her thus.
    • Later, Rapunzel does rescind it, giving him it back before he has completed his promised portion. Gothel intervenes to make her think that he abandoned her immediately.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, Beast lets Belle go of her Take Me Instead promise when they find out her father could die if he doesn't get help.
  • In Wild Strawberries, Isak has leant his son Evald a significant sum of money, which he insists that he pay back (even though Isak does not need the money, Evald cannot really afford to pay him back and Evald's wife has attempted to dissuade Isak from asking for the money back), which Evald agrees to do. At the end of the film, after Isak's spiritual journey, he attempts to tell Evald to forget about the loan, only for Evald to cut him off and insist that he'll pay him back.
  • Conan the Destroyer. After Conan frees her, Zula asks to ride with him and serve him. At the end of the movie Princess Jehnna asks Zula to be the captain of her guard. Conan releases her from her oath to him (and grants her permission to take the post) with a nod.

Literature
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Denethor releases Pippin, who refuses it and goes to get Gandalf to stop whatever madness Denethor is up to.
  • In L. M. Montgomery's Rainbow Valley, Rosemary and Ellen had promised to stay single together. Rosemary fell in love, and Ellen refused to free her. Later, Ellen fell in love; while she didn't even ask, she told her lover, who asked, and Rosemary nobly agreed to free her and declared she would not tell her love that she was free. Ellen, of course, could not accept her freedom under those conditions. (Fortunately the youngest daughter of Rosemary's love intervened.)
  • In L. M. Montgomery's Emily Climbs, Emily goes to college after promising not to write any fiction when she is there. After two years, a rich relative took up paying the tuition, and the aunt she promised tells Emily that since it was in return for the tuition, she must release Emily from her promise.
  • In a P. G. Wodehouse Mr. Mulliner story, after discussion on escaping engagements, Mr. Mulliner recounts how Mulliners, being honorable, insist that only the woman can break it off, and recounts a story about a nephew trying to persuade his beloved to do so after he discovers what he thinks is evidence of insanity in his family.
  • In E.D.E.N. Southworth's Ishmael Herman Brudenell told his secret wife, Nora, and her sister that whenever it was better to let the marriage be known, they could tell it. Nevertheless, Nora kept her tongue when his mother confronted her and pled the promise. Her sister berated her for it.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, a Magically Binding Contract holds the winds obedient to Miranda's flute for a millenium. Mab is always after her to break it and free them. Halfway through the trilogy, Miranda realizes that this sort of slavery may be keeping her from becoming a Sibyl and tells the major winds that if they can figure out a way to keep all the winds from wrecking havoc without it, she will free them from it. At the end, she breaks it to free her brother. Astreus gets the winds to behave despite it.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has a young Han Solo attempt this with an annoying wookie who won't leave him alone ever since he saved his life. When he attempts to absolve his new companion of any obligation to return the favor, the wookie, by the name of Chewbacca, informs him that he does not have the right to release the wookie from his blood debt. He decides to keep Chewbacca as a traveling companion after Chewie saves him from being shot to death in a bar.

Live-Action TV
  • In Babylon 5, when Londo rather abruptly tells Morden and his associates that he wishes to end their (implied contractual) relationship, Morden rather calmly accepts this, and does some final "settling up with him", demarcating areas of the galaxy where the Centauri were and were not allowed to conquer. Later he seeks and finds a way to reel Londo back in, however.

Webcomics
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • September 9, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
  • September 9, 2012
    IuraCivium
    I'd suggest a title more like Release From The Promise. To me, "Rescinding the Promise" sounded at first like someone going back on their word.
  • September 9, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Agree.
  • September 14, 2012
    Arivne
  • September 14, 2012
    Folamh3
    • In Wild Strawberries, Isak has leant his son Evald a significant sum of money, which he insists that he pay back (even though Isak does not need the money, Evald cannot really afford to pay him back and Evald's wife has attempted to dissuade Isak from asking for the money back), which Evald agrees to do. At the end of the film, after Isak's spiritual journey, he attempts to tell Evald to forget about the loan, only for Evald to cut him off and insist that he'll pay him back.
  • September 15, 2012
    kingoflag79
    The Pied Piper of Hamelin, a German fairy tale about a piper who saves a town from rats by playing a luxurious tune that kills them. When the mayor doesn't deliver the promise of the money and gives much less. The piper leads almost all of the children to follow to his tune. They were lured into a tomb and never seen again, revenge for not given full pay.
  • September 15, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ There was no release. There was failing to fulfill, and retribution for it.
  • September 16, 2012
    Goldfritha
    Yeah, I copied that example to The Promise.
  • September 26, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    How broad is this? Does this cover oaths of loyalty?
  • September 26, 2012
    Goldfritha
    Whatever led you to think that it didn't? So we can change it.
  • September 26, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ The description doesn't mention it, so I wanted to be sure.

    Something like when Pippin offers his services to Denethor in Return of the King since Borimir gave his life trying to defend the hobbits. Then when Denethor turns suicidal, he says Pippin is released from that service.

    Would that count for this trope?
  • September 26, 2012
    Goldfritha
    Err -- ummm -- well, it's the first example listed under Literature, so I thought it did.
  • September 26, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ I should have seen that. Oops.

    But the description should still be tweaked to note more variations of this trope.
  • September 27, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    Okay, that new description is too long. It doesn't need that much information.
  • September 27, 2012
    Goldfritha
    New description? I didn't tweak it.
  • September 27, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Could have sworn it was shorter before. Guess I was wrong.
  • September 28, 2012
    isk2837
    There's an old Sonic The Hedgehog fanfic series by Robert Brown and Francis Tolbert (found here) which has an OC called Dorian Lexford. Snively (one of the villains of the story) saves Dorian's life. Being extremely honourable, Dorian chooses to serve Snively until his debt is repaid. Snively eventually chooses to release Dorian from his debt so that Dorian can be with the woman he loves.
  • September 30, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • Conan The Destroyer. After Conan frees her, Zula asks to ride with him and serve him. At the end of the movie Princess Jehnna asks Zula to be the captain of her guard. Conan releases her from her oath to him (and grants her permission to take the post) with a nod.
  • September 30, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    I suppose any sort of debt forgiveness would fit this trope, such as that given by the US to Mexico at the end of The Day After Tomorrow in exchange for taking refugees from the climate catastrophe in el Norte.
  • September 30, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    In Babylon 5, when Londo rather abruptly tells Morden and his associates that he wishes to end their (implied contractual) relationship, Morden rather calmly accepts this, and does some final "settling up with him", demarcating areas of the galaxy where the Centauri were and were not allowed to conquer. Later he seeks and finds a way to reel Londo back in, however.
  • September 30, 2012
    AFP
  • September 30, 2012
    Goldfritha
    Is there a particular reason why tropers aren't giving this hats? I think it's ready to launch.
  • September 30, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ I find hats aren't paid attention to a lot of the time, or we don't think to add one.
  • September 30, 2012
    Goldfritha
    I find poking the tropers about it sometimes helps. 0:)
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