"Mist believed that by giving himself heroic memories, he could become too pure for hell, while still getting what he wanted. Caveat venditor. He did not realize what you have known for years: There is more than one being in the universe who desires souls."This is an inversion of the Deal with the Devil trope. A Bargain With Heaven can usually be distinguished from its more wicked Sister Trope by certain key elements:
- The entity or entities that the character makes the bargain with are not evil and have no malicious intent toward the character.
- There are few if any negative repercussions to the character or those around him. Breaking it, on the other hand...
- Before/after the Bargain is struck, the character must perform some great and noble deed or accept some bizarre code of behavior in exchange for the power or rewards sought.
- So long as the character upholds their side of the bargain, whatever that may be, they appear to be getting more out of it than they put in, and/or it is easy for them to get out of the bargain if that ceases to be the case.
- The bargain is made with the character's eyes wide open to the benefits and drawbacks of the bargain, with good intentions on all sides.
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- In the OVA version of Black★Rock Shooter, Mato decide to fuse with/become the eponymous character, in order to save Yomi from the Otherworld. In other versions, the eponymous character is... not quite so nice.
- In The Movie of A Certain Magical Index, Miracle of Endymion, the survival of almost all of the passengers of a crashing space shuttle is treated as this. But for the one who made the wish, Shutaura Sequenzia, it certainly feels like a Deal with the Devil, because the miracle cost the life of her father, the pilot of said shuttle.
- In the The Sandman story "Ramadan", Haroun Al-Rashid makes a bargain with the Prince of Dreams: He offers to sell him his kingdom, a magical version of Arabia straight out of Arabian Nights, that it might live on forever in stories rather than fade away in Real Life. Dream obliges and The Magic Goes Away. Rashid awakes in a mundane version of Baghdad, having no memory of his kingdom having ever been anything more than a mundane, ordinary one. Fast forward two thousand years and we learn that this story is still being re-told, keeping the magical kingdom alive in a fashion.
- Child of the Storm has Lily who is implied to have accidentally invoked, then struck a bargain, with the Phoenix force, explaining the pyrotechnic tendencies of Harry's protection.
- Chapter 71 makes it explicit.
Film - Animated
- Watership Down has Hazel try to strike one of these with the sun god, Frith, but is told no dice. What is, is what be must be.
Film - Live-Action
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Holy Grail can give the drinker immortality, but it can't be brought outside the great seal, which is the boundary and the price of immortality...
- Explicitly Averted in the Constantine movie. Constantine wants this sort of deal, fighting demons in exchange for access to heaven, but Heaven doesn't work that way (ie. selfishly trying to get into Heaven, no matter what deeds you try to exchange for it, is impossible).
- In Andrei Tarkovsky's film The Sacrifice, Alexander promises God he'll give up everything he owns, including his home and his family, if God will avert the impending nuclear holocaust.
- In David Eddings' The Belgariad series there are several, justified within the work because the Gods all have a physical presence in the world. The clearest example occurs at the climax of book five, Enchanter's End Game, when Polgara (a powerful sorceress) directly begs Aldur (a God) to restore Durnik (a normal mortal) to life, because she loves him and would marry him. Aldur agrees to try to convince the other Gods to go along with it, as long as Polgara agrees "to live out the rest of her life with no more power than Durnik has" and she willingly consents even while she recognizes that these terms mean that she will lose all of her powers. Except that's not what the Gods do. Instead, they give Durnik sorcerous power equal to hers. They don't mention that part to her and she spends the last fifty pages or so thinking that she's powerless and trying to become accustomed to it, before she finds out the truth in the last few pages.
- The negotiations have an additional bargain in them - the god Mara, whose people (the Marags) were exterminated, refuses to accept. Until Belgarath informs him that there is one still alive. Mara is stunned for a moment, and on hearing she's attracted to the Ulgo Relg, he asks UL (whose people the Ulgos are) for the rights to have the two marry so his people can be restored. Once the deal is made, he gives his approval for the resurrection.
- Harry Dresden, of The Dresden Files finds himself on the receiving end of a Heavenly Bargain in Ghost Story.
- A more implicit bargain in the same series involves the Knights of the Cross. In exchange for their services smiting evil, the Knights get amazing luck, their families are protected from the forces of evil by literal angels, and (presumably) a good afterlife if not retirement.
- In The Barsoom Project, Yarnall is a game actor who becomes "stranded" in a live-action adventure game due to sabotage. He makes a bet with the Game Master that he won't be killed out by the end of the day, and the Game Master seals the deal by sending a (holographic) heavenly arm to reach down from the clouds so they can shake on it.
- In Simon R. Green's Verse, the title of "The Walking Man" is granted to someone who swears himself to God's service and becomes the living Wrath of the Almighty on Earth.
- This is how one becomes a wizard in the Young Wizards series. The Powers That Be decide who gets to be a wizard, and offer those mortals the choice. Those who accept recite the Wizard's Oath, swearing to only use wizardry in the service of Life, and thereafter are granted the powers of a wizard. A wizard who later violates the oath not only loses their powers, but also all memories of having been a wizard. note
- In Pact, practitioners gain power by making deals with Others, offering them amusement or other things that may suit their goals. While most Others are malevolent in some way or another, others, such as Isadora the Riddling Sphinx, are more benevolent.
- The Guardians of Sunset in Reflections of Eterna are an order of supernatural warriors defending the known multiverse against the continuous onslaught of otherworldly evil. Before their main citadel, the eponymous fortress of Eterna, fell, they bolstered their ranks by scouting out the toughest badasses of the multiverse and offering them a deal: Ageless Immortality and powers of a Physical God in return for an (eternal) life of service to the multiverse. The main caveat is that by agreeing, the future Guardian must give up all memories of their mortal life, so he can devote himself entirely to his new duties.
- In The Secret of Platform 13, with less than an hour for her kidnapped son to return before the gump will close for nine more years, the Queen promises God that she'll never do anything bad again if he returns. The narration notes that she'd never done anything bad before anyway.
- In Game of Thrones, Catelyn Stark never liked Jon Snow. When he was still a baby she prayed to the Seven to take Jon away, then Jon caught a fever, and Catelyn realized that she would let a child die, and prayed to them again to spare him, and she would have him legitimised and love him as one of her own. Jon got better, but Catelyn couldn't keep to her word. Now the Starks are scattered, and her husband is dead. Cat feels she is responsible for everything that has happened to her family because she didn't follow the deal.
Religion and Myth
- The Bible, multiple times. Sometimes, God initiates the bargain.
- The Muslim tradition has the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) literally Bargain with Heaven (or rather in Heaven with God). During the Night Journey (to Jerusalem and Heaven), Muhammad meets the prophets and God, exchanging greetings, etc.... and then God tells him (more or less): "Now to business. These are My commandments regarding prayer..." one of which is "pray fifty times daily." Muhammad says (more or less) "Sure, why not," and goes down, where Moses intercepts him and asks, "So... uh... what did He ask of you?" "Fifty prayers a day." Remembering the pain his own people had keeping 613 mitzvot, Moses said, "That's a bit much. Go up and ask Him to cut it down a bit." And Muhammad does, and then comes down to Moses, who keeps sending him up, until they're down to five prayers a day. Moses tells Muhammad to keep going after that; Muhammad says, "You know what, I'd rather not" and goes home.
- A similar bargain happened in the Old Testament with the cities of Sodom and Ghamora. Originally God would only spare the cities if a hundred good people could be found within, but was eventually bargained down to sparing both cities if even only ten good people could be found. Since the cities were destroyed anyway and only Lott and his family was spared, apparently finding ten good people total out of the population of both cities was too much to hope for.
- Vestal virgins, in theory. They'd serve the goddess for twenty years, getting high social status and more political power than any other woman had in return, and then could leave and live a comfy life. The downside was that, if things went wrong, the politicians would look for a vestal virgin whom they could accuse of having violated the rules, and bury her alive.(But from the point of view of believers, the goddess would of course protect her faithful virgins from wrong accusations ...)
- Catholic nuns in the Middle Ages. Get engaged to Jesus, trade the option of marrying a mortal man for a decent education, next to zero risk of death in childbirth, improved safety from sexual violence and improved medical care. Overall, a pretty good deal.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- In theory, this is how you get to be a paladin.
- The game also features lots of vows and oaths that are usually exceptionally powerful options with a balancing drawback. In third edition, the Vow of Poverty required you to give up all your possessions but gave you enough abilities to mostly balance it out (which is a lot considering how much the game is balanced on the assumption of characters aquiring powerful magic items.)
- A splat introduced a new 'race': the Hellbred. They are people who were extremely evil when they (first) lived, but have done something undeniably good at some point in their life, which means they aren't quite deserving of Hell. They bargained with the judges of souls for one last chance: if they can live a second life full of good deeds, then they will not be tossed to Hell.
- Magic: The Gathering: Multiple people bargain with the gods during Theros block. The most successful is probably Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, a Humanoid Abomination who got a useful arrangement with Phenax, God of Deception. Elspeth had one until her divine patron, Heliod, stabbed her in the back.
- In GURPS, the Pact limitation on an advantage is most likely either this trope or a Deal with the Devil. It gives a character an advantage (or several of them) in exchange for said character following a code of conduct (represented by self-imposed mental disadvantages), and serves as a discount on the point cost of the advantages it applies to.
- Jean Valjean Les MisÚrables was once a petty burglar who was caught after stealing silverware from a local bishop. Since he's already on parole and this could mean a much longer sentence back in jail, the bishop lies and tells the police the silverware was a gift. In doing so, he warns Valjean that he bought his soul for God, and afterward the guilt-stricken Valjean changes his ways and becomes an honest man. He mentions this bargain again later in the play during his epic song and Crowning Moment of Awesome, Who am I?
"My soul belongs to God, I know, I made that bargain long ago. He gave me hope when hope was gone, he gave me strength to journey on..."
- In the backstory of Avencast: Rise of the Mage, the Kyranians were under threat of extinction due to meddling with Morgath. They were promised (by whom is left ambiguous) that if every remaining Kyranian met him on a single field of battle, Morgath would fall and at least some of the Kyranians would survive.
- Archer of Fate/stay night made a pact with Alaya, the collective will of humanity, offering his service as a Counter Guardiannote in return for gaining the ability to save a few people he otherwise couldn't have saved. While becoming a Counter Guardian has allowed Archer to save even greater numbers of people than before by effectively saving the world multiple times, the methods Counter Guardians are forced to use made it something of a backfire for him even if Alaya didn't have any malice in mind by giving them both what they wanted.
- In Fans!, with his loved ones about to be tortured to death, Rikk sells his soul to what he believes to be the Devil in exchange for their protection. It's only after the deal is done that he realizes he was actually talking to God.