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.
Generally, to be an example of this trope, at least 3 of these conditions should apply, but there are exceptions, such as the "I am the Lord"
loophole in western culture where any
deal made with God/YHWH/Allah automatically counts and the one in eastern cultures where most deals with nature spirits may also qualify.
This trope is Implicit & Explicit in many Fantasy
settings and especially in popular RolePlaying Games
s and White Magician Girls
often get their powers
this way. In these settings, making a Bargain With Heaven is a fast way to Take a Level in Badass
or earn several instant credits in asskicking
During the Middle Ages
this trope was also partially truth in storytelling
, with priests of the Church bargaining away their right to have children and a sex life in exchange for lifetime job security and personal safety.
There are several examples of this in The Bible
, making this trope Older Than Feudalism
. One of these may be the Ur Example
but several other religions have examples at least as old.
The classic example is Samson
and his deal with YHWH to never cut his hair.
Compare/contrast Deal with the Devil
, which once upon a time was The Dark Side
sub trope of this but broke away and became even bigger than the original.
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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.
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 (presumably) get a good afterlife if not retirement and their families are protected from the forces of evil by literal angels.
- 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
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 Testiment 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.
- 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.
- 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.