Childhood Marriage Promise
: You promised you'd marry me! Kyo
: Because you threatened me!
A common staple of stories featuring Childhood Friends
is the Childhood Marriage Promise
. Years ago, when two of the main characters were small children, they promised to marry each other when they grew up. Now they're in High School
or university, and She Is All Grown Up
. Sometimes, the couple fall in love for real and they finally fulfill that promise.
Other times, one of them is the Unlucky Childhood Friend
whose heart gets broken, since the First Girl Wins Because Destiny Says So
A slight variation, one that usually comes up in Fantasy or Sci-Fi anime, is where the boy promises to always protect the girl (which, in the traditional sense of marriage, is pretty much the same thing). See Bodyguard Crush
. See also Declaration of Protection
, which can be read both ways. Often arises in a Forgotten First Meeting
The Childhood Marriage Promise
is often made in the shadow of The World Tree
Compare Puppy Love
, which may lead to this. When it's the parents who make such an agreement, you have the decidedly-less-heartwarming Arranged Marriage
. When two adults make such a deferred arrangement in order to avoid being single in old age, it's a Fallback Marriage Pact
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Love Hina, Keitaro is determined to find the girl he pledged to marry as a child, although he can't for his life remember who she is. (All evidence points to either Naru or Mutsumi — or both. Mutsumi claims it was Naru.)
- The end of the manga reveals that as a child, he wanted to marry Mutsumi at first, but she made him promise Naru that he'd marry her — because Mutsumi knew Naru was also in love with him, and she wanted them both to be happy. Since the entire manga plays on Urashima Taro, it was ultimately Mutsumi, the fated girl, who said "Screw Destiny" and gave away the guy as far back as when they were preschoolers, and the whole manga is just the fallout of that choice. Given that his aunt beats him to "Toudai", Screw Destiny is very much in play throughout the manga.
- This is also played with at the end of the manga when he asks his grandmother who his promise was with and she yells out (while boarding a helicopter) that the girl he promised has been with him 'all along' prompting EVERY GIRL AT HINATA SOU to proclaim that she's the one!
- Hazumu and Tomari in Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, with the added complication that Hazumu is now a girl. Amusingly, the original promise was Hazumu promising to be Tomari's bride, which received an angry response from Tormari that as a boy, he'd have to be the groom. Oh, how things can change...
- Keiichi and Belldandy in the original OAV animated version of Ah! My Goddess.
- Subverted by James in Pokémon, since back then he didn't know Jessiebelle's real personality and once she showed her colors, he didn't want anything to do with her.
- Chihiro and Ritsuko in Kujibiki Unbalance. Of course, considering the source, it's an Affectionate Parody.
- It eventually turns out that Ranma and Ukyo in Ranma ½ have one of these, made when Ukyo tried to make some of her family's okonomiyaki sauce while they were kids. She promised to let Ranma taste it when it finished aging after ten years, if Ranma would vow to "look after her for the rest of her life" if it turned out good. Of course, at the time, Ranma didn't know either that Ukyo was actually a girl or what he was promising, and through a lot of confusion the promise ends up being broken when it comes up again. Unfortunately for Ranma, Genma and Ukyo's father had brokered an Arranged Marriage shortly after he and Ukyo made their Childhood Marriage Promise (which Genma tried to run out on), meaning Ukyo still persists that she has a claim to his hand. Because she does. This is further complicated by the fact that Genma has promised Ranma's hand in marriage to several girls (and in the anime to a couple others as well) because he's a jerk.
- The Childhood Marriage Promise is a touching central theme in Ai Yori Aoshi, as Aoi and Kaoru were promised to marry due to their families... but the promise was broken due to Kaoru walking out on his horribly abusive grandfather. However, when he meets a grown-up Aoi who still likes him, Kaoru falls for her all over again.
- The cousins Li Shaoran and Li Meiling in the anime version of Card Captor Sakura. They don't go through it, since the promise was that Meiling would be Shaoran's bride until he found someone he loved more... thus Meiling steps aside willingly when she realizes that he's fallen in love with their common friend Sakura. The scene where Meiling breaks down crying on the lap of Sakura's own Unlucky Childhood Friend, Tomoyo, is heartbreaking.
- Subverted in Fruits Basket, where Kyou's promise to Kagura was extracted by her threatening him with a knife (or a large rock in the anime).
- A variant happens between Kyo and Tohru, though he makes the promise through Tohru's mother Kyoko, whom he had an Inter Generational Friendship deal with. When Tohru gets lost on her way home from school, Kyo makes "a man's promise" to find Kyoko's daughter and protect her. When Tohru is brought home by someone else, Kyoko teasingly tells him that she'll put the promise "on his tab". At the end of the series, when Kyo and Tohru are in their late teens, they agree to basically go live together after graduation (and eventually do get married); Kyo thinks back to his promise, and relates his vow to protect Tohru to him essentially being her husband - that he will keep his promise for the rest of his life.
- The whole point Milk is obsessed with—and creepily stalking—Reiner in The Legend of the Legendary Heroes
- In the anime version of InuYasha, Koga lightheartedly promises to marry wolf-girl (and granddaughter of a very powerful wolf youkai whom he quite respects) Ayame, then still a young child, after he saves her from being killed. She reappears all grown-up and demands he fulfill his promise, but he's already in a Love Triangle with Kagome and Inu Yasha. Even worse, the poor guy doesn't remember a thing about it, and Ayame not only is hurt and angry as Hell with quite the reason, but Kagome is pissed at him too because she doesn't want Ayame to be hurt. By the end of the series, Koga finally fulfills his promise.
- A somewhat similar variation shows up in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Years ago Sakaki promised the young daughter of a friend he would marry her (he was drunk at the time). But now Jenny Grey wants to hold him to that promise.
- In Dragon Ball, Chichi and Goku first meet as children, and Goku promises to marry her, thinking marriage is a kind of food. He says so when an angry and all grown-up (and very pretty) Chi-Chi brings it up in the Tenkaichi Budokai, but Goku keeps his promise anyway and marries her.
- In a bit of a twist, in The Five Star Stories, Lachesis promises to marry Ladios/Amaterasu when she's 10 or so... and he's over 100. But then, he's a god, she's an Artificial Human (and possibly an incarnation of a goddess) & they're both immortal, so it's not nearly as Squicky as it sounds.
- Played with in Fullmetal Alchemist, when Alphonse asks Edward if he remembers the time when they fought over who would marry Winry. Al won the fight but she rejected both of them saying "I don't like guys who are shorter than me". Incidentally, by the end of the series Ed is now (slightly) taller than Winry.
- Sanpeita, the protagonist of Kemeko Deluxe! made one ten years ago with a girl he knew. Ten years later, a girl who looks strangely like her in some sort of Powered Armor returns to protect him...and also claims to be his wife.
- The promise is made between Ryouta and Chika when they are children in Kyou no Go no Ni. A bit unique in that they're still kids by the time of the anime, just slightly older, and it's actually the male half of the pair who remembers it.
- Played with in Futakoi: Ichijou twin sisters (together) expressed their intent to marry Nozomu when they all will grow up. When they did grew up and met again, there were definite affections from all three sides, all right. Each (separately) reminded him about this proposal and tried to downplay her own role (claiming it was half- friendly competition, half- cooperation with other sister)... only to set her sibling forward, while both still paid more attention to their "non-fiance" than to everyone else. It's Futakoi, though, so a Mind Screw was really to be expected.
- In Code Geass, Nunnally and Euphemia have a good old laugh when they remember the times they fought as children over who would get to marry Lelouch. Considering they are, respectively, his sister and his half-sister, and further considering he has a metric ton of Sub Text with Nunnally (lampshaded more than once) and actually calls Euphemia his 'first love', it's probably for the best that they never mention this conversation to him.
- In Honey Crush, Kyouko and Madoka shared one when they were younger. They're both female but Madoka thought that Kyouko was a boy at the time.
- Rumiko Takahashi's one shot The Laughing Target has a Childhood Marriage Promise that jump starts the plot. The story goes beyond Deconstruction and outright attacks this trope; one partner's determination to uphold the promise is shown to be creepy and unhealthy and that's on top of her being a Yandere with supernatural powers, not cute and romantic.
- Subverted in Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu. A Lonely Rich Kid, in his attempt to woo Chidori, tells her about a recent tragedy that has shattered his spirit. His tale begins as a clichéd romance thwarted by a terrible car accident. Then it turns out that the 'tragedy' is that the girl in question eloped with a boy she met in the accident, and moved to Amsterdam. He still gets postcards.
- Implied, but not directly said in GaoGaiGar, when Hana reminds Mamoru about a promise they made when they were young (er) children. Mamoru can only blush in response. Of course, they're all but dating as it is.
- Hayate and Athena from Hayate the Combat Butler. They promised to spend the rest of their lives together and even gave each other promise rings. Izumi promised to be his bride as well.
- Referenced in YuYu Hakusho. When Yusuke proposes to Keiko, she looks stunned... until her dad starts laughing and reminiscing about how Yusuke always tried to make up with her after a fight by asking her to marry him.
- This was the basis of the Manhwa Pig Bride, with the added twist that it's based on a Reincarnation Romance.
- Happens between Tagaki and Rei as a pinky swear in High School Of The Dead .
- Yuuto of Omamori Himari had made the Declaration of Protection (or more accurately, I Will Definitely Watch Your Back, as they were planning to be demon hunters, and her spells only go forward) version to Kuesu in his youth while their families worked out a betrothal between them. Then they separate for about a decade. When they next meet, he had completely forgotten her, completely rethought his views on demon hunting, and acquired an Unwanted Harem, most of whom are members of the demon races that they had originally planned to exterminate in their youth (And which Kuesu still wanted to do). It makes for a rather bumpy reunion.
- The events of the first Urusei Yatsura movie, Only You, were set in motion when as a child Ataru played a game of shadow tag with a girl who turned out to be an alien; it is a custom on her planet that stepping on someone's shadow counts as a marriage proposal. 11 years later she turns up with an interstellar battleship to claim her husband...
- According to some side materials, a very young Dorothy Catalonia from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing made one with her distant cousin and her father's favorite pupil, Treize Krushrenada. We don't know if Dorothy wanted Treize to fulfill it, though she did show affection for him. And apparently it did not seem to matter, considering that he died at the end of the series.
- In Axis Powers Hetalia Holy Roman Empire to North Italy. D'awwwww... Which, if the "Germany is HRE" theory is correct, makes Germany's awkward proposal in the Valentine's Day strip even more sweet and hilarious.
- Another one for North Italy, though this one is a bit weird. When N. Italy and Romano were little kids Spain was an adult already. Spain said he would marry N.Italy when N.Italy grew up (and gay marriage was legal), then Romano got upset wondering what would happen to him if they got married. Spain than says he'll marry both of them. Centuries later, Gay marriage is legalized and N. Italy doesn't remember his promise to Spain, so Spain dejectedly tries to ask Romano. Romano doesn't say no, but he doesn't say yes either. And it's never mentioned again.
- Boku Wa Imouto Ni Koi O Suru features a marriage promise between Yori and Iku. Despite the fact that they're twins they later decide to make good on the promise.
- In Maison Ikkoku, Yusaku Godai made such a promise with his cousin Akira, who in the present day is taking care of Yusaku while he's in the hospital with a broken leg. He's worried that she remembers the promise and will try to keep it, but actually she's secretly engaged to another guy who she's planning to elope with.
- In Nisekoi, the main character Ichijou Raku wears a pendant with a lock from the time he was 5 years old. He spent summer playing with his first love and when they had to say goodbye, they promised to each other that when they meet again when they're grown up, they will open the pendant using her key and get married. Things get complicated because he spent that summer with three different girls and made the same promise to all of them.
- A bonus story in ½ Prince shows that Zhou/Wicked fell in love with Lan when she (then twelve) asked her to marry him.
- Eita and Ai do this in Ore No Kanojo To Osananajimiga Shuraba Sugiru. While he totally forgot about it, she remembered it very well, and even shows him the "marriage certificate" they made as kids. Hilarity Ensues as he runs from her while she tries to get him to stamp the certificate.
- Infinite Stratos had Ichika promise that when she was a better cook, he would eat Rin's sweet-and-sour pork every day. Unfortunately for her, he took that promise in a literal sense.
- Countess Gwendoline and Roderick in the Douwe Dabbert story Florin the Loafer. Very inconvenient for the villain who wants to marry Gwendoline to become a count.
- The plot of the comics in the Daily Planners line Artilugia is based around the tween heroine Aldonza creating the titular Sexier Alter Ego Artilugia as a way to secure her marriage promise with her beloved Bruno, whom she believes is being seduced by the Alpha Bitch of their classroom. The resultant situations becomes an Imaginary Love Triangle when seen from her perspective, and a Two-Person Love Triangle if seen from Bruno's.
- A candy commercial a few years ago featured a little boy asking a little girl to marry him, and giving her a Life Saver as an engagement ring.
- In DC Nation, the "42 Days" Flashback. Forty-two days into sobriety, homeless, and with nowhere else to go, Roy shows up on Donna's doorstep.
Donna: "I swear upon the Styx that I will never look upon you with hate. Nor will I leave your side if you feel in your heart I belong there."
- Happens a lot in Doctor Who fanfic, between Kid!Doctor and Kid!Master.
- This also shows up in stories that show Amy and Rory as children.
- In the Rise of the Guardians and Megamind crossover fic Protectors, we get a very heartwarming example when the group of children, including Kid!Roxanne, defend Kid!Megamind (known as Teal here) from two Manipulative Bastards.
Roxanne: Teal is my very best friend in the world, and one day, I'm gonna marry him!
- Mary Hatch promised George Baily that she would "love him til the day she died" in It's a Wonderful Life, although she whispered it into his deaf ear so that he couldn't hear her.
- A young Forrest Gump and Jenny fall in love as children, in the shadow of, if not The World Tree per se, then at least a very very large tree.
- Sweet Home Alabama starts with a memory/dream sequence of the main character and her childhood friend promising to marry each other. The backstory shows that it didn't end happily. They did get married, but soon found it wasn't as glamorous as they thought it would be. After a miscarriage, Melanie leaves for New York, where she spends the next seven or so years building a fashion business. It's when she wants to marry again she runs into problems...she and her childhood romance never divorced; he refused to sign the papers. After a return to her roots and an analysis of just why their marriage failed he signs the divorce papers, only to find at her wedding that she hadn't signed them. She realizes she's still in love with him, not her new fiance. They decide not to get divorced, after all.
- In Mongol, Temudgin, otherwise known as Genghis Khan, picks out his arranged bride, Borte, when he's little. Guess who is his Love Interest and who he obsesses over for the rest of the movie?
- In East of Eden, Aron promises to marry Abra under a willow tree, and they even act like they are married, but then Aron goes off to war and gets killed. Abra ends up with Cal, Aron's brother, who she had grown to love while Aron was at college.
- In Star Wars Anakin tells Padme that he's going to marry her someday. Considering his abilities as a seer, this could either be a childhood marriage promise or stating what he sees as fact.
- Or perhaps its foreshadowing to Anakin's arrogant and demanding nature, and he's simply making a promise.
- Twelve-year-olds Sam and Suzy get unofficially married in Moonrise Kingdom.
- Subverted in Teresa Edgerton's The Castle of the Silver Wheel, in which Prince Tryffin pulls a Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace in the nick of time to prevent Gwenlliant from being forced into an Arranged Marriage with a notoriously abusive man. When asked if they have a Childhood Marriage Promise (which would constitute a pre-contract, thus acting as an impediment), Gwenlliant claims that they do - because Tryffin Cannot Tell a Lie, so she has to do it.
- Scout and Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout was based on the author, Harper Lee, while Dill was based on her childhood friend, Truman Capote, author of Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood. Incidentally, Capote was gay, and Lee never married.
- In Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, Lawrence and a girl he knew made a half-serious marriage proposal when they were young, just before he went off to join the Navy. When he became an aviator in his mid-twenties, his prospects and suitability greatly reduced by it, they sadly called it off.
- Nikolai and Sonya in War and Peace.
- 10-year-old Tommy Bangs and Nan Harding plan to get married in Little Men; ten years later in Jo's Boys, Nan can't believe Tom still expects her to go through with it. They don't; she remains unmarried but happy as a Hot Librarian, and Tommy marries his other suitor Dora.
- The book Quest for a Maid has a scene where the 10-year-old heroine Meg rescued a 6-year-old boy, Davy, from some bullies. Davy was so grateful he asked her to marry him on the spot, and she accepted. His father overheard, and while acknowledging it was just kids playing, decided this was perfectly suitable, talked to Meg's father, and made it an Arranged Marriage. Davy became the Unlucky Childhood Friend later, though, when Meg reached the age when she was ready to marry but realized that Davy was still too young,and she didn't want to wait.
- In Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson, Hetty's older foster brother Jem promises to marry her when they are grown up so that she can rejoin the family after being sent back to the Foundling Hospital. A modern-day version happens in Kiss, where Sylvie and Carl had such a promise as children, but Carl comes out as gay.
- In Morris Gleitzman's Bumface, the two main characters actually get married as children, in order to circumvent an Arranged Marriage.
- In The Exiles series by Hilary McKay, 10-years old Rachel is so enthralled by the nice, polite and charming French exchange student Philippe that she announces she's going to marry him when they're older. When her sisters scold her for harassing Philippe, she just smiles and says that he hasn't said that he doesn't want to. She gets him in the end.
- In Bloody Jack, Jacky and Jaimy promised to get married someday back when they were children on the Dolphin. They still intend to go through with it, despite being totally unsuited for each other.
- Rand al'Thor and Egwene al'Vere of the Wheel of Time were all-but promised to each other. They each muse on it in their internal monologues as one of the more amusingly nostalgic parts of the world they'd left behind once they'd assumed the mantles of Dragon Reborn and Amyrlin Seat, respectively.
- In the novel Zinnia, Zinnia and Tate do this. They fully intend to go through with it, having been close friends for years, but a black woman and a white man in 1922 get hatred from all sides. They try to date other people. It only works for one of them. Who that is goes back and forth a few times before a complicated Bittersweet Ending.
- Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher, somewhat complicated by the fact that she's not the first girl he was ever engaged to. And that Becky gets PISSED when she finds out.
Live Action TV
- In the episode Jack in the Box of Jonathan Creek, the character of Jack Holiday proposed to his child co-star (implied to be as a joke), but then on returning after ten years, met her again as an adult and married her. He then hires a man to kill her.
- Turns out to be the whole cause of the plot of Harper's Island, after nine-year-old Abby told eleven-year-old Henry that she wanted to live alone with him forever on the titular island. Sixteen years later he tries to hold her to this - by luring her to the island on false pretenses, murdering all third parties and faking their deaths. She doesn't see the romantic side. To say nothing of the fact that he later found out they were half-siblings and didn't let that affect his feelings.
- In Toshiie to Matsu, Matsu and Toshiie promise themselves to each other when Matsu is quite young (one source says she was only 11-ish at the time).
- The live-action segment of one The Super Mario Bros. Super Show episode plays with this: Mario receives a letter from one "Roxanne", reminding him of "his promise" made 15 years prior. Mario and Luigi are both assuming it's along the lines of this trope, but at the end it's revealed that Roxanne is already married with five kids; Mario's promise was instead to sell her plumbing supplies at wholesale price.
- Older than Television: Gilbert and Sullivan operettas used this trope repeatedly.
- The Grand Duke (1896) has plot involving dueling to the technical death by cutting a deck of cards is a bit Yu-Gi-Oh! to make the subject of a proto-musical. Suffice to say that Ludwig is saddled with all the commitments of the people he beats at cards, and they turn out to involve a lot of romantic ones. Once he's been forced to marry his third wife... well, it seems like he should have skipped that third one, when the woman the Grand Duke was engaged to in infancy shows up.
- This trope's central to the plot of The Gondoliers
- Princess Ida devotes an entire song, "Ida Was a Twelve-month Old," to this:
Ida was a twelve-month old,
Twenty years ago!
I was twice that age, I'm told,
Twenty years ago!
Husband twice as old as wife,
Augurs ill for married life;
Baleful prophecies were rife,
Twenty years ago!
- MeatShield: Not so much a promise as a crazy girl convincing herself (and a chunk of the town) that Dhur was going to marry her.
- Here's a sweet Real Life example: two German children, 5 and 6, tried to go to take a trip to Africa so they could marry one another. Although they failed to, there must obviously be a promise to try again in the future. The story can be read here.
- The story goes that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart proposed marriage to Marie Antoinette when both were children (he had just performed for her family). In the event, each married someone else.
- St. Elizabeth of Thuringia, the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary, was betrothed to the 10-year-old Louis of Thuringia at the age of 4; they were married 4 years later. Their marriage was extremely happy until Louis died on crusade. She left the Thuringian court to escape the family intrigues, died at the age of 24 in (most likely self-imposed) great poverty, and was canonized 4 years later in 1235.
- Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes (a cousin of the actor Ralph Fiennes) met his future wife when she was 9 and he was 12. They remained married for 34 years.
- Just recently in Denmark, a very young couple, both 18 years old, got married. Turns out that they've known each other since kindergarden and around their early teens started dating each other after remembering that they made a promise. Surely a Crowning Moment Of Heart Warming!