If it takes forever, I will wait for you For a thousand summers, I will wait for you 'Til you're back beside me, 'til I'm holding you 'Til I hear you sigh here in my arms
—Les Parapluies de Cherbourg
So someone's love has gone off on a long and dangerous journey: to sea, to war, to find their meaning, to make their fortune, something along those lines. She promises to wait for him, right where she is, until he returns. How long could it be, right? Soon they'll be reunited and all will be well.
Only not so much. Years pass and he doesn't return. Most people would have given up by this point, assuming that something has happened to their loved one and he's never going to come back. But not this woman. She's going to wait right here for the rest of her life, if necessary, because she really believes he's coming back for her someday.
...Even though most of the time, he really is dead. This still will often not stop her. She said she'll wait forever for him, and she meant it. Hundreds of years later, a woman-shaped rock can be seen in that spot, waiting for her love to return to her. If she knows that he is dead, The Mourning After may ensue. Or even if she believes it — sometimes other characters think that claiming it will shake her resolve.
When the hero is being faithful, the Standard Hero Reward can lead to some very difficult to wiggle out of scenes — But Thou Must!
If she is coerced into marrying, it's You Have Waited Long Enough — whereupon her true love will show up in time to save her from the wedding. If this trope follows a breakup, you have Love Will Lead You Back. If he does return, and she realizes she no longer loved him, it turns to Old Flame Fizzle.
The person waiting, incidentally, is almost Always Female... or adog. See also My Girl Is Not a Slut, The Slow Path. Compare I Will Find You for when the speaker plans to take a more proactive stance. Contrast Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder and Taking The Veil, a common historical alternate.
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Anime and Manga
The "turned to stone" variant is featured as a local legend in an episode of Pokémon called "The Ghost of Maiden's Peak." The stone girl's spirit is also said to haunt the area.
The trope is lampshaded and defied by Jessie in reference to said ghost.
"Girls like her disgust me. Always waiting around for her man as if she were his faithful pet."
Done again in another episode with a Ninetales (kitsune Pokemon who can reach 1000 years of age) who spent hundreds of years waiting for its master to return.
Alpha in Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is still waiting for her owner to return at the end of the series when humanity goes extinct.
Trisha Elric of Fullmetal Alchemist. Not only does she agree to wait for Hohenheim while she's still alive, it's revealed in an omake at the end of the series that she is still waiting for him, despite being dead for 10 years. They're finally reunited when Hohenheim dies in the Grand Finale... in front of Trisha's grave.
Voices of a Distant Star has a rare gender inverted variation, as Noboru is stuck on Earth while his girlfriend Mikako goes in to space to be a mecha pilot. As Mikako travels farther into space and her messages to Noboru take longer and longer to arrive, he tries to resolve himself to move on, but can't ever manage it.
A variant of this trope occurs in the CLAMP manga Shirahime Shyo. A couple makes their goodbyes over a frozen lake as he is going to war, and she promises that when he comes back she will be waiting for him in the same spot. Guy returns many years later in the middle of winter thinking she probably didn't wait for him, until he looks down at the frozen river...and there she is, youthful and beautiful as ever, but dead and frozen in the lake. When she said she would wait in the same spot...she meant it.
Gender inverted in Xxx HO Li C when Watanuki takes on ownership of the shop and vows to wait for Yuuko there until the day he sees her again. Nevermind the fact she's dead right now. It's okay, after all, if "wishes can come true if someone wishes hard enough" she'll definitely come back, even though he'll probably never see her again as the person he knew her as. Watanuki won't be aging until she returns anyway, because he made a deal for prolonged life in return for being unable to leave the shop. Take thatDouble SubvertedHo YayLove Triangle....
In the first Cardcaptor Sakura movie, we have Clow Reed's girlfriend and disciple, only referred to as Mahoudoushi aka "the Sorceress", and the Big Bad of the film. They got into a huge fight when she started practising Black Magic despite his warnings, so he sealed her away in a Pocket Dimension. Sorceress broke free many years later... when Clow was already dead; she then proceeeded to unleash her magic against Syaoran's family as well as against Sakura, and as she did so, a lot of her dialogue parts are summed up as her asking "Where. Is. Clow Reed?". When Sakura finally managed to tell her that he's dead, she suffered a Villainous BSOD, saying "But... I... waited...!" all over.
An non-dog animal variant of this is Laboon from One Piece, who's been waiting over 50 years for the pirate crew he made friends with to get back from their trip around the world.
And in keeping with the trope, it turns out all members of the crew are dead. Good news Brook's Devil Fruit powers aren't going to let that get in the way.
Role reversal in Seirei No Moribito. Tanda has been waiting for years for Balsa to fulfill her vow to save the lives of eight people so they can settle down and get married. Then at the end she decides to return to her hometown for a while, and he ends up waiting again. Tanda is a very patient guy.
He does express some frustration with Balsa's wandering ways, noting that she seems to thrive on life-or-death situations. When Balsa admits that this is true and jokingly asks him if he has a cure for it, he painedly replies that if he himself isn't enough of a cure, then there's no point in going on waiting. But he goes on waiting all the same.
In Sailor Moon, after a lot of agonising on both parts, Reika goes to study in Africa and Motoki decides to wait for her. She eventually returns so that they can have their agonising all over again, since she wants to go back to Africa, this time for ten years. Motoki is still prepared to wait.
In an early episode of Slayers Revolution, when Lina is almost arrested for "the crime of being Lina Inverse", Gourry tearfully promises to wait for her until she gets out of prison, no matter how many years it takes. Lina, of course, responds with violence.
In Kannazuki no Miko, when Chikane is being, in essence, erased from existence she declares that she will reincarnate. At that point Himeko promises to wait for her.
In the ending of the manga version of Chrono Crusade, Chrono promises Rosette that he'll return to her because the place he belongs is "wherever you are" before going off to fight Aion in their final battle. For a reason that is never explained, he disappears for years, leaving her to wait for him even though their contract means that she doesn't have very long to live. After eight years he eventually does make it back to her right in time for her to die in his arms.
Isn't it just that it seems like he died in the final battle, and it's his ghost that came for her as she was dying, a la The Ghost and Mrs. Muir?
Present in the manga version of Hellsing of all the things: Alucard disappears and Integra kills the Major, telling him he's a monster and Alucard will return. She then waits for him for thirty years (naturally she never married). In the Distant Finale, Romancia, Integra has begun to worry that he's never come back, and that she's getting old. He returns to her that night, after deliberately losing millions of his own lives to get back, and reassures her that her age is fine with him.
In the finale of Gun X Sword, Wendy parts from the man she loves. (It's unclear whether Van returns her romantic feelings). The series ends with a few minutes of Distant Finale in which Wendy reveals that she's learned to cook food he would like, so that she can give him a good meal when he shows up. Though she never explicitly promised to wait for him, it seems to be what she's doing, and she insists that she will see him again some day. Cue Van walking in the door not five seconds later.
An everyday sort of version occurs in The Weatherman Is My Lover where Amasawa supports the reluctant Koganei in going overseas to work and convinces him that he'll be okay without him and wait for his return.
In the manga ending of Eureka Seven, Renton refuses to acknowledge that his lover Eureka is dead and will continue to wait upon the day she returns back. The final page indicates they might have finally reunited after 2 years.
In the movie version, Eureka waited patiently and hoped for the moment she could be reunited with Renton, considering she thought of suicide throughout the 8 years of imprisonment.
Makoto: "Okay. I won't be long. I'll come running."
Mahou Sensei Negima! has Ayaka as a (probably) platonic version of this with Asuna, waiting and clinging to life until she was 115- the year when the person in question was scheduled to come back. But she didn't, and by the time she finally got there thirty years after, it was too late. Naturally, once the poor girl did wake up and learn that Ayaka had waited that long for her, she broke down in tears.
Invoked for massive Tear Jerker effect in one of the Detective Conan OVA's. If Conan doesn't return to his Shinichi identity, Ran will wait for him to return... even if more than ten years pass. (The OAV itself was All Just a Dream, but it's not too farfected to believe that it would be within Ran's character to do this.
In Bokurano Daiichi, who raises his siblings in their father's absence, does not move in with his uncle in part because he doesn't want to impose, and mainly because he believes his father will one day return. When his turn comes to battle, he, knowing that he will die soon, decides to have his siblings stay with his uncle. His father returns some time after Daiichi's death.
Justice Society of America, Stargirl basically promises this publically (to a reporter questioning her) about Atom Smasher when he goes to prison for war crimes. "I'll be there for him, no matter how long it takes".
Invoked in Amazing Spider-Man vol. 2 #45 during the separation of Peter and Mary Jane Parker. Peter goes to Hollywood to ask MJ to return to him, but she still finds it too hard dealing with sharing her life with Spider-Man:
Mary Jane: It was like ... like everything I did on my own was just a distraction from the important stuff, and I can't be a distraction, I can't be a diversion. I can't be second place, Peter. I just can't. You can understand that, can't you, Peter?
Peter: Yeah... I suppose I can. But I'm still in love with you, MJ. I always will be. So what do I do about that?
Mary Jane: (small voice) Wait for me? Let me figure out what I need to figure out? (normal voice) I know that's hard, because I can't make any promises, but—
Peter: I don't need any promises, MJ. I'll wait for you as long as you need. Or until the stars turn cold and fall from the sky. Whichever comes first.
In Bearskin, the hero tells the youngest daughter that he will leave and return in three years to claim her hand in marriage (if he doesn't, he's dead and she's free), and when a strange, handsome man shows up, she ignores him until he proves he's the same as the hideous man she promised to marry.
The classic French musical Les Parapluies de Cherbourg centers around this when the man goes off to war for two years, and she promises to wait for him, even if it takes forever—until the woman (played by Catherine Deneuve) discovers that she's pregnant with his child and marries someone else in act III just four months later. Unlike in American films of this type, they never get back together, not even briefly.
This film is sort of indirectly the Trope Namer - the main musical theme was also adapted into an English song with this title.
Though it's pretty heavily implied that that they still both carry the old flame.
In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Elizabeth apparently decides to wait for Will... and he does comes back. This is helped by the fact that he expressly told her when he would return, so all she had to do was stay loyal and show up at the appointed time.
A Very Long Engagement has the heroine convinced that her lover is alive despite everyone else insisting that his chances of surviving a bombing during the war are nil. In the end, it turns out that he is alive, one of the rare instances of this trope where the woman's fidelity is fully rewarded. True, the man is said to suffer from memory loss of the war and his relationship with the heroine, but it's implied that they will be happy together once again.
The main character in Harrison's Flowers decides to go after her husband in war-torn Yugoslavia after receiving news that he is probably dead.
When they finally release the film version of Hachiko (see below)...Yeah....
The Perez Family subverts this trope. Carmela spends 20 years (and most of the movie) waiting for her husband, who was imprisoned by the Castro regime in Cuba. Then she just gives up, and hooks up with another man.
Arwen does this for Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings once he goes off on the quest to destroy the One Ring, which eventually escalates into a war. Although this time they are only parted for half a year.
At the end of The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade promises to wait for the woman he's sending to prison to get out!
Nora in Pete's Dragon is waiting for her fiancé, believed to be lost at sea.
In Chico & Rita the main feature is a flashback of Chico as an old man thinking on his relationship with Rita. They were separated when he was deported to Cuba while Rita was waiting for him in a hotel room. When Chico restarts his music career and gets to go back to America, he manages to track her down. She was waiting in that hotel room for forty-eight years.
As it turns out, Odysseus arrives just in time. Before he left to go to the Trojan War, he told Penelope to wait until their son Telemachus came of age and into his inheritance as the new king of Ithaca and that she should then marry the best husband she could find. At the beginning of the Odyssey Telemachus declares that he is old enough to become head of the household and ruler of the kingdom in his mother's stead.
In the Mexican short story La piedra y el rio, a woman waits for her husband (who went off to try to start a life in America) in one place for so long that her body turns to stones and water.
In part of the backstory to The Fionavar Tapestry, a wood nymph marries a human mage. He then sets off across the sea to seek out a fable. She goes into a high tower on the shore to wait for him to return. And wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually she sees a ghost ship passing carrying his spirit, realizes he is dead, and throws herself of the tower to drown in despair.
In Federico García Lorca's 1930s play Rosita the Spinster ("Dońa Rosita la Soltera"), the titular Rosita is waiting for her fiance who went to America to seek his fortune, for what's implied to be more than 20 years. Subverted when at the end of the piece it is revealed that the fiance married in America long time ago, and Rosita was the only one who still didn't know. Since he didn't bother to cancel his commitment to Rosita, she is now too old to find any prospect, and the waiting has left her too tired to even protest, only lament over her lost years and opportunities.
L. M. Montgomery really liked this one and featured it in several stories, usually with a man coming back to meet a woman he knew years ago and finding her still there. The story just about always had a happy ending. Most notable example: in one of the later Anne of Green Gables books, Anne's oldest son, Jem, leaves to fight in World War I, and his dog waits at the train station and meets every train just in case Jem is on it. In the end, he does come back.
In the same book, Rilla Blythe waits for her childhood sweetheart to come back. It's a striking example because of her young age: she was only about 14 when the war began; by the time the book ends, she's an adult.
Parodied in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Moving Pictures, in a send-up of Greyfriars Bobby: Gaspode the talking dog is named (so he says) after the famous Gaspode, who kept sitting at his owner's grave and howling until he died. As Gaspode said, any dog would do that if his tail was caught under the damn headstone.
Also parodied in Reaper Man, where Miss Flitworth tells Bill Door that after the death of her fiancee, she'd thought to herself "What life expects me to do now is moon around the place in the wedding dress for years and go completely doolally", and just to spitenarrative convention, she instead buckled down and got on with her life. Intriguingly, when she dies near the end, Death brings her to where her fiancee died so they can move on together. Then, "getting on with her life" had not included "finding someone else."
Heart of Darkness: Kurtz's Intended. Presented as pathetic, because she has deluded herself about Kurtz to the point that she's barely functional as an independent person. Even after Kurtz is dead, she begs to know his last words, "to live by," implying that she intends to stay in mourning for the rest of her life.
Herman Melville apparently once wrote a manuscript that told the story of a woman who waited years for the return of her sailor husband after he disappeared at sea. Meanwhile, he'd gone off and started another family elsewhere. The manuscript was never published and is now lost, but records of it exist in Melville's letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne.
This is a major plot point in The Time Traveler's Wife. Clare spends most of her childhood and teens waiting to her next meeting with Henry. Even after Henry dies, Clare keeps waiting for nearly 50 years to meet him one last time.
In Girlfriend In A Coma, Richard continues to visit Karen for seventeen years after she goes into a coma, never once even considering breaking off the relationship.
In Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, William and Marygay, who have stuck with each other through firefights, injuries, and the loss of everyone and everything they've ever known, are separated by being given different military assignments. The death toll in the war is horribly high, and Time Dilation caused by near-lightspeed travel means they can never expect to see each other again. William mourns for her as if she's dead, but doesn't take up with anyone else because in the future that he's been thrust into by the time dilation, everyone else is gay. Marygay, on the other hand, leaves a note for him to find if he survives, assuring him that she will wait forever, tells him where she's going, and buys a ship which spends the next two hundred years going backwards and forwards at near-lightspeed, stopping every five years, during which time she has aged about a month... leaving her still in her late twenties when William, aged thirtysomething, catches up with her. Now that's an optimistic lady!
In the Chivalric RomanceFloris And Blanchefleur, the lovers are forcibly separated to prevent a mesalliance. Neither of them are be shaken by that — even when Floris believes that she is dead.
In the Chivalric RomancesKing Horn, Beves of Hampton, and Guy of Warwick, the heroes all win the hand of a princess by their feats. Unfortunately, Horn is in exile from the court of his true love because of a false accusation, and Beves and Guy are both seeking to win renown so that the princess he is in love with will find him worthy, despite his low birth. All of them wriggle out of the marriage and (in due time) win their first loves.
Persuasion by Jane Austen. Mildly subverted in that Anne was persuaded to break up the engagement. Nevertheless she waits for him, and gives an impassioned speech pointing out that women will love longer than men when all hope is gone. The hero overhears and does come back.
In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Master Mind of Mars, Dar Tarus was assasinated in order to clear the way for the rival. (Fortunately for him, his body was sold to the Mad Scientist and he got better.) His love, Kara, fled as soon as her father was assassinated, and returned to be reunited with him.
In Jan Guillou's Knight Templar series Cecilia patiently waits for Arn for more than twenty years while he's off making penance as a knight templar. Slightly subverted since she too has been sentenced to make penance and spends twenty years at a convent, but it kicks in for real once she's done her time and has to wait to see if he will ever return home.
In Sidney Sheldon's The Other Side of Midnight, Larry Douglas promises to return to poor, sweet Noelle Page when he has to return to his pilot duties — he leaves her an apartment and some money, encourages her to buy a wedding dress and even gives her a time and place for their reunion. When he doesn't show up, she continues to wait as weeks pass and she learns she's pregnant with his child. She finally tracks down his whereabouts...it turns out he's seeing other women now and never intended to return. She vows that she will exact horrible, horrible Revenge on him, starting with how she handles the matter of the pregnancy, and this drives the remainder of the novel.
Played heartbreakingly straight in the Dragonlance short story "Love and Ale" with the in-universe poem "The Song of Elen Waiting" in which the eponymous singer laments that her love went off to war, but she still waits for him as her friends grow up and fall in love and have children and grow old while she waits for her love until she dies old and alone.
Deliberately induced in the Sherlock Holmes story A Case of Identity. The client's stepfather courts the client under an assumed identity, then has that persona disappear on their wedding day. Because of this, the man knows his stepdaughter will wait for years for her beloved to return before she will consider accepting another suitor, during which time he can continue to supplement his income with his stepdaughter's trust fund dividends.
One of Gustavo Adolfo Becquer's "Legends", "The Promise", has a both heartbreaking and creepy version of this. A count seduces a farm girl named Margarita right before going to war, hiding his social standing to her and giving her a ring as a proof of love and future marriage... When he returns, he's confronted by a local singer who sings a song about a girl who was first seduced by a powerful man and then killed by her irate older brother, and whose ringed hand simply can't be buried under Earth since he promised to marry her before leaving. That woman is, of course, poor Margarita, who is still waiting for him even after dying. The Count accepts to "marry" Margarita's hand to fulfill the promise, and once this is done her hand quietly slides under Earth so she can rest in peace.
In Sarum, Peter Shockley and his childhood sweetheart Alicia Le Portier have a teenage quarrel, which breaks them up. She weds an older knight at the request of her parents, then returns to Sarum after her husband dies in battle, to discover that Peter (although he's had girlfriends) has remained unmarried for twenty years, unable to feel real affection for any woman but her. Unusual in that it's the male partner who'd been waiting.
In Warrior Cats, though it's just best friends and not a romantic example, Firestar and Graystripe do this. In the Super EditionFirestar's Quest, Firestar goes away on a quest that leads him far out of the forest, leaving the Clan in Graystripe's care. Graystripe promises "I'll wait for you as long as it takes." Firestar, of course, makes it back safely. In the second series, when Graystripe is captured by Twolegs and the Clans leave the forest for good to find a new home, Firestar refuses to give up hope that Graystripe will return, leaving the deputy position open, even though most of the cats believe that Graystripe is dead. He even cites Graystripe's waiting for him as a reason why he should continue to wait. Eventually, several moons later, pressure from many other cats and the need for a deputy forces him to accept that Graystripe probably won't come back, and he appoints Brambleclaw as a deputy. Over half a year later, Graystripe finally finds his way to the Clan.
This is the very line Half-Moon says as the last sentence in Sign Of The Moon to Jayfeather.
Silverstream's spirit says this word from word to GraystripeinThe Last Hope.
In Count and Countess, Vlad Dracula and Elizabeth Bathory are able to send letters to one another despite living more than a century apart in time. They fall in love via this correspondence (though by no means a wholesome love) and Vlad becomes determined to circumvent mortality, no matter how many years he has to wait before he can finally see Elizabeth face to face. Elizabeth is more realistic about the matter and advises him not to hold his breath.
In Gene Stratton Porter's Her Father's Daughter, Donald's mother bluntly informs him not to ask Linda to marry him because he would require this trope, which isn't fair.
That is the reason I am suggesting that you think about these things seriously and question yourself as to whether you would be doing the fair thing by Linda if you tried to tie her up in an arrangement that would ask her to wait six or eight years yet before you would be ready.
Lewis Carroll's poem "Far Away" from his novel Sylvie And Bruno is about a girl who initially fears that her lover has forgotten about her while he is away at sea, but realizes that he still loves her when he briefly returns. The last stanza is a prime example of this trope:
"Though waters wide between us glide, Our lives are warm and near: No distance parts two faithful hearts— Two hearts that love so dear: And I will trust my sailor-lad, For ever and a day, To think of me—to think of me— When he is far away!"
In John C. Wright's The Count to the Eschaton, this is Menelaus's motivation to sleep through the millenia until Rania returns. He hates being woken because every time ages him.
Live Action TV
So Weird: "Widow's Walk" features an old woman who has waited decades for her husband, lost at sea, to return. She learns an important life lesson about something or other, then goes right back to waiting. The ghost of her husband seems to approve of this.
On LOST, a Mental Time Travel -ing Desmond asks Penny, who he has broken up with in 1996, to wait for a phone call on Christmas Day, 2004, and not change her phone number or move apartments in that timespan so he can still reach her. The ensuing call is the show's most triumphant Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
In the Merlin episode "Queen of Hearts", Guinevere (who is only a servant girl in this version) promises to wait for Arthur to become king so that he can change the customs that keep them apart and finally let them be together.
In Robin Hood, the titular character is intrigued when he comes back from five years fighting abroad to discover that Maid Marian is still unmarried - not that she's going to admit that he has anything to do with that.
During Marian and Robin's Together in Death scene, Marian tells Robin: "I have waited for you."
Captain Jack, who waits around in Cardiff for a hundred-odd years for the Doctor to come back.
Jackie Tyler, who, a year after her daughter's disappearance, still had stacks of missing posters on her kitchen table.
In the fifth season finale "The Big Bang", Rory (possessing the body of an Auton) waited nearly two thousand years beside the Pandorica while Amy healed within it. Even the Doctor was impressed. "Rory Williams. The boy who waited."
Anna to Mr Bates in Downton Abbey. She points out after they get married at long last that, "We've waited long enough to be together, you and I." Also, Branson to Sybil.
VOiCE is a pretty upbeat song about a robot and his undying loyalty to his master (Hatsune Miku) who was taken away from him because of a war. Even till his last breath, he still protects his master's house, hoping to see her one more time.
Connie Francis' Song, Circa 1965. Quite literally titled I will wait for you. This version was used in the described Futurama episode.
The Alaskan folk song Susitna is another one where the waiting woman turns to stone.
The song Naturaleza Muerta by the Spanish band Mecano, later covered by Sarah Brightman (lyrics can be found here).
Mana's song El Muelle de San Blas is about a woman who waited for her sailor boyfriend in the titular dock, still with the same dress, presumably until her death. The Lyrics.
The Decemberists' folk-inspired ballad From My Own True Love, Lost at Sea starts out: "Fourscore years / Living down in this rain swept town / Sea salt tears / Swimming round as the rain comes down / Mr Postman, do you have a letter for me? ... From my own true love / Lost at sea"...
Also "Yankee Bayonet". "Look for me when the sun-bright swallow sings upon the birch-bough high" / "But you are in the ground with the wolves and the weevils all a-chew on your bones so dry ..."
A Fair Maid Walking, an Irish folk song.
Dear Friend by Charlie Peacock, where the bride has been waiting for many years for her groom to return, and people around her laugh at her for it. Video
The rock opera She (based on the novel of the same name). The titular character, seeing her lover fall for another woman, kills him in a fit of rage and jealousy. After realising what she has done, she nearly commits suicide - until learning of a magical fire that can grant her eternal life, which she uses to wait for him to return, reincarnated. Two thousand years later, he arrives in the form of an English explorer. In the end, when She dies by bathing in the magical flame a second time, her reincarnated lover decides that it is his turn to wait, and bathes in the flames to become immortal and wait for her to return...
Wait for me I shall return again for you, Kallicrates More beautiful than ever I shall live again To walk upon the earth and be your queen again, forever Do not fall beneath the passing years Wait beyond eternity for me...
"In The Hills of Shiloh" is a haunting ballad of a woman waiting in her bridal gown for her beloved to return to her, running up and down the hills, written by Shel Silverstein.
Insane Clown Posse's "Under the Moon" subverts this: the girl promised the song's character (when he went to prison for killing her attempted rapist) that she would wait for him. He knows she made herself into a liar. He is not happy.
The old folk song "John Riley" is the very embodiment of this trope. In it, a young woman is questioned by a prospective suitor. She refuses him, because she's betrothed to the titular man, who sailed away some years previously. He persists, asking what she'll do if her fiancee has died in battle, drowned, etc. She answers that she'll mourn him and remain true to his memory. She persists in this line of reasoning, even when he suggests that her fiancee may have married someone else. After this, he reveals himself to be John Riley, having been satisfied of her fidelity. Jerk.
The Atlantic Canadian folk song "Dark-Eyed Sailor" has the same setup.
"Dark-Eyed Sailor", where the sailor reveals himself by showing the maiden his half of a ring they split before he left, is one of an entire subgenre of folksongs called Broken Token ballads, which all have the same plot. At least one version of "John Riley" adds this element as well.
Even without that clause he's still asking a lot. Since he was born on the 29th of February, he won't technically be of age until he's 84. As Mabel notes " It seems so long".
The Harry Chapin song "Corey's Coming" is very much about this. Of course, there's a bit question about whether or not Corey even exists. Naturally, due to the singer, it's an extreme Tear Jerker.
Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting For You". It's Exactly What It Says on the Tin. "Wherever you go, Whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you. Whatever it takes, Or how my heart breaks, I will be right here waiting for you."
All of the events in the rock Opera The Who's Tommy are set in motion when Tommy's father returns from war to find his wife didn't in fact wait for him.
In the song "Penelope", the protagonist goes to train station everyday to wait for her beloved. She gets old and finally the guy comes and thanks her for being so faithful and that his wait is over, she only looks at him and says "No you don't look like he use to look (of course not, he is old now) you aren't him! and goes on waiting. (Gee, if the guy was alive all this time... couldn't he write or something?) The song is also in spanish, notice a pattern here?
Although the promise is never made, "Travelin' Soldier" by the Dixie Chicks hardily applied this trope. He meets her the day he's shipped off for the military, ends up sending her letters. She breaks down crying when she hears his name on a list of Vietnam dead at a high school game.
The Vocaloid song "Machibito Umi" (roughly "Waiting Person, Ocean") is about... well, with a title like that, what do you think?
Subverted in the Great Big Sea song Dream to Live. First, its told from the guy's perspective, who tried to make his fortune in Boston. Second, he hopes desperately that she is still waiting for him... until she lets him down in the letter. He ends up moving on and starting a family of his own, but is left wondering "what if".
The Gordon Lightfoot song "Bitter Green" is about a woman waiting patiently for the return of her lover, who has been missing for quite some time for reasons the singer is uncertain of. In the final verse, the man does return, only to find her grave.
Nastily subverted in the folk song "House Carpenter" (aka "The Demon Lover"). A woman promises to wait for her love, but when he comes back after seven years at sea, she's married with two kids. He convinces her to abscond with him (he's rich now), but after a few weeks of sailing her darling turns into a demon and sinks the ship. They both go to hell.
Voltaire's To the Bottom of the Sea is a concept album set at the turn of the industrial revolution. One song has a man going off to sea to become a merchant trading in imported goods, and his wife waiting for him. Other songs imply he has had other partners while at sea, but that she is his true love, in a kind of "that was just sex, you own my heart" kind of way.
Irish Mythology: One version of the legend of Finn MacCool features his loyal dog being told to wait for him and doing so for so long that he (the dog, that is) nearly starves.
There's quite a few examples in Japanese folktales with a creepy variation. The unfaithful husband leaves, and the wife pledges to wait forever, then dies after a few years. The husband returns and finds everything the same... but wakes up the next morning to find a skeleton in the bed.
In the Ramayana, Rama's brother Laxman's wife waits for him in Ayodhya. Rama's wife Sita waits for Rama to rescue her from Demon King Ravana.
There's a big rock above Shatin in the New Territories of Hong Kong called Amah Rock which is supposed to be such a woman. Either she's grown since petrification or she was a giantess, it's about twenty feet tall. It has a silhouette resembling a woman with a baby on her back. How come the baby didn't grow up during the wait?
William Shakespearedid it too, at the end of Love's Labour's Lost. After the King of France dies the Princess and her ladies-in-waiting make their respective suitors promise to wait a year and a day for them so they can mourn properly (and probably get the kingdom back in order too.) It isn't addressed whether or not they actually do wait for them, though.
Peer Gynt has Solveig sing, "Though winter may pass, and spring after that, and the next summer also and then year after year; I will hold you, I will keep watch, and I will wait for you."
Bizarre version in Arthur Miller's All My Sons: son went missing in World War II and is probably dead. His mother assumes that the fact that his fiancee, Ann, hasn't married somebody else means she's waiting for him and uses this to validate her belief that he's alive. In fact, the fiancee is waiting for his brother to own up to his affection for her. The mother is furious that she's not waiting for her (probably dead) son, until Ann shows her a letter showing that he committed suicide.
In Tales of Phantasia Klarth's assistant Mirald promises to wait as long as necessary for his return. Up until that point it had been implied that he wasn't fully aware she loved him (or even that he loved her, depending on how you interpret the character). Made all the more poignant because he learns this in a vision after the party has traveled to the future to confront the Big Bad. Meaning that in this timeline, she is long dead, having presumably waited her whole life for him. If you beat the game, he does indeed return. In a different variant, Arche makes this promise to Chester, when she returns to the past. Particularly unfair, as she has to wait a hundred years to see him again, but since time travel is involved, he only has to wait until she shows up looking for him, or until he finds her.
Tales Of The Abyss: "Come home! You have to come home... you have to! I'll be waiting... always..."
Deconstructed in Tales Of Graces. After seven years of waiting for Asbel after the prologue, Cheria is... rather bitter by the time the main game starts.
Persona 3 has Koromaru, who went for walks at Naginaki Shrine after his master died. Eventually, he moves into the dorm with S.E.E.S. but the player can still take him on walks there.
In Romancing Sa Ga, this happens at the end of one hero's scenario: Farah is shown arguing with her mother over her decision to wait for Jamil to return from the final battle. Thankfully, it's implied that she didn't have to wait too long.
Kairi was going to do this for Sora in Kingdom Hearts, but the events of Chain of Memories made her forget who Sora is for most of the year he was gone. It happened when she regained her memories of him, though.
A variation of this is used in The World Ends With You. Shiki (having been allowed to come back to life) promises to wait everyday for Neku by Hachiko until he comes back, and holding Mr. Mew so that he'll regocnise her. Shiki never gets to do this though, because she's then (unknowingly to her) made Neku's entry fee for the next week.
In Knights of the Old Republic II, for three of the four possible choices for the first game's ending (Light Side PC or Dark Side male PC), it's established that the first game's PC left their Love Interest behind when they left. With either Light Side choice, a scene near the end shows that the Love Interest is waiting for any news of the PC's return. For the Dark Side male, Bastila got tired of waiting and went off to find him.
This Troper plays a LS Female Revan, and got tears in her eyes during that scene. Raphael Sbarge totally earned his paycheck.
Also, the Exile in Knights of the Old Republic 2 goes off to find Revan at the end, leaving his/her love interest behind, and it is established that Atton, Mical the Disciple, Visas, or Brianna the Handmaiden stay behind and wait for the Exile to return.
Ghost Trick: In the new timeline, when Yomiel isn't killed by the Temsik meteorite, Sissel (the fiancee, not the cat) waits ten years for him to get out of jail.
And then there's the amazing Hachiko Missile/Ray pulls, waiting ten years just for a chance at convincing Sissel (the cat, not the fiancee) to rescue his mistress, while dead. If that's not a Crowning Moment of Undying Loyalty, what is?
Aribeth's dialogue near the end of Neverwinter Nights if you saved her when you talk to her before going down to face Morag.
In Ocarina of Time, pretty much every age-appropriate girl Link meets promises this by the time he leaves them, except Malon. But that might have been because she thought he was a fairy boy.
Also in the Zelda games Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons. That horrible tower Ambi was building in Ages was originally planned so she'd have a place to wait for her lover, who's out at sea somewhere. The skeleton captain in Seasons is frantically searching for a bell given to him by his girlfriend, "the queen of some country".
Eventually the two of them do meet each other again if you play a linked game between both versions. They happily thank Link for reuniting the two of them.
Also in Oracle of Ages, the Maku Tree is saved by Link when she is only a small shrub of a tree and she falls madly in love with him. She declares to Link that one day she will marry him. Thanks to time travel Link arrives 400 years later to when she is a full grown tree and she tells Link that she had waited all these centuries for him to return. Throughout the story she still gushes over him but realizes there isn't time for a relationship given his quest to save Queen Ambi and stop Veran, though she expresses hope that one day the two of them can get together. The statue that Ambi dedicates to Link even gets built right next to the Maku Tree.
In Puyo Puyo, part of Oshare Bones' backstory is this. Before he died, he had a significant other who suddenly disappeared one day. He continues to wait for his lover even in undeath, and in Puyo Puyo! 15th Anniversary, he makes a wish that they will someday be reunited. The wish is technically granted, but due to a slip-up with how Oshare words his wish, he has no idea when that day will come.
Subverted in Skies Of Arcadia, where Polly waits faithfully for her missing husband. But she doesn't get him back until she joins your crew and goes looking for him.
Ar Tonelico 2 has an interesting variant. Croix makes what amounts to a Childhood Marriage Promise with Luca who agrees to wait until he's a full fledged knight and he comes to take her to Pastalia. However if the player chooses the default ending, Croix says he will wait for Coccona to return from her journey to the third tower.
In the Sacred Weapons (Kyo, Chizuru, Iori) Team in The King of Fighters 97, as the three work together to re-seal Orochi, Kyo has a vision of his girlfriend Yuki promising to wait for his return. It's all but stated that she does.
Played differently in the KOF:KYO game. Yuki does actually say this in canon, but more exactly as a part of her train of thoughts when she's held hostage by the New Face Team and they tell Kyo that she is the game's Barrier Maiden. When Kyo defeats the NFT, she runs to him in joy.
The Visual NovelPlanetarian features an android girl working at a planetarium. When her human co-workers are evacuated from the city due to the war that is going on, they tell her to wait at the planetarium for them, because they'll come back for her when the war is over. Several decades and one disastrous war that kills off most of the human population later, she's still waiting.
Probably subverted, since she knows they're not coming back.
The Normal ending of the Heaven's Feel scenario in the Fate/stay night game involves the invocation of this trope, when Sakura promises to wait for Shirou after his Heroic Sacrifice, though it eventually becomes clear that he never returns to her. The True ending has him getting an artificial body and living happily with her.
Akiha's True End in Tsukihime. The maids think she's given up after Shiki stabbed his own point of death but in truth, she has more confidence that he'll return than they do. She just sees no reason to keep going to his school if he isn't there. One of the side stories in Kagetsu Tohya reveals that he did live and Ciel was rehabilitating him over the last year.
Shion Sonozaki, of Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni, does this with Satoshi. At the end of Matsuribayashi-hen, she finds that Satoshi has been kept in the research facilities underneath the Irie Clinic for a year. His Hinamizawa Syndrome has reached such a level that he feels immense paranoia to anything he sees, and will claw out his throat if unbound. Thus, he's been kept asleep until Irie could find a cure for the disease.
It's a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when she then promises to continue doing this until he gets better, and to help him through his recovery any way she could.
"Can I... come down here sometimes and read to him?" AWWWWW.
Done significantly darker in Ryuukishi's other work, Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. Yasu, also known as Shannon, a young servant in the Rokkenjima island's mansion, falls in love with Battler. However he only visits the island where she works once or twice a year. He promises to come and rescue her on a white horse the next year, but due to problems in his family (his mother's death and his distancement from his dad), he doesn't return for six years. Trying to cope, Shannon responds by trying to find love while in the guise of her two other personalities. She transfers her love for Battler to Beatrice, one of her personalities, after two years. She then gets into a relationship with George, Battler's cousin, while her other personality, Kanon (a boy) gets into a relationship with Battler's other cousin, Jessica (who lives on the island). So after six years, Yasu has three personalities with separate relationships: the Shannon persona is with George, the Kanon persona is with Jessica, and the Beatrice persona is still waiting for Battler. After six years, Battler returns... but unable to decide between the three, and hurt that Battler doesn't remember anything about him/her anymore, Yasu does the logical thing and plans to slaughters his entire extended family.
Kazuaki's ending in Hatoful Boyfriend has him promise to do this for the heroine. He wants to wait until she's no longer his student, and would like to see if she's still interested when she grows up.
However, they rectified this in Bender's Big Score, where history was changed so that he didn't need to wait. This was mainly because the original ending crushed souls with its sadness.
Of course, since the Timey Wimey Ball is pretty heavily involved in Bender's Big Score, both versions could have happened.
Though the dog still didn't see Fry for several years when he was at sea looking for Leelu the narwhal.
The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland was originally based on this trope: in an old house built on an Indian graveyard, a bride sits in the attic, watching the window. Her beloved was killed in a war years before, but even when she died of heartbreak, she still walked the house, and her wails summoned all the restless spirits for miles around. Now she's been relegated to the small, veiled figure at the very end of the tour, heart still beating, whispering "Hurry back... hurry back..."
In 2006, the ride was revamped to give the Bride back her focus, although now she's a "Black Widow" who married several men and murdered them all for money.
The Disneyland Paris version Phantom Manor pretty much makes the Bride's story the entire focus. When her father finds out that her groom plans to take her away from the town, he is instantly against it. An earthquake occurs and in the chaos, the father dies, though he murders the groom from beyond the grave and continues to haunt his daughter until her death.
A non-romantic and non-animal invocation of this was a cartoon by Herblock that ran when the Pathfinder and Sojourner robot probes stopped reporting from Mars. The cartoon shows Sojourner holding up a sign toward Earth, reading, "I'll wait for you."
Bowser The Foodstealer trilogy ends this way with Link and Gwonam waiting for Dr. Rabbit to come, he never comes.
The dog examples were probably based on stories of several real-life dogs who have done the same: for instance, Hachiko.
And Greyfriars Bobby, who's pretty definitely the originator of the Discworld example.
Under traditional Jewish law, this can happen involuntarily to wives who are abandoned by their husbands (or whose husbands simply vanish). A divorce is only valid if the husband signs it, and there's no "legally dead" clause—a woman is not a widow unless there are witnesses to her husband's death. If a husband simply vanished, his wife would be considered legally married to him, and unable to marry anyone else. The descriptive term for such a woman is "agunah", meaning "chained". note The same applies if the husband doesn't vanish, but simply moves out and refuses to support or divorce her. The custom was that if a man went into a dangerous situation where he might vanish without a trace—for example, fighting in war or sailing the sea—he would leave behind a signed certificate of divorce, which could be delivered to his wife if he were lost for a long enough period. Presumably these soldiers/sailors wanted their beloved to be happy.
They also wanted them to be provided for. A widow at least had the protection of the laws of redemption and levirate marriage, but if her husband was MIA, he wouldn't be around to support her, nor could she fall back on her kinsman redeemer.