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Ignorant of the Call
Dr. Darling: "Rex, that was amazing!"
Rex Colt: "No. Paintings of sad clowns and dogs playing poker are amazing. This is just the job."

A hero is Ignorant of the Call when he doesn’t know that he is, in fact, The Hero. Everybody around him knows that the character is the Chosen One, but he, himself, just can’t see it. He fights the good fight and takes heroic actions… but it doesn’t seem heroic to him, nor does he think he was destined to do them. He simply does what he must because it is in his nature to act in that manner. When dealing with this sort of protagonist, the phrase “I’m not a hero” (or a variant thereof) is often heard, along with Think Nothing of It. Don’t you believe it for a second.

In addition, since the Call to Adventure is either not overt at all, or else parallels the Hero’s actions so well that the two only seem to connect by coincidence, it is entirely possible for the hero to never realize that their actions have some larger, plot-related importance.

Differs from Missed the Call. Often overlaps with Accidental Hero. Contrast Heel Realization, where someone is ignorant of the fact that they're a villain.


Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Ash Ketchum of Pokémon, at least in the movies. He likes to think of himself simply as a Pokémon Trainer, but time after time he stumbles into situations where it's clear only he could save the day. It's Lampshaded in Pokémon 2000, when the heroes realize that the phrase "The world shall turn to ash" didn't mean it would die, but the world would turn to Ash for help. His response? "Right now, I kinda wish that my mom named me Bob instead of Ash."
  • Captain Tylor. Unless he's been Obfuscating Stupidity....
  • Monkey D. Luffy has taken down tyrannical presences and dangerous pirates, a malevolent self proclaimed god, and is currently pretty much taking on a government of well intentioned extremists, all while doing only what he wants to do.
  • Naruto starts off this way. By now, though, it's common knowledge.

Comic Books
  • Jonah Hex from DC Comics. One of those "there's a job that has to be done, I can do it, so I will" types.
  • The Bulleteer story arc in DC Comics' Seven Soldiers of Victory limited series: Alix has no clue what her actions will lead to: the killing of the Sheeda Queen, and the events of her arc happen almost completely on the periphery of the main storyline.
    • The story arc using Klarion the Witch Boy nearly reaches this, but I think he is a little more conscious of what is going on.
  • Superman. Out of the superheroes, he does what he does because it was the right thing to do, not because he has any obligation to do so.
    • Barry Allen is much the same way to the point where he was helping fight crime as a forensic scientist long before he ever received his powers.

Film
  • Glenn Holland, from Mister Hollands Opus, believes he wasted his life because he became a music teacher instead of becoming famous as a composer. His current and former students, his friends, and his family (all of whose lives he shaped for the better) disagree.
  • In The Golden Child, Chandler Jarrell does many good deeds, but refuses to believe that he's The Chosen One, despite being repeatedly told it by Kee and Doctor Hong. Eventually, he reluctantly comes to accept it.
  • In First Knight, Launcelot doesn’t consider himself a hero. His attitude is “it needed to be done, I knew I could do it, so I did” and that is all.
  • Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino.
  • In My Favorite Year, Alan Swann profanely swears that he is just a flesh-and-blood man, life-sized and no larger, and is absolutely not the heroes he has been protraying on screen for years. And then goes on to utterly save the day.
  • Anakin Skywalker might have been this in the Prequel trilogy of Star Wars, it doesn't exactly make it clear.
  • Neo thinks The Oracle tells him he's not The One in the first The Matrix. He then denies he's The One to the surviving members of the team despite him fitting the role exactly.
    "The Oracle" Being The One is like being in love. You don't think you are, you just KNOW it, through and through, balls to bone.
    I'm sorry, kiddo. You've got the gift, but it looks like you're waiting for something. Your next life, maybe? Who knows?
    • Intentionally enforced by the Wachowski Brothers as they're trying to pack as much symbolism and double meaning they can into the film; which is why the Oracle doesn't actually say Neo isn't The One, or correct his interpretation of her words, because you can't be TOLD whether or not you're The One.

Literature
  • Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. His usual course of action is to simply react to events around him. This has led him to activate the Infinite Improbability Drive just in time to save the starship Heart of Gold from incoming nuclear missiles, learning to fly, and saving the universe at least twice.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry himself fits this. Although he is an extremely powerful wizard, and Archangel Uriel takes a personal interest, with the implication that God himself is taking some interest, he doesn't see himself as a hero. His stated primary motivation is paying his rent. It just so happens he takes on powerful forces and saves the world numerous times.
  • Darryl from the Young Wizards series of novels pretty much epitomizes this trope; he is a living repository of magic literally sent by God to be a fountain of power for the magic of the human race. He remains blissfully unaware of the fact, mostly because the knowledge of that fact would be lethal to him. If he ever became aware of what he was, he'd die. Just like that.
  • Emelius Brown in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. He's a con artist who seems to only be interested in making a fast buck, but The Power of Love drove him to act otherwise. Even after, though, he’d never call himself a hero.
  • Rincewind of Discworld fits this to a T. Despite being a plaything of the gods continually saving people, countries of the Disc, he seems unwilling to accept that he has anything but bad luck.
    • Ironic, considering he has been chosen as the personal Cosmic Plaything of the entity known as "the Lady". Or perhaps not, since (as the one with the Lady's favor) he gets both the good and the bad luck, which is good for his continued survival, but not necessarily good for his psyche.
    • Carrot, of the City Guard. He does what's right, because that's what he's supposed to. If you mention his special sword, odd birth-mark and that prophecy about the true king returning, he'll just brush it off. (Of course, it very well may just be an act).
  • Honor Harrington turned down the Parliamentary Medal Of Valor (awarded for actions "above and beyond the call of duty") several times, because she believes she has never done anything more than her duty. She's very embarrassed about being made a Countess, Duchess, Steadholder, and multi-millionaire. And even some of her friends agree the five-meter statue in front of the Council Building is a bit much.
  • Amazingly enough, James Bond doesn't think of himself as a hero.
  • Ciaphas Cain is an interesting case: the galaxy at large proclaims him as the HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!, and he finds the reputation worth upholding, but privately thinks it's a big lie. However, the action he's describing doesn't always jibe with his claims that he was only saving his own skin or trying to avoid greater danger.
  • Raven, a supporting character in War of the Dreaming, is like this. Yes, he's got a magic ring and a secret legacy. So what? He's only trying to save his wife. Anyone would do the same.
  • In the Green Sky Trilogy, Raamo adamantly refuses to believe he is any better than other Kindar, despite being told this by everyone in range, including the ostensible High Priestess of the Ol-Zhaan. Ironically, it's because he refuses to buy into the elevated status that he gets the attention of Neric, who needs someone that incorruptible to help him investigate his suspicions about how the Ol-Zhaan are running things.
  • In Wheel of Time Mat and Perrin both insist that they are not heroes. The former repeatedly states that he is merely a blacksmith while the former often states that he is not a "flaming hero".
  • John and Dave from John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders never see themselves as anything but a couple of slackers with few desires beyond drinking beer and playing video games. In the second book, after they've already saved the world from one Eldritch Abomination in the first, Dave muses to himself:
    I kept trying to think back to everything that had happened [...], trying to figure out what I was supposed to have done differently. It was stupid, I knew. Questioning how my life would have gone if I hadn't made bad choices was like a fish asking how his life would have turned out if he'd only followed through on his dream to play in the NBA.
  • Sam Gamgee, from The Lord of the Rings. He refuses to accept the idea that he's any kind of hero. He sees himself as "just a gardener", even while he's in the middle of slaughtering orcs and beating Shelob into paste on his way to rescue Frodo.

Live-Action TV
  • Tommy Gavin, from Rescue Me.
    "I ain't no hero. I'm a fireman."
  • Chuck Bartowski from Chuck, even while admitting to being a spy for the CIA, denies that he's any sort of hero, because he's frightened, nervous, and babbles when things get tough. His friends know better, especially his fellow spies Sarah Walker and John Casey.
    Chuck Bartowski: "You belong out there, Sarah. You save the world. I'm just — I'm just not that guy."
    Sarah Walker: "How many times do you have to be a hero to realize that you *are* that guy?"

Music
  • In "Hero" by Nickelback, the singer acknowledges that "a hero can save us", but that he's not going to stand around waiting for one to show up. He thus unknowingly becomes the very hero he wasn't going to wait around for, all the while denying that he's any kind of hero at all.

Theatre
  • Harold Hill from The Music Man. He does everybody all sorts of good even as he tries to milk them for every last cent before skipping town.

Western Animation
  • Lampshaded in Disney's Robin Hood. Friar Tuck says that Rob is a hero, but Robin just laughs it off.
    Robin: "Did you hear that, Johnny? We've just been pardoned!"
  • Graveheart of Shadow Raiders. "I'm just a miner."
  • Marlin, of Finding Nemo just thinks of himself as a father who is desperately trying to recover his missing son. To Dory, and Nemo, the sea turtles, Nigel the Pelican, the fish in Dr. Sherman's tank, and many, many others, Marlin is a Badass determinator who repeatedly triumphed over unbelievable odds.

Video Games
  • Solid Snake from Metal Gear, arguably. At least, while everyone around him goes on about his "legendary hero" status, he always responds with some variant of "I'm no hero, just an old killer hired to do some wetwork."
  • Hawke in Dragon Age II has personal motivations for getting involved in the events of the game. Near the end of Cassandra's interrogation of Varric, they both acknowledge the scope of his/her importance, both in the story and the future.

Real Life
  • Often invoked in real life situations where a person acts heroically yet insists that they are not a hero and were instead simply doing their job and/or what anyone would have done in that situation, i.e. police, soldiers, paramedics, people who help strangers in difficult/dangerous situations, etc.

I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffinCall to AdventureI'm Not a Hero, I'm...
Idiot HoudiniCharacters as DeviceIgnorant of Their Own Ignorance
Hospitality for HeroesHero TropesIntrinsic Vow

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