Calypso and Odysseus, by N. C. Wyeth.
Being a hero isn't easy, but sometimes it is soul-crushingly hard.
For their own particular circumstances, The Hero
has been put through the wringer and may even wish out loud
for a chance to leave The Hero's Journey
behind, or at least get a chance to rest. Well, they get the chance.
The Hero presented with a Leave Your Quest Test
will be given the chance to lay down their Sword of Plot Advancement
and leave the fight. The form this test takes varies quite a bit, but there are a few common variants. A Knight Errant
may enter Ghibli Hills
and after getting rid of the local crime boss, gets offered a chance to make a home
there by the Determined Homesteader
. Sometimes just making a Love Interest
is enough to seriously tempt a hero to abandon their journey; if not, a forthcoming baby may raise the question of whether a new parent can endanger himself like this. Less benign
opportunities come in the form of the Bad Samaritan
offering the above, with a slice of Lotus-Eater Machine
pie and a glass of The Final Temptation
. Similar to We Can Rule Together
, the Big Bad
might offer the hero a clean slate and promises of non-reprisal if they abandon their quest against them. The trustworthiness
of these promises
varies, of course.
Being the hero, he or she will refuse the temptation. Reasons include never being safe until the quest is done because It's Not You, It's My Enemies
, knowing they would get restless and wander again
, or seeing through The Vamp
or Big Bad
's ruse. The Big Bad
can even inspire them with new hope: such an offer would not have been made to someone not a serious threat.
However, sometimes heroes do
give in. In these cases, they usually get a vision warning them to leave, see an injustice and realize they can't stand idly by, they see the pile of cannibalized heroes in the cellar, or their new home gets razed
. It's worth noting that a hero legitimately at the end of their quest may feel tempted to keep on "Heroing"
, and be dissuaded in favor of letting someone else pick up the banner
so they can enjoy a Happily Ever After
See also The Final Temptation
, when this is part of a Lotus-Eater Machine
used to trap a hero. In a video game, may lead to a Nonstandard Game Over
if intentionally included, Sidetracked By The Golden Saucer
otherwise. Can be a Secret Test of Character
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Anime and Manga
- Magic Knight Rayearth features this, literally as a test from major legendary godlike beings.
- In MÄR, Ginta starts by looking for a way to return home. When Jack agrees to help out and finds that it won't be as easy as they thought, Ginta is overjoyed.
- Vash the Stampede winds up in a lengthy 10-Minute Retirement that's basically flunking this with very good reason: 1) the pain is just too much, 2) his evil brother put one over on him again in such a way that he has to consider himself a public menace, and 3) he screwed up and wrecked another damn city; the human race are clearly better off without him putting his foot in it.
- He gets dragged out of it by his best friend, who apparently just wandered around until he found him. The combination of Wolfwood's call to duty and Vash's foster-family getting kidnapped by the bad guys he was letting run wild and kill people get him to reactivate, and because of his notoriety he can't be Vash and not go Walking the Earth even if he didn't have a Quest. Trope in retrospect seriously messed with because Wolfwood was working for Knives and, whatever hero duty and his private motivations may have had to do with it, the technical reason and way Vash got out of Leaving His Quest was because the villain wanted him to.
- When Rurouni Kenshin leaves Tokyo for Kyoto at the start of the Shishio arc, there are indications he feels he's just been forced to pass the Leave Your Quest Test. Like on the one hand settling down was irresponsible and wrong, and on the other too good to be true. He adjusts pretty quickly, but then his True Companions chase him down.
- Multiple cases in Mahou Sensei Negima!. One prominent example is the offer by Fate Averruncus to personally escort Negi and his students back to the real world. The first trade offer is rejected and the second is nearly accepted before being shot down by a third party. In this case, it's implied at first that they would have been betrayed, but later events indicate that Fate would not have bothered apart from taking Asuna, which he does anyway. The second time is with Poyo offering first to take everyone home (instantly rejected this time) and second sticking everyone into a copy of Cosmo Entelechia, using the Lotus-Eater Machine mixed version of the trope. Negi does eventually reject it, but it's not easy.
- Amusingly enough, in Digimon Adventure, it's Kari and then Tai who offer this to Koromon during their brief stay in the real world. Tai himself didn't have many reservations about staying before the digimon showed up.
- Gantz features an option on the 100 points menu to return to a normal life at the expense of all Gantz-related memories
- Rosario + Vampire gives Tsukune one of these the morning of his second day at Yokai Academy. Granted, up until this point it had mostly been Tsukune trying to Refuse The Call, but then Moka drops the big bomb on him that Tsukune was her first friend. Tsukune is pacing at the bus stop, thinking... and the bus driver pulls up. "Get in, boy." Needless to say, he doesn't do anything of the sort.
- In the Transformers fanfic A Child Shall Lead Them, Unicron tries this on Pterodactus Prime (aka Swoop), offering to destroy the Matrix for him and letting him go back to the Dinobots instead of serving as the Autobot Leader. He ends up going too far when he drags Grimlock into it, though...
- In Sylvia the Sylveon, a large number of these tests are presented to Sylvia. Although tempted by some, she chooses to continue her quest because she wants to decide what she wants to do in life (the premise of the tests) after seeing her family.
- In Chocolat, Vianne and her daughter Anouk have gypsy blood and are "cursed to wander" and help towns, which is why they entered the village. At the end, Vianne tries to convince Anouk to leave now that the town is saved, but she ultimately decides that they both feel at home there, and ignores the North Wind's urging to leave, letting someone else fight the battles to be fought. They live happily.
- In Cyborg, Gibson gives in and hangs up his arsenal to settle down with a family he's helped escape from the hell of a post-apocalyptic city (seen in flashback). As for how that turned out for him... well, lets just say there's a reason he's already hunting the villain when Pearl Prophet runs into him...
- This happens in Fire Over England, when Cynthia tells Michael Ingolby not to go on a spying mission in Spain, but to retire quietly to the country with her.
- An example from The Empire Strikes Back: Luke leaves his Jedi training because he sees a vision of his friends being captured by the imperials.
- A core element of the original Total Recall (1990): In a world where memories can be implanted at will, how do you tell the dream from reality when someone comes and tells you the adventure you're having is all a psychotic delusion and you have to follow his instructions NOW or be lost in it forever?
- In The Matrix, Morpheus strips this trope back to the bare bones: Neo is offered a simple binary choice between forgetting all about the real world and going back to his life in the Lotus-Eater Machine, or carrying on.
"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill; the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill; you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."
- Cold Mountain. While on a journey back to his One True Love, Inman comes across a lonely and beautiful widow, who although she never asks him directly, clearly wants him to stay. A scout party of Federals intent on Rape, Pillage, and Burn interrupt however.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Depressed after Ron walks out on them and Voldemort's forces seem all-powerful, Hermione suggests that she and Harry just stay hidden by the river where they're camped out and grow old together. It's doubtful she's serious, but it's a telling moment for this normally driven character.
- As described below in Literature, The Last Temptation of Christ has not only the temptations offered to Jesus in the Bible, but a final one which nearly undoes him: to live a normal, happy life. He actually experiences that life as a hallucination/dream/alternate reality and almost refuses the crucifixion entirely.
- The Aeneid. The goddess Juno tries to get Aeneas to leave his quest by arranging for him to have sex with Dido, Queen of Carthage. He and Dido become involved, leading Jupiter to send Mercury to remind him of his quest to found Rome. Aeneas heeds the vision and leaves Dido behind.
- In Taran Wanderer, the fourth book of the Chronicles of Prydain, Taran is on a quest to discover who his parents were (and in so doing, who he himself is). Early in the journey he visits his friend King Smoit, who offers to pre-empt the quest by adopting Taran and making him his son and heir. This is something of a subversion of the trope, because King Smoit has only the best of intentions — he's very fond of Taran and would be proud to call him his son.
- In the fourth Percy Jackson and the Olympians book, Calypso offers Percy the chance to be immortal with her and let another demigod bear the weight of the prophecy.
- In Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, Amalthea (the unicorn transformed into a young woman) tries to back out just before the final battle. Her lover, Prince Lir, is an experienced hero and insists that she has to finish her quest — even though if she stayed human they could marry and be happy together.
- In Robert E. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon, Conan the Barbarian faces a rare dual version. He feels the temptation to leave his quest for the Artifact of Doom and to regain his throne — for the In Harm's Way life of a mercenary. He chooses the "regain the throne" quest instead of the mercenary way of life.
- In the Animorphs special Back To Before, Jake fails this test and accepts Crayak's offer to free him from the responsibilities of leading the war. It turns out poorly: Visser Three, having gained political ground on Visser One (thanks to Controller!Tobias) and believing the Andalite presence on Earth destroyed, stages a full-scale invasion. Naturally, The Call still knows where they live and everyone but Ax and Jake are shot before Crayak calls off the exercise (because Ax had taken the Blade Ship and was about to go to town on the Yeerks with it).
- Happened even earlier in book 7 with the Ellimist doing the offering. He explained that due to cosmic restraints, he couldn't stop the inevitable Yeerk invasion of Earth but he could bring a small remnant of humanity (including the Animorphs) to a sort of wildlife preserve on another planet so that all would not be lost. Turns out that the Ellimist was really just using the offer and subsequent vision of the future as a way to help the Animorphs in their fight.
- In the second Star Trek: String Theory novel, Tuvok is given a shot at reaching a Vulcan philosophical ideal...but he'll have to die as a result. He is so attached to the idea of his transformation that he offers his farewells to Janeway and the others, intending to remain how he now is rather than work to save himself and continue Voyager's journey. Of course, Foregone Conclusion and Status Quo Is God are both in play here, given that this is set mid-way through the series. He therefore survives, doesn't reach the ideal state of being, and recommits to the journey home with the others.
- In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, Morgan Le Fay appeals to him, more than once, to leave. The last time, it inspires him to get a move on; she must have feared him to be close, appealing like that.
- The Last Temptation of Christ has not only the temptations offered to Jesus in the Bible, but a final one which nearly undoes him: to live a normal, happy life. He actually experiences that life as a hallucination/dream/alternate reality and almost refuses the crucifixion entirely.
- Life of Pi has the island covered in delicious, nutritious algae and pools of fresh water. The hero only leaves to continue his quest to return to civilization when he discovers that it eats people...and realizes further that the person it ate probably wasn't even killed by the island but gave up and died of sheer boredom/loneliness/frustration at being trapped on an island with nothing but algae, trees, fish, and meerkats.
- The Dark Tower offers several to Roland (and one directly to the reader). In this case, however, it's strongly suggested that by refusing to cry off the Tower, and sacrificing everything he had for his quest, Roland failed. And so did you. Why didn't you take the happy ending? Was the Tower worth it in the end?
- In Candide, when Candide and Cacambo spend a month in the golden city of El Dorado. However, Cunegonde is not in this city, and so Candide is ultimately unhappy and decides to leave with an enormous amount of gold.
Live Action TV
- In Battlestar Galactica two parter "Lay Down Your Burdens", humanity has the choice to quit the search for Earth and settle a planet that's about as hospitable as summertime Siberia in the form of the presidential elections. Tired of confined spaceships and the constant fear of the pursuing Cylons, they choose Baltar and the Siberia planet. Of course, it comes back to haunt them.
- The series 5 finale of Being Human ended with Satan offering the main trio an idealized life. All are human and alive, and nothing bad will happen to them. All three see through it because of a combination of realizing that while they would be fine, everyone else would be screwed... including loved ones not in the "fantasy" world. That, and the absence of their other two friends from their lives meant their happy universe was fundamentally incomplete.
- In one episode of Charmed, the Angel of Destiny offers to take the Charmed Ones' power in return for defeating the Source (of all evil). Of course after feeling powerless in a battle, they decide to keep their powers.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The Family of Blood", the Doctor (who is currently a human) is given the option of remaining human and living an ordinary, happy life. He even gets a vision of a wife, children, and a quiet death in old age, all things the Doctor can't have or has lost. Kind of an odd situation as he isn't the Doctor at the time, but does have some idea of what the Doctor's life is like. He chooses to revert to his Time Lord self and save the day (and innocent civilians).
- It is the Doctor in human form making the decision but because he can't really remember his Time Lord self, the scene feels more like a normal human being willing to cease to exist in return for the Doctor coming back. Even the Doctor himself, when he is a Time Lord again, seems to think that this sacrifice was one of the most noble things he has ever experienced.
- In the Season Six episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Normal Again", Buffy gets poisoned by a demon, and suddenly finds herself in a mental institution, with her worried parents (both alive and together) hoping that she might come out of her prolonged psychosis. She's told that being a Slayer and everything that's been involved (including all her friends) was just a prolonged hallucination, and all she has to do to come back to reality is let go of it...by killing her friends in the hallucination. In the end, she decided to be an unhappy hero who MIGHT be in a hallucination, versus being a happy person of no consequence in what also might be a hallucination.
- Angel becomes a human briefly in the episode "I Will Remember You" and happily reunites with Buffy, but realizing that he can't effectively fight evil as a normal human, he persuades the Powers That Be to return him to his vampire state.
- Near the end of season two of Lexx, Mantrid's drones have consumed nearly the entire Light Universe. The Lexx's crew are fleeing to the center of the universe in vain attempt to delay the inevitable. Along the way in the episode "Brigadoom", they encounter a mysterious troupe of actors who exist outside of normal space and time. Kai and Zev join the troupe's musical production depicting the last days of Kai's people the Brunnen-G before the Divine Shadow destroyed them. While Stan is continuing the journey to the center in a moth, he listens to the performance. The aesop of the musical is essentially to Face Death with Dignity, a lesson that Stan takes to heart. When the leader of the troupe offers the main characters a place in the troupe where they can be safe for all eternity, Stan rejects it. He convinces his friends that they should stop running and fight Mantrid despite the odds. The troupe's leader seems pleased with this response and leads the troupe in a final chorus celebrating the decision.
- In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), a djinn offers Dean a life where his mother lived, he has a beautiful girlfriend, and Sam is marrying Jessica, only none of the Winchesters are hunters and those whom they had saved are now dead.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Legion", the crew are dragged into a space station by a tractor beam, but find the only occupant - the eponymous Legion - simply wants to accommodate their every need and hopes they'll abandon their journey to find the stolen Red Dwarf ship. This is because he's a gestalt entity and can only exist when there are other life-forms on the station. All the residents died millennia ago.
- Discussed in Dharma and Greg when they talk to a couple who met when the man was studying to be a priest. Dharma casually mentions that he could have seen her as a temptation to draw him away from his calling. Apparently, this had never occurred to him, and sends him running back to the seminary.
- The gospels of Matthew and Luke describe the one Jesus went through: He goes into the wilderness to be alone, fast, and pray. Then the devil shows up. There are three temptations described, the first two the devil is trying to get Jesus to prove that he is the messiah. Then comes the Leave Your Quest Test. The devil says that earth is his dominion and that he will give it all up to Jesus, all Jesus has to do is bow down and worship him. This is the perfect opportunity for Jesus to take the easy way out, but of course he didn't give in and did go on to complete his mission.
- In Cave Story, when everything seems hopeless, Kazuma asks the protagonist to flee the island with him instead of confronting the Doctor. Taking him up on this leads to a Nonstandard Game Over.
- In StarCraft II, if you save Haven Dr. Hanson will ask Raynor if he wants to stay and start a new life with the colony. Jim for various reasons — lingering attachment to Kerrigan, the need to fight against the Swarm and the Dominion, and the belief that he isn't meant to have a normal life — refuses the offer. Tychus agrees, saying that badasses like them just aren't cut out for the quiet life.
- The Sloth Demon in the "Broken Circle" quest in Dragon Age: Origins tries to keep you in its Lotus-Eater Machine by promising to give you a reprieve from your quest: it shows you a vision of your quest already being complete, with Duncan (the Grey Warden who recruited you) having now retired. You pass the test by pointing out that Duncan is behaving out-of-character; the real Duncan would be constantly vigilant of any future Darkspawn threats, not asking you to retire and sing songs of Grey Warden glory with him.
- In EarthBound, The segment with Poo in Dalaam is basically one long string of these. To advance the plot, you need to complete your training atop of Mt. Mu, and are reminded of the importance of nothingness. To succeed, you need to do nothing and let everything happen to you, starting with ignoring a messenger from home pleading for your return, and ending with losing your arms, legs, ears and eyes to a spirit. You get better, but still...
- If you're familiar with Japanese legends, you may recognize this as a possible allusion to the tale of Hoichi-mimi-nashi.
- At one point in Suikoden II, your sister Nanami asks you if you want to - literally - run away from your responsibilities as a leader. Unlike many other games, you actually can agree to do it. After several warnings, this will trigger one of the game's Multiple Endings.
- In Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, the protagonist is given a less than believable opportunity to return to their childhood home, giving up the power they have acquired since leaving it and living a simpler life again. However this was supposed to be seen as potentially working, the player isn't actually given the opportunity to acquiesce.
- Multiple times in Persona 4:
- Once you apprehend the person throwing people into the TV, you're given a chance to skip all this "searching for the truth" nonsense and just throw them into the TV. As you might have guessed from the entire rest of the game, this is not a good choice and leads to a bad ending. And as it turns out, while he was throwing people in, he wasn't trying to kill them.
- If you don't take the above option, you eventually discover the real truth and solve the mystery accordingly. But you'll probably find yourself with a few lingering questions. The game asks you, repeatedly, if you want to go home and end the story. In order to get the true ending, you have to tell it you don't.
- This is basically Yuzu's route in Devil Survivor.
- In Portal 2, the Final Boss generously offers you the chance to kill yourself in a masher on the final puzzle, under the guise that a lot of time had been spent getting the lair ready for the player and it would all be for nothing if the player was to die so close to said lair.
- In E.V.O.: Search for Eden, Tyrannosaurus, Birdman King and Rogon King will each offer you a choice to join them and abandon your quest to reach Eden. If you accept, you will see a cutscene of the possible outcome then get sent back to the world map.
- Multiple Rogue Like games allow the player to abandon their quest at any time via the stairs (or other entrance) with which they entered, leading to a Nonstandard Game Over. (This holds true for at least NetHack, Dungeon Crawl, and Ancient Domains of Mystery, and probably many others.) Dungeons Of Dredmor subverts this by barring the entrance stairs behind the player when they enter (and lampshading the situation heavily).
- In Final Fantasy XIII-2, there is one point where you can choose to stay in a dream world or continue the adventure. Accepting the dream leads one of several Paradox Endings in the game.
- Choosing to become the new Silent King in Planescape: Torment leads to a Non-Standard Game Over.
- This is basically Dolores's plotline in The Royal Trap - "Screw this, let's just take the money and leave." Doing so gets you a "happy" ending, but the host of abandoned plot threads still gives the impression that you did something wrong.
- In Ray Man 2, the boss of the Cave of Bad Dreams offers the eponymous hero all the treasure he possesses. Accepting it leads to a cutscene of an obese Ray Man sitting on a tiny island with a pile of treasure nearby, while an odd two note song plays in the background and "The End" is super imposed on the screen. You are than taken back to the selection screen and must refuse the treasure to continue.
- Samurai Jack faced the Bad Samaritan variant. The "Spirit of Spring" offered him rest so he could gain strength for his quest. However, he sensed something was wrong and tried to leave. She reacted violently and tried to keep him by force. While he escaped, she survived...
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Night Mare Moon tempts Rainbow Dash to leave the ponies' quest for the Elements of Harmony by offering her the chance to be known as Equestria's greatest flier, but only if she abandons her friends.
- And at the start of the second season, Discord tries a similar angle and it works! Though the choice he offers is less "abandon your friends and embrace greatness" and more "abandon your friends and go save your hometown instead." With mind control.
- Batman: The Animated Series episode "Perchance to Dream" traps Batman in a Lotus-Eater Machine where his parents aren't dead, he's engaged to Selina Kyle, and someone else is running around Gotham City, solving crimes and fighting the good fight. Eventually Bruce Wayne starts to settle in and writes his Caped Crusader days off as a temporary illusion. Then, he realized he couldn't read, and recognized that he couldn't read while in a dream world.
- Take away everything to do with Batman being framed, the Phantasm trying to get revenge on the Joker, and Bruce Wayne's failure to hold on to a woman, this is the core of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, where he's ready to become a masked vigilante and go down the path of darkness and angst forever (although, notably, he hasn't seen any bats yet)...but has found happiness with Andrea Beaumont, the Girl of the Week. This leads into one of the saddest scenes in all of the DCAU, where he begs his (dead) parents to let him go.
- In Barbie And The Secret Door, Alexa has the opportunity to return to her world after escaping from Malucia, but the bond she formed with her friends makes her stay.