Old Man Marrying A Child
Out of all Arranged Marriage tropes, this one is particularly striking. It combines the Dirty Old Man trope with the trusting helplessness of a young girl, and is bound to raise all kinds of hackles in the audience. Today, it is generally considered an awful thing. However, there are cultures who consider a daughter to be the property of her parents, and believe that they have the right to give her away in marriage to whoever they choose. Sadly, this often goes hand in hand with the idea that a husband has the right to have sex with his wife, regardless of how she feels about it and regardless of how young she is. Once upon a time this was common practice among for example the European nobility (although usually it was a marriage in name only until the girl came of age). Today the practice is only legal in countries such as Yemen and Saudi Arabia, in which an old man can legally purchase a nine-year-old girl to be one of his wives, as long as he can agree with her father on a suitable dowry. More information on The Other Wiki available here. A Sub-Trope of Arranged Marriage. Note that this trope only covers the marriage itself; Marital Rape License applies only to the same situations it would under normal circumstances (a simple lack of a Jail Bait Wait doesn't cut it). Contrast Wife Husbandry and Jail Bait Wait, where the much older guy wants the child but waits until she's old enough. Compare May-December Romance, the less extreme (and more consensual) version of this trope.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Code Geass, Schneizel and the Chinese eunuchs set up an Arranged Marriage between Crown Prince Odysseus (around 30), and Empress Tianzi (13).
- Supplementary materials indicate that, prior to Britannia curbstomping Japan, Genbu Kururugi was considering marrying Nunally (she was 8 at the time), thinking this would deter Britannia from invading. Neither Lelouch nor Suzaku were particularly happy with that idea (Suzaku proposed marrying her instead of his father, but since he was already engaged to his cousin Kaguya, that didn't work out). Lelouch talks Genbu out of it offscreen, apparently offering him top secret information about the Brittanian military in exchange for calling the marriage off.
- In The Bride Of Adarshan, Prince Alexid, in his 20s, weds Princess Justinia, age 10, in a political marriage. It's less squicky than it sounds, because he's self imposing a Jail Bait Wait and it is implied that as she grows up he will genuinely fall in love with her. For the most part, their relationship is platonic in nature.
- In Rose of Versailles, the duke of Guiche (mid 30's at least)'s Arranged Marriage to Charlotte de Polignac (as much, 13) gives off these vibes. It's no wonder that the girl goes completely bonkers and commits suicide.
- Averted by Doctor Irie (late twenties/early thirties) from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni; he expresses his wish to marry Satoko (between nine and thirteen years old), but quickly follows up by saying he'd wait until she's of age. It's also implied that his wish to marry her is a joke.
- Seems to be what went on in regards to Ay and Princess Ankhesenamen in Anatolia Story.
- The movie Osama ends with the main character, a female child, getting married off to a man old enough to be her grandfather or even her grandfather's father. The scene right before the last scene is on the wedding day, focusing on how terrified the girl is and how much the other wives hate their husband. The very last scene is at night, showing the old man happy and content, performing the holy cleansing ritual that he had earlier in the movie taught a class of young boys that every good man is supposed to do after he has screwed his wife.
- You can also see this in the film version of Wisconsin Death Trip.
- The film Child Bride is about an idealistic teacher campaigning to stop child marriage in her home in the Ozarks. Most of us remember the film more for its infamous skinny-dipping scene involving then twelve-year-old Shirley Mills, who played an eleven-year-old girl who is targeted for this trope by one of the locals.
- Deepa Mehta's Water features an eight-year-old girl who was married so young she barely remembers it, has not seen her husband in years, and is now a widow sent to live in an ashram for the rest of her life. Some of the other characters are implied to have been married at least as young, if not widowed quite so early.
- The Parent Trap uses this trope as an indirect accusation, delivered with Sugary Malice. When the father tells his daughter that Meredith is about to become part of the family, she surely understands right away that he's talking about marriage. However, she pretends to innocently misunderstand him and gets all ecstatic about how he's finally getting one more daughter by adopting her.
- Marianna Ucría is forced to marry her uncle when she is 13.
- Referenced in Ella Enchanted, wherein 15 year old Ella’s father wishes to marry her off to a rich man to regain his former wealth. Ella’s suitor turns out to be considerably older than her father is. The marriage doesn’t go through, however, and to the suitor’s credit, he didn’t actually know how old Ella was and is rather turned off at first when he realises she's that young.
- In The Jewel Of Medina, the Arranged Marriage between the prophet Muhammed (who was in his fifties) and the nine years old girl Aisha is portrayed as the coolest thing ever. The story practically casts her as a young superheroine on team righteous, under the benevolent leadership of her husband. The book subscribes to the theory that they waited a few more years before starting having sex, reducing the squick although not removing it completely. note
- But in 7th century Arabia, such marriages obviously weren't unheard of. Sunni Muslims also still say that Aisha, despite the age difference, really was Muhammed's favorite wife (Shia Muslims tend to look at her in a less positive light though).
- A Song of Ice and Fire, which is happy to portray just how weird medieval times were, does a bit of this.
- When Catelyn finds out that her sister Lysa (teens at the time) was promised to Jon Arryn (early sixties at the time) in a political marriage, she realizes that may be one of the reasons why Lysa's so fucked up.
- At the start of the series Lord Walder Frey recently married his eighth wife, on his ninetieth birthday. For the record, she's younger than some of his great grandchildren, and pregnant.
- Played with in the case of Arianne Martell, who while still unmarried at the time we meet her, has been proposed as a potential bride for a number of men, all of whom are old enough to be her grandfather. She's informed her father that if he wants her to actually marry, he's going to have to find her a husband young enough to still have his own teeth. As it happens, he doesn't want her to marry just yet — but can't tell her why — and is suggesting old men precisely because he knows she'll refuse them.
- Sansa meets a girl not much older than her who is the widow of a man so old he had a fatal heart attack on their wedding night.
- Gender-flipped in Daughter of the Lioness, where regents attempt a political match between the six-year-old king and a fifteen-year-old girl, and later her twelve-year-old sister when the elder elopes with a noble from a neighboring country. The marriage never happens, though.
- The Last Days of the Jannissaries, Villain Protagonist Pasha Ali Tepelini is married to a young girl, whom he loves very much. Incidentally, she loves him too, until she discovers that he's being a complete jerkass, and betrays him. She's willing to forgive her husband towards the end though, and is genuinely worried for his safety, when the sultan's assassin shows up to take his head.
- In the Honor Harrington novella "Promised Land" (in The Service of the Sword), Ephraim Templeton (55) adds kidnap victim Judith (12) to his collection of wives. That's the least vile thing he does. It comes back to bite him hard by the end.
- Subverted in The Chronicles of Narnia, where Tomboy Princess Aravis Tarkheena is betrothed to an older man...but she escapes on time, and eventually marries someone her age that she comes to truly love. Aravis's case wasn't helped by how a) her prospect older husband Ahoshta is the local Smug Snake as well as a Gonk; b) the marriage was arranged upon suggestion of Aravis's much hated Wicked Stepmother.
- Aravis's best friend Lasaraleen, however, goes through with her Arranged Marriage and doesn't seem to understand why Aravis wouldn't want to. However, she's sort of a Lovable Alpha Bitch more concerned with her husband's money and position. And we actually don't know how old her husband is; for all we care he could be either a super old dude or a man as much in his twenties. We do know he talks to her - she's always quoting him - and indications are they are both happy with their match.
- In Crime and Punishment, Svidrigrailov, a man in his 60s, gets engaged to a 14-year-old girl. Although it wasn't too unusual for people to get married that young back then, such a huge age difference definitely was, and the whole thing is very much played as Squicky. Even Svidrigrailov himself seems to realise it, as afterwards he has a dream in which a five-year-old girl attempts to seduce him, which thoroughly creeps him out, and soon after he commits suicide.
- The Wife of Bath from Canterbury Tales was first married to an old man when she was twelve years old. Notably she is so pleased with the arrangement - indulgent, manipulable old man, short marriage, and wealthy widowhood - that she goes on to willingly marry three other 'good old men'.
- 15-year-old Kaede from Tales of the Otori is first engaged to a man who dies of old age before they are even officially married.
- The Eyes of the Dragon has a rare positive example: the old and somewhat sex-phobic King Roland has a Perfectly Arranged Marriage with seventeen-year-old Sasha, and the two seem quite happy before her Death by Childbirth. (The fact that she knew nothing about sex before their wedding night actually helped matters.)
- In Warbreaker, teenaged Siri is sent off to marry the God King Susebron, who is over half a century older, even though his godhood makes him look like a young man in his twenties. Fortunately for her, he turns out to have no idea how sex works, so they don't end up consummating the marriage until after she's grown to love him.
- the author himself indicates that he actually had to pay more attention to making sure the relationship didn't come off as squicky because of Siri being uncomfortably more mature than Susebron, in an interesting reversal.
- Gender-flipped and downplayed in A Brother's Price, where the boys are married at sixteen to whole families of sisters, the oldest of them tend to be his senior. Of course, the brides aren't really old (the have to get married before they hit menopause, after all); they tend to be in they twenties and the boy is a teen - an age difference, with the genders swapped, no-one reading, say, Jane Austen's novel would bat an eye for. But all of the implications of this trope still follow: a young groom is put at mercy of his adult spouses, he's considered their property and there's a need for offspring, so Marital Rape License is at play. Or even Marital Gang Rape License, if you will. The trope is played straight (age-wise) when Kij Porter - presumably in her late-thirties, old enough to be his mother - takes an interest in the not-quite sixteen years old Jerin and wants to 'sample' her potential husband. Jerin is understandably horrified.
- Also in this world, when a man marries, he marries all the sisters in the family, even the ones who aren't yet conceived when their husband marries into the family. It's quite possible for a husband to be old enough to be his wife's father in this setting, as well as the inverse.
- In The Last Wish, Princess Pavetta has to chose her husband on her 16th birthday and ends up picking a man who is at least twice her age and cursed to turn into a monster at night. She already had a secret relationship with him and and was already pregnant.
- This is standard in The Chemical Garden Trilogy — all the Arranged Marriages are to older, rich men. In particular, one of Linden's wives is 13.
- In Holes, Elya Yelnats, the protagonist's ancestor, wanted to marry a Brainless Beauty his own age, but she was also being courted by a (relatively) richer man in his fifties. Thanks to Madame Zeroni, Elya is able to bring a bride-price just as valuable as his, and the girl's father lets her pick which man she wants. The fact that the girl didn't immediately pick Elya, but kept going back and forth between them, left him so dejected that he gave up, and she married the older man instead.
Live Action TV
- Law & Order: SVU had a case along these lines. The marriage was not legally binding, but it was treated as a real marriage by the cultists.
- It also produced a pregnancy, which is what kickstarted the whole episode, when the child was checked into a hospital.
- Not "old" per se, but in season one of Blackadder, Prince Edmund marries the 8-year old Princess Leia of Hungary, much to his own dismay. Subverted somewhat as the marriage is purely political and completely platonic, with Leia even serving as something of a Morality Pet for Edmund. They spend their wedding night with Edmund reading her a bedtime story.
- In the Police Squad! episode "Testimony of Evil" (a.k.a. "Dead Men Don't Laugh"), Ed Hocken describes a man as "Married, one child. That didn't work out so he married a grown woman."
- Series 1 of Big Love introduces us to Rhonda, the 16 year-old girl promised to fundamentalist Mormon prophet Roman Grant; the marriage doesn't go ahead, but such marriages are presented as common on the Juniper Creek compound. Later in series 3, Nicki manages to prevent her 14 year-old daughter Cara Lynn from being married off to a much older man.
- In Resurrection, Margaret mentions that she married her husband when she was seventeen and he was in his thirties; it was largely an Arranged Marriage, since he was the heir to the town's major factory. She admits that she never really loved him, but that he was a nice man in general (despite being an alcoholic who needed her to run the business for him).
- In "I, Claudius", the empress is apalled that young men are not bothering to get married and orders that there better be some marriages soon. She then warns them that there better not be any engagements to children just so they can put of marrying them for a decade.
- In the Criminal Minds episode "Minimal Loss", cult leader Benjamin Cyrus (played by Luke Perry) marries a 15-year-old girl, and has his way with whatever woman he wants in the cult, as per his own decree.
- In Doctor Who, teenager Ping-Cho was set to marry an old man she'd never met. Although she's resigned herself to it, she's quite relieved when he dies.
- In Fiddler on the Roof, Tzeitel is placed in an arranged marriage to Lazar Wolf, who's actually older than her own father. She mocks this in the song "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," which implies this arrangement is common from the matchmaker of the village.
- Mitsuru Kirijou's Social Link in Persona 3 involves the board of directors arranging for her to marry a much older man (She's about to graduate from high school, he's at least in his thirties) to stabilize the Kirijo Group after her father's death.
- In Suikoden the vampire Neclord makes a habit of abducting young women to make them his bride. After building his castle near the Warriors Village he visits said location and demands a new bride every year.
- In one Chick Tract called "The Little Bride", the marriage between Aisha and Muhammed is used to condemn Islam, highlighting that she was only 6 when they got engaged and only 9 when they got married. The tract draws the conclusion that Muhammed was a pedophile rapist.
- Weg from Fairy Dust has no tastes for children, but bought two eight and six years old wives for political gain.