"You do qualify to marry my daughter."
— Capital One commercial
A very common reward for The Hero
saving the day (such as slaying the dragon
/demon/evil wizard/whatever terrorizing the kingdom) is marriage to the princess (of the hero's choice if there are more than one)
and being granted either half or all of the kingdom (depending on whether the sovereign already has a male heir).
While slaying a villain is the most common deed that leads to this specific reward, it is not the only way. As long as the hero has solved a serious enough problem threatening the kingdom, he can get this Standard Hero Reward. It is not unknown for the problem being how to decide whom the princess shall marry, and for him to get it for winning The Tourney
held for that purpose.
If his task involved rescuing a Damsel in Distress
task involved rescuing a Distressed Dude
), the rescuee
is the princess
) the hero will wed.
In Fairy Tales
, the king would often be reluctant to cough up
the reward, particularly if he hadn't realized it would be a Rags to Royalty
situation. He would pile Engagement Challenge
after Engagement Challenge
— and invariably come to a bad end if he didn't give in eventually. The hero may get a free pass if he's already a prince
On the other hand, if the hero has a love whom he is trying to win back to
, this can lead to embarrassing But Thou Must
Sometimes you see the wedding and the hero receiving his kingdom, but it's just enough to know this is the hero's reward.
These days, it's largely a Discredited Trope
, due to being horribly clichéd and flying in the face of historical politics (although the princess would have little choice in her husband anyway
). But Christopher Booker has plenty to say about the symbolic applications
of the treasure, kingdom, and marriage combo, so don't count it out entirely — just set it up a little better maybe.
This actually has roots in history. In some lands, including prehistoric Greece, inheritance was passed in the female line—that is, the king's heir would be the man who married his daughter (why in The Iliad
, Menelaus was king of Sparta through his marriage to Helen, despite the fact that Helen had living brothers). When a foreign warlord was invited into the country to help deliver it from barbarians or the like, marriage to the king's daughter was a useful pay-off that also served to strengthen the kingdom. In general, this practice had the practical advantage of letting the king look around for the best or most useful heir, instead of trusting to the luck of the draw.
Compare Awesome Moment of Crowning
, 100% Heroism Rating
, Smooch of Victory
, Rescue Sex
, Rescue Romance
, Offered the Crown
, Heroism Equals Job Qualification
Contrast Dude, Where's My Reward?
Do not put examples that are merely offering the Princess's hand, without someone doing something heroic first.
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- The Capital One commercial, where the hero has lots of other terms and conditions to meet before getting his package (and that's a damn ugly princess, to boot).
Anime and Manga
- While the 80s anime Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics usually played its adaptations straight, one of the last episodes used The Brave Little Tailor as a subversion - the princess was so hideous and obnoxious that the story ended with him rejecting the reward in favor of seeking further adventures rather than getting stuck with her.
- Murder Princess hints at a lesbian and Freaky Friday version of this trope.
- The h-anime Meiking has a variation: After rescuing the princess from bandits, protagonist Cain is given a chance to win Princess Charlotte's hand in a contest against another noble.
Fairy Tales and Mythology
- Oedipus saves Thebes from the Sphinx by correctly answering the Riddle of the Sphinx. As a reward, he is given the crown of Thebes and the hand of Queen Jocasta in marriage. It goes horribly wrong.
- Grimms' "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" plays this perfectly straight, though most them don't feature quite so many possible spouses to pick from. And usually the youngest princess is the choice — but not here; the soldier declares that since he's not young himself, he will marry the oldest.
- Some versions of the tale soften things by having the youngest princess fall in love with the hero herself and saves him from being tricked into drinking a love potion by her sisters.
- Joseph Jacobs's "Kate Crackernuts" is a gender-flipped variation of the "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", where the main character agrees to watch an ailing prince over night. She discovers that his illness is created by The Fair Folk making him dance all night and she manages to haggle with his parents to increase her reward from a peck of silver to the prince himself. She even manages to score another prince for her sister out of it.
- Joseph Jacobs's "Molly Whuppie" having two older sisters, and the king three sons, she laid claim to three standard rewards, one for each of them.
- "Jesper Who Herded the Hares" — the king tries to wiggle out of it and fails.
- Asbjørnsen and Moe's "Dapplegrim" — the king tries to wiggle out of it and fails.
- In "The Grateful Beasts", the king pushes Dude, Where's My Respect? a little too far; his own daughter the princess argues with him until he imprisons her in a tower. However, the last task is to summon all the wolves in the kingdom, the wolves then proceed to kill all the court, and Ferko frees the princess, marries her, and becomes king.
- In "How the Dragon Was Tricked", the hero laid claim to the princess and kingdom after her father had been eaten by the dragon he demanded the hero bring back.
- "The Brave Little Tailor" pretty much bluffs his way to the kingdom and the girl, though the princess and her father both try to wiggle out of it when they secretly learn of his low class. He gets to keep the goods with another bluff that leaves every soldier in the kingdom too afraid to do anything against him, thus leaving the king and princess with no way to get rid of him.
- The Norwegian folk hero Espen Askeladd, who features in dozens of different fairy tales across the country, commonly wins "the princess and half the kingdom" as a reward for his heroic deeds.
- In Iron Hans, when the prince is revealed after he saved the kingdom at war, he asks for the princess instead of modestly waiting to be offered. The king comments on the boldness, but since he's a prince, they are agreeable.
- In The Brothers Grimm's The Golden Goose, the youngest son gets to marry the princess because he made her laugh.
- In Asbjørnsen and Moe's True and Untrue, True is promised the princess and kingdom if he cures her.
- In Asbjørnsen and Moe's The Seven Foals, whoever watches the king's seven foals all day will marry the princess and receive half the kingdom.
- In Joseph Jacobs's The Greek Princess and the Young Gardener, the king makes the offer, but the young gardener carries off a princess on his journey. At the end, his Talking Animal companion, a fox, demands that his head be cut off, and when it is done, becomes a prince, and indeed the brother of the princess who was carried off. The king marries his daughter to him, and his sister marries the young gardener.
- Taken to an extreme in Greek Mythology, where King Thespius promises his daughter to Heracles if the hero will hunt a lion plaguing Thespiae. Thing is, Thespius had fifty daughters, and the hunt took fifty days, so Heracles slept with a different princess each night. They all wind up pregnant with his children. Of course, in some versions, that was the whole point.
Films — Animated
- More or less at the ending of Pocahontas, where John Smith, after throwing himself before a bullet meant for Chief Powhatan, is told by Powhatan that he will always be allowed to return and be part of his tribe. Powhatan then watches on as his daughter Pocahontas makes out with Smith. It may not have been literal, but it was definitely implied that Powhatan allowed for Smith to ask Pocahontas' hand in marriage, but as Smith leaves for medical treatment, whether or not he returns is ambiguous.
- It took two sequels and a lot of heroics before it finally happened, but Aladdin finally got to marry Jasmine in Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
- This trope is implied to be the reason Princess Genevieve's father allowed her to marry Derek the royal cobbler at the end of Barbie In The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It could be alternately interpreted as a Gender Flip, as the princess gets to marry the man she loves because of her heroism.
Films — Live-Action
Live Action TV
- Played for Drama and nastily Deconstructed in Once Upon a Time. The shepherd boy brought in as a last-minute swap for the deceased prince slays the dragon and saves his widowed mom's farm. Unfortunately, the kingdom is flat broke, meaning he's being forced to marry some Royal Brat in order to secure a fat dowry for the land's empty coffers. Otherwise, the king is going to kill him and his mother if he refuses to go along with it.
- Also Inverted, and just as nastily Deconstructed, with Regina. She saves the princess Snow White, and the king is so grateful he offers to marry her. Subverted in that Regina doesn't want to marry him, as she is in love with a stable boy and the king is quite a bit older than her. Her mother decides marrying the king is right for her, so she murders the man her daughter loves to force the issue.
- The protagonist of Tom Smith's concept album The Last Hero On Earth is offered the hand of the princess he saves from the Ninja Pirates from Dino Isle; the trope is invoked by the queen, who says "It's a very fine Old World Tradition to give the Hero a most precious thing!" and "How this circumstance has lead to romance is a wonderfully hoary cliche..."
- In the Czech comedy song "Join z bain", the village head offers his daughter's hand and half of a collective farm if the protagonist can get rid of the eponymous swamp monster.
- Analyzed in one edition of GURPS Fantasy. The book mentioned that, if a king has no sons, this can be more of a cunning political maneuver than a simple romantic gesture. The reward motivates a hero to solve a major problem, the king's daughter is married off, and the successor to the throne will be a hero who has already won the respect of the people and lords by a heroic task (so a civil war isn't guaranteed to break out the moment the king dies).
- The adventure game Shadowgate did this, although not every version lets you see the princess at the end. Don't the developers know that Everything's Better with Princesses?
- The first Dragon Quest game, sort of. You are offered both the kingdom and princess. You refuse the former, But Thou Must take the latter... Unless you forgot to rescue her. Oops. But that requires Sequence Breaking later by "knowing" where something is hidden without the Princess's love acting as a homing beacon (...or something) to give you the coordinates of an item. But that's not canon. The hero is (despite his dismal starting equipment) not some random commoner, but a descendant of the legendary Roto.
- This is also the "true" ending of Dragon Quest VIII. Cliched? Yes. But it's that or Prince Charmless for her. The hero is actually the cousin of the jackass prince that Princess Medea was supposed to marry, but nobody knew it, and the rightful heir of the kingdom Charmless hails from, although it's never shown how the succession shakes out.
- Inverted in Dragon Quest IV, where Chapter 2 has you help a princess get out of this situation. The king has set up a fighting tournament where the victor gets to marry his daughter, apparently hoping to make sure the next king is the biggest badass in the land. The princess wants nothing to do with this, so she asks Alena (the main character of the chapter and tomboy princess of a neighboring kingdom) to win the tournament, since a woman would be ineligible to marry her.
- King's Quest, but not in a standard way. The first game has Graham gain the crown (but no princess since there is none). The fourth game has a nasty subversion where the evil queen will marry Rosella to her son, which leads to a Non-Standard Game Over unless you stop her (whereupon it's revealed that the son is actually a pretty good guy after all, and understands that Rosella needs to save her dad before she can even think of a relationship). The good ending of the sixth game does have Alexander receiving the full Standard Hero Reward from Cassima's resurrected parents (though if you fail at that aspect, he still gets to marry his True Love).
- At least Alexander and Cassima had met previously. King Graham met Valanice for the first time when he entered the tower to rescue her. Within minutes the two were married.
- Surprisingly, by the end of Leisure Suit Larry 2, for driving out the Evil Overlord you do get married to the village chief's daughter. The third game reveals you've also got a steady job in this chief's new company (that's almost as good as "half the kingdom"). Of course, the third game also gets you kicked out of both job and marriage rather quickly.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, there's a near-example: The MacGuffin owned by Princess Ruto is actually a sign of engagement, and her giving it to him at the end of this part of the game means he's required to marry her at some point. So though it wasn't a reward from the king, he did get a fiancee as a direct result of saving the day in this situation. And yes, she does remember seven years later.
- In Oracle Of Tao, appears in a lesser form. The hero does get royalty to marry, only the hero is a commoner girl (and homeless to boot ), and the prince she got to marry she already knew and dated, and it wasn't really a reward in the first place, but two people deciding to marry. And the kingdom? Nope, said prince decides he's not really fit to rule, and doesn't want it, leaving the parents to continue ruling, so they use the royal money to buy a nice shack in the suburbs to raise a family.
- In the prologue of Princess Maker 2, the hero (the viewpoint character) isn't given the kingdom, but he does get a substantial retainer. The princess is given to him by the gods (she's not a princess from the start, but she is born in Heaven, which has to count for something) and while most people find the option to marry her squicky and pseudo-incestuous, your character can actually be young enough to be only a few years her senior.
- Princess Maker 3 plays it a bit more straight by having her be the daughter of the fairy queen.
- In Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, Maxim can ask for the princess's hand in marriage after completing a task for a king, in what is meant to be a Keep the Reward scenario. The king will refuse, claiming that he's refusing due to the scowl on Unlucky Childhood Friend Tia's face.
- Little King's Story sees King Corobo rewarded with many princesses after completing certain tasks - all of whom instantly marry him. Near the end of the game he's served seven divorce papers and has to stick with just one true love. Who is then eaten by a giant rat while the world ends in something of a Gainax Ending. The events are usually interpreted to be just a dream of the real Corobo and the real world counterparts of the "princesses" are not royalty anyway.
- It is possible to subvert this in the first Uncharted Waters game by refusing to settle down after saving the princess and instead return to the rough seas. It doesn't allow you to actually play afterwards, however. Also, you can subvert the kingdom-to-reign part and go for the marry-the-princess only, which is apparently canon in the sequel.
- In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the Prince and Farah fall in love without any outside intervention over their quest. Then Farah dies. Then the Reset Button gets pressed, and Farah's alive again but no longer has any memories of the Prince. After the Prince defeats the Final Boss, Farah says she owes him thanks, and the Prince grabs her and kisses her. When Farah objects, the Prince uses the Dagger of Time to rewind time so that Farah doesn't know she's been kissed. They finally get together at the end of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones.
- In Odin Sphere, Odin first tries to bribe Oswald with a castle, then with a castle and a magic spear... but when Oswald still proves uninterested, Odin resorts to promising Oswald his daughter Gwendolyn. This arrangement ends up working out a lot better for Gwendolyn and Oswald than it does for Odin.
- Inverted in My World, My Way. It's a princess who wants to marry the hero, and she goes on a quest to earn him, and she rejects him in the end.
- Lampshaded in the best ending of Kid Kool, where the king tells you, "You want a box of jewels and a princess, don't you?" You don't get all of this if you don't beat the game fast enough; if you take too long, you won't even get the king.
- This is how Endless Frontier ends: the entire world is saved thanks to Haken stopping the Final Boss and gets Kaguya's heart. And maybe a bit more...
- In the backstory to the first Deadly Rooms of Death game, Beethro offers to give a discount on his (outrageous) extermination prices if King Dugan throws in a princess. The King retorts that Beethro is ugly and smells bad. Beethro shrugs. Given what he ends up going through, he probably earned a princess...
- Great Greed basically plays this straight during the ending, with one exception. The King will ask you if you want to marry one of his daughters. If you agree, he'll ask you to talk to the one you want to marry. However, you don't actually have to pick one of the princesses - with enough persistence, you can actually marry anyone in the room. In addition to the princesses, this includes the elderly (female) court wizard, two male bureaucrats, the Queen, and even the King himself!
- A discussed trope in Dra Koi. The Hero is supposed to defeat the Dragon, after which he gets his Princess. The Hero at the end turns the Dragon into the Princess because he thinks the proposed story script sucks.
- In the Web Comic No Rest for the Wicked, the main character, November, is a princess who is running away from it. Her would-be husband (an apparently-kind but not-too-bright peasant hero) is currently wandering the earth looking for her.
- In Exiern Typhan-Knee signed on for the reward of A royal hand in marriage and his weight in gold. Then he was hit with a Gender Bender spell during the rescue. She has received her weight in gold but has yet to realize that the Royal hand is not going to be the Princess' — Or that the gold will (of course) revert to the royal treasury when she marries the king.
- Golden Age Of Adventurers has The Crestfall incident.
- Spoofed and subverted in Oglaf, when the hero is told that his dragon-slaying quest was one of self-discovery and "The princess was you all along!" By the last panel, he's enjoying his wedding night with the prince.
- In Mountain Time, the White Knight seeks to slay the Dreadful Dragon so that he may win the hand of Princess Online Dating in marriage.
- There was a Walt Disney short, The Brave Little Tailor, where Mickey accidentally got the job of stopping the giant ("I killed seven with one blow!" was misheard to be about giants instead of flies), and he was offered the hand of the Princess Minnie.
- Conan The Adventurer had a good twist on this. The king immediately reneged on his princess/future king offer when he actually met Conan. Conan, being Conan, decided to take what was his by force.
- Considering that the original Conan became king of Aquilonia by his own hand...
- Huckleberry Hound was once ordered by the King to slay a dragon. The Princess was so ugly that marrying her was punishment for failure. The dragon took pity on Huck and offered him shelter at the cave. Huck accepted.
- This did happen in Medieval Europe. One example is Raymond and Henri, two French cousins who helped in the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula. One was rewarded with the King of Castelle and Leon's legitimate daughter Urraca and the other his the bastard daughter Teresa (and also made him Count of Portucale). Neither of them became king, although the eldest son of both did: Urraca and Raymond's son was the next King of Castella and Leon, while Afonso, son of Henri and Teresa, fought his cousin to gain independence of his land and thus became the first King of Portugal.
- Averted in UK after World War II. Peter Townsend was a true war hero - a fighter ace and hero of Battle of Britain. He was madly in love with princess Margaret, and Margaret also loved him. Queen Consort Elizabeth came in-between them, prohibiting Townsend seeing Margaret anymore because he was a divorcee. It broke the hearts of them both. Townsend called princess Margaret as his only true love until his death.
- This Cracked article deconstructs this trope as one of the possible reasons misogny exists.