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The Promise
Tifa: "Hey, let's make a promise. Umm...if you get really famous...and if I'm ever in a bind...you'll come save me, all right?"
Cloud: "What?"
Tifa: "If I'm ever in trouble, my hero will come and rescue me. I want to experience that at least once."
Cloud: "What?"
Tifa: "Come on! Promise me!"
Cloud: "All right...I promise." note 

A dramatically-made promise that serves as foreshadowing. The promise will eventually be called in and action will be required.

Whether they succeed, fail or refuse to keep their promise depends almost entirely on the idealism-level of the story. Other factors, such as whether they were told what they had to do, or if it was a Leonine Contract, may come into play. Even Releasing from the Promise is usually a scene of high drama.

Compare: Heroic Vow, Childhood Marriage Promise, Pinky Swear, If We Survive This. See also Empty Promise and Frequently-Broken Unbreakable Vow.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • This is basically the trope that sets in motion Mashiro's persistence to become a mangaka in Bakuman。. A promise made in Chapter 1 between him and Azuki,that when he and Takagi get an anime from their manga and Azuki voice-acts the heroine, she and Mashiro will get married.
  • Utena invokes The Promise in her vow to save Anthy in Revolutionary Girl Utena. Even when she ultimately fails, her valiant attempt leads to Anthy freeing herself to go in search of her fallen hero(ine).
  • Bleach:
    • In the Soul Society arc, Ichigo will save Rukia... whether she likes it or not.
    • During the Arrancar Arc, Ichigo vows to Orihime that "next time... I'll definitely protect you!" Later, he tells her "Don't worry. I'm definitely going to win." This promise is so strong that when Ulquiorra brings him to the verge of death, he is resurrected as an insanely powerful hollow obsessed with protecting Orihime - and only Orihime.
  • Keitaro holds strongly to his 15-year-old promise to get into Tokyo University for/with a nearly-forgotten girl in Love Hina. He also made a similar promise to forever be with his adoptive sister, which she does indeed dramatically call him on in the OVA sequel, Love Hina Again. The concept of promises also is the main theme of the episode about the Robot Girl Moe.
  • Both Lottie and Sara in Soukou No Strain promised to become Reasoners and see their brothers again. One brother kills the other before either can reunite.
  • In Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, when Ash tries to console Lucario after it believes it was abandoned and asks if he can help, it only wants him to do one thing: Promise he will never abandon Pikachu. Ash swears he will not.
  • In Ranma ½, these promises cropping up out of nowhere are common plot elements - Ukyo has at least two with Ranma, Kodachi has one with her rival Asuka, and Ranma has several that he doesn't even know about until they're called.
  • Naruto is full of "promises of a lifetime"... some more successfully fulfilled than others. The most notable case is Naruto's promise to Sakura to return with Sasuke. The episode after the mission to do this was actually called "The Promise That Could Not Be Kept." Though, he renews his promise and it's still his most important reason to fight, alongside protecting his friends.
    • Another plot relevant promise is Sasuke promising to avenge his family by killing his brother. Once he succeeds he instantly makes a new one: Destroying Konoha. Obviously that guy needs someone to kill.
    • Kakashi promised Obito that he would look after Rin. It would seem he failed. The Not Quite Dead Obito witnesses Kakashi actually killing Rin, contributing to his change into Tobi
  • Vandread's Hibiki made the casual promise to come to Dita's room. Though hardly a big thing to promise, this haunts him throughout the entire second season.
    • They way they talk about it makes it seem like something else...
  • In the Battle City arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Jounouchi's/Joey's major motivation is his promise to duel with Yugi and get back his Red-Eyes Black Dragon card.
  • Elfen Lied plays around with this in the scene where the villainous Bando, rescued by Mayu earlier in the series and feeling indebted, promises to save her once if she winds in trouble. Mayu is forced to cash in this promise not even a minute later, when Bando himself attacks her.
    • But when she calls for his help again, he shows up in minutes and knocks the stuffing out of the man sexually assaulting her.
    • A second example is Kouta promising to meet Lucy back at the stone on the last day of the festival.
  • In Digimon Adventure 02, Ken promises to Wormmon that he won't betray his essential nature — in essence, that he'll stay kind and gentle — when he first meets him as a child. Flash-forward to a few years, More Than Mind Control, and some heavy psychological trauma later, however, and he's the Digimon Kaiser. He does eventually keep his promise, though. Kinda.
    • In the previous season, Takeru promises to Sora that he'd protect Hikari. A promise which he still takes rather seriously in Digimon Adventure 02, as he is seen putting himself protectively in front of Hikari (episode 3), seemed angry at himself for accidentally leaving her stranded in the Digital World (episode 7), and doggedly searched for her when she was taken by the Dark Ocean (episode 13).
  • A much darker version appears in Tokyo Babylon.
  • Super Robot Wars Original Generation has this: Kyosuke made a promise to Lamia that he'd kill her if she ever loses her mind ("If you ever lose your mind, don't worry. I'll destroy you myself"). He did get his time to try and fulfill it when he rescued her from the Bartoll. He succeeded in the OAV, but horribly failed in OG Gaiden, and later has to leave it to Axel to actually rescue her and restore her mind.
  • And also included in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, though it may be a bit unimportant, considering it came in the last episode of the last season. After Signum beats Zest and gives him a honorable death, Agito prompts Signum to watch over her and see if Signum can really follow up Zest's last wishes and his ideals. Signum's response? "If you ever see me straying from that direction, kill me." More proof that Signum is a magnificent Expy of Lamia.
  • Get Backers: Ban promised Yamato that he would protect Himiko from her curse, and Juubei promised to stop Kazuki if he ever strayed "from the path of righteousness."
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn!: Squalo promised 8 years ago to Xanxus that he will never cut his hair until Xanxus becomes the boss of Vongola. And he did, for eighteen years into the alternate future from the Ten Years Bazooka. Obviously because Xanxus doesn't have the blood of Vongola, thus it's impossible for him to become Boss.
  • Peacemaker Kurogane: Tetsunosuke promised to his friend Saya that he would not kill.
  • Blood+: Saya makes Haji promise to kill her after she defeats Diva, a promise which he is unable to keep, instead encouraging her to live.
  • Nabari No Ou: Miharu's promise to Yoite, made under duress, to erase Yoite's existence once Miharu can use the Sinrabanshou becomes the main tension and plotline of the series, as well as a source of a lot of its angst.
  • In Noir, much drama is derived from Mireille's ill-considered promise to kill Kirika once she learns the nature of their past connection—by the time that occurs, the emotional bond between the two of them is so strong, Mireille finds herself unable to pull the trigger, even though Kirika turns to have been single-handedly responsible for everything bad that has ever happened in Mireille's life and actually begs Mireille to kill her, unable to live with the guilt.
  • Madlax has Madlax and Vanessa promising each other to survive. It looks like Vanessa fails, but along comes Margaret ex machina...
  • The Place Promised In Our Early Days has such a promise as the entire backbone of it's plot.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: At the last second in season three, it is revealed that in their past life together, Juudai promised that he would love only Yubel forever. This became the driving force of their motivation when they returned in season three. Then one remembers that Yubel can freely alter people's memories, and has no moral compunctions that would prevent their from using these powers to get their way...
    • And then one remembers that their souls fused and any lies on either side would've been known and that Yubel didn't know that Juudai had remembered their past together. Yubel had nothing to do with his memories reviving. That happened because he'd actually inflicted damage on Yubel, which almost no one can do, since Yubel's effect is to take no battle damage at all. Not to mention that if Yubel lied, it would've been a part of the plot. Juudai loves Yubel. Their past is not a lie.
  • Negi promises Ako that he will win the tournament. At about the ten second count, he recalls the promise and gets up to face Rakan once more. It's actually at tie and Rakan could have beaten him if he really wanted to. But considering the shape Negi was in? Badass.
  • Chrono Crusade has several promises that the main characters take very seriously. The first is that Mary Magdalene made Chrono promise to "live", which is implied to be the only reason he didn't commit suicide after her death. Also, the manga version shows Joshua and Rosette promise as children to "grow-up together"—remembering his promise is what gives Joshua the strength to reject Chrono's horns. Also, when Rosette made her contract with Chrono, Chrono seems to have promised himself that he would protect her, even going to the point of saying he promised to "never make her cry" in the manga. When he's forced to break this promise at one point, he becomes really pissed.
  • In The Secret Agreement, Iori tells Yuuichi that he loves him more than anything and would sacrifice anything for him. This is perfectly romantic until Kyuusai reveals to Yuuichi that he is born to steal life-energy and that his destined prey, under the delusion of love, will naturally offer his life for him to take.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, Kotetsu made a promise to his wife on her deathbed to continue to be a Hero after she was gone. This promise starts getting harder and harder to keep once Kotetsu starts losing his powers.
  • In Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,
    • Sosuke's father doesn't make it home as he promised.
    • Sosuke promised Ponyo to keep her safe, and she's swept away by the sea.
    • Sosuke's mother promises she will come back; Sosuke and Ponyo set out in search of her when she doesn't.
  • Code Geass has several. A couple of them are found on the Pinky Swear page and are explained in more detail there. A non-pinky promise comes during arguably the biggest Crowning Moment of Heartwarming in the series; when Lelouch realizes how much his friends care about him, he tearfully promises them that he'll set off fireworks with them again someday. He doesn't, and when he realises he won't be able to keep this promise, he calls them to apologize and say goodbye.
  • In Gate 7, Hana is waiting for someone who has not been revealed yet and once they are reunited, they will keep their promise.
  • In One Piece, a band of pirates left a baby whale they adopted named Laboon at the beginning of the Grand Line, promising to return after they've made the round-world voyage. Unfortunately, those pirates were wiped out, half becoming ill and having to leave the ship to save the rest, and those that remained were wiped out in a battle. Of those pirates, only Brook remains, having been brought back to life as a skeleton by his Devil Fruit. And now he has promised to his dead crewmates to deliver the final message of the Rumbar Pirates to Laboon, even after fifty years.
    • When the Straw Hat crew first met Laboon, the whale was battering himself to death on the Red Line out of despair of the unfulfilled promise, prompting Luffy to make a new one. He gets into a fight with Laboon which he declares a draw, stating they will have to have a rematch when he returns. Further, he paints his logo on Laboon's head as a mark of the promise, which would be earesed if Laboon returned to hammering at the Red Line.
    • During their childhood, Luffy and Ace made one promise to each other after the death of their third brother Sabo: they would live their lives free of regrets. This promise is one of the major reasons why Luffy was able to move on from Ace's death and continue following his dream.
    • Luffy and Zoro's goals can be seen as promises to Shanks and Kuina respectively.

    Ballads 
  • In the Child Ballad "The Lord of Lorn and the False Steward",
    • The steward promises to protect the young lord on his journeys, and promptly becomes The Oath-Breaker.
    "If I be not true to my master," he said,
    "Christ himselfe be not trew to mee!
    If I be not true to my lord and master,
    An ill death that I may die!"
    • The young lord saves his life by promising to never tell anyone about the steward's having attacked and robbed him. (He gets around this through Exact Words.)
    • The duke's daughter the steward was wooing pretending to be the young lord, on learning the truth, promises to marry no one but the true lord.
    "If you doe not my councell keepe,
    That I haue told you with good intent,
    And if you doe it not well keepe,
    Ffarwell! my life is at an ende."
    "I wilbe true to thee, Lord of Learne,
    Or else Christ be not soe vnto me;
    And as I am a trew ladye,
    I'le neuer marry none but thee."

    Comic Books 
  • Usagi Yojimbo has the story A Promise In the Snow where the titular character promises a young girl her gravely wounded father won't die. After they're all nearly buried by an avalanche and Usagi has been battered unconscious, the girl invokes Usagi's promise to get him back on his feet.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "Bearskin", the hero, appalling shaggy, filthy and ragged, but rich, rescues a man from financial distress, the man promises that he may marry one of his daughters. Only the youngest is willing. However, his appearance stemmed from a Deal with the Devil, and that being over, he cleans up nicely and formally arrives at their house as a wooer — or, in some variants, at his own wedding. The older sisters are impressed, but the youngest, being the sort who would marry a hideous man to redeem her father's promise, ignores him until he proves that handsome as he is, he is still the same man whom she promised to marry.
  • In "The Frog King", the king insists the princess must keep her promise to the frog who helped her.
  • In "The Goose Girl", the princess swears to never tell anyone that the servant girl usurped her place. (She gets around this through Exact Words.)
  • In "East of the Sun, West of the Moon", the bear lets the heroine go home as long as she promises not to speak with her mother alone. When she breaks this, her mother incites her to look at him at night, which means that magic snatches him away, and she must search all over the world for him.
  • In "Parsley", when the ogress catches the mother in her garden, she makes her promise to give up her child. When the girl is about seven, the ogress tells her, repeatedly, to remind her mother of the promise.
    Every time she went along the street and met the ogress the old woman said to her, "Tell your mother to remember her promise." And she went on repeating this message so often that the poor mother, having no longer patience to listen to the refrain, said one day to Parsley, "If you meet the old woman as usual, and she reminds you of the hateful promise, answer her, 'Take it.'"
  • In "Rashin-Coatie", The prince knows that the henwife's daughter (who cut her foot to fit in the shoe) is not the woman he fell in love with, but is bound by his promise to marry the woman whose foot it fit.
  • In "The Pied Piper of Hamelin", a piper saves a town from rats by playing a magic tune that makes the rats drown themselves. When the citizens of Hamelin deny the piper the payment formerly agreed on, the piper in retribution uses his music to lure the children of Hamelin into a cave which closes forever with them inside.
  • The legendary mermaid Melusine, is found near a woodland spring. She falls in love with the human who finds her, and agrees to marry him, on the condition that he not peek at her while she bathes. They are Happily Married for awhile, raising several children (all of whom are more like demons or demigods, depending on whom you ask), and settling into a nice chateau. Buut, one day, her hubby's curiosity and/or lust gets the better of him, and he peeks in on her bathtime, and finds out that she's actually a mermaid. (He sees her tail fin.) Melusine is not happy, to say the least.
    • Notably, her own father broke a similar promise made to her mother, Pressyne. She, however, was satisfied with taking her three daughters and walking out on him.
  • In Tattercoats, her grandfather had sworn an oath never to look on his granddaughter's face.
  • In The White Dove, two princes promise a Wicked Witch their brother if she will save them. Years later, after the brother had been born and grew up, the witch claims him.
    • Later, the witch must carry out her promise to let the prince have the kidnapped princess.
  • In some variants of The Love of Three Oranges, the prince search for his wife because of a vow.
    Sir, unless I have a wife as white and red as this cheese, it is all over with me; so now resolve, if you wish to see me alive and well, to give me all I require to go through the world in search of a beauty exactly like this cheese, or else I shall end my life and die by inches
  • In The Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen, the king kept his three sons in a tower to protect them from a stepmother, according to his wife's Last Request.
  • In Tsarevich Petr and the Wizard, Petr promises each of the princesses to remember her after he saves his mother.

    Fanfic 
  • In A Pikachu in Love, Pikachu makes several of these over the course of the fic. One is to meet Pichi again the next night, another one is to Misty, to never leave her or his friends behind, and to always come back to them no matter what, and one final one to Pichi as they say their goodbyes...
    "<Just promise me that you won’t forget me... And... if you ever end your journey or if you and your trainer go separate ways, will you look for me? Will you still love me and come for me then? Even if it’s years away...?>"
    "<I will. I promise it.>"
  • In the Film Noir-esque fanfic Nights In the Big City, http://www.fanfiction.net/s/3560875/1/Nights_in_the_Big_City, Kim Possible makes a promise to Ron to sleep with him after he takes a flamethrower to the chest for her to motivate him to hang on during surgery. Afterwards he tells her that he knows why she made the promise and won't hold her to it. She does anyway.

    Films — Animated 
  • Up: As kids, Ellie makes Carl promise to help her get to Paradise Falls. She never gets there, but Carl's desire to fulfill his obligation drives the plot of the movie. Later, Russell has Carl promise to keep the bird he befriended safe, and Carl's conflict between the two promises drives the second act.
  • Rapunzel from Tangled takes promises very seriously and says that she never breaks them. This comes into play later when she promises Mother Gothel that she will be her prisoner forever if she lets her heal the fatally injured Flynn.
  • In Titan A.E., during the evacuation of Earth, Cale's father puts him into the care of an alien friend, and promises his son that he'll see him again. He doesn't, but leaves a message for Cale begging his forgiveness for breaking his promise.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The German film Das Versprechen literally means "The Promise." It's about a teenage couple in which the girl escapes from East Germany, and her boyfriend promises "Ich komme nach" (roughly: I will come after you). The movie's plot is basically how difficult that is for him to accomplish.
  • In Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice asks Benedick to prove his love for her by killing Claudio. At first he refuses (saying, "Not for the wide world") because Claudio is his friend and companion. When she continually insists that he do this to avenge the wronging of Hero, Benedick eventually agrees. Benedick confronts Claudio, but everything is resolved before the duel can happen.
  • In The Pledge a police detective, on the day of his retirement, promises a grieving mother that he will find her daughter's killer. This promise grows to become an obsession with him.
  • X-Men:
    • In X-Men, Wolverine keeps his vow to Rogue by nearly dying trying to save her life in the climax:
    Logan: I'll take care of you.
    Rogue: You promise?
    Logan: Yeah, I promise.
    • In X-Men: First Class, Charles managed to uphold his promise not to use his telepathy on Raven for 18 years until the shock and pain of a bullet in his spine became too much for him to bear, compromising his concentration.
    Raven: You promised me you would never read my mind.
    Charles: I know. I promised you a great many things, I'm afraid. I'm sorry.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past:
      • Wolverine requests that the younger Xavier form the X-Men regardless of the outcome of their mission.
      Logan: Whatever happens today, I need you to promise me something. [...] The X-Men, promise me you'll find us. Use your power, bring us together. Guide us, lead us. [...]
      1973 Charles: I'll... do my best.
      • And later:
      Logan: It's good to see you, Charles. It's good to see everyone.
      Professor X: (smiles warmly) Well, I had a promise to keep.

    Literature 
  • A plot point in Friedrich Dürrenmatt's eponymous Das Versprechen (The Pledge), where a Swiss Police Commissar promises a couple to track down the murderer of their young daughter. This promise subsequently drives him to madness when he can't find him.
  • The poems of Robert Service occasionally feature these, such as "The Cremation of Sam McGee" or "The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill". In the former, a man must carry Sam's dead body around with in the Arctic him until he finds a place to cremate him, and in the latter, an undertaker has to journey out to find Bill's dead body and give him a proper burial. Except that his rigor mortis prevents him from fitting into the coffin. Why, look. A hacksaw.
  • As of Thud!, Sam Vimes reads the same book to his son at six o'clock, every day, no excuses (because when you have a good excuse, you open the door to bad excuses). As for the one moment he can't make it in time...
  • In the Sword of Truth series, it's mentioned several times that "A Wizard always keeps his promises." At one point, a secondary character tells the main character that the reason this happens is, as a wizard, he's subconsciously using his magic to make sure the promise is kept.
  • In the novel The Oathbound Wizard by Christopher Stasheff the wizard Matt Mantrell makes a careless hyperbolic vow to overthrow a nearby Big Bad. Since he lives in a magical world with similar laws to Medieval legend, he is honor bound to do so. He later convinces God that the vow was made in error and he shouldn't be held to it, but by then he has seen how horrible the Big Bad is and wants to overthrow him anyway.
  • In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, having someone make and break a promise is a potent source of magical power over them.
  • In George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin, when Curdie helped her and the nurse get home safely despite the goblins, Princess Irene promised to kiss him.
  • In the Chivalric Romance Sir Orfeo, the King of Fairy must give up Orfeo's wife because he gave a promise to Orfeo, disguised as a ministrel.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel False Gods, Loken explains to Karkasy "the promise of moment" a promise to do one specific thing, and extracts from him a promise to keep their conversation secret.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 novel Brothers of the Snake, Priad pledges to the farmers that he will protect them. Since it is from a cult, and they turn out to be the Cult, he ends up "revoking the pledge" and slaughtering them.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Killing Ground, Uriel promises the Unfleshed that he will not let anyone hurt them. In the end, he can only Mercy Kill the last survivor.
  • In Robin McKinley's Beauty, Beauty is told not to go into the forest. When she thinks this means far in and goes in around the edges, her brother-in-law makes her promise not to. She dislikes giving her word on principle — then she has to keep it — and so insists that he give his word too.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Deus Encarmine, Rafen complains of the killings because they have promised to protect such people. At the end, he is forced to swear allegiance to Arkio as the reincarnation of Sanguinius — which is the point at which he realizes the extent of Arkio's transformation and that one of them would die.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Coraline, Coraline goes to pry a promise out the Other Mother, who first tries to swear on her mother's grave. When Coraline asks if her mother has a grave, the Other Mother says she put her there herself, and put her back when she crawled out. Coraline insists on something else, and the Other Mother swears by her strong right hand. When she breaks it, she sends her hand after Coraline.
  • Jedi Knight Lorana Jinzler, aware of her impending Heroic Sacrifice, gets Jorj Car'das to promise to find her estranged brother, still working at the Jedi Temple, and tell him something.
    "Just tell him that his sister was thinking of him, hoping that someday he'll be able to let go of his anger. His anger at me, at our parents, and at himself."
    "All right. I'll do my best."
    "You'd better go then. Please don't forget."
    "I won't."
    • Then Car'das neglects the promise for fifty years, until Survivors Quest.
  • In Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno, a subject of discussion between Lady Muriel and the narrator.
    "Do you think," she began again, after a minute's silence, and with a visible embarrassment of manner most unusual in her, "that a promise, deliberately and solemnly given, is always binding—except, of course, where its fulfillment would involve some actual sin?"
  • In The Silmarillion, Fëanor and his sons swore a terrible oath to recover the Silmarils at any cost. These Silmarils were three hallowed jewels which Fëanor made, and which Morgoth stole. Centuries later the oath destroyed them thoroughly, and resulted in them slaughtering many innocents. Even after the last two surviving sons thoroughly hated the oath and wished to stop killing people over the jewels, they felt (or thought they were) somehow compelled to continue.
    • In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn can summon the Dead to fulfill the oath of assistance that they did not respect centuries before.
  • The Godfather: Don Vito Corleone basically operates by getting these from a great number of people. (The novel says that he piled up good deeds like a banker piles up securities.) Interestingly, we never see him extort any criminal acts from the recipients of his "favors"; instead, he gets completely innocuous freebies from whatever their normal business is. (Wedding cakes from the baker, performances at his casino from the singer, and a funeral from the undertaker when Sonny gets whacked.)
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Vale of Lost Women" Livia promises herself to Conan the Barbarian if he will free her from her captor. Then she bolts in panic. When he rescues her again, she admits to breaking it and deserving punishment; he returns her home instead because it would have been no better than rape.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Kull story "The Shadow Kingdom", after Kull and Brule learn that the ghosts of those the Snakemen kill are their slaves.
    A shudder shook Kull's gigantic frame. "Valka! But what a fate! Hark ye"—his fingers closed upon Brule's sinewy arm like steel—"hark ye! If I am wounded unto death by these foul monsters, swear that ye will smite your sword through my breast lest my soul be enslaved."
    "I swear," answered Brule, his fierce eyes lighting. "And do ye the same by me, Kull." Their strong right hands met in a silent sealing of their bloody bargain.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Kull / Bran Mak Morn story "Kings of the Night", Bran's problem is that one tribe is willing to break its promise if it does not follow a man of its own blood.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy — too many to shake a stick at. From the promise of the aerial spirits to obey the Prosperos, to Theo's promise to himself to give up magic, to Logstilla's promise not to become attached to her children any more, to Miranda's to Mephisto's familiar not to reveal their conversation to Mephisto. And many more!
  • In Juliet Marillier's Son of the Shadows, the heroine refuses to give her promise to stay in Sevenwaters to the Fair Folk, knowing that it will come back to haunt her if she does - The Fair Folk always get what is promised to them.
  • In Between the Rivers by Harry Turtledove, the protagonist in a grandstanding moment vows that he won't marry his sweetheart until the completion of the trading expedition he's about to embark on. It seems like a safe thing to do since it's a routine expedition and he wasn't planning to marry her until after he got back anyway. But then the nation they were going to trade with unexpectedly puts a trading embargo on the protagonist's city. And the god he swore by is real, interventionist, and quite willing to make the vow stick.
  • The Warrior Cats novel Crookedstar's Promise. A mysterious spirit cat asks the main character, as a kit, to promise to be loyal to his Clan above all else, even his own desires. Naturally, he promises, since he can't imagine not being loyal. Turns out that she meant that he can't take a mate or anything of the sort, and she definitely didn't have his or the Clan's best intentions at heart.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men, Professor Maxon promises that von Horn can marry Virginia if he rescues her, in the heat of the moment. Afterward, he realizes that this was a problem since he had not gotten Virginia's consent.
  • In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Lucian promised to look after Catarina.
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles, when he realizes he could cure his ignorance, Freckles promises he will.
    "Before God, I will!" He uttered the oath so impressively that the recording angel never winced as he posted it in the prayer column.
  • In His Dark Materials, Lyra promises a friend that she'd come and save him if he ever got kidnapped. In the process of trying to keep this promise, she travels to Svalbard, burns down a military-protected research station and tricks the king of the Armored Bears. She ultimately ends up accidentally getting him killed anyway, and travels to the World of the Dead to apologize for it.
  • In John C. Wright's Count To A Trillion, Menelaus's mother explained her cruel punishment on the grounds that Darwin required it. The young Menelaus concluded that Darwin was a villain, and promised that he would stop him.
  • In Jane Austen's Love and Freindship, when Laura meets Sophia.
    We flew into each other's arms and after having exchanged vows of mutual Friendship for the rest of our Lives, instantly unfolded to each other the most inward secrets of our Hearts.
  • In the backstory of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Luke promises Annabeth that the two of them and Thalia would be a family, and wouldn't fail each other like their birth families had. First, he is The Oathbreaker: he goes over to Kronos. Then, at the very end of the final book, he becomes The Atoner: he stabs himself to prevent Kronos's rise. "Promise."
  • In George MacDonald's "Port In A Storm", the narrator got his uncle to not interfere with his wooing the uncle's wealthy niece, despite the appearance of trying to get at her money, by bringing him port to drink during a storm and collecting this as his reward.
  • In Seanan McGuire's Velveteen Vs, Velma, warned by Scaredy Cat, demands a promise that she can go home before she hands over the pumpkins.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire Eddard Stark promised something very important to his dying sister Lyanna. The contents of the promise are still unknown.
  • In Andre Norton's Catseye, Tikil's culture turns heavily on the given word.
  • In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, the Throg tells Shann he will be tortured to death slowly if he does not send the message they want. He doesn't, though he does it cryptically. Shann is strapped to a frame for it, and the Throg tells him they will leave him as a warning. Then, they come under attack. The Throg hesitates; Shann thinks it is thinking about whether to bring him with them, which will be necessary to carry out its promise.
    • Later, in Forerunner Foray, Ziantha gives her word to Ris Lantee and later does not escape because of it.
  • In Andre Norton's The Zero Stone, Jern strikes a deal with Hory. When Eet reveals that he carries another zero stone, one Eet slipped in, Eet is careful to point that that he kept his promise, exactly.
  • In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, Jack had promised to help those on a quest. This means he can't just shoo Jenny out.
  • In Julie Kagawa's The Iron King, this is one way to end up in a Magically-Binding Contract. Meghan knows enough to get one from Shard — before she reveals the Exact Words interpretation she's going by.
  • In Stephanie Burgis's A Tangle of Magicks, Kat's mother's Magic Mirror loses its powers. Kat vows to restore it.
  • In Hunter's Death, when Stephen is about to set out on a very dangerous quest, Cynthia makes Stephen promise that he will come back to her before she's married so they have some time together. In the end, he dies on the quest, but he manages to keep his promise anyway by getting the Hunter God to let him borrow the God's body for one interlude.

    Live Action TV 
  • Torchwood: "Tommy, you're my big handsome hero, and I need you." (Interesting Western example with English and Japanese characters as the promiser/-ee.)
  • In Farscape:
    • John promises to give Scorpius all of the wormhole knowledge in exchange for help rescuing Aeryn. This debt is later wiped out when John comes up with a way of hurting the Scarrans, which makes Scorpius VERY happy.
    • John promises to Aeryn that he wouldn't hurt Scorpius, since Scorpy saved her life. Aeryn releases him from the promise. They never intended to kill him, anyway.
  • Sam Tyler promised Annie he wouldn't leave her at the end of the finale, and mentioned that promise to his mum afterwards. And he kept his promise.
  • Several promises have been made on Merlin. Freya promises that one day she will repay Merlin for his help, and does so by delivering Excalibur into his keeping. Arthur promises Guinevere that when he is King, they'll be together. Whilst held hostage by a warlord, Lancelot promises Guinevere that he'll rescue her - this thus far is the only promise that hasn't been kept - whilst Lancelot does his best, it is Arthur and not Lancelot that rescues them.

    Video Games 
  • "After I'm through with Truth..." "Don't make a girl a promise... if you know you can't keep it..." This leads to a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming in the third game:
    Cortana: "You found me. But so much of me is wrong... out of place... you might be too late..."
    Master Chief: "You know me. When I make a promise..."
    Cortana: "...You... keep it. ...I do know how to pick 'em..."
    Master Chief: "Lucky me."
  • One of the story paths in BlazBlue had Bang Shishigami who was at first being seen as an annoying Stalker with a Crush by Litchi Faye-Ling, until he jumped in and saved both her and Arakune from Hakumen. Bang opts to do a Heroic Sacrifice while Litchi escapes; and asks to meet her in a bar when it's all over, and Litchi promised to do so. Unfortunately, it's a Heroic Sacrifice for real; Bang presumably dies and we don't know if Litchi even remembered him and The Promise. The Kaka clan, however, made him a posthumous hero.
    • Continuum Shift, however, uses a variation. Litchi still made the promise and Bang actually survived. While they didn't exactly meet in a bar, it is clear that from that point on, Litchi grew to respect Bang tremendously and treats him with kindness and compassion.
    • Litchi herself has a very dramatic version that influences her actions. She made a promise that she will save her colleague Lotte Carmine, who is now Arakune, no matter what happens to her. Unfortunately, fulfilling this promise is a hard thing to do since it involves corrupting herself to the Boundary to the point she's getting very near to become another Arakune, she had to take the offer of someone Obviously Evil like Hazama to join NOL and becoming a 'bad guy' in general and eventually helping Relius Clover in his plan to exterminate all life and create a new world where Lotte can be prevented from becoming Arakune, all of these fill her with a huge dose of remorse, but she feels obliged to follow through to the end, even if she could be happy enough by leaving him alone, and especially even if other people consider her stupid for trying to save someone they think is 'beyond saving' and wouldn't bother.
    • Perhaps hilariously, even Relius Clover joins in the act in Chronophantasma. He goaded his son Carl to his side by first having Litchi on his clutches 'on her own will' (see above) and the promise that he will restore Ada, Carl's biggest goal in life for the moment. Considering Relius didn't break a sweat in putting him down, when Carl actually did on his own will, we all know that Relius would make it an Empty Promise. But... then he saw Bang Shishigami thwart his magnum opus of a plot despite having both Litchi and Carl, who Bang liked very much, as his pawns, and then he's dumped by the Imperator (revealed by Izanami) to 'die' and with him being The Perfectionist, Relius fell into a Villainous BSOD and is railroaded to commit himself to Carl's previous promise to restore Ada before he could die, which he accepts because he got nothing else to look forward into.
  • In Planescape: Torment, your character can actually do this as a dialogue option. Sometimes, dialogue choices (in some specific, important and dramatic scenes) will have a declaration of intent hidden, such as "Truth", "Lie", and, most importantly, "Make Vow". Those dialogue choices affect your Character Alignment: you become more Lawful if you tell the truth, and more Chaotic if you lie.
  • A promise is the driving force behind the plot of Disgaea 4, hence the title. The main character, Valvatorez made a promise to give his Prinny trainees a sardine once they finish their training. However, the Netherworld's government decides that all of the Prinnies need to be exterminated to cut back on expenses, which would keep him from fulfilling his promise. So naturally, he decides to overthrow the government.
  • Kingdom Hearts: At the end of the first game Sora makes a promise with Kairi that he'll return to her and the island with Riku someday.
    • In a deliberate echo in Kingdom Hearts II, Roxas makes a promise that he'll meet up again with his friends in Twilight Town. Sora fulfills it vicariously for him, and gets the Oathkeeper keyblade for doing so.
  • Final Fantasy VIII has the iconic promise between Squall and Rinoa.
    Squall: "How about this... I'll be here..."
    Rinoa: "...Why?"
    Squall: "The reason why you couldn't find me was because we haven't promised yet."
    Rinoa: "Promised...?"
    Squall: "I'll be waiting for you. If you come here, you'll find me. I promise."
    Rinoa: "I'll be here, too. It's a promise! Thanks Squall! Next time, we'll meet for sure!"
    • In the ending FMV when Squall is lost in Time Compression, Rinoa manages to find him and bring him back to the location of the promise.
  • Cloud's childhood promise to Tifa that he would protect her if she ever got into trouble from Final Fantasy VII.
    • He has a tendency to show up a little late.
  • Dragon Quest VIII: Trodain promised Argonia that their kingdoms would be united by an Arranged Marriage. Unfortunately, Argonia's Prince is Prince Charmles, which causes King Trode no small amount of grief after meeting him and seeing what an utter boor he'd promised his daughter's hand to. In both endings, he decides Screw The Promise, I'm Doing What's Best For Medea and fights to stop the ceremony — the Golden Ending also lets him Take a Third Option and let her marry Charmles' just-discovered cousin. Plus, it's implied that 'The Hero' had the right of succession anyway.
  • In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Soma Cruz asks Julius Belmont to promise to kill him if he turns evil. Thankfully, the person making the promise is reliable and more than strong enough to fulfil said promise if it comes to that. In Aria's bad ending, Julius turns up in the throne room to kill Soma, and in Julius Mode in Dawn, Julius gets Yoko and Alucard's help to take down Soma.
    Soma: ... I've got a favour to ask of you.
    Julius: What is it?
    Soma: From here. I will set off to fight against my own fate. If I lose the battle... And I become reincarnation of evil, I want you to kill me.
    Julius: ... I will... I promise.
    Soma: Thanks. Now I can go into this battle without reservations.
    Julius: Farewell, my friend. Don't let me use that whip again.
  • In Persona 3 Portable, a romantic vow to stay together is apart of the last rank of the Justice Social Link for the female protagonist. What makes it so important is that it's with Ken Amada who's very insecure about their relationship.
    • A bigger promise is for SEES to meet up again on Graduation Day, if they manage to beat Nyx.
  • In Solatorobo, Elh promises Red a billion rings if he helps to complete the Rite of Forfeit. Of course, Elh actually doesn't have a billion rings and, if the Rite had gone as it usually did, Red wouldn't have needed them anyway. Red survived, however, and instead of being angry, he just invited Elh to join his team - ostensibly to work off that debt, of course, but nobody was fooled.
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, the entire Bad Boys Love route and storyline hinges on the fulfillment of a promise from long ago. Given the premise of the game, you might think that it's going to be along the lines of a Childhood Marriage Promise, but it...really, really isn't.
  • If Shepard enters into a romantic relationship with Liara in Mass Effect, at the conclusion of Lair of the Shadow Broker in Mass Effect 2, Liara asks Shepard to promise her that s/he's always coming back. S/he does. Both she and Tali beg you to come back after the final battle in Mass Effect 3. Since it's currently assumed that ME3 is the end of the series (for Shepard), in one out of three endings, with a high enough EMS score, you can assume he keeps his promise. Who knows what'll happen now that Bioware has broadly hinted that Mass Effect 4 might be worth keeping your saves for though.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: Princess Bubblegum makes Finn "royal promise" not to tell anyone about the zombies. He has a hard time keeping it, but eventually he defeats the zombies without telling anyone. When Jake discovers the hacked bodies around him, Finn feels it's alright to tell him. Only it's not: turns out the consequences of breaking a royal promise are having to face trial by fire at the hands of giant gumball dispensers. Luckily, it gets negotiated down to 'trial by math.'
  • In the after-series comic in Avatar: The Last Airbender Zuko makes Aang promise him to kill him if Zuko starts to turn into his father.


Power of TrustA Trusting IndexThe Reliable One
Plot Device All AlongChekhov's GunRule of Pool
Princess for a DayFairy Tale TropesThe Quest
Privately Owned SocietyOlder Than PrintRandom Events Plot
Preemptive 'Shut Up"DialoguePublicly Discussing The Secret
Principles ZealotMorality TropesProtagonist-Centered Morality
Peerless Love InterestChivalric RomanceRags to Royalty

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