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"An Old Man dies, a little girl lives. Fair Trade." - Hartigan Sin City

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
MikeDanCatch on Aug 3rd 2018 at 6:02:48 PM
Last Edited By:
Arivne on Aug 10th 2018 at 2:00:59 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

This trope when there are two characters: the first being someone who is generally older who takes on the role of a: Protector, Mentor or Father (or father figure). The second person is younger and follows them. But when the story comes closer to an end, the older character sacrifices themselves so that the younger one can move on and have a chance at life.


Film - Live Action

  • Sin City. The trope definer: Hartigan acts as a protector to Nancy Callahan from Roark Jr. Once he kills Roark Jr, he fears that Roark's powerful father will hunt down Nancy to hurt him. So he kills himself so Nancy can live on without fear of death.
  • Logan. Logan protects Laura (X-23) throughout the movie. However, he is mortally wounded while protecting her and telling her to run. When she cradles him, he tells her not to be a weapon and to live a normal life.

Video Games

  • Red Dead Redemption. John Martson sets off his wife and son on horseback before he goes to give the US government a last stand. He gives them enough time to escape capture.

Feedback: 33 replies

Aug 3rd 2018 at 6:19:29 PM

I'm confused about what this trope is; I thought it was for when one's survival is balanced by someone else's death in general, but the description makes it specific to the old dying for the young.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 6:58:18 PM

It was more aimed when the older dies and the younger survives. But it could also work for opposites. Like the guy dying for the girl.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 7:30:00 PM

Similarly but it refers to both characters being alive and focal parts of the story.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 7:31:21 PM

The idea of this draft contributes to the Survivor Guilt of the main character Detective Spooner in the film I Robot. He and a little girl were trapped in separate cars underwater, and the robot that saved Spooner ignored his protests that the little girl should be saved instead.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 7:34:28 PM

How does it contribute to Survivor Guilt? Personally, I have never seen I Robot but it was more like from the likes of Sin City where the older mentor dies after letting the younger female to survive.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 7:43:17 PM

This is...hmm. Name reads like Equivalent Exchange, Laconic reads like Balancing Deaths Books, and description reads like Mentor Occupational Hazard.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 8:08:31 PM

^^ It contributes to Survivor Guilt because Spooner believes that he should have died instead of the little girl, she was a child and had more life ahead of her, whereas he was an adult. (He's not elderly like the examples you're looking for, but still, he's obviously older than her...) The robot ignored all that simply because it calculated that Spooner had a higher chance of survival.

I'm sorry if that wasn't clear enough the first time around, my example was a way of playing with this proposed trope that I have yet to identify. Most of the impediment is what Synchronicity pointed out, this draft needs some cleanup to make it clearer just what exactly you're trying to trope.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 9:03:42 PM

I guess what I was looking for a trade of life. A younger person with more to offer lives on while the older person feels completed and dies. Like when I used Logan: He protected Laura (X-23) and when he was dying, told her not to be a weapon. She would live on to be better while he's journey ended. I used Sin City because it was the easiest (I thought) to explain. In Sin City (That Yellow Bastard arch) Hartigan saves Nancy and acts as a protector. However, when he realizes that they may face retribution: he kills himself so they can't be hunted. She lives on, his journey ends. Fair trade.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 9:14:55 PM

I think it's the word "trade" that's muddling this, because that implies some sort of deal had been made.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 9:25:06 PM

^^ you keep using "trade" as if it's appropriate.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 9:53:23 PM

I used trade because it seemed like one life ends so the other can continue and less like a deal if that makes sense.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 9:56:44 PM

It doesn't make sense because it's not an appropriate word. Trades involve deals of some sort, not just someone dying so someone else can leave even if that might informally be called a trade.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 10:04:14 PM

Okay, makes sense. How does this current title seem?

Aug 3rd 2018 at 10:11:51 PM

Well, now it violates the stock phrase rule.

What about something like Life For A Life? It needs to be clear that this trope is about someone older sacrificing themselves for someone younger, and though my idea doesn't completely convey that idea, it's a step.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 10:17:26 PM

Stock Phrase? Sorry, not really rule savvy.

As for Life For A Life, I feel that is more for anyone.

My ideas were

Aug 3rd 2018 at 10:20:32 PM

Ah, look up No New Stock Phrases- even just having a title that sounds like someone speaking is against the rules now.

Of those titles, I like the first two the best, leaning towards Old For Young.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 10:24:44 PM

Not really, it's been this way for a while.

Aug 3rd 2018 at 10:33:59 PM

Okay so what do you think?

Aug 3rd 2018 at 11:02:17 PM

"Old Dies for Young"... May not be appropriate if the young forces it on the old. So ignore. :/

Aug 4th 2018 at 1:07:36 AM

  • Deleted "The best examples would be:".
  • Examples section
    • Added a line separating the Description and Examples section.
    • Added the word "Examples".
    • Added periods after work names.

Aug 4th 2018 at 9:13:25 AM

If the old sacrifices not their life, but something else, to the young, does that still count?

Aug 5th 2018 at 11:10:24 AM

I'm still middling on the tropeworthiness of this, and I'm not sure if this fits, but here:

  • Les Miserables: In "Bring Him Home", while the elderly Valjean is dragging his adopted daughter's injured beau Marius through the sewers of Paris following a bloody battle, he begs God to let Marius live even if it's at the cost of Valjean's own life since Marius is young and has a whole life ahead of him.
    And I am old /And will be gone
    Bring him peace / Bring him joy
    He is young / He is only a boy!

Aug 5th 2018 at 12:34:01 PM

That would fit more into played with because it keeps the principle of an old person being willing to scarifice themselves for a younger person, however this feels more in-line with Bargain With Heaven

Aug 9th 2018 at 11:43:18 PM

This thing desperately needs a better name, because at the moment, it sounds like the name of some particularly dark corner of Craigslist.

Comic Books

  • In the first arc of Shadowpact, a small town is taken over by a gang of magic-wielding supervillains who demand random sacrifices from citizens as part of a ritual. When one of the chosen sacrifices is a little girl, her grandfather asks if he can take her place. The villains reject his offer, claiming that a willing sacrifice is less beneficial to their plans.

Aug 11th 2018 at 2:51:36 AM

Film - Live Action

  • Played With in Darby O Gill And The Little People. Darby O'Gill's daughter is deathly ill. He uses his third wish to die in her place, saying "It's better for the old to die than the young.", which allows her to live. However, King Brian tricks Darby into making a fourth wish, which cancels the third wish and allows him to live too.

Aug 10th 2018 at 1:21:35 PM

I've seen a claim that this trope used to kick in in rural Scandinavia — if someone needed a doctor during the winter, the oldest still-physically fit person would be the one to strap on skis or snowshoes. However, I can't document this.

Aug 10th 2018 at 2:00:59 PM

  • At the end of Man On Fire Creasy surrenders himself to the Big Bad in exchange for Pita being released and allowed to leave with her mother. For Creasy it is a no-brainer since he is suicidal and Secretly Dying while Pita is a little girl that he has grown to love like his own daughter.