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Refusal Of The Second Call

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The hero from the original work nopes out of world-saving in the sequel.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
beyondthesea on Feb 27th 2018 at 11:39:50 AM
Last Edited By:
beyondthesea on Mar 2nd 2018 at 9:53:39 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Opal: Aren't you coming back to Republic City with us, Grandma?
Toph: No, my fighting days are over. Don't tell Korra, but my back is killing me. This is why you didn't see Katara messing with that Civil War nonsense. At some point, you gotta leave it to the kids.
The Legend of Korra, "The Calling"

An unassuming protagonist from Humble Beginnings rises up to become The Chosen One, defeats the Eldritch Abomination or the fantasy fascist regime, and prevents The End of the World as We Know It. As the series ends, they settle into a comfortable and well-deserved retirement as the world's greatest hero.

So that's it, right?

Wrong. Because things never seem to stay fixed for very long. Especially not in Cash Cow Franchises

It's been ten years, or twenty, or fifty, and now another, unanticipated evil threatens the world. A new hero stumbles into the conflict and rises up against this new threat, and they flounder because saving the world isn't easy. They could obviously benefit from the wisdom of someone Older and Wiser who has been through this before. Surely the now-legendary original hero will resurface to fight alongside their accidental successor. They fixed it last time. It only took them five books or three movies. They can do it again. Even if they want to sit out the fighting, they'll at least be involved as a Badass Teacher.

But sometimes, they just don't want to. Maybe they feel like they've already done enough for the world. Maybe all they want to do is hang out on their island or in their secluded swamp and pretend none of it is happening. Sometimes, the former hero is determined to stay out of it.

This trope occurs when a Sequel installment takes place while the central hero of the previous installment is still alive but features a new hero, and the former hero is absent from the main action. The former hero may appear in the sequel but be unwilling to help or they may have been Put on a Bus, but they must be available. Their absence cannot be because they're physically incapacitated, imprisoned somewhere else, or have become evil. Their lack of involvement must be by their own choice.

Additionally, this trope requires the original hero to have already completed their Hero's Journey and the narrative that prominently featured them to have ended. If a character takes off halfway through defeating the evil and someone else has to take over, or if another mundane person was originally offered the mantle and turned it down before our hero accepted, it's not the trope.

Because this trope requires a hero different from the current one to have previously saved the day, media that falls into this category will always be a sequel, except for the rare case where a Prequel retroactively causes this. It is most common in High Fantasy or similar-scale stories and in situations where a completed series gets a Sequel Series that the creator may not have anticipated when the original series was released.

Can be caused by Changing of the Guard when there's no real reason the original hero couldn't have continued to feature instead. Can result in They Changed It, Now It Sucks, and will often cause a Broken Base between those who like the new hero and those who don't like the new hero or think the original hero ducking out of the limelight was Out of Character, some going as far as pretending the sequel series doesn't exist.

Compare Passing the Torch, where the original hero intentionally chooses and trains a successor to fight an evil they both know will come, Rogue Protagonist, where the previous hero has outright made a FaceĖHeel Turn, Screw This, I'm Outta Here!, where a character on The Dark Side decides it's no longer worth it, and We Are Not Going Through That Again, when the hero has finished their adventure, only for something else to immediately go wrong. Contrast with Refusing The Call, where a hero's origin story begins with them refusing to be a hero, only to get pulled into it anyway, and Can't Stay Normal, where the hero does return to save the day a second time.


Examples

Literature

  • Not sure how much of a hero we are talking, but in the second book of the Tales of the Magic Land, the heroes attempt to recruit James Goodwin,the Wizard's analogue,to their cause, he refuses outright, saying he had enough of magic, and never appears afterwards.

Live-Action Film

  • When Star Wars: The Force Awakens begins, Luke Skywalker is missing and one of the subplots revolves around trying to find him. He finally shows up in the last scene, where it is revealed that he has been living as a hermit on a secluded planet in a remote part of the galaxy. He spends most of The Last Jedi being chased around his island by Rey, whom he is actively trying to avoid mentoring.

Video Games

  • Dragon Age
    • The Hero of Fereldan is never seen after Dragon Age: Origins, despite the Wardens' heavy involvement in Dragon Age: Inquisition and the fact that the plot, sentient darkspawn planning to end the world]], seems right up their alley. At the end of Dragon Age II, Cassandra mentions that the Warden vanished. In Inquisition, the Inquisitor can send them a letter asking for help, and they will reply that they are on their own, unrelated mission. Apparently, the developers initially intended to include the Hero of Ferelden as Hawke's Warden contact, but panned it after struggling to find the right voice actors.
    • Hawke qualifies as this In-Universe, because no matter how Dragon Age II ends, things are still pretty awful in Kirkwall, and eventually they disappear because they've had enough. The reason that Varric pretends not to know where Hawke is during the second and third game is because he feels that his friend has been through enough. He only relents to calling Hawke in when it's absolutely unavoidable.
  • In The Longest Journey, April Ryan saves not one but two worlds from total annihilation, but at a huge personal cost. As a result, she has become a bitter cynic by the time of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, and refuses to assist the new protagonist, Zoe, when the bad guys put the world in peril once more ten years later.

Web Comics

  • Spacetrawler: The initial series involved an alien named Nogg gathering six humans to join a fight to free the Eeb species from slavery. In the sequel series set a few years later, Nogg intervenes in a secluded star system's war, and he tries to get the old gang (the ones still alive, at least) back together for this new adventure. The heroes of the last adventure all decline, either because they're busy raising families or because they can't stand Nogg anymore. So Nogg has to gather a new crew.

Western Animation

  • While several members of the Gaang are still alive when The Legend of Korra takes place, they only show up in a small handful of episodes each. The fact that they don't spend much time fighting is justified, considering they're all in their eighties, but that doesn't explain why Katara, The Heart of the original series, wasn't involved in trying to settle the dispute between the Water Tribes that took place right in her city and ended up causing a civil war. Zuko and Toph are also still around, but Zuko is living out his retirement in the Fire Nation, which is unaffected by the series' events, and Toph is living alone in the Foggy Swamp. They only temporarily join the main plot when the Red Lotus escapes and the Beifongs are captured respectively.

Feedback: 15 replies

Feb 27th 2018 at 1:08:29 PM

  • Spacetrawler: The initial series involved an alien named Nogg gathering six humans to join a fight to free the Eeb species from slavery. In the sequel series set a few years later, Nogg intervenes in a secluded star system's war, and he tries to get the old gang (the ones still alive, at least) back together for this new adventure. The heroes of the last adventure all decline, either because they're busy raising families or because they can't stand Nogg anymore. So Nogg has to gather a new crew.

Feb 27th 2018 at 1:19:50 PM

Compare Rogue Protagonist, when the previous hero has outright made a Face Heel Turn.

Feb 27th 2018 at 1:26:50 PM

  • Hawke qualifies even more than the Hero of Fereldan, because no matter how the previous game turned out, things are still pretty awful in Kirkwall and eventually he or she disappeared because they'd had enough. The reason that Varric pretends not to know where Hawke is during the second and third game is because he feels that his friend has been through enough. He only relents to calling Hawke in when it's absolutely unavoidable.

Feb 27th 2018 at 1:35:11 PM

I thought about including Hawke, but decided against it because they do show up in DAI and end up playing a pretty significant role, but they probably qualify as an in-universe example. I'll add it.

Feb 27th 2018 at 1:44:47 PM

Job for the New Hero...

Feb 28th 2018 at 3:21:55 AM

I think we have this one already. There's Refusal Of The Call, where the protagonist(s) ignore the Call To Adventure. There's also Achilles In His Tent for a protagonist having a snit-fit, and leaving the adventure to others. What would this proposal have that these two established tropes lack?

Feb 28th 2018 at 7:32:43 AM

^ I think the difference is that in the classical monomyth formula, the Refusal Of The Call is the first stage of the hero'S journey, before he even gets to call himself a hero. This is about when the hero is already a hero who has completed one journey, but refuses to get involved in any more hero stuff. Since the monomyth doesn't really cover what happens to the hero after completing his journey (except Happily Ever After), a trope like this would meaningfully expand on that formula.

My suggestion for the title would be Second Call Refusal or Refusing The Second Call.

  • In The Longest Journey, April Ryan saves not one but two worlds from total annihilation, but at a huge personal cost. As a result, she has become a bitter cynic by the time of Dreamfall The Longest Journey, and refuses to assist the new protagonist ZoŽ when the bad guys put the world in peril once more ten years later.

Feb 28th 2018 at 8:52:14 AM

^^ That it's specific to a sequel, when the previous hero is no longer the protagonist (and the narrative that featured them prominantly's been wrapped up).

Feb 28th 2018 at 11:30:05 AM

^^ Changed the name to Refusal of the Second Call, to match the format of Refusal Of The Call. Also added a couple sentences to further distinguish the two.

Feb 28th 2018 at 7:55:07 PM

I believe this is distinct enough from Refusal Of The Call (in that it facilitates a Changing Of The Guard scenario). However, the examples have to be rewritten to avoid fan reaction — this isn't a YMMV trope, after all. Remove the last sentence from the Star Wars example (or rewrite it to just mention that he's got his reasons for avoiding the conflict re: Kylo Ren), and the "fans wondering" part of the Korra example.

Feb 28th 2018 at 9:13:55 PM

Not sure how much of a hero we are talking, but in the second book of the Tales Of The Magic Land, the heroes attempt to recruit James Goodwin (the Wizard's analogue) to their cause, he refuses outright, saying he had enough of magic, and never appears afterwards.

Feb 28th 2018 at 9:22:58 PM

The Last Jedi entry shouldn't contain anything about fan reception if this article isn't a YMMV trope.

Feb 28th 2018 at 9:23:18 PM

See also We Are Not Going Through That Again when the hero refuses a second call in the same episode.

Mar 1st 2018 at 5:26:43 PM

Okay, I'm pretty sure all the subjective stuff is trimmed out.

Mar 2nd 2018 at 8:38:31 AM

See also Shellshocked Veteran when the hero is suffering from PTSD.

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