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Honor Before Reason / Literature

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  • American Girl: Felicity Merriman's parents exercise this when they learn Felicity has tamed Jiggy Nye's abused horse and intends to rescue her. Despite knowing Nye is a hateful abuser, they tell her that the horse belongs to him and that the right thing to do is give her back.
    • There may be some level of reason here, however. At the time, theft of any kind was a serious offense and animal abuse was not criminal. If Nye had felt it necessary to go to the police to get the horse back, it could've meant trouble for the whole family. Not to mention that making an enemy of a dangerous man like Jiggy Nye was not something they would want.
  • Animorphs:
    • Though usually a very pragmatic series, Animorphs pulls this one out of left field during the David Trilogy. The titular character is a Sixth Ranger the Animorphs have narrowly saved from capture, who in the process has been completely cut off from his family, his home, and everything he's ever known. Normally a pragmatic bunch, the Animorphs suddenly become unyielding sentinels of morality in dealing with him, forcing him to sleep in a cold barn rather than letting him sleep in a hotel room (which he admittedly broke into). Jake even goes so far as to threaten David's life, which is especially jarring when one considers how often the other members of the team have used their powers for selfish ends. With all this dumped on him, it's really no surprise when David snaps and goes Sixth Ranger Traitor on them.
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    • In The Decision, all the Andalites on a ship decide to collectively commit suicide rather than running away when it becomes clear that they can't defeat the Yeerks the way they'd hoped. This was Lampshaded in Cinnamon Bunzuh!:
    Ifi: You can morph too, dude
    Ifi: Did you forget that you can morph?
    Ifi: You can all morph.
    Ifi: You can ALL morph.
    Adam: Isn't escaping the honorable thing to do?
    Ifi: Not as honorable as MASS RITUAL SUICIDE
    • In The Departure, Cassie mode locks herself as a caterpillar to prove a point to Aftran, a Yeerk who seemed close to defecting and freeing her host. No thought about how this would affect her parents, or the other Animorphs, or how the loss of one-sixth of their forces would affect the fate of the world. No, in that moment all she cared about was saving one little girl (and she had no guarantee Aftran would ever do it). She gets better, because otherwise there would be no more Cassie books.
  • Piers Anthony relies on this one a lot. Given that the promises are often given under extreme duress ("Swear it or I kill her" or "Swear it or I will never let you leave"), one might think the promises meant little... oh no. Even if it endangers the free world, or the universe, that promise will not be broken, no matter how much angsting goes on because of it.
    • Lampshaded in later books: male centaur "character" (the refusal to go back on one's word) is "stubbornness" to everyone else, especially to the level-headed and practical female centaurs.
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    • This is actually subverted in his Mode Series. The villain, well aware that the male lead will never go back on his word, agrees to let them go free, if they agree not to interfere with his plans. What he didn't take into account was that the female protagonist and her psychic horse don't play by those rules and the moment they are free, the horse uses his powers to force said villain to relinquish his claim to the multiverse, thus trapping him in his own world. The male lead is upset about this, but ultimately can't do anything about it now.
  • Beowulf but to be fair, he is a badass. As Overly Sarcastic Productions puts it:
    Red (as Beowulf): Well, you know I've been thinking. Grendel's not really a warrior cuz he doesn't use weapons, right? Well, I think it's only fair if, when we fight, I don't use any weapons either.
  • Byrhtnoth Byrhthelming, hero of the Anglo-Saxon poem The Battle of Maldon (fought in 991), has a horrible case of this: the Saxon army is on the mainland, the Viking enemy are on a marshy island with a one-man-wide causeway as the only way off, the Viking leader says that a really honourable opponent would let them cross and fight on open ground... and Byrhtnoth agrees. The Saxons are crushed and he dies.
    • YMMV here, as he may have suspected that if he didn't let them fight on open ground, they'd merely sail off and raid the next town over. He had the largest force in the area, and thus the best chance to stop the raiders, making this more of a Senseless Sacrifice.
  • In The Belgariad, the Arends have this as their hat. Mandorallen takes this to the extreme even for an Arend.
  • Brave New World: John the Savage, oh so very much.
  • Colonel Nicholson in the novel The Bridge on the River Kwai, orders his men not to attempt an escape from the prison camp, because the circumstances under which they were captured mean that it would technically be against the rules for them to escape. He also helps his captors build a better bridge because they ordered him to.
  • The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. Alexander and Dimitri plan to desert during the Finnish War by volunteering to search for their commanding officer's missing son. When they really do find him while crossing the lines, Alexander insists they bring him back, earning Alexander the eternal gratitude of their CO, and the hatred of his friend Dimitri.
  • During A Brother's Price Jerin gives his word of honor that he will be a placid, willing captive if his captors will spare Cira. He promptly turns on them, explaining to Cira that this is dealing with these people on their level — they're already shown themselves to not be trustworthy in the least.
  • In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, the Kencyr peoples display this trait as a whole. Honor overrides reason and common sense, although the cleverer Kencyr are very good at working out ways to keep within the Law while doing whatever they want.
  • Cradle Series:
    • Lindon, a Foundation-stage sacred artist who would have trouble fighting a skilled child, tries to attack the Grand Patriarch of the Li clan, who has been carving through Jade-stage sacred artists like grass. Lindon knows the attempt will kill him, but prays it will weaken the Grand Patriarch long enough for the Jades to take advantage. It has about as much effect as splashing a bucket of water at a mountain, and Lindon is slapped away. When Suriel arrives to fix everything, she praises his courage and lets him keep his memories so that he might be able to save his home from a coming disaster in a few decades.
    • The Jai clan patriarch insists on sticking with the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, sending first Lowgolds against an enemy, then Highgolds, then Truegolds, and only if all of them are defeated will he finally fight himself. It would be an insult for him to fight directly before all his subordinates have been killed. Except in this case, their enemy is Jai Long, one of their own, and he has a spear that lets him consume Jai family madra to get stronger. By the time the stronger Golds face him, he is more than strong enough to defeat them.
  • In David Wingrove's Chung Kuo, members of the House (the parliament) have the son of the T'ang of Europe killed. Knowing where this could lead, the T'ang decides to let matters be. The leader of his army, Marshal Tolonen, does not obey orders. Instead he marches into the House in session and slits the throat of one of the plotters. This sets the stage for everything else.
  • In the Critical IF gamebook Once Upon A Time In Arabia, an impoverished Bedouin tribe offers the player character their last scrap of food because of Sacred Hospitality — a gift which will mean they go hungry. If the player refuses, they will fly into a rage and pelt you with rocks.
    Tribe Chief: We offer you our only food, and you repay us by taking our pride instead! Begone! Perish in the wilderness, you ungrateful dogs!
  • Eremon in Jules Watson's Dalriada Trilogy. He refuses to turn on the Scots tribe he's only recently met in order to join the Romans, even though it would be in his best interest to do so. Since there's no apparent reason why he'd be so loyal to the rather ungrateful tribe, this comes across more as a plot device than anything else.
  • In Dangerous Spirits, Konstantine falls just short of considering any criticism against the Tsar to be nothing less than outright treason, and breaks several friendships by reporting them to his superiors when his compatriots comment that the Tsar, while a great man, does not have a God-given right to rule.
  • In one of the stories in The Decameron, a woman's son is dying, and she has some kind of rare meat that would save him, but instead she serves it to a guest. It doesn't seem like one of the satirical stories.
  • Discussed and ultimately defied in The Dinosaur Lords. When the Gardeners learn that Karyl's plan to defend them is to lay traps and fight underhandedly, they are appalled, calling this cowardly and trying to force him to take the honorable route of facing the enemy dinosaur-knights in the open field. Noting that the enemy outnumbers them in knights roughly few dozen to one, Karyl lambasts the Gardeners for the idea and ultimately, reason prevails.
  • Carrot Ironfoundersson, the six foot dwarf (adopted) of the Discworld series is this to a "T". The weird part, though, is that, for Carrot, it works.
    • Theory of Narrative Causality is a fact of life in Discworld, so of course it's going to work.
      • But the weird thing is, if anyone else tried it, they'd get creamed. It only works for Carrot because he's, well, Carrot.
      • More specifically, because he's a prince in disguise. Presumably if he acknowledges his heritage and takes the throne, he would start running headlong into all the challenges of a corrupt, decadent city like Ankh-Morpork and be frustrated in everything he tries to do. The Theory of Narrative Causality will support him constantly as long as he's an underdog but rightful leader, and not a minute longer.
      • This is an example of The Code, a set of rules followed by heroes that says when a hero who follows the code is hopelessly outnumbered he will win. Also when the silver horde (seven old men) win a battle against five armies and when six men (some of them from the silver horde) who had just broken into the city of the gods back down from Carrot on the grounds that he's a king in disguise and there's one of him and six of them. Cohen the Barbarian sums this up perfectly "I outnumber you one to two."
      • And it doesn't always work for Carrot — see the curb stomping he took in The Fifth Elephant, as he tried to fight Wolfgang "the proper way".
      "Carrot, what have I told you about the Marquis of Bloody Fantailler?"
    • Another Discworld example from Jingo: 71-Hour Ahmed got his name from averting this trope. In the desert people are obliged to give one another three days of hospitality; the bond between guest and host is sacred, and considered inviolate by even the most seasoned killer. Ahmed was the guest of a man he suspected of poisoning a well, and thereby killing an entire village. After seventy-one hours he had put together the evidence necessary to prove his host's guilt, and Ahmed saw no reason why justice should wait even one hour — and so his host became a head shorter. Ahmed became feared even by the D'regs, who despite being viewed as untrustworthy, bloodthirsty, and deceptive have their own code of honor.
    • In Snuff Vimes has reluctantly acknowledged that whatever his faults, Lord Rust is a man of honour, and it's just a shame he confuses honour with pig-headed stupidity. In a sort of warped mirror of how things work for Carrot, Rust valiantly led charges against an outnumbering enemy, and somehow his bullet-headed conviction that he can't be killed because he's acting honourably acts as armour. Shame about the men following him, though...
    • The Assassin's Guild also works this way. They see themselves as gentlemen and always act that way, doing stuff like always dressing in black, even when black would be highly conspicuous. They do this mostly because if there was a legal Guild of Assassins that didn't subscribe to honorable (and thwartable) methods of doing things, then all anyone could do would be to sit in a room all day pointing a crossbow at the door. This shows up in Night Watch Discworld where the young Vetinari is a much more effective assassin than most because he uses actual stealth techniques, but even he still switches to the traditional garb for the actual kill.
  • The entire novel of Don Quixote de La Mancha is a parody of the Chivalric Romance of Cervantes' time, including their obsession with honor.
  • The Knights of Solamnia in the Dragonlance saga.
    • Est sularis oth mithas.note 
    • The Knighthood as a whole was doing a-okay right up until the Cataclysm. In the aftermath, the public began turning against them, saying that the Cataclysm was either their fault or blaming them for not stopping it. Solamnia was spared much of the destruction that followed, but soon Knights of Solamnia were being murdered by mobs in the streets. Recruitment plummeted and many remaining Knights simply took off their armor and renounced their vows. The larger problem was that the Solamnic Knights were sworn to uphold the Code (seen above) and the Measure, a complicated series of laws that uphold chivalric virtues and knightly behavior. For centuries, most of the Knights' senior leadership posts were vacant because not enough Knights existed to constitute a quorum to vote in new leaders and the Measure made no allowances for a giant meteor wiping out a good chunk of their membership. It wasn't until after the War of the Lance that a revised Measure was drafted that was much more flexible with the formalities. But during the War of the Lance, a large percentage of the Knighthood was slaughtered because they were ordered into a hopeless Curb-Stomp Battle by a half-insane Knight of the Rose, Derek Crownguard. They could not refuse, because the Measure made Lord Derek the commander by rank and seniority, nor could they remove him from command because the Measure did not anticipate a Knight commander losing his shit in the middle of a war.
  • In the Dreamblood Duology, Ehiru's main flaw is his by-the-book adherence to Hananja's Law and refusal to acknowledge the possibility of corruption within the priesthood, making him susceptible to being easily manipulated by those with less scruples about these things.
  • In The Dresden Files, the purpose of the Knights of the Cross is not to kill Denarians, but to save their hosts. They will give their foe every chance to surrender the coin, only killing the host if there is absolutely no other choice. And if the host does surrender the coin, their job is done, no matter how evil and vile the host may be, or how likely they are to seek another coin — their purpose is not to judge, but to give each host a shot at redemption. Oddly enough, it does seem to work out for the best: Sanya, Knight of the Cross and wielder of Esperacchius was a former Denarian host. However, also subverted — Michael and Sanya walk away from a particularly nasty host who had surrendered his coin in order for his life to be spared. However, they didn't insist that Harry do the same, and Harry, being the nice sort of chap he is, proceeds to break every major joint in the host's body with a baseball bat in order to extract important information and stop the host from escaping. And afterwards, the two Knights have a good laugh at the expression on the host's face when he realized he was left alone in a hotel room with a violently angry and vengeful man.
    • On the side, they're especially amused by the fact that Harry gave the man a quarter to use the pay phone to call 911.
      Michael: Phone calls cost more than that now.
      Harry: I know.
      Everyone: (raucous laughter)note 
    • Considering that said Denarian knew that the Knights wouldn't touch him because he surrendered the coin, regardless of the reason; then, before Harry beats the crap out of him, talks about how they tortured Shiro, the third Knight, and threatens Susan, the same woman Harry started a freaking WAR over... Of course, it deserves to be mentioned that the same Denarian host comes back two books later in Dead Beat while working with the main villains, and tortures Harry in an attempt to get Lasciel's coin.
    • And the way Harry pulls off this attack on the Denarian is perfect.
      I turned away from him again and said, very quietly, "People like you always mistake compassion for weakness, Michael and Sanya aren't weak. Fortunately for you, they're good men."
      The Denarian laughed at me.
      "Unfortunately for you, I'm not."
      I spun around, swinging the bat as hard as I could, and broke his right kneecap.
    • To a lesser degree, Harry himself. Despite Harry's repeated insistence he isn't a good person, he displays an alarming tendency to screw himself over to save others. Especially women and children.
  • Fate/strange fake: When Saber gets impaled in several places by False Archer, his Master Ayaka Sajyou tries to help him up and carry him to safety. Saber objects and stands up under his own power despite his injuries, saying it is not right for a knight to receive help from the person they are protecting.
  • In Greenmantle, British intelligence agent Richard Hannay goes undercover in wartime Germany, and gets a job as foreman on a barge transporting munitions. When he's approached to become part of a scheme to fiddle the expenses of the munitions, he immediately acts to foil the scheme, and only afterward reflects that he's just helped make the enemy's war machine that much more efficient. He consoles himself with the thought that at least he's staying in character.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry refuses to accept or ask for help from his friends to make it through the Triward Tournament... until he's running out of time and hasn't come up with anything himself. Voldermort having made attempts at his life during his first two years at school, having a vivid dream of Voldemort and Wormtail plotting his demise, and someone signing his 14-year-old self up for a potentially life-threatening competition meant for wizards of age should've been enough to make him realize that this was serious business and that he could use all the help he could get. Even facing a dragon as the first tournament task and finding out that most of the other participants are cheating don't change his mind.
  • Horton the Elephant from Dr. Seuss is an elephant of unshakable honor; once he gives his word, nothing will make him go back on it regardless of much danger, humiliation or rejection he suffers. Fortunately, his stories always end with him coming out on top because of this sense of honor.
  • In Effi Briest, after Isntetten discovers that Effi had an affair 7 years prior, he decides that he must demand satisfaction and reclaim his honor, even though he openly acknowledges that it's a senseless act that will destroy his family over an event that he's not even "that" upset about.
  • In Wen Spencer's Endless Blue, Paige says that they can't provoke a fight with the civ, as they are intelligent if primitive. Jones says that's inconvenient, and Paige says it's not supposed to be convenient.
  • Garren's father in the Farsala Trilogy, who made a bet that his son could conquer Farsala with only ten thousand troops. Unfortunately, his son has no such scruples.
  • Defied in The Fifth Season, where the setting periodically turns into a Death World that strips away all illusions of honor. Leaders are expected to make brutal decisions to serve The Needs of the Many, while everyone knows that they'll do whatever they have to to survive.
    "Honor in safety, survival under threat. Better a living coward than a dead hero."
  • In Gelsomino in the Land of Liars by Gianni Rodari, the main character embodies it. For example: has an extremely loud voice, and when he shouts during a football match, it makes the ball fly across the field and the team he supports scores a goal. But Gelsomino is very ashamed of cheating, so he shouts again and now makes the opposing team score to make it even.
  • Ashinji of Griffin's Daughter. He basically swallows the heaps of abuse and petty slights his Jerkass older brother drops on him solely because Sadaiyo is the heir to the throne and Ashinji "owes" him fealty. Even his parents (who are aware of Sadaiyo's... predilections) marvel that he hasn't at least beaten the crap out of him once.
  • Halo: The Cole Protocol is particularly notable for its many examples of the Elites' oft-suicidal obsession with honor, and how foreign their code can be to human concepts:
    • After Thel 'Vadamee is appointed as kaidon of Vadam, he is attacked in his bedchamber by assassins. After killing them, he confronts the elder who sent them. Thel's not really mad about the attempt on his life; he's just mad that the elder didn't do the honorable thing by attacking Thel himself. In fact, Thel is ready to execute the elder's entire clan until said elder finally decides to do the honorable thing and fight; this convinces Thel to simply exile the clan.
    • It's revealed that Elites find it dishonorable to be wounded in battle, as it means you weren't good enough to come out unharmed. The strange part is that they also consider medical attention to be a form of wounding; hence, doctors and medics are regarded as scum.
    • When Thel is forced to Mercy Kill a crippled Jora, it's noted that such an act is generally considered dishonorable, as it implies the recipient is too weak to even kill themselves.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: In one of the Tarma and Kethry stories in Oathblood, Tarma and Kethry (and their Kyree Warrl) get a bad-luck cursed coin. Kethry refuses to do anything to pass it off onto another innocent party. Warrl comments, "Admirable. Stupid but admirable." They eventually get rid of it by arranging to be targeted by bandits. Kethry only refused to pass it to an innocent party.
  • In John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millennia, Oenoe recounts how some Nymphs, insanely, did not love their world of total indolence and ease, even with the help of drugs. Men were offered cryogenic slumber until the age where more martial virtues were needed, and women turned into heralds who sought out those men and brought them to the sleep. Oenoe herself slept in the tombs because she was in love with one such woman, and preferred having her heart break to forgetting her love.
  • Averted in His Dark Materials: It is Will's opinion that honor might make you feel important, but when fighting is a matter of life or death, you have to fight dirty.
    • Especially when you're twelve, and going against grown-ups.
  • Refreshingly averted in Honor Harrington (even though you'd be forgiven for mistaking the trope name for one of its titles): most main characters, while definitely being persons of honor, hold those who enter Lawful Stupid territory due to this in the very low regard. Especially the title character, who once suffered a command officer that tried to use this trope to cover his incompetence.note 
    • Although played completely straight by the Planet of Hats Montana, filled with rugged individualists who all put honor above reason. In fact, their chief law enforcement officer is open about the fact that if he felt strongly enough about resisting the annexation of the Talbot cluster, he would resign and fight it openly like his erstwhile friend rather than continue in his job where he is immensely respected.
    • Honor herself is generally pretty honourable (appropriately enough!) — she just makes sure when she gives her word that she either really means to keep it or phrases it so carefully that she technically didn't break it (as in Honor Among Enemies).
    • It is played straight a few times where it is outright stated that making a heroic sacrifice to uphold the Star Kingdom's honor is a part of the Navy's tradition. Or in other words, getting your ship destroyed rather than be seen retreating is regarded as stupid but getting your ship destroyed attempting to protect civilians or an allied planet is simply following in the tradition of Edward Saganami. Michael Oversteegen sums it up:
      "Well," Oversteegen said with a cold, hungry smile, "defendin' other people's planets against unprovoked attack by murderous scum seems t' have become something of a tradition for my Queen's Navy over the past few decades. Under the circumstances, I'm sure she'll forgive me for followin' that tradition."
    • Eloise Pritchart, Havenite Heroine Antagonist partly responsible for resurrecting an ancient Constitution from the ash heap of history, is no keener on this trope than her worthy opponents:
      Standing up defiantly for her principles would have been noble and gallant... and unforgivably stupid. It had been her responsibility to stay alive to fight for those principles, however clandestinely, and that was precisely what she and Giscard had done.
  • Horatio Hornblower fights with this trope at times, dickering over doing the honorable thing vs. the logical thing and angsting over his decision later. He plays it straight a couple of times as a Plucky Middie, when he tries to refuse being transferred from the Justiniannote  to the Indifatigablenote  out of loyalty to Captain Keene; Keene is touched but scolds him and sends him off anyway. Not long after that, Hornblower refuses to take credit for stopping a privateer he was held prisoner because he "lost" the prize vessel he had been commanding. (It had been holed — not Hornblower's fault — and had a rice cargo, so it basically popped its seams and became unsavable.) He does that even though Pellew has waved off the loss of the ship as quite unimportant.
  • Wanderer, a parasitic alien who co-inhabits the mind and body of a human named Melanie in The Host (2008) is very pro-life. She lies, badly and obviously, in order to protect the life of a guy who repeatedly tried to kill her. In fact, she's so pro-life that when she realizes that being a parasite on intelligent species is wrong, she would rather let herself die than be transplanted into another body and take away their free will. Fortunately for Wanda, her friends (a) disagree with that, and (b) found her a replacement body that was as close to her ethical standards as possible.
  • Jeeves and Wooster: This attitude gets Bertie Wooster into (light comedic) trouble on a regular basis.
  • John Carter of Mars: In The Gods of Mars, a traitor offers John Carter his freedom in return for certain pledges, and even though he will die, and his friends and allies could really use his help, Carter refuses.
    • In The Chessmen of Mars, when a man tries to lay hands on her while she is a prisoner, Tara stabs him, much to the horror of a slave woman.
      Lan-O, wide-eyed, looked with horror upon the corpse. "For this we shall both die," she cried.
      "And who would live a slave in Manator?" asked Tara of Helium.
      "I am not so brave as thou," said the slave girl, "and life is sweet and there is always hope."
      "Life is sweet," agreed Tara of Helium, "but honor is sacred. But do not fear. When they come I shall tell them the truth — that you had no hand in this and no opportunity to prevent it."
    • In A Fighting Man of Mars, Tan Hadron rues this: John Carter refuses to strike first in any war, but his enemies, this time, had a Mad Scientist invention that caused ships to disintegrate and men to fall to their deaths, horribly; it had a short range, and Heliumite guns could have pounded the enemy ships to pieces before being in danger.
  • Journey to Chaos: In A Mage's Power, Siron himself points out that the only thing he has to gain from exposing his father's plan is staining his family's reputation and exposing himself to charges of treason. He explains that he couldn't live with himself otherwise. By the time of Looming Shadow, he's become Kasile's servant as atonement for his role in the plan. This means he gets to hang out with his love interest all day so it turns out to be pretty reasonable too.
  • Doing this is the central theme of de Sade's Justine. It is, however, satire.
  • Michael from the Knight and Rogue Series. He will only lie if absolutely necessary, and lets a murder suspect run free even though doing so will give him one of the most severe punishments the law can deal because he's found evidence she's innocent. In fact, she flat out tells him she can prove her innocence in court, but he's worried because the court he wants to take her to is stacked against her and there's a chance she could be found guilty anyway. Just for added effect, this not actually guilty murderer who chooses not to capture despite the penalty had been torturing/experimenting on him several hours before he made this decision.
  • Knowledge Of Angels: Palinor refuses to pretend he's repented his atheism even when the cost would be death, saying he would lose his integrity.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings — The Two Towers, Aragorn makes a statement fitting this trope when the Brothers-in-Arms have gone into Fangorn in search of Merry and Pippin.
    Gimli: Then what shall we do now? We cannot pursue them through the whole fastness of Fangorn. We have come ill supplied. If we do not find them soon, we shall be of no use to them, except to sit down beside them and show our friendship by starving together.
    Aragorn: If that is indeed all we can do, then we must do that. Let us go on.
    • In The Silmarillion, the Oath of Fëanor is particularly problematic: the eldest sons of Fëanor feel compelled to fulfill their oath, even though this means doing things which are not only counterproductive but which they know to be utterly wrong.
      • That's pretty much the plot of the Quenta Silmarillion: The hubris, stupidity, and irrational stubbornness of the good guys, especially the elves, does at least as much damage as Morgoth himself.
    • Denethor also accuses Faramir of this in The Return of the King, though unfairly. (Denethor feels that the Ring would have been useful to his country in the war, while Faramir believed it was too dangerous to use and therefore did not take the opportunity to get it from Frodo.)
    "Ever your desire is to appear lordly and generous as a king of old, gracious, gentle. That may well befit one of a high race, if he sits in power and peace. But in desperate hours gentleness may be repaid with death."
    • Bilbo in The Hobbit refuses to kill Gollum out of pity when it is clearly the most sensible thing to do, just like Frodo (and eventually Sam) refuse to do in the sequel. These actions led to the eventual saving of Middle-Earth, even when they seemed completely illogical at the time.
  • In The Lost Fleet, after 100 years of brutal fighting, The Alliance fleet has degraded to this, although their concept of honor has also "evolved". Fleet tactics have largely been forgotten, as every ship charges into battle and hopes to win through sheer "fighting spirit". For the same reason, commands of choice are no longer battleships but battlecruisers, which allow them to be on the forefront of any charge. Battleships are reserved for those who lack aggression, with the thought being that thicker armor and stronger shields will help to compensate their faults. Killing civilians en masse is perfectly normal in order to deny the enemy further recruits and ruin the economy. Prisoners of war are executed. Saluting is an archaic concept, except for Marines. When Captain John Geary is recovered from his Human Popsicle state, he is horrified to learn what has become of the Alliance sailors and officers. He tries to reintroduce the concepts of fleet tactics and honorable behavior, while constantly arguing with those ship commanders who want him to lead them to victory without changing anything. It doesn't help that most expect him to be the legendary "Black Jack" Geary whose last recorded order was "close with the enemy" (it was actually his Last Stand in an attempt to let civilian ships escape).
    • Geary starts giving captains interesting interpretations of any orders that don't involve a full offensive in order to ensure that they follow them rather than ignore them in favor of an all-out attack. Good examples are referring to a retreat as repositioning to attack from a different direction or getting damaged ships to stay out of a fight by personally tasking them with defending the fleet auxiliaries.
  • Loyal Enemies:
    • One can question Shelena's decision to take home and try to heal the man who tried to kill her once already. However, she wants to finish their matters properly, and a knife in the back is not a proper way at all.
    • Rest breathes this trope, his idea of honor being probably taken from some knight lore. First, he decides to take revenge on badass werewolf Action Girl Shelena for supposedly "eating" his master, even though he ought to know that she could easily have him as a midnight snack. When later he and Shelena are captured by hired thugs, he decides to act as if Shelena of all people was a Damsel in Distress, and refuses to abandon her even if he might save her by this. She endlessly curses him and calls him out on that, but Rest would not budge despite being scared out of his life.
  • If the Seguleh from the Malazan Book of the Fallen think you might be tough, they will challenge you, no matter where or when. And they'll make it a fair fight, too. All three warriors of the Punitive Army challenge Tool over the course of Memories of Ice, which forces Lady Envy to magically knock out their leader Mok, because they just would not stop fighting even while facing an enemy army.
  • In G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, Syme is certain he will be crushed by Sunday if he doesn't tell the police — but he's promised not to reveal anything he's learned. He knows how crazy it is, but does it anyway.
    It was his last triumph over these lunatics to go down into their dark room and die for something that they could not even understand.
  • General Breckenridge in Miles Taylor And The Golden Cape would rather let his base come down on him than be rescued by Gilded.
  • In the Modesty Blaise novels, Modesty and Willie do have limits to their pragmatism, which is part of why they're the heroes and not villains like the more ruthless criminals they oppose. In The Night of Morningstar, Willie fights two assassins who are both experts in unarmed combat and although he wins by having the edge in out-of-the-box improvisation, he gets badly injured; afterward, the assassins' target asks if there wasn't a less painful way to have taken them out, and Willie admits ruefully that he could have dropped both of them with throwing knives before they even knew he was there, but killing people without warning when they haven't definitely demonstated hostile intent isn't the kind of person he is.
  • Mateo Falcone in Prosper Merimée's novella Mateo Falcone. Mateo kills his only son, a 10-year-old boy, who has broken the Corsican honour code by informing the police of a fugitive criminal who has sought refuge in Falcone's home.
  • In The Monkey Wrench Gang, the titular band of ecoterrorists wage a war against development not because they think they'll win, but because "someone's got to do it".
  • King Joyse in Stephen Donaldson's Mordants Need novels. He refuses to take action while his enemies plot against him for fear that the cost of victory will be too high, using a problem from a draughts game that can't be won without sacrificing pieces as a metaphor for his dilemma. He also refuses to prevent his subjects from taking actions that have tragic results because they're motivated by love of the kingdom and have earned the right to do as they see fit. Subverted in the end though, since his inaction and feigned indecision were all part of a Xanatos Gambit he was playing against the whole world.
  • Much Ado About Grubstake: Arley sometimes wonders if she's guilty of this by fighting Lockwood's efforts to buy up her beloved town without paying the land's full value. Lockwood is offering more money than anyone's dreamed of making in years, and even if there are minerals worth far more than his offer in anyone's claims, they won't be able to extract it themselves without lots of backbreaking labor and more money than they currently have. Additionally, many townspeople want to sell out and start new lives elsewhere, and she wonders if giving them false hope just to keep the community intact is right. It's ultimately rendered moot when Arley finally goes into her father's old mine and learns the explosion that killed him exposed a vein of osblindium and they can use that as seed money to bring in ore mining equipment and keep the rest of the town in good financial shape.
  • Reepicheep the mouse from The Chronicles of Narnia. On one notable occasion, Caspian has to sternly order him not to challenge a dragon to single combat. When the dragon didn't have any allies anyway, and Reep did. The mice he leads are just as bad — when Reepicheep loses his tail, they all decide to cut their own ones off too rather than wear an honour denied to their leader.
  • This trait is ingrained into the training of the Disciples of Penance from Of Fear and Faith. The group of them that the party meet in the Fortress of the Damned refused to abandon their station even long after it became clear that they were fighting a losing battle, and so they became trapped there, which did not end well for them. When they finally escape with the party's help, their leader Giovanna elects to turn herself in to her superiors to be arrested for leaving her post, and all of her soldiers follow her due to a combination of this trope and Undying Loyalty to her.
  • Blake Thorburn in Pact firmly retains his idealism and faith in humanity even when his inherited Karma means that the universe is passively attempting to murder him while his family's enemies attempt to do so actively, believes in not striking first, and does everything he can to uphold the various vows and promises that he swears over the course of the story, in both letter and spirit.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: In The Sea of Monsters, when Percy doesn't kill Polyphemus. Also a case of Genre Blindness.
  • A similar dilemma to the last John Carter example above led directly to the utter destruction of a galactic civilization in the past of the Perry Rhodan universe: Segafrendo. Picture a galaxy very much at peace with itself and ably defended against external threats by scarily competent alien mercenaries who everybody knows can nonetheless be trusted utterly because of their adherence to a strict code of honor. A code of honor that, it turns out, prevents them from initiating any hostilities against others on their own no matter how much they might want to. Cue a massive invasion force from another galaxy showing up and clearly moving into the perfect position over multiple worlds for its own crippling first strike, all the while refusing to formally declare its intentions or fire a single shot until ready...
  • In the writings of Plato, this is a central aspect of Socrates' philosophy: since the soul is more important than the body, nothing can ever justify acting dishonorably, even to save one's own life. Therefore he didn't escape from prison like his friends planned, but obeyed the law, drinking hemlock as the means to carry out his death sentence.
  • The reformers' faction in The Power Broker, including the young Robert Moses, is unwilling to cut deals with politicians and play the game. Belle Moskowitz lifts Moses out of failure and teaches him how to "get things done". Ironically, the spiritual descendants of those idealistic reformers become Moses' enemies as he becomes entrenched and corrupt over the decades.
  • Played straight for cynicism in The Prince Of Thorns: Jorg is an almost-heartless monster who kills and tortures without hesitation or moral qualms. In the sequel The King of Thorns, his foil the Prince of Arrow is an honorable man, who even gives Jorg the chance to surrender and refuses to kill him because he's still a boy. As repayment, Jorg starts multiple avalanches on his army, his newlywed wife blows up the invaders who've gotten through the gate as well as their own defenders, he allies with trolls, and finally Jorg attacks the army with all of his necromantic and fire magics until both are burned out of him and the army is routed. But none of this really matters, because the honorable Prince of Arrow has already been killed by his own less-honorable brother.
  • Rudolph Rassendyll of The Prisoner of Zenda loves Princess Flavia and is loved by her, and she is arranged to be married to her boorish cousin and The Wrongful Heir to the Throne. Rassendyll admits to himself that the best possible outcome would be allowing the villains to dispose of his look-alike relative before stopping them, allowing him to be a good ruler and be with the woman he loves. However, because of his honor, he helps restore the king to the throne and does not get the girl. For her part, because of her own honor, Flavia accepts being married to a man she despises rather than one she loves.
  • Kel from Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small. In particular, she goes into enemy territory with the intent of rescuing 500 refugees. By herself. This is so likely to end with her death that she herself acknowledges it. Admittedly, if she hadn't, then the refugee children, two hundred of them, would have been made into nigh-unstoppable killing devices, but that doesn't really enter into her reasons for why she does it. Fortunately, her True Companions anticipated this and go to fight with her. They are a more understandable version of the trope; they still face exile/execution for betraying orders when they return to Tortall, but at least it won't be for nothing: they have a decent chance of defeating the Big Bad, and evening out the war.
  • In Rachel Griffin, when the heroes find that someone in their circle is betraying them, Nastasia struggles with the idea of feeding out false information to discover the mole — because it would involve lying.
  • In Redeeming Love, Love Martyr Michael Hosea’s attempts to cure bitter, cynical, and manipulative Broken Bird Angel, who is a prostitute — by marrying her and treating her as he would a pure, devoted, and faithful wife — often cross over into this territory, especially in the view of the other characters, who urge him to forget she ever existed.
  • The Reluctant King: When Istrildis' new lover barges into Jorian and his group he angrily challenges him to a duel for her, accusing him of being an honorless coward when he tries to talk his way out. After Jorian beats some sense into him, he acknowledges how foolish he has been and behaves properly.
  • The Calvarians from The Reynard Cycle are extremely prone to this. One of their most common sayings is, "Death before dishonor."
  • This is also the hat of the Tsurani from The Riftwar Cycle, interestingly, both the heroes and villains of the Empire Trilogy, that takes place entirely on the Tsurani homeworld, are people who realise that the Tsurani definition of honor should be put aside in the pursuit of more pragmatic goals. For the bad guys, it's selfish desires, for the good guys it's the good of the Empire in general.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms has Liu Bei, who nominally honors this trope (for political correctness' sake, apparently with Confucianism and thus this trope being en vogue). Subverted in that more than once he operates less than nicely, whereas other times Honor Before Reason's the reason that he's the protagonist.
    • For example, his refusal to simply take over Jing province before Cao Cao's arrival, even when Zhuge Liang specifically calls him on it, is because it would be interrupting the "natural" succession to the eldest son of current governor Liu Biao, and he doesn't want to take any criticism from "the people" for it, even though the dying Liu Biao himself requested that Liu Bei be his inheritor. In an earlier case of this with the late governor Tao Qian of Xu province, the late governor's officers and people begged Liu Bei to accept the succession... and even after Liu Bei gave in, he soon tried to give the office away to Lu Bu.
    • Dynasty Warriors 7 had a variation where Liu Bei similarly refused to usurp his relative and host Liu Zhang of Yi province — even though controlling Yi province was the key step in his advisor Zhuge Liang's "Tripartite Realm" strategy — leading to his other advisor Pang Tong, and his generals Huang Zhong and Wei Yan, "mutinying" against Liu Zhang on behalf of Liu Bei and "the people", leaving Liu Bei upset until he saw that "the people" seemed to be perfectly fine with this.
  • Safehold:
    • The protagonists are frequently shown acting in a manner that, while good and honorable, would not be the smart thing to do when considering things objectively. It isn't entirely without reason, since part of their propaganda war with the Church of God Awaiting involves keeping the moral high ground as much as possible and acting with honor helps with that. Nor are they blind to the cold-blooded calculations needed to be efficient heads of state. It's simply that when faced with a decision to do the honorable thing or the rational thing, the protagonists will regularly go for honorable and will even lampshade those rare occasions when the two are one in the same.
    • Throughout the series, the protagonists have pondered whether or not to use their access to space-faring level technology, when the rest of the planet is in the age of Wooden Ships and Iron Men, to assassinate enemy leaders. In the specific case of the Kingdom of Dohlar's Earl of Thirsk, the most capable commander the Church has, the reasons given for and against getting rid of him, or planting evidence to get the distrusting Inquisition to get rid of him, fall secondary to the protagonists' feeling that, despite which side he's on, he's also the most honorable commander the enemy has and deserves better than that.
    • The ninth book features the Earl of Thirsk learning his family, which he recently thought killed in a tragic accident, is alive and in Charisian hands. While this is a relief, since the alternative was their being in the Inquisition's custody for "protection", Thirsk fully expects Charis to hold the situation over his head. To his surprise, the one who revealed this to him explains that Charis has no intention of doing any such thing. Thirsk is taken aback by this, since he knows Cayleb and Sharleyan are pragmatic enough not to miss the opportunity the situation presents to have the enemy navy's top commander in their grasp. He sarcastically asks if they're acting out of the goodness of their hearts and is told that, in fact, yes, it is partly out of that. Their other main reason for giving him this knowledge is to free him from the threat of coercion from either side, giving him to freedom to act as he sees fit.
    • Over the course of the series, the Earl of Thirsk has becomes increasingly disillusioned with the Church's holy war against Charis, but can not Opt Out or even contemplate switching sides because he takes his oaths of loyalty to his king and Mother Church seriously and feels obligated to adhere to them.
    • Merlin has a case of Chronic Hero Syndrome such that he'll leap into danger to protect an innocent or someone he cares about, even when doing so requires exposing his more than human abilities, which could potentially undermine everything the protagonists are working towards if people regard those abilities as demonic. Examples include jumping into the ocean from the top of a building to save random children from a sea monster attack and Faking the Dead for a family in one of the Inquistion's concentration camps, which reveals Safehold's Dark Secret to them in the process, because of the daughter's determination to get help for her father and brother. He's aware of this trait, but acknowledges that he can not bring himself to act any other way. Fortunately for Merlin this trait only tends to cement his friends' belief and loyalty toward him since it confirms he's anything but demonic.
    • When the Inquisition provokes civil war in the Republic of Siddarmark, the Empire of Charis works to get relief efforts to the Republic as soon as possible. The narration notes they do this, perhaps, more quickly than they should, given that their fast response could hint at their ability to see what's going on nearly anywhere in the world. It's also noted Charis sent these relief efforts with no strings attached, when they could easily have used it as a bargaining chip. The act still earns the Charisians a great deal of Siddarmarkian goodwill, but this is regarded by the Charisian leadership as a bonus, rather than the end goal.
    • When Duchairn and Maigwair ask for their help with a revolt against Clyntahn, Merlin points out that while this is good for Charis as a country, it actually hurts the long-term goals of the Inner Circle since it leaves the Temple with an intact (if reduced) power base and a leader who enjoys actual popular support which hurts their long-term goal of breaking the Medieval Stasis. In the end they decide to help them anyway since they can't justify the huge number of people who will die if Clyntahn forces the Temple armies to fight to the bitter end.
  • In Sense and Sensibility, Edward Ferrars refuses to break his engagement to Lucy Steele, even though he no longer loves her and in fact loves Elinor instead. For a woman to have an engagement broken on her was Serious Business in Georgian times, however, the engagement had been a carefully-kept secret so there wouldn't be any public backlash. Nevertheless, he gave his word.
  • Sharpe's Honour, shockingly enough, features this as a major element. It starts with Sharpe fighting a duel over the honour of a woman he knows to be a traitor. Half-way through he's offered the chance to escape captivity, foil his nemesis and save the war for Britain, but refuses because doing so would involve breaking his parole (which he has not, at that point, given).
  • In Sir Apropos of Nothing, the titular Anti-Hero has no use for honor, and often uses other people's honor against them in strange and awesome ways. Well, sometimes. Okay, when he's backed into a corner.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Eddard "Ned" Stark from A Game of Thrones is such a classic example, this trope could easily be called 'The Ned Stark Mindset', hence the comic on the main page. The series being highly cynical in outlook, this is a tragic flaw which leads directly to his own death, his daughter's captivity, and his son's armed rebellion. However, the series plays with the trope quite a lot:
      • Ned is willing to sacrifice his own honor to do the right thing. He sacrifices his honor to protect his loved ones at least twice: first, if R+L=J turns out to be true in the books as it is in the television adaptation, Ned creates the story of his nephew Jon being his illegitimate son to protect Jon, saving Jon from the fatal wrath of current ruling regime by hiding the truth that Jon is the son of his late sister Lyanna Stark by the deceased Rhaegar Targaryen. Second, Ned willingly confesses to crimes he didn't commit in an attempt to protect his daughter Sansa. Also, when a dying Robert names Joffrey as his heir, Ned — aware of Joffrey's true parentage and unable to hurt his dying friend with the truth — writes '(Robert's) heir' instead of sticking to Robert's dictation of naming Joffrey. And, while Ned puts honor before expedience in giving Cersei Lannister a chance to flee before going public with the news of her children's real parentage, others believe that the truly honorable thing would be for Ned to inform his friend of Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen's true parentage. However, between Ned's PTSD over the brutal murder of Rhaegar's young children and, if R+L=J is true, Ned protecting his own nephew from Robert, there's no way Ned wouldn't give Cersei the chance to protect her own kids.
        Joffrey is not your son, he wanted to say, but the words would not come. The agony was written too plainly across Robert's face; he could not hurt him more. So Ned bent his head and wrote, but where the king had said "my son Joffrey," he scrawled "my heir" instead. The deceit made him feel soiled. The lies we tell for love, he thought. May the gods forgive me.
      • In fact, although Ned values honor above anything else, it does not need to be apparent to others. In lying about Jon's parentage, he sacrifices his perceived honor to do the right thing in protecting Jon. And in lying about his crimes, he again sacrifices his own honor to protect Sansa. In order to do the honorable thing, Ned doesn't hesitate to look like he's dishonorable.
    • Eddard's son Robb Stark, unfortunately, inherits this trait. Despite his pledge to marry a Frey lady to seal his alliance with the Freys, Robb marries another woman to protect her honor after sleeping with her out of grief over the deaths of his two younger brothersnote  shortly after Frey men died fighting for him. This eventually leads to the Freys betraying Robb, resulting in not only his own death, but that of his mother and thousands of his men. While there is speculation that the Freys would have betrayed Robb regardless of his marriage to Jeyne since it's established Lord Walder Frey is untrustworthy and it is hinted the Freys are trying to get out of their alliance with Robb even before they hear the news of his marriage, Robb's Honor Before Reason inadvertently served as the Freys' motive for the unforeseeable slaughter at the Red Wedding.
    • Ned's illegitimate son Jon Snow shows this trait as well, having been raised by Ned alongside Robb. At one point, he refuses to kill an old, innocent man in cold blood, even though his refusal would forfeit his own life since the group of wildlings he's with (as a Fake Defector for the Watch) would kill him as a result, preventing him from warning the Night's Watch about the massive surprise attack from these wildlings headed their way. However, like with Ned, while Jon adheres to honor as much as possible, he also realizes he must sometimes sacrifice his own honor to do the right thing — no matter how much it weighs on him. As Qhorin Halfhand tells Jon, "Our honor means no more than our lives, so long as the realm is safe."
      His father would never have approved. I am the sword that guards the realm of men, Jon reminded himself, and in the end, that must be worth more than one man's honor.
    • Ned's brother Benjen is probably the closest example of a Stark retaining their honour and not dying a horrible death or risking their life by doing so — but even in his case, he disappears in the first half of the first novel, has been missing for three years, might be dead anyway, and had little part to play in the the entire series except for being a Cool Uncle and one of the reasons why his nephew Jon aspired to join the Watch.
    • The Karstarks (distant relations of the Starks) have honor, and are prickly about maintaining the letter of it. To the point of taking umbrage when Robb has to execute one of their members for, frankly, being a grief-stricken, convention-breaking idiot which causes most to turn coat instead of acknowledging the whole "stewardship of the North" thing the Starks have going on may occasionally lead to conflicts of honor like this. The insanity snowballs towards a major in-family fight over who will inherit their own titles, let alone anything else, at a point in time when the bigger seasonal picture is not that healthy for anybody not being able to pull together as a whole. Well done, Karstarks: you can shoot yourselves in the feet about as well as Starks can.
    • Subverted in the case of House Arryn. Honor is a trait of House Arryn and it's heavily implied that the only reason the Starks value honor so much is because Ned was fostered with Jon Arryn. By the beginning of the series, the only Arryns prominent in the story are crazy Lysa and her sickly six year old son. There are other Arryn branches, but they aren't a primary feature in the story.
    • The Kingsguard are sworn to protect the king, no matter how bad he may be. Jaime Lannister broke this rule, having to kill King Aerys, an Ax-Crazy murderous rapist who was actively trying to kill everyone in the city of King's Landing because the voices in his head told him to. As a result, Jaime is denounced as "Kingslayer". However, this is partly because people thought Jaime was just being an Opportunistic Bastard. Since Jaime was the only one who knew about Aerys' plan to destroy King's Landing, and refused to explain himself afterwards, he ended up looking like he was happy enough to indulge in Aerys' psychotic cruelty until it was clear that the king was going to be overthrown. That said, as Jaime himself notes, it remains that nobody was particularly interested in hearing whether he had an explanation - the fact that he had broken his vow to protect the king, even one as terrible as Aerys, was enough to condemn him.
    • Much like Jaime, former Kingsguard Ser Barristan Selmy is shown to struggle with his guilt at putting Honour Before Reason and standing by throughout Aerys' reign.
    • The Night's Watch must defend the realm from anything beyond the wall and stay out of any political entanglements. Jon Snow tries to mobilise the Watch to rein in the warring kingdoms before the Others return, and gets stabbed for it. That said, Poor Communication Kills is also at work here, because as far as his Watchmen can tell, he's not only picking sides but backing long-shot underdog Stannis, whose expected defeat would leave the Watch open to retribution.
    • Stannis Baratheon. He doesn't even want to be king, but he's going to fight for it because to his way of thinking, he's the rightful king whether he likes it or not. For the same reason, he refuses to ally himself with competing kings Renly or Robb Stark even though he badly needs allies against the Lannisters. Learning to compromise and put aside his personal grievances for the good of the realm is his main character arc, but his stubborn commitment to honour remains constant.
    • Invoked by Lord Rodrik when counseling Asha not to go to the kingsmoot since she will not win: "Your father had more courage than sense".
    • Of course, it is worth pointing out that it works the other way. Characters who are seen as too ruthless or dishonourable become pariahs, even if their actions are well-meaning (for example, Ned Stark garnered a reputation as a merciless Hanging Judge for his commitment to the word of honour), leading to others refusing to trust them, ally with them or utilise their valuable skills, which causes issues all over the place. Guest Right is the one near-universally valued tradition in Westeros, and the Frey's violation of it during the Red Wedding to massacre the Starks and end The War of the Five Kings in one swoop leads to severe political consequences for the perpetrators and chaos throughout the continent.
    • Late-game POV character Jon Connington comes to the conclusion that he put Honour Before Reason in giving Robert Baratheon time to escape in the Battle of the Bells instead of burning the whole town down, and resolves to be more ruthless in future. The reader is left to draw their own conclusion as to whether he is right.
    • Brienne of Tarth aspires to a knightly honour code, and is keenly aware of this trope when she sees that defending a group of war orphans will mean taking on six armed bandits by herself. She tries it anyway, to the internal monologue of No chance, and no choice.
    • Prince Rhaegar Targaryen decided to fight like a proper knight and met Robert Baratheon for a 1-on-1 Duel to the Death during the rebellion. His knightly honor got him killed, as no amount of chivalric action and skill with a sword were going to stop a very large man with a very large hammer and a severe hateboner for the man in front of him.
  • The Sorcerer's Daughter:
    • After Franz Ludwig poisons Siegfried, the latter has a chance to attack him but doesn’t take it: even in despair, he can’t strike anyone in the back.
    • Rothbart could have killed Gottwald easily, taking him by surprise, but he offers him a chance to fight honorably and save his soul.
  • Spiral Arm: In The January Dancer, the two owners of the only ammunition factory burn it down to keep the civil war a fight with blades. Then they shake hands and depart for opposite sides of the war. The one who joins the coup is regarded as odd by his own side, who do not understand his principles.
  • The Arkenites in the Star Trek Novel Verse take their debts very seriously. In the Star Trek: Vanguard series, Klingons save an Arkenite outpost from a disaster in exchange for the outpost swearing allegiance to the Klingon Empire; the residents then refuse to back out. Even though they don't want to leave the Federation or help the Klingons, they all willingly keep to the promise even when Starfleet shows up trying to "liberate" them. To choose gratification over duty and refuse to repay their debt would, their leader explains, be unthinkable.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: In Lost Stars, the valley kindred of Jelucan, the older of the planet's two cultures, were exiled to the planet five hundred years before the Clone Wars because they refused to forsake the vows of loyalty they took after losing a civil war. Honour is very important to their culture, and violating an oath is considered unthinkable, even if it may be morally wrong not to do so. This leaves protagonist Ciena Ree miserable after she realizes that the Empire, which she chose to serve, is evil, because her code of honour prevents her from ever deserting.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In Shadows of the Empire, mercenaries burst in on Luke Skywalker and some Bothan spies. One of the spies is shot but not with an Instant Death Blaster Bolt, and Luke refuses to leave him — and the Bothan dies, and Luke is captured, while those Bothans who just ran get away.
    • Allegiance has Leia in an Imperial city and lying low, because they know she's there and are hunting her. While in hiding she sees burglars breaking into a house that has a child in it; she knows they probably won't just let the kid be, so she fires her blaster, even knowing that patrollers might hear and investigate. She knows it will get people's attention. That's why she does it, even though she might be discovered because of it.
    • The novelization of Revenge of the Sith gives this as the reason why Obi-Wan doesn't Mercy Kill the dismembered and burning Anakin (along with the fact that he can sense Sidious' approach and may not have time to escape):
      In the end, there was only one choice. [...] In the end, he was still Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he was still a Jedi, and he would not murder a helpless man.
      He would leave it to the will of the Force.
  • In Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive:
    • All of the Knights Radiant are supposed to be this way. While still dangerous, the "before reason" part is somewhat avoided by the fact that, on a world created by the Shard Honor, acting like this gives you superpowers (specifically it attracts a spren, a sort of abstract Elemental Embodiment of whatever particular principle you're holding to, who bonds with you and grants you power so long as you don't betray that principle), meaning it stands a decent chance of getting you out of the trouble it got you into.
    • Taken Up to Eleven with Szeth. When his religion exiles and enslaves him as Truthless, he is absolutely bound to obey any order from whoever holds his Oathstone, however heinous, which results in him murdering his way across the continent as The Dreaded Assassin in White when Taravangian gets the Oathstone. This is not a Magically Binding Contract; the Oathstone is just a rock, but Szeth is so duty-bound that he commits all those crimes, hating himself all the while, rather than just walk away from it.
    • The Sons of Honor think they can take advantage of the Radiant sense of honor, and they screen their recruits for potential Radiant spies by making them swear oaths against the Radiant leaders. Unfortunately for them, they don't realize that the only Radiant vows that they are required to adhere to are the Ideals, and that Lightweavers are masters of lying.
  • Temeraire:
    • In Empire of Ivory, Laurence cannot abide High Command's act of sending a Typhoid Mary among the French aerial corps — an act which probably would win the war for England, but would just as likely also result in genocide among Europe's (and possibly Asia's) dragons. So, in an act he knows will see him hung, he steals some of the curative mushrooms they'd gathered from Africa, and goes AWOL to deliver them to the French. In a further act of Honor Before Reason, he turns down Napoleon's offer of asylum or safe passage to China, preferring to return to England and face the music. Temeraire, getting in on the act, refuses to let him return alone. Laurence urges him to return to China, because he knew Temeraire was destined to be used as nothing but breeding stock if he went back. He doesn't. And the book ends with them flying back together.
    • Admiral Roland lampshades this in the fifth book by pointing out how this verges on Lawful Stupid: he could have sent a discreet letter to Napoleon anyone in France telling them where to get the curative mushrooms; someone as ingenious as Napoleon could easily have bribed a servant for a sample. This would have prevented High Command's act of genocide without anyone knowing it was him.
    • Which only comes after he stops another (Prussian) character from shooting Napoleon from cover, but this may be not thanks to honor but his reasoning that Lien would have mauled them if they'd killed Napoleon not, which would have stopped them from revealing the French's plans they had just overheard.
    • Temeraire justifiably hates this aspect of his captain's personality, particularly when it gets him shot in League of Dragons:
    Temeraire: Honor was a word which seemed associated with every worst disaster of his life: a hollowness for which Laurence had before now been willing to die in the most unnecessary fashion, and this one more unnecessary than ever.
  • In Wen Spencer's Tinker, Windwolf threatens to castrate the man who offered Tinker a Scarpia Ultimatum to treat Windwolf. It would have stained his honor, even though it might cost him his life.
  • Trapped on Draconica:
    • Daniar takes her Thou Shall Not Kill thing very seriously. Enemy soldiers were overrunning her kingdom's capital but she refused to do more than disarm them because they were conscripts. This doesn't work well for her.
    • Kazem too. Lots of 'die on your feet then live on your knees' sort of lines from him. Whether he believes this himself or is just using it as propaganda is up for debate.
  • In The Trumpeter of Krackow, a legend is told of a trumpeter who is sworn to blow a trumpet from a church tower every hour, doing so even while the Mongols are ravaging his city, thus revealing his presence. As might be expected, he ends up shot with an arrow for it.
  • In the first pages of Tyrannnosaur Canyon Tom Broadbent promises a dying man that he will convey a notebook and message to the dead man's daughter. He takes this promise personally, not allowing the police to get involved when they might have been able to help and directly imperiling his friends and family.
  • Treasure Island:
    • Jim keeps his promise not to escape with the doctor even though his life is in danger if he stays, at the point where even the doctor himself is ready to break his word because he can't bear the thought of young Jim being tortured to death. This is the turning point in Jim's Coming-of-Age Story.
    • The Pirates are able to shell the Loyalist base by aiming at the flag flying above the trees. The defenders are aware of this, but striking their colors is unthinkable.
    • Dr. Livesey is determined to heal the ill, even if they are ruthless pirates.
    • In a lesser (but rather more baffling) case, Jim's mother, who rifles through the recently deceased Captain's sea chest but refuses to take any more money than what the Captain owed them for room and board. Which resulted in her doing arithmetic over the sea chest even when she knows that Pew's gang is coming at any minute to take the chest and slit everyone's throats.
  • Quite a few stories in the grim darkness of the future that is Warhammer 40,000 have this as a theme.
    • In Graham McNeill's Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, Uriel and Pasanius pursue their death oath until the bitter end although no one would know if they failed, and Leonid joins them, although the renegade Marines who join them for a time decide that it wasn't worth it.
    • Another example: Soul Drinker Sarpedon's refusal to back down and let the Adeptus Mechanicus get away with stealing the Soulspear (which was the most sacred relic of their Chapter, and they had only just managed to locate it) led directly to their being declared Excommunicate Traitoris and finding themselves chased around the galaxy pursued by both Chaos and the Imperium, perpetually depleted and subject to shoot-on-sight orders. They get better though.
    • In James Swallow's novel Deus Encarmine, Stele indulges in Flaw Exploitation with this; because the Blood Angels believe they owe him, he sets into play a Batman Gambit to win them to Chaos. Unfortunately, he trusts it a little too far. When he hears a message had been sent bearing the id of a dead sergeant, he is flabbergasted: the Blood Angels regard tampering with the equipment of the dead as sacrilegious. He does not consider that it is forbidden except under the most dire circumstances and so does not investigate who could have gotten to the dead man's gear. Indeed, when the responsible Blood Angel confesses, those he confesses to regard it as very serious — but not so serious that even investigating it should take precedence over the news he had sent.
    • In Fall of Damnos, the entire plan to defeat the Keystone Army relies on taking down said Keystone, which happens to be Necron Royarch (king). The leader of the defending force, Cato Sicarius, decides to duel him and forbids anyone else from helping out, as it would be "improper". Had he let go of his honor this one time, perhaps the title of the novel wouldn't be so spoilerrific...
    • In Dan Abnett's novel Straight Silver, this is lampshaded by the Imperial Guard forces (and some of the more intelligent local commanders) that the armies of the Aexe Alliance (who are pro-Imperial) and the Shadik Republic (who are consumed by Chaos) are stuck in a fifty-years-long war simply because neither side is willing to adapt and change to new technologies and warfare methods, and are fighting their wars like an army out of antiquity (in this case, World War One).
  • Galad Damodred, from Robert Jordan's 12-book trilogy Door Stopper bookshelf-destroyer fantasy series The Wheel of Time, always does what is right, no matter the cost to himself or others. His half-sister considers him loathsome for this reason. He also joins the series' version of the Knights Templar, which created similar opinions in readers. This actually works in his favor in Knife of Dreams when he challenges an opponent knowing that his opponent was the better swordsman only to win because his opponent was dragging out the fight to make Galad suffer. The result is that the Knights Templar now follow him.
    • This seems like something of an informed ability (or maybe "informed personality trait"?). Throughout the books, Galad is usually willing to help most of the other characters that cross his path, or at least doesn't look to deep into things when they blatantly lie to him. He's avoided the soul-scarring spiritual and mental anguish pretty much every single other person has to deal with, and has managed to purge most of the evil elements from his fanatically-loyal army, while getting them to drop their centuries-long "Magic is Evil" crusade in favor of fighting the true Big Bad. For a series that is all about tragic flaws, Galad seems to make his work.
    • Also, there's the Ogier, who'll never go back on their word, a fact exploited by Faile in The Shadow Rising in order to force Perrin to take her with him to the Two Rivers.
  • The White Company: Sir Nigel has tendencies in this direction, to the exasperation of the people around him in general and his wife in particular. His wife, squire and second-in-command can usually keep him from getting into too much trouble, but sometime have to go behind his back to do so.
  • With Fire And Sword (Polish: Ogniem i mieczem), is an 1884 historical novel by the Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz set during the 17th century Khmelnytsky Uprising which ended Polish rule in what is now the Ukraine. In one of the early scenes, the Ukrainian rebels capture a town where there is a force of German mercenaries. The Ukrainians suggest that the mercenaries change sides and offer them a better contract than they had from their Polish employers. "You are mercenaries, this is not your war, what do you mind on whose side you fight?" But the mercenaries' commander answers "In three months' time our contract to the King of Poland ends. Then, we will be happy to sign a new contract with you". The Ukrainian says: "You don't have three months, we have to move on and can't afford to have at our back a force loyal to the King of Poland. If you don't change sides now, we will be forced to fight you. You are surrounded and greatly outnumbered!". To which the German answers: "It is our honor to be loyal to our contract and our employer, whatever the cost. If we lose our honor, we have nothing left". Thereupon, the mercenaries fight to the death against impossible odds rather than betray their contract, dying to the last and extracting a heavy price from the Ukrainians . (It is noteworthy that Sienkiewicz was an outspoken proponent of Romanticism, and the characters in his books — minor and major, heroes and villains alike — often tend to act in a high-minded chivalrous manner.)
  • A Woman's Work: The story starts as a Hero tries to challenge Prince Danyel, son of the evil Queen Arrabel, to a winner-takes all duel which can settle their conflict. Arrabel promptly has him killed by a Rain of Arrows since he stands right out in the open seemingly not expecting her action because he acts so honorable.
  • In Worm, the trope is discussed in Snare 13.10 when Grue i.e. Brian is talking to Taylor i.e. Skitter:
    Brian: I worry about you. You throw yourself into these situations like you don't care if you die, like you've got nothing to stick around for except for those people you insist on protecting. Dinah, the people from your territory. People you barely know, if at all. And then you actually make it out okay, so you do it again, only more so. Riskier stuff. I start thinking about how I'm supposed to protect you, get you to stop, get you to focus on a goal that's actually attainable, because you're so capable that you could be amazing if you stopped acting suicidal.
  • While The Zombie Survival Guide advises you to travel through urban areas as quickly as possible and not stop except under dire circumstances, an exception can be made if you want to assist other survivors. "Sometimes, logic must give way to humanity." (The rest of the book averts this pretty hard, though, and encourages the reader to be as pragmatic as possible for the sake of their own survival.