Follow TV Tropes


Karma Houdini / Folklore

Go To

Fairy Tales

  • "Reynard the Fox": Reynard is a liar, thief, traitor, murderer, rapist and adulterous sleazeball who is never punished for his deeds and even manages to escape in the end.
  • "Cinderella": Depending on the version, the Cinderella's evil stepmother and her daughters often get no punishment at all for years of being abusive to her stepdaughter and treating her like a slave. In some versions the stepsisters either redeem themselves or are blinded by Cinderella's birds and in the Grimm version, one of them amputates her own toe and the other her heel in an attempt to fit the slipper (mutilating themselves for nothing). Although, in the last case, their mother advised them to do this, so only enforces her Karma Houdini status.
  • Advertisement:
  • "The Nix in the Mill-Pond": Losing her prize is the only bad thing that happens to the Nix after tricking an impoverished man, kidnapping his son and flooding the countryside in retaliation for his wife rescuing him.
  • In "The Lazy Spinner" a husband only wants his wife to spin reels he needs. She being the lazy spinner of the title goes out of her way to trick him three times that if he cuts wood for a reel he will die. Then when she tricks him again by telling him he must watch over some boiling yarn or it will turn into tow, when in reality she just put tow in the pot. He agrees to shut up afterwards on her lack of spinning leaving the lazy wife to have won the story entirely.
  • The Jerkass king in "Rumpelstiltskin" who threatens to behead the miller's daughter unless she spins straw into gold. He gets the gold and the girl. Not to mention the miller himself, who boasted that his daughter could do it in the first place, simply because he wanted to sound important.
  • Advertisement:
  • Many fairies who put curses on princesses/princes go unpunished. The evil fairy in "Sleeping Beauty" goes unpunished in Perrault's version and in the Brothers Grimm's version (in contrast to Disney's version). The witches whose curses caused the events of "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Frog Prince" don't even appear in the story.
  • "Prince Lindworm": The Lindworm never faces any consequence for killing and eating two princesses.
  • In "The Nine Peahens And The Golden Apples", the older princes go completely unpunished after trying to destroy their brother's relationship with his lover out of jealousy and spite.
  • There's the story about the knight who has to find out what women most desire. He has a year and a day to find out, or he will be executed, and eventually promises to do the next thing an old crone asks of him in return for the secret (they want power in their relationships). She demands he marry him, and it turns out that she can make herself young and beautiful again. He lets her choose whether she will be beautiful in the day or night (or, depending on the version, beautiful and unfaithful, or old and true), and in return gets a beautiful wife all the time. Why did he have to find out what women most desire? He raped a girl, and in return gets a beautiful wife for it. There was absolutely no other punishment besides "find out what we want most and you can live."
  • Madame d'Aulnoy:
    • The Yellow Dwarf and the Fairy of the Desert in Madame d'Aulnoy's Fairy Tale The Yellow Dwarf get no comeuppance after they have led Princess Toutebelle and the King of the Gold Mines to their deaths.
    • Several other fairy antagonists in Madame d'Aulnoy's stories get away with either placing curses on princesses/princes or holding them captive. The Fairy of the Spring in The Hind of the Wood goes unpunished for cursing Desiree to not see sunlight, and Ragotte in The Ram triumphs once the prince she turned into a ram dies.
  • In "The Elf Maiden" the fisherman who got the main character stranded on a deserted island out of jealousy is never punished, and actually disappears from the tale after the hero is marooned.
  • "Rapunzel": The witch/evil fairy who imprisoned the titular character last appears throwing the prince into the thorns, blinding him, before falling victim to What Happened to the Mouse?. Averted in some versions which have her dislodge the hair she uses to get in and out of the tower and trap herself there.
  • In the oldest version of "Little Red Riding Hood", the story ends with the wolf eating Red and falling asleep. Another old version has her escape, but without the wolf being punished. It wasn't until the Brothers Grimm came along that the wolf got his comeuppance.
  • "Frau Trude", being An Aesop about children being obedient to their parents, naturally ends with the titular witch killing the girl.
  • ''Hop-o'-My-Thumb":
    • Hop-o'-My-Thumb himself never faces any consequences for his Jerkassery due to Protagonist-Centred Morality.
    • Hop-o'-My-Thumb's parents are very Easily Forgiven for casting him and his brothers into the woods to die, and Hop-o'-My-Thumb makes them rich with the money he stole from the giant.
    • Unusually, the child-eating giant is not outwitted and killed by Hop-o'-My-Thumb at the end, instead simply falling asleep and letting him and his brothers get away. That said, he does have his treasure and seven-mile-boots stolen and accidentally murders his daughters.

Myths & Religion

  • Aztec Mythology: Tezcatlipoca is a rare example of a Trickster God who never faces any repercussions for their actions, due to him also being one of the (and sometimes the) most powerful gods in the pantheon. This leads to him doing things like destroying the world four times, either directly or through manipulating other gods, taking human form and killing crowds of people in creative ways for sheer amusement, and driving Quetzalcoatl to suicide by making him get drunk and commit incest, without anybody even attempting to punish him (though his actions in the last case were technically For the Greater Good). It's particularly striking when comparing him to other Trickster Archetype figures who end up failing at least sometimes.
  • The Bible:
    • Aaron created the Golden Calf, and not only is he not punished for idolatry, he becomes the High Priest! And only his descendants can be priests of the Israelites. Some interpretations try to soften this by saying the people forced him to make the calf, but he still gets off without a punishment (unless you consider some of his sons being smote by God, but that was for their own actions). Later on, Aaron and Miriam complained to God about Moses, but only Miriam was punished with a skin disease.
    • In the Book of Jeremiah, Ishmael son of Nethaniah escapes with eight of his men after being defeated. Downplayed since one can assume he goes to Hell when he dies.
    • Same goes for Doeg the Edomite in the Books of Samuel.
    • Protagonist-Centered Morality ensures that Israelites who massacre enemy civilians, take women as Sex Slaves and do other things that would today be considered morally unconscionable go to Heaven without their actions ever being condemned by virtue of being God's chosen people.
  • Classical Mythology:
    • The gods are rarely punished for exercising the Double Standard: Rape, Divine on Mortal, killing mortals for petty reasons or any other crimes.
      • For example, in one story King Midas has to judge who is the best musician, Apollo or Pan. Apollo punished him with having donkey ears merely for choosing Pan's music over his own.
      • There are a few times when some god goes too far and upsets Zeus himself, which pretty much always ends badly for them. Zeus himself is never punished by anyone.
    • Medea first fell in love with Jason and helps him fulfilling the task her father gave to him. She used her magic to make her love reciprocal (Jason was already married to Hypsipyle in some versions). After she decided to flee with him, in order to delay her father, she killed her brother Absyrtus, cut his body into pieces, and strewed them on the roadnote . When she found out her husband was about to marry another girl, she killed the young woman (and by accident, the woman's father) and the children she had had with Jason. Later she also tried to poison Theseus, the son of Aegeus, who she'd married, and managed to escape once again. There is no known story of her being punished for all her crimes. For some authors, she died in Colchis and after her death ended in the Elysian Fields (the paradise) where she married Achilles. Some versions like Euripides' play portrait Medea as a less evil person, where she only killed her brother through an accident, and Jason was a jerkass, who wanted to marry another woman.
    • King Minos steals youths and young women from Athens —yes, Crete won the war, but that's a harsh reparation to charge— and has them fed to The Minotaur, but when he dies, he becomes a judge of the dead. Not only does he escape punishment, he's REWARDED.
    • Lycomedes of Scyros murders Theseus by shoving him off a cliff (granted, Theseus is far from a morally upstanding person himself). No mention is made of the gods punishing him for this or someone else killing him, and his only other known mythological appearance (in The Trojan Cycle) depicts him as a perfectly benevolent ruler.
  • The Mahabharata:
    • Following the death of Duryodhana, Ashwatthama, Kripa and Kritavarma murder a bunch of the Pandavas in their sleep, including the children. Although Ashwatthama and Kritavarma get their comeuppance, not only does Kripa not get punished, he ends up as one of the few who lives through the Kaliyuga.
    • Duryodhana ends up in Heaven after his death in battle because he fulfilled his religious duties, his death being deemed adequate punishment for everything he did.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: