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Locked Out Of The Loop / Literature

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Characters being Locked Out of the Loop in literature.


  • In David Eddings' Belgariad, it is feared the sorcerer Belgarath has lost his powers at one point. The remaining sorcerers keep the information secret so the neighbouring countries won't invade and because the magic in this universe is based partially on one's self-confidence — if you don't believe it'll work, it won't. (Therefore, while Belgarath might have lost his power if he was left in the dark, he definitely would have had he been told.) Later on, it is shown that he's perfectly fine, and is actually rather surprised at the idea.
    • Also possibly a subversion in that Belgarath is fully aware that Polgara and Belgarion are hiding something from him - he's just not sure what, although he's pretty sure it's going to be something important. An additional possible subversion is that he's not terribly bothered when he finds out what they were hiding - he understands exactly why they were doing it.
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    • Garion and Ce'Nedra's 'courtship' could be viewed as a masterful senselessly negligent arrangement of keeping the concerned parties in the dark until it was too late to run. Polgara, an excellent manipulator, ensures the two spend time together until they were prepared to admit they liked the other. After a year of being around each other more or less constantly, the bomb is dropped on them: A five-hundred-year-old treaty dictates that the first Rivan King (Garion) to return will have an Imperial Princess of Tolnedra (Ce'Nedra) as his wife. Ce'Nedra was aware of the treaty, but thought the Rivan line was extinct and that the ceremony was meaningless. Garion was not aware of his ancestry or of the treaty. After a predictably bad start, the marriage somehow works itself out. Justified in that Ce'Nedra's family has been trying to get out of that marriage contract for literally generations — telling Ce'Nedra that the contract was going to come due in her generation (before she was actually around Garion long enough to start seeing him as a person instead of an unwanted obligation, and growing to like him) would have resulted in her immediately heading over the horizon so fast she'd leave a contrail. And telling Garion is the same thing as telling Ce'Nedra, as he's absolutely incapable of hiding anything important from her.
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    • Garion not being told that he is the Rivan King. Even though he's told he is descended from Polgara's sister at the end of the first book and that there was always only one son of that line... (Retconned in the prequel).
  • In the Brother Cadfael novel The Potter's Field, everyone else in Salop knows about the dead woman unearthed on Ruald's former property, but it's purposefully kept from the ailing Donata to avoid burdening her with the news, even when her own son becomes a suspect. This secretiveness turns out to be the worst thing the investigators could have done, because she's the only one who knows the truth about the woman's death and could've exonerated all the suspects if they'd only asked her.
  • In A Brother's Price, Jerin is the last one to be told that Princess Ren intends to make an offer for his hand in marriage. Justified in that it is a very good match, more than he could hope for, and no one wants to get his hopes up in case it doesn't work out in the end.
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  • In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society, Mallory has no memory before she was six and was told it was because she accidentally killed her parents at that age. The truth is that they were murdered for getting away, and Mallory's memories were wiped to keep her from remembering that.
  • Read enough Cthulhu Mythos fiction, and you'll be forced to conclude that educated upper-crust Anglo-Saxons are the only people on Earth who don't have a clue that monsters lurk all around them: everybody else, from classical civilizations to backwater native tribes to superstitious blue-collar laborers, knows what's going on.
  • The Dalemark Quartet: Near the end of The Crown of Dalemark, Mitt finds out that most of the adults he'd known since leaving Holand, including Navis, Alk and Earl Keril, and therefore likely the Countess of Aberath as well, had noticed a resemblance between him and the portraits of the Adon, the last king of Dalemark. Navis and Alk had suspected that Mitt was eligible to inherit the throne and had been planning in that direction. In addition, Mitt had also been kept in the dark about the fact that, due to the circumstances of his arrival in North Dalemark, a good number of the common people had begun hailing him as the next king. He finds this out after he's already been crowned.
  • In The Dark Elf Trilogy, it is heavily insisted that even slaves know who Drizzt's father is. Oh, the supposed father and the real father know it. But when her sister reminds Malice's husband that he has only one son, Drizzt asks himself who is his father.
  • In The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Nick's true identity and the fact that it is kept secret from him is more or less what the whole story is about.
  • In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe Eighth Doctor Adventures, the Doctor blows up Gallifreynote  and develops Trauma-Induced Amnesia. Afraid that the Doctor will have a Heroic BSoD if he regains his memories, his companion Fitz keeps him Locked Out of the Loop... until he decides the Doctor has probably figured it out ages ago and is just pretending to still have amnesia to be a Jerkass. Way to be, Fitz.
  • In the web-novel Domina, there are five people with powers: Derek, Akane, Laura, Ling, and Lizzy. However, Lizzy is an old friend of Derek and Laura, so they don't want her involved with the screamers and so on. Thankfully, she's kinda stupid, so she doesn't ask too many questions.
  • Dragons in Our Midst: In Raising Dragons Billy Banister is kept from finding who his father really is until part way through the book.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry does this for the first few books, keeping his allies in the dark about the true scope of the supernatural world and stuff like the White Council. He mostly stops after a few What the Hell, Hero? speeches from Murphy and the realization that refusing to share information with his apprentice Kim Delany because he thought she wasn't ready for it got her killed. The information in question was how to make an extremely powerful magic circle to contain the loup-garou MacFinn. Harry tried to discourage her from investigating it and didn't tell her anything more than what the circle was. Therefore, when Kim tried to make the circle, she couldn't keep it functioning properly, so MacFinn escaped and killed her.
    • In Proven Guilty, Harry mentally picks the lock to the secret Charity Carpenter is keeping from her entire family. Namely, that she used to be a practitioner of magic.
  • The main character spends a good amount of time blundering about in Dying of the Light because he doesn't know all of what's going on, and not just in one area. Also, one of the antagonists also doesn't know what's going on as he schemes away.
  • Enchanted Forest Chronicles: In Talking to Dragons, nobody will explain to Daystar who he really is, what he's supposed to be doing with his mysterious magic sword, or any of the backstory involved. Justified in that the sword is being hunted by wizards who can only find it if its bearer knows what it is. Also, careful perusal of the series will show most of the people Daystar runs into at the start don't actually have complete and accurate information about that, even when they think they do. (For varying reasons, most of the wizards and elves in particular have been under- or misinformed.) The second person who knows everything does tell Daystar exactly why he can't be told more after there's been enough time for the first to vet Daystar's traveling companion (she knows her extended family).
  • In Ender's Game, Ender is going through an elaborate simulation to help prepare for the coming war, but doesn't know that it's not a simulation, but in fact the war itself, with Ender & Co directing their forces remotely.
  • Fate/strange fake:
    • Because Amelia Levitt is a Muggle Born of Mages, she was raised with no knowledge of the existence of magic and doesn't know the rest of her family are Magi.
    • John Wingard's father was a magus and never told him or his mother. It wasn't until he joined Orlando's police force that his potential was detected and he was finally given training in magecraft. He was completely shocked to learn the supernatural exists.
  • The Finishing School Series: Madame Geraldine, the headmistress of the titular academy, has no idea her girls are being trained in espionage in addition to etiquette, and keeping her in the dark is part of the curriculum. And then in book 4, it turns out that the students were the ones locked out: Madame Geraldine is in fact fully aware of the nature of her school and is a fully-trained intelligencer.
  • The Gam3: When asked about the deeper nature of the Game, several players have indicated that they know the answers, but won't share them with Alan because You Are Not Ready. Two of them even said that the knowledge was dangerous, and could result in Alan's real-life death or even the destruction of Earth. Lambda knows these secrets too, and tells Alan it isn't the other players keeping secrets, but the Game itself. It can literally prevent other players from answering Alan until he meets the Game's built-in requirements for learning the truth. They couldn't even tell Alan about the restriction without the Game blocking them, Lambda circumvents it because he is an AI designed for machine-player communication.
  • Harry Potter suffered from this to a large degree in his interactions with Dumbledore (and, well, everyone). In Deathly Hallows, one of his main sources of angst is the possibility that he might be doing exactly the same to his own allies.
    • Averted in Order of the Phoenix when Dumbledore explains that there was a prophecy made about Harry that Dumbledore kept wanting to tell Harry about (And Harry had even asked him about in book one), but he had succumbed to the "Old man's error" each year in feeling Harry was too young for such heavy information. Dumbledore then actually does get Harry up to date on things - but only on the things Dumbledore is absolutely sure of at the time.
    • In Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore, Mr. Weasley, all the teachers, Hagrid, and Malfoy all knew that Sirius Black was Harry's godfather, and they thought they knew that he was partly responsible for the deaths of Harry's parents. Nobody told Harry this.
    • Harry was told his parents were mundane muggles who died in a car accident and he never even heard of the wizarding world until his Hogwarts letter comes on his eleventh birthday. It's explained later on that Dumbledore wanted it this way. He was afraid Harry would grow up to be a spoiled and useless boy if he was raised by wizards who constantly reminded him of his status as "the boy who lived".
    • Voldemort also practices this. He bestowed two of his horcruxes to Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange for safe-keeping, claiming them to be important and powerful objects, never revealing what exactly they are. While the latter took her duty seriously and had hers stored in Gringrotts, a nigh-impenetrable institution, the former used his to settle a petty feud with Arthur Weasley, pawning it off to Ginny Weasley so it would possess her and force her to open the Chamber of Secrets, unleashing a deadly basilisk on the school. This proved to be a fatal error, as not only did he fail in his goal, this particular object fell into the hands of Albus Dumbledore, who saw it as the final confirmation that Voldemort created horcruxes. Had Lucius known what exactly that object actually was, he would've never given it to anyone, let alone Ginny, in the first place.
  • The Heroes of Olympus:
    • The gods, Chiron, and Lupa are keeping a big secret. The Lares of Camp Jupiter, too.
    • A bit of story hints that Chiron never mentioned the Roman camp because he swore not to — chances are, Lupa wouldn't mention the Greek camp either.
    • Nico has been keeping the secret as well; Percy in particular is less than thrilled by this.
  • His Dark Materials, in which it is prophesied that Lyra will change the fate of the worlds (plural)—but only if she doesn't know about her destiny and what she will have to do to fulfill it. Naturally, every adult in her life knows and is busy trying to manipulate her to their own ends. Lyra was hiding and listened to the prophecy when it is told to someone. Then it's apparent that what she is really prophesized to do and what everybody thinks the prophecy is about are two very different things.
  • In Robert Buettner's Jason Wander series, the title character constantly deals with this. He is good friends and works closely with Howard Hibble, a former civilian professor who now works for military intelligence. The problem is that Howard has an obsessive need to compartmentalize information, a habit that working as an intelligence operative has not helped, and feels the need to lie about sensitive information to Jason (who is a very high-ranking officer) at least once every book.
  • The John Marsden book Looking For Trouble is about a trio of sixth-grader kids who form their own detective club and investigate a suspicious family who have just moved into their neighbourhood. It turns out that the father was on trial for fraud and embezzlement — and that everybody knew, including the kids' parents and some of their classmates. Their parents deliberately left them Locked Out Of The Loop for no good reason, merely saying "We knew you'd find out soon enough".
  • The Parasol Protectorate: The Loontwills, Alexia Tarabotti's mother, stepfather and half-sisters, have no idea that preternaturals even exist, let alone that Alexia is one.
  • This happens unintentionally in the Prince Roger books. The entire court knows Roger's father was both a vain fop and a dirty traitor, but it's such a sore topic with the Empress that no one ever brings it up. So everyone assumes Roger's arrogance and vanity are a deliberate attempt to emulate his dad, because surely someone must have told him. Roger, meanwhile, spends his entire life being seen as worthless and borderline traitorous for no reason he can understand. He is extremely pissed when he finally finds out about this.
  • In Runemarks, every major character (at the time) barring Maddy knows that she is actually Thor's "son", Modi. She finds out the truth from Loki, of all people.
  • There's a bit of an inversion of this in David Weber's Safehold series. The main character Merlin is the one with the secret, knowledge about the Safeholdian Church of God Awaiting's origins as a Path of Inspiration, but his plan is to eventually make the whole world aware of it. Who to tell and who to keep locked out becomes a significant plot point from the second book on.
    • Most of the cases, it's either a case of trust or worrying about the crisis of faith that might be created when a person learns not only is the Church of God Awaiting a Corrupt Church but it was founded as a Path of Inspiration. Then there's Baron Seamount, local One-Man Industrial Revolution, who remains Locked Out of the Loop because his mindset of scientific enquiry is important enough to Merlin's long term sociological plans to outweigh the drawbacks of not letting him have access to Merlin's high tech database.
  • An unusual example in A Scanner Darkly and its film adaptation, where Bob Arctor locks himself out of the loop: his Substance D abuse has split his personality to the point where he thinks Bob Arctor is the man he's chasing and that his undercover identity, Fred, is his real identity. By contrast, despite the existing regulations of strict anonymity, Bob's police superiors probably knew his identity from the very beginning. His reaction is not overly positive.
  • Jenna isn't informed about Septimus's undertakings very often in Septimus Heap, commonly leading to trouble. She is very happy in a later book when she learns that, as Princess, she has the Right to Know anything pertaining to the safety of the Castle, and the ExtraOrdinary Wizard is required to tell her such things.
  • The Druids of the Shannara series have a long history of doing this to people they need help from (A tradition started after someone they tried full disclosure with failed to understand them and botched up his mission, allowing the Warlock Lord to escape). Walker Boh absolutely hates them for this tendency, and is less than pleased when he realizes that he has to do the same thing when he becomes a Druid himself.
  • Sherlock Holmes: In The Hound of the Baskervilles, everybody in Dartmoor seems well aware of the legend of the Hound and its alleged curse upon the Baskerville bloodline. However, the 1742 manuscript that Dr. Mortimer shows Holmes has a closing notation that the author's daughter should not be told about it by her brothers, implying that female Baskervilles have always been kept in the dark about the story.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, this is Doran Martell's weakness as noted by Ser Barristan Selmy. He and his younger brother, Oberyn, never told anyone not even their own family members about their plans to avenge the deaths of their sister, Elia, and her children which is to form an alliance with the remaining Targaryens by having Doran's daughter, Arianne, marry with Viserys Targaryen. As a result, Arianne thought that he's going to pass her inheritance to her younger brother, Quentyn, and send her off to some random old lord which got her to stage a coup de'tat by crowning Myrcella Baratheon as queen of the Seven Kingdoms but it led to the death of Kingsguard member Ser Arys Oakheart and Myrcella's injury. And since Viserys died for disrespecting Khal Drogo, Quentyn has to be the one to forge the alliance with Daenarys Targaryen except that by the time he reached her, she's married to a Mereenese nobleman as a way to keep Mereen from going into more chaos. As Barristan said if Doran had told them about the alliance earlier, then Daenarys wouldn't gone into the whole lot of trouble to travel in Slaver's Bay.
    • Jaime Lannister kept Tyrion locked on the loop about his commoner wife Tysha by lying to him that she is a prostitute by the orders of their father, Tywin. When he finally told him the truth that she's not, this destroys their bond between them since Tyrion had watched her being gangraped by the entire Lannister garrison with him joining at last on his father's orders and it gets worse when he confronted Tywin about it and killed him with a crossbow.
  • Tortall Universe: In the Trickster's Duet, the people being locked out of the loop are actually the ones who are the subject of the secret. Sarai and Dove both fit The Prophecy of a twice-royal queen who will take the throne of the Copper Isles from the luarin conquerors. The rebels stipulate that they not be told for their own safety. Dove manages to figure it out on her own anyway, but Sarai (the one they plan to give the crown) remains locked. Which turns out to be a good thing, since she can't keep her mouth shut and winds up eloping.
  • In The White Old Maid by Nathaniel Hawthorne the entire townsfolk are fully locked out of the loop as to the meeting and circumstances behind two women's pact to meet up again many years ago. They just know something very strange is going on at that Old, Dark House. The reader knows a little more than them, this being Hawthorne, the reader is a meta example of being Locked Out of the Loop.
  • In her introductory book, Princess Ida from Piers Anthony's Xanth series was constantly trying to find out what her magical talent is, only to have everyone who knew tell her it would be counterproductive for her to know at that point. It turns out that her talent is the Idea, where whatever she thinks of will come true as long as the idea originates with someone who doesn't know what her talent is. As soon as she found that out, she stopped being able to grant her own wishes.
    • Later, it becomes a frequent strategy to bring someone along who is Locked Out of the Loop when you talk to Princess Ida, so that they can suggest ideas that would help the quest along and trigger her talent that way. Usually this is explained to them as soon as they leave Ida's company, even though that means they can't be used for that purpose again. In one case Demoness Mentia, Metria's half-crazy alternate self, has an elaborate plan to free someone from a curse this way.
  • Young Wizards: In A Wizard Alone, the autistic wizard-to-be Darryl is actually an avatar of God. His very life depends on his being Locked Out of the Loop.
    • The reasoning is rather convoluted, but logical. An abdal, like Darryl, is a channel that passively allows The One's power into the world. If he were told what he is, he could no longer be passive and would no longer be usable as an abdal, so The One's power would leave him. Since that power is the only reason he exists, losing it would mean no longer existing.


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