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Earn Your Happy Ending

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War Is Hell, but with enough determination, and a bit of luck, you'll make it home.
"I don’t think man was meant to attain happiness so easily. Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales whose gates are guarded by dragons: we must fight in order to conquer it."

The basic idea of this trope is that a cast of characters in a story go through a lot more hardship, anguish, and grief than is really necessary. (Especially war.) In the end, however, you see them get their happily-ever-after. Though humans may act bad and the world may seem like it's a crapsack, that doesn't mean that people can't have a good ending, or that things can't be improved with hard work or even The Power of Love.

Not to be confused with the Golden Ending in video games, where players actually have to earn their happy ending. It is possible for both tropes to be in play at the same time, however. This trope is a specific example of positive Laser-Guided Karma.

Going by the memes, if a Crapsack World is Grimdark and a world where Rousseau Was Right is Noblebright, then a story where this happens might be called A World Half Full (or "Nobledark") — it's a world where there is a lot of ugliness and pain, but victory is absolutely possible and things can change for the better if you only put the effort in.

There may be some overlap with Bittersweet Ending or Surprisingly Happy Ending. Compare Earn Your Bad Ending (the game-exclusive polar opposite), Happily Ever After (a Super-Trope to this) and Throw the Dog a Bone. Contrast Downer Ending.

As this is an Ending Trope, assume examples will be spoilertastic.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • Many episodes of Koongya Koongya have the characters face difficulties with each other, but in the finale, every main character except Onigiri Koongya (He becomes a janitor, a job that he is unsatisfied with.) ends up having a satisfying career upon leaving the restaurant, though Onion Koongya stays and Bangye Koongya joins him.
  • Motu Patlu: In "Samosa Vending Machine", Motu gets very distressed by the vending machine not giving him a samosa. After he helps capture John when he tries to steal the money from the machine, however, the machine happily gives Motu some samosas as a reward.

    Comic Strips 
  • After twenty years of rivalling Peanuts's Charlie Brown as newspaper's biggest Butt-Monkey, Bloom County's Opus finds paradise by falling into the pages of his copy of Goodnight Moon. Even Steve Dallas is touched. Too bad it was overridden by Bloom County 2015 revealing it was All Just a Dream.
  • The three leads of Retail, based on what little was revealed in the final strips, get happier fates in the wake of Grumbel's closure:
    • Cooper gets a job at a shipping company thanks to his connection to Darnell (at the old South Heights store), so he no longer has to deal with customers, and makes twice as much as he ever did at Grumbel's...
    • ...which allows his wife Val to finally quit working and devote herself to her writing career full time.
    • Marla takes a job as an office manager, and lives her dream of quitting on the spot to Stuart's face, with her parting shot revealing that almost everyone else quit too, leaving Stuart with hardly anyone for the store's closure.

  • Dota 2: When The International 2018 rolled around, the once-favored 4-time Valve Major champions OG were ranked last amongst the 18 teams competing. They bombed out of the previous two Internationals in top 12 and top 8 successively. They lost their captain and offlaner in sudden and shocking fashion that left even the remaining players off-guard by the news, scrambling to recover from the fallout. A major shift in the roster was in order as their coach stepped out of his coaching seat to play on the offlane, their carry returned to his old, yet famed support role along with taking the burden of captaining the team, and the team signed a relatively unknown pubstar to play mid and convinced their old midlaner, who hadn't played professionally since his departure from the team after the previous TI, to return to the team as their carry, all of this in time for the regional qualifiers, which they won easily. They had a rocky start to the group stage, but ultimately placed top 4 in their group to secure an upper bracket spot. There, the team upset three favorites on their way to the Grand Finals, exacting revenge on the two players who had left the team for their current one in the process, and ultimately won the whole damn thing in a thrilling 5 game series. It was a long five months for Johan 'Notail' Sundstein and his crew, spanning from March all the way to August, but they won the game's most illustrious tournament and made believers in OG out of almost everyone.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "The Gold Mountain": The nameless hero must first win a princess and a kingdom by enduring multiple beatings and death without once trying to flee, beg, or defend himself; then, after losing his family and kingdom, he must quest to get them back.
  • "The Goose Girl" involves a fair bit of struggle to get to Happily Ever After, when the princess is robbed and impersonated by her maid, and employed as a servant.
  • In "Maid Maleen", the princess gets locked away in a tower for seven years, becomes a homeless wanderer who lives off nettle leaves until she finds work as a scullery maid, gets nearly beheaded... but she ultimately gets married to her life's love and finds happiness.
  • Many a fairy tale hero or heroine has found that violating the prohibition requires a long, arduous quest to reach their wife or husband again. But it's Worth It.
  • Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid". Oh, how heartbreakingly earned happy ending!
    • "The Snow Queen", another Andersen fairy-tale, features a more conventional example of this trope, with its young protagonist having to travel till the end of the world to rescue her best friend. After a lot of difficulties and many false turns, she succeeds, and they both return home safely.
  • In "The Nix in the Mill-Pond", the titular wicked spirit forces the protagonist couple through multiple trials before they finally reunite.
  • Joseph Jacobs' "How Jack Sought The Golden Apples": By the time the youngest prince gets his happily ever after, he's had to deal with two nights of snakes and frogs crawling on him, the threat of being turned to stone if he moves, a castle full of monsters, and his brothers lying and almost getting him executed.
  • The tales of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth:
    • In "King Goldenlocks", the titular character is condemned to death by his own father, flees his country after faking his demise, and becomes a gardener. By the end, his father is dead, his deeds have been acknowledged, and he rules over two countries.
    • "The Turnip Princess": After being imprisoned in a cave, being chased by a monster, journeying through the wilderness for weeks to find a missing rusty nail… the prince manages to undo a curse and find both his missing father and a beautiful bride.
    • "The Three Flowers": Katie can't make a sound for seven years or the curse that transformed her three brothers into deers will never be broken. She endures silently her abusive mother-in-law's hatred and mistreatment for years, even though the odious woman kills her three babies and frames Katie for their deaths, until her brothers are finally turned back to normal. Then Katie reveals the truth to her husband, her mother-in-law is punished, and Katie can finally raise her family.
  • In "Catherine and Her Fate", Catherine, given the choice between happiness in youth and old age, picked old age. She then finds that her Fate will see to it that she must have a truly abject life until then, but soldiers on.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Odyssey: After surviving the bloody Trojan War, Poseidon develops a grudge against Odysseus, he suffers numerous misfortunes, near-death experiences, and a trip to the Underworld, eventually loses all of his friends and crew and is left to drift on the sea for months, is made a sex-slave for a few years, has been gone for two decades by the time he finally comes home, and finds that his wife is being forced to pick a suitor, so he and his son have to slaughter them all. And his dog died the minute he caught sight of him.
  • Cupid And Psyche: Her own temptation isolated her from the one she loved. She went through hell for him—quite literally—and had to stand up to her mother-in-law, all while pregnant with his child; but in the end Cupid forgives her and rescues her, and marries her. And their daughter's name? Delight.
  • Hercules seems to have this misfortune. Before he is even born Hera conspires to make his life as hellish as possible by denying him the kingship Zeus intends for him. He is attacked by snakes as a baby. He is forced to undergo twelve years of harsh labors after killing his family in a Hera-induced rage and has additional torments thrown on by Hera during those years. Everywhere he goes he has to fight monsters or gods. He is often cheated by kings after he fulfills his obligations to them, leading him to seek retribution later. He saves Olympus from a race of giants. Finally, his second wife inadvertently poisons him with hydra blood, leaving him in agonizing pain and having to be burned alive. His crime that started all of this? Being born the son of Zeus. The least Zeus could do was elevate him to godhood.
  • Aeneas, as well. His city, Troy, is burned by the Odysseus and the Greeks. He sails around on the Mediterranean Sea for six years, meeting every threat that Odysseus did, lands in Carthage where he marries the princess Dido (who commits suicide when he leaves), and upon arriving in Latium enters into wars that kill off most of his friends.
  • Some religions have this as their premise—life is hard. Being Good Sucks. But it is worth it, in the end: the evil are punished, the faithful are saved, and we go on to our reward, forever and ever.
    • From the last book in The Bible, describing the end of time, Revelation 21:3-4,
      And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."
      • Subverted in that people can't "earn" or "work" their way to heaven by filling out a checklist. In Paul's letter to the Romans (specifically, Romans 11:6), he says this in regards to how to "work" your way to heaven:
        And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
      • In other words, no matter how hard you work you can't earn your way to Heaven. This sounds pretty bad at first, until you realize that Paul's meaning in this is that because Jesus died for our sins, all we have to do is accept him as our savior to make it to Heaven, which is a lot easier than trying to earn brownie points with God.
  • Played straight for Jesus. After all, He went through to save us, the Book of Revelation identifies Him as the future ruler of the Resurrected faithful. However, being God, his dominion over us should have been His birthright rather than something earned, and many people will end up in Hell anyway.
    • The last part of which really depends on the teachings of one's denomination: Lutherans believe that all who have accepted Christ, will have been saved by Christ's sacrifice regardless of any sins [Concept of Sola Fide/By Faith Alone]. Whereas Catholics teach that one must accept salvation and some have to go through Purgatory before their eternal reward.
  • The Book of Job is possibly the Trope Codifier: a kind and righteous man has his entire life ruined, including seeing his entire family killed off. Luckily, it turns out to be a Secret Test of Character (which he passes) and gets everything back (including his family being brought Back from the Dead.)
  • Islam: Al-Baqra 214 says, "Do you expect to enter Paradise without being tested like those before you?"

    Real Life 
  • The Jakarta Incident, AKA the flight of British Airways Flight 9. Imagine, if you will, being the pilot of a 747 when, about an hour into the flight, ghostly lights begin flickering on your windshield that look like the hyperspace effect from Star Wars. Before you realize what's happening, smoke fills the cabin and the engines on your aircraft begin flaming violently, before cutting out, one... by... one. Now you're piloting a giant glider over the open ocean, in the dead of night, without power, instruments, a barely functioning radio, and a rapidly depressurizing cabin. The only thing you can do is try again and again to restart the engines- to no success, time and time again. As you turn around to make an emergency landing, you realize that, oh yeah, there's a bunch of mountains between you and the runway. All hope is lost, right? Well... Let's just say the crew's medals of honor were well-deserved.
  • This is the basic premise of The American Dream. You start out poor, you work hard, and you finally earn yourself a better life for yourself and your family.
  • Many believe this to be what life is all about.
  • Ask a veteran, any veteran, from any war, what it was like to return home to their family once the war was over. If they're not a Shell-Shocked Veteran, odds are their answer will be this.
  • Actors can end up with a version of this if they take a role they come to hate (due to working with someone they can't stand, having to wear a really uncomfortable costume, or having to do something else really unpleasant every day for months). Considering they usually get paid millions once their work is done, most of them probably consider it worth it.
  • A really compelling one exists when a Chinese father, Guo Gangtang reunited with his own abducted son, Guo Xinzhen, on July 13, 2021 after searching for him on a motorcycle for over 24 years. While there may be psychological scars of knowing which family to trust for victims of child abduction, it is really heartwarming for fathers like Guo to actually know that their children are not only alive and well, but that they know where they could be found.
  • Canadian Brian O'Dea was a cannabis smuggler who imported over $300 million worth of dope into the United States. Unfortunately, he also developed a cocaine habit so bad it gave him a heart attack and was finally busted and jailed by U.S. authorities in 1990. When he was paroled in 1993, he looked for a job by running a series of newspaper ads offering his services as a business manager and citing the success he had in building his cannabis empire as proof of his skills. O'Dea received hundreds of legitimate job offers from his ad, and later became a venture capitalist, TV and film producer and public speaker warning people about the dangers of drug use. Starting in 2012, he even went back to dealing cannabis, albeit legally in Canada and various U.S. states that legalized it.


"Waspinator Happy At Last"

In the final scene of "Beast Wars", Waspinator, who had suffered no end of abuse for the entire series, finally finds eternal happiness. This is if you disregard the sequel series.

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Main / ThrowTheDogABone

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