How do you motivate The Hero to take the call? Why, you endanger their child, of course!
This trope is about a situation when the hero's main motivation for getting into action is to protect their child. The parent is most often the father, and the child is most often the daughter, but some examples do exist of mothers being the hero or a parent trying to rescue a son, they're considered as Gender Inverted Examples.
The father is question is always Papa Wolf, but while being one can be a trait of any character, regardless of his place in the story, this trope is about the situation where his attempts to rescue his endangered ward are the main driving point of the plot. In other words, Papa Wolf is a character trope, while Father's Quest is a plot type trope.
Also this trope applies in cases where the parent became separated from their child due to accident, circumstance, divorce, imprisonment, or similar; not necessarily a villain need be involved.
A usually Always Male trope, sub-trope of Roaring Rampage of Rescue, Papa Wolf and I Will Find You. Missing Child may be one of the causes. Compare I Have Your Wife. Contrast Parents in Distress, where it's the father who needs rescuing.
See also Badass and Child Duo for another plot trope involving lots of action and a child (who's not necessarily the badass' child).
- Discworld-set fic Strandpiel, by A.A. Pessimal, sees Wizard Ponder Stibbons, older, married, and a father of daughters, realising his oldest daughter has inherited his awareness of Magic and is becoming a Witch. When he finds her vanished from the house one night, he realises she has come to the notice of the Dungeon Dimensions, who are trying to break her will and turn her into an agent in the living world. Ponder takes a deep breath and follows, determined to get her out of there. note A few years later, he then has to do it all over again on behalf of his youngest daughter.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami: Baron Sodnil wants to go on one for his daughter, Iden, who has been captured by a Keeper, Keeper Mercury, the protagonist, but he needs the support of his country's army, and they're not willing to take that risk, as of the story at the end of 2019.
- Elementals of Harmony: When Ditzy hears her daughter's scream, she races to the rescue, moving so fast that she leaves afterimages, and so angry that her eyes glow with power.
- Finding Nemo: When Nemo gets taken away by a human, Marlin goes off to travel from the Great Barrier Reef to Sydney and back in a mission to find and rescue him.
- In The Rugrats Movie, Stu builds the Reptar Wagon for a toy-building contest being held in Tokyo, in the hopes of winning the money to support his newborn son, Dil. When Phil and Lil see the Reptar Wagon, they try to use it to take Dil back to the hospital against Tommy's wishes, which is how they, along with Tommy and Chuckie, get lost in the forest. Stu believes that he accidentally sent the babies to Tokyo (due to the babies having played in the crate he was going to ship the Reptar Wagon in earlier), only to find out the goat is there instead. When he learns the babies are in the woods with the Reptar Wagon, he does everything he can to find them, including take to the skies on his Dactar glider.
- The Secret of NIMH has mother mouse Brisby facing the destruction of her home once the farmer starts his plowing tractor. (The animals call this Moving Day.) Brisby can get herself and three of her children away safely, but her youngest, Timmy, lies sick abed and cannot be moved. This mother goes to extraordinary lengths to keep poor Timmy alive and intact, including consulting the Great Owl (owls eat mice), petitioning help from intelligent rats (rats tend regard mice as "lower creatures"), and using a Magitek amulet that leaves her drained to exhaustion.
- Belly of the Beast, starring Steven Seagal as retired CIA agent Jake Hopper, who is forced back into action to save his kidnapped daughter, battling a small army of insurgents and killing maybe 30 people onscreen in the process.
- One subplot in Boogie Nights involves Amber Waves petitioning a California Family Court for visitation rights to her son. Clearly, Amber had been a wife and mother in her youth, but is now divorced, and her ex-husband has custody. Amber's cocaine addiction is the likely cause, as the judge asks Amber about her most recent arrest for cocaine possession. The scene then cuts to Amber standing outside the courthouse sobbing; her quest for access to her son went... badly.
- John Matrix is a retired Commando quietly raising his daughter, Jenny. When mooks kidnap Jenny, a spokesman for the thugs explains that his services are required to stage a coup d'etat in The Generalissimo's homeland. Matrix makes short work of most of these thugs, but still must venture to Central America to rescue Jenny.
- Double Jeopardy has convicted murderer Libby Parsons paroled from prison, whereupon she aims to find her son, now a teenager. Libby manages to find him, but also finds her ex-husband, who is the man Libby was convicted of killing. Both son and ex are very much alive.
- The '70s film Green Eyes is about a man who tries to find the Abandoned War Child he had with his prostitute girlfriend during the Vietnam War. The child died years ago as an infant, with his "green eyes" being a sign of his illness.
- An interesting example occurs in Nick of Time where both father and daughter are kidnapped, but the former is obligated to kill a woman or else his daughter dies, so he instead makes an improvised plan to save her without becoming a murderer.
- Searching chronicle's a determined father's quest to find his missing teen daughter through technology such as social media.
- Taken: Bryan Mills has to go on a mission to rescue his daughter from a human trafficking ring that had taken her and her friend on their trip to Europe. Being a CIA agent with a "particular set of skills" certainly helps.
- During the second half of True Lies, Harry Tasker got his facade off for his family after the bad guys kidnapped his daughter, so he has to team-up his wife (who recently discovered he's a spy) to get her back.
- Maggie: After his daughter gets infected with a zombie plague and runs off to protect her family, Wade goes to find her. He then spends the rest of the film trying to protect her.
- The thing that starts the plot of the 12th book in the Dresden Files, Changes, is the knowledge that Harry Dresden has a daughter, and that daughter has been kidnapped by vampires.
- Edward Gorey wrote the illustrated short story The Hapless Child concerning the pretty and tended daughter of a British Army reservist who is called to duty overseas. Not long thereafter, the mother falls into a "decline" that proves fatal. The daughter gets shunted to an orphanage, which in those days was a legalized hellhole. She escapes, only to fall into the clutches of a "brute" who keeps her prisoner in a basement, making lace in minimal lighting. The father returns home, learns the fate of his wife, and that his daughter has gone missing from the orphanage. He rides his motorcar through the London streets daily, calling his daughter's name in a desperate hope that she'll appear. Beware: Tear Jerker Downer Ending ahead.
- Whateley Universe: In Envy and the Gilded Cage (Part 3), Strega goes on one to find her kidnapped daughter, taking the city of Paris hostage, in the process.
- The first season of Netflix's The Witcher (2019) basically turns out to be the story of Geralt accidentally adopting a child (via the Law of Surprise) and accepting responsibility for her. Ciri (the child in question) goes through an Orphan's Ordeal and he tries to dodge responsibility before finally seeking her out.
- Paul Simon recorded Slip Slidin' Away in 1977. The third stanza describes a father who's been absent from his son's life, and decides to make amends.
And I know a father who had a son / He longed to tell him all the reasons for the things he'd done / He came a long way just to explain / Kissed his boy as he lay sleeping, then turned around and headed home again.
- Asura's Wrath is about a very angry demigod dad going on a Roaring Rampage of Rescue to find his missing daughter and make the world a better one for her to live in.
- Delicious: Emilies Hopes and Fears is about Paige getting a rare disease and her father, Patrick, going on a quest to find a golden flower that is said to cure her.
- Dishonored: Emily is kidnapped at the start of the game, so the first third involves Corvo finding a way to rescue her. He manages to liberate her by the second major mission, but the people Corvo trusts her with perform a FaceHeel Turn at the end of the second act, forcing Corvo to rescue her again in the final mission.
- In Fallout 4 the Sole Survivor of Vault 111 who can be male or female depending on the player explores the wasteland searching for their abducted son Shaun.
- Invoked by the Origami Killer in Heavy Rain. He kidnaps young boys and sends their fathers on dangerous missions to find them before they drown. Several of the fathers died trying to pass the trials, and one didn't understand the message and didn't go on his quest. One of the playable characters is Ethan Mars, father to the latest victim of the Origami Killer. The killer's main motivation is to find a father that truly loves their son and would go through hell to save them. This was because his own father was a useless drunk that wouldn't lift a finger to save his brother that was trapped in a drain pipe and drowned.
- King's Quest V sees King Graham's castle, along with his entire family, magically kidnapped by the wizard Mordack who wanted revenge for his brother having been turned into a cat in an earlier game. King Graham has to set off on the quest to rescue his family- not just his two kids, but his wife as well.
- LISA: The Painful RPG is about Brad on a quest to rescue his adoptive daughter, Buddy, from Rando's army.
- The plot of Mole Mania revolves around Muddy Mole having to save his wife and kids from Jinbe.
- Outlaws is about a retired marshall who embarks on a raid through bandit hideouts in pursuit of people who kidnapped his daughter.
- Silent Hill: When Harry Mason goes to Silent Hill with his seven year old daughter Cheryl, they're separated after he wakes up from a car accident. He then spends the whole game literally going To Hell and Back to find her.
- This is the main plot of The Simpsons (the 1991 Beat 'em Up), in which Mr. Burns and Smithers kidnap Maggie and all the family goes after her. Although you also can choose Marge, Bart or Lisa, this trope goes straight if you choose Homer as your character.
- Treasure Hunter Man 2: The mother of the protagonist of the first game, arrives to find her son in the Kruz Island who got lost after those events.
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Uniquely, the main plot is this for both Ciri's adoptive father, Geralt, and her biological father, Emperor Emhyr var Emreis, as both more or less work together (the latter providing Geralt with the initial lead the Witcher pursues, as well as any financial and military assistance Geralt may need) to find and protect Ciri from the titular Wild Hunt, who seek to harness her powers for their own uses.
- Awful Hospital's main protagonist, Fern, is motivated entirely by finding her missing son.
- Star Wars Rebels, "Stealth Strike": While Kanan is not Ezra's biological father he's made frequent jokes about Ezra being one of his and Hera's kidsincluding in this episodehe is Ezra guardian, and he's completely dedicated to rescuing Ezra and uninterested in disabling the Interdictor in order to help the rebellion since his main interest is still protecting his Family of Choice and he really didn't want to get pulled into another war in the first place.