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I Gave My Word

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"And now, king-papa," the princess went on, "I must tell you another thing. One night long ago Curdie drove the goblins away and brought Lootie and me safe from the mountain. And I promised him a kiss when we got home, but Lootie wouldn't let me give it him. I don't want you to scold Lootie, but I want you to tell her that a princess must do as she promises."
"Indeed she must, my child—except it be wrong," said the king. "There, give Curdie a kiss."
And as he spoke he held her towards him.
The princess reached down, threw her arms round Curdie's neck, and kissed him on the mouth, saying: "There, Curdie! There's the kiss I promised you!"

I swore to Describe I Gave My Word Here, and you shall not deter me!

Any dialog to indicate your deep offense that someone says that you could do something that you promised not to, or refrain from something you promised to do — or actually tries to do something you had promised would not happen. (You are, after all, "a man of your word.") Bonus points if no one would realize you had broken it: if you had given it to a dying man, or no one would believe the character you gave it to. A Last Request for some reason is actually an especially binding promise — as is a vow made to the already dead.

Generally preceded by the Stock Phrase "I give you my word."

May indicate Honor Before Reason. On the other hand, a reputation for trustworthiness makes it easier to get people to listen to you, possibly getting you out of a Mexican Standoff, Hostage Situation, or other situation that cannot be resolved by brute force. On the third hand, when getting someone's word, beware of Exact Words.


The Blue Blood, particularly the Officer and a Gentleman, is prone to this. Indeed, he may say, "I give my word as a gentleman."

More elaborate formulas are possible. This may be because their word is not binding without them, or to emphasize their seriousness. This can be "I swear by X (Usually a deity)" — occasionally with the implication that X will personally avenge you on them if they swear falsely — or a specific curse that they invoke to fall on them if they fail (usually expressed in the form "May X strike me down"). Bolt of Divine Retribution is not unknown as punishment.

Conversely, some characters, particularly in settings where honor is held highly, will consider any kind of statement, no matter how casual, as binding.

Making a blank-check promise — "Yes, I will do something for you" — or making it only because you have been lied to may lead to Honor Before Reason, where a character insists on carrying it out anyway. However, in these situations, even the most honorable character often insists on Exact Words. More prudent characters will break it on these grounds; then, they are more likely to be sure of their facts or refuse to make a blank-check promise.


Even some villains stick to scrupulous honesty, either because they retain some ethical standards or because long-term trust is more useful than short-term backstabbing. It is often a disadvantage for the Devil in a Deal with the Devil. He will follow what he said; he'll squirm the meaning if he can, but if he gave some Impossible Task for you to follow and you somehow did, he will begrudgingly follow through. There are exceptions to this, but if someone is dealing with a literal devil, the deal can be expected to be honored. A truly evil villain, however, may at times respond with "I Lied".

If a character with Incorruptible Pure Pureness must break his word, or insist on Exact Words for some sound reason — such as having been tricked — he will break it but think it Dirty Business. A Knight Templar, on the other hand, will either break his word (or insist on Exact Words) without a tremor of conscience or monomaniacally insist on carrying it out, regardless of the consequences. Similarly, heroes forced into the Sadistic Choice (where one option is saving lives and another keeping their promise) may end up forced into a Frequently-Broken Unbreakable Vow.

Required for Combat by Champion.

Compare Not Hyperbole when someone literally carries out their seemingly exaggerated words. Contrast Heroic Vow and Will Not Tell a Lie. Closely related to the Blood Oath. When someone has broken this vow so thoroughly they become ostracised they're The Oath-Breaker. Releasing from the Promise is another option, though some characters think that even the person they've sworn the oath to can't free them. Works using this trope may discuss The Power of Language.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Once Golgo 13 accepts a contract he always completes the mission.
  • This is practically Naruto's catchphrase even more than dattebayo/believe it. He never backs down on his word. EVER.
  • Pegasus J. Crawford / Maximillian Pegasus released the souls of Seto Kaiba, Mokuba Kaiba and Sugoroku Mutou / Solomon Mutou in the English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! after being defeated by Yugi. He gives a soliloquy about how he always keeps his word.
    • Frequently Yami Yugi's reasoning, combined with a sense of responsibility. He makes a promise to the spirit of Dark Magician Girl in one of the filler arcs and at one point states he has a promise to keep.
  • Jonouchi seriously did this in Yu-Gi-Oh! R. In the beginning of the story, he borrowed a Duel Disk from Tilla Mook, the first Card Professor, promising he'd return it. Unfortunately, he lost it over the course of the story but gained the far superior Black Duel Disk created by Tenma after defeating Bandit Keith. Despite the value of this Disk, he later gave it to Mook in the epilogue to replace the one he lost, as he considered himself bound to his promise. (And as you might expect, she didn't mind at all.)
  • Eliphas, the god-like ruler of the Astral-world in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL was fanatical in his disdain for Chaos and the beings that possess it, and willing to commit genocide upon the Barian World to meet that goal. Despite being likely a thousand times more powerful than Yuma, and blaming him for Astral's injuries, he agreed to duel Yuma, so long as Yuma was willing to wager his memories of Astral. Without a doubt, Eliphas' ability to use Shining Draw whenever he wanted was blatant cheating (clearly, he didn't have as much regard for Law as he thought he did) but Yuma still won, and claiming to be a man of his word, Eliphas kept his side of the bargain and released Astral. (Both physically and from the "programming" previously placed on him.)
  • An interesting example in Hokuto No Ken, where Kenshiro breaks a promise to spare a Mook's life, asking the thug how many time he's kept a promise in his life, or spared someone who begged for their life, before leaving him to die messily.
  • Ichigo in Bleach does this. Inoue Orihime states that "when he says 'I'm going to win' those are the times that he definitely will!"
  • Riza Hawkeye in Fullmetal Alchemist, when she agreed to become Roy Mustang's subordinate.
    • In keeping with his policy of always telling the truth, Greed will keep any promise he makes. Except at the end, where he lied for the first and last time to save Ling and deal Father a devastating blow.
    • Ling Yao states that people of Xing always keep their promises. He proves this to be true twice, once in keeping his word in assisting the Elrics with the capture of a homunculus, and again at Bucaneer's dying request that he protect the front gate of Central Command. Ling's bodyguard, Lan Fan, acts similarly in her promise to return to Amestris and seek out the evil there, which she honors.
  • The titular character in Lupin III. Despite being a thief, he is known even to the ICPO as a man of his word. He will keep it even when it places him at a disadvantage.
  • Once when Tamahome places his life at serious risk to save Miaka in Fushigi Yuugi, she fumes at him and tells him how much he terrified her. He takes this more lightly than other examples do, though; he chuckles and asks to be repaid in time. The other instances of this trope such as when he tries to comfort Miaka after being nearly raped by Nakago by telling her that he promised to make her the happiest bride in the world don't go as well.
  • One Piece:
    • Luffy zigzags this Trope. Usually he keeps his word, but he has broken it a few times. At two different points in the series, he's been forced to promise not to fight on a certain island. Both times he ended up getting angry enough that he broke his promise anyway, with particularly bad consequences in the second case. It's not that he's unreliable: he'll fight to the death against seemingly unbeatable odds to protect a friend, but he tends to do things his own way regardless of what other people think of it. (In Luffy's mind, this is both justified and simple. When others make him give his word, he'll usually only give it in order to shut them up and later either forget about it or simply do the opposite thing because he considers that better. When he gives his word on his own without any prompting, you can be sure he'll keep it forever.)
    • One particular case where this Trope applies (and probably the most well-known among the fandom, considering its aftermath), is when Hachi made Luffy promise to not antagonize the World Nobles, no matter what they do. Luffy was planning on keeping this one, considering that if he didn't, an admiral would show up on the island. And then one of them shot Hachi. That was perhaps the only time anyone could forgive Luffy for knowingly going back on his word.
    • Arlong, who always keeps his word when it comes to money. Which is why he was upset when Nami almost had enough money to buy her village and leave his crew despite all his henchmen telling him that he could just break his promise. That is why he found other means to keep Nami from leaving.
    • Brook's backstory, dream and general reason for living all run on this. "Dying is no excuse!"
    • Oddly enough, Crocodile. This guy has Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, but as proven in the Impel Down Arc (where he had numerous opportunities to go back on his promise and get away with it) he honored the deal he made with his reluctant allies and sticks to it.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In the original Dragon Ball, Goku agrees to marry Chi-Chi, thinking marriage is a type of food. Several years later, Chi-Chi returns to hold Goku to his promise. Even at this point, Goku is still a Chaste Hero who doesn't really understand the concept of romantic love, but he still marries Chi-Chi anyways because he gave his word.
    • In the Battle of the Gods movie, Beers makes a statement that if no one can defeat him in combat, he will destroy Earth. Later he seems to regret saying that and wants to spare Earth from destruction regardless, but states that now that he's given his word, he must abide by it as a matter of honor. When Goku loses but still gave him an excellent battle, he destroys one rock on Earth's surface, then claims that he's too tired right now to do the rest of it, and he'll come back in a few million years to finish the job. He never did specify WHEN he would destroy Earth, you see.
    • In the final arc of Dragon Ball Super, Goku has Frieza brought back for a day so he can fight in the Tournament of Power, promising to resurrect him properly if they win. Frieza spends most of the tournament plotting to be the last fighter standing so he can get a wish on the Super Dragon Balls. Near the end, however, he decides it's a safer bet just to make sure their team wins, as he knows Goku will keep his word. Sure enough, Whis revives him on the spot once it's all over.
  • In Windaria neither Prince Roland nor Princess Veronica wants to fight, yet they swore they would on their parent's deathbeds.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho:
    • Sakyo has placed his own life as a betting chip quite a few times, claiming that he'd kill himself should he lose. Come the end of the Dark Tournament, after his team loses, he does just that by detonating a time bomb that destroys the arena with himself in it.
    • Sensui says he will release the captured Kuwabara if Yusuke's team can kill Gourmet. When Kurama does that, Sensui keeps his promise. However this just ensures that Yusuke's friends fall into a trap, so Sensui can have a one-on-one battle.
    • Raizen is a demon who can only eat humans. He fell in love with a human woman and had a child with her. As a favor to her, he promised he would never eat humans again. Even when his lover died, he kept his promise and slowly starved to death over centuries. All of his comrades begged him to eat but he refused saying he promised her, and eventually dies.
  • In A Bride's Story, Amir smuggles a meal to a boy being deprived of dinner as punishment and tells him she will only do it this time. When he disobeys again, his mother, who ordered it, is shocked because Amir insists on her word, and she needs someone to go around her.
  • Rex Godwin, the Big Bad of the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's. While he did not survive the final battle with Yusei, Jack, and Crow, the promise he originally made to Yusei - to build the Daedalus Bridge and liberate the citizens of Satellite - was still kept.
  • Subverted in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. Hayate made Signum promise that the Wolkenritter would not try to fill the Book of Darkness as long as she was its master, a promise that she was all too willing to keep. But when it turned out that Hayate was going to die, it's Signum who suggests that they use the book in a bid to save her. Honor is incredibly important to Signum, but Hayate is more important.
  • In Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid, Mamori agrees to transform into a sword for Mirei to wield but makes her promise not to fight anybody. Mirei keeps the promise and escapes after fending off a few attacks, even though Mamori is unconscious during her transformation and would not have any way of knowing what Mirei does while wielding her.
  • Campione!:
    • Godou Kusanagi's grandfather Ichirou used to date the ageless witch Lucretia Zola. Ichirou's eventual wife Chiyo became jealous and made him promise to never ever see Zola again. Even after Chiyo died, he kept his promise, which is why he made Godou deliver the Prometheus Grimiore to her at the beginning of the series.
    • Duke Voban gives the heroes a Mercy Lead and promises that they only have to last until sunrise. He catches up to them, and despite their best efforts, he weathers all their attacks and then massacres them. Just as he's about to finish them off, the sun rises. Even though he can easily kill them, he keeps his word and lets them go.
  • Kaguya from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War takes her word very seriously and will pay back any debt she owes. If she swears on her honor as a Shinomiya that Ishigami will pass his remedial exams in order to repay a favor she owes him, then she is going to make sure he passes, whether he wants her help or not. It's eventually revealed that she picked up this habit from her older brother Unyo.
  • This is something that Naofumi from The Rising of the Shield Hero holds absolutely paramount, as he always keeps his promises, for good or ill.

    Comic Books 
  • The word of Doctor Doom is always honored, although the wise will pay attention to anything left unsaid.
  • Lobo always keeps his promises. He'll merrily violate the spirit of a contract, but never the word of it. If he's promised not to kill you, he won't, no matter how much he may hate you. (Do note, however, that under the right circumstances, it's quite possible to survive multiple cases of dismemberment.)
  • Lucifer from, well, Lucifer never breaks his word, deliberately lies, or leaves a service unpaid. It's a point of pride for him, and those aware of his character often warn against mistaking it for a virtue. His wording needs to be watched, sometimes; if he tells that he gives you a chance to do something, it doesn't mean that he's compelled to tell you when that chance comes, or just what you should do to get the desired outcome.
  • In Supergirl storyline Red Daughter of Krypton, Guy Gardner promises Bleez that they will eventually go after her partner Rankorr. She questions whether he is a man of his word, and Guy reiterates that he always stays true to a promise:
    Bleez: I guess I'll learn whether you're a man of your word.
    Guy: If I'm anything, I'm that.
  • In Flash Gordon, Ming the Merciless rewarded Sonja's treachery as promised: by marrying her and making her his empress. Then he ordered her execution.
  • Galactus. After Reed Richards saved his life, he swore he'd never attempt to feed on Earth again. Thus far, he has kept this promise.
  • Deadpool runs up and down this trope freely. If you're a good person or someone he likes, or if the promise is for a good cause such as protecting innocent people, he'll dive into a pool of boiling acid to keep his word. You don't even have to ask for his word, he'll just do it. But if you're an asshole or someone he doesn't like, or if you think his word is going to make him stand by and do nothing while you hurt innocent people or attempt to harm a child, he'll cheerfully pull a baseball bat out of his Hammerspace, tell you that he had his fingers crossed or that all his promises come with an expiration date and the one he gave you just passed it, then proceed to break all your bones.
  • Darkseid and Thanos both will keep the literal word of any agreement, but they are not above violating the spirit of an agreement. This is common for super-villains who want to appear to have some degree of honor to set themselves above others but can twist it to still be villains. So even if they give their word you cannot trust them. Although it must be noted that with Thanos, he will usually only fall back on Exact Words when he's dealing with an asshole like Mephisto. He once promised Mephisto that he would bring him a Cosmic Cube, and he did, but it was an inoperative one that could only be used as a paperweight. Mephisto was pissed, but Thanos pointed out that he never specified that it be a working Cosmic Cube, and anyway he regarded Mephisto as enough of a threat already, there was no need to bring a Cosmic Cube into the equation. When dealing with others, he keeps his word honorably and usually makes an effort to abide by the spirit of the agreement.
  • When the Foreigner's organization, the 1400 club, was taken over by Justin Hammer, he tried to convince Spider-Man to help him fight them, which he knew would be a very hard sell, because his men had murdered Ned Leeds, a close friend of the hero. He promised Spidey he'd turn himself in to the police and confess to all his crimes once they had succeeded in exchange for his help. Spidey accepted, and to his incredible surprise, the Foreigner kept his word to the letter. (Of course, being the Magnificent Bastard he was, the Foreigner didn't expect to be in jail long; most of the murders he had committed in his long career as the world's best assassin were very high profile, and he had never been identified as the killer in any of them. He figured the police would think he was just some crackpot and release him, which was exactly what happened.)
  • In Daredevil, when Daredevil surrenders to the Plunderer to save hostages, one of the Plunderer's crewmen suggests tossing him overboard instead. The Plunderer is positively outraged at the very suggestion: "Silence, you scurvy toad! I have given my word!"
  • In the comic book adaptation of The Legend of Zelda, Link is asked to promise Zelda that he will not leave the palace on a specific day, in the storyline "He Also Stands". Big Bad Ganon uses several different ploys to try to lure him outside (which, unbeknownst to Link, would have had disastrous results), but he keeps insisting that he can't because he promised.
  • In one rather memorable series of Peanuts strips, Charlie Brown was sick at the hospital, and amazingly, the one who was the most upset about it was Lucy, who had otherwise treated him so mean. She finally went outside and made the following vow: "Charlie Brown, I know that you can't hear me, but I want to make you a promise. I promise that if you get well, I'll never pull the football away again!" Unfortunately for her, Charlie Brown did get better, he did hear it somehow (maybe Linus told him) and held her to it; the amazing thing is, she actually tried to keep her word, but Charlie Brown missed, kicking her in the hand. (He apologized, to which she replied, "The next time you go to the hospital, stay there!" and apparently, she decided she wasn't bound by the promise anymore, because the annual prank continued as always, starting the next year.)
  • A heroic example became a bone of contention between Wolverine and Namor in Civil War. Wolverine has tracked Nitro, the villain responsible for the Stanford incident, and promised Nitro his protection until Wolverine can find out who's responsible for Nitro's out of control explosive powers (long story). Namor captures Nitro since Nitro was responsible for his niece Namorita's death. When Wolverine goes to Atlantis to retrieve Nitro, Namor calls him out on giving his word to a multiple murderer. Wolverine won't have any of it.
    Wolverine: That doesn't change the fact I still gave my word.
  • In The New Teen Titans (Volume 1) #10, Deathstroke laments that this trope means that he has had to come up with a plan to kill the Titans for H.I.V.E.... while simultaneously getting Revenge on H.I.V.E. for tricking him into the contract and killing his son in the process.
    Deathstroke: I swore I'd kill the Titans... and I can't get outta that.
  • This is the foundation of the post-Crisis version of the "evil" DC Universe, such as the antimatter version shown in JLA Earth Two or 52. As a universe where the fundamental laws of the universe are inclined towards evil, it shouldn't allow for advanced civilizations since altruism is so rare it might as well be non-existent. However, there is one exception; you MUST keep your word. If you enter into a bargain, you HAVE to follow your end, or the consequences are invariably fatal
  • Superman;
    • In most version of Supes' origin story, his father Jor-El promises the Kryptonian Council that he and his wife Laura won't try to leave Krypton but never promises not to send his son into space.
    • If you can get any of the Phantom Zone criminals to swear a Sacred Kryptonian Oathnote  or the Colossus of Hadradnote  then you can take them by their word.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In The False Prince And The True, a young man promises an old woman that he will marry her if she saves his life. She does.
    "You swore to marry her if she saved your life, and, come what may, you must fulfill your promise."
  • In Tattercoats, the grandfather had sworn never to look on his granddaughter's face, which means he is excluded from the Happy Ending.
  • In an Indian fairy tale/riddle, a prince and a king find the tracks of a queen and a princess who are escaping the armies that overwhelmed their kingdom. The prince assumes that the smaller footprint is the princess and tells the king that he should marry the woman with the larger footprint, he'll marry the woman with the smaller. Then they find the queen and princess and learn that actually the queen has the smaller foot. So they have to marry as they had agreed in advantage: the king to the princess, and the prince to the queen.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars:
    • Asuka sometimes asks Shinji why he always puts up with her. Shinji always replies that every time he left her alone she went through Hell, so he promised he would never abandon her again, no matter what, and he will not go back on his word.
    • When Daniel or Rayana -the divine rulers of Avalon- make a promise you can trust that they SHALL fulfill it, even if they have to warp time and space to do so.
      Ching:"If he promised you, then it will be so, [...] He may bring her forward in time whenever we return so she doesn't have to wait for you, or take you back to just before she wakes, or some other way. However they make it happen, the Lord and Lady will keep their promises to you, don't worry."
  • In the Pony POV Series, a Draconequus (and probably anyone else who knows a thing about her) will never break a promise if they swore on their Mother, Entropy, not even Discord. Justified, as they literally can't break it because Entropy hates having her name taken in vain and is The Dreaded for very good reason.
    Rancor: You can trust 'em. The last ___ who promised on Mom's name and didn't keep their end... well, even if you knew who __ was, you wouldn't remember now.
  • Although she probably wouldn't be blamed for breaking such a promise in the context of The Hunger Games, Vale Whitaker of Some Semblance of Meaning promised that she would give meaning to this near-certain death sentence by protecting her district partner, Kit. And that is exactly what she intends to do. However, although she tries, she ends up losing Kit when he is killed by a mutt, and she is forced to search for a new purpose in the arena.
  • Subverted in A Protector's Pride. Aizen promises to spare Karakura Town if Ichigo promises to leave him alone forever. As Aizen leaves, Ichigo has a massive internal debate, and though it tears him up inside to break his word, he realizes Aizen is too dangerous and will only cause more suffering and destruction elsewhere, then pursues him.
  • Maledict from Sonic X: Dark Chaos does this numerous times, both good and bad. In particular, during the final battle, Maledict promises to give Sonic his Planet Egg back and spare the galaxy in exchange for the Chaos Emeralds. Afterward, Maledict keeps his word and pardons them... and lets them keep the Chaos Emeralds as thanks for their help.
  • Discussed and weaponized in Imaginary Seas. Percy Jackson possesses one of Theseus' Noble Phantasms, the three favors he received from Poseidon that he promised to answer no matter what. Although Percy hopes to use these wishes to restore enough of Poseidon's personality to hold a conversation, Chiron advises him against that, as the gods repeatedly break their oaths and forgo their favors for their own convenience. Percy knows this but remains steadfast, as though oaths from Poseidon mean nothing to Chiron, as Poseidon's son, his oaths mean the world to Percy, just as Poseidon rushed to his aid during the Battle of Manhattan.
  • In The Ultimate Evil, an Alternate Universe Fic about Jackie Chan Adventures, while Shendu is portrayed as the lying demon he's known as in canon, he has (for the most part at least) kept his promise made to his love interest Valerie of not forcing her into something against her will, intending to instead make her to fall in love with him.
  • In Mirror Of Maybe Severus has made this his lifestyle. He never lies, unless it is required by his position as a spy. This is what makes Harry first take real notice of him (in the mirror); someone expresses surprise that Severus went out of his way to help them, and Severus simply replies - rather irritably - "I said I would, didn't I?"
  • A fair number of Naruto stories have Kakuzu keeping his word in any deal he makes, if only because no one would be willing to deal with a man who's known for going back on his word.
  • A rather important note about dwarves in Rising of the Dark is that they consider any promise made "over the tankard" (that is, any promise made while drinking) to be just as binding as an oath sworn before the gods. Thus, when Naruto makes what he considers a simple toast to his friendship with the dwarf Hagwin and elf Celia, Hagwin takes it as an oath of Undying Loyalty between them.
  • Inverted in Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide. Misato promised Shinji that he would have not to pilot his Humongous Mecha anymore after killing the latest enemy. When she tells him that maybe he will have to pilot and fight again, he is furious... until Asuka tells him that people make and break promises the whole time, and it’s stupid and unfair hating someone for that.
  • During a debate over honoring an agreement made with two military powers in A Horse for the Force, Master Dooku (currently still a Jedi) speaks up that he doesn't care if the Jedi Council agrees to honor it; he gave his word that he would do so and if they won't help him, he'll do it by himself.
  • In this The Goblin Emperor fanfic, Beshelar attended an engagement ceremony as best man, and as part of the traditional ceremony promised to replace the husband-to-be if anything should happen. What happens is that his friend runs away on the morning of the wedding. Cue Beshelar acquiring a wife and child. The bride's family had not expected for him to keep his word, but when he makes the offer, the bride briefly thinks about it and then decides to accept, as her being an unmarried mother could ruin the whole family's reputation.
  • In Tales of a Junk Town Pony Peddler the titular Prodigious Peddler is a pony of his word. Don't insinuate otherwise.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: Insane and poorly-tempered she may be, but Corona is a mare of her word. Unfortunately for her, the Element Bearers are totally unable to grasp this fact, and during "The Return of Tambelon" betray her on the belief she would betray them first.
  • Deconstructed in Lessons from the Mountain. Maedhros and his brothers' oath to retrieve the Silmarils and kill whoever got in the way, no matter what, brought about three genocides and untold chaos and destruction. Several characters point out their oath, which was worthless anyway, was too awful to NOT be broken.
  • Vampires in Fur And Photography are known for being good with deals, Max having agreed to help mentor Nathan for Jefferson for this reason.
  • Fate: Kill: While infiltrating a Wakoku meeting, Leone captures and interrogates a guard, promising to let him live if he talks. He talks, then Leone knocks him out. Akame attempts to kill him, but Leone stops her, saying that keeping their word is what separates them from the scum of the Empire.

    Films — Animated 
  • From Finding Nemo: "No... I promised I'd never let anything happen to him..."
  • In Up, Ellie makes Carl promise that one day they'll have a house next to Paradise Falls in South America. They grow up and get married, but can never afford to make the trip. And the day Carl finally does buy the tickets to South America, Ellie succumbs to old age and is in no condition to go before she passes on. The plot is largely based upon Carl, as an old man, trying to fulfill his promise by moving their house there after Ellie's death. In this case, though, the Stock Phrase is replaced by a repeated "cross over the heart" motion.
  • Wreck-It Ralph:
    • Vanellope inverts it, reminding Ralph that he promised, but he carries through.
    • Gene gives Ralph the penthouse key, though it's a moot point because their game was at risk of being unplugged at the time.
      Gene: Let it never be said that I am not a man of my word.
  • Lady Tremaine in Cinderella gives her word that Cinderella can go to the ball if she "gets all her work done and finds something suitable to wear." She does both. Lady Tremaine says, "I never go back on my word." Unfortunately, she never promised that she wouldn't let her daughters tear the suitable dress to bits.
  • In Peter Pan. Hook accuses Peter of being a coward because he always flies away instead of fighting him fair and square. Pan gives his word to fight Hook without flying, despite Wendy begging him not to.
    • Captain Hook himself uses this, albeit in a sneaky, loophole-abusive way. "I have given me word not to lay a finger, or a hook, on Peter Pan. And Captain Hook never breaks a promise..." He says this as he's lowering a bomb into Peter's hideout.
    • In the sequel, Hook convinces Wendy's daughter Jane to tell him where to find Pan, but Jane makes him promise not to hurt Pan. Hook signs a contract promising he wouldn't hurt a hair on Pan's head. Then he goes ahead and captures Pan, plucks a single hair, gives it to Jane, and explains that's the hair he won't hurt.
  • Rapunzel in Tangled. When she makes a promise, no matter how it might hurt her, she will keep it. From returning Flynn the tiara he stole (even if he would leave her, despite her growing feelings for him) to promising Gothel she would stay with her and never run away again, as long as she heals Flynn (even if it means never seeing Flynn again and giving up her freedom).
    • Though earlier, she promises never to ask to leave the tower again, so she's free to actually leave without asking (although she does feel guilty about it).
  • Meet the Robinsons: Ultimately, Wilbur Robinson. He makes a promise under duress to take Lewis (really his father's younger self) back to see his biological mom, and despite assorted happenings that make it clear that said course of action could potentially be dangerous, not to mention the fact that it seemed likely that he never intended to follow through on the promise... he follows through on the promise.
  • Farquaad, from Shrek, may be A Nazi by Any Other Name, but at least he keeps his word. He could've screwed Shrek out of their deal to clear out his swamp in exchange for Fiona, but he kept his end of the bargain, and even gave Shrek a deed to his land.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aliens: Ellen Ripley crossed her heart and hoped to die that she will not leave Newt behind, and that's why neither a hive of snarling monsters, their colossal queen-mother nor even an IMMINENT NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST is going to stop her from going back to save her life.
  • Deconstructed (along with several other Western tropes) in The Wild Bunch. Sykes is shot by bounty hunters led by Thornton, who used to be one of the titular outlaws, on his way to rendezvous with the rest of the bunch. Dutch is pissed.
    Dutch Engstrom: Damn that Deke Thornton to hell!
    Pike Bishop: What would you do in his place? He gave his word.
    Dutch Engstrom: He gave his word to a railroad!
    Pike Bishop: It's his word!
    Dutch Engstrom: That ain't what counts! It's WHO you give it TO!
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is another one of those who keeps to the word of his promise but not the spirit; he has gotten grievously offended by both Elizabeth's and Will's accusation that he didn't fulfill his part of the bargain he made to them, and tells them if they have a problem with how he did it, it's their fault for not being specific in the agreement.
    • Will Turner also always keeps his promises. This leads to him betraying most of the cast over the course of the second two movies so he can kill Davy Jones and free his father from eternal servitude on the Dutchman.
  • No Country for Old Men. Anton Chigurh promises Moss that if he doesn't hand him the money, he will go after his wife. Moss not only didn't hand-deliver the money to Chigurh as he was supposed to, but he dies trying to hatch a plan to keep his wife safe, and after he is buried, Moss's now-widow sees Chigurh sitting in the living room, waiting to kill her. Chigurh knew that Moss's wife did nothing wrong, but he felt he had no choice but to kill her since gave his word that he would kill Moss's wife if Moss didn't return the money. He flips a quarter to determine if she lives or not. In the book, she at first refuses, but gives in and loses. In the film, she refuses to play along at all, pointing out that it's just a half-assed way for him to avoid responsibility for his actions: this is the one time in the film that we see Chigurh lose his cool at all.
  • In The Princess Bride, Inigo wants to help the Man in Black climb the last few feet of cliff—so that he can kill him in a duel:
    Inigo: I could give you my word as a Spaniard.
    Man in Black: No good. I've known too many Spaniards.
    Inigo: Isn't there any way you trust me?
    Man in Black: Nothing comes to mind.
    Man in Black: *beat* ...Throw me the rope.
    • Not to mention that after the "Man in Black" reaches the top, Inigo lets him rest for a bit, and they chat. They really aren't enemies. (Inigo is only a villain by association anyway.)
    • Twisted around when Prince Humperdink agrees not to hurt Westley if Buttercup will come along quietly, with the reasoning being that it will be Count Rugen that actually hurts Westley, and Humperdink will only watch.
      • And ultimately subverted when Humperdink mostly kills Westley.
  • From Jerry Maguire:
    Jerry: Tell me you didn't sign. Tell me you didn't sign because I'm still rather moved by that whole "Stronger than oak" thing.
    "...We signed an hour ago."
  • In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Angel Eyes shoots his employer after taking money from his last victim to do so. He always keeps a contract, even with a man he's just killed.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Gollum swears by the One Ring that he will lead Frodo and Sam to Mordor. He actually does so before betraying them.
    • There is an interesting difference in the wording between the original novel and the movie. In the book he tries to swear "on the Precious", but Frodo refuses to accept a vow that depends on his lust for it, and makes him swear by it, instead, which binds him to serve Frodo as long as he's holding the Ring, whereas in the movie Frodo simply accepts "on the Precious".
    • Another interesting difference: in the film, when confronted ("Sméagol promised!") he replies "Sméagol lied." In the books, he swore to serve "the master of the Precious," so by stealing it for himself, he became the master of the Precious and could serve himself.
      • The same could be said of the Ring itself. Gollum also swore never to let Sauron have it. Sauron was coming for the Ring when Gollum had it. ....there was only one way to keep the vow, even if Gollum doesn't realize it.
      • One more, though more of a curse than a promise: After Gollum attacks Frodo on the slope of Mount Doom, Frodo says that if Gollum ever lays hands on him again, he himself will "perish in the fire." And Gollum does. And guess what happens to him moments later.
    • Another example: Samwise Gamgee.
    Sam:. I made a promise, Mister Frodo. A promise! "Don't you lose him, Samwise Gamgee." And I don't mean to!
    • Also, Aragorn releasing the dead army after the battle of Pelennor Fields despite Gimli urging him not to.
  • In the comedy Major Payne, the titular character promises a biker thug that he'll take his foot and kick him across the face with it. Distracted by his footwork Payne then proceeds to sucker punch him in the throat and kick him in the nuts. The biker (now on his knees choking) foolishly brings up the Major's threat:
    Biker: You... you said you were gonna... hit me in the face.
    Payne: You calling me a liar?! * boots him in the face*
  • In I Love You Phillip Morris, the prisoner in the next cell takes his agreement to play a song in his cassette player for Steven and Phillip to dance to very seriously, continuing to play it after lights out when the guards demand he stop it. When several guards come and try to force him to turn it off, he fights them off, screaming "MY WORD IS MY BOND, BITCH!".
  • In Legally Blonde, Brooke Wyndam, the accused, gives her alibi to law student Elle Woods. Elle refuses to divulge this alibi despite being pressured by the lead attorney, Callahan, and the other law students working the case because Elle promised not to tell.
  • Flash Gordon. Princess Aura asks Dale Arden to put a poison pill in Ming's drink. Dale declines, saying she gave her word to Ming to be a good wife to him if he'd spare Prince Barin and Hans Zarkov.
    Princess Aura: My father never kept an oath in his life!
    Dale: I can't help that. I have to keep my word. It's one of the things that makes us better than you.
  • The Phantom Menace, when Yoda expresses his disapproval over the training of Anakin.
    Obi-Wan: Master Yoda, I gave Qui-Gon my word. I will train Anakin.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, John made the T-101 promise to never kill anyone, and he literally did, even before he made the promise.
  • Subverted in The Replacements (2000), when team owner Edward O'Neil re-hires coach Jimmy McGinty and asks him to put together a team of replacement players while the real players are on strike, McGinty agrees on the condition that he will have no interference from O'Neil on his player choices. O'Neil is reluctant but answers with "my word is my bond". McGinty, knowing O'Neil, asks for it in writing. Later on, O'Neil breaks his promise and demands that McGinty switch quarterbacks.
  • In Run, Fat Boy, Run!, perennial slacker Dennis Doyle promises he will finish the Nike River Run marathon, and he does, despite a badly sprained, and possibly broken ankle slowing him down.
  • From The Magnificent Seven, after a discussion of all the good reasons for giving up and going home.
    Harry: Well, there comes a time to turn Mother's picture to the wall and get out. The village will be no worse off than it was before we came.
    Chris Adams: You forget one thing. We took a contract.
    Vin: Not the kind any court would enforce.
    Chris: That's just the kind you've got to keep.
  • Marriage is the promise of eternal love and as a man of honor, Leopold of Kate & Leopold, cannot promise eternally what he has never felt momentarily.
  • A variation in Schindler's List. Near the start, the pre-Character Development Schindler is convincing the Jewish black market to finance his factory in exchange for a share of the products, and the Jews ask for a guarantee that he'll uphold his end of the deal. Schindler contemptuously points out that any sort of contract or attempt to make a legally binding agreement would be pointless, so they must simply accept that "I said I'll do it. That's your guarantee". The fact that he does keep his bargain even though he could easily screw them over is an early indication that there's more to him than a greedy war-profiteer.
  • After a prison riot, Birdman of Alcatraz throws a rifle and a revolver out of a window and promises the warden that the prisoners have no other firearms. An official asks the warden how he could trust the word of a convict, but the warden assures him that, despite their problems, Robert Stroud has never lied to him.
  • Mad Max:
    "You're letting him go?! Well, let's keep his vehicle at least!"
    "He fulfilled his contract. He's an honorable man."
  • In the James Bond film Licence to Kill, this outright said by the villain Sanchez regarding his insistence on paying the corrupt DEA agent who broke him out of prison.
  • In Twins, when Vincent delivers the stolen jet engine to Beetroot, Beetroot has realized by now that Vincent obviously got hold of it by accident, and probably doesn't even "know what the hell this thing is". Vincent assumes for a minute that Beetroot is going to kill him, but he doesn't - after explaining to him what the "thing" is, he leaves Vincent the promised $5 million and takes the goods. Unfortunately, Beetroot and his assistant are quickly gunned down by Webster just as Julius arrives, leading to the final showdown of the movie.
  • I Come in Peace: It's a recurring plot point that Jack Caine always keeps his promises when he does make one. The alien cop seems to be aware of this reputation since when he is dying, he also makes Jack promise to stop the alien drug dealer before he can kill even more people.
  • The ending of the film Nostalghia has its main character painstakingly walking across an empty pool with a lit candle because of a promise he made to a madman who believed that if he could cross the pool with a lit candle, he could save the world.
  • The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge: D'artagnan is facing Cardinal Richelieu who is about to hang him for a variety of illegal acts which destroyed the Cardinal's plan. D'artagnan hands Richelieu a note which says "By my order and for the good of the state, the bearer has done what has been done", basically a "get out of jail free" card. Richelieu accepts it, says "Be careful what you write, and be careful whom you give it to" (causing D'artagnan and the audience a moment of concern, thinking he is going to rip it up), but then follows this trope straight by honoring the document he himself wrote and releasing D'artagnan, even though it was intended as a blanket pardon to excuse Milady de Winter from her acts which would have advanced the Cardinal's plan.
  • In Superman, Luthor has sent off two missiles, one to the San Andreas fault, which could potentially destroy California, and another to the town of Hackensack, New Jersey, knowing that Superman could not stop both. As added insurance, he leaves Superman with a chunk of Kryptonite to prevent him from saving anyone. Eve Teschmacher, however saves Superman on the condition that he promises stops the missile headed towards Hackensack. The reason? Her mother lives out there. Superman keeps his word.
  • The Revengers: Benedict frees the convicts and asks for the word that they will accompany him on his Roaring Rampage of Revenge. All give their word; although some add that their word is worthless. Only Joe refuses, saying he needs to think things over before giving his word. The next night, the convicts announce they leaving. Except Joe, who announces that he will now give his word and stays with Benedict. However, the next morning four of the convicts return of their own free will, and the fifth is dragged back by one of the others.

  • In Fury Born: Tisiphone will not break her word if she vows to help somebody obtain vengeance, however the price is literally the person's soul and sanity.
  • James Bond: Blofeld will not violate a business agreement. He wants S.P.E.C.T.R.E. to be known as a trustworthy organization that is superior to the other crime syndicates. This is demonstrated in a tale of a ransom case where the organization captured a girl and promised to return her unharmed if her father paid a ransom; when Blofeld learned that the girl had been raped by one of her guards after the ransom was paid, he killed the guard and returned some of the ransom as compensation.
  • Star Wars:
    • Jango and Boba Fett live by a code of completing the mission. Only extreme conditions can force them to retreat in failure.
    • In Starfighters of Adumar, Imperial Admiral Teren Rogriss finds himself in a bind because of this trope. He gives his word to the Adumari people that if they side with the New Republic, the Imperials would leave, and not return except under formal banners of truce or war. He expects that he'll be ordered to bombard Adumar from orbit if they don't comply, in direct contradiction to his promise. This conflicts with his sense of honor greatly.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command, Gaunt holds Van Voytz at gunpoint to demand his word for the safety of his men. Van Voytz gives it, Gaunt lowers his gun, one of Van Voytz's subordinates starts to rush him, and Van Voytz bellows in outrage that he had given his word. (And demands that he salute Gaunt.)
    • Of course, he never said Gaunt wouldn't be arrested for pulling that stunt....
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan novels:
    • Generally speaking, if a member of the Barrayarran upper-class says "My word as Vor", they mean it. In fact, this is the basis for Barrayar's entire legal system. When a Vor gives you his word, it has the force of a signed contract — and if he fails to keep his promise, he can be sued for breach of contract. It's also the basis of their Government: Vor Counts and Lords give their words to their Emperor that they will serve him — even if the Emperor is, at the time, a frightened young boy. Miles explains the metaphysics of the idea at one point; "Your breath is your life. What you pledge with your breath, you pledge with your life."
    • The Backstory includes a massacre of prisoners who had surrendered on Aral Vorkosigan's personal word of honor. Vorkosigan barehandedly broke the neck of the man responsible for the deaths as soon as he heard of it.
    • This is then subverted later on in Shards of Honor when Aral stretches the truth a bit, and obtains privacy to discuss various sensitive subjects with Cordelia by giving his word as a Vorkosigan that they would only discuss his past proposal of marriage. Cordelia remarks on the fact that there had been a time when he would never have given his word falsely. Than again, as a Count's heir and arguably in the line of succession for emperor, highly sensitive political information is absolutely relevant to anyone considering marrying him.
    • Ekaterin feels guilt over her decision to abandon her first marriage not because abusive Jerkass Tien deserved better, but because in marrying him she had given her word.
    • An example that illustrates just how seriously this is taken occurs in A Civil Campaign, when Gregor is would-be-casually talking to Lord Dono and party. One of them mentions that they had given their words, and Gregor interjects "You took their oaths?" If Lord Dono had, in fact, accepted formal oaths of allegiance from his men, he would have been guilty of breaking a law that would see him condemned to death. By public exposure and starvation, no less. Fortunately, Loophole Abuse saves the day; "Our personal oaths, sire. Any man may freely give his personal oath, for his own personal acts."
    • Closing the generational circle, large parts of both Memory and A Civil Campaign revolve around how Ekaterin and Miles cope with living after failing to keep their words. It's a survivor's problem, as Miles puts it, since sooner or later a philosophy based on "death before dishonor" inevitably forces one to choose between being dead or forsworn.
    • Mark experiences the effect saying "My word as Vorkosigan" can have in Mirror Dance. He says it lightly, when promising Kareen a dance at a later date, and when she gives him a huge smile....
      He felt like a man who's gone to spit, and had a diamond pop accidentally from his lips. And he couldn't call it back and re-swallow it.
  • Rajputs in the Belisarius Series are absolutely fanatical about their word even when(by implication at least) taken under duress and even when it compels them to serve a monstrous regime. They do however manage to lawyer their way out of it. Other groups have a lot of respect for promises as well. But no one takes it as far as Rajputs.
  • In L. M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon, Emily, while feverish, told her aunt to open up a well that had been sealed. Her aunt gives her word and goes to do it. Others are shocked that she feels herself bound by a promise given to quiet a delirious child, but she does. Emily is psychic, and the well turns out to hold the body of a woman who had been believed to have run away with a lover on a ship that had sunk, but had actually broken her neck falling in.
  • Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe — if he gives his word, it's good. Even Inspector Cramer believes him under those circumstances.
  • Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book set out to kill Shere Khan "to keep my word."
    • In The Second Jungle Book, he persuades Kaa to help against the dhole by explaining that he had given his word to help the Free People.
      It is my Word which I have spoken. The Trees know, the River knows. Till the dhole have gone by my Word comes not back to me.
  • In Patricia C. Wrede's Talking to Dragons, Daystar rashly promises to help a princess, without knowing what she wants. Some quibbling about Exact Words and some work later, he manages to disentangle himself.
  • In Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, after Rebecca declares that she will throw herself from a window to escape him, de Bois-Guilbert vows that she is safe.
    Many a law, many a commandment have I broken, but my word never.
  • Jane Austen:
    • In Northanger Abbey, at the end, Henry Tilney asks Catherine to marry him, and then tells her that his father has forbidden it. She is glad of the order: if she had known first, she would have been honor-bound to refuse him, but now, she has said she would and is bound by that.
    • In Persuasion, Anne Eliot's friend Mrs. Smith fishes to discover whether she is engaged to Walter Eliot before she reveals the truth; if Anne had been, she would be bound by her word, and for Mrs. Smith to tell her the truth would not warn her off but merely make her unhappy for no good reason. (Fortunately, Anne wasn't.)
    • In Sense and Sensibility, Edward Ferrars no longer wishes to marry the woman to whom he's engaged. But he refuses to break the engagement, even when threatened with disinheritance.
  • Quite common in Warhammer 40,000:
    • In Graham McNeill's Ultramarines novel Warriors of Ultramar, after the Inquisitor promised that he would not call Exterminus on a planet to keep it from the tyrannids, Uriel rebukes him for failing this: "I thought you were a man of your word."
      • Also in his novel Storm of Iron, when rounding up prisoners to flush out where the guns are, Kroeger tells them if they live, they will be permitted to live, he gives his word, and one of them jeers at him for saying that — the word of an Iron Warrior. She does survive, and observes that he gave his word, but she had judged him correctly; he jeers at the notion.
      • And his novel Fulgrim, Fulgrim gives Ferrus Manus his word as his sworn honour brother that he does not lie. Alas, that is exactly when Ferrus Manus is bound to fight him.
    • In Lee Lightner's Space Wolf novel Sons of Fenris, when prisoner to the Space Wolves, Jeremiah promises not to escape, and Ragnar gives him and his men their weapons back. Later, after he disputes with Ragnar about where they should go, it ends when he says, "I gave you my word."
    Ragnar, I pledge to you by my faith in Lion El'Johnson and the Emperor, that my men and I will remain your prisoners, until the time comes when our brethren free us or you release us.
    • Later, Jeremiah pleads with Ragnar to let him be the one to deal with Cadmus, because he had pledged his word to his chapter; Ragnar gives his word that Cadmus will be his to deal with. When they meet Cadmus, Cadmus offers information in return for his life, and Ragnar promises, much to Jeremiah's outrage. When Cadmus demands that Ragnar let him go free, Ragnar says that he only promised him his life, and it's his, and Ragnar suggests that he start defending it. The Space Wolves leave and the Dark Angels don't.
    • In Wolf's Honour, Bulveye assures Ragnar that he knows, in time, Leman Russ and he will meet again, because Russ gave him his word on it.
    • In Ben Counter's Horus Heresy novel Galaxy in Flames, when Tarvitz is trying to warn the betrayed Marines on Isstavan III, he invokes The Power of Friendship to get Garro to believe his word, because of their Fire Forged Friendship.
      as my honor brother I ask you to trust me like you have never trusted me before. On my life I swear that I do not lie to you, Nathaniel.
      • And his novel Chapter War, when the Howling Griffons are introduced, Mercaeno explains the Back Story of the daemon they had just killed: three thousand years before, they had sworn to avenge the death of Orlando Furioso, and had finally done so. Part of why it had taken so long was that they had other oaths. He explains that they are traveling to this planet to fulfill an oath. The Inquisitor he tells this to says that he, also, is traveling there to keep his word. Indeed, the Howling Griffons' chief motivation throughout the novel is keeping their word; when the Soul Drinkers persuade them that they are not the Black Chalice they have sworn Revenge on, the Howling Griffons stop fighting them and go to keep their oath to protect a planet from orks.
    • In Matt Farrer's "After Desh'ea" (in Tales of Heresy), Kharn tells Angron that despite Angron's demand that he fight, he had given his word not to lift his hand to him, and if that means he dies, he dies. Angron is clearly moved by such devotion.
    • In the Back Story of Simon Spurrier's Night Lords novel Lord of the Night, Sahaal had watched the Night Haunter be assassinated, because the Night Haunter had foreseen it and extracted a promise from him to do so.
    • In James Swallow's novel Deus Encarmine, Rafen had promised their father to look out for Arkio. Making their Cain and Abel fight particularly hard on Rafen — and he apologizes to the dying Arkio for not having helped him. And Stele has Koris and other sergeant promise to keep a secret before he lies to them; they would think of this trope and not consider it was a lie.
  • In George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin, Princess Irene takes — as the page quote shows — most of the book to manage to keep her word.
  • In the Chivalric Romance Sir Orfeo, when Orfeo presents himself at the court of the King of Fairy, the king promises him a reward for his ministrelry. Orfeo asks for his kidnapped wife. The king objects that he is all dirty and tattered and unfit for such a lady; Orfeo says it would be more unfitting for the king to break his word, and the king has to concede.
  • At the end of Patricia A. McKillip's Heir of Sea and Fire, the second book of The Riddle Master Trilogy, Raederle swears by the ghost of Ylon that she will not leave Morgon. When, in the next book, she does leave him, Morgon tracks her down, worried that the ghost must already be troubling her for breaking it.
  • In E. Nesbit's The Story Of The Amulet, the children and an Egyptian priest give their words: the priest by a secret name on a certain altar, and the children say they will do it, which means the same. The priest then declares that there is no such name, so he is not bound, but the Psammead knows that there is, and threatens to call upon it.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, practically any magical being keeps to their word if they give it. Dresden explains that if a wizard gives their word (especially if they swear by their power) then going back on it will permanently damage their magic. The Fair Folk are naturally bound by the letter of their word (if not by the spirit). The Knights of the Cross keep their word on general principle. It seems one of the advantages of being powered by a Fallen Angels that you can go back on your word with no negative repercussions, but the downside of that is that, since you are being powered by a Fallen Angel, you go back so often it no longer has any meaning at all.
    • In Changes, the Red King is able to get around this by speaking through a translator. Even though the translator gave his word while speaking on behalf of him, the Red King himself never spoke such a promise and so was able to double cross Harry with no negative consequences. (And, given the timing of when this was stated, not much could be done.)
    • 'Gentleman Johnny' Marcone also holds to this. In one side story, people who had paid him protection money were being targeted by a rival, so he made sure that they were protected... by personally going after the party responsible.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series:
    • Jingo features the D'regs, the most feared warrior tribe in Klatch. They will not feel bound to oaths or to swearing on something, but if one of them gives you their word, you can be sure they'll honor it.
    • In Unseen Academicals, Trev promised his mum not to play football. He insists on keeping it, even though she's dead.
    • In Going Postal, the financiers save Ankh-Morpork with a verbal agreement, bound by a handshake. They know this is quite binding. It is implied that the financiers are quite willing to hire the Guild of Assassins to punish anyone who threatens people's faith in this system.
  • In Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians, gods are bound by their promises by the River Styx. Hades keeps his to Nico even without that, though he insists on Exact Words. And Luke's promise to Annabeth is crucial to his final Heroic Sacrifice.
    • This is not universal, as both Zeus and Poseidon break a vow made this way. The thing is, breaking this kind of a promise is really bad, and the fates will try and find a way to punish whoever broke it (though it's never shown exactly what happens in these books, Theogony has the answer). It helps that technically, it's Zeus who is supposed to judge whether the oath has been broken, and as characters point out, no way is he going to punish himself or his brother (though that does not stop Zeus from being cranky with Percy the first time they meet to try and recover his bruised ego, nor from threatening to kill Percy if he ever flies again.)
    • Hades in general will honor his debts. He's also the only one of his brothers who didn't break the vow to not have any more kids post 1945.
  • Shadow from Neil Gaiman's American Gods keeps his promises, from little things like having a proper bath the moment he gets out of prison, to letting a god swing at his skull with a sledgehammer, having wagered his life in a checker game. The god doesn't come for him; Shadow voluntarily returns to his home to pay off this debt, and even turns down a postponement suggested by that god.
  • In Brian Jacques's Redwall, Warbeak gives her word on her mother's egg. When the king orders Matthias's death, Warbeak says so, and the king immediately revokes the order.
    • Vilu Daskar has a fondness for using this trope — and Exact Words — on his victims. When he no longer has a use for certain slaves, he tells them they're free to leave and makes them Walk the Plank. His crew are also seen discussing various ways he's "set prisoners free", including telling them they will leave the ship alive, then sewing them up in sacks and dropping them overboard.
  • In G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, Syme promises not to reveal what he learns to the police before his companion reveals a serious anarchist club. Despite everything he learns, he keeps it to the end. Gregory, meanwhile, keeps his promise not to reveal Syme is a policeman, even while he's desperately trying to convince the other anarchists not to make him their Council representative.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, why Beren insists on trying to carry out the Impossible Engagement Challenge when Lúthien asks him to just run off with her.
    • The Elven Lord Finrod Felagund makes an oath to Beren's father Barahir to always help him or his kin after the latter saves his life. This leads to Finrod leaving his realm and people to go with Beren on his quest. He dies saving Beren's life.
    • The Oath of Fëanor: Fëanor and his sons swear to recover the Silmarils. It leads them to slaughter other Elves three times, which is not only despicable in itself (which they know) but also very much hinders their own quest in the long term. Ultimately, Fëanor and all but two of his sons die attempting to fulfill the oath. The two that survive do manage to reclaim two of the Simarili, but they had done so many evil things that the hallowed jewels burn their hands. This finally pushes them over the Despair Event Horizon. It is unclear whether they genuinely couldn't break their vow, or were simply unwilling to.
      • This may be why this trope is pointedly averted where the Fellowship of the Ring—except Frodo—are concerned: Gimli wants to make them swear an oath, but Elrond absolutely refuses. (The Silmarillion was published posthumously, so the connection is never made explicitly, but Elrond and his family, by blood and by adoption, suffered from the consequences of the Oath of Fëanor.)
    • Also, Faramir in The Two Towers:
    "Not if I found it on the highway would I take it, I said. Even if I were such a man as to desire this thing, and even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take these words as a vow, and be held by them."
    • In the same sequence, Frodo responds to Faramir's attempt to persuade him not to let Gollum be his guide into Mordor by saying he has already given his word to Gollum:
    "You would not ask me to break faith with him?"
  • Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Seuss: "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant; an elephant's faithful, one hundred percent." Horton sticks with his agreed-upon egg-sitting, no matter how much suffering it puts him through, and no matter how much the bird is abusing it.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry is reluctantly made to give his word to Dumbledore that, during their mission, if he tells Harry to run, he'll run; that if he tells him to leave him and save himself, he will do so. Also used in the movie.
    • There is also The Unbreakable Vow, a more literal version of this trope. The Unbreakable Vow is a spell that forces a person into this trope. If the person who gives his word goes back on it, he/she dies. Period.
    • In many Harry Potter Fan Fics, characters swear on their magic, with the less drastic consequence of losing their magic instead of their life if they break it.
    • In Order of the Phoenix, Harry and Hermione are quick to assent when Hagrid asks for their help. Said help turns out to involve looking after a violent, 16-foot-tall giant. The two of them are understandably averse to the idea, but they're even more averse to going back on their word.
    • For all of Snape’s flaws, if he promises something, he’ll stick to it.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's A Princess of Mars, when Dejah Thoris is chained, John Carter tries to get the key. Tars Tarkas, who by now knows that Carter is nothing if not honorable, tells him that if Carter gives his word that neither he nor she would try to escape, he might "have the key and throw the chains into the river Iss." John Carter's reply? "It were better you kept the key, Tars Tarkas."
  • In Andre Norton's Catseye, when Rangers try to hire Troy, he tells them that his current employer asked him to stay on after his temporary contract ends; he had given his word. Kyger would have to consent to his going. The Rangers admit that that is the disadvantage of dealing with honorable men. Later, when one Ranger persuades Troy to accept his word to a truce, they are ambushed. Furious, Troy takes him hostage and knocks him out while he makes his escape. Later, he almost apologizes; he had not realized at the time that the ambushers were not the Ranger's men.
  • In Frank Yerby's The Saracen Blade, protagonist Pietro and his friend Gautier find Gautier's Albigensian uncle wants to die of his wounds. Gautier is troubled when Pietro, ignoring the man's wishes, starts tending the injuries as soon as the uncle passes out. "I gave my word, Pietro," he says. Pietro snaps, "I didn't."
  • In C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy, the Hunter Gerald Tarrant always keeps his word. Breaking it actually causes him anguish and seems to threaten what little humanity he has left. The only reason he joins the main characters on their quest in the first book was due to this. Under the influence of a powerful Tidal-based Working that exposes a person's true self (Damien displayed his Knight in Shining Armor tendencies and Senzei... isn't proud of whatever it was he did), Tarrant succumbed to his inherent predatory nature and attacked Ciani — and he had earlier promised Karril that he would never harm her. He spends the rest of the book trying to make it up to her, and suffers a great deal in the process, culminating in a near Heroic Sacrifice, although he recovered eventually. Near the end of the first book, Big Bad Calesta nearly tricks Tarrant into breaking his word again by offering him as a sacrifice a girl whom Tarrant hard earlier assured on a whim he would not hurt. Tarrant barely catches himself this time. This pisses him off so badly he joins Damien on his new quest in order to hunt down Calesta.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Aes Sedai are made to swear on an artifact known as the Oath Rod, one of the oaths being to never tell a lie. Even though they pride themselves on the ability to get around the oath, if they ever give a promise, they mean it because the magic of the oath prevents them from lying.
    • Specifically, the oath is to "speak no word that is not true". This notably does NOT exclude insinuations along the lines of "some say X", lies of omission, or encouraging misconceptions through ambiguous phrasing.
      • And as a result deconstructed, since no one who knows them well enough trusts them unless they give a clear unambiguous answer (which is rare).
    • It's a misconception that Aes Sedai can't break their promises. The First Oath means that an Aes Sedai can't give her word unless she intends to keep it at the time that she gives it, but there's nothing that prevents her from later changing her mind.
    • Siuan attempts to use Exact Words to get out of an oath to Gareth Bryne. He assembles an army to track her across the entire continent and force her to fulfill the promise. It takes him a painfully long time to realize that this is because he's in love with her, not the principle of the thing.
    • Mat Cauthon and company (including Aes Sedai and Seanchan captives, among others) are being chased by the Seanchan at one point (kidnapping a Seanchan princess would do that). When it seems that their pursuers have caught up, Mat is flying from one end of the circus to the other, barking orders at all the rest, except one, to try and keep them from attracting attention. When that one (the Seanchan Princess) later asks him why he had no such orders for her, he says that he remembers that she gave her word one book ago that she would stay hidden by any means necessary. This is an uncanny show of savvy for a series characterised by the Mars-and-Venus Gender Contrast and constant Idiot Ball-ing and really elevates her esteem of him.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Age and The Phoenix Exultant, Helion's word to the Horators keeps him from defying them even for his beloved son. Only in The Golden Transcedence, when Daphne reveals he gave his word to his son in the time he does not remember, is he perturbed.
  • In Wen Spencer's A Brother's Price, Eldest Whistler promises Ren not to take unnecessary risks while scouting, and does refrain from acts to keep it.
  • In Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, Katniss promises Prim to really, really, really try. Shooting the Gamemakers' pig, when she is convinced it will get her a low score and no sponsors, causes her to cry Tears of Remorse partly over that.
    • On a deeper note, it is often observed that President Snow, the official leader of Panem, may be a ruthless man with his own particular ideas about maintaining order, but if he promises to do something, he will do it,
  • In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, Roger thinks, even while threatening's Red's life, that he can't really kill him, because he gave his word.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Stardust, one witch keeps her word not to harm another — just inflicts Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The People of the Black Circle" Conan inverts it — saluting Yasmina with "You kept your word!"
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Ferdinard, deeply touched that Miranda is still unmarried, assumes that she was keeping her vow to marry him or remain a maid. He offers to marry her and not consummate the marriage so she can get it dissolved and then marry as she chooses.
  • In Barbara Hambly's Blood Maidens, a vampire master informs fledglings that he has promised Asher his protection, and dreadful things will happen if anyone hurts him.
  • In Salute the Dark, the Dragonflies are honor bound not to try to reclaim their lands.
  • Brienne of Tarth from A Song of Ice and Fire has this as a major character trait, setting her up as a Foil for Jaime Lannister; she's one of the only characters who can legitimately be trusted never to go back on her word or do something dishonorable. Because she lives in a Crapsack World, this bites her in the ass. A lot. When told she could either do something she felt was dishonorable or be executed, she refused to make the choice, until after her captors started hanging her and her companions.
    • For a largely villainous family, the Lannisters take their unofficial motto "a Lannister always pays his debts" fairly seriously. They take pains to fulfill their promises and repay their debts... although the flipside of this is that they also take pains to fulfill their threats and repay their grudges.
    • Jaime fulfills this trope himself to a fair degree. He broke one oath, and you'd be hard pressed to find a character who hasn't; admittedly it was kind of a big one, but then you find out why he really did it. In the later part of the series, his increasingly desperate attempts to toe the razor blade between his strong loyalty to his family and keeping his word only get him disliked even more, by people (on both sides) who don't understand why he's doing it or simply refuse to believe that the Kingslayer would ever consider keeping an oath.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, this is the reason Dalinar gives up his Shardblade.
    Kaladin: You really do think it was a good deal, don't you?
    Dalinar: For my honor? Definitely.
  • In Jack Shepherd's The Lost Fleet novel Valiant, one Allied prisoner has gotten to know Geary well enough that he assures the Syndics that he always keeps his word.
  • In a Dutch novel by Thea Beckman, set in the middle ages, (noble) prisoners of war are allowed to walk around freely, because they gave their word that they would not try to escape, and abide by it. One of the prisoners however is not of noble birth, and when he finds out something that would help his side, if only they knew about it, he does not hesitate to break his word (arguing that he is not noble, therefore his honor is not important to him). Despite his information, the nobleman he tells it to is angry with him, because now the other prisoners will not be believed anymore and probably put in chains to prevent their escaping as well.
  • In Sad Cypress, Elinor Carlisle promises her dying aunt that her lawyer will be sent for so that a provision can be made for her protege Mary Gerrard (who is Elinor's romantic rival). After the aunt dies without leaving a will, Elinor herself gives Mary an adequate sum of money (all the while hating her and feeling intensely jealous of her). Then, of course, Mary dies and Elinor is charged with the murder...
  • In John C. Wright's Count To A Trillion, why Menelaus survived the voyage of insanity. The crew manages to run out of supplies despite half their number, including Menelaus, being in coldsleep, and begin killing each other and their sleeping comrades for extra oxygen and food. del Azarchel stands guard over Menelaus to prevent this, even though he's as far gone as the rest of the crew, because He Gave His Word.
    • In The Hermetic Millennia, Ctesibus recounts his story because he gave his word. At another point, Menelaus reflects on how the Knights of Malta have not been in Malta for thousands of years; they had left when Napoleon threatened, without fighting, because they had sworn to never fight Christians.
  • In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, Hugh must return because he swore on his father's name that he would.
  • From Horatio Hornblower book series:
    • In Midshipman Hornblower, our hero is a prisoner of the Spanish and gives his parole not to escape. Later he's permitted to save the lives of some shipwrecked Spanish sailors and is picked up by an English ship shortly afterwards. Though sorely tempted, he tells the Captain he must keep his word to go back. This being the 18th century, everybody understands completely.
    • Played with in Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies when Hornblower gives his word as a gentleman that he is telling the truth when he lies that Napoleon was dead. When he reaches port, and is about to confess his shame and prepare to resign from the Navy, he learns that Napoleon really was dead.
  • A ballad by Adelbert von Chamisso puts into verse the German folktale of the women of Weinsberg. In 1140, the town of Weinsberg in Württemberg was besieged by the forces of German king Conrad III, who was in a mind to set an example of the rebellious inhabitants. However he said he would spare the women and told them they could leave with as much as they could carry on their backs. So the next morning the women came through the gate, each one of the carrying her husband on her back. The chancellor tried to stop them saying: "That is not what the king meant!" But Conrad said: "A king's word must hold and must not be twisted."
  • In Wen Spencer's Tinker, when Tinker says she could have reneged on a deal, Windwolf asks whether she would break her word of honor. She admits, after a bit, that no, she wouldn't have.
  • Robin McKinley:
    • In Beauty: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Beauty's family tries to persuade her not to go back to the Beast's castle at the end of her week's visit. She points out, gently, that "I promised." Since Beauty's real name is actually Honour, her father resigns himself to it and adds, "You were well named."
    • In Sunshine, Sunshine grows worried when Constantine does not show up at the time he stated.
  • In John Hemry's The Lost Stars novel Tarnished Knight, Drakon refuses to consider killing the four ISS agents who helped him; he had promised them their lives.
  • In E. D. Baker's Fairy Wings, Tamisin inverts it, refusing to believe that Jak had just left after he had promised.
  • In E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series, a Lensman always keeps his promise no matter how casually made, even to spiders and worms.
  • The Vampaneze, the odd cousins of the vampires are incredibly honourable in their own way. Lying is abhorent to them to the extent even if one was your mortal enemy, you could trust him to keep his word.
  • In Poul Anderson's "The Live Coward", the abbot asks, with child-like curiosity, for books about astronomy as part of the price to help. Wing Alak, though knowing it his duty to ruthlessly break his word when needed, resolves that this promise he will make sure he keeps.
  • In Andre Norton's Forerunner Foray, one soldier tries to argue with Turan, telling him that he was pledged to him.
  • In Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Tiger, Gudin puts Lawford on the spot by demanding to know the truth about him and Sharpe — on his word of honor. He gets it, too.
  • In Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Triumph, when Sharpe stays with McCandless, McCandless observes that everything Pohlmann offered — promotion to officer, and riches, and more — were real. Only his oath to the king held him away.
  • Spinning Silver: The Staryk take promises very seriously and draw magic from them. When Miryem completes an Impossible Task in exchange for a service from the Staryk Lord, it gives him the power to stop time if necessary to see it done.
  • In the Trickster's Duet, Trickster Kyprioth promises Aly that he'll take her back home if she keeps the Balitang girls, Sarai and Dove, safe through the summer. When Aly realizes that they're the focus of The Prophecy and a planned revolution to take the Copper Isles back from its white conquerors, she realizes she's been set up, but Kyprioth assures her that he will keep his word as gods are required to do. (But he was banking on her deciding to stay anyhow, which she did.)
  • Entrusted with the Last Request of a murdered man, Tom Broadbent of Tyrannosaur Canyon insists repeatedly that he has a duty to fulfill that request personally. Doing so puts his friends and family in immediate danger but he never expresses regret.
  • In Pact, mystic practitioners Cannot Tell a Lie due to the presence of minor spirits which penalize lies, and which enforce each vow as a Magically Binding Contract. When Blake Thorburn is made an Unperson by a demon, these spirits forget about the vows he swore, meaning that he is theoretically able to lie and break his word-but he is offended by the suggestion that he needs spirits as an excuse for him to keep his word.
  • Even though Sage of the Ascendance Trilogy has a flexible relationship with the truth, he does take his word very seriously and will carry out promises he makes, even when there is no benefit or obligation on his part.
  • In Journeys of the Catechist by Alan Dean Foster, the main character gets a Last Request from a dying soldier to save a kidnapped princess from the evil necromancer who'd kidnapped her (the main character was hoping that the man was already dead when he washed up on the beach, so as to avoid this). Instead he got stuck working his way through three books worth of crazy adventures to find her, defeat the necromancer, and discover that in the meantime she'd fallen in love with her captor. But, being a man of his word, he insisted on taking her back to her family but promised that he'd grant her one request. So she asked to go back to the necromancer (which involved more crazy adventures, but all off screen this time). The companions he picked up along the way all expressed their opinions that he'd fallen well into Lawful Stupid territory.
  • Deconstructed in the first two Tarzan novels, Tarzan of the Apes and Return of Tarzan. In the first book, Jane, afraid she's falling for the wild Ape-Man and rationally calculating the gentleman William Clayton would be a better match for her, accepts Clayton's proposal of marriage. When she later gives into her feelings for Tarzan, she insists it's too late, that even though she loves Tarzan, she gave Clayton her word and is bound to keep it. The result? Jane spends two years constantly finding excuses to delay the wedding until she and Clayton are shipwrecked on a (seemingly) deserted African coast, and she finally tells him it's ridiculous for anyone to expect her to marry a man she doesn't love just because she promised she would, that her forcing herself to keep her promise has only made them both miserable, and she's retracting her earlier, "Yes."
  • The Goblin Emperor: Subverted. One of the Emperor's bodyguards tells him that he would never betray him. As all of the Emperor's bodyguards swear loyalty and are required to commit ritual suicide if the Emperor is killed through their actions or failure, the man quickly adds "... even if I had not sworn an oath on it."
  • In the Spider-Man novel "Forever Young", Vanessa Fisk asked Peter Parker to contact Spider-Man (unaware that the two are the same man) to help her find a tablet with supposed healing properties so that Vanessa can use its power to help her currently-catatonic husband, Wilson Fisk, AKA the Kingpin, offering in turn to pay the medical bills for Peter's Aunt May, who has just been diagnosed with a rare disease. While Spider-Man is unable to retrieve the tablet, and learns that it wouldn't have been able to heal the Kingpin anyway, Vanessa still pays May's medical bills as she recognises that Peter and Spider-Man did their best and it's not the fault of either that the tablet couldn't do what she hoped it would.
  • The Han Solo Trilogy: Muuurgh gave his word of honor to keep his contract with the t'lanta Til priests on Ylesia, which includes watching Han and killing him if he ever betrays them. As honor is the core tenet of his culture, he won't break it until Han proves they lied to him. Since there's no honor working with a liar, the contract is voided, and he works with Han to go against them. Boba Fett also believes in this, having Han inform Bria's father she had died because of a promise he would do this.
  • Star Wars: Lost Stars: Ciena won't break her oath of loyalty to the Empire, even when concluding that it's evil, because her culture holds any promise sacrosanct. She continues to serve reluctantly. Previously, her father had the same attitude even after the Empire wrongly convicts his wife (Ciena's mother) of embezzlement on its false evidence and she gets seven years at hard labor. Ciena explains the principle to Thane, saying if a promise were always easy to keep this wouldn't be worth anything.
  • Wearing the Cape: Kitsune and Hope end up in a game where they have to demand the other promise something; the winner is the one who gets the biggest demand (illegal or morally repugnant demands are losses). Kitsune demands that Hope marry him, Hope demands that he serve her family. This is declared a tie, and the promises bound together—once one of them demands fulfillment of their promise, they'll have to fulfill the other promise as well. Hope figures this is the end of it, since she won't make Kitsune serve her family, and since he really doesn't want to do that he won't make her marry him. Except he later explains to her that as a kami, he inherently wants to fulfill his promises, even "promises to promise" like this one. So yes, he is going to call in that marriage one day, though of course he's not going to force her, he's just putting a lot more effort into seducing her than he normally would bother with.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 24, Jack Bauer carries this on his back, to such an extent that he actually can't understand why Dana, who'd only met him a couple of hours earlier, could possibly doubt him. He later breaks his word by killing her. Sucks to be her.
    • His former mentor, turned The Dragon, at one point tells Jack he will only cooperate if Jack gives him his word that he will be released after it is over, as he knows how much Jack values his word. Jack does, but the Dragon knows that he has killed too many of Jack's friends, David Palmer, Tony Almeida, and Michelle Dessler, for him to keep his word and lays a trap for Jack. He is then Out-Gambitted.
  • Andromeda: The Ogami will not break a contract and will always complete a mission. [1]
  • Babylon 5:
    • Londo Mollari gives Narn its freedom in return for G'kar's aid in overthrowing Cartagia. Even though G'kar fulfills his part of the bargain first and Londo would have no problem maintaining the occupation, he chooses to withdraw peacefully. This line is used verbatim to explain why.
    • In "Atonement", Delenn promises to abide by her clan's decision regarding her marriage to Sheridan.
  • Blake's 7. Used as a Pet the Dog for the ruthlessly pragmatic Avon.
    • In "Star One", Avon takes command of the Liberator to Hold the Line against an Alien Invasion despite being vastly outnumbered. He gives this trope, having agreed to Blake that he will do so.
    • It seems to be a general rule for him — he spends the following two seasons searching for Blake because he promised to take him back to Earth. When Avon finally does break his word on something (trying to kill Vila after promising to keep him safe in "Orbit") it's a sign that the end is near.
    • Not that Avon isn't above Exact Words when giving his word. In "Rumors of Death", he promises a Torture Technician a "way out" of his Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere if he talks. He does so, and Avon decides to Leave Behind a Pistol.
    • And there's this line in "[[Blakes Seven S 3 E 5 City At The Edge Of The World City at the Edge of the World".
      Tarrant: I gave them my word.
      Avon: You didn't give them mine.
    • Servalan says to Warlord Zukan, "I gave you my word" when forming their alliance, only to betray him. Later when Avon gives his word that he will rescue him, Zukan refuses to accept it.
  • In the Breaking Bad episode "Breakage", Jesse gives his word that he will pay a fair price to the junkyard owner who has towed and stored his RV. When the junkyard owner threatens to sell it off and pocket the money instead, Jesse steals the RV. When Jesse finally gets some cash, he returns with the fair payment, plus interest, plus the cost of the portable toilet and fence that he broke during his escape.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Played straight in "Grave".
      Spike: You don't come near the girl, Doc.
      Doc: I don't smell a soul anywhere on you. Why do you even care?
      Spike: I made a promise to a lady.
    • The Mayor doesn't like others accusing him of dishonesty.
  • The Commish. Commissioner Scali's son David turns out to have been a direct witness to a schoolyard shooting. Dad is naturally angry and demands to know why he didn't come forward as the whole community is up in arms over this. David protests that he promised not to tell anyone (a friend had shot a school bully). Scali says that while he taught his son to keep his promises, "...part of growing up is knowing when you have to break them."
  • This comes up in Continuum when Kagame trades a hostage he had taken (the grandmother of a traitor) for his own mother. Travis kills the grandmother anyway, and Kagame is pissed.
    Kagame: You made me break my word. My WORD! If you act like a mad dog, I will put you down like one.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Doomsday": The Doctor gives Jackie his word that he'll get her and Rose out alive. He manages to keep it.
    • "Blink": Kathy Nightingale's grandson makes a big deal out of the promise he made to her to deliver her letter to Sally decades after her death, despite having no idea why she asked this (and being royally confused by the result).
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: Boss Hogg is about as corrupt as you can get and will work any angle, but he will keep his word if he "spits and shakes" on it.
  • In Farscape Aeryn swears that Scorpius will not be harmed because he saved her life. She binds John to it as well, making him promise. Of course, she's delirious at the time so it wasn't really a fair way to get sanctuary. Not that Scorpius cares.
    • This is later Played for Laughs in "Hot to Katratzi".
      Crichton: (about killing Scorpius) You made me promise that I wouldn't.
      Aeryn: Well, I release you from that promise.
      Crichton: Say that again.
      Aeryn: I release you from that promise.
      Crichton: Thank you. (points gun at Scorpius's head) I'll give you my bike if you kill him.
  • Niska, in Firefly believes in this, not out of a sense of honor, but because he takes his reputation very, very seriously. He wants everyone to know that he keeps the deals he makes and that he'll brutally punish anyone who doesn't keep a deal with him.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Tyrion Lannister on two occasions offers to pay considerable sums when his life is threatened. First, he offers a purse of gold to Mord, his jailer when he is held captive in The Eyrie. Second, he offers a wealth of weaponry to various hill tribe warriors when they threaten to kill him. Despite being quite capable of screwing over both parties, Tyrion honours his promises in keeping with his family's unofficial motto "a Lannister always pays his debts." He even utters this phrase when paying back Mord.
    • In the Season 6 finale, it is revealed that Ned Stark promised his dying sister Lyanna that he would protect her baby son (who would become Jon Snow), offspring of her and Rhaegar Targaryen. Ned would lie to his friend King Robert and sully his own name to protect his sister's child.
    • "I said I would take you to King's Landing, and that's what I'm going to do."
    • Osha gave her word to a dying Luwin, that she'd take Bran and Rickon to their brother Jon Snow at Castle Black, and no further — as she is quick to remind Bran.
  • A plot point in the season 6 episodes of House, "The Dig" and "After Hours". In the latter episode, Thirteen is determined, perhaps beyond reason, to keep a promise she made to the woman who had been her cellmate in prison. Chase correctly analyzes that her intense reaction to the idea of keeping her word is a reaction to her having previously kept her promise to euthanize her own brother as he was dying an ugly death from Huntington's disease, which is why Thirteen had spent time in prison, and which disease Thirteen also has herself. As Chase points out, by adopting the philosophy that she had to kill her own brother because she had given her word she would do it and you can't go back on that, it distances her from responsibility for what she did.
  • House of Saddam: Subverted. Saddam promises his first wife that Raghad and Rana would be spared his wrath upon their return to Iraq. Their husbands, Hussein and Saddam Kamel, are not as lucky. Technically, Saddam did promise not to harm them but didn't say anything about their Uncle Ali exercising tribal law at Saddam's behest. Thus his word becomes only Metaphorically True.
  • In Kamen Rider Zero-One, Second Rider Isamu Fuwa is a man who is willing to always live by his word, no matter what.
    Fuwa: "When I say I'll do it, I'll do it! That's my rule!"
  • In The Last Kingdom, Danes are honor-bound to keep their word. They're seen constantly pillaging, killing and raping all across England where they go, but if any of them give their word to not do something, even if would be to their advantage not to, they will. not. do it. This is best shown in season 2 where the main character Uhtred, captures one of a pair of brothers who are leaders of their band. Even though the band has Uhtred completely surrounded, all Uhtred has to do is threaten one brother's life to make the other swear to leave England. Not only does Uhtred then let go of the brother right then and there despite being surrounded, but the other brother is also a man of his word and they actually leave England for three whole years.
  • In The Late Shift (based on real events), Jay Leno has difficulty firing his out-of-control executive producer, Helen Kushnick, because he gave his word to her late husband on his deathbed that he'd take care of her.
  • In Law & Order: Special Victims Unit William Lewis tells Olivia he is a "man of his word" after he promised to give her a drink of water after he forced her to drink vodka. He also said that he was a man of his word when he "did everything he said" he would do to an elderly woman when he raped her in front of Benson.
  • Lost: If Ben Linus says he'll let you get off the island, you will get off the island.
  • In an episode of the Real Life TV Luggage Wars, an American couple find a pair of what are proven to be Harry Houdini's handcuffs. The Irish escape artist who verifies it says they could be worth £10,000 or more to a collector. Then he challenges them that if he can do his 100 feet of rope trick in 30 seconds - which he has done before - can he win the cuffs? They shake hands on it. They lose the cuffs. It's a handshake agreement.
  • Arthur of BBC's Merlin is like this, even going so far as to put his head on a literal chopping block after giving his word to accept whatever challenge he was given in exchange for his life.
    • Merlin too, in his second What the Hell, Hero? moment of 2X12 when he frees the Great Dragon, who then proceeds to attack Camelot.
  • Monk featured this in "Mr. Monk Goes to Jail", the Season 2 finale. Dale the Whale, Monk's Arch-Enemy, is a suspect in the murder of an inmate where he's incarcerated. Dale gets Monk to agree to a deal: solve the case, and the villain will tell Monk everything he knows about Trudy's murder. When Monk finds the truth and exonerates Dale, the latter remarks that "a deal's a deal" and shares some crucial information. It's ultimately a Subverted Trope, though, as a later season reveals that the whole thing was a Xanatos Gambit designed to frame Monk in a later crime which, if successful, would end in Dale's freedom.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: The police sergeant promises his surviving two self-defence grunts that he won't kill them in a session where he's teaching them how to defend themselves against anyone armed with a basket of raspberries. He keeps his word: a released tiger does the job for him.
  • MythQuest: Alex takes the place of Sir Caradoc in episode 6, and accepts a challenge from Eliavres. If Alex cuts off Eliavres' head, he will return in one year and behead Alex. A year later, Alex has been framed and is about to be executed by King Arthur for treason. Rather than try to get out of it, he requests that Eliavres be the one to behead him, and this is his reason.
  • Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold of Once Upon a Time has only once ever gone back on a deal, and it's possible that he's been trying to make up for it ever since. This is not to say that he won't twist the bargain to his own ends, as he does when he fakes the murder Regina wanted him to frame Mary for, claiming that Regina never explicitly told him to kill the would-be victim. And even if you get exactly what you want from him, the price you'll have to pay may be far greater than you imagine... especially if you try to cheat him out of his end.
  • Villains in Power Rangers are not known for being honorable, but Villamax from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy was an exception. In one episode, he captured most of the Rangers and the Magna Defender and offered to let them go in exchange for Leo surrendering himself. Leo agreed, and much to everyone’s surprise, especially Deviot’s, Villamax kept up his end of the deal. He went so far as to overrule Deviot specifically because he gave his word.
  • Subverted in The Sopranos episode "Isabella": when Carmella and Tony are discussing ratting out other criminals and going into witness protection, Tony says this. Carmella replies: "What are you, a kid in a treehouse?" A nice way to point out how ridiculous this trope can be when the choice is following your word or protecting your family.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • Subverted in "Spirits" when the character Tonane refers to the Goa'uld larva inside Teal'c as a "demon".
        Teal'c: The demon will cause you no harm. I give you my word.
        Tonane: Normally that would mean a great deal to me. But how do I know the value of your word? We've only just met.
      • In "It's Good to Be King", Teal'c promises the Jaffa Trelak that he'll die quickly. When Teal'c finally kills him, the Jaffa's last words are "You are a man of your word".
    • Todd from Stargate Atlantis isn't someone to be easily trusted. His first encounter with Sheppard though shows, that he has a sense of honor and keeps his word once given - without expecting Sheppard to do the same. One could say it is a case of Honor Before Reason. Todd's esteem certainly arrives from Sheppard's willingness to stay true his word.
      • This is not to say that they like each other. After a few of Todd betrayals (there were extenuating circumstances), Sheppard is understandably a little wary of trusting the guy again. When Todd asks Sheppard in the series finale why he let him go the last time, Sheppard tells him that he gave his word... and also because he thought Todd wouldn't make it on his own.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Die is Cast" when Odo is missing in the Gamma Quadrant, Michael Eddigton sabotages the Cloaking Device in an attempt to stop Sisko's rescue operation. Sisko decides to continue the mission anyway, at which point Eddington pledged to help, invoking this trope.
    Kira: What makes you think we'll trust you again?
    Eddington: Because I give you my word.
    Sisko: I make it a policy to never question the word of anyone who wears that uniform. Don't make me change that policy.
    • In "In Purgatory's Shadow", Worf and Garak get sent into the Gamma Quadrant in search of the Cardassians and Romulans that were lost in "The Die is Cast". Before he goes, Garak promises Ziyal he'll return safely. This results in Ziyal refusing to leave the station when Dukat orders her to because "He [Garak] made a promise; and so did I". Dukat is so furious that his daughter would choose a promise to an enemy of her family over obeying her father that he abandons her on the station even though he has secret information that the station is about to become very, very vulnerable.
    • Tweaked with in an episode of TNG, when Worf is stuck in a sort of Romulan prison camp/community. After multiple attempts at causing trouble, including setting off an explosion and trying to escape, Worf asks to go hunting with another Klingon and gives his word that he won't try to escape again. The Romulan commander, however, is having none of this, until an elder Klingon reminds him that he gave his word years ago, and has never broken it.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: the Hazari see completing a contract as a matter of pride. However, they can be bought off for a high price. Also, unreliable and double-dealing clients must increase the bounty money or find another option.
  • Supernatural:
    • Dean gives his father his word that if he can't protect his brother from turning evil, he will kill him. This promise causes Dean much angst.
    • Lucifer, the embodiment of evil, promises Sam that he will never lie to him and that Sam will consent to be possessed by him willingly. Lucifer is right on both counts.
    • Castiel gives his vessel Jimmy Novak his word that he will protect Jimmy's family. After being recalled to Heaven and tortured, he returns to Earth just in time to smite the demons who have ordered the death of Jimmy and his family. Unfortunately, Jimmy and his wife eventually both die due to Castiel's actions, but Castiel eventually does try and atone by watching out for their daughter Claire.
    • Crowley, the demon King of the Crossroads, always makes good on his deals and takes pride in that.
  • In Xena: Warrior Princess, one of the title character's former generals was terrorizing a town, and he and Xena fought a duel which Xena won. She said that she'd forgo taking his life if he promised to leave the village alone. When he agrees, he and his men begin to clear out... except one, who sneakily goes for his knife to try and attack Xena from behind. The general throws a dagger into his chest from across the room, and says to a surprised Xena, "A deal's a deal." He then leaves as promised.

  • In Meat Loaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," Meat Loaf's would-be conquest makes him swear to "love her forever" before she'll have sex with him. After trying to talk her out of it, Meat Loaf eventually agrees to "love her 'til the end of time." The song ends with the two unhappily married, but Loaf won't leave her: "I'll never break my promise or forget my vow."
  • Legendary parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic swears by this trope in his dealings with the music industry. Specifically, he always asks the artists he plans on lampooning for permission to write a parody of each of their songs—even though, according to U.S. copyright law, it's not necessary. Most artists, who find Yankovic's riffs on them hilarious, respond positively. However, there have been instances when the singer in question didn't give Yankovic an OK to publish or record a piece. For example, Paul McCartney, a dedicated vegetarian, refused to allow "Live and Let Die" to become "Chicken Pot Pie," while Michael Jackson, one of Yankovic's biggest fans (he even let him use the same set as "Bad" for the parody "Fat"), felt uncomfortable with "Black and White" being turned into "Snack All Night," as the song's message of racial harmony didn't lend itself to jokes. The only thing keeping Yankovic from recording and profiting off those songs is his personal promise and creed—and that is enough for him, which has contributed to his reputation as one of the best in the business.

  • In Classical Mythology, all the gods (even the tricksters, even mighty Zeus) must follow their word when they swear by the Styx. If they don't, the punishment as described by the Theogony is one year of being conscious but unable to move, then 7-9 more of being barred from the presence of other gods and Olympus, and being barred from eating ambrosia/drinking nectar. Hera tricked Dionysus' mother Semele into making Zeus swear by the Styx to show her his true, divine, form — which burned her to a crisp.
    • Also, Helios promised his beloved son Phaethon anything, on the River Styx. Phaeton asked for a joyride in his father's chariot. The only trouble was, said chariot was the Sun. The story did not end well.
    • In The Iliad, it's why the Greeks went to The Trojan War - Odysseus decided that the only way to avoid war over who should marry Helen of Troy was to make all of her suitors promise that they would abide by her father's decision (whoever it was) and go to war against anyone who would abduct her. They all agreed, and it was a good idea - after all, who would be stupid enough to face all the armies of Greece for one lady?
    • In the theatrical version of the Argonaut myth, Jason justified his break-up with Medea and marrying Glauce because he gave his word. Medea replied he was breaking his marriage vow, and made him pay.
  • Speaking of tricksters: even Loki of Norse Mythology kept his word once given. In one myth Loki is captured by the giant Geirrod and held captive until he agrees to give his word that he will lead Thor — who at this point in time is Loki's friend — to the giant's lair, without his hammer or mighty girdle. Once released, there was no reason Loki couldn't have run off or at least warned Thor what was going on, but he was forced to keep his word.
    • Much like the Greek gods above, the Norse gods, giants, spirits and monsters were, in general, bound to their vows as intangible things are impossible to break... which is why Odin was The Dreaded: Because he could bind people to his service by extracting vows from them, but could break whatever promises he made to them. Thus one of Odin's many names became "Oathbreaker."
  • Joshua of the Bible was tricked by the Gibeonites, making him think that they were from a more distant land than they were (they were a mere 3 days walk away, and they were instructed to kill all the inhabitants of the land). Without consulting God, they made a treaty of peace and found out about the deception three days later. Because of the oath, they could not attack them and defended them when they were attacked by the Amorites. They still were able to make them work as woodcutters and water carriers, however.
  • Sir Gawain, one of King Arthur's knights, kept his side of the bargain he made with the Green Knight and went to meet him, even though he was led to believe it would result in his death. As it turned out, the Green Knight was trying to test Arthur's knights; Gawain passed the test and was spared. (He didn't get a perfect score, however, because there was more to the test; after the Green Knight disguises himself as a nobleman and gives him lodging, his wife tries to tempt him, and another deal Gawain makes is that he will give his host everything he got in exchange for everything his host got. Gawain would not surrender to the woman's charms and betray his host, but when she gives him a girdle which she claims will protect his life, that is too much of a temptation, and he doesn't give it to the Knight.)

    Professional Wrestling 
  • If a certain someone "guaran-damn-tees" a win, expect said win over whoever Vince is feuding with that year.
  • Though Radiant Rain didn't like her, Mercedes Martinez remained unmolested by her groups after she forced Rain to say "I quit" in WSU. That didn't stop Jessicka Havok from breaking away from Rain's Army and starting her own group threatening to kill her though, nor did it stop Valkyrie from ganging up on Martinez after Rain relinquished leadership to Serena Deeb.
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi dropped out of the IWGP Heavyweight title scene after losing to Kazuchika Okada at King Of Pro Wrestling 2013 and made no further attempt to return to it, as promised. However, when Bullet Club brought AJ Styles to New Japan and he took the belt, Tanahashi considered the vow fulfilled since it was mainly to give closure to him vs Okada.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is a major aspect of Changeling: The Lost. True Fae give shape to their surroundings in Arcadia through the force of their agreements, and this is often how they ensnare their victims- binding them, often involuntarily, to agreements that their victims must abide by. This affects escaped Changelings as well- pledges, agreements, and contracts are a fundamental aspect of Changeling life and breaking them results in both societal and magical punishment.
  • This is also a major aspect of Changeling: The Dreaming, especially in the form of oaths. A changeling who breaks her given word often risks facing both dire supernatural consequences and shunning and punishment from changeling society.
    • For example, trolls forfeit their strength should they fail to uphold a promise.
    • Although sluagh have a reputation of being liars and slanderers, when a sluagh says something and gives his word that it's true, it's very likely to be true. This is because the sluagh strive to maintain excellence in their role as information brokers of the Fae. The splatbook for the sluagh notes how dreadful consequences await both those fae who would accuse a sluagh of lying after confirming the truth of a situation and those sluagh who would guarantee the truth after having lied. While sluagh are under no supernatural obligation to lie or to tell the truth, sluagh pride themselves as being information merchants of the highest caliber, and they are quick to literally cut out the tongues of their own peers who would dare to deliberately claim true a falsehood. Likewise, sluagh don't appreciate outsiders accusing them of lying simply because they speak an unpleasant or inconvenient truth. Such accusers risk having their own tongues cut out, or exposed to a sanity-destroying fright, or, worst of all, having all of their darkest, most embarrassing skeletons in their closets set loose upon the world.
  • The Kitsune werefoxes in Werewolf: The Apocalypse are forbidden by their laws against breaking their word once it is given. On the other hand, they aren't required to give their word in the first place...
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, a devil (Lawful Evil beastie) does not give his word often, but when he does, you know for certain that he will keep it. However how he keeps it is another matter entirely...
    • There is an entertaining scene in the D&D-based Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer which concerns getting a devil to admit he broke his word. What makes it particularly interesting is that he doesn't realize he's done so until you work through the whole scenario with him and his client.
    • A dangerous example occurs with Pandorym, one of the Eldritch Abominations outlined in the Elder Evils sourcebook. Originally, it was summoned millennia ago by a cabal of foolish wizards after agreeing to a contract in which it would act as a Doomsday Device to be used against the gods, but the wizards double-crossed it and imprisoned it to use as a deterrent. The gods smote the arrogant wizards dead, but Pandorym was too powerful for them to destroy, so it remained in its prison until the present time. If it ever escaped, its first goal would be to enact revenge by slaying every last descendant of its betrayers; however, its second goal would be to fulfill its end of the original contract. With its alien view of reality it is bound by a strange code of honor to keeps its word, even though its summoners broke theirs. And because its side of the contract was to slay every god in existence, this code of honor threatens all of creation.

  • The title character of Victor Hugo's play Hernani temporarily allies himself with his enemy, gaining his cooperation by giving him a hunting-horn and promising that he will kill himself when he hears it blown. A couple of acts later, Hernani has won fame, fortune, and the woman he loves, when he hears the horn. And darned if he doesn't actually do it.
  • This is also true in Verdi's operatic adaptation, Ernani.
  • In William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream: Hermia to Lysander, when he asks her to come with him.
    I swear to thee, by Cupid's strongest bow,
    By his best arrow with the golden head,
    By the simplicity of Venus' doves,
    By that which knitteth souls and prospers loves,
    And by that fire which burn'd the Carthage queen,
    When the false Troyan under sail was seen,
    By all the vows that ever men have broke,
    In number more than ever women spoke,
    In that same place thou hast appointed me,
    To-morrow truly will I meet with thee.
  • In Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick wrestles with the notion of his repeated pledges to never marry.
    Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humor? No! The world must be peopled. When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.
  • This is poor Desdemona's Fatal Flaw in Othello—she absolutely refuses to break promises, explaining "If I do vow a friendship, I'll perform it to the last article." She makes such a vow to Cassio after he loses his position as Othello's lieutenant, and proceeds to talk about him constantly, trying to get him back in Othello's good graces. Trouble is, Iago has convinced Othello that Desdemona's talk of Cassio is proof of her infidelity, and even after Othello makes it clear that hearing Cassio's name infuriates him, Desdemona won't stop bringing him up because of her promise. Things do not end well.
  • Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphosis is based on Classical Mythology, and so features many examples of this trope. Interestingly, in almost every case, the individual granting the request tries to dissuade the person they made the promise to, but end up forced to fulfill it anyway, much to the sorrow of both:
    • After King Midas shelters Silenus, one of Bacchus's followers, the god of revelry offers to grant Midas a "minor miracle" as payment. The greedy Midas wishes for his famous touch, and though Bacchus tells him to think about the repercussions of what he's doing, Midas insists. Bacchus reluctantly goes through with it, and it's Midas's young daughter who ends up paying the price when she's turned into a gold statue. Thankfully, Bacchus gives Midas a way out—he must walk the Earth for some time and find a magical pool to cleanse himself. He does, and his daughter is restored to life.
    • The princess Myrrha spurns Aphrodite, and the angry goddess retaliates by giving her an uncontrollable passion for her own father, Cinyras. Myrrha's nursemaid discovers her trying to kill herself, and, after pointing out that it can't be that serious, swears by the gods to help the girl overcome her problem. When Myrrha admits what's going on, her nurse is visibly disturbed, but keeps to her promise and arranges for the princess to secretly bed Cinyras for three nights.
    • In a happy example, Hermes and Zeus disguise themselves as poor beggars and try to find someone on Earth to help them, in an attempt to prove that people are inherently good. They almost give up until they come to the home of the elderly Baucis and Philemon, a kind, but poor, couple. The two provide Hermes and Zeus with all the hospitality they can; after revealing themselves, the gods offer them any wish they want as a reward. Baucis and Philemon consult with each other and request to die simultaneously, as they want to spare one another the pain of mourning. The gods are so touched by this unselfish decision that they transform them into trees, letting them embrace and literally rest in each other's arms forever.

    Video Games 
  • Halo:
    Cortana: You found me. But so much of me is wrong... out of place... you might be too late...
    Master Chief: You know me. When I make a promise...
    Cortana: ...You... keep it. ...I do know how to pick 'em...
    Master Chief: Lucky me.
    Master Chief: It was my job to take care of you.
    Cortana: We were supposed to take care of each other. And we did.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas The Courier has an option to invoke this trope. During your travels, you can come across an NCR Private upset about the fact that her husband, an NCR Ranger, has been killed and his corpse is being used by Fiends to draw other soldiers in. After killing the fiends and retrieving his corpse, two NCR soldiers express absolute awed disbelief:
    NCR Soldier: (If the player took significant damage) Why? Why would you sacrifice so much, your own body, for a stranger?
    Courier: I made a promise to Private Morales.
    NCR Soldier: That must be some code of honor you hold yourself to. Don't worry, no need for you to hoist him over your shoulder and haul him all the way back to California like I know you would if you had to.
  • The player can actually do this in Persona 4. There's a dialogue option in the first part of the game where you make a promise to get to the bottom of the mystery and find the real culprit behind the murders. Following through on this vow to the bitter end is what ultimately earns you the True Ending.
  • Disgaea:
    • Adell from Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories. He would do anything to keep his promises, even to an enemy. Like, deliver an Evil Overlord's daughter to her daddy, whom he has also vowed to kill. Much to said daughter's surprise, he's quite serious about both getting her to the overlord unhurt AND killing the overlord.
    • Valvatorez from Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten is even more willing to keep a promise. He decides to overthrow the Netherworld's government just because they're keeping him from fulfilling his promise to give his Prinny trainees a sardine after he finishes training them. He's also been waiting 400 years to fulfill a different promise to show a certain someone "true fear" before he ever drinks blood again because they died before he could live up to it.
  • Final Fantasy VIII: When Squall makes a promise, especially to Rinoa, count on it being kept, regardless of the danger involved in doing so or the consequences that might follow.
  • In Dragon Quest VII, Nicola wishes to meet the Great Hero of legend and would search for him himself if not for one thing: he promised his father that he would never leave his hometown of Mezar. Thus, even after his father is long gone, he sticks around town, asking any adventurers passing through to see if they can't revive the Great Hero.
  • Red from Solatorobo absolutely insists on keeping his promises. When asked why, his response is just "I swore on my tail that I would!"
  • In Mass Effect 2, while on Mordin's recruitment mission, you can find Mordin's assistant being threatened by some angry batarians. If you use the paragon/renegade option, you tell them that if they let him go, then you'll let them live. If you actually do so, then Shepard can basically say that they gave their word.
  • Supposedly, when Taiga in Duel Savior Destiny gives his word about something, he always keeps it even when he would much rather lie or break his promise. However, the one example of him actually promising something is an agreement you can optionally break.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
  • This is part of Dakkon's backstory in Planescape: Torment. When The Nameless One saved his life, he swore his allegiance for life, not knowing that The Nameless One was immortal. If the player tries to free him of his obligation, he replies that it isn't your decision to make.
  • In Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, Dekar mentions this after he demonstrates how one of the things he's best at really is not dying.
  • Pilgrim (RPG Maker): Master Alice, for some reason (even Nekaneminorpe admits she doesn't know why]]) will not break any deals she makes with people. Though given how she constantly looks for loopholes in them, this seems to be more a case of Magically Binding Contract than a genuine moral standard.
  • About three quarters through Undertale, you can have an encounter with Sans in which he tells a story about his befriending someone who asked him to protect any humans who entered the Underground, with clear implications that certain someone was Toriel. Despite his claim that he hates making promises, he agrees and reveals it's the only reason he didn't kill you on sight earlier in the game. The only thing that will force him to break his promise is the sheer carnage you wreak in a No Mercy run, at which point he apologizes to the one he made his promise to before fighting you as the final boss.
  • In the Dragon Age games, this is the reason Varric gives for why he won't tell anyone why his crossbow is named Bianca. "There was a girl, and I made a promise; it's the one story I can never tell." He does finally admit part of the story to the Inquisitor, but only because circumstances sort of force it.


    Web Original 
  • Broken Saints: "He gave his word, and his word was his bond." The wording itself is a reference to the creators' Catchphrase: "Word is Bond".
  • The Nostalgia Critic's determination to keep his promises to either the fans or other reviewers usually ends up biting him in the ass.
  • In Midnight Screenings, Brad was thinking of walking out of Tyler Perry's Single Moms Club, but he knew that if he broke that promise, Dave and Brian would murder him after they fully sat through three others by Perry.
  • In Unnatural Selection, Alison chose death rather than break her promise of not killing a certain opponent. There was a bit of pragmatism in it though, as a majority of suggesters judged her messianic aura as more important to her cause than her life.
  • In volume 2 of RWBY, Jaune jokingly made a promise to Pyrrha that he'd wear a dress to the dance if she couldn't find a date, entirely unaware that Attractiveness Isolation was in full effect (and even if it wasn't, he's the only one she'd want to go with). When he finds out that she didn't get a date, he wears a dress in front of the entire student body and dances with her.
    Jaune: Hey, an Arc never goes back on his word.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: After seeing Krillin's efforts to keep her safe from Cell, she thinks to herself that if they both live she'll "rock his four-foot world." She barely manages it.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Batman Beyond Melanie, formerly Ten of the Royal Flush Gang, gives Batman a note for Terry McGinnis but makes Batman promise he will not read it. Batman agrees. What she doesn't know is Batman is Terry, so he tosses the note out without reading it because of his promise (and maybe a little because Dating Catwoman seemed like a serious mistake).
  • In Ben 10: Alien Force's first 2-Part episode, towards the end, after Ben thanks Kevin, an Ex-con man who helped them because of an Enemy Mine situation, admitting they couldn't have done it without him, Kevin replies in his usual resentful and sharp-tongued manner that they still won't make it without him, clarifying when Gwen asked him if he wants to help that he made a promise to the Magister (A Space Police member who did a Heroic Sacrifice earlier on to save his life), and he intends on seeing it through to the end, which ends (with a little encouragement from Gwen to bury his old grudge towards Ben) with the New trio putting their hands together.
  • Superman: The Animated Series:
    • Lobo's vow to always keep his word is repeated in "The Main Man" where he tells Superman "The Main Man's word is as good as gold".
    • When Mr. Mxyzptlk is put on trial for abusing his powers, the charges are breaking interdimensional law, using his powers to torment weaker species, and - most heinously of all - going back on his word.
  • Justice League:
    • In the episode "Hearafter", Lobo's tendency to only follow the letter of what he promised is again an issue. In this episode, Lobo only battles the League in the Watchtower, which is in orbit (believing it to be an audition and not intending permanent harm), and when he is actually on Earth, he only fights Kalibak (who is not from Earth, but Apokolips). Technically speaking, he never broke the promise he made to Superman - but still gave the League a big headache by showing up.
    • In one episode, Circe gave her word she would leave Hippolyta alone. That meant she could turn her daughter Wonder Woman into a pig. She plays this straight later when she changes Wonder Woman back after Batman does as she requests (which is simply her idea of fun), despite her being clearly more powerful than Zatanna and Batman.
    • In "A Better World", Luthor makes a deal with the Justice League to use one of his inventions to depower the Justice Lords, in exchange for a presidential pardon for his crimes and giving the League the device afterwards. He gets the chance to backstab the League and depower them as well, but refrains:
    Lex: This would be so sweet…but, a deal's a deal. (hands Superman the power disrupter)
  • In the Tex Avery cartoon "The Three Little Pups", Wolfie spends the whole short trying every trick he can think of to force his way into Droopy's house, while Droopy and his two brothers spend most of it watching a western movie on television. Eventually, Wolfie pulls out all the stops, planting a vast arsenal of explosives around the house; as he lights the fuse, he addresses the audience and says, "I tell y'all, if this don't work, I'm... I'm goin' inta television." Well, it doesn't work (the explosion creating a huge crater but leaving the house unharmed). In the final shot, as Droopy and his brothers continue watching TV, Wolfie rides onto the set in cowboy gear. "Howdy, y'all!" he says, before riding off.
  • Done in DuckTales (1987), where Scrooge gives his word not to leave the Beagle Boys behind on a pirate isle. He keeps his word, going back for them when he could have escaped. As Scrooge himself says, "Scrooge McDuck's word is as good as gold." (The Beagle Boys still go to jail when they get back, however.)
  • Family Guy:
    • In the episode "McStroke" Peter takes Brian with him to McBurgertown headquarters so he can find incriminating evidence to sue the company. They find a door to a room that is off-limits and Peter gives his word that they won't go in. When Brian tells Peter this is what they were looking for, he tells him he gave his word, but Brian tells him to forget that and they go in anyway.
    • In another episode, the cast has spent the last few days thinking the world was about to end via a black hole (actually a mean prank by Channel 6 which apparently no one bothered to double-check outside local news), and hardline atheist Brian is seen praying. After the hoax is revealed, Brian heads off to the soup kitchen, claiming he "made a promise to Someone".
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, after Jimmy gives his word not to leave a certain spot, nothing can make him break it. Said promise is actually a Secret Test of Character that Lucius doesn't want him to pass.
  • In an episode of She-Ra: Princess of Power, She-Ra volunteers to surrender herself in exchange for the release of hostage citizens. The villain of the week actually lets them go first, then is surprised and impressed when she keeps her promise to surrender.
  • Omi in Xiaolin Showdown keeps his word, even to the point of withholding the secret to defeating all evil because of a promise to Chase Young.
    • It's a trait even Chase Young keeps to - and is one of his sole redeeming qualities.
    • In spite of Wuya's infamous reputation for her Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, when Wuya makes a promise, she genuinely keeps it, best shown when she gave Raimundo everything he wanted despite being literally able to get away with backstabbing him.
  • Popeye:
    • A pair of Al Brodax cartoons made by Gene Deitch dealt with a talking dog named Roger who causes problems for Popeye. In the second cartoon, Roger returns and promises to not talk to anyone except Popeye and Olive, which causes another problem after he witnesses a bank robbery.
    • Outside the Brodaxverse, there's a story where Popeye and Bluto were searching for a sunken treasure and promise to split it into two equal parts. Despite Bluto's failed attempts to get rid of Popeye and keep the whole treasure to himself, Popeye still allowed Bluto to keep his half. Not that it'll do Bluto any good for as long as he's still stranded.
  • In the Goof Troop episode "Tub Be or Not Tub Be," PJ makes a promise to Max not to give away any secrets and later makes one to Pete not to tell on him (though at the time, he had no idea what he was promising not to tell on him for). When PJ discovers Pete has been using him as an unwitting spy, he is stuck trying to figure out who to break the promise to: his best friend or his dad (and matters were not at all helped by Pete putting him on a guilt-trip about breaking a promise he only made because he was lied to and Max mistakenly believing he was a traitor). Eventually, he makes it obvious that Pete was using him without explicitly saying so, even when asked for direct confirmation.
  • In Young Justice, when Zatara is trying to convince Doctor Fate to release his daughter Zatanna and offers himself up as an alternate host, Fate asks what guarantee he has that Zatara will actually put on the helmet. Zatara simply says, "My word." That's enough for Fate, and Zatara does indeed allow Fate to possess him for the remainder of the series. Somewhat justified in that Zatara is a magician, and that kind of oath has actual magical implication.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003):
    • In the final part of the multi-part "Turtles in Space", Leonardo swears on his word of honor that he will use a device that Professor Honeycutt (the Fugitoid) gives him that will destroy his memory chips (killing him, effectively) if they are about to be captured. (Honeycutt has memorized the blueprints for a Doomsday Device that two tyrannical empires want, and he must avoid letting them get it at all costs.) When it looks like all hope is lost, Leonardo sadly agrees to do so. Fortunately, Splinter and the Utroms intervene right before he pushes the button.
    • Donatello promised the people who were trapped in the underground city that he would come back when he found a cure for the curse that would turn them back into monsters if they ever left the protection of the Crystal Star; once he found the cure, he was determined to keep that promise, and even after the Turtles found that the Star was missing and the inhabitants have succumbed to the curse without it, he absolutely refused to turn back, pressing through to create and administer the cure even as they were trying to kill them.
  • As evil as Venger - the Big Bad of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon - is, he seems to adhere to this code too, rarely ever going back on a deal. The rare times he has made a deal with the heroes, he has not double-crossed them, and in at least one case, he held a man's son hostage and ordered him to do a job in exchange for the boy's release; when the man did so, he did indeed release the boy unharmed.
  • The Smoggies: When the Smoggies decided to leave Coral Island, they needed to replenish their ship's oil supply and their only hope was extracting oil from Coral Island. As part of a deal between them and the Suntots, the Smoggies could extract oil from Coral Island on the proviso they didn't take any oil from the tarbog's pit. When Emma wanted to break the deal, her usually Henpecked Husband invoked this trope. Too bad Emma didn't give hers.
  • The Silver Surfer animated series. In a particular bit of dramatic irony, Norrin Radd offers his own planet up to Galactus immediately after making a deal with him to become the Silver Surfer to save it and having his memory wiped. Galactus states that the planet is not for beings such as him and the Surfer because he once made a deal with an honorable man.
  • In Peter Pan & the Pirates, Hook usually follows this policy, insisting that he's "a gentleman" who will always follow his end of an agreement. (And despite the cartoon being Darker and Edgier than the Disney version, he doesn't exploit loopholes as blatantly as his counterpart does.)
  • In one episode of Challenge of the GoBots, after Doctor Braxis is double-crossed by the Renegades and the rulers of the 21st Level, he offers to help Turbo escape from the latter if he simply lets him go once they're in the clear. Once they make it and reach the other Guardians, Turbo is a little upset that he has to keep his word, but Leader-1 insists he does so. Braxis runs off says he's "glad there's someone around here who knows what a deal is!"
  • It's not directly said in Avatar: The Last Airbender, but Zuko promising to leave innocent villagers in peace if Aang surrenders to him near the beginning of the series, and then keeping his promise, is an early sign of his more noble nature.
  • Sofia the First: When Sofia is given the Amulet of Avalor by Roland, he gives her a solemn promise to never, ever take it off, which she keeps. She proceeds to do just that, and when asked by Cedric if he could take a look at it, she refuses, remembering the promise she made, and like her mother says, she must keep that promise no matter what.
  • An interesting subversion occurs in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. J. Jonah Jameson is in trouble at one point and begs Spider-Man to save him, promising to stop printing bad things about him. After he's rescued, he immediately tells Spider-Man that he was lying and gloats about it. Spider-Man says that he knew Jameson would break his word; if he had kept his word, then he'd have been surprised.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has this as a major plot point in "Keep Calm and Flutter On." Fluttershy, the Shrinking Violet of the main cast, is tasked with reforming Discord, a Reality Warper who nearly destroyed the world twice. She decides to do this by showing him nothing but respect and love; Discord, meanwhile, is kept in check by the threat of the Elements of Harmony, six magical relics that have the power to turn him to stone. When Discord's trickery results in a massive flood at Sweet Apple Acres, he agrees to reverse the magic if Fluttershy promises to never use her Element of Kindness on him. She agrees, and Discord does fix the freezing the water, creating a massive ice field. The rest of the Mane Six urge Fluttershy to use her Element to trap him, but she adamantly refuses, explaining that she made a promise. As the Elements only work when all six are used together, this means that Discord is permanently free, and he gloats incessantly, bragging that he manipulated Fluttershy's friendship with him to get his way; she angrily declares that while she'll maintain her vow, she is not Discord's friend any longer. It's only when he realizes that being such a massive jerk will end in him losing his only friend ever that he decides to fix the problem fair and square.
  • A sing-along segment of The Beatles has Ringo interrupting Paul's introduction of a song with the diction lessons he's taking.
    Paul: Look, Ringo...let me finish this next sing-along and I promise to help you with your diction lessons.
    Ringo: Honest? Cross your heart and hope to die?
    Paul: (resignedly) Cross my heart and hope to die.
    Ringo: Step on a cat and hit in his eye?
    Paul: Step on a cat and hit in—(Ringo clobbers Paul with his grammar book)
    Ringo: That does it! I ain't takin' no speech lessons from some bloke that mistreats animals!
  • In the Futurama episode "Robot House", Dean Vernon hosts an inter-fraternity boat race, which unfortunately for him includes the troublemaking Robot House. He declares that should the winning house be on "any sort of multiple secret probation" (Robot House is on "dodecatuple secret probation"), he will lift the probation and host a parade in their honor, then shoots Robot House's boat to finish the countdown. He hadn't expected Robot House to actually win, which they do much to his surprise and anger. The end of the episode depicts the Dean leading the Robot House parade as promised, with a look of rage on his face.
  • In Transformers: Prime, this is one of Dreadwing's most noticeable character traits, as he'll keep his word even to his mortal enemies the Autobots. A particular example comes during a Mexican Stand Off where Megatron's life hung in the balance and Optimus offered to let the Decepticons go if Dreadwing ordered his men to lower their weapons. Contrary to even the other Autobots' expectations, Dreadwing agreed without falsehood...though as Megatron pointed out, while Dreadwing gave his word, HE did no such thing and ordered his troops to open fire as he and Dreadwing escaped.
  • This is one of Shere Khan's defining traits in TaleSpin. Yes, he's a ruthless, insanely wealthy businessman who isn't afraid to use underhanded business practices to grow richer and more powerful, but he invariably keeps his word, to the point where his personal credo is: "I always pay my debts, and I never go back on a deal." It's part of what makes him an Anti-Villain; he's probably the least likely person to try double-crossing the heroes (and despises being deceived) and treats his workers with genuine respect so long as they're doing their jobs right.

    Real Life 
  • Germany's political scene went bullocks in 1999 about the contributions scandal of the Christian Democratic Union, the country's major conservative party, especially as then recently retired chancellor Helmut Kohl refused to admit the names of their contributors on the grounds that "I gave them my word of honor". It was a major blow for him and his party, and the "word of honor" became a meme on par with Bill Clinton allegedly not having had "[...]sexual relations with that woman[...]"
  • Curious historical etymology- partly why (until very recently) Bankers were held in such high esteem was that they were punctilious about keeping their word. The London Stock Exchange itself has the motto, "My word is my bond" inscribed over the entrance, which is the origin of the phrase. Because there were so few bankers in a very close-knit professional community, breaking your word led you to very soon to be unable to practice as a Banker in England. Incidentally, the lack of documents inherent in such Gentlemen's agreements led to very frustrated English Lawyers, but that's another story.
  • Subtle but important point, a verbal contract is any contract which is expressed in words (written or spoken). An oral contract is one that is spoken. This is often confused. And yes, nonverbal contracts can be recognized and enforceable in law.note 
  • Samuel Goldwyn said, "An oral contract is as good as the paper it's written on," but this is not always the case:
    • Getting down to basics, under most legal systems, an oral contract is just as binding as a written one, assuming it satisfies the elements of contract formation of the jurisdiction. (Most legal systems will not enforce a bare promise; something akin to the common-law requirement of consideration—that is, giving something in exchange for the promise—is usually needed to establish a contract).
    • Those legal niceties aside, the downside of oral contracts is evidentiary. With an oral contract, the only evidence a contract ever existed comes from whoever heard the parties talking. If the only people in the room were the parties themselves, it will be one person's word against the other's, and the case will revolve entirely around the credibility of the parties—that is, whose story the finder of fact (which can be a jury or a judge, depending on the nature of the contract, the jurisdiction,note  and the nature of the casenote ) finds more believable at trial. Since the party alleging the contract is usually the plaintiff and therefore has the burden of proof at trial, the finder of fact will usually find for the party denying a contract unless that party seriously undermines their credibility (e.g. by denying obviously true facts or by being shady or inconsistent about what happened). Moreover, making it as far as trial is pretty expensive, or at least time-consuming, so parties will only get that far if the contract was really worth spending months or years in court.
    • That said, if there are witnesses supporting the existence or terms of an oral contract, such contracts can be worth it to enforce. For example, in 1984 after Getty Oil was sold to Pennzoil in a handshake deal, Texaco made a higher offer, and the company was sold to Texaco. Pennzoil filed a lawsuit alleging tortious interference with this oral contract. Because there were multiple witnesses to the handshake agreement, the court agreed it existed and was enforceable, and awarded $11.1 billion in damages (later reduced to $9.1 billion, but increased again by interest and penalties). (Texaco ultimately filed for bankruptcy in part because of this judgment but mostly because of its inability to meet its other obligations; Pennzoil agreed to accept a "mere" $3 billion as a bankruptcy settlement of the liability.)
    • Finally, some jurisdictions do place limits on what kind of contracts can be made orally. In common-law jurisdictions, this is usually regulated by the Statute of Frauds, which require six types of contracts to be written down. These are: (1) Contracts in consideration of marriage (i.e. prenups); (2) contracts that cannot be executed one year or less (the exact meaning of which leads to all kinds of charming Loophole Abuse); (3) contracts transferring an interest in land; (4) contracts requiring the executor of a dead person's estate to pay the estate's debts with his/her own money; (5) contracts for the sale of goods valued above a certain amount (it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction—$500.00 is common in the U.S.) and (6) contracts making one party a surety (i.e. guarantor) for the other's debts.
  • Daredevil Evel Knievel wasn't a bad guy, but he believed in a lot of "core values", as he called them, one of which was the importance of always keeping his word. He stated that although he knew he may not have successfully made or even survived his ill-fated Snake River Canyon jump, he followed through with it and every other stunt because he gave his word that he would. Prior to the Canyon jump, Knievel stated, "If someone says to you, 'that guy should have never jumped the canyon. You knew if he did, that he'd lose his life and that he was crazy.' Do me a favor. Tell him that you saw me here and regardless of what I was, that you knew me, and that I kept my word."
  • Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole ("voice", "spoken word"). Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their word of honor to abide by certain restrictions.
  • In Norway, the new king as a rule pledges allegiance to the Norwegian constitution. This tradition began in 1814, with Christian Frederick, king elect, who was sworn in immediately after the constitution was finished and signed. This tradition paid back on two dramatic occasions. First for Christian Frederick himself, who was honor-bound to protect the constitution and to rule by it, and therefore had to resign when the treaty of Kiel came into play in the summer of 1814.
    • The second time was even more awesome: When Nazi Germany occupied Norway in April 1940, King Haakon VII, who also had sworn allegiance to the Norwegian constitution, had to face the German claims, he stated: I choose to fight you under the terms of the constitution I have honorably sworn allegiance to. Either that, or abdication! Thus, his given word secured continuous resistance against the occupying forces, which bolstered the resistance for the rest of the war - that is the entire war!
  • Robert Campbell was a British prisoner of war during World War I. Having been captured by the Germans, he received news that his mother was dying of cancer. He wrote a letter to the German Kaiser asking to be released so he could say his last goodbyes to her. He was granted his release, on one condition: that he return to the prison camp. Campbell agreed, giving his word he would return. Since being a prisoner of war is one of the many reasons War Is Hell, Campbell had every reason to break his promise and not return to the German prison camp. But he gave his word he would return, and return he did. He felt that, as an officer, he was honor-bound to keep his promise. However, as soon as he returned, he immediately attempted to break out, since he also felt that, as a prisoner of war, he was honor-bound to escape.
  • Some colleges are operating on the honor system, meaning that every student has to sign the honor code and that consequently the administration will not intervene on the sanctions system but leave the student-run Honor Council give penalties. One of the consequences of this system is that examinations are made without staff watch, the students being trusted enough.
  • Simón Bolívar was big on this. If he swore something, he would do it, to the best of his ability:
    • When his wife died, he swore he would never remarry. While he took his liberties with the adoring ladies and took several mistresses (most famously Pepita Machado and Manuela Sáenz), he never did remarry.
    • After his wife's death, Bolívar went to Paris to drown his his grief in drink, affairs, and gambling. He went a little too heavy on the gambling just as the British war with Spain meant that he no longer had access to his vast fortune in Venezuela, and found himself unable to satisfy his debts. He therefore borrowed money from his mistress, hit the tables to win enough to square up with his creditors (including the mistress) plus a little extra to live on, and then swore never to gamble again. He never did gamble after that.
    • Shortly after swearing off gambling, he visited to Italy with some friends (a few more Venezuelan expats). Standing on the hill where the first secession of the plebs had occurred (according to Livy anyway), he swore an oath to liberate his country from Spanish rule or die trying. He succeeded.
    • While in exile in Haiti after one of his multiple defeats in Venezuela, the Haitian government told him they would provide him with arms, ships, and money for his cause if he promised to fight for the abolition of slavery in the lands he freed from Spanish rule. While it's not clear if he took an oath, he definitely promised, and he kept his word. Wherever he was leading liberating armies in South America, he insisted that some form of abolition was part of the constitution, and while slavery lingered in Spanish-speaking South America for decades after his death, the path to abolition was laid out by him. He also freed all the slaves he held himself as soon as he could get back to his estates (no small thing for Bolívar, as he was one of the biggest slaveholders in Venezuela.)


Video Example(s):


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A girl convinces her blue haired friend to tell her the name of the boy she likes, promising one million yen if she reveals the secret. Immediately after learning about it, the girl tells the entire class and then gives the girl the million yen she promised, much to the confusion of the blue haired girl.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / IGaveMyWord

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Main / IGaveMyWord