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Ignorant of the Call

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"What 'why?' Do I need a reason to save others?"
Touma Kamijou, A Certain Magical Index

A hero is Ignorant of the Call when they don't know that they are, in fact, The Hero. Everybody around them knows that the character is The Chosen One, but they, specifically, just can't see it. The Hero fights the good fight and takes heroic actions...but it doesn't seem heroic to them, nor do they think they were destined to do them. This character simply does what they must because it is in their nature to act in that manner. When dealing with this sort of protagonist, the phrase "I'm not a hero" (or a variant thereof) is often heard, along with Think Nothing of It. It could also be All a Part of the Job, where the hero sees saving people's lives as just another valid career choice.

There are many types of heroes that have this as their character trait.

  • The All-Loving Hero: This type of hero cherishes everyone and everything. As such, helping others isn't anything they need to think about because to them, they may as well be helping a friend.
  • The Atoner: This type of hero is trying to fight the good fight to make up for mistakes they made in the past. For them it isn't just their drive to help but also their feeling that it's the least they could do.
  • The Cape: This type of hero does good for the sake of doing good because that's what heroes do. They will always help because they want to be the hero and for them it's just part of the job.
  • The Humble Hero: This type of hero doesn't see what they do as special or unique. They honestly think they're just regular people and that it's not a big deal to help others.
  • The Nice Guy: This type of hero helps people because it's who they are. They're just plain nice people and help others because Good Feels Good.
  • The Paragon: This type of hero sees doing the right thing as a responsibility that everyone should honor. They believe it's within the ability of everyone to be a hero and teach others that doing the right thing should be natural.

In addition, since the Call to Adventure is either not overt at all, or else parallels the Hero's actions so well that the two only seem to connect by coincidence, it is entirely possible for the hero to never realize that their actions have some larger, plot-related importance.

Differs from Missed the Call. Often overlaps with Accidental Hero and Humble Hero. Contrast Obliviously Evil, where someone is ignorant of the fact that they're a villain.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ash Ketchum of Pokémon: The Series, at least in the movies. He likes to think of himself simply as a Pokémon Trainer, but time after time he stumbles into situations where it's clear only he could save the day. It's lampshaded in Pokémon 2000, when the heroes realize that the phrase "The world shall turn to ash" didn't mean it would die, but the world would turn to Ash for help. His response? "Right now, I kinda wish that my mom named me Bob instead of Ash."
  • Irresponsible Captain Tylor: Captain Tylor. Unless he's been Obfuscating Stupidity....
  • One Piece: Monkey D. Luffy has taken down tyrannical presences and dangerous pirates, a malevolent self proclaimed god, and is taking on a government of well intentioned extremists, all while doing only what he wants to do.
  • Yona of the Dawn's Sinha — having grown up being treated like a cursed monster by his village — had no idea of the legend of the Four Dragons when he was recruited. Similarly, Yona doesn't think of herself as the reincarnation of the Red Dragon King who will lead said dragons.

    Comic Books 
  • Jonah Hex from DC Comics. One of those "there's a job that has to be done, I can do it, so I will" types.
  • The Bulleteer story arc in DC Comics' Seven Soldiers limited series: Alix has no clue what her actions will lead to: the killing of the Sheeda Queen, and the events of her arc happen almost completely on the periphery of the main storyline. The story arc using Klarion the Witch Boy nearly reaches this, but he is a little more conscious of what is going on.
  • Superman. Compared to other superheroes, he does what he does because it was the right thing to do, not because he has any obligation to do so.
  • Barry Allen is much the same as Superman, to the point where he was helping fight crime as a forensic scientist long before he even received his powers.

    Films — Animated 
  • Lampshaded in Disney's Robin Hood (1973). Friar Tuck says that Rob is a hero, but Robin just laughs it off.
    Robin: Did you hear that, Johnny? We've just been pardoned!
  • Marlin, of Finding Nemo just thinks of himself as a father who is desperately trying to recover his missing son. To Dory, and Nemo, the sea turtles, Nigel the Pelican, the fish in Dr. Sherman's tank, and many, many others, Marlin is a badass Determinator who repeatedly triumphed over unbelievable odds.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Glenn Holland, from Mr. Holland's Opus. This trope applies to him so strongly that it might as well be titled Ignorant of the Call: The Movie. Mr. Holland believes he wasted his life because he became a music teacher instead of becoming famous as a composer. His current and former students, his friends, and his family (all of whose lives he shaped for the better) disagree. Strongly disagree.
  • In The Golden Child, Chandler Jarrell does many good deeds, but refuses to believe that he's The Chosen One, despite being repeatedly told it by Kee and Doctor Hong. Eventually, he reluctantly comes to accept it.
  • In First Knight, Launcelot doesn't consider himself a hero. His attitude is "it needed to be done, I knew I could do it, so I did" and that is all.
  • In My Favorite Year, Alan Swann profanely swears that he is just a flesh-and-blood man, life-sized and no larger, and is absolutely not the heroes he has been portraying on screen for years. And then goes on to utterly save the day.
  • Neo thinks The Oracle tells him he's not The One in The Matrix. He then denies he's The One to the surviving members of the team despite fitting the role exactly.
    The Oracle: Being The One is like being in love. No one can tell you you are, you just KNOW it, through and through, balls to bones.
    [...]I'm sorry, kid. You've got the gift, but it looks like you're waiting for something. Your next life, maybe? Who knows?

  • Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. His usual course of action is to simply react to events around him. This has led him to activate the Infinite Improbability Drive just in time to save the starship Heart of Gold from incoming nuclear missiles, learning to fly, and saving the universe at least twice.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry himself fits this. Although he is an extremely powerful wizard, and Archangel Uriel takes a personal interest, with the implication that God himself is taking some interest, he doesn't see himself as a hero. His stated primary motivation is paying his rent. It just so happens he takes on powerful forces and saves the world numerous times.
  • Young Wizards: Darryl is a living repository of magic literally sent by God to be a fountain of power for the magic of the human race. He remains blissfully unaware of the fact, because the knowledge of that fact would be lethal to him. If he ever became aware of what he was, he'd die. Just like that.
  • Emelius Brown in Bedknob and Broomstick. He's a con artist who seems to only be interested in making a fast buck, but The Power of Love drove him to act otherwise. Even after, though, he'd never call himself a hero.
  • Discworld:
    • Rincewind! Despite being a plaything of the gods continually saving people, countries of the Disc, he seems unwilling to accept that he has anything but bad luck.
    • Carrot, of the City Guard. He does what's right, because that's what he's supposed to. If you mention his special sword, odd birth-mark and that prophecy about the true king returning, he'll just brush it off. (It very well may just be an act).
  • Honor Harrington turned down the Parliamentary Medal Of Valor (awarded for actions "above and beyond the call of duty") several times, because she believes she has never done anything more than her duty. She's very embarrassed about being made a Countess, Duchess, Steadholder, and multi-millionaire. And even some of her friends agree the five-meter statue in front of the Council Building is a bit much.
  • Amazingly enough, James Bond doesn't think of himself as a hero.
  • Ciaphas Cain is an interesting case: the galaxy at large proclaims him as the HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!, and he finds the reputation worth upholding, but privately thinks it's a big lie. However, the action he's describing doesn't always jibe with his claims that he was only saving his own skin or trying to avoid greater danger.
  • Raven, a supporting character in War of the Dreaming, is like this. Yes, he's got a magic ring and a secret legacy. So what? He's only trying to save his wife. Anyone would do the same.
  • In the Green-Sky Trilogy, Raamo adamantly refuses to believe he is any better than other Kindar, despite being told this by everyone in range, including the ostensible High Priestess of the Ol-Zhaan. Ironically, it's because he refuses to buy into the elevated status that he gets the attention of Neric, who needs someone that incorruptible to help him investigate his suspicions about how the Ol-Zhaan are running things.
  • In The Wheel of Time Mat and Perrin both insist that they are not heroes. The latter repeatedly states that he is merely a blacksmith while the former often states that he is not a "flaming hero".
  • John and Dave from John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders never see themselves as anything but a couple of slackers with few desires beyond drinking beer and playing video games. In the second book, after they've already saved the world from one Eldritch Abomination in the first, Dave muses to himself:
    "I kept trying to think back to everything that had happened [...], trying to figure out what I was supposed to have done differently. It was stupid, I knew. Questioning how my life would have gone if I hadn't made bad choices was like a fish asking how his life would have turned out if he'd only followed through on his dream to play in the NBA."
  • Sam Gamgee, from The Lord of the Rings. He refuses to accept the idea that he's any kind of hero. He sees himself as "just a gardener", even while he's in the middle of slaughtering orcs and beating Shelob into paste on his way to rescue Frodo.
  • Done to a ridiculous degree with Humble Hero Tor, of the The Young Ancients series who, while still in school, revolutionizes absolutely everything about magic and daily life, is knighted for his various heroic acts including diving down a midden to save a child, creating a mass water filtration system to save a city when their water was tainted, then constructing a flying river to relieve a drought-stricken country. He is still surprised that anyone has heard of him, and personally thinks of himself as a baker's son who can always go back to making bread and pastries if this whole magic thing doesn't work out.
  • Also Brian Yi, Proxy of The Infected a world-famous superhero and widely considered the most dangerous man alive, is still the first to volunteer for nasty chores or give up his comforts for others, and seems genuinely unaware of how the rest of the world, including his closest friends, see him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Tommy Gavin, from Rescue Me.
    "I ain't no hero. I'm a fireman."
  • Chuck Bartowski from Chuck, even while admitting to being a spy for the CIA, denies that he's any sort of hero, because he's frightened, nervous, and babbles when things get tough. His friends know better, especially his fellow spies Sarah Walker and John Casey.
    Chuck Bartowski" You belong out there, Sarah. You save the world. I'm just — I'm just not that guy.
    Sarah Walker: How many times do you have to be a hero to realize that you *are* that guy?

  • In "Hero" by Nickelback, the singer acknowledges that "a hero can save us", but that he's not going to stand around waiting for one to show up. He thus unknowingly becomes the very hero he wasn't going to wait around for, all the while denying that he's any kind of hero at all.

  • Harold Hill from The Music Man. He does everybody all sorts of good even as he tries to milk them for every last cent before skipping town.

    Video Games 
  • Solid Snake from Metal Gear, arguably. At least, while everyone around him goes on about his "legendary hero" status, he always responds with some variant of "I'm no hero, just an old killer hired to do some wetwork."
  • Hawke in Dragon Age II has personal motivations for getting involved in the events of the game. Near the end of Cassandra's interrogation of Varric, they both acknowledge the scope of his/her importance, both in the story and the future.
  • Poppy of League of Legends carries the Hammer of Orlon, which her dying master passed on to her. Because she's such a Humble Hero, she believed she had inherited his quest to find The Chosen One for whom it was destined, never guessing that it had already found its wielder in her. (It doesn't help that the hammer really does look like it was built for a much larger user).
  • Tact Mayers in the first Galaxy Angel trilogy. He starts out as the commander of a small fleet patrolling the borders of the Transbaal Empire, and even after learning of the coup d'etat that took place at the capital, he's convinced that none of that will find him where he is. Then the Angels appear seeking him out, much to his shock, and Commodore Luft explains to why he (Tact) is much better suited to lead the Angels before placing him as the new commander of the Elsior.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Often invoked in real life situations where a person acts heroically yet insists that they are not a hero and were instead simply doing their job and/or what anyone would have done in that situation, i.e. police, soldiers, paramedics, people who help strangers in difficult/dangerous situations, etc.