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In Harm's Way

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"I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not go fast; for I intend to go in harm's way."
John Paul Jones (The naval commander, not the Led Zeppelin member)

Sometimes The Hero doesn't get a Happy Ending because no ending could conceivably be happy. It would mean the end of the adventures, and nothing could be duller than the lack of adrenaline. They don't really feel alive out of danger.

Sometimes the hero is depicted as a Stranger in a Familiar Land trapped in a dull job or situation, fondly recalling his Glory Days; when a new chance at adventure arises, they invariably jump on it. Sometimes the hero at the beginning already sets out in search of new adventures. Sometimes, in the middle of the story, the hero has a chance to leave, and this is one motive for rejecting it. And sometimes it is an ending trope; the hero resolves not to return to mundane life, And the Adventure Continues. This is the common ending of Adrenaline Makeover.

Some heroes who make a fortune and promptly lose it foolishly may fall under this trope, because it means that they can return to the fun of making money, and the Non-Idle Rich may trample familial objections to stick to a dangerous occupation when they don't need the money, to avoid Rich Boredom. And sometimes the love of being In Harm's Way is merely implied, when the hero never seems to find anything worth stopping for. The Dulcinea Effect may not be so much by the desire to help as the chance to get into the thick of things.

This can be an intermittent condition in some heroes; they adventure, get tired of it, settle down, get tired of it, adventure — etc. At other times, it may propel a hero to adventure for years on end before realizing, finally, that he has burned out and wants to settle down. Sometimes, being forced by circumstance to stay in one place grows on him until he realizes that he really does love Home Sweet Home after all.

While "Leave Your Quest" Test is no peril to these characters, the inverted version, where they should give up heroics for less dangerous but more beneficial work, is extremely tough and often failed.

Characters who enjoy putting themselves In Harm's Way include these:

... and probably more.

Related to Chronic Hero Syndrome and Chronic Villainy. One of the more reasonable ways to maintain status quo. Many Heroic Fantasy heroes keep going in unending series because they are in love with being In Harm's Way. Inverse of Home Sweet Home. Can lead to Unknowingly in Love if the character is consequently too distracted by escaping death to consider deeper feelings. Someone seeking an Honorable Warrior's Death is likely to invoke this. See also No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction.

Frequently found with a love of Famed In-Story. See also Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex.

For the John Wayne film of the same name, go here. Nor is this related to the Star Trek: New Voyages episode of the same name.


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    Fairy Tales 
  • In Schippeitaro, the young man is seeking this, for the fame.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Incredibles: Bob's dissatisfaction with his life is heavily driven by the dullness next to the adventure of super-heroing. Bob loves the superhero life so much that even after being forced to retire, he buys a police scanner and lies to his wife so he can look for opportunities to save people. Helen held to this trope when they were superheroing; it was Bob who considered Home Sweet Home an interesting future.
  • The Lion King (1994): Cub Simba would certainly count, as his primary goal in life at that point is to go on dangerous adventures with his girlfriend Nala.
    Simba: Danger? Ha! I walk on the wild side. I laugh in the face of danger. Ha ha ha ha!
  • Treasure Planet: Jim has a bad case of it, getting him into trouble in the opening.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Westerns that feature The Drifter as the main hero usually end like this (unless he dies, that is).
  • In Heat, one of McCauley's crew is given the choice to back out of an extremely high-risk job in order to settle with his family, considering he already has a lot of money tucked away from previous heists. The guy declines the advice, claiming that the thrill of the job, not the money in itself, is what he considers the payoff.
  • Jeremy Renner's character in The Hurt Locker, especially emphasized in the ending.
  • At the end of all the Mad Max movies, Max has a chance to rejoin civilization, but through choice or circumstances, he ends up going back out in the desert where further conflict is inevitable.
  • In The Mummy (1999), Rick finds an old pilot who was a hero in his Glory Days and a recent widower. With nothing left to lose he jumps at the chance to take them into incredible danger and die doing it (which he does).
  • Holly Martins is sort of like this, having some traits of Intrepid Reporter by investigating the death of his friend for himself.

  • The complaint in Rudyard Kipling's "Harp Song of the Dane Women"
    What is a woman that you forsake her,
    And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
    To go with the old grey Widow-maker?
  • Robert E. Howard's " Solomon Kane's Homecoming"
    Hands held him hard, but the vagrant gleam in his eyes grew blind and bright,
    And Solomon Kane put by the folk and went into the night.
    A wild moon rode in the wild white clouds, the waves their white crests showed
    When Solomon Kane went forth again, and no man knew his road.
    What do I know of cultured ways, the gilt, the craft and the lie?
    I, who was born in a naked land and bred in the open sky.
    The subtle tongue, the sophist's guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
    Rush in and die, dogs — I was a man before I was a king!

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has an ability used by Red mana (mostly) that forces something to attack if they are able to do so. Sometimes certain creatures have this limitation on them to justify stronger physical abilities on said creature.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Space Marines love this trope...
    • ...but not half as much as orks do.
    • Some Eldar intentionally get themselves banished so they can go off wandering as Corsairs or Rangers.
    • Commissar Yarrick isn't going to stop until he has Gazhkull's head on his desk. (That's going to have to be one hell of a desk!)
    • See also Khorne's daemons and the Dark Eldar who fight in the arenas.

  • In Freefall, one of Sam's major motivations after getting rich is to have some excitement. The hurting afterward, however, is another issue entirely.
  • Girl Genius:
  • Ménage à 3:
    • Matt is The Casanova (and a bit of a Jerkass about it), but it becomes clear that his kinks, infidelities, and tendency to have sex with the door unlocked are the result of him almost wanting to get caught; he's a Thrill Seeker at heart. Then he encounters comedy psychotic Yuki. At first, he actually refuses sex with her, out of a reasonable fear of being maimed for life, but after he succumbs, he becomes increasingly smitten with her violent outbursts, and they end the comic's run as a couple.
    • Also, by the end of the story, Sonya has realised that her Stalker with a Crush behavior towards Zii is motivated by the fact that Zii is the most exciting thing she knows — and Sonya is a hopeless Thrill Seeker. Fortunately, Sonya then encounters the lesbian professional spy and Action Girl Bianca, and they run off to Europe together. Sonya is last seen in the middle of a fight scene with dynamite being thrown around, and clearly loving every moment of it.
  • Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger, like all rangers, was screened for being unable to settle down. Relativistic effects mean You Can't Go Home Again, but he likes the trade-off. Home Sweet Home is for his retirement.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, the eponymous sergeant is easily rich enough to retire from the Toughs, but stays on because he enjoys the excitement and camaraderie he gets working for the Toughs.
  • What's New? with Phil and Dixie back in Dragon Magazine times proposed a good theory:
    You go down into a dungeon, fight for your life, amass a vast fortune, and escape, and then—you risk your neck all over again! Why?!
    Well, if you've ever wondered what drives your character to this suicidal lifestyle, then the newest module for D&D and AD&D is for you! It's called "Home & Hearth".

    Web Original 
  • Kranz and Voller from Human Centipede: The Musical. If the town isn't in immediate danger, they're rather ennui-stricken.
  • In RWBY, it's revealed that this is Yang's reason for becoming a Huntress - she just wants to travel around the world, get wrapped up in crazy adventures and hopefully kick some ass and save some lives along the way. Well, it later turns out that's only partly the reason...

    Western Animation 
  • Ben Tennyson from the Ben 10 franchise is this, occasionally doing heroic deeds because they give him a thrill and makes him popular, rather than because it's the right thing to do. This is especially the case in installments where he's a child. In fact, Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix has one of the characters actually hide the true ramifications of Omnitrix's self-destruct protocol going off not because he feared Ben would panic, but because he thought he wouldn't care.
  • Captain N: The Game Master was given a chance to return home at the end of the first episode. Hearing his mother's voice through the portal harping on him for not finishing his chores helped his decision to stay.
  • Enforced in the Dungeons & Dragons (1983) cartoon by the setup: the kids couldn't settle down in the realms, they had to continue to look for a way to get back home (that didn't lead to dire consequences.) That being said, almost every one of them were tempted to stay at times.
  • In The Legend of Korra Korra herself and Asami Sato are both this trope, which is one of the ways they get along, at first as friends and then as a couple.
  • Almost the entire Smurf Village gets reckless when Gargamel sprinkles Daredevil Dust on them in The Smurfs (1981) episode "Reckless Smurfs".
  • Captain Sam Sweetmilk from Starship Goldfish, it's implied to be a combination of the memory erasure making him Too Dumb to Live and subconsciously remembering his Dark and Troubled Past and wanting to kill himself over it.
  • The human girl Miko from Transformers: Prime is a bit of a deconstruction of this ideology. She often rushes onto a battlefield just to watch the Autobots fight. She often gets in the way when trying to help, and seems to have zero regard for her own safety and well-being.

    Real Life 
  • Pro wrestler Terry Funk. The man has had more retirement matches and retirement tours than one can count and has yet to actually stay retired despite being in his mid-sixties with knees that look like they were drawn on by a cartoonist. He introduced a moonsault to his repertoire in 1994, at the age of fifty.
  • Along the same lines, Ric Flair. Still going today at the age of 73.
  • Ditto Abdullah the Butcher. Still jabbing forks in people's heads at the age of 69 and with no intention of ever retiring.
  • Brett Favre.
    • Albeit many consider this to be a case of not wanting to give up the limelight.
  • John Paul Jones, who uttered the quotation at the top of the page, falls under this trope. His desire for naval adventure drove him to sail his lone ship into the home waters of the Royal Navy, at the time the most powerful Navy on the planet, and go so far as to actually raid the British Isles. After doing so more than once, winning several battles against British frigates and surviving, when the Revolutionary War ended and America wasn't at war enough and wouldn't promote him, he served as an Admiral for the Mexican and Russian navies, so he could keep fighting at sea. Ironically enough, the page quote is actually Not an Example; he had been captain of a slow ship for a while and was justifying in a letter why he wanted a faster one, though it is representative of his whole attitude.
  • Sir Thomas Cochrane, who upon being thrown out of the Royal Navy after being involved in a financial scam (though he may genuinely have been stitched up), promptly went to South America and masterminded the creation of several revolutionary navies, running on a strategy reliant on the Refuge in Audacity and falling out with every government involved (he left the service of the Brazilian Empire on a stolen Brazilian ship, a great deal of public money and that raided from merchants taken in lieu of prize payments he claimed he was owed, and, presumably, two fingers stick firmly in the air)... after eventually being exonerated by the British government and promoted to one of the most senior roles in the Admiralty, he still didn't keep quiet. He agitated for a fleet command in the Crimean War in his eighties. And the reason he was denied had less to do with his capabilities, more genuine worries as to what he might do with it. It should therefore be no surprise that he was the inspiration, via Horatio Hornblower, for James T. Kirk, Jack Aubrey, Honor Harrington, and Daniel Leary.
  • As seen in the documentary Man on Wire, Philippe Petit. How mind-bogglingly reckless do you have to be to hang a wire between the Twin Towers and walk on it?
  • Ozzy Osbourne temporarily retired in the 1990s, but within a few years returned to performing live music. In his autobiography, he states that the reason he returned was that he found retirement to be terribly boring and missed the excitement of performing in front of an audience. He now says that he intends to keep performing and making new music until he is physically unable.
  • Fighting Jack Churchill. When World War Two was over, he was furious with the Americans for dropping nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — not because of any moral qualms, but because they had robbed him of any chance of getting over to the Pacific so he could do unto the Japanese what he had done unto the Germans, complaining that the war could have carried on for at least another few years.
    • This is the same guy who became a commando because it 'sounded dangerous', escaped from POW camps, and captured 42 Germans with his claybeg. Did we forget to mention? This man led his commandos into war (the shooty kind) carrying a claybeg, bow and arrows, and a fucking set of bagpipes.
    • This is also the guy who jumped on top of a tank proceeded to break open the lock on the lid with his sword and then kill everyone inside with said sword. Alone. Naturally, by the end of the war, he had made Lieutenant Colonel.
    • He is also credited with one of the last known kills with a longbow in a major modern war, having apparently taken out a German Sergeant, whose last thought was presumably along the lines of "you have got to be fucking kidding me."
  • This can be a common sentiment amongst military veterans for a variety of reasons, ranging from missing the experience of fighting alongside their comrades to finding the battlefield a more familiar place than the civilian world. People are very adaptive, and as it turns out, it may be just as possible for a warzone to become "normal" to a person as it is for a crowded city or a rural farm or a new school.
  • Jan Zumbach, who tried to settle down a couple of times but just wasn't happy without the adrenaline and the flying. When he was young, his mother wouldn't let him become a pilot on the grounds that they're all crazy drunkards, and in Jan's autobiography, he himself admits mum might have been on to something. But he just couldn't stay on the ground.