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My Girl Back Home

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O ne'er shall I forget the night,
The stars were bright above me
And gently lent their silvery light
When first she vowed to love me
But now I'm bound to Brighton camp
Kind heaven, then, pray guide me
And send me safely back again,
To the girl I left behind me.
— "The Girl I Left Behind Me" (a traditional departure song of the British Army)

In cultures with a tradition of adventuring, there is often a yearly tragedy in which families are temporarily split up because some of the men have to be away trading, or fighting or bringing animals to market or the like. This brings in the character known as My Girl Back Home. She is almost Always Female (hence the title), though a child or an old man would work. The male version of Girls Back Home waiting for female adventurers are only a recent storytelling innovation, as adventuring was mostly masculine work in most cultures and time periods and stories reflected that.

Girls Back Home tend to be spouses or lovers though anyone with whom the character in question has a close relationship will do. Expect a Girl Back Home to be The Woobie, though she will likely hide her emotions under a shell of stoicism, at least until she is alone. In the meantime, they will always worry about her and feel guilty for leaving. That never persuades him to stay home, of course, because otherwise we won't have a story. Another trait of Girls Back Home is that they often occupy only a small part of the story except in the thoughts of The Hero.

Also, no matter what happens, if you have a girl back home, DON'T show a photo of her to anyone!

Related to I Will Wait for You and Long-Distance Relationship (although that one is a bit more gender-neutral in who gets left behind). You may have to return abruptly for You Have Waited Long Enough. Compare and contrast Dad's Off Fighting in the War. Aversion (sort of) of Battle Couple.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Winry can sometimes be this, though technically she's quite more proactive than the standard.
    • Gracia was this for Hughes during the war. He unfortunately never heeded the warnings regarding the Fatal Family Photo.
  • Ange Ushiromiya from Umineko: When They Cry starts out as one of these. She takes a few levels of badass as the series goes on.
  • One Piece:
    • Kaya could be considered this for Usopp, thanks to all the Ship Tease between them.
    • Gold D. Roger turns out to have had one, whose name was Portgas D. Rouge. He's executed and she falls victim to Death by Childbirth some time later, so they go into Star-Crossed Lovers.
  • Cattleya from Rave Master is this. Especially when Haru quotes her every time he has the chance.
  • Ryoko is this for Shin, who is serving as a mercenary against his will, in Area 88.
  • Rachel for Balzac from Tekkaman Blade, crosses over with Call to Agriculture and Fatal Family Photo.

    Comic Books 
  • The trope gets Played With in the WWI serial "Golden Eyes" and Her Hero "Bill", which follows the adventures of American girl "Golden Eyes," her dough-boy sweetheart Bill, and their Canine Companion Uncle Sam during the first world war. The comic was published concurrently with the end of the war, between 1918 and 1919, showing the interesting ways authors were playing off the trope even a century ago:
    • Played Straight at first with protagonist "Golden Eyes," whose boyfriend Bill enlists in the war effort and leaves her behind to care for his dog and Keep the Home Fires Burning. She does at first, selling Liberty Bonds and and knitting socks for the war effort, but the trope gets Subverted when Golden Eyes joins the Red Cross and ships out to Europe to work as a medic on the frontlines. She and Bill are reunited in France, but as an ambulance driver Golden Eyes winds up in just as much danger as Bill when the Germans shell her ambulance, take her captive, and threaten her with public execution for espionage. She even runs nighttime search-and-rescue missions in No Man's Land (under active rocket fire, nonetheless) to recover wounded soldiers. Golden Eyes never quite grows into the role of Action Girl, but her active participation in the war effort turns the trope entirely on its head.
    • Played Straight (and perhaps Exaggerated) again at the end of the series, when the joyous occasion of Bill and Golden Eyes' Wartime Wedding prompts their fellow American soldiers to think back on the girls they left behind.
      "'Gone Away' flared the trumpets! — and Bill’s spurred heel jingled on the step of the cab behind his bride — 'Uncle Sam,' smiling a-tip-toe, clambered in — the door crashed to — and Bill’s deserted dough-boys each touched a breast pocket and thought of their own Girls. Back HOME![sic]"
  • Superman: Pre-Crisis Lex Luthor had a wife called Ardora who lived in planet Lexor, and who barely saw her husband because he spent most time on Earth. In "Luthor Unleashed" Ardora admits she is pained by her situation, but she believes Lex has good reasons to be constantly away.
    Nogu: "Thank you for summoning me so swiftly, Nogu."
    Nogu: "As we have every time an unidentified spacecraft has found its way to Lexor, Ardora. And each time you are besieged with more disappointment and despair when these space-wanderers so rarely turns out to be him! It pains me to see so much of your life spent enduring such prolonged loneliness."
    Ardora: "He visits me as often as he is able, Nogu. I have resigned myself to the fact that partial happiness is far better than none!"

    Fan Works 
  • Guardian, which explores Lulu's backstory in Final Fantasy X, has her boyfriend Chappu cast her in this role when he joins the Crusaders, though she's not especially happy about it.
  • Luminosity:
    • Edward Cullen of all people is a gender-inverted example in the first book, as Bella spends a lot of time going off alone for her secret plans as a Pro-Human Transhuman Rebel Leader. She'd like to simply bring him along, but has to keep things secret until she's laid a lot more groundwork, since unlike her, he's vulnerable to mind-reading by the Volturi leader Aro. Edward's not too happy about it either, but he understands.
    • In the second book, Maggie has to leave Gianna at home while she goes to join up with the rebellion, due to the need for someone to take care of their toddler.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Fighting Seabees: One of the Seabees frequently mentions his significant other Olga and paints her name on his bulldozer.
  • In Midway (starring Henry Fonda), when the ships return from battle, a crowd of civilians is gathered at the navy yard. This includes the girlfriends of two of the main characters.
  • Jack Ryan's wife and daughter in The Hunt for Red October.
  • Evelyn in Pearl Harbor, for Rafe during the Battle of Britain and for Danny during the Doolittle raid.
  • Colonel Moore's wife Julie in We Were Soldiers. Others have girls back home too, but the positively regal way she keeps the home fires burning for the whole base, makes her the best representative of this in the movie.
  • Male example, George Putnam in Amelia.
  • Glóin's wife in The Hobbit. He's one of the few married dwarves and carries a miniature of his wife with him at all times.
  • In the Czech WW2 Dark Blue World (2001), the girl is more attracted to dashing fighter pilot Franta than the station master who serenades outside her window every night. But Franta has to go to England after the occupation of Czechoslovakia; when he returns, he finds she's married the station master and even his dog doesn't recognise him. He faces this stoically, along with his subsequent imprisonment by the Communist authorities for having served in a foreign air force.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger. Colonel Phillips and Agent Peggy Carter are watching propaganda footage of the Howling Commandos in action, and the cameraman focusses on a picture of Peggy that Cap has inside the lid of his compass. Peggy is embarrassed but—it's implied—not exactly displeased.

  • Horatio Hornblower: Both of the wives of Horatio. Newlywed Hornblower is actually surprised to find he misses Maria since he married her out of pity, although not in books set later in his life because he dislikes her quite a lot by then. He does love and miss Barbara, though.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Lord of the Rings:
      • The Gaffer and Rosie for Sam.
      • Both Éowyn and Faramir are this while in the Houses of Healing. It is implied that the strain of being the girl/boy back home for their respective friends is what drew them together in the first place. They wound up happily married by the end of the series.
      • Arwen is this for Aragorn.
    • The Fall of Númenor: Deconstructed. Aldarion is Númenor's crown prince, but he loves sailing and exploring new lands above all things, and resents the way his wife Erendis wants to keep him perpetually tied to their homeland and her. For her part, Erendis hates his husband's love for the sea and his years-long absences from home. At the end, their marriage breaks down when Aldarion spends five years overseas and Erendis decides she has gotten sick of being a mariner's wife.
  • Over the Wine-Dark Sea: The father and sister of Sostratos.
  • Male version: Roland in Wintersmith.
  • In Captains Courageous, there is a poignant scene in which the Gloucester fishing families gather at a church to listen to the yearly casualty report and several newly widowed women burst out in tears.
  • The Aubrey-Maturin novel series, being a story of British Navy men, naturally has these for the lead characters - Jack Aubrey, of course, has his wife Sophie, and Stephen Maturin has Diana Villiers and, after Diana's death, Christine Wood.
  • In Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, the diminutive troll Binabik is betrothed to the daughter of the King and Queen of his people, but is forced by his oaths to his master and to the League of the Scroll to embark on long missions in the lands of the big people. Sisqi is not pleased to be kept waiting, but when, upon returning home, he is condemned to death for the apparent betrayal of his duties, she aids in rescuing him and later joins him as an emissary of their people.
  • Sinead Terekhov, to her husband Aivars, in the Honorverse sub-series Saganami Island. The novel The Shadow of Saganami essentially opens with them facing yet another separation as he is deployed to a distant part of the galaxy.
  • Rally Round the Flag, Boys!:
    Private Roger Litwhiler: How do we convince them that we're miserable?
    Opie: Easiest thang in the world. Tell 'em how lonesome you are for the gal you left back home.
    Private Ernest J. Hoffman: [incredulously] Tell the new girl about the old girl?
    Opie: Why, shore. Then she knows she ain't scratchin' after a prize that nobody else wants.
    Citizen-soldiers: Ah!
    Private Gustave Morrissette: But what if you haven't got a girl back home?
    Opie: Then lie. But lie from the hort!
  • The Sword of Saint Ferdinand: Old soldier Fortún Paja mentions several times that he has a wife waiting for him back in Toledo as he serves in the royal army.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Theme song for the western Rawhide: Rawhide's contemplatin', his true love will be waitin', be waitin', at the end of the line.
  • Mrs. Onedin in The Onedin Line. Also James Onedin's sister.
  • Auggie and Annie in Covert Affairs have each been this to each other. However, it is usually Auggie who is the Guy Back Home because Auggie is blind and episodes where this is reversed are rare. Sometimes they work together in the field on the same mission but this is also rare; more commonly Auggie is Mission Control.
  • Penny is this for Desmond in Lost.
  • Towards the end of Blackadder Goes Forth Captain Darling reveals that he has a girlfriend, Doris, waiting for him back in England. Unfortunately, the final episode sees him reassigned to the front lines to take part in the "Big Push" across No-Man's Land. On arriving in the trenches he reveals he's made a list of things he'd planned to do once the war was over, the last of which is "Marry Doris".

  • "The Girl I Left Behind Me" in numerous John Wayne films.
  • "Lily Marlene"
  • "Girl At Home," on the extended edition of the RED Album by Taylor Swift. It's talking about how the guy in the song shouldn't pursue her because 'he has a girl at home and everybody knows it'. Interesting inversion in that it's in the perspective of the girl who's being pursued.
  • The Ulster song "Bonnie Woodgreen":
    It was way out in Flanders at the back of the line,
    We were talking 'bout sweethearts we'd all left behind,
    When one Irish soldier says, "I have a queen,"
    And she works in John Ross's of Bonnie Woodgreen."
  • The Russians have "Katyusha" ("Little Katie"), who waits for her soldier boy. The rocket launcher system of the same name was named after the song.
  • The German army sings a similar manner about "Erika".

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Odyssey: Penelope waited twenty years for her husband to return.

  • The song "My Girl Back Home" in South Pacific. Possible Trope Namer. The song was cut from the original production, but was used in the film and has been reinstated for the 2008 revival. Ironically the hero was singing that to rationalize cheating on his girl back home.
  • In Hamilton, Alexander marries Eliza early in the war, and she and her unborn child become motivations for him while he's off fighting in the revolution.
    Eliza: I knew you'd fight until the war was won—
    Alexander: The war's not done—
    Eliza: But you deserve a chance to meet your son

    Video Game 
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia:
      • Lukas has a lover waiting for him, as revealed in his DLC support with Python, although he admits that they might not actually be all that in love with each other, as Lukas doesn't actually miss her too much. His ending never mentions if he got married or not, so whether or not they did stay together is left ambiguous.
      • Defied by Tatiana, who tells her boyfriend Zeke that she'd rather use her White Magician Girl skills in battle than wait for him back home. While Zeke isn't too happy to see her fighting, he understands her reasons and promises to protect her.
    • Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem: Sirius (who is the same person as Zeke in the Echoes example above) plays this straight, returning to Archanea to fight on Nyna's behalf once more - yet returns to Valentia to reunite with Tatiana once his work is done.
  • According to the bios on the old website for Ghost Recon, the Sniper specialist Scott Ibrahim is fond of talking of a girlfriend he has back at home. It's specifically noted, though, that nobody else in the unit has so much as seen a picture of her.
  • Heroes of Mana: When she's first mentioned, Qucas describes Elena as being this for Roget. Unlike most cases though, she's a soldier as well and when we meet her, she tries to kill Roget in revenge for both deserting Pedda and (albeit unwillingly) killing her younger brother Juhani.
  • Rengoku: During the war, Beatrice, a machine operator, has fallen in love with Captain Gram, a mercenary, and waited for him to return. She cries Tears of Joy and horror when she notices the prototype-ADAM learning data had his memories inside.
  • Marina is this for Ashley in Wild ARMs 2. She waits for him in Meria at the local bakery while he's off fighting terrorists and world devouring universes with ARMS. At the end of the game, it's revealed they've started a family together.

    Real Life 
  • In his memoir Quartered Safe Out Here, George MacDonald Fraser tells how Grandmother McDonald on hearing the news of the outbreak of war simply said, "I guess the men will be going away again." Fraser lived in a part of Britain that had long provided soldiery and the people adjusted accordingly.
    • This was also featured in his McAuslan series of short stories, where both sets of grandmothers have experienced waiting for soldiers to return from combat.
  • Common enough in Real Life for Mormon girls — most Mormon men, usually right after high school or college, go on two-year missions. These missions can be in places as diverse as Iowa, Australia, the Czech Republic, or Argentina — but they are designed to keep the man far away from home. Even if he stays close, he is forbidden to see his girlfriend, so waiting for a missionary is a common event for LDS girls.
  • A very extreme version can be found in CIA spouses. They are often parted for long times and the girl or boy back home often has no idea what is happening. Not to mention they have to give an extraordinary amount of trust to someone who is after all a trained deceiver. It causes unusual strain on marriages, but in those cases where it actually does work, it can be an example of The Power of Love.
    • In other cases, the trope is averted. If the place they are posted to is relatively safe, they can bring their family with them. After all, "cover" basically means lying about one's job — the vast majority of agents make absolutely no attempt to hide their names, they merely claim to work for someone other than the CIA (usually the Department of State, but it can also be another government agency or even a private company).note  So as long as the agent in question does a good job of that, their family isn't at further risk of leak or of being killed (the spouse or Significant Other generally knows, and the kids will just assume, along with everyone else, that Dad/Mom is a diplomat or something).
  • In the French Foreign Legion, a photo of "the girl back home" is one of the six personal items a legionnaire is permitted to keep with them during basic training (the others being a cigarette case, a lighter, a toothbrush, a razor, and a French dictionary).