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Refusal of the Call

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Lisa: I know it's hard, Gary. But you're still the only hope to stop these newer terrorists.
Gary: Why me?! Why am I the only one?!
Lisa: Because you're the one with the power to—
Gary: WELL, I DON'T WANT THE FUCKING POWER! I don't want the guilt, I don't want the shame, and I don't want the responsibility!

The character, typically the hero, receives a Call to Adventure but at first refuses for some reason. Events then conspire to force them to accept the call, and in a good number of cases, the events in question hit home in a very tragic fashion.

If this is the second (or further) iteration of a Hero's cycle, it isn't uncommon for the Hero to have ''forgotten'' his adventures, given up his Hero powers, or some combination of the two, deliberately or otherwise: this variant of the refusal is Can't Stay Normal.

The term comes from anthropologist Joseph Campbell's analysis of heroic sagas; it is a standard feature of such stories. (See The Hero's Journey.)

Of course some heroes jump at the chance for adventure. (Others would have if they'd only gotten it!)

Someone who took the latter of a Red Pill, Blue Pill wants to do this to the call in order to go back to their previous lives none the wiser.

See also: Achilles in His Tent, "Leave Your Quest" Test, Refreshingly Normal Life-Choice and The Drag-Along. Contrast Adventure Rebuff and Refused by the Call, where the call refuses you, We Are Not Going Through That Again which takes place at the end of a story where the heroes refuse to repeat their adventure when confronted with the possibility, and Can't Refuse the Call Anymore, when circumstances force the hero to accept the call. Not to be confused with Didn't Want an Adventure.

For an entire fantasy genre built on this trope, see Slow Life Fantasy.


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    Film — Animation 
  • Happens in BIONICLE: Mask of Light. Takua is apparently chosen by the Mask of Light, but he frames events so it appears that it's his friend Jaller instead to the village. Takua promptly gets volunteered to go on The Quest to find the seventh Toa with Jaller anyway. Takua finally stops refusing the call after Jaller makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save him and puts on the Mask of Light, becoming the Toa of Light.
  • In Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo's prominent call to action for direct participation in the over-arching conflict and official picking a side, similarly to Simba's, comes further in to the story when Phoebus asks him to help reach the Court of Miracles in order to warn them of an impending attack that Frollo claimed to have prepared. However, afraid of incurring the wrath of his "master" Frollo as well as having thoughts like, "What am I supposed to do? Go out there and rescue the girl from the jaws of death and the whole town will cheer like I'm some kind of a hero? She already has her knight in shining armor and it's not me," he initially refuses. But because of the weight of his conscience and encouraging from the gargoyles he relents on this decision.
  • Kung Fu Panda plays with this trope: despite his eagerness to watch the tournament in which the new Dragon Warrior is to be chosen, when Po is 'mistakenly' selected by Master Oogway, the panda protests that he can't be the one. Amusingly, but also distressingly, the Furious Five and Master Shifu refuse to accept he's their predestined hero either, and do all in their power to convince, persuade, or downright browbeat him into quitting. (And this is lampshaded by Tigress, who insists he doesn't belong and needs to get out so the real hero can show up.) Yet he continues to keep trying to learn, mostly because he's always dreamed of learning kung fu.
    • Once he finds out what he's expected to do, however (defeat Tai Lung all by himself), he literally runs away from the temple. (Perhaps it should be Fleeing from the Call?) Luckily for the moral of the story, Shifu stops him and convinces him he can be trained and finds a way to do it. Although Po's hometown isn't doomed, it is put in danger, and this as well as a pep talk from his Dad and a flash of insight into the Dragon Scroll convince him to accept after all.
  • In The Lion King (1994), Simba's call to action actually comes further into the film than usual when Nala finds him alive and tries to convince him to return to the Pride Lands in order to oust Scar from power and take his place as the rightful king. Because of his guilt over what he thinks he did to his father as well as him having embraced living a life with, "No worries, for the rest of your days" he initially refuses. However after meeting with Rafiki and the spirit of his father, Simba reconsiders it and finds the courage and will to put his past behind him and return to the Pride Lands to accept his responsibility.
  • In Titan A.E. the lead Cale Tucker is approached early on by Capt. Joseph Korso to join him on a mission to find the ship called the Titan that is supposed to be the key to saving the human race. Korso putting it, "I want you to risk your life, I want you give up everything you have, to join me on a mission where you'll face terror, and torture, and possibly gruesome death...Because it's worth it. Because the human race needs you." Cale however refuses and only subsequently goes with him when the Drej find and try to capture him.
  • Ultra Magnus in Transformers: The Movie initially believes he is "not worthy" to keep the Matrix of Leadership and become Autobot leader, but Optimus Prime convinces him to do it. At the end of the movie, Hot Rod gets it.

  • The Fighting Fantasy gamebook The Crimson Tide actually allows you to refuse your quest for revenge and instead settle down as a sailor, monk, farmer, or any other career.
  • There was a Transformers Gamebook where at the first choice, you could refuse the call. The adventure promptly ended, with the note that you occasionally wonder what might have happened.
    • A Doctor Who Gamebook allowed you to walk straight past the TARDIS, with the same result.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible
    • Moses initially refuses God's call to go back to Pharaoh's court and demand the Israelites' freedom. His excuse: he's a stutterer — literally, his "lips are sealed" (also, the fact that he's wanted for murder might have something to do with it). More of a downplayed example because God sees right through the lame excuse and states in no uncertain terms that Moses still has to go, but he can bring his brother Aaron along to make the speeches.
    • A straighter example would be when Jonah is called by God to deliver a message to a city. Jonah doesn't want to do it, so he tries to run away on a ship. Trying to run away from an omnipresent deity doesn't really work so well. God causes a storm to come up at sea that threatens to sink the ship. Jonah knows why the storm is happening and tells the crew to throw him overboard to save themselves. They reluctantly do so. And that's where the giant fish comes in. Making this Older Than Feudalism.
    • While the apostle Peter did indeed follow Jesus around everywhere to the point of claiming he would never abandon him, he broke his promise when Jesus was captured by the Pharisees. It was not until the rooster crowed the third time that he realized his mistake and repented of his sins simply because he remembered Jesus prophesying that he would do this.
  • This also features in the founding of Islam; some historical traditions hold that Muhammad initially refused to receive The Qur'an because he couldn't read it — and later on, contemplated committing suicide, for fear of becoming a madman.


  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Simon tries his absolute hardest to stay away from anything related to the superpowers he's been given. Whenever one of the other superpowered characters approach him, he deflects them and scarpers off. This only lasts him so long before his Superpowered Evil Side takes over, and even when he regains control his mother all but forces him to hang out with the superpowered kids.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Anathema, Kindly shrouds are the reanimated spirits of people who dedicated their lives to helping others and are now tasked with culling the human population on a massive scale. They often refuse the call out of horror or disgust. Any shroud can choose to refuse the call, but doing so too much will result in them being hunted down and killed by other shrouds.
  • In Hunter: The Reckoning, hunters who refuse The Call are known as bystanders; they lose all their briefly-granted powers, but retain a knowledge of the truth behind the setting's Masquerade.
  • Warhammer 40,000; the Emperor approached Primarch Angron when the latter was just about to commit to a Last Stand with his fellow gladiators, telling him he had to leave and join the Great Crusade. Angron told him to shove it and that he was going to die fighting with his friends, but the Emperor wouldn't take no for an answer and essentially kidnapped Angron just as the battle was getting started, abandoning his army to their doom. Angron would never forgive the Emperor for this and would be one of the first Primarchs to join Horus' rebellion against him.


    Visual Novels 
  • In the PS2 version of Higurashi: When They Cry, it's very possible to refuse the call by carefully avoiding setting off any triggers. It leads to an arc in which "Mion" appears to start going nuts, but Keiichi refuses to get involved, leading to the death of everyone with the actual Mion's death being delayed by ten years while she's catatonic.

    Web Animation 
  • The Most Epic Story Ever Told in All of Human History: During “The Most Epic Superhero Origin Story Ever”, Epic-Man declares his intent to save the world with the help of Epic Fail and Epic Robot Guy. Epic Robot Guy’s response is to run away.
  • RWBY: Oscar longs for more to life than being a farm-boy on an isolated farm. He initially doesn't know it, but he is born special; in a world where being unique is worth dying for, he mysteriously has an identical Aura and Soul to those of one other extremely enigmatic individual. Ozpin has a responsibility to protect four dangerous, divine Relics from destroying humanity; his Arch-Nemesis, Salem, destroys Beacon Academy in Volume 3, leaving the world thinking Ozpin is dead. However, Ozpin is secretly a body-surfer who merges with special hosts instead of dying. It's implied that Ozpin cannot choose to body-surf when Oscar becomes the new host after the fall of Beacon much to the dismay of both of them. Oscar spends Volume 4 trying to deny Ozpin's existence and refuse the responsibility for protecting the world that has now been dumped on his shoulders.

  • Bob and George:
  • In Girl Genius, we get a character who's aware of this trope: Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer! He explains it to the heroine, Agatha (emphasis in original). He is wrong in that he thinks she'll become a traditional hero and/or his sidekick, rather than what she really is: a Reluctant Mad Scientist and heir to the Heterodyne family.
    Othar: ...something you should remember as you fight evil.
    Agatha: I told you. I'm not doing that. You can't make me.
    Othar: Make you? [laughs, loudly] You ran straight at that danger without even thinking. That's who and what you are. You say you want a normal life. We all say that at one time or another. You deserve your chance at it. I'll be back in about three months — and we'll see how "normal" you are.
    [he leaves]
    Agatha: He only sees what he wants to see. Which is why he's completely wrong about me.
  • Godslave: Edith doesn't want to go around searching for Anpu's ba, but the Blacksmiths just won't leave her alone.
  • The Great Wizard Transcendent in the first timeline had Mikhail refusing the hero role much to his regret later on.
  • Early on in The Last Halloween, Mona very emphatically (and sensibly, considering that she's an ordinary 10-year-old girl) refuses to embark on a mythical quest through a world overrun by monsters to save humanity. The Hero's Journey is specifically brought up by the Genre Savvy quest-giver, and it ultimately takes a Fourth-Wall breaking to make her agree.
    Shirley: Mona, just say yes, this got old six panels ago.
  • In Mutant Ninja Turtles Gaiden, the turtles have such extreme psychological damage that all but Leo take up this trope (and even Leo has some aspects of this). Raph is on a self-destructive path of drinking and self-mutilation, Mikey has moved to the surface and is living the life of a reclusive writer, and Donnie stays in his lab, rarely interacting with anyone. While Raph is still up to a little rough action now and then, Mikey repeatedly breaks down at the thought of combat (even to save loved ones!), and Donnie, who's become disconnected from reality and a cold-blooded True Neutral (perhaps even edging toward Evil), comes within an inch of killing a young child to convince himself that he has nothing to do with the surface world anymore. A far cry from their days of teenage heroism!
  • In No Rest for the Wicked, Perrault laughs at the idea of helping November, until she points out that he's bored.
  • Princess Chroma: June would love to not be a Magical Girl, but she just can't catch a break.
  • In Rusty and Co., Mimic refuses Madeline's proposed quest. But then, when the plot hook is deliverd bu artillery...
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Onni initially refuses to go on the expedition due to outright fearing the Silent World, but intends to keep contact with Lalli via the mage-exclusive dream space. Just a little after the expedition leaves, a danger that is referred to simply as "it" makes magical communication dangerous for Onni and Lalli. A non-magical means of keeping in contact with Lalli however happens to exist: the communication radio that Mission Control is using. Onni ends up joining them and accepting to do grunt work to get access to the radio.

    Web Original 
  • Chorocojo's ''Pokémon FireRed Let's Play: Sammy has absolutely no interest in being a Pokémon trainer, and would rather just say inside and play video games. This stems from an incident when she was nearly carried away by a Skarmory as a child. She eventually relents when she finds out one of her stops is shopping mecca Celadon City, does enough of the journey to get there, then immediately heads back home, only returning to the call for purely selfish reasons (such as Team Rocket interrupting her favorite show, or raising more money to buy even more video games).
  • Deviant: Cassandra Jansen, the main protagonist of the web serial, is told that she's the pivotal figure in a prophecy involving the end of the world. She's having none of it, and essentially tells one of the most powerful superhumans in the world to go fuck themselves.
  • Pretty much all five protagonists from the web fiction serial Dimension Heroes are uninterested in saving the world, one going so far as to throw his Guardian Band away. Unfortunately, none of them have any choice in the matter.
  • This is how Jonas Wharton of LG15: the resistance reacts when the Hymn of None attempts to persuade him to lead the Resistance in the first chapter, "A Call To Arms". In the end, the FBI turn up investigating claims that Jonas has committed acts of terrorism and murder, which forces him into action.
  • Limyaael's Fantasy Rants: Limyaael feels very strongly about making good reluctant heroes.
  • Starting in A Link Between Videos and running through the whole series, Link categorically refuses every attempt to get him on track (unless promised the power of flight or bacon) instead wandering the land and goofing off. More or less like the average player...
  • Pretty much what Living in Oblivion is all about: What happens in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion if the Champion of Cyrodiil prefers to live an ordinary life as an NPC? (Who would want this guy's face on any coins, anyway?)
  • Spoofed in this Tumblr comic (nicknamed "Nope: the Anime" by Imgur), about a girl who's obviously destined to be a main character but fights against it tooth and nail: she throws away Transformation Trinkets, ignores Humongous Mecha battles, refuses to make The Promise, and sits in the absolute middle of the classroom to avert Conveniently Seated. The only aspect of it she actually likes is standing on telephone poles. "Also, Dad told me to stop that narrating crap."
  • Phase from the Whateley Universe. He doesn't want to be a superhero, he just wants to be a normal guy, become the CEO of Goodkind International, and live a normal life. Unfortunately, nobody really cares what he wants. Pity he's got into more fights then most of Team Kimba combined... though, at least he has a company to run, which is nice. Marvel.

    Real Life 
  • In 97 AD, ancient Chinese diplomat Ying Gan was tasked with making contact between Imperial China and The Roman Empire. He made it as far as the Persian Gulf and asked a group of Parthian sailors how long it would take to cross. They told him anywhere between three months to two years depending on the winds, and many didn't survive the round trip. Upon hearing this, he immediately turned around and went home. It wasn't until almost 70 years later that the two empires finally made contact when a group of Romans claiming to have been sent by Marcus Aurelius visited the Chinese emperor.

Alternative Title(s): Refused The Call, Refuse The Call, Refusing The Call


The creator's refusal

In the first Drawn to life game, you can refuse Mari's prayers and cause the game to end right then and there, at the very beginning.

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