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Refusal of the Second Call

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Opal: Aren't you coming back to Republic City with us, Grandma?
Toph: No, my fighting days are over. Don't tell Korra, but my back is killing me. This is why you didn't see Katara messing with that Civil War nonsense. At some point, you gotta leave it to the kids.
The Legend of Korra, "The Calling"

An unassuming protagonist from Humble Beginnings rises up to become The Chosen One, defeats the Eldritch Abomination or the fantasy fascist regime, and prevents The End of the World as We Know It. As the series ends, they settle into a comfortable and well-deserved retirement as the world's greatest hero.


So that's it, right?

Wrong. Because things never seem to stay fixed for very long. Especially not in Cash Cow Franchises.

It's been ten years, or twenty, or fifty, and now another, unanticipated evil threatens the world. A new hero stumbles into the conflict and rises up against this new threat, and they flounder because saving the world isn't easy. They could obviously benefit from the wisdom of someone Older and Wiser who has been through this before. Surely the now-legendary original hero will resurface to fight alongside their accidental successor. They fixed it last time. It only took them five books or three movies. They can do it again. Even if they want to sit out the fighting, they'll at least be involved as a Badass Teacher.

But sometimes, they just don't want to. Maybe they feel like they've already done enough for the world. Maybe they feel they're too old to repeat their earlier feats. Maybe all they want to do is hang out on their island or in their secluded swamp and pretend none of it is happening. Sometimes, the former hero is determined to stay out of it.


This trope occurs when a Sequel installment takes place while the central hero of the previous installment is still alive but features a new hero, and the former hero is absent from the main action. The former hero may appear in the sequel but be unwilling to help or they may have been Put on a Bus, but they must be available. Their absence cannot be because they're physically incapacitated, imprisoned somewhere else, or have become evil. Their lack of involvement must be by their own choice.

Additionally, this trope requires the original hero to have already completed their Hero's Journey and the narrative that prominently featured them to have ended. If a character takes off halfway through defeating the evil and someone else has to take over, or if another mundane person was originally offered the mantle and turned it down before our hero accepted, it's not the trope.


Because this trope requires a hero different from the current one to have previously saved the day, media that falls into this category will always be a sequel, except for the rare case where a Prequel retroactively causes this. It is most common in High Fantasy or similar-scale stories and in situations where a completed series gets a Sequel Series that the creator may not have anticipated when the original series was released.

Can be caused by Changing of the Guard when there's no real reason the original hero couldn't have continued to feature instead. Can result in They Changed It, Now It Sucks!, and will often cause a Broken Base between those who like the new hero and those who don't like the new hero or think the original hero ducking out of the limelight was Out of Character, or some going as far as pretending the sequel series doesn't exist. It's a great way to make the previous franchise's hero Unintentionally Unsympathetic, as some of the problems the new heroes have to face may be the old hero's fault to start with.

Compare Passing the Torch, where the original hero intentionally chooses and trains a successor to fight an evil they both know will come, Rogue Protagonist, where the previous hero has outright made a Face–Heel Turn, Screw This, I'm Outta Here, where a character on The Dark Side decides it's no longer worth it, and We Are Not Going Through That Again, when the hero has finished their adventure, only for something else to immediately go wrong. Contrast with Refusing the Call, where a hero's origin story begins with them refusing to be a hero, only to get pulled into it anyway, and Can't Stay Normal, where the hero does return to save the day a second time.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars:
    • When The Force Awakens begins, Luke Skywalker is missing and one of the subplots revolves around trying to find him. He finally shows up in the last scene, where it is revealed that he has been living as a hermit on a secluded planet in a remote part of the galaxy. He spends most of The Last Jedi being chased around his island by Rey, whom he is actively trying to avoid mentoring.
    • Just following in his teachers' footsteps. Obi-Wan and Yoda were happy to camp out in isolation while the Empire was on the march in the period between the prequels and the original trilogy. Obi-Wan was at least keeping an eye on Luke. There was less of an excuse for Yoda to cower in a swamp while the Sith conquered the galaxy.
  • Tremors: Variant — the original film starred Valentine McKee and Earl Basset as the heroes. In the first sequel, Earl agrees to face a second Graboid incursion in a Mexican oil field... but Val, who killed the last Graboid, is specifically mentioned as having been previously contacted by the oil field's owners off-screen and refused to get involved again.
  • Played straight, then subverted in TRON: Legacy. Seems Kevin Flynn was happy to let his deranged creation have full run of the Grid while he sat on his ass and meditated. Quorra says he fought back, but was defeated, but we don't see any signs of it in TRON: Uprising. In fact he's more than happy to let Sam get trapped in there with him, until Sam delivers a succinct cross of "Reason You Suck" Speech, You Keep Telling Yourself That, and What the Hell, Hero? before going off on his own (and blundering into a disaster) and Kevin finally steps up to get involved again.

  • Richard Hannay, the hero of The Thirty-Nine Steps, goes on to have an illustrious career as a soldier and secret agent in several sequels before retiring to the country with his wife and young son. At the beginning of The Courts of the Morning, he declines a request to come out of retirement, and the rest of the supporting cast that the series has gathered go off and have the adventure without him, with the younger Archie and Janet Roylance taking the lead roles.
  • Not sure how much of a hero we are talking, but in the second book of the Tales of the Magic Land, the heroes attempt to recruit James Goodwin, the Wizard's analogue, to their cause. He refuses outright, saying he's had enough of magic, and never appears afterwards.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age
    • The Hero of Ferelden is never seen after Dragon Age: Origins, despite the Wardens' heavy involvement in Dragon Age: Inquisition and the fact that the plot, sentient darkspawn planning to end the world, seems right up their alley. At the end of Dragon Age II, Cassandra mentions that the Warden vanished. In Inquisition, the Inquisitor can send them a letter asking for help, and they will reply that they are on their own, unrelated mission. Apparently, the developers initially intended to include the Hero of Ferelden as Hawke's Warden contact, but panned it after struggling to find the right voice actors.
    • Hawke qualifies as this In-Universe, because no matter how Dragon Age II ends, things are still pretty awful in Kirkwall, and eventually they disappear because they've had enough. The reason that Varric pretends not to know where Hawke is during the second and third game is because he feels that his friend has been through enough. He only relents to calling Hawke in when it's absolutely unavoidable.
  • In The Longest Journey, April Ryan saves not one but two worlds from total annihilation, but at a huge personal cost. As a result, she has become a bitter cynic by the time of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, and refuses to assist the new protagonist, Zoe, when the bad guys put the world in peril once more ten years later.

    Web Comics 
  • Spacetrawler: The initial series involved an alien named Nogg gathering six humans to join a fight to free the Eeb species from slavery. In the sequel series set a few years later, Nogg intervenes in a secluded star system's war, and he tries to get the old gang (the ones still alive, at least) back together for this new adventure. The heroes of the last adventure all decline, either because they're busy raising families or because they can't stand Nogg anymore. So Nogg has to gather a new crew.

    Western Animation 
  • While several members of the Gaang are still alive when The Legend of Korra takes place, they only show up in a small handful of episodes each. The fact that they don't spend much time fighting is justified, considering they are well into their 80s at this point—Zuko's living out his retirement in the Fire Nation (which is ultimately unaffected by the series' events) while Toph's living alone in the Foggy Swamp. They only temporarily join the main plot when the Red Lotus escapes and the Beifongs are captured, respectively.