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Standard Hero Reward

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And all Jair had to do was die three hundred times.

"You do qualify to marry my daughter."
Capital One commercial

Who shall successfully Describe Standard Hero Reward Here will win the hand of the king's only daughter.

A very common reward for The Hero saving the day (such as slaying the dragon/demon/evil wizard/whatever terrorizing the kingdom) is marriage to the princess and being granted either half or all of the kingdom.

Although slaying a villain is the most common deed that leads to this specific reward, it is not the only way. As long as the hero has solved a serious enough problem threatening the kingdom, he can get this Standard Hero Reward. It is not unknown for the problem being how to decide whom the princess shall marry, and for him to get it for winning The Tourney held for that purpose.

If his task involved rescuing a Damsel in Distress (or her task involved rescuing a Distressed Dude), the rescuee is the princess (or prince) the hero will wed.

In Fairy Tales, the king will often be reluctant to cough up the reward, particularly if he hadn't realized it would be a Rags to Royalty situation. He will pile Engagement Challenge after Engagement Challenge — and invariably come to a bad end if he doesn't give in eventually. The hero may get a free pass if he's already a prince, however.

On the other hand, if the hero has a love whom he is trying to win back to, this can lead to embarrassing But Thou Must! situations.

Sometimes you see the wedding and the hero receiving his kingdom, but it's just enough to know this is the hero's reward.

These days, it's largely a Discredited Trope, due to being horribly clichéd and flying in the face of historical politics (although the princess would have little choice in her husband anyway). But Christopher Booker has plenty to say about the symbolic applications of the treasure, kingdom, and marriage combo, so don't count it out entirely — just set it up a little better, maybe.

This actually has roots in history. In some lands, including prehistoric Greece, inheritance was passed in the female line—that is, the king's heir would be the man who married his daughter. (This is why, in The Iliad, Menelaus was king of Sparta through his marriage to Helen, despite the fact that Helen had living brothers.) When a foreign warlord was invited into the country to help deliver it from barbarians or the like, marriage to the king's daughter was a useful pay-off that also served to strengthen the kingdom. In general, this practice had the practical advantage of letting the king look around for the best or most useful heir, instead of trusting to the luck of the draw.

Rarely do you see the princess retain her political power in this arrangement, becoming Queen Regnant with the hero as her consort, even if the story is set in (or inspired by) a country where this actually happens. However, it's becoming more common in more modern works.

If the princess offers her hand immediately after being saved from sexual assault, she Got Over Rape Instantly.

Compare Awesome Moment of Crowning, Knighting, 100% Heroism Rating, Smooch of Victory, Rescue Sex, Rescue Romance, Offered the Crown, Heroism Equals Job Qualification, Happily Ever After and Save the Princess. In cases where the hero always wanted to marry the princess, but was not permitted to until after he saved the kingdom, it also overlaps with Suddenly Suitable Suitor.

Contrast Dude, Where's My Reward?.

Now where's my bride?

Do not put examples that are merely offering the Princess's hand, without someone doing something heroic first.

Straight Examples

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  • The Capital One commercial, where the hero has lots of other terms and conditions to meet before getting his package (and that's a damn ugly princess, to boot).

    Anime and Manga 
  • Gender-Inverted in the backstory of Dog Days, where Adelaide helped save Flonyard from being infested with demons and then went onto marry the crown prince of Pastillage, becoming known as the Hero King in the process. Admittedly, it's never flat out stated that the two of them are married, but all available information points to it (including Couvert referring to both of them as her ancestors).
  • While the 80s anime Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics usually played its adaptations straight, one of the last episodes used The Brave Little Tailor as a subversion - the princess was so hideous and obnoxious that the story ended with him rejecting the reward in favor of seeking further adventures rather than getting stuck with her.
  • The h-anime Meiking has a variation: After rescuing the princess from bandits, protagonist Cain is given a chance to win Princess Charlotte's hand in a contest against another noble.
  • Zigzagged at the end of The Seven Deadly Sins. Meliodas, Captain of the Sins, marries Princess Elizabeth and becomes King of Liones at the end of the series after saving it (and the rest of Britannia) multiple times. However, while the crown is because Elizabeth is the daughter of an elderly king looking to retire, the marriage happens because during the course of said saving, the two end up finally breaking the curse that had lead them to be Star-Crossed Lovers doomed to have their relationship end in tragedy over and over again in a Reincarnation Romance going back for a hundred generations.

    Fairy Tales 
  • The Dragon Business: The first book features a queen who pledges her daughter's hand in marriage to whoever slays a vicious dragon. Said daughter's unattractiveness takes away some of the enthusiasm of the dragon slayers.
  • In The Grateful Beasts, the king pushes Dude, Where's My Respect? a little too far; his own daughter the princess argues with him until he imprisons her in a tower. However, the last task is to summon all the wolves in the kingdom, the wolves then proceed to kill all the court, and Ferko frees the princess, marries her, and becomes king.
  • In the Norwegian fairy tales of Asbjørnsen and Moe:
    • In Dapplegrim, the king tries to wiggle out of his promise and fails.
    • The Norwegian folk hero Espen Askeladd, who features in dozens of different fairy tales across the country, commonly wins "the princess and half the kingdom" as a reward for his heroic deeds.
    • In The Seven Foals, whoever watches the king's seven foals all day will marry the princess and receive half the kingdom.
    • In True and Untrue, True is promised the princess and kingdom if he cures her.
  • In the fairy tales of The Brothers Grimm:
    • "The Brave Little Tailor" pretty much bluffs his way to the kingdom and the girl, though the princess and her father both try to wiggle out of it when they secretly learn of his low class. He gets to keep the goods with another bluff that leaves every soldier in the kingdom too afraid to do anything against him, thus leaving the king and princess with no way to get rid of him.
    • In "Godfather Death", a king announces that whoever will heal his only daughter from her mortal sickness will get her in marriage and inherit the kingdom.
    • In "The Gold Mountain", the nameless hero marries a princess and becomes King of the Gold Mountain after breaking the curse that turned her into a snake and drove everyone else from the castle. Unusually, there is no father or old King in the story to give her away.
    • In "The Golden Goose", the youngest son gets to marry the princess because he made her laugh.
    • In "Iron Hans", when the prince is revealed after he saved the kingdom at war, he asks for the princess instead of modestly waiting to be offered. The king comments on the boldness, but since he's a prince, they are agreeable.
    • "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" plays this perfectly straight, though most of them don't feature quite so many possible spouses to pick from. Usually the youngest princess is the choice—but not here; the soldier declares that since he's not young himself, he will marry the oldest. Other variants of this tale type soften things by having the youngest princess fall in love with the hero herself and saves him from being tricked into drinking a love potion by her sisters.
    • In "The Two Brothers", a princess is due to become the next maiden sacrificed to a dragon, and the king promises that the man who saves her will get her hand in marriage and be king after his death.
  • In the fairy tales of Joseph Jacobs:
    • In "The Greek Princess And The Young Gardener" (link), the king makes the offer, but the young gardener carries off a princess from elsewhere on his journey. At the end, his Talking Animal companion, a fox, demands that his head be cut off, and when it is done, becomes a prince, and indeed the brother of the princess who was carried off. The king marries his daughter to this prince, and his sister marries the young gardener.
    • Kate Crackernuts is a gender-flipped variation of the The Twelve Dancing Princesses, where the main character agrees to watch an ailing prince overnight. She discovers that his illness is created by The Fair Folk making him dance all night and she manages to haggle with his parents to increase her reward from a peck of silver to the prince himself. She even manages to score another prince for her sister out of it.
    • Molly Whuppie having two older sisters, and the king three sons, she laid claim to three standard rewards, one for each of them.
  • Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's "Follow Me, Jodel!": The maiden offers Jodel her hand in gratitude, along with her castle and lands, in gratitude for lifting the curse which transformed her and her servants into toads and mice.

    Fan Works 
  • Part of the reward offered by King Harold for killing the dragon Samaritan in the Catalyst Verse. Shaw accepts the quest for the "massive amounts of gold" part of the offer and would rather dispense with the princesses altogether. The princess in question turns out to be Root, and the two do get engaged. Three years later, they're living together...and still engaged.
  • Mentioned by All Might in Green Tea Rescue when he muses whether or not Toga gave Midoriya a kiss or something after the latter describes his rescue of the former. It leads to an Open Mouth, Insert Foot moment for All Might, because he said this right in front of Ochako who ends up bristling at the comment.
  • The Night Unfurls: On the way to the Black Fortress, Kyril observes how the Black Dogs are eager to invoke this trope. They are already planning what celebrations they will do when they return to Eostia as conquering heroes, which woman they are going to get, how many children they will have, and how they are going to live like kings with a hero's reward. Later Played for Drama as it foreshadows their next course of action: to build a Sex Slave Empire.

    Films — Animated 
  • It took two sequels and a lot of heroics before it finally happened, but Aladdin finally got to marry Jasmine in Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
  • This trope is implied to be the reason Princess Genevieve's father allowed her to marry Derek the royal cobbler at the end of Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses. It could be alternately interpreted as a Gender Flip, as the princess gets to marry the man she loves because of her heroism.
  • More or less at the ending of Pocahontas, where John Smith, after throwing himself before a bullet meant for Chief Powhatan, is told by Powhatan that he will always be allowed to return and be part of his tribe. Powhatan then watches on as his daughter Pocahontas makes out with Smith. It's implied that Powhatan allowed for Smith to ask Pocahontas' hand in marriage, but as Smith leaves for medical treatment, whether or not he returns is ambiguous.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Clash of the Titans, Perseus wins the right to Andromeda's hand twice, first by solving her riddle and freeing Joppa from Caliban's curse (even though the second part wasn't necessary) and second by saving her from the Kraken later (the part loosely adapted from actual mythology).
  • The end of First Knight has the mortally wounded King Arthur inexplicably hand over Excalibur and rulership of Camelot to Sir Lancelot who, before then, was a roving entertainer who fought people in town squares for money. Earlier on, Arthur had knighted Lancelot for rescuing Guinevere over Lancelot's (and the Round Table Knights') protestations. So he gives his Kingdom (and his soon-to-be widow) over to somebody who he barely knows, who had fallen in love with his wife, and who has no desire or ability to rule.
  • In large part Dennis gets this at the end of Jabberwocky. It's not really a happy ending for him, as he has no interest in the kingdom or the princess, preferring his chubby and disdainful peasant neighbor to the latter.
  • Jack in Jack the Giant Slayer marries Isabelle at the end of the movie, although this is more a case of King Brahmwell recognizing that his daughter has chosen Jack after her arranged fiancée Roderick betrayed the kingdom. Played with briefly when Brahmwell gives Jack a purse full of gold coins for saving Isabelle and implies that he would happily give more;
    "As a king, I can offer much in reward. As a father, I can never reward you enough."
  • Flipped around in A Kid in King Arthur's Court. The winner of the grand tournament is supposed to receive a seat at the round table and the hand of Princess Sarah. The Black Knight is declared the winner... and is revealed to be Princess Sarah herself. Her father announces that "Daughter, thou hast won the right to choose," allowing her to finally marry the man she loves - the royal weapons master.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service, at the end of the film Eggs has sex with (and starts dating) a princess - mainly because the villain has been imprisoning every world leader who doesn't agree with his plan, and everyone in her life who would normally object to the "Secret Agent has a fling with a royal heir" is either in their own padded cell or head-sploded.
  • Maleficent: After the king is defeat by Maleficent when he tries to invade the Moors, he declares that whoever manages to kill her will marry his daughter and become his heir. Maleficent's childhood friend Stefan takes up the offer (though he can't bring himself to kill her, settling for cutting off her wings after she lets her guard down). This betrayal is why she holds enough of a grudge against King Stefan to curse his newborn daughter.
  • Played with in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, where Prince Tus does end up in an arranged marriage to Princess Tamina, although the movie makes it clear that, as happened so often historically, the marriage was for political reasons, and not so much as a reward. Tamina agrees to the marriage mostly because her city has been invaded and conquered, and that this is the easiest and most painless way to keep the city under control. At the end of the movie the Reset Button was pressed, and Dastan revealed the conspiracy to cause the invasion. Afterwards, Prince Tus proposes that Tamina marry Dastan to form a political alliance between Persia and Alamut.

  • A subversion is played with in the Siobhan Parkinson novel "4 Kids, 3 Cats, 2 Cows, 1 Witch (maybe)". When Beverley tells her story, it seems to be a standard fairytale about a princess who has been locked away by her father because he heard a prophecy that her son would one day kill him. He set a task that was impossible to complete, stating that anyone who did complete it would earn his daughter's hand in marriage. Along comes a prince who figures out a loophole in the task and rescues the princess from her father. Once they're away from the father, the princess is revealed to know nothing about the arrangement and does not wish to marry the prince. After outsmarting him, the prince takes the princess to his mother's house where she is free to live her life. Beverley ends the story there, saying it's up to the others whether the prince and princess eventually got married or not.
  • Subverted in A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears. The King promises the hand of his daughter to whoever can look at her and survive (she's so beautiful, all who look at her turn to stone). While the hero, Prince Roger, can see her without turning to stone and while she can stand near him without laughing uncontrollably (he was searching for a girl who could do so), she openly admits that she'd rather die than marry him and has fallen in love with a giant. For his part, Roger is delighted over this as he's fallen in love with the princess's lady in waiting.
  • Literally phrased this way in The Belgariad: "As foretold, the Rivan King has returned. He has met our ancient foe and he has prevailed. His reward stands radiant at his side." Of course, he was already the king to begin with.
  • Played with in A Brother's Price. At first glance this trope is played straight; Jerin Whistler helps save the Princess Odelia and the book ends with him married to her and considered, in a sense, father to the whole country. A longer look shows a lot of odd layers; due to the social structure of that world he marries her and all of her sisters, he has no authority due to men having more restricted roles in this world, he was only able to marry them because his sisters and cousins helped the royal family out of a bind and because he turned out to have a royal grandfather...
  • Subverted in the Deconstructor Fleet fantasy novel By the Sword. In a talk with his advisors, the king says that "the traditional reward is half the kingdom plus the princess's hand in marriage," and he is prepared to offer this. But the advisors point out various political problems involved in dividing up the kingdom in this way, and in cancelling the Arranged Marriage that the princess had already been set up for. The king ends up offering the reward of being the count of a small fiefdom called Ok, so small that being in charge of that dump is a very Blessed with Suck reward. When the princess is rescued, she is quite insulted that her father was too cheap to offer the Standard Hero Reward.
  • In Cloaked, the protagonist saves a princess's brother from a spell (turned into a frog, of course) and winds up engaged to her as a result. Meanwhile, the protagonist's female co-worker gets engaged to the brother because she was the one who actually kissed him to break the spell. Eventually, the protagonist and the co-worker break off their engagements because they are in love with each other. While the princess and her brother are confused at the idea of marriage not being the reward for such assistance (and vaguely repulsed at the idea of money being something suitable), neither of them were in love with their fiancées either and readily agree.
  • Played with a lot in The Chronicles of Magravandias. Valraven is the emperor's most valued general and thus is rewarded with being married to Princess Varencienne, but the marriage is also for the purpose of "keep your friends close and your (potential) enemies closer."
  • Spoofed in the Discworld book Guards! Guards!, where a bunch of heroes won't save Ankh-Morpork because Vetinari doesn't have a kingdom and a princess to offer as a reward.
    • He does, however, have an aunt and a dog. At least one person considers it for the dog...
    • Later Vimes does get a variation of this, albeit in a nontraditional way. He rescues a virgin aristocrat (old maid Sybil Ramkin) from the Dragon attacking the city and ends up marrying her. She is one of the wealthiest people in the entire city, and with their marriage, Vimes is elevated to the aristocracy — and becomes owner of half the city, thanks to the Ramkin family's extensive real estate interests. Especially amusing because Vimes doesn't want any of it, with the sole exception of Sybil herself.
      • To say nothing of what the Watch hero who actually defeats the dragon gets out of the deal: he marries the dragon. The King is bested by Errol the swamp dragon in air-to-air combat, and turns out to be a female for whom Love at First Punch evidently applies.
  • Spoofed in John Gardner's short story "Dragon, Dragon". When the king says that he'll give the princess's hand in marriage to anyone who can slay the titular dragon, the protagonist's father points out that's not an appealing reward for people who are already married or don't have the financial means to support a royal wife. The king amends the reward to "the princess's hand in marriage or half of the kingdom, or both — whichever is most convenient", to which the father objects that getting half of the kingdom is a huge responsibility that not everyone will want. To that, the king merely replies, "Take it or leave it."
  • Double-subverted in The Dragon Hoard: When Prince Fearless is recruiting heroes to his quest for the Dragon Hoard, his father insists on offering his daughter's hand in marriage as a prize for the hero who does the most during the quest. Fearless, who is keenly aware that his sister is a Royal Brat, tries unsuccessfully to dissuade him, and actually apologises to the "winning" hero. (Fortunately, it turns out there is a prince who loves her despite her faults, thus allowing the winner an excuse to nobly relinquish his claim.)
  • Subverted and played with in Dragon Princess by S. Andrew Swann. Main character Frank is offered the hand of the princess if he can rescue her from the dragon, but it turns out to be a trap by the Royal Wizard who intends to use a "Freaky Friday" Flip spell to steal Frank's body and marry the princess himself. Only the spell goes wrong and Frank ends up in the princess's body, the dragon ends up in the wizard's body, and the princess ends up in the dragon's body! After the dust clears, Frank has to kill the wizard (in his old body, so Frank can never return to it) to save the princess (in the dragon's body), while the dragon (in the wizard's body) is forced into servitude for The Fair Folk to cover his enormous gambling debt (which was why he'd kidnapped the princess in the first place). Thanks to the Exact Words of the kingdom's law, the princess (in the dragon's body) is forced to marry Frank (who's in her old body).
  • Spoofed in The Dragonslayers by Bruce Coville. The king offers half his kingdom and his daughter's hand in marriage to whoever slays the dragon. No sooner does he give the dragon slayer his reward than it's revealed that the slayer is his own daughter, having pulled a Sweet Polly Oliver.
  • Toyed with in The Elenium. After saving the Queen from a deadly curse, Sparhawk ends up marrying said Queen. His accidental marriage proposal in the process of her recovery was simply a means to an end on her part, as she had been in love with him ever since she was an 8-year-old girl and he was her bodyguard.
  • Inverted in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. King Mendembar fights the princess (verbally) and then goes to rescue the dragon. Played straight in that they do get married at the end.
    • Also, Cimorene's father does offer him half the kingdom, but Mendanbar turns it down, on the basis that he's busy enough with one kingdom as it is.
    • The series further parodies this trope in the first book, in which it's mentioned that half of a kingdom and the hand of the princess is the usual reward for saving said princess from a dragon. Cimorene is initially shocked at such a large reward being posted for her "rescue", but quickly becomes very irritated since she doesn't want to be rescued and the various knights and princes that show up are disrupting her work. She eventually works out a system where she convinces the would-be rescuers to go save the other captured, more conventional princesses. She starts out with her forced fiancé, pointing out to him that no one will care which princess he saves and marries, so long as he comes back with someone.
  • The Red Cross Knight in The Faerie Queene is rewarded Princess Una's hand in marriage after he slays the dragon... and then almost loses it when the Master of Illusion announces to everyone at the celebration that the hero's already slept with The Vamp.
  • Deconstructed in Robert A. Heinlein's Glory Road. The protagonist is hired specifically to be The Hero and go on The Quest to rescue the MacGuffin from the evil bad guys, with the Queen's hand in marriage as his promised reward. The problem is that, as he discovers afterwards, the qualities necessary to be a Dashing Hero are exactly those qualities that make him terribly unsuited to be the consort of the Empress of Five Galaxies. He ends up rejecting that life and heading off to do some more heroing.
  • Heralds of Valdemar has the short story A Tale of Heroes, in which Tarma and Kethry don't know what they'd do with a local lord's daughter but have been looking for land and property, which have been promised to whoever can slay a monster ravaging the land. Another mercenary gets there and kills the beast before they arrive, and is to be assigned the standard reward. The story also features a heavy dose of Real Women Don't Wear Dresses as the "hero" proves to be a rapist, but the lord's daughter is stuck up and vain, and Tarma and Kethry, walking away, say that they don't know who to feel sorrier for and that the two deserve each other.
  • In Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle series, it's a once-a-book running joke that people keep deciding to demand his daughter's hand in marriage from the King of Ingary without checking how old she is first, resulting in a hasty backdown when they discover she's still a small child.
  • In the Chivalric Romances King Horn, Beves of Hampton, and Guy of Warwick, the heroes all win the hand of a princess by their feats. Unfortunately, Horn is in exile from the court of his true love because of a false accusation, and Beves and Guy are both seeking to win renown so that the princess he is in love with will find him worthy, despite his low birth.
  • Deconstructed, with everything else, in The Last Wish where there's a rumor that the king promised his daughter's hand to whoever could break her curse. When Geralt meets the king he makes it clear that under no circumstances would he give her away to a stranger, and in any case, Geralt's only interested in the money.
  • Simon of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn basically gets this package. It should be said, though, that he and the princess had already fallen in love with each other during the story, he was the rightful heir all along, and the kingdom is in pretty sad shape when he gets it.
    • The princess rushes to him and suggests that they flee incognito before someone forces her to marry someone else as a standard reward. Everyone thinks this is actually a very neat solution: Simon is the rightful heir from a long-dead royal line, his new wife is the closest thing to an heir to the most recent royal line (that trashed the kingdom, so it's a bit suspect on its own), they're both heroes, and the majority of the nobility is dead anyway. In fact, other characters point out that if Simon weren't royalty all along, they'd make it up as a rumor, and the princess's involvement is nice but strictly irrelevant to his ascension to the throne.
  • A villainous example in The Pillars of the Earth: William Hamleigh believes that his heroic capture of the (from his perspective) treasonous Earl Bartholomew and his castle will be rewarded with the opportunity to rape his daughter Aliena and then forcibly marry her. William's mother disabuses him of the notion, as Aliena's new social status as the daughter of a traitor renders her unworthy. William is eventually temporarily given Bartholomew's earldom.
  • Gender-flipped version in the story The Practical Princess. A princess is blessed at birth to, among other things, be very practical. This helps when she is eventually imprisoned in a tower by her Abhorrent Admirer. There, she finds the prince of a neighboring kingdom which said Abhorrent Admirer usurped the throne of and proceeds to figure out how to break the sleeping spell on him and use his very long beard to escape. The story ends with saying that because she rescued him, she got to marry him (though first she made him trim his beard).
  • A variation of this trope appears in Ranger's Apprentice where, in Book 4, Will is offered a prominent position as one of the Royal Scouts, which is basically equivalent to knighthood. This would give him status and, since he'll be based in/around the castle, allow him to marry Princess Cassandra, with whom he's had a fair amount of Ship Tease, rather than stay as an apprentice and (since he's an orphan) social lowlife. He turns it down.
  • In Patricia McKillip's The Riddle Master Trilogy the hero uses his riddling skills to defeat the ghost of a dead king and win his crown, which he proceeds to keep under his bed, not knowing what else to do with it. He doesn't find out about the princess's hand until a visiting harpist tells him. First he is shocked that the king her father would do something that incredibly stupid. Then he's dismayed because even though he's a Prince his very humble and countrified court isn't at all what the princess is used to. On the other hand, her brother was his roommate at the Riddle-Masters' college in Caithnard and he's always has a shine for the sister, and she seemed to like him too.
  • In many variants of the medieval Chivalric Romance Robert The Devil, while working at a menial job at court, the hero rescues the princess and so gets to marry her. (He had deliberately taken a job beneath him, as penance for evil.)
  • Used at the end of Garth Nix's Sabriel, where the two heroes rule the Old Kingdom together.
  • Saint George and the Dragon: The king tells the brave knight that he has promised that the dragonslayer should have Una for his wife, and be king after him, which the knight accepts.
  • In Sir Apropos of Nothing, the title character is offered the princess's hand for saving her and the king. But when they decide to consummate their love, Apropos finds they share peculiarly similar birthmarks...
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Lord Rickard Karstark offers the hand of his maiden daughter to whoever captures Jaime Lannister. Since his only surviving male heir is a hostage, this carries with it a decent likelihood of becoming Lord Regent of Karhold after Rickard's death. The first man to try to claim this reward is the loathsome, sadistic mercenary Vargo Hoat... but Karstark is beheaded before he gets a chance to make any promises.
  • Played with in the Sword of Truth. Richard does get the girl and the kingdom ... but he's the prince. Later played straight when he conquers the Midlands, and later the whole world. Especially because of the Death Spell where Kahlan is only known as the Galean Queen.
  • Invoked in Mercedes Lackey's Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series. The 500 kingdoms quite literally run on fairy tale tropes. In a stroke of genre savviness, one of the kings hires a sorcerer to "kidnap" his daughter (even though she just plays around when she's "held captive") and offers her hand to the man who rescues her. This is because he knows that the only one who can overcome the sorcerer's trials will be clever, compassionate, and heroic, and thus an ideal heir for his throne.
    • Averted in a later story in the same setting. The hero, starting to feel his age, deliberately seeks out a situation like this so he can retire. However, since the princess in question was only six years old, he married one of her female bodyguards instead.
    • And played with in a third where, in a kingdom using an Engagement Challenge competition for the princess' hand as a way of buying time to deal with the problem the fact that the kingdom is surrounded by greedy neighbors who want to conquer it while it is seen as vulnerable due to the recent death of the king, decide to make the final challenge to find a long-term solution to the problem that the kingdom is rich and surrounded by greedy neighbors. So the various princes were trying to marry the princess anyway, and it only turned into a standard hero reward at the last minute.
  • In the Chivalric Romance, Tristan and Iseult, the King of Ireland offers his daughter, Iseult, in marriage to whoever saves his kingdom from a dragon. Tristan slays the dragon, but unusually, he does so not to win the princess for himself, but for his uncle King Mark. It's only after winning her hand and bringing her back to his uncle that Tristan falls for Iseult, and she for him, and tragedy ensues.
  • Parodied in True History: the heroes join the Moon King's army in their war expedition against the Sun people... and are soundly defeated, taken prisoner and released in exchange for a hefty sum. Still, the Moon King rewards the protagonist's efforts by showering him with rewards and by giving him his youngest son as a spouse (Moon People, as explained later, are all male/hermaphrodite, and can reproduce with each other via Bizarre Alien Reproduction).
  • Subverted in The Unicorn Trilogy: after the events of Gold Unicorn everyone certainly expects that Honj will marry Lizra after 'saving' her and become her emperor. But at the end of Red Unicorn when he realizes he loves Tanaquil more, he goes to Lizra to break it off. She's actually relieved because the king she was negotiating with proposed marriage to her to strengthen their respective kingdoms, and she intended to accept.
  • Subverted in Lawrence Watt-Evans' With a Single Spell, in which the hero must marry the princess in order to collect his money and kingdom, despite having become betrothed to another woman while on his quest.
    "They were probably desperate for husbands - or at least their royal father was. Surplus princesses are a major export in the Small Kingdoms."
    • Lucky for him his current wife was open-minded when there was enough money on the line, so things resolved amicably with bigamy.
    • A woman who helped him slay the dragon was permitted her share of the reward without having to marry a princess.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Spoofed in The Goodies. Tim wins the hand of the beautiful princess, but it's only the hand. Graham gets the top half to snog with, while Bill gets the rest (the legs).
  • Zigzagged in the Grimm episode "Maiden Quest". A crime boss has no son, so he invokes an ancient Wesen custom of his tribe: The suitor who performs a particular task (killing the boss's enemy) will marry his daughter, and become his heir. Each suitor is killed by a mysterious assailant just before pulling off the hit. At the end, we find that the daughter was killing the suitors rather than be the prize in a contest—and her father secretly knew it all along. He was hoping she'd do that, and prove she's ruthless enough to rule the family in her own right.
  • Played for Drama and nastily Deconstructed in Once Upon a Time. The shepherd boy brought in as a last-minute swap for the deceased prince slays the dragon and saves his widowed mom's farm. Unfortunately, the kingdom is flat broke, meaning he's being forced to marry some Royal Brat in order to secure a fat dowry for the land's empty coffers. Otherwise, the king is going to kill him and his mother if he refuses to go along with it.
    • Also Inverted, and just as nastily Deconstructed, with Regina. She saves the princess Snow White, and the king is so grateful he offers to marry her. Subverted in that Regina doesn't want to marry him, as she is in love with a stable boy and the king is quite a bit older than her. Her mother decides marrying the king is right for her, so she murders the man her daughter loves to force the issue.
  • Vikings: Count Odo clearly hopes to win Princess Gisla's hand after successfully repelling the Viking attack on Paris, even though she had already refused his proposal once before. When he personally asks her about this, Gisla refuses to give a clear answer and only assures him that she will be deeply grateful if he indeed manages to defend the city from invaders.

  • In the Czech comedy song "Jožin z bažin", the village head offers his daughter's hand and half of a collective farm if the protagonist can get rid of the eponymous swamp monster.
  • In "Fairy Story" (recorded by Molly & the Tinker and the Brobdingnagian Bards), the hero is rewarded with the choice to sleep with one of the King's two beautiful daughters. His preference? He sleeps with the King instead; after all, it is a fairy story!
  • Nautilus Pompilius: In the song "Scoundrel and Angel":
    Everything ended as it should —
    Every fairy tale has a happy ending.
    The dragon died, killed by a spear,
    The princess goes down the aisle.
  • The protagonist of Tom Smith's concept album The Last Hero On Earth is offered the hand of the princess he saves from the Ninja Pirates from Dino Isle; the trope is invoked by the queen, who says "It's a very fine Old World Tradition to give the Hero a most precious thing!" and "How this circumstance has lead to romance is a wonderfully hoary cliche..." Notably, neither member of the newly betrothed couple is all that thrilled with this decision, and the princess decides to give the hero the reward he really wants instead - a way to get back home.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible: King Saul offered his oldest daughter to whoever kills Goliath. David wound up marrying her sister instead, though.
  • Several Celtic myths include a "sovereignty goddess", who rules/embodies/strengthens the land. By marrying this goddess, a man symbolically married the land itself, like a good king must be devoted to his duty and territory above all else. In these myths, the king (though usually of noble blood himself) must gain sovereignty from his connection to the woman/kingdom, who has it inherently.
  • In Greek Mythology:
  • If the hero rescues a lady in the Nart Sagas, it's a safe bet she'll be his wife by the end of the story. It's even invoked by the townspeople in one Circassian story: who more worthy to wed the damsel than the man who endured so much hardship to save her?

    Tabletop Games 
  • Analyzed in one edition of GURPS Fantasy. The book mentioned that, if a king has no sons, this can be more of a cunning political maneuver than a simple romantic gesture. The reward motivates a hero to solve a major problem, the king's daughter is married off, and the successor to the throne will be a hero who has already won the respect of the people and lords by a heroic task (so a civil war isn't guaranteed to break out the moment the king dies).

    Video Games 
  • Over the course of Aggelos, the Princess is seen developing a crush on the hero. At the end of the game, when the King mentions rewarding the hero for saving the world, it's pretty obvious what she's about to suggest. But the gods have other plans.
  • In the backstory to the first Deadly Rooms of Death game, Beethro offers to give a discount on his (outrageous) extermination prices if King Dugan throws in a princess. The King retorts that Beethro is ugly and smells bad. Beethro shrugs. Given what he ends up going through, he probably earned a princess...
  • Played with in the story quest of Dokapon Kingdom. Yes, there is an evil overlord causing trouble throughout the land, and, yes, several prospective heroes journey out with the end goal of defeating him and returning peace to the kingdom. However, the King is more concerned about the money being lost in the conflict, and offers his kingdom and daughter's hand in marriage to whoever has the greatest wealth after the world is saved (though, granted, the endboss does drop a lot of cash when defeated, which can help). Penny, the princess herself, cares enough about the kingdom to go along with it, and even doesn't mind if a female character proves to be the victor in the end.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, a male human noble Warden has the option to marry Queen Anora at the end of the game. However, if you make a comment about becoming king, she'll swiftly put you in your place and say you'll be Prince Consort, and she will still be the head honcho.
    • Played somewhat straighter if the Warden is the female human noble and Alistair is made king. Because she is technically a princess (being the daughter of the ruler of a principality within the kingdom of Ferelden), she can give this reward to him by arranging their betrothal at the Landsmeet.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • The first Dragon Quest game, sort of. You are offered both the kingdom and princess. You refuse the former, But Thou Must! take the latter... Unless you forgot to rescue her. Oops. But that requires Sequence Breaking later by "knowing" where something is hidden without the Princess's love acting as a homing beacon (...or something) to give you the coordinates of an item. But that's not Canon. The hero is (despite his dismal starting equipment) not some random commoner, but a descendant of the legendary Roto.
    • Inverted in Dragon Quest IV, where Chapter 2 has you help a princess get out of this situation. The king has set up a fighting tournament where the victor gets to marry his daughter, apparently hoping to make sure the next king is the biggest badass in the land. The princess wants nothing to do with this, so she asks Alena (the main character of the chapter and Tomboy Princess of a neighboring kingdom) to win the tournament since a woman would be ineligible to marry her.
    • This is also the "true" ending of Dragon Quest VIII. Cliched? Yes. But it's that or Prince Charmless for her. The hero is actually the cousin of the jackass prince that Princess Medea was supposed to marry, but nobody knew it, and the rightful heir of the kingdom Charmless hails from, although it's never shown how the succession shakes out.
  • In The Elder Scrolls Backstory, particularly for that of Morrowind, Lord Indoril Nerevar gets this. He starts out as a caravan guard belonging to an irrelevant minor house, but rises to unite the Chimer (later Dunmer) people and forms an Enemy Mine with the rival Dwemer in order to save Morrowind from the invading Nords. He marries Ayem (later the Goddess Almalexia), who was a high priestess belonging to Great House Indoril. (About as close as it gets to a princess for the Chimer.) Interestingly, he took Almalexia's house name of Indoril upon getting married.
  • This is how Endless Frontier ends: the entire world is saved thanks to Haken stopping the Final Boss and gets Kaguya's heart. And maybe a bit more...
  • Great Greed basically plays this straight during the ending, with one exception. The King will ask you if you want to marry one of his daughters. If you agree, he'll ask you to talk to the one you want to marry. However, you don't actually have to pick one of the princesses - with enough persistence, you can actually marry anyone in the room. In addition to the princesses, this includes the elderly (female) court wizard, two male bureaucrats, the Queen, and even the King himself!
  • Both played straight and averted in the Hero of the Kingdom series.
    • The second game plays it mostly straight, with the player character ending the game engaged to the princess whom he rescued; she very bluntly announces their engagement, which had not been previously discussed, but they are in love at this point so it's not completely out of left field.
    • The third game averts it; the king, at the end of the game, offers his daughter's hand in marriage to the player character who just saved his kingdom. However, both the hero and the princess decline, because he wants to continue adventuring and she wants to find true love, and the king agrees and apologizes for getting "caught up in tradition."
  • Lampshaded in the best ending of Kid Kool, where the king tells you, "You want a box of jewels and a princess, don't you?" You get progressively less of this when you don't beat the game fast enough; if you take too long, you don't even get to see the king alive.
  • King's Quest uses this trope, but like all fairy tale tropes, they tend to have some fun with it.
    • The first game has Graham gain the crown (but no princess since there is none).
    • The second game is about Graham's quest to find a suitable wife - at least, once he rescues her from Hagatha. King Graham meets Valanice for the first time when he enters the tower to rescue her. Within minutes the two are married. At least the Fan Remake makes it so Valanice was watching Graham all along from her enchanted coma so that she knew what kind of a guy he was.
    • Third game? Averts it wonderfully. Yes, Alexander-Gwydion manages to defeat the wizard that held him captive, escape from the pirates who got him to Daventry, and rescue the princess by slaying a dragon (all with Utility Magic)... but said princess is his long-lost twin sister.
    • Rosella and Edgar in The fourth game and seventh game bounce this trope around like a pinball. First, Lolotte is all set to execute Rosella, but her adopted by kidnapping and transmogrified into ugly, green, hunchbacked son Edgar intervenes to keep her from doing so, by stating he has a crush on her. After Rosella completes Lolotte's tasks, the wicked fairy pills a nasty subversion where the evil queen will marry Rosella to Edgar, which leads to a Non-Standard Game Over unless you stop her. But Edgar turns out to be Good All Along, and smuggles Rosella the key to escape. Rosella ends up killing Lolotte to save Genesta, Genesta changes him back into his true form as a handsome Fairy prince, and Edgar inverts it by offering himself as the Standard Hero Reward. Rosella has to turn him down because she needs to save her dad, and Edgar is saddened, but understands, and that's when the fourth game ends. But come the seventh game? Edgar has gotten kidnapped, brainwashed, and transformed again and is working for his wicked aunt, believing he is the King of the Trolls. In his confused and morally compromised state, he inadvertently kidnaps Rosella (with Valanice jumping in behind before the portal shuts), transforms her into a troll, and tried to pull And Now You Must Marry Me. Rosella is less than amused, escapes, finds out what's really going on, goes back to save him, and reunites him with his parents. Wisely, Edgar asks not for marriage, but a proper courtship, which she agrees to. Both The Silver Lining and the Telltale Games sequels state that they are still together.
    • King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! ends with Graham making an ally of Princess Cassima, who was held captive by the same wizard that kidnapped his family, and the ending states that Prince Alexander gets hit with Love at First Sight. The Golden Ending ending of the sixth game does have Alexander receiving the full Standard Hero Reward from Cassima's resurrected parents (though if you fail at that aspect, he still gets to marry his True Love while he and Cassima become King and Queen of the Land of the Green Isles).
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, there's a near-example: The MacGuffin owned by Princess Ruto is actually a sign of engagement, and her giving it to Link at the end of this part of the game means he's required to marry her at some point. So though it isn't a reward from the king, he does get a fiancée as a direct result of saving the day in this situation, and yes, she does remember seven years later.
    • Surprisingly averted in Breath of the Wild. Zelda hated Link at first, as his skill and accolades contributed to her feelings of inferiority. While he does save her and they possibly end up in a relationship, it forms naturally and through genuine love.
  • Surprisingly, by the end of Leisure Suit Larry 2: Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places), for driving out the Evil Overlord you do get married to the village chief's daughter. Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals reveals you've also got a steady job in this chief's new company (that's almost as good as "half the kingdom"). Of course, it also gets you kicked out of both job and marriage rather quickly.
  • Little King's Story sees King Corobo rewarded with many princesses after completing certain tasks - all of whom instantly marry him. Near the end of the game he's served seven divorce papers and has to stick with just one true love. Who is then eaten by a giant rat while the world ends in something of a Gainax Ending. The events are usually interpreted to be just a dream of the real Corobo and the real-world counterparts of the "princesses" are not royalty anyway.
  • Littlewood starts after the Hero has defeated the Evil Overlord. On the first winter, Iris, the still-single queen of another kingdom, shows up, demands an Arranged Marriage partly for Altar Diplomacy purposes, realizes they don't know each other and gives the Hero time to think about it. The next time Iris is seen, she has gone full Rebellious Princess, decided she wants a simpler life and considers the town the Hero is rebuilding is a good place to do that. After this, she becomes a Romance Sidequest option among others. It should be noted that Iris' competition includes a good friend of the Hero's to whom they are also an Amnesiac Lover and man who moves into town because of a genuine crush on the Hero.
  • In Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, Maxim can ask for the princess's hand in marriage after completing a task for a king, in what is meant to be a Keep the Reward scenario. The king will refuse, claiming that he's refusing due to the scowl on Unlucky Childhood Friend Tia's face.
  • Mortal Kombat: Princess Kitana offers this to The Hero Liu Kang at the end of the fourth game, proposing to him the chance to rule Edenia with her as king and queen. He reluctantly declines because of his responsibilities as the champion of Earthrealm. Their romance is one of the most enduring story arcs in the series, even after the reboot; but in Mortal Kombat 11, when she finally ascends to the throne, the game refreshingly makes it clear that she is the Kahn of Outworld while Liu is her consort.
  • Inverted in My World, My Way. It's a princess who wants to marry the hero, and she goes on a quest to earn him, and she rejects him in the end.
  • In Odin Sphere, Odin first tries to bribe Oswald with a castle, then with a castle and a magic spear... but when Oswald still proves uninterested, Odin resorts to promising Oswald his daughter Gwendolyn. This arrangement ends up working out a lot better for Gwendolyn and Oswald than it does for Odin, as not only was Oswald only tasked to slay a dragon, not to give up the ring inside its stomach that Odin wanted but Gwendolyn and Oswald, after some troubles, managed to legitimately fall in love with each other.
  • In Oracle of Tao, this appears in a lesser form. The hero does get royalty to marry, only the hero is a commoner girl (and homeless to boot), and the prince she got to marry she already knew and dated, and it wasn't really a reward in the first place, but two people deciding to marry. And the kingdom? Nope, said prince decides he's not really fit to rule and doesn't want it, leaving the parents to continue ruling, so they use the royal money to buy a nice shack in the suburbs to raise a family.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the Prince and Farah fall in love without any outside intervention over their quest. Then Farah dies. Then the Reset Button gets pressed, and Farah's alive again but no longer has any memories of the Prince. After the Prince defeats the Final Boss, Farah says she owes him thanks, and the Prince grabs her and kisses her. When Farah objects, the Prince uses the Dagger of Time to rewind time so that Farah doesn't know she's been kissed. They finally get together at the end of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones.
  • The Princess Maker series:
    • In the prologue of Princess Maker 2, the hero (the viewpoint character) isn't given the kingdom, but he does get a substantial retainer. The princess is given to him by the gods (she's not a princess from the start, but she is born in Heaven, which has to count for something) and while most people find the option to marry her squicky and pseudo-incestuous, your character can actually be young enough to be only a few years her senior.
    • Princess Maker 3 plays it a bit more straight by having her be the daughter of the fairy queen.
    • The daughter can play this straight in the Golden Ending, marrying the prince and being crowned as ruling queen.
  • The Sega Master System version of Rastan ends with Rastan saving the princess and being offered her hand in marriage by the king of Chamois, as well as a large amount of treasure. However, he declines it on the grounds that "she's not the person to be the wife of a thief like me."
  • The adventure game Shadowgate did this, although not every version lets you see the princess at the end.
  • Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin: Discussed at one point between the main characters. Some of them think it's pretty unfair to offer up a princess like a prize, while Sophia thinks the whole royal system needs to be gotten rid of, and suggests using the marriage to do just that.
  • Deconstructed in the ending of Super Mario Odyssey. After Mario rescues Princess Peach from Bowser, the defeated Bowser still tries to propose to her. Mario, alarmed at this, also tries to propose to her. However, because of their immaturity (they were literally shoving flowers into her face), Peach puts her foot down and rejects them both out of frustration.
  • Terranigma plays this trope in a dark manner. King Henri openly proposes a competition that anyone who manages to cure Princess Elle's muteness will earn her hand in marriage.note  But it's all a farce. Elle was not a princess, but Henri's brainwashed prisoner. Henri coveted the Treasure of Storkolm, and ordered the town razed to the ground in an attempt to find it. Elle was the sole survivor and the only person who could tell where it was - if she could talk. Unfortunately for the King, restoring Elle's voice with Meilin's powers also restores her memory of who Henri really was; she murders him in his sleep that night and flees, leaving Loire without a ruler.
  • It is possible to subvert this in the first Uncharted Waters game by refusing to settle down after saving the princess and instead return to the rough seas. It doesn't allow you to actually play afterwards, however. Also, you can subvert the kingdom-to-reign part and go for the marry-the-princess only, which is apparently canon in the sequel.

    Visual Novels 
  • A discussed trope in Dra+Koi. The Hero is supposed to defeat the Dragon, after which he gets his Princess. The Hero at the end turns the Dragon into the Princess because he thinks the proposed story script sucks.


    Web Video 
  • Averted by The Nostalgia Critic in his " Top 11 Dumbasses In Distress" video. Princess Peach's favor doesn't interest him; he wants her to appoint him a position of power instead.

    Western Animation 
  • Bounty Hamster. In the first episode, Cassie discovers the "Wanted!" Poster she's putting up to find her Disappeared Dad has Acquired Error at the Printer that describes her father as an intergalactic villain wanted dead or alive, and offers Cassie's hand in marriage as the reward. Cassie and Marion have to chase down and stop the swarm of bounty hunters who have taken up the offer.
  • There was a Walt Disney short, The Brave Little Tailor, where Mickey accidentally got the job of stopping the giant ("I killed seven with one blow!" was misheard to be about giants instead of flies), and he was offered the hand of the Princess Minnie. At least in this case, it was her idea.
  • Conan the Adventurer had a good twist on this. The king immediately reneged on his princess/future king offer when he actually met Conan. Conan, being Conan, decided to take what was his by force.
    • Considering that the original Conan became king of Aquilonia by his own hand...
  • The Cosgrove Hall Stop Motion adaption of The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship plays with the trope in that it's the Princess who first suggests the idea to her father, the Tsar, that her hand be offered to the suitor who can gift him a flying ship, but then later confesses to him that this was meant as an Impossible Task; she does not want to marry someone just because they come bearing him wonderful gifts, she wants to marry someone she can love and who will love her in return. The Tsar, however, remains steadfast that whoever gifts him a flying ship will be the one to marry her, even if the task is seemingly impossible and even if the suitor is someone she cannot love and who will not love her... Cue the hero, Pyotr, the simple son of a lowly farmer, showing up with a flying ship, and suddenly it's the Tsar who refuses to give away his daughter to such a low-born boy while the Princess finds herself smitten with Pyotr, not because he came with a flying ship, but because he is an honest, humble and polite Nice Guy.
  • In the Droopy short "One Droopy Knight", a king offers his daughter's hand to whoever slays the dragon terrorizing the land. Droopy almost fails in his task, but the dragon hits his Tranquil Fury mode.
  • Huckleberry Hound was once ordered by the King to slay a dragon. In an inversion of the trope, the Princess was so ugly that marrying her was punishment for failure. The dragon took pity on Huck and offered him shelter at the cave. Huck accepted.

    Real Life 
  • This did happen in Medieval Europe. One example is Raymond and Henri, two French cousins who helped in the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula. Raymond was rewarded with the hand of Urraca, the legitimate daughter of the King of Castelle and Leon, while Henri married the King's bastard daughter Teresa (which also made him Count of Portucale). Neither of them became king, although both their eldest sons did: Urraca and Raymond's son was the next King of Castelle and Leon, while Afonso, son of Henri and Teresa, fought his cousin to gain independence of his land and thus became the first King of Portugal.
  • Future Norwegian king Harald Harðráði fell in love with Elisaveta (Elisiv), daughter of the Yarosalav the Wise, ruler of the Kievan Rus, during his service in Yarslav's court. As Harald was just a prince in exile with no land of his own, Yaroslav said to him that he would only give his daughter's hand once Harold achieved something on his own. The prince agreed to these terms and immediately went to work; he first became an accomplished general in the Byzantine emperor's court, then he reclaimed the Norwegian throne his father and elder brother lost. Having earned her father's respect, he finally married Elisaveta.
  • Averted in the UK after World War II. Peter Townsend was a true war hero - a fighter ace and hero of the Battle of Britain. He was madly in love with Princess Margaret, and Margaret also loved him, but Queen Elizabeth (Margaret's mother, not Elizabeth II) prohibited Townsend from seeing Margaret anymore because he was a divorcee. It broke the hearts of them both. Townsend called Princess Margaret his only true love until his death.
  • This Cracked article deconstructs this trope as one of the possible reasons misogyny exists.