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Sworn in by Oath

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"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
— The Oath of Office of the President of the United States, from Article II, Section One, Clause 8 of the US Constitution

A character is joining an organization—maybe The Order, or the Adventure Guild, or even the Thieves' Guild. But how do they join? By swearing a vow. The swearing of a vow emphasizes or, alternatively, mocks the solemnity and importance of the event.

Bonus points if the vow is magically binding, but it doesn't have to be. Honor-bound individuals might take this oath seriously, while a less honest person might not do so and end up known as The Oath-Breaker.

For example, we could note this oath might move a protagonist to act in one way, such as keeping to fight even in a Hopeless War. It could also made them object to an action, such as not overthrowing Hitler because they pledged fidelity to him, unlike the military of Fascist Italy who pledged themselves to the King instead of Mussolini.

This trope is itself morally neutral, but can skirt towards one side or the other on the moral spectrum depending on the case. Namely, if the oath involves being sworn into a blatantly evil organization, such as the Nebulous Evil Organization, Evil, Inc., or the military or State Sec of The Evil Empire, it overlaps with Villainous Vow. Conversely, examples involving heroic groups such as The Federation, The Alliance, La RĂ©sistance, and similar organizations overlap with Heroic Vow. Regardless of an oath's moral alignment, there may or may not be overlap with Badass Creed.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Moriarty the Patriot: William always demands vows of loyalty and someone's life in exchange for his consulting services. When Bond joins his team, they swear their life and loyalty over to him before being accepted.
  • The lemon gag in Pop Team Epic was adapted to the anime as the vow Popuko does to Pipimi to been part of the yakuza in episode 8.
    Pipimi: We don't have sake, so we'll suck this lemon.

    Comic Books 
  • In Detective Comics #38, Batman and Dick Grayson swear an oath by candlelight, the latter becoming Robin.
    Batman:: -and swear that we two will fight together against crime and corruption and never to swerve from the path of righteousness!
    Dick Grayson: I swear it!
  • In Batman (Grant Morrison), Batman is seen administering oaths to Jiro Osamu and Johnny Riley, two new members of his Batman Incorporated.

  • This is part of the Delta Tau Chi Initiation Ceremony in Animal House.
    Hoover: I...state your name...
    Pledges: I, state your name...
    Hoover: Do hereby pledge allegiance to the frat...
    Pledges: Do hereby pledge allegiance to the frat...
    Hoover: With liberty and fraternity for all.
    Pledges: Amen.
  • Disney's Little Spies:
    Friends always will stick together,
    In trouble or in fun.
    Our loyalty will last forever,
    Cause baby, we're born to run!
  • A deleted scene from The Goonies had Andy and Stef recite an oath to join the group in the scene at the bottom of the wishing well.
  • Done for play by a young Ben Gates' grandfather in the opening of National Treasure after Grandpa tells him of the family legend of the treasure of the Knights Templar and Ben asks him, "Are we knights?"
    John Adams Gates: Benjamin Franklin Gates, you take upon yourself the duty of the Templars, the Freemasons, and the family Gates. Do you so swear?
    Ben: I so swear.
  • The Producers: Franz has Leo and Max recite the Siegfried Oath, swearing allegiance to various German historical figures, up to and including "you know who." It was cut from the original film (although Franz refers to it in a later scene), but reinstated in the stage musical.
  • Valkyrie begins with a recording of the loyalty oath that Adolf Hitler required his armies to recite after he took power. This sets the stage for the hurdle the conspirators have to overcome if their Military Coup against Hitler is to succeed.

  • In James Clavell's Asian Saga, everybody who becomes Tai-Pan of the Noble House company has to "swear blind" on the family bible that they will uphold the orders set forth by the company founder. The oath in Tai-Pan sworn stipulates, among other things, that in order to become Tai-pan one must be related by blood or marriage to the founders' clan (Struan), that a member of the House of Chen will always be the company's comprador, the company will always be tied to China, and that they will attempt to drive anyone from the Brock family out of Asia.
  • The Hunt in Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
    "I pledge myself to the Goddess Artemis. I turn my back on the company of men, accept eternal maidenhood, and join the Hunt."
  • The Night's Watch of A Song of Ice and Fire.
    "Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."
  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath has two:
    • The Thieves' Guild of Tai-tastigon
      "Do you swear to obey the laws of the Thieves' Guild of Tai-tastigon, to uphold its institutions, to conduct yourself to its credit and to that of your master?"
    • Tentir, the randon college
      "Do you swear to obey the rules of Tentir? To guard its honor as closely as you do your own? To go out and come in, to live or to die, as you are bid? To protect its secrets now and forever, from all and sundry, whatever should befall?"
  • Starship Troopers: When Juan Rico and his friend Carl volunteer for Federal Service, they take an oath to serve the Federation.
    "I, being of legal age, of my own free will, without coercion, promise, or inducement of any sort, after having been duly advised and warned of the meaning and consequences of this oath, do now enroll in the Federal Service of the Terran Federation for a term of not less than two years and as much longer as may be required by the needs of the Service.
    I swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Federation against all its enemies on or off Terra, to protect and defend the Constitutional liberties and privileges of all citizens and lawful residents of the Federation, its associated states and territories, to perform, on or off Terra, such duties of any lawful nature as may be assigned to me by lawful direct or delegated authority and to obey all lawful orders of the Commander-in-Chief of the Terran Service and of all officers or delegated persons placed over me and to require such obedience from all members of the Service or other persons or non-human beings lawfully placed under my orders and, on being honorably discharged at the completion of my full term of active service or upon being placed on inactive retired status after having completed such full term, to carry out all duties and obligations and to enjoy all privileges of Federation citizenship including but not limited to the duty, obligation and privilege of exercising sovereign franchise for the rest of my natural life unless stripped of honor by verdict, finally sustained, of court of my sovereign peers."
  • Discworld plays with this whenever Watchmen are being sworn in. Ankh-Morpork people being who they are, the full text of the oath is read outnote  while the act of taking the King's Shilling has been enhanced by tying the shilling on a string (not that the shilling was worth much in the first place, having the same gold contant as seawater). Vimes likes the oath because of how vague it is, allowing him to get away with pissing off the city's rich and powerful whenever he feels they need it.
    "I, [name], do solemnly swear by [deity of choice] to uphold the Laws and Ordinances of the city of Ankh-Morpork, serve the public trust, and defend the subjects of His/Her Majesty [name of reigning monarch] without fear, favour, or thought of personal safety; to pursue evildoers and protect the innocent, laying down my life if necessary in the cause of said duty, so help me [aforesaid deity] full stop Gods Save the King/Queen."
    • Troll recruits get a special version when the Watch is recruiting civilians in an emergency.
      "I will do what I told, otherwise I get my goohuloog head kicked in."
  • In Diane Duane's Young Wizards series, Wizards take the Oath:
    "In Life's name, and for Life's sake, I say that I will use the Art for nothing but the service of that Life. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so—til Universe's end."
  • In Warrior Cats, when an apprentice becomes a full warrior of their Clan (or when an outsider is taken into the Clan as a new warrior), the warrior ceremony includes a vow:
    "Do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend this Clan, even at the cost of your life?"
  • The Wheel of Time: The Aes Sedai Magical Society inducts its members, when they complete an apprenticeship and final trial by ordeal, by having them swear the "Three Oaths"note  on an artifact that makes them utterly binding. Although the Oaths were intended to ease people's (historically well-founded) distrust of the Aes Sedai, they've done more to give them an infamous reputation for Loophole Abuse, and the Black Ajah faction of enemy Moles has found a way to remove the Oaths anyway.

    Live-Action TV 
  • House of Anubis: In season 1, most Sibuna members joined through reciting an oath in the forest. In addition to reciting their lines, they had to burn an item they considered important. This seemed to be mostly forgotten about until the Touchstone of Ra, however.
    Nina: I, Nina Martin, being of sound mind, promise to protect the secrets of Anubis house, and stand by my fellow club members, Fabian Rutter, and Amber Millington.
    Everyone: Sibuna.
  • House of the Dragon: The practice of swearing obeisance to a monarch or heir is routinely deconstructed. They are always portrayed with an air of coercion, and must be secured with material benefits and the support of the nobility. The lords of the realm are not necessarily willing to set aside the concept of absolute male primogeniture, but swear an oath of obeisance to Rhaenyra because Viserys mandates it. When Viserys dies, not all of the houses, many of whom are now led by different people, or feel disrespected and ignored by the pro-Rhaenyra faction in the decades since she was invested as heir, are willing to honor the oath.
  • The Madam Secretary season 2 premiere "The Show Must Go On" has Secretary of State Liz McCord forced to be sworn in as Acting President right before the title card after contact is lost with Air Force One and everyone ahead of her in presidential succession is either unavailable or incapacitated.note 
  • The Man in the High Castle: In season 3, John Smith is promoted to Reichsmarshall of North America. As he's sworn in during a public ceremony in the streets of New York City, he is required to give a version of the Fuehrer Oath to Heinrich Himmler.
  • Towards the end of season 4 of Killjoys, Turin administers the RAC oath to Pip so that he can join the mission to take back the RAC ship.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Forgotten Realms setting in D&D, specifically in the city of Mulmaster, there is an organization called the Brotherhood of the Cloak, aka "the Cloaks". They enforce laws on wielders of magic, including one that a person must be a member in order to use magic in the open, and part of joining the Cloaks is to take a vow promising to use their powers to uphold the law and to serve the High Blade.
  • Shadowrun. Some magical groups require anyone joining them as an initiate to swear an oath to follow the group's rules and strictures. This oath has magical consequences: if the initiate violates the group's rules it can destroy the group's source of power.
  • Changeling: The Lost: Entry to a Noble Order requires that the Changeling swear a Magically Binding oath of conduct to Fate itself, which grants them new powers in return. If the Changeling breaks their oath or decides to leave the Order, their powers vanish and Fate takes a chunk out of their mind for good measure.

  • In Bye Bye Birdie, members of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club, or at least its Sweet Apple chapter, recite this pledge:
    "I, [name], being of sound mind and body, do hereby promise to be loyal, courteous, steadfast and true, to Conrad Birdie and the United States of America—both indivisible, with liberty and justice for all!"

    Video Games 
  • Becoming a Grey Warden in Dragon Age requires both an oath and a magic ritual called "The Joining".
    "Join us, brothers and sisters. Join us in the shadows where we stand vigilant. Join us as we carry the duty that can not be forsworn. And should you perish, know that your sacrifice will not be forgotten. And that one day we shall join you."
  • In Mass Effect Commander Shepard is sworn in as the Citadel's first human SPECTRE after proving that Saren has betrayed them.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • The oath of the Imperial Legion:
      "Upon my honor I do swear undying loyalty to the Emperor, Titus Mede II...
      ...and unwavering obedience to the officers of his great Empire.
      May those above judge me, and those below take me, if I fail in my duty.
      Long live the Emperor! Long live the Empire!"
    • The oath of the Stormcloaks:
      "I do swear my blood and honour to the service of Ulfric Stormcloak"
      "Jarl of Windhelm and true High King of Skyrim!
      As Talos is my witness, may this oath bind me to death and beyond!
      Even to my lord as to my fellow brothers and sisters in arms!
      All hail the Stormcloaks! The true sons and daughters of Skyrim!!"
  • The Creed of Assassin's Creed follows the maxim "Nothing is true, everything is permitted" with the specific tenets of "stay your blade from the flesh of the innocent", "hide in plain sight", and "never compromise the Brotherhood." Failure to comply with these tenets results in punitive measures, up to and including expulsion or execution.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: In "Homer the Great", Homer takes a vow when he joins the Stonecutters.
    Homer: And, by the sacred parchment, I swear that, if I reveal the secrets of the Stonecutters, may my stomach become bloated and my head be plucked of all but three hairs.
    Moe: Um, I think he should have to take a different oath!
    Leader: Everyone takes the same oath!
  • Transformers: Animated: In "A Bridge Too Close, Part I", Megatron has the Constructicons be introduced as true Decepticons and be branded with the insignias. Before that, they have to recite the oath as follows:
    I pledge my unquestioning loyalty to Megatron and the Decepticon cause. I shall devote my spark to achieving our goal of a Decepticon controlled Cybertron, by any means necessary. And annihilate all who have driven us from our rightful homeworld. Surrender is not an option.

    Real Life 
  • Brownies and guides have to swear 'I will do my best to love my god, to serve the queen and my country, to help other people, and to keep the brownie guide/guide law' before becoming a full member of the pack.
  • The Boy Scouts of America:
    On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times, and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
  • The British Army make its recruits swear the following:
    I swear by Almighty Godnote  that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty [current monarch], his heirs and successors and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, his heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, his heirs and successors and of the generals and officers set over me.
  • Older Than Feudalism: the gladiators made the following oath:
    He vows to endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the sword
  • In Nazi Germany, National-Socialist Party (NSDAP) members, soldiers and civil servants pledge loyalty not to his office(s), but to Adolf Hitler himself, which made many of them weary of any plot against him until too late (see here for more infos):
    • The armed forces made the following oath:
      I swear to God this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German Empire and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath
    • The version that civil servants were made to do was below:
      I swear: I will be faithful and obedient to the leader of the German Realm and people, Adolf Hitler, to observe the law, and to conscientiously fulfill my official duties, so help me God!
    • The version for NSDAP members:
      I pledge Allegiance to my Fuehrer Adolf Hitler, I promise at all times to show respect and obedience to him and to any leaders he may appoint for me.
  • Some countries made aliens wishing to be naturalized to pledge allegiance to their new country.
  • As stated in the page quote, The Presidents of the United States all swear the Oath of Office during their inauguration.


Video Example(s):


Stonecutters Oath

Homer takes the oath to become a Stonecutter, but only Moe notices the punishments for breaking it may not mean much to Homer.

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Main / SwornInByOath

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