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Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast smoking an enormous long wooden pipe that reached nearly down to his woolly toes (neatly brushed)-Gandalf came by. Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale. Tales and adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went, in the most extraordinary fashion.
The Herald is a person, message, or crystalizing incident that sets the Hero on the path of adventure. Heralds bring the Call to Adventure to the Hero. If a story's setup is similar to this:
"Nothing interesting happened in the Hero's life... until, one day, X stumbled into her world and changed it forever."
The Herald can be non-human (a newspaper or news report, for examples), but a more memorable force has more impact.
Common subtropes include:
- Almost-Dead Guy
- Come with Me If You Want to Live
- Damsel Errant
- Distress Call
- Harbinger of Impending Doom
- I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin
- Inciting Incident
- Pursued Protagonist
- Starts with a Suicide
- Take Up My Sword
- Vagueness Is Coming
Anime and Manga
- Luna in Sailor Moon; she sticks around to play the Mentor later.
- Fruits Basket: When they find Tohru living in a tent on a Sohma land, and insist that she come live in their house. Repeated when it appears she will go back to live with her family, and Kyo and Yuki track her down to insist that she return.
- Rukia from Bleach, in a way, as she is the one who turns Ichigo into a shinigami.
- Yuuno in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha.
- Naota's life in FLCL was almost entirely uneventful until Haruko shows up, trailing traffic accidents in her wake, to smack him in the head with her Rickenbacker bass, turning his brain into an inter-dimensional portal through which robots emerge to do battle. It Makes Sense in Context. You just have to pay attention.
- Nothing interesting happened in the Madoka's life... until, one day, Kyubey stumbled into her world and changed it forever for the absolute worse. The parallel with Nanoha is there.
- Most mascots in the Pretty Cure series are like this.
- In Men in Black, the NYPD officer who would become Agent J chases down a perp who moves much too fast to be human. He eventually corners the suspect on a rooftop... and is told "Your world is going to end" before the guy's irises blink and he jumps to his death.
- R2D2 of Star Wars, when presenting the message "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope."
- In Willow, Elora Danan's arrival is the start of Willow's journey.
- Nala from The Lion King, when telling Simba what has happened to the Pridelands
- Bumblebee serves this function in the 2007 Transformers movie.
- "Uncle" Felix in the first Spy Kids movie.
- Ford Prefect, although he is arguably a subversion in that while he whisks Arthur away, he hasn't got a clue where they're going.
- Harry Potter: Harry's letters; Hagrid
- The hunters and the butterfly both serve this role in The Last Unicorn.
- JRR Tolkien has Gandalf serve this role in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, for Bilbo and Frodo respectively -- and then again in The Lord of the Rings for Theoden.
- In CS Lewis's The Horse and His Boy, the function is split in two: first the nobleman who tries to buy Shasta, and then Bree telling him they can flee to Narnia together.
- The Death of Rats seems to have appointed himself Susan's personal Herald in the Discworld series. Either that, or he really, really likes swiping her chocolates, and uses warning her of her grandfather's difficulties as an excuse to get near enough.
- The Heralds of the Almighty from The Stormlight Archive.
- In Teresa Frohock's Miserere an Autumn Tale, Matthew Kellogg serves this purpose to Lucian, telling him he can escape and reminding him of his duty.
- In The Hunger Games, Effie Trinket serves as the Herald by picking Prim's name from the reaping ball, causing Katniss to volunteer as tribute on her sister's behalf.
- The Silver Surfer. He is a Herald to Galactus the Planet Eater.
- Parodied by Dial M For Monkey as The Silver Spooner, who was a herald for Barbequor.
- Also parodied in DC Comics with the Scarlet Skier, Herald to Mr. Nebula, a flamboyant Galactus ersatz out to maliciously redecorate the universe according to his own tastes. When the Skier disobeys him, Nebula punishes him by making him wear increasingly ridiculous costumes.
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Into every generation, a Slayer is born." Giles serves as Herald, and later as Mentor.
- She also had a Herald in the movie: Merrick, her first Watcher.
- Doctor Who did this on a number of occasions, such as in Colony in Space, where a Time Lord gives the Doctor a mission, allowing him to leave Earth for the first time since his exile. Of course, the Doctor himself is frequently in the role of Herald.
- The Town Crier in Rome is perhaps the ultimate example of this trope. He stands at Forum Romanum reciting the latest happenings in politics and the military, as dictated by whoever holds the power at present, allowing both the citizens and us viewers to follow the events. It's often used with great success to jump from one political/military event to the next, without having to waste numerous scenes on exposition.
- Bryce Larkin's e-mail to the title character in Chuck.
- John the Baptist fits the announcement function of the herald: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord!'"
- Leopold Goenitz from King Of Fighters '96 announced the coming of Orochi.
- Elner of Wisdom in Galaxy Fraulein Yuna (specifically in the prologue of the first game). Anyone who missed that only knows Elner in the Mentor role. (Yuri Cube might qualify in her very first scene in the second game.)
- Duncan in Dragon Age: Origins shows up right about the time events conspire so that he catapults the not-yet-Warden into a world of adventures.
- Colette in Tales of Symphonia is an odd case of the Herald having lived with The Hero for years, and her Herald-ness being expected.
- Ingram Plissken in Super Robot Wars Original Generation. In fact, he could be seen as a multilayered example, as not only is he responsible for setting up the attack that drew Ryusei into the war, he was also the pilot of the artificial planetoid Neviim and (re)opened the Earth to interstellar civilization and all the wonders and perils that implies.
- With its usual following of The Hero's Journey, The Legend of Zelda has this in spades, with many examples tending toward deaths and kidnappings.
- In the instruction manual for The Legend of Zelda, Impa was being attacked by a band of Ganon's minions while she was searching for a man brave enough to save Hyrule. As luck would have it, that's when Link showed up.
- A Link to The Past featured the Take Up My Sword variety when Link's uncle um...passes out really bad or something moments after the story begins.
- Ocarina of Time had the Great Deku Tree pull an I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin on Link.
- At the very beginning of Majoras Mask, the Skull Kid steals most of Link's items and turns him into a Deku Scrub, which forces Link into the plot proper.
- In The Wind Waker,the Helmaroc King kidnaps Link's sister.
- Twilight Princess had a complete Humiliation Conga with all the children of Ordon Village kidnapped and Link dragged into an already-overrun-with-shadows Hyrule and turned into a wolf before being locked in a dungeon.
- In Skyward Sword, while they are flying through the clouds, Link and Zelda get separated by a dark whirlwind, which drags Zelda to the surface. Link is then led to the surface by Fi, the spirit of the Goddess Sword, to rescue Zelda and defeat Ghirahim.
- In Tales of the Abyss, Luke's boring and repetitive life was changed when Tear broke into his manor and tried killing his swordmaster. Long story short, Luke and Tear's magic collided and now the two of them are on the other side of the world.
- Buzz-Buzz in Earthbound is the official Herald, but had Pokey not come knocking at Ness's door for help, the adventure likely wouldn't have happened. Paula herself turns out to be the Herald of Jeff, and Ness possibly the Herald for Poo. Maybe. We're not too sure.
- "The Child" from Scary Go Round heralded great change in order to inspire chaos. This worked due to lack of Genre Blindness: if a small bald child tells you that "Things will change... soon!", people know that panicking is the right thing to do.
- In The Adventures of Shan Shan, Shan Shan's life has been plagued by strangeness, but Julius gives it an actual focus.
- Dr. Griffin in Kate Modern, first by the blood test he gives Kate, which leads to a complex series of events, and later by his possession of the list of girls who Kate and her friends need to save.
- Subversion: The minor character Mo-Ron in one episode of Freakazoid has an important message for Earth, but he keeps forgetting what it was, to Freakazoid's mounting frustration.
- Melody, a muse apprentice trapped in a mirror, in Barbie and the Diamond Castle.
- That terrifying rhyming butterfly from The Last Unicorn.
- As pointed out under Literature above, the hunters as well. Their conversation is how the unicorn learns that it is supposed to be the last of its kind in the first place, after all.
- Korso brings the Call to Adventure in Titan A.E..
- Played with in Bionicle:The Mask of Light. The mask tries to cast its light on Takua, but Takua tilts it with his foot so it looks like it's choosing Jaller. Jaller is then proclaimed to be "The Herald to the Toa of light", but Takua and Jaller know who the "real herald" is. Jaller agrees to go on the quest, but drags the reluctant Takua along on with him. Since it later turns out that Takua IS the Toa of light, Jaller's role as "herald" turns out to be correct.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang serves as a herald to Katara and Sokka, bringing them the Call to Adventure by promising them of finding a waterbending master and getting to beat up Fire Nation soldiers, respectively. Interesting case in that Aang is the real hero of the story, but Katara and Sokka follow The Hero's Journey more closely. However, Aang's herald could reasonably be Zuko, as his arrival at the Water Tribe village is what forces Aang to begin to accept the mantle and responsibility of the Avatar.
- Arcee serves this role in Transformers Prime by managing to blow The Masquerade in a way that drags three human children into the war between the Autobots and Decepticons. And she's not particularly thrilled with it.