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A hero is Ignorant of the Call when he doesn’t know that he is, in fact, The Hero. Everybody around him knows that the character is the Chosen One, but he, himself, just can’t see it. He fights the good fight and takes heroic actions… but it doesn’t seem heroic to him, nor does he think he was destined to do them. He simply does what he must because it is in his nature to act in that manner. When dealing with this sort of protagonist, the phrase “I’m not a hero” (or a variant thereof) is often heard, along with Think Nothing of It. Don’t you believe it for a second.

In addition, since the Call to Adventure is either not overt at all, or else parallels the Hero’s actions so well that the two only seem to connect by coincidence, it is entirely possible for the hero to never realize that their actions have some larger, plot-related importance.

Differs from Missed the Call. Often overlaps with Accidental Hero. Contrast Heel Realization, where someone is ignorant of the fact that they're a villain.

Examples of Ignorant of the Call include:


Anime & Manga

  • Ash Ketchum of Pokémon, at least in the movies. He likes to think of himself simply as a Pokémon Trainer, but time after time he stumbles into situations where it's clear only he could save the day. It's Lampshaded in Pokémon 2000, when the heroes realize that the phrase "The world shall turn to ash" didn't mean it would die, but the world would turn to Ash for help. His response? "Right now, I kinda wish that my mom named me Bob instead of Ash."
  • Captain Tylor. Unless he's been Obfuscating Stupidity....
  • Monkey D. Luffy has taken down tyrannical presences and dangerous pirates, a malevolent self proclaimed god, and is currently pretty much taking on a government of well intentioned extremists, all while doing only what he wants to do.
  • Naruto starts off this way. By now, though, it's common knowledge.

Comic Books

  • Jonah Hex from DC Comics. One of those "there's a job that has to be done, I can do it, so I will" types.
  • The Bulleteer story arc in DC Comics' Seven Soldiers of Victory limited series: Alix has no clue what her actions will lead to: the killing of the Sheeda Queen, and the events of her arc happen almost completely on the periphery of the main storyline.
    • The story arc using Klarion the Witch Boy nearly reaches this, but I think he is a little more conscious of what is going on.
  • Superman. Out of the superheroes, he does what he does because it was the right thing to do, not because he has any obligation to do so.

Film

  • Glenn Holland, from Mister Holland’s Opus, believes he wasted his life because he became a music teacher instead of becoming famous as a composer. His current and former students, his friends, and his family (all of whose lives he shaped for the better) disagree.
  • In The Golden Child, Chandler Jarrell does many good deeds, but refuses to believe that he's The Chosen One, despite being repeatedly told it by Kee and Doctor Hong. Eventually, he reluctantly comes to accept it.
  • In First Knight, Launcelot doesn’t consider himself a hero. His attitude is “it needed to be done, I knew I could do it, so I did” and that is all.
  • Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino.
  • In My Favorite Year, Alan Swann profanely swears that he is just a flesh-and-blood man, life-sized and no larger, and is absolutely not the heroes he has been protraying on screen for years. And then goes on to utterly save the day.
  • Anakin Skywalker might have been this in the Prequel trilogy of Star Wars, it doesn't exactly make it clear.
  • Neo is TOLD he's not The One by The Oracle (in a Batman Gambit to make him into The One) in the first The Matrix. He then denies he's The One to the surviving members of the team despite him fitting the role exactly.

Literature

  • Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. His usual course of action is to simply react to events around him. This has led him to activate the Infinite Improbability Drive just in time to save the starship Heart of Gold from incoming nuclear missiles, learning to fly, and saving the universe at least twice.
  • Darryl from the Young Wizards series of novels pretty much epitomizes this trope; he is a living repository of magic literally sent by God to be a fountain of power for the magic of the human race. He remains blissfully unaware of the fact, mostly because the knowledge of that fact would be lethal to him. If he ever became aware of what he was, he'd die. Just like that.
  • Emelius Brown in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. He's a con artist who seems to only be interested in making a fast buck, but The Power of Love drove him to act otherwise. Even after, though, he’d never call himself a hero.
  • Rincewind of Discworld fits this to a T. Despite being a plaything of the gods continually saving people, countries of the Disc, he seems unwilling to accept that he has anything but bad luck.
    • Ironic, considering he has been chosen as the personal Cosmic Plaything of Lady Luck.
  • Amazingly enough, James Bond doesn't think of himself as a hero.
  • Ciaphas Cain is an interesting case: the galaxy at large proclaims him as the HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!, and he finds the reputation worth upholding, but privately thinks it's a big lie. Howwever, the action he's describing doesn't always jibe with his claims that he was only saving his own skin or trying to avoid greater danger.
  • Raven, a supporting character in War of the Dreaming, is like this. Yes, he's got a magic ring and a secret legacy. So what? He's only trying to save his wife. Anyone would do the same.
  • In the Green-Sky Trilogy, Raamo adamantly refuses to believe he is any better than other Kindar, despite being told this by everyone in range, including the ostensible High Priestess of the Ol-Zhaan. Ironically, it's because he refuses to buy into the elevated status that he gets the attention of Neric, who needs someone that incorruptible to help him investigate his suspicions about how the Ol-Zhaan are running things.

Live Action TV

  "I ain't no hero. I'm a fireman."

Theater

  • Harold Hill from The Music Man. He does everybody all sorts of good even as he tries to milk them for every last cent before skipping town.

Western Animation

  • Lampshaded in Disney's Robin Hood. Friar Tuck says that Rob is a hero, but Robin just laughs it off.

  Robin: "Did you hear that, Johnny? We've just been pardoned!"

Video Games

  • Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid, arguably. At least, while everyone around him goes on about his "legendary hero" status, he always responds with some variant of "I'm no hero, just an old killer hired to do some wetwork."
  • Hawke in Dragon Age II has personal motivations for getting involved in the events of the game. Near the end of Cassandra's interrogation of Varric, they both acknowledge the scope of his/her importance, both in the story and the future.
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