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"You do qualify to marry my daughter."—Capital One commercial
The Hero has done it. The dragon/demon/evil wizard/whatever terrorizing the kingdom is slain, and now all he needs to do is head for the palace and collect his reward.
What is his reward you ask? The standard reward package: marriage to the princess (of the hero's choice if there are more than one) and either half or all of the kingdom (depending on whether the sovereign already has a male heir).
While 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.
In Fairy Tales, the king would often be reluctant to cough up the reward, particularly if he hadn't realized it would be a Rags to Royalty situation. He would pile Engagement Challenge after Engagement Challenge -- and invariably come to a bad end if he didn't give in eventually. The hero may get a free pass if he's already a prince, though.
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.
Contrast Dude, Where's My Reward?.
Do not put examples that are merely offering the Princess's hand, without someone doing something heroic first.
- 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
- 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.
- Murder Princess hints at a lesbian and Freaky Friday version of this trope.
Fairy Tales and Mythology
- Greek legends, whence this trope originated. In prehistoric Greece, inheritance was passed in the female line. 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. As a legendary example of this, Menelaus was king of Sparta through his marriage to Helen, despite the fact that Helen had living brothers.
- Another reason for this, and one that can sometimes justify use of this trope is the possible consequence if you don't tie the foreign warlord into your family by marrying him to your daughter. He's quite possibly powerful enough to take over the country anyway. After all, the fact that you needed him to help get rid of the barbarian or monster or other Monster of the Week suggests that your own military forces aren't exactly up to snuff. So at the end of the day, when the hero has slain the dragon your whole army couldn't kill, he's probably strong enough that if he really wanted to he could marry your daughter and rule your kingdom whether you wanted him to or not. In which case it's a lot safer to give him what you both know he could take for himself as a "reward" than to try to buy him off with a few trinkets.
- Oedipus saves Thebes from the Sphinx by correctly answering the Riddle of the Sphinx. As a reward, he is given the crown of Thebes and the hand of Queen Jocasta in marriage. It goes horribly wrong.
- Grimms' "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" plays this perfectly straight, though most them don't feature quite so many possible spouses to pick from. And 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.
- Some versions of the tale 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.
- Joseph Jacobs's "Katie Crackernuts" is a gender-flipped variation of the "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", where the main character agrees to watch an ailing prince over night. 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.
- Joseph Jacobs's "Molly Whuppie" having two older sisters, and the king three sons, she laid claim to three standard rewards, one for each of them.
- "Jesper Who Herded the Hares" -- the king tries to wiggle out of it and fails.
- "Dapplegrim" -- the king tries to wiggle out of it and fails.
- 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 "How the Dragon Was Tricked", the hero laid claim to the princess and kingdom after her father had been eaten by the dragon he demanded the hero bring back.
- "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.
- 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.
- 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.
- It took a while, but Han Solo got his reward at the end of the Star Wars trilogy.
- 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 allways be allowed to return and be part of his tribe. Powhatan then watches on as his daughter Pocahontas makes out with Smith. It may not have been literal, but it was definitely 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.
- 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. 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 defeated the dragon got out of the deal: he married the dragon. The King was bested by Errol the swamp dragon in air-to-air combat, and turned out to be a female for whom Love At First Punch evidently applied.
- Invoked in Mercedes Lackey's 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.
- 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 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Also subverted in the same series - much earlier, when said reward realizes just who the King is, it leads to a Crowning Moment of Funny.
- 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.
- King Saul offered his oldest daughter to whoever killed Goliath. David wound up marrying her sister instead, though.
- 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.
- In Patricia McKillip's The Riddlemaster of Hed the titular 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. 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 dumb. 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 roomate at riddler's school and he's always has a shine for the sister, and she seemed to like him too..
- Used at the end of Garth Nix's Old Kingdom book Sabriel, where the two heroes rule the titular kingdom together.
- The titular hero of Tom Smith's 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..."
- 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).
- 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 a Tenchi Solution.
- A woman who helped him slay the dragon was permitted her share of the reward without having to marry a princess.
- 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.
- 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 fiance, pointing out to him that no one will care which princess he saves and marries, so long as he comes back with someone.
- Spoofed in Dragon Slayers 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 was his own daughter, having pulled a Sweet Polly Oliver.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 badguys, 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.
- 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.)
- 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 fiancees either and readily agree.
- 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.
- 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.
- Played with a lot in 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."
- The Lord of the Rings: After Sauron is defeated, Aragorn gets to marry a beautiful Elven princess.
- Deconstructed so many times in the A Song of Ice and Fire saga.
- Lord Robert Baratheon became King Robert I after the downfall of House Targaryen but he just wanted to get his girl back so he wasted his new role.
- Word of God is that Robert making his brother Stannis Lord of Dragonstone was a reward and not a slight but Robert didn't understand that Dragonstone is a bare rocky island with no natural resources and few powerful bannermen. He thought it's status as the residence of the heir apparent would be enough.
- Tyrion was rewarded for his defense of King's Landing not by being recognized as the true heir to Casterly Rock but being married off to Sansa Stark. If this came to pass, he'd have had to live in the distant cold North.
- Prince Maekar Targaryen was made Prince of Summerhall after the first Blackfyre rebellion not as a reward for his part in the battle of the Redgrass Field but to keep his unsavory sons Daeron the drunk and Aerion the monstrous from court.
Live Action TV
- 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 destroy his mother.
- 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).
- The adventure game Shadowgate did this, although not every version lets you see the princess at the end. Don't the developers know that Everything's Better with Princesses?
- 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.
- Final Fantasy IV does this semi-straight. Cecil does eventually become King of Baron and marries Rosa. However, his relationship with Rosa was already rather developed before the game began, and Rosa isn't a princess but the leader of Baron's white mages. And the DS remake of FFIV tells us that Cecil was actually King Baron's adopted son, which makes his rising to the throne upon the King's death less of an explicit reward and more of what would be expected.
- Of the people who weren't already in a line of succession, only Yang winds up as a King. But he was already married, so it doesn't quite count.
- King's Quest, but not in a standard way. The first game has Graham gain the crown (but no princess since there is none). The fourth game has a nasty subversion where the evil queen will marry Rosella to her son, which leads to a Nonstandard Game Over unless you stop her (whereupon it's revealed that the son is actually a pretty good guy after all, and understands that Rosella needs to save her dad before she can even think of a relationship). The good 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).
- At least Alexander and Cassima had met previously. King Graham met Valanice for the first time when he entered the tower to rescue her. Within minutes the two were married.
- Surprisingly, by the end of Leisure Suit Larry 2, for driving out the Evil Overlord you do get married to the village chief's daughter. The third game 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, the third game also gets you kicked out of both job and marriage rather quickly.
- 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 him at the end of this part of the game means he's required to marry her at some point. So though it wasn't a reward from the king, he did get a fiancee as a direct result of saving the day in this situation. And yes, she does remember seven years later.
- In Oracle of Tao, averted slightly. 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 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.
- In Lufia 2, 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.
- Little Kings 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.
- 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.
- 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 The Two Thrones.
- Played with in the movie, 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.
- In Odin Sphere, Odin bribes Oswald with a Standard Hero Reward consisting of one of his fiefdoms, a magic spear and his daughter Gwendolyn.
- 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.
- Lampshaded in the best ending of Kid Kool:
"You want a box of jewels and a princess, don't you?"
- In the Web Comic No Rest for The Wicked, the main character, November, is a princess who is running away from it. Her would-be husband (an apparently-kind but not-too-bright peasant hero) is currently wandering the earth looking for her.
- In Exiern Typhan-Knee signed on for the reward of A royal hand in marriage and his weight in gold. Then he was hit with a Gender Bender spell during the rescue. She has received her weight in gold but has yet to realize that the Royal hand is not going to be the Princess' -- Or that the gold will (of course) revert to the royal treasury when she marries the king.
- Golden Age of Adventurers has The Crestfall incident.
- Spoofed and subverted in Oglaf (NSFW), when the hero is told that his dragon-slaying quest was one of self-discovery and "The princess was you all along!" By the last panel, he's enjoying his wedding night with the prince.
- There was a Walt Disney short, The Valiant 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.
- 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. (Pretty Unfortunate Implications for a kids show.)
- Considering that the original Conan became king of Aquilonia by his own hand...
- This did happen in Medieval Europe. One example is Raymond and Henri, two French cousins who helped in the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula. One was rewarded with the King of Castelle and Leon's legitimate daughter Urraca and the other his the bastard daughter Teresa (and also made him Count of Portucale). Neither of them became king, although the eldest son of both did: Urraca and Raymond's son was the next King of Castella 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.
- This Cracked article deconstructs this trope as one of the possible reasons misogny exists.