Happily Ever After

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Willy Wonka: But, Charlie, don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he ever wanted.
Charlie: What's that?

Willy Wonka: He lived happily ever after.

So, we've had a whole love story. The main couple have passed through all the possible obstacles separating them: physical distance, a Love Triangle, a properly jealous villain (Alpha Bitch, maybe), maybe even the Big Bad (common in epic fairy tales). Now, they are kissing each other at sunset as the very well known words are narrated:

"And they lived Happily Ever After..."

Normally, that's the end.[1]

However, this ending is so classic it's sometimes considered a Discredited Trope, or even a UnDead Horse Trope. It is often a subject to parody, and is frequently avoided in favor a Twist Ending.

Despite being one of The Oldest Ones in the Book, this trope is still used more frequently than you'd think. Many audiences simply want a Happy Ending because it makes them feel good. True art may be angsty, but Angst Aversion is also a fact of life. Everyone has their own favorite spot on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, and the Happily Ever After ending is meant to appeal to those who prefer the more idealistic side of things.

The original source of the Happily Ever After endings, the Fairy Tale, often dealt with the end of the evil characters, with great finality and with more details than the hero and heroine's happiness. The Wicked Stepmother arrives at Snow White's wedding, whereupon she is forced to put on red-hot iron shoes and dance until she dies, and this is an utterly typical fairy tale ending.

Interestingly enough, this is something of a Dead Unicorn Trope, as many of the older fairy tales had endings that provided An Aesop, however unfriendly.

See also True Love's Kiss, Died Happily Ever After, Babies Ever After, Dance Party Ending, The Good Guys Always Win. Contrast Downer Ending and Bittersweet Ending, the cruellest examples of which make us think they're going to be a case of this trope before yanking the rug out from under the audience. Compare Maybe Ever After, which leaves open the possibiity of a happily ever after ending, but doesn't make it a certain conclusion, and Earn Your Happy Ending, in which the characters only live Happily Ever After if they're prepared to put some effort into it. In more modern works, even a straight Happily Ever After can have the rug pulled out from under it in the sequel, in which we catch up with Prince Charming and his princess and find that they're getting on each other's nerves and have to fall in love all over again.

As this is an ending trope, unmarked spoilers abound.

Not to be confused with the animated Filmation feature. Or a certain song from a certain mecha show. Or even a series of multicultural fairy tales that aired on HBO.

Examples of Happily Ever After include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Cardcaptor Sakura - in spite of the intentional Cliffhanger as Sakura jumps across the wide gap between her and Syaoran, it is already clear that the couple (and possibly the other characters, too) get to live happily after the story. The Power of Friendship and the Power of Love prevail! One of the very few anime shows that actually have true happy endings.
  • Heavily implied in Tokyo Godfathers.
  • The eventual end of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni had everyone (including the main villain) survive. Shame it took a thousand years to accomplish.

Film (Animated)[edit | hide]

  • Rio, as per tradition of most of the known western animated films.

Film (Live-Action)[edit | hide]

  • Just about every Adam Sandler movie has this. Even if the film doesn't end with him "getting the girl," it will at least end with some kind of happily-ever-after epilogue (case in point: Big Daddy).
  • Back to The Future both subverts and plays this straight. We can assume Marty's parents lived "happily ever after" once Marty altered their meetup in 1955... if only Doc's time machine would quit getting in the way.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Discworld novels often deconstruct this rather fiercely, especially Witches Abroad. While many end happily, it's the "ever after" part that doesn't hold up past the start of the next book.
  • Subverted in The Princess Bride: the narrator's father said that the characters 'lived happily ever after,' but when the narrator gets around to reading the book himself as an adult, he finds out that it's actually an open ending with the success of the escape left in doubt. The movie adaptation, however, plays this trope straight.
  • Regardless of what some fans think about it, the Harry Potter epilogue shows this happening to the heroes.
  • Subverted in Atonement, in which the narrator Briony, who pulled an I Should Write a Book About This, says she wanted to give her sister and her lover a happy ending, but in reality both are dead.
  • Subverted in Candide. The title character has reunited with his love and Pangloss goes on another diatribe about how this is the best of all possible worlds. Only the girl is sunburned, leathery, and peevish from outdoor labor and, with all the tragedy Candide gamely suffers throughout the story, he politely tells Pangloss to shove it.
    • On the other hand, the point of the book is that "If this is not the best of all possible worlds, it is at least not the worst", and Candide manages to find some satisfaction in his new life. "We must all tend our garden."
  • Most Xanth books end like this, at least for the major protagonists, though even people who've had their happy endings sometimes get into an adventure again, usually because of an unrelated problem.
  • Exaggerated in Tom Holt's Flying Dutch. Happily Ever After really means something when the elixir of life is a major plot point.
  • The Dark Tower plays with the phrase: when Susannah enters the door in front of the Dark Tower and finds herself in another alternate version of New York City, she meets alternate version of Eddie and Jake, and in this universe they apparently are brothers and they already know her. It's stated that "Will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live."
    • At the ending of The Eyes of the Dragon there is a similar statement: "Did they all live happily ever after? They did not. No one ever does, in spite of what the stories may say. They had their good days, as you do, and they had their bad days, and you know about those. They had their victories, as you do, and they had their defeats, and you know about those, too. There were times when they felt ashamed of themselves, knowing that they had not done their best, and there were times when they knew they had stood where their God had meant them to stand. All I'm trying to say is that they lived as well as they could, each and every one of them; some lived longer than others, but all lived well, and bravely."
  • Twilight: the last line of the last book is ""And then we continued blissfully into this small but perfect piece of our forever." 'nuff said.
    • Breaking Dawn ends with all of vampire Bella's problems solved as she heads home to have sex with her eternally young and attractive husband. And despite several "battles" throughout the four books, all of the main characters survived.
    • The final chapter is actually titled "The Happily Ever After".
  • Parodied in Kim Harrison's "The Hollows" series, in which the saying is revealed to be a translation error. It was apparently meant to say, "and they lived happily in the ever-after."
  • Daddy Long Legs and its sequel give the impression that the heroine of each book will be thus rewarded; indeed, the sequel verifies that the original heroine has as close to a purely happy ending as a girl can possibly get in 1910's New York.
  • The Hobbit notes, shortly before the end, that Bilbo "remained very happy to the end of his days, and those were extraordinarily long." In a Continuity Nod in The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo mentions that he'd decided on using a similar phrase ("he lived happily ever afterwards to the end of his days") as the ending of his book.
    • "But where will they live," Sam wonders under his breath in his case and Bilbo and Frodo's Eressea - at least for a while.
  • The Last Battle:

"'The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.' And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all stories, and we can most truly say they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

  • The Left Behind book series ends this way for the believers. Everyone else goes to Hell.
  • An Exercise in Futility: Emperor Kathelm doubles the size of the empire and gets over his insecurities.
  • In Tanith Lee's The Dragon Hoard, the end states in as many words that everybody lived happily ever after. Well, almost everybody...
  • In Norton Juster's The Dot and the Line, after the Line learns to be more dynamic and wins the heart of the Dot, the two are said to live "happily ever after, or at least reasonably so."
  • In Peter S Beagle's The Last Unicorn, Schmendrick tells Molly that "There are no happy endings, because nothing ends."

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The Tenth Kingdom: it's possible to live happily ever after one day at a time.
  • The Steve Harvey Show: Steve follows Regina to her new job in California, Ced and Lovita win the lottery just as Lovita goes into labor, and Romeo, Lydia, and Bullethead graduate from high school and are accepted at college.
  • Skins: The S4 finale very strongly implies that Naomi and Emily will be this, having finally realised they're each other's One True Love.
    • There's even a sign hanging in Naomi's room in S4 that says "... and they lived happily ever after."
  • Good Times: Keith gets another shot at pro football when the Bears give him a contract, enabling him and Thelma to move to a swanky condo. Thelma is pregnant and she and Keith invite Florida to live with them. Michael moves to a dorm on campus. Willona is promoted to head buyer at the boutique and she and Penny also move to the same condo but on a different floor. JJ creates a comic book character called DynoWoman and she is modeled after Thelma. He is given a huge advance, enabling him to move out of the projects as well.
  • After enduring avalanches of angst and complications from life-changing injuries to divorces to deaths in the family to Unrequited Love throughout the show's eleven-year run, Frasier ends with Martin remarrying, a still-Happily Married Niles and Daphne having their first child, and Frasier finally, finally finding a great woman who he loves and who loves him back. It took years of catastrophes and hijinks, but it's gratifying to see the Crane men finally hit the jackpot.
  • Roswell has an epilogue tacked on to the series finale, revealing that Liz and Max get married and the gang is doing well even though they are permanently on the run from the government. The last line is "All I know is that I'm Liz Parker, and I'm happy."
  • The happy ending of How I Met Your Mother has been a Foregone Conclusion since the first minute of the pilot episode.

Religion[edit | hide]

  • A core element in many religions (such as Christianity and Islam) is the promise of an infinitely perfect afterlife for believers. This element is not found in Judaism, which predates both of the aforementioned religions in the development of Abrahamic monotheism.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • A classic subversion is found in the play The Fantasticks. Act One concludes with a classic Happy Ending, with the fathers ending their "feud" and approving their children's romance after the boy rescues the girl from a (staged) abduction. Act Two starts as reality begins to set in.
  • Into the Woods has a similar setup to The Fantasticks: Act One concludes with a classic Happy Ending, but then there's Act Two...
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum plays this as a Foregone Conclusion.

"No royal curse, no Trojan Horse,
And there's a happy ending, of course!

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (also known as Tales of Symphonia: Knight of Ratatosk), there are three possible endings. In one, the "good ending" (dubbed "the mega-happy ending" by the author of this statement) Emil and Marta end up together, through a complicated series of circumstances. Emil's personality is separated from that of Ratatosk, and that personality is allowed to live his life as a human.
  • The same applies to Cave Story. Aside from the "good" ending, there is also a Guide Dang It "best" ending, which saves two NPC's who otherwise die, stops the island from falling, and offers redemption to the Quirky Miniboss Squad. The final cutscene shows Curly, Quote, and Balrog flying off into the sunset, resolved to find someplace with a beautiful view to live the rest of their days.
  • Played straight in one ending of The Bard's Tale. It's the evil ending. The good ending requires sacrificing wealth, power, and the hottest body in the world to save the world, with no reward or even recognition for doing so.
  • You get to joke about the possibility with Liara in Mass Effect 2 (end of Lair of the Shadow Broker if romanced in first game), but we don't know whether it is a possibility yet.

Liara: If this all ends tomorrow Shepard, what happens with us.
Shepard: I don't know. Marriage, old age, and a lot of little blue children.

  • The ending of Neverwinter Nights 2 Mask of the Betrayer, in which you can end up going back home after a few more adventures and settling down with Safiya/Gann.
  • At the conclusion of the Baldur's Gate series, your character can earn a truly happy ending by renouncing godhood and marrying his/her Love Interest. Unless the Love Interest happens to be Viconia -- that relationship ends on a more bittersweet note.

Visual Novels[edit | hide]

Webcomics[edit | hide]

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Mike Nelson has inverted this trope a couple of times in his Riff Trax of movies. One example is his Riff of Road House where he goes into detail during the closing credits about how all the character's lives go horribly wrong after the movie's ending.
    • This happened earlier in Mystery Science Theater 3000's sporking of Soultaker, where Crow and Servo refuse to accept the movie's Happily Ever After and instead offer a Downer Ending where the protagonist ends up in jail. Mike asks if they aren't being a little doom-and-gloom, and they sarcastically suggest a Sugar Bowl ending that is literally rainbows and unicorns. Mike asks if there can't be a middle ground and they say nope, it's either prison or unicorns.
  • One ending of Three Worlds Collide makes living happily ever after horrifying. Happiness is overrated.
  • RD Reynolds writes in his No Holds Barred induction "And thus everyone lives happily ever after... Well, except for Brell and Zeus, since they're dead."

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Pretty much everything Disney does. Except The Fox and the Hound (film). Keep in mind that the ending of the original novel was even worse...
  • Every Don Bluth movie too. In fact, Bluth has gone on record to say that as long as the story ends Happily Ever After, then kids can handle whatever dark and depressing stuff happens beforehand (and in Bluth's earlier movies, happen it does.)
  • WALL-E: Played straight as the love-struck robots kiss at the end while the humans rediscover their humanity. The epilogue shows human civilization advancing back to full glory.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: After some of the darker undertones of the series, the ending is downright saccharine.
  • Subverted in two South Park episodes, dropping a bridge on a character each time:
    • "And they all lived Happily Ever After, except for Pocket who died of hepatitis B."
    • "And they all lived Happily Ever After, except for Kyle who died of AIDS two weeks later."
  • Kim and Ron in Kim Possible. The two Sealed with a Kiss series finales and the Word of God make this such.

Notes

  1. Note that this is an English trope; German fairy tales frex usually end with "Und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, dann leben sie noch heute" - "and if they haven't died yet, they're still living today"; French end with "ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d'enfants" -- "They married and had many children", which is seen as an invitation for parodists. Russians tales involving romance actually account for death, apparently ending with, "And they lived their lives happily and died in one day," meaning that when they did eventually die, they died together, and didn't have to live without each other.