Hope Springs Eternal

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"But you can't kill dreams. Not really. I mean, despair may be the thing that comes after hope, but there's still hope, right?"
Matthew the Raven, The Sandman: The Wake by Neil Gaiman


The Big Bad is triumphant, the Eldritch Abomination has been released, and the world is in flames. There is no doubt about this. The Darkest Hour isn't upon us, no, it is far worse, we have entered The Dark Times.

But the Ultimate Evil that the Big Bad has become does not and cannot realize one thing: though the heroes who tried to stop him have failed, and may well have died, Hope lives on, and with it, the Heroic Spirit survives. Even now, a rudimentary version of La Résistance is forming because word has spread that a Chosen One has appeared after being sent off like Moses in the Bulrushes. The now-dead heroes who opposed the Big Bad managed to send a weapon through time to the future that can defeat the Ultimate Evil.

These stories about the Chosen One and the super-weapon might be true, but likely are not. Their truthfulness matters less than what it means that these stories exist at all: Hope lives on! One day, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, maybe not in our lifetimes, but one day, As Long as There Is One Man, Justice Will Prevail.

It is a Foregone Conclusion.

A common message given by fiction and folklore. Only the most downer of Downer Endings exclude it, and even then there's usually some way around such a bleak finish, no matter how bad things are. Often combines with Rousing Speech, because often, The War Has Just Begun.


Examples of Hope Springs Eternal include:


Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, Dream goes to Hell to retrieve his helmet. The demon Chonoronzon, who currently possesses it, challenges Dream to the ultimate game of "Can you top this?" Choronzon's final move was becoming entropy personified. Dream responded, and won, by becoming Hope.
  • This is the schtick of the Blue Lantern Corps. It's comprised of hand-selected individuals who have the ability to inspire great hope. Their unofficial leader, Saint Walker, was considered The Messiah by his people and was the first Blue Lantern.

In fearful day, in raging night,
With strong hearts full, our souls ignite.
When all seems lost in the war of light,
Look to the stars, for hope burns bright

  • There is a certain Star Wars Tales story set in the far, far future of the galaxy. C-3PO has told a young boy the story of the films. The story ends with him destroyed, and the young boy taking up Luke Skywalker's lightsaber, ready to stand against the new Empire.
  • All Fall Down has this as a theme of the book: Even in the face of great tragedy, there's potential for things to improve.

Film[edit | hide]

  • At the end of the Star Wars prequels, the Emperor has taken power, the Jedi order is destroyed, Yoda and Obi-Wan have been driven into exile, and the Republic has been turned into the oppressive Galactic Empire. But The Alliance has begun to form and the Skywalker twins have been hidden from their father, Darth Vader, and they both will become a new hope.
  • Independence Day. Most of the major cities on Planet Earth have been wiped out, and all attempts at attacking the aliens have failed so far. But there are still planes, and pilots to fly them. And besides, it's the Fourth of July!
  • The tagline for Deep Impact was "Oceans rise. Cities fall. Hope survives." It fits that movie well, by the way.
  • Hope is what sustains Andy Dufrense after his false-conviction and incarceration in The Shawshank Redemption. He and Red even get into an argument over having Hope in prison, with Andy saying it is necessary and Red saying that it is dangerous. Eventually, Red comes to Andy's point of view.

"Remember, Red? Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

  • Gilraen, the narrator of the story in Born of Hope, addresses Baby Aragorn as Estel, which means Hope in Sindarin.
    • In fact, this trope is just about the entire message of the movie.
  • In Finding Nemo, after they have escaped from a hungry shark and massive minefield explosions, Marlin and Dory are exhausted. Marlin is anxious to find his missing son, Nemo, but now he has lost his best clue for finding him—a scuba mask inscribed with the address of the diver who captured Nemo. Dory helps Marlin find hope. Discouraged, Marlin says, "That was my only chance at finding my son; now it's gone!" But Dory is not so easily deterred. "Hey, Mr. Grumpy Gills," she says. "When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim."
  • Transformers: The Movie uses this. The majority of the film features the Autobots getting their asses kicked across the galaxy. At the very end, they unite to make a last ditch effort to destroy Unicron and Light Their Darkest Hour.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Trope Namer is Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

  • The poem Hope Is A Tattered Flag is about this:

The birds who go on singing to their mates in peace, war, peace,
The ten-cent crocus bulb blooming in a used-car salesroom,
The horseshoe over the door, the luckpiece in the pocket,
The kiss and the comforting laugh and resolveâ??
Hope is an echo, hope ties itself yonder, yonder.

  • In the Tanith Lee story "Red As Blood," one of the characters claims that Hope is the greatest evil released from Pandora's Box, because it gives people false comfort in time of troubles.
  • "Mistborn", by Brandon Sanderson. Keslier to the Big Bad: "I am that which you can never kill. I am hope!"
  • One interpretation of "carrying the fire" in The Road.
  • As noted above, Stephen King's "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption". Even carries the additional title "Hope Springs Eternal".
  • The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. There are quite a few irredeemably evil entities attempting to oppress every other living entity, and most of them succeed for some period of time; so there's always a host of brave and wise elves, or outnumbered but courageous humans, or tough-as-nails dwarves, or determined hobbits, or powerful wizards, or even incredibly powerful godlike entities from across the sea preparing to come save the day. A few characters make speeches on hope (notably Sam to Frodo) which get everyone else back on their feet.
  • Emily Dickinson wrote a poem about this:

"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

  • The end of Matt Stover's novelization of Revenge of the Sith notes that this is the Dark Side's weakness. Darkness is all-encompassing, powerful, and will never vanish...but a single candle can hold it back. Crosses over with The Power of Love as well. Love is more than a candle. Love can ignite the stars.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Invoked in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where a group of genetically-enhanced super-geniuses calculate that the Federation cannot win its war against the Dominion. They argue that the Federation should surrender, accept an occupation and humanity will form La Résistance a few generations later, centering on Earth itself.
    • The irony being that a scene later in the series, set in the Dominion HQ, shows that their leadership is Genre Savvy enough that they plan to simply wipe out every living thing on Earth as a preemptive measure to any kind of human resistance.

Music[edit | hide]

  • Bob Dylan's To Make You Feel My Love is sung from the point of view of a man who is in love with a woman whose life has treated her harshly, and who has especially had bad luck when it comes to romantic relationships. The lyrics gently tell her to never give up hope, because there's still someone who loves her:

The storms are raging on a rolling sea
Down the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
But you ain't seen nothing like me yet

  • Garth Brooks' The Change is about doing the right thing, and never giving up. Ever. Or else evil, sadness, and hatred win.

As long as one heart still holds on
Then hope is never really gone

Mythology[edit | hide]

  • Pandora's Box not only unleashed evil upon the world, it unleashed hope.
    • One of the many different versions of the story: Hope was at the bottom of the box, so when a panicky Pandora snapped it closed again, Hope was the one thing left inside. Thus while all the evils of the box are beyond man's control, we still have Hope kept safe for when we need it.
      • More cynical interpretations view it differently: we have all these evils in the world, but not hope.
      • In other versions, the thing left inside the box was the ability to foresee misfortune (the opposite of hope, in other words) or else that hope would have been a terrible evil had it been released, but a force for good since it remains inside.
      • And in still other versions/interpretations, it was not hope, but rather hopelessness that was trapped inside the box. Arguably, this makes more sense; hope still exists in the world because the evil of its lack was the one thing that didn't escape into the world.
  • In at least some versions of Norse Mythology, Ragnarök ends with the death of the Gods, the destruction of Ásgarðr, and the reduction of Miðgarðr (the mortal world) to a barren wasteland. But one mortal couple survives to repopulate the world.
    • Also Baldr comes back form the dead.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • And now for a depressing example: Tzeentch is the evil God of Hope in Warhammer Fantasy Battle Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000. He can't be killed (and killing all his worshippers is less than practical), so technically, hope goes on forever.
    • The reason that Tzeentch can't be killed is because he is the God of Hope. Taken to an insane extreme, like all the Chaos Gods. The very thing that allows mortals to fight him and his forces IS him.
      • Here's something to help counterbalanace that: Tzeentch may be the ultimate manipulator, but you can take heart in one thing. He has no plans. All of his twists and turns, plots and schemes... they're all for their own sake. If Tzeentch ever had an actual goal that was accomplished, he'd probably cease to exist. Hope for the future, because Tzeentch can't.
    • All of Warhammer 40k is a depressing example, but the Dark Heresy tabletop game places one single bright point within it. You are a human in the Imperium of Man. You live in a shitsack world setting so bleak that it is (in)arguably the crappiest of Crapsack World settings. Every side is evil, typically horrifyingly so, and the Imperium certainly counts. There is no real way to defeat Chaos or even the mundane enemies of the Imperium, not for good. The collapse of humanity into ruin, chaos, death and worse is only a matter of time. You play an Inquisitor. Your job? To hold off that collapse, and preserve the souls and lives of humanity. For one more year, one more month, one more day. One more hour. Your name will not be remembered when you fall. You will not know glory in life, or rest, or peace. But you may succeed in preserving your species for just that little bit longer. Grow powerful enough, you may even succeed in making things better for some small fraction of humanity. In all the horror and constant, borderline self-parodying grim dark that is Warhammer40k, no other philosophy shines so bright as this. One single light in the dark.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Done very literally in the end to the video game Mother 2.
  • The Fallout series. Sure, America, if not the world, is a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of radiation, disease and angry mutants that want to paint their walls in your brain splatters, but settlements are building and civilization is returning. The NCR, New Arroyo, Megaton, Rivet City for example. The DC wasteland has clean water, and Project Purity can be replicated (however the rest of America doesn't seem to really need it). And, hidden by those grimy orangey-grey clouds, is still a bright blue or starry sky.
  • Pandora in God of War 3 is a big believer of this. In the end, she even manages to get Kratos to agree with her.

Pandora: Hope is what makes us strong! It is why we are here. It is what we fight with when all else is lost.

    • Taken to a literal extreme in the end. Amongst the evils in Pandora's Box was Hope. It was inside Kratos ever since he used the box to fight Ares in the first game. Once Kratos' rampage is over, the world is pretty much destroyed (both literally and figuratively) by the deaths of the Olympians. Athena, the last surviving god, tries to take Hope from Kratos, using it to rule what's left of the world. Instead, Kratos kills himself, releasing the power of Hope to every mortal. The last shot of the game is the sky clearing, implying the world will finally begin to recover.
  • At the very end of the Legacy of Kain series Defiance, Kain muses that hope was the true gift Raziel bestowed upon him. Being a cynic, he calls hope a "cruel illusion" but one he can't help but believe.
  • Diablo has one in the person of Auriel.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In the Codename: Kids Next Door movie Operation Z.E.R.O., Grandfather's first rule over the Earth was brought to a screeching halt when the Book of KND gave the kids the hope needed to defeat him. When he returns, he's become Genre Savvy to this and knows if he doesn't completely destroy all hope, he can still be defeated.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Every participant of any ideologically-motivated resistance movement against an occupying power feels this at times, or even constantly (or to the bitter end). Even when almost all hope seems lost, people will remember - or imagine - what it would be like to live a society in accordance with their ideology and draw strength from that vision. Humanity's capacity to imagine is very great indeed. The only way to make such ideals go away is to give them what they want - whereupon after a time they become disillusioned with the new or 'restored' society and eventually move on to believing something else is worth fighting, or dying, for. Such is life.