So, as I was watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 yesterday, I came upon yet another instance of a fiction trope which seems to be very, very, very popular. I see it everywhere, and yet somehow, nobody ever learns.
It took some research to find it, but I have finally located it.
(WARNING: The following link will take you to TVTropes.com. If you have never visited this website, know that TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life. It is easy to lose an hour on this site while thinking you’ve spent 5 minutes. If you click, I am not responsible for your lost time!)
The trope is called Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves and it’s an important one. Basically, this is the one where the villain does one of the following things to a minor or lesser character:
a) Captures a loved one in exchange for cooperation
b) Makes a promise of great wealth and/or great power in exchange for cooperation
Then, generally, the character (who either used to be friends with the hero or has interacted with the hero in some other minor sense) betrays the hero to the villain, all the while apologizing (if (a), or if the character’s personality score is nicer than ‘jerk’) or by shrugging and saying something like ‘Sorry, I got a better offer’.
The fight ensues and either the hero escapes or is captured. In either case, there is usually a short exchange between traitor and villain that goes something like this:
Traitor: I gave you what you asked for! Now give me what you promised!
Villain: (sneering) Oh, I’ll give you what you deserve all right!
(zap, bang, some other sound effect that results in Traitor being dead)
With the extremely high rate of occurrence for this trope, I’m not sure I could ever use it straight while keeping a straight face. While I realize that there are indeed weak-willed people out there who might strike a bargain like this, it boggles my mind when characters who should obviously know better (ie, the villain’s henchmen are carrying people off and imprisoning or executing them in plain sight, and still the traitor thinks that they will be treated equitably and fairly by the cackling, diabolical madman in the seat of power) continue to make these kind of bargains; those times when it’s painfully obvious that the captured loved one is already dead or soon will be regardless of outcome, and there are clearly no riches to be had, and naturally the villain doesn’t intend to share his power!
I suppose the reason for this trope’s simply incredible rate of occurrence is because it’s really a variation on the Judas story, where the reward for the deed done does not turn out to be as fulfilling as promised. It just continues to stand out for me, every time I see it happen, and I’m forced to ask aloud “Did you get something other than what you expected, traitor-dude?”
Interestingly, the example of this trope in the film does not appear to be listed at TVTropes under the film, and I haven’t read the book recently enough to remember whether it occurred the same way.
Example: Xenophilius Lovegood, who betrays the trio to the Death Eaters, and then cries out at the injustice as they destroy his home and give no sign of their intentions on returning his captive daughter… because those intentions don’t bloody well exist, and never did.