Created By: TheFarnell on March 31, 2012

Saved By The Slain

When a character is protected at a crucial moment by the spirits of those who have been killed by the enemy.

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Trope
This is it. The final confrontation between the protagonist and the Big Bag is at hand, and things are not looking good for the protagonist. Perhaps he's pinned down, he's locked swords and can't hold on, or he's speeding down the trench with The Dragon on his tail. In any case, this is the crucial moment where the Hero's strength is about to fail.

All of a sudden, however, the Hero gets some unexpected help. For whatever reason, be it an Evil Weapon releasing the souls of those it claimed, the intense magical power of killed mentors, or the battle awakening some ancient magic, or a simple hallucination, the spirits of the hero's slain mentors and friends appear and provide some much needed assistance to the hero at a crucial moment. This can range from simple moral support to killing the Big Bad themselves. Either way, as soon as the Hero's mission is accomplished or his enemies are killed, they disappear, never to be seen again.

Related to Thanatos Gambit.

Spoilers aplenty.

Examples:

Video-Games
  • During the final battle against the Lich King in World of Warcraft, he effortlessly kills your entire raid in order to turn all players into his next generation of Elite Mooks. You are saved when the souls of all the Lich King's previous victims (conveniently stored in the Lich King's Evil Weapon) make an appearance, resurrect your raid, and hold him in place while you deliver the final beatdown.

Film
  • Happens in Star Wars A New Hope, when Obi-Wan's spirit (having previously been slain by Darth Vader) whispers to Luke to turn off his targeting computer and trust The Force in order to make the critical one-in-a-million shot that blows up the Death Star.
  • Harry Potter is saved from his first duel with Lord Voldemort when the spirits of his mother, father, Cedric Diggory, and others killed by Voldemort provide a few moments of distraction for Harry to teleport out.
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • March 31, 2012
    tclittle
    Anime and Manga
    • In Gash Bell, every single demon who had their book burned during the course of the story come and lend Gash and Kiyomaru their Shin (aka Ultimate) level spells in order to defeat Clear Note.
  • March 31, 2012
    pawsplay
    In Conan The Destroyer, Conan is defended by his fallen love.
  • April 1, 2012
    nman
    It's been years since I read Naruto, but I'm pretty sure this is correct:
    • In Naruto, Minato seals his soul in Naruto along with the demon he was sealing away, so that if the demon ever comes out, he could do a one-time-only resealing.
  • April 1, 2012
    Arivne
    ^^ That was actually Conan the Barbarian.

    Film
    • Conan the Barbarian. After Conan's girlfriend Valeria is killed by Thulsa Doom's snake!arrow, she briefly comes back in shining armor and distracts an enemy long enough to save Conan's life. This was based on Belit's return in the Conan story "Queen of the Black Coast".

    Literature
    • Robert E Howard's Conan story "Queen of the Black Coast". After Conan's lover Belit is killed, she re-appears just in time to hold off her killer and save Conan's life.
  • April 1, 2012
    SNDL
    In Metroid Prime, the statues dedicated to the extinct Chozo race deliver the final blows to Ridley after he tries to attack Samus even after he was practically defeated by her.
  • April 1, 2012
    Koveras
    In the final episode of Mnemosyne, the spirit of Kouki Maeno (who died protecting Rin a couple of episodes back) helps Rin to escape from Yggdrassil. Possibly justified by the fact that Rin is holding Kouki's "time spore" at the moment, which acts as a Soul Jar of sorts.
  • April 1, 2012
    animeg3282
    Harry Potter 's mom protecting his life doesn't count,eh?
  • April 1, 2012
    Andygal
    does the thing in the third The Dresden Files novel when Harry kills a horde of vampires by siccing an even bigger horde of their victims' ghosts on them count?
  • April 4, 2012
    TBeholder
  • April 4, 2012
    Astaroth
    videogames: In Jade Empire, when the emperor triggers a Battle In The Centre Of The Mind with you, the spirit of Sagacious Zu appears alongside your other companions to protect you from Mind Rape.
  • April 4, 2012
    nman
    "Ghost Cavalry"? Something involving The Cavalry would probably be good, since this is basically The Cavalry - with ghosts.

    Also, just browsing through The Cavalry provides examples of this YKTTW (well, just one thing in the fanfic folder... but still.)
  • April 4, 2012
    TheFarnell
    "Ghost Cavalry" does sound better, but I feel this trope is closer to Big Damn Heroes in that the those doing the saving are plot-important characters with a connection to the hero or villain (or both). "Big Damn Ghosts"?
  • April 4, 2012
    TheFarnell
    Hm. Having seen the "Don't imitate existing trope names" entry in Needs A Better Name, I'm going to recommend it stays "Saved by the Slain". It keeps the idea that the ghosts were killed previously in the story (or backstory) and so have direct connection to the plot.
  • April 4, 2012
    Theharbo
    Transformers Cybertron had this with Vector Prime, blocking what would be Big Bad Galvatron's decapitation of Optimus Prime, and lending his sword to finish up Galvatron. An oddity to this trope (If it keeps the name) Is that Vector Prime was never actually slain by anyone - he sacrificed himself using his Cast From Lifespan time-rewind..
  • April 4, 2012
    TheFarnell
    Andygal, I think this isn't the same trope. The key is that the audience has some previous emotional connection to the ghosts.
  • April 4, 2012
    Topazan
    ^^^^ Big Dead Heroes? :P

    • The Order Of The Stick: The noble Sapphire Guard was prepared to stand against Xykon with their lives, but they never stood a chance. He effortlessly enchants them to kill each other in a humiliating and comical fashion, leaving one alive to torment. But, the spirits of the fallen Sapphire Guard paladins return, led by their founder Soon. Start reading here and the next page.
      The honor of a paladin is unbreakable, even by death itself.
  • April 4, 2012
    chicagomel
    Angel does this in 'Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco'. Angel is fighting an Aztec demon with the last survivor of five demon-fighting Lucha wrestler brothers. Just when the demon is closing in, the four dead brothers appear to help Angel and Number Five in the fight.
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