Hippy: That's a cool symbol on your head, man. What's it mean? Peace?
Hippy: ...right on, man.
Essentially the idea that when you're a slave, you need something to show it.
This trope centers on the times when a character who either is or was a slave bears some mark that sets them apart from other people. Most frequently this is either a burnt on brand, a tattoo, or even a serial number. Current slaves can also be marked by something as simple as a collar.
Often, a slave who has been freed will have this mark removed or, if that is not possible, altered. Another option is for them to display this mark openly, as if daring someone to comment.
Anime & Manga
- In One Piece, slaves of the World Nobility are marked on their backs with the "Hoof of the Soaring Dragon." This brand is meant to impress upon them the fact that they are less than human. A group of slaves who were freed and became pirates altered this mark into one resembling a sun, which everyone on the crew, slave or not, adopted to remove the distinction of freeman and ex-slave.
- Nami's Arlong tattoo could also be viewed as this. Nami herself certainly saw it that way. After she had stabbed out the tattoo, she had a new one put in its place resembling a pinwheel with a tangerine growing from it, to honor her adopted parents.
- DC Comics: Grace of The Outsiders was a slave before her powers manifested. Although she has covered much of it with tattoos, her brand remains.
- Arsenal's daughter, Lian, shares the same brand, having been kidnapped by the same slave trafficker as Grace had.
- In the Honor Harrington universe, genetic slaves are marked with their identification number on their tongues. The ex-slave terrorists of the Audubon Ballroom have made it their trademark to stick their tongues way out to show off these marks to the slavers they kill.
- Since, on paper, a person's time as a slave is supposed to be temporary, slaves in the Codex Alera wear leather collars. This is the lesser of two evils, as the next step up are metal discipline collars which can only be removed by the one who put it on and cause pain or pleasure depending on if the slave follows orders.
- Common on Gor. Slaves most commonly get the same stylized "K", called kef, standing for Kajira (or, very rarely Kajirus).
- Brands are occasionally used for other purposes - the Caste of Thieves brands their members with a small mark on the cheek, for example. Qualius the blind Kaissa player has a kef on his forehead, but that was because of torture, not slavery.
Truth in Television
- The Jaffa of Stargate SG-1 have a mark either tattooed or branded onto their foreheads. The appearance of the mark is determined by which Goa'uld they serve.
- Discussed in an episode of Kung Fu: Caine is staying with a black family. The father (who had been in favor of throwing him out because he didn't want trouble with the town) sees Caine's arm brands and assumes they're slave brands, since he (the father) had been branded when he was a slave. He asks Caine if he's a runaway slave.
Caine: I am a priest.
Caleb: If you're a priest then who put those brands on you?
Caine: I did.
Caleb: It's a foolish thing for a man to put brands on himself. I'd give anything to be rid of mine.
Caine: And I to keep mine.
- Doctor Who: Companion Turlough had a brand. ◊
- The numbers tattooed on the arms of Nazi concentration camp inmates. Not necessarily used to mark them as slaves but to keep track who each one was.