Neither of us said anything. We just watched the Hanjii ride out of sight into the line of the horizon, an undulating line of black against the brown. The sun beat down on our heads, reminding us of its presence, and I wished it was a god.
Because then we might reason with it.
Del turned to face me squarely. She waited.
I sighed. "We walk." I answered her unasked question, "and hope we're found by a caravan."
— Jennifer Roberson, Sword-Dancer
Our heroes are in the desertwithout food or water for some reason. Maybe the Big Bad has stolen their supplies. Maybe their car needed repair, and they had to abandon the water for some reason. Or maybe the water is just spent.
Anyway, our heroes have been walking for days without drinking a single drop. They faint and the screen turns to black. This is the end of our heroes, right?
Wrong: It turns out that our heroes were rescued by a traveling caravan and are now safe again.
This happens often enough that one may wonder whether dying people are a magnet for bedouins. Of course, a Doylist will point to the Anthropic Principle as an explanation.
If not in a desert, substitute: friendly Noble Savage natives on the American plains or in the jungle, Sherpas or Buddhist monks in the mountains, Aborigines in Australia, Inuit or Aleuts in the frozen north, or Bushmen in South Africa. In Speculative Fiction, any Fantasy Counterpart Culture for the above can fill in. Any of these groups may try to teach the hero something as he recovers. For shipwrecked people in the ocean, native fishermen or dolphins might pitch in.
When the bedouins or other firstcomers are actually just there to rob our heroes blind, they're Salvage Pirates.
Note that actual aloof, practical, eccentric but ultimately noble bedouins in modern settings have been supplanted in pop culture and the minds of western audience by Kalashnikov-waving insurgents or Mujahadeen, for however accurate or inaccurate that might be. Also, notice that this trope has its roots on real life: since in harsh environments a person never knows when they might fall in need of help, it is in society's interest to have such a code.
Happens to the photojournalist Rocky in the Area 88 manga after his helicopter is shot down. This leads to a Crowning Moment Of Awesomewhen the nomads' camp is attacked and he rams a tank with a Jeep.
Subverted and lampshaded in Mai-Otome, where a foot traveller in the desert collapses in sight of a large, train-like vehicle passing by...which does not stop. The traveller leaps to their feet, complaining that they had planned on getting rescued so they wouldn't have to walk all the way to town.
In the backstory of Fullmetal Alchemist, when Hohenheim is aimlessly wandering the great desert in Heroic BSOD after unwittingly destroying his homeland of Xerxes, he's rescued by a caravan of Xingese traders, with the implication he was taken back to Xing and taught them alkahestry.
This is almost routine for Banner. The Hulk spends a lot of time jumping around deserts, then reverting back to Banner in the middle of nowhere. Someone always comes along before Banner dies.
At the end of the DCU's Infinite Crisis, all that's left of the robot Red Tornado is a head that can only say "52!" which lands in Australia. He is not only found by aboriginals, but taken to a auto repair shop/metalworking studio where the local welder attempts to build him a new body.
The first few issues of Legends Of The Dark Knight has a pre-Batman Bruce Wayne rescued from a blizzard by natives. He returns the favor years later.
Interestingly treated in The Proposition: Charlie, while on a mission into the Australian Outback to kill his brother, gets "speared by a savage! How extraordinarily quaint!" The rescue service comes in the form of... his brother. Awkward.
The English Patient: When the protagonist crashes down in the Sahara at the beginning of the story.
Hilariously featured in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: the three protagonists are stuck in the Outback after their bus breaks down on a cross-country trip. They're in the middle of rehearsing their drag show when one of them suddenly turns and notices an Aborigine called Alan watching them. They both scream, but Alan ends up helping them out.
In Walkabout a girl and her brother, stranded in the Australian outback, are rescued by an Aboriginal boy on walkabout.
Subverted in Bran Nu Dae, when the Aboriginal characters are dumped in the outback by their previously gullible marks, one of them uses "magic" to make their van break down. To the surprise of everyone.
Subverted in Gladiator, when Russell Crowe's character is "rescued," but then sold into slavery.
In the CG animated movie of The Adventures of Tintin, Tintin and Haddock crash land in the desert with a stolen plane and are forced to trudge through the blazing hot sand. They are later saved by a passing group of soldiers who were notified by Snowy's barking.
In Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Max is sent off into the desert by the inhabitants of Bartertown after facing the Wheel, and is rescued by a band of children.
Subverted in Lawrence of Arabia, in that Sherif Ali kills Lawrence's guide but offers to bring Lawrence to Prince Feisal so he will not be lost in the desert. And then Lawrence refuses, getting himself safely to Wadi Safra and the Prince.
In The Adventures of Pluto Nash when Pluto, Dina and Bruno wander off on foot after they crashed when fleeing the villains in a moon car chase. Pluto and Dina pass out when their suits ran out of oxygen and Bruno's battery dies. They are rescued by a smuggler driving by.
In the animated movie Asterisk versus Caesar, Tragicomix and Panacea escape the Romans in the Sahara only to be 'rescued' by desert slave traders.
Played with in the Discworld novel Jingo!, where Vimes and his men are lost in the deserts of Klatch and run into the notoriously hostile D'regs, who fortunately are feeling nice enough to give them the traditional three days of hospitality before trying to kill them. Then, because of Carrot...
Vimes later rescues a native Klatchian... technically. The son of Mr. Gorif from back home, who had moved his family back to Klatch in order to escape anti-Klatchian sentiment, had been conscripted into the D'Reg army and sent into the desert to 'get' the Ankh-Morpork invaders. Side-switching ensues.
In Dune, Jessica and Paul Atreides are rescued by Fremen. They then have to jump through religious hoops and trial by personal combat to prove that they're worth saving.
Justified as they were more or less looking for the Fremen, and the Fremen were looking for them.
Also in that (in the book, at least) Jessica & Paul were specifically heading towards the only sign of habitation visible for miles around, which turned out to be a Fremen campsite.
Note that this is an unusual thing for the Fremen to do. Generally, if they find someone stranded in the desert, they'll simply kill them and drain their body of water.
Which, it should be noted, was actually suggested by one of the Fremen.
The reasons they spared them was they would accept Paul, and Jessica is Bene Gesserit making her more valuable alive.
Also note that the Missionaria Protectiva deliberately spread rumors of a Bene Gesserit who'll give birth to a future messiah so any stranded Bene Gesserit can take advantage of this belief to get help.
In The Thrawn Trilogy, Talon Karrde - the calm, information-brokering successor to Jabba the Hutt - is traversing space in his ship when he finds Luke Skywalker adrift in his X-Wing. He poses as this, agreeing to save and transport the Jedi for a small fee, and usually he'd be perfectly happy to do that, but Grand Admiral Thrawn has just put out word that Luke is adrift in this general area and there is a substantial reward. Karrde is generally honorable and doesn't like Thrawn, but he can't directly antagonize the head of Imperial forces - Thrawn is the absolute best at figuring out who did what. Karrde ends up imprisoning Luke so he can decide what to do, and things proceed from there.
Aeriel is rescued by desert nomads in The Darkangel Trilogy after the icarus attacks her and leaves her for dead. Slightly more defensible in this version, as the Pendarlon brings them to her instead of them just stumbling across her.
In A Good Clean Fight by Derek Robinson, an RAF fighter pilot crashes in the desert in North Africa. The Bedouin, of course, pick him up and care for his injuries. Being Greek, he's able to blend in with them better than a fair-skinned Brit would...which doesn't stop a German patrol finding him and shooting him for a spy anyway.
Lone Survivor: After his team is killed in a horrendous fight with the Taliban, Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrel is rescued by Pashtun villagers, for whom Sacred Hospitality is literal. They take their obligation so seriously they defend him against said Taliban. Since most of the Talib recruits are drawn from the ultra-conservative Pashtun, it is very likely they were opposing their own kin to protect Luttrel. Why? Because they promised.
Jennifer Roberson's Tiger and Del, who provide the page quote, are rescued by one desert tribe after being stranded by another, though not until the sun has left them badly burned and ill.
Flyaway by Desmond Bagley. The protagonists are stranded in the Sahara when the villains come across their 4WD, emptying the fuel and water tanks. Their only recourse is to walk across the desert to a camel track in the hope of getting picked up. When they finally get there, the main character collapses in the sand, thinking they just have to wait till someone comes along. He's told to get to his feet, as they have to spend all night walking back and forth across the trail, as a camel train is so quiet they can go past without anyone noticing. As it happens he finally bumps into a camel after half the train has already passed them.
Happens in The Farthest Shore, when Ged is badly wounded and the heroes run out of water. They are stranded in the middle of the ocean, but fortunately, there is a tribe of nomadic raft dwellers who happen to pass nearby.
The X-Files: Mulder gets buried under rubble in the desert but is rescued by Native Americans. They knew he was out there and saw the cause of the trouble coming in to begin with. The episode even did the whole "Mulder's spirit communicating with his ancestors to determine if he should stay in this world or move on to the next life." thing.
Strangely subverted in LOST, when Ben teleports into the Tunisian desert and get harassed by two AK-47-wielding Bedouins who Ben promptly kills in a textbook definition of Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
It happens in SEASON 5 episode: "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham". Locke teleports to that same place, but his leg is broken and the pain immobilizes him. He's left there all day and the only at night do the AK-47-wielding Bedouins come and save the day, albeit they seem to have been working for Mr. Widmore, who knew Locke had arrived by setting up surveillance at the "exit", as he called it.
Played utterly straight in the Hamish X series, where some of the heroes, captured by the evil Grey Agents, find the helicopter they're in shot down with a rocket launcher in the middle of the desert, and then get rescued by a Bedouin group, with a footnote explaining the Bedouin's sense of duty to this trope. The leader of the caravan - the same guy who shot down the helicopter, because everyone hates the Grey Agents - becomes a core ally of the heroes from that point on.
JAG: In "The Black Jet", bedouins have seized the downed jet, but proves to be helpful, and while Harm takes off in the downed jet, Mac and Keeter manage to sneak out of Iran with the aid of the bedouins.
Call of Cthulhu. This can happen in "The City Without A Name" adventure in the supplement Curse of the Chthonians. After the investigators leave Irem, if they run out of camels and water in the desert they can be rescued by a small band of Bedouins.
Dungeons & Dragons, Mayfair Games' Role Aids supplement Lizardmen. After Will and Hisspak are treacherously abandoned in the desert, they are rescued by a group of Desert Rider lizardmen.
Subverted in Uncharted 3. The Bedouins really don't rescue Nate in the whole "We found you unconscious and near death in the desert" thing. They find him in an abandoned city, nearly kill him, and it's only through his quick talking that they spare him and take him to their place. Even then, they do not trust Nate, only helping him because they both have a common goal of stopping the bad guys from reaching Iram.
They would've taken him to their camp regardless. When he was asked, Salim said that even enemies are deserving of some hospitality and after that, he asks Nate if he is friend or enemy and then it goes from there.
However, it's played very straight in Uncharted 2 when Nate passes out in the mountains of Tibet and is rescued by a local Tibetian man.
Justified in Jak 3, as Jak happened to be carrying a homing beacon used by the Wastelanders who rescued him.
Fire Emblem 7 starts with the player character passing out from exhaustion and being rescued by Lyn, the last survivor of a nomad tribe. She even lives in a yurt.
In a rather nasty twist, during the opening to dungeon-crawler Brandish 2: The Planet Buster, protagonist Ares faints in the middle of the desert and wakes up in a prison cell!
Chun-soft later ripped off this intro frame-for-frame in their own dungeon crawler Furai no Shiren GB2
Attempting to enter the Corel Desert without a chocobo and wandering around for a few screens ends up with you passing out and being rescued by a chocobo-driven caravan. You also get picked up by a mountain man when trying to find Gaea's Cliff for the first time and failing.
Don't forget the not-so-subtly named Al Bhed from Final Fantasy X, who do indeed rescue Tidus, although it's doubly subverted in that this one rescue actually occurs underwater, and that Rikku initially wants to kill Tidus (he looks like a fiend).
In Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, at the end of the "Old Wounds" level, Alex Mason and his companions are left to die in the Afghan desert. After lying there, unmoving, for several hours, Mason sees none other than Viktor Reznov ride up on a horse to save them, only to disappear as mysteriously as he appeared right after. However, Mason is still under the effects of the brainwashing he underwent at Vorkuta in the first Black Ops, so it's possible it was someone else that Mason thought was Reznov; that's how Woods sees it, at least.
In both STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl and STALKER: Clear Sky, your character is rescued by these. They're about as close to "natives" as the Zone gets. In Shadow of Chernobyl, it's just one guy hauling you to a safe place, while in Clear Sky, it's members of the Clear Sky faction, who could use all the help they can get.
Scheherazade in the visual novel 1931: Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum is assisted several times by Rashad, an actual Bedouin man, and, in one adventure, is rescued from hostile German treasure-hunters by the men of Rashad's tribe.
Justified in a Wandering Ones sidestory: the rescuer had been following the victim all day to see if he could survive in the desert on his own.
In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, dolphins fill in this role for stranded CIA agent Bear Claw, despite the fact that he once murdered dolphins with his bare hands to prove how macho he was. He's initially suspicious of the rescue, but warms up to the dolphins when they bring him to an island. Then the dolphins shoot him.
Subverted in The Wild Thornberrys, where after hiking off on her own, Eliza succumbs to altitude sickness and comes very well near death. That is until she wakes up to find herself inside an igloo and being handed hot cocoa by a friendly Inca. However, it is soon revealed that it was her father (whom she pretty much had been treating like a jerk all day) who had found her and build the igloo from scratch (actually something of an inversion, because it turned out the Incas were lost as well).
Averted in Astérix Versus Caesar. Tragicomix and Panacea manage to escape the Romans but end up dying of thirst in the Sahara. They are rescued by a caravan. Unfortunately for them, this caravan is composed of slave traders, and they are sold back to the Romans afterwards.
Gazpacho acts as one for Chowder and Scraps in the Chowder episode "Chowder Grows Up".
Averted in the story of shipwrecked sailor James Riley. In 1815 he and his crew were stranded in North Africa and captured by a tribe of Bedouins. It was their custom to take sailors as slaves, and proceeded to brutally mistreat the crew who survived by drinking camel urine. Riley and some of his crew survived and were eventually ransomed, but some of the crew were murdered, died, or seperated from the group and never seen again. Whether being taken as a slave counts as a "rescue" is a matter of interpretation.
There have been aversions of this trope before.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the famed author of The Little Prince, actually crashed in the middle of the Sahara desert with little food and water on him. He was rescued by a traveling caravan run by literal Bedouins.
Happens in quite a few biographies and histories of westerners in the Middle East and N. Africa, as can be expected when you have a significant group of constantly traveling nomads and a relative clear view (other than dunes and mountains) for a considerable distance. While many are from fiction, just look at how many search results from Google you get.
It was discovered that crashed U.S. Navy pilot Scott Speicher, shot down at the beginning of the Gulf War, had been found dead by a group of Bedouins who gave him a dignified burial.
On a similar note, U.S. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was sheltered from the Taliban by a friendly village. Interestingly, the Taliban knew where he was (and took an opportunity to beat the half crippled hero and give him a Breaking Speech) but they were bound not to kill him. For details see his book "Lone Survivor."
In 1932 two German aviators, Hans Bertram and Adolf Klausmann, ran out of fuel after losing their way in a storm and crashed in Australia's sparsely populated Northern Territory. They were on the point of dying of starvation when the local Aboriginees found them and nursed them back to health until they could be 'officially' rescued by a police seach party — which had already arrested several natives on suspicion of having murdered the aviators, and were congratulated by the authorities and press for having saved them from imminent death from 'hostile' natives.