Human Pack Mule

"I am sworn to carry your burdens..."

When a character is shown to be the personal carrier on which all other members of the traveling party dump their belongings onto, much to that person's chagrin and everyone else's amusement. The person in question usually does not possess Super (or even above-average) Strength, so the experience is usually an unenjoyable one for them. On the other hand, sometimes the guy is all too happy to demonstrate his strength to onlookers.

Seen often in episodes where the women take a man shopping with them — the man almost always carries the shopping bags.

Compare Lots of Luggage.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kyon of Haruhi Suzumiya is almost always carrying everyone else's stuff, though occasionally Koizumi lends a hand.
  • Dragon Ball: Goku usually takes this role in the Filler episodes whenever ChiChi goes shopping. Being a Saiyan with a ridiculous power level, this means Goku's usually lost behind an epic mountain of shopping bags.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Kenichi is this to Miu whenever she goes shopping for groceries. Given the girl's family, this too is Training from Hell. His mentors often force him to carry extra weights on those occasions, just for the sake of training his strength and endurance.
  • In the beginning of Rance Sabaku no Guardian (the Hentai Anime of the Game for Rance), the first hint that the Designated Hero is a sexist pig comes when he has his slave Sill carry a huge load of useless stuff.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot: A trip to the mall with Paige (theoretically to buy a pair of shoes) ends in Peter carrying a dozen bags, none of which contain shoes.
  • Blondie has had many instances around the holidays where Blondie goes Christmas shopping with Dagwood carrying all the packages. At least one featured Blondie getting to the car and then finding out the guy with the packages was NOT Dagwood.

    Fan Works 
  • Implied to be the way that the uncle transports his instruments and belongings around in Songs Uncle Sings.
  • In White Knights and Dark Lords, while lugging around a disassembled werewolf cage, Buffy comments that "I am so not a pack mule!"
  • In Random Elements: Coincidences Can Happen, during the infiltration of Canterlot Castle, Trixie ends up having to carry Rainbow Dash around for a good while. The latter is exhausted because she just had to hoist the rest of the party into the castle to begin with — one pony at a time — and unlike her canon counterpart, is neither strong nor a good flyer.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Spaceballs: In one scene, Lone Star and Barf end up carrying all of Princess Vespa's luggage, including a giant hairdryer.
  • Patsy, the coconut guy from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • In one film of the Danish Olsen-banden series, Egon Olsen, the head of the group, had to carry the computer hardware (in a few very large suitcases) for the new, modern head of the group.
  • In the 1950s movie version of Journey to the Center of the Earth, Count Satnusem has a servant who carries all the equipment for both of them — until he dies.

    Literature 
  • The Lord of the Rings: Samwise Gamgee inflicts this on himself, being stalwart and all.
  • And in The Hobbit, it's a running gag that Dori always ends up carrying Bilbo.
  • Fezzik in The Princess Bride is this for both the bad guy and good guy teams he ends up on. However, he is a Gentle Giant with particularly strong arms, so he doesn't mind too much — except when he has to haul the entire party up the Cliffs of Insanity.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Xander.
  • Michonne had zombified versions of these solely for this role.
  • This is the one of the reasons why Niles from The Nanny hates accompanying the family on holidays. As he explains to Fran, she gets to relax, he gets to carry the bags, take the photos and do the shopping.

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is a general occurrence in these types of games, sometimes with characters being carried as well.

    Theater 

    Video Games 
  • As the only player character in Resident Evil Outbreak with more than four inventory slots, Yoko is often relegated to this role. A popular strategy for online gamers was to kill the Yoko player and use her corpse to store extra items.
  • This seems to Yun-seong's role in the Soul Series, courtesy of his Cool Big Sis Seong Mi-na (as seen in Mi-na's ending in Soulcalibur II and III, as well as Yun-seong's B ending in III). However, if the player does not press the right button(s) in time during Seong Mi-na's ending in III, Mi-na herself will have this fate befall her.
  • EverQuest players are known to create characters just to hold overflow items and money.
  • Fallout: New Vegas:
    • Lampshaded by several of the companions. Raoul, having lost faith in his abilities suggests you assign him this role. Veronica sometimes complains that you're making her carry "the heavy stuff" when you access her inventory and Arcade Gannon specifically warns you not to treat him as a pack mule when you open his.
    • A more tragic version can be found inside Ceasar's Fort. All women in the Legion are slaves and reduced to this.
  • In Metal Slug, supply sergeant Rumi Aikawa is seen carrying an oversized backpack holding an incredible amount of cargo. She appears in several locations, trying to deliver these weapons and items to friendly forces (i.e. the player). Her older (but identical-looking) sister Madoka takes up this role in 4 and 5.
  • The role of followers in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim mostly amounts to this as well as serving as a tank. A fair amount of them will lampshade this, notably Lydia's sarcastic-sounding "I am sworn to carry your burdens" or Marcurio's "I am an apprentice mage! Not a pack mule-oh, very well but make it quick!". With the Dragonborn DLC, you can even gain the power to summon up a Dremora Butler for the sole purpose of offloading random junk onto.
  • An overloaded Jaheira in Baldur's Gate II exasperatedly stated that "I am no mule!"
  • Half-ogres in Arcanum are often used for this, due to their greater carrying capacity and the fact that they don't need a lot of gear to fight.
  • Marle's official art in Chrono Trigger shows her hauling a half-dozen puches around, though the game uses a Bag of Sharing.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • An Imagine Spot on The Simpsons has Lisa & Maggie along with their hypothetical little sister, now adults, out shopping, with Bart along as their package carrier.
  • The Fairly OddParents:
    • While not done properly, one episode of used this as a gag. Timmy even was fed with a... thingy like the one used on horses.
      Timmy: And I'm sick of eating these oats... even if they are low in fat.
      • You mean a morral?
    • Played straight in "Timmy the Barbarian", a Conan the Barbarian parody told by Jorgen Von Strangle to Binky as a bedtime story. Cosmo was not only the "no respect" carrier of the group's bags, but Jorgen's narration turned him into a mule-faced human pack mule just to add insult to injury.
  • Roger Rabbit, in the theatrical cartoon Trail Mix-Up.
  • Duck Dodgers: The Eager Young Space Cadet does this for Dodgers in "The Green Loontern", despite it being his vacation day.
  • Daffy Duck has to carry a humongous pile of luggages for Bugs Bunny in a flashback of Carrotblanca.
  • Batman: The Animated Series, episode "Holiday Knights": A mind-controlled Bruce Wayne is forced to carry the packages for Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy after they go on a shopping spree with his money.
  • The Tom and Jerry cartoon "Down and Outing" has Tom being forced to carry his master's fishing gear.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Rarity's Lots of Luggage sometimes lead to such situations, like with a pony bus boy in "Sweet and Elite" or with Spike in "The Crystal Empire, Part 1" and again in "Rarity Takes Manehattan", repeatedly. He also has to carry a load of souvenir for the rest of the Mane Six in the same episode.
  • Legend Of Korra: Zhu Li, as part of her beleaguered assistant role does this for Varrick.

    Real Life 
  • In military squads (typically a group of 12 soldiers), there is usually one person who is tasked to carry more than the others, typically The Big Guy, who has to carrying either the BFG, extra supplies, or things like radios or special items.
    • Which isn't to say the others get off light either. Between body armor, weapons, ammo, water, radios, and other supplies they might need, modern infantrymen commonly carry as much as 100 pounds of gear while traveling on foot. Chronic back, knee, and foot injuries are fairly common as a result.