Kidnapped by the Call

A situation where the hero is kidnapped or otherwise forced to come along on an adventure via any means, direct or indirect, or otherwise forced to partake in a heroic cause.

Sometimes the hero of your adventure (or one of his allies) just isn't going to come willingly. Maybe they've got other responsibilities; you know, those pesky families would-be heroes are so often attached to. Maybe they've got little reason to believe that mysterious prophetic dream you had once while you were asleep and possibly drunk. Or perhaps they're just cowardly. At any rate they aren't coming.

Problem is you're the good guy. You can't just destroy the place the hero has settled him or herself into. And the bad guys aren't about to make that mistake themselves, at least not until it's too late. You've either tried various means of coercing the hero into adventure or discounted them as impossible. Or at least you should have. The answer remains no. What can be done?

Simple. If the hero isn't willing to come along, you're just going to have to force them, whether through softer measures such as blackmail or the draft (or threatening the hero with the draft) or through the considerably more direct means of stuffing the recalcitrant rascal in a sack and slinging them over your back in the dead of night. Either way, the hero is now off to adventure, whether they like it or not!

One indirect method is the subtrope Boxed Crook; the government agrees to let a criminal go early provided they partake in some (in this case heroic) venture first. The crook usually ends up wishing they'd taken the jail time. A fantasy version is Summon Everyman Hero if the would-be hero wasn't consulted first before being dragged through the portal.

Methods vary regarding how to keep the hero from sneaking off again. An Explosive Leash is a good guarantee, but you have to at least appear ruthless enough to use said leash. If you can keep the hero around long enough a combination of Stockholm Syndrome and the hero seeing firsthand the righteousness of your cause may set in.

Compare and contrast The Call Knows Where You Live. Contrast Jumped at the Call. Closely related to Press-Ganged which covers direct incidents where someone is actually kidnapped into serving a cause, be it good or evil. Compare Summon Everyman Hero, where the only way for the good guys to get the hero is via cross-dimensional kidnapping. Also compare Kidnapped by an Ally, where the kidnapping isn't necessary but happens anyway.

Subtrope of Call to Adventure. See also Trapped in Another World.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: Sarah Brandeis was an ordinary lab technician when she was kidnapped by the sinister Hellsignor during his attack on Earth. To foil his plans, the Point Man stole the Gem of Thebis from him, then tossed it around Sarah's neck. She instantly became the new Cleopatra and banished Hellsignor to another dimension.
  • Suicide Squad, if you loosen your definition of "hero".

  • In The Last Starfighter, Centauri kidnaps Alex for his skills playing the Starfighter arcade game. In this case the kidnapping is more out of overexuberance though: Centauri is utterly convinced that Alex would love to fly a Space Fighter in defense of a Federation he's never even heard of.
  • In Die Hard with a Vengeance after Zeus plays Good Samaritan and saves McClane, the villain forces him to team with McClane and solve together several puzzles to defuse some bombs scattered all along the city.

  • Sun Wolf and Starhawk: In The Ladies of Manddrigyn the eponymous ladies force Sun Wolf to train them in combat so they can rescue their kidnapped husbands by poisoning him and witholding the cure from him until their training is complete.
  • In Tom Clancy's Without Remorse, John Kelly (later Clark) is gently coerced out of his semi-retirement by naval officers/the CIA intent on securing his behind-the-lines expertise for a rescue mission, by reminding him that if he doesn't want to, they can always call him back into active duty (this was during The Vietnam War). This is in addition to The Call Knows Where You Live for his ... private hobby.
  • This is how Sixth Ranger David joins the fight in Animorphs. The titular heroes kidnap him after his home becomes ground zero for a battle against the Yeerks and leave his parents behind, something he never really gets over.
  • In Black Legion, Telemachon has the misfortune of being taken prisoner by Khayon after the latter jumps at the call and so he's kind of pulled along. In the end, however, he embraces the call fully.
  • In Michael Moorcock's novel series "Eternal Champion," Ekrose (a man of many, many names and lives such as Prince Elric) is always summoned to a different world to perform a heroic task. He has no say in the matter.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Cosmic Wiz Kid". Lieutenant Dia Cyrton asks Buck to rescue her boss Hieronymus Fox, the president of the planet Genesia. When Buck refuses, she uses a Mind Control drug on him and takes him to Genesia against his will.
  • Doctor Who: A number of the companions were basically this.

     Video Games 
  • In may happen to the Warden in Dragon Age: Origins. If your character refuses to go with Duncan, he invokes the Right of Conscription effectively forcing you into the ranks of Grey Wardens. You may then do the same to Nathaniel Howe instead of letting him go or hanging him.
  • Played with in Final Fantasy IX, Cid Fabool orders Tantalus (Zidane's group) to kidnaps Princess Garnet to initiate a political observation at Queen Brahne's corruption, but it turns out Garnet wants to be kidnapped in the first place for a similar reason.
  • At the end of Half-Life, Gordon Freeman can either go with the G-Man willingly, or be pitted against a roomful of aliens he can't possibly defeat. It's been implied that the G-Man would have just taken him either way and was only giving him "the illusion of free choice". Same thing happens to Adrian Shephard, though so far we've only seen the kidnapping, with no "call" to speak of having occurred as of yet.
  • In the fangame MOTHER: Cognitive Dissonance, the blue Mook Alinivar is just a simple artist who went out to go by fresh paint to finish off his masterpiece. He's killed by the main antagonist, and the Apple of Enlightenment won't let him leave purgatory unless he accepts its quest, allowing the Apple to give him his Freeze PSI.
  • Tron 2.0: The situation is desperate. A corrupted, digitized User has become a living computer virus threatening to destroy all of cyberspace. Even worse, thugs hired by a rival corporation have kidnapped Alan Bradley (possibly the best computer security guy in that universe) in broad daylight from Encom HQ. Alan's son Jet runs into the laser lab trying to figure out what's going on. The AI Ma3a figures Jet will have to do...

  • Lalli of Stand Still, Stay Silent was almost literally dragged by Tuuri on their expedition to Silent World. She did tell him that they are going, but he thought she's telling bad jokes. Not to mention that he's a night scout, and falls asleep during the day, when Tuuri is awake, so he didn't even get the information.

    Web Original 
  • In Dream High School, you don't know how you got to the school and neither does the Principal. You just sort of showed up.

    Real Life 
  • Ye olde methods of recruiting in Age of Sail navies, such as press-ganging and shanghaiing. The former is plain old kidnapping, the latter is giving a lot of booze to drink and kidnapping while drunk.
  • This is of course what governments hope to invoke with the draft, assuming that government isn't a horrible tinpot dictatorship establishing said draft for a few more moments of sweet sweet power, and also isn't just using the war as a cynical PR exercise to distract from problems at home. Whether or not the draftees agree with the government on the worthiness of the cause they are drafted for is another matter entirely, making this a potential can of worms.
  • Limyaaels Fantasy Rants: In her blog, Limyaael advises against this.
    Few reluctant fantasy heroes miss their homes. Few miss their families. Many were abused at home. Others were “misunderstood,” which in the eyes of many teenage and amateur writers of this kind of story translates to “told to do chores.” Still others are orphans and have no especial ties to their villages. They’re still reluctant, because authors are freakin’ in love with the thought of their protagonist being forced against his will to do something, but they don’t have much reason to stay. They find their truest friends and their love interests on the road, they always end up wielding the mysterious magical powers of doom that they have to use to save the world, and they always come to believe in the cause they were kidnapped for. I can’t think of a single instance where a fantasy hero at the end of the book still resented that he’d been kidnapped. Many even thank their captors for doing so.