"And as often as you reflect how much power you have over a slave, remember that your master has just as much power over you. 'But I have no master', you say. You are still young; perhaps you will have one. Do you not know at what age Hecuba entered captivity, or Croesus, or the mother of Darius, or Plato, or Diogenes?"The main character ends up a slave at some point in the story. It doesn't necessarily stick. There is often a scene in which the character is being sold on the slave market, showcasing all the evils of slavery; the protagonist will witness how families are torn apart, will have to undress and be examined like an animal, and will perhaps be beaten. (Artists are particulary fond of the undress and be examined stage, for some reason. Especially for young women.) If he looks strong, he will be told that he will go to the galleys or the mines — a Fate Worse Than Death — or perhaps to the Gladiator Games. If she (or occasionally he) is attractive, she will be told that she will make a buyer very happy indeed... If lucky, slaves will be bought for a certain skill or craft they possess. If they're really lucky, they will be bought by someone who intends to set them free when no one is looking. If unlucky, they will indeed be bought by someone who works his slaves to death or by a lecher or end up as gladiators. If the character is female, this trope will probably lead to Go-Go Enslavement. The Back Story of many if not most slave major characters; very few are Born Into Slavery, and most have a Secret Legacy of Blue Blood or Royal Blood. Because We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future, this can occur even in futuristic scenarios. When it's done to an entire race, see Slave Race. They may be used as Slave Mooks, Sympathetic Sentient Weapons or be the target of Super Human Trafficking as well. Can lead to Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death! or even I Die Free or Happiness in Slavery. Indentured Servitude is a specific form.
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Anime & Manga
- Mahou Sensei Negima!:
- Ako, Natsumi, and Akira sell themselves into slavery shortly after their arrival in the magic world to pay for a very ill Ako's expensive medicine. Tosaka abuses them on occasion, but their actual owner (a literal Mama Bear who's in charge of a tavern) beats the crap out of him for it. Even then, Tosaka only looks down on them because he was once a slave himself (and so was Mama, who knows him from these days). Negi eventually manages to buy their freedom, and that fires Tosaka's envy since it took him twenty years to buy his own freedom.
- Several recent chapters reveal that the reason Jack Rakan is so crazy powerful is because he spent pretty much his whole life fighting as a gladiatorial slave, before winning his freedom and starting to fight in wars.
- In +Anima, all of the four main characters are made into slaves when they go to Sailand. Senri is the only one sold at a slave market though.
- Several characters in One Piece on separate occasions. Among them we have Nami, Fisher Tiger and other Fishmen, the Gorgon sisters Hancock, Sandersonia and Marigold, Robin (When she was sent to Tequila Wolf), and even Silvers Rayleigh (Though in his case, it was on purpose so he could steal money from whoever was stupid enough to buy him).
- Ayase in Okane Ga Nai gets sold by an unscrupulous cousin to pay that cousin's Yakuza debts.
- This almost happens to Kino in Kino's Journey, where Kino helps a group of slavers from a life-threatening situation without knowing their true vocation, and they respond by trying to enslave her, even as they spout praises for her kindness.
- A common plot element in many (if not most) hentai and doujinshi, where the female victims are usually either blackmailed, drugged, or mindraped, into becoming sex slaves to their tormentors. Which usually results in breaking the victims until they resign themselves to their fate. Or they snap and learn to love it.
- Lupin III: Island of Assassins:
- Ellen and her brother were sold into slavery as children, by their own father, who was an alcoholic. Which is how they were eventually conscripted by the Tarantulas and forced to become assassins.
- Bomber and the other defectors were in the same boat, since the toxin contained in their tarantula tattoos made it so they couldn't leave the island. The only thing preventing it from killing them, was the island's natural gases and the only known antidote was in Gordeau's possession; leaving them no choice but to obey him.
- An extant threat on Gunsmoke; never really applied to any of the main characters even as a possibility, although it's manga Legato's backstory...although apparently since he was young enough that he didn't even have a name until after Knives accidentally rescued him, and then chose to spare him and let him tag along. And then there was Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
- Although it's not the mainline slave trade, Wolfwood got adopted under false pretenses and then Strapped to an Operating Table; that they then armed him and sent him out as a professional hitman was kind of their bad judgment, except he never actually did turn on the Eye—just his 'master,' and then only to get a shot at the Omnicidal Maniac they had a contract to.
- An interesting variant occurs in the manga Torikago Gakyuu, where, after Mikage's Split Personality refuses to become Yuikai's slave, Yuikai himself offers to be Mikage's slave instead. In the chapters after this arc, he appears to like this arrangement just as well.
- Ai no Kusabi revolves around how Badass Biker Riki was forcibly Made A Sex Slave as a "Pet" through Break the Haughty and the effects it has on him, his master and his ex-lover.
- While it's brief and the wording isn't exact, it's fairly obvious that this is what Beatrice does to Battler in Umineko: When They Cry.
- Rurouni Kenshin:
- It happens to a child named Shinta, after his family and most of his village succumbed to a cholera outbreak. Then the caravan was attacked by bandits and everyone but Shinta was slaughtered. Then Seijuuro Hiko stepped into the scene, killed the bandits, and a short while later he adopts Shinta as his pupil... and renames him as Kenshin.
- In the To Rule Flame prequel, centered on Yumi and the Juppongatana, two little girls that Yumi took care of in the Red Light District are captured by a paramilitary group that plans on selling them as slaves to foreign crews, who have "taken a fancy to Japanese things", like the two "porcelain dolls". Yumi foils this by pretty much selling her life to Shishio, who accepts to wipe out the group and send the little girls to safety in exchange.
- Attack on Titan: Even in humanity's darkest hours, there are still some people making profit from selling others to the capital's underworld. Specifically this would have been the fate of Mikasa and her mother (if she wasn't killed) if not for Eren rescuing her and putting them down like the dogs they were.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans has this as a common enough practice in the poor Mars sphere that there is a name for it: Human Debris. We also get to see precisely what this entails. One of the leads, Akihiro, was kidnapped by pirates as a child, sold to the CGS, and forced into a risky procedure meant to improve combat reflexes. This has made him bitter and nihilistic. We later find out that something similar happened to his brother.
- In the backstory of the Dawn of the Duel arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Priest Seto rescues Kisara from this fate at the hands of the brigands who destroyed his village and killed his parents. She repays him by unconsciously releasing her dragon spirit, which would eventually become his own ki and the spirit of Blue-Eyes White Dragon.
- Part of the backstory of Starfire in Teen Titans. Her evil sister betrayed their planet, Tamaran, and helped hostile aliens conquer it, and as part of the terms of their defeat, the Tamaranians were required to surrender Starfire, their princess, into slavery.
- In Thundercats - The Return, Lion-O enters a magical book to train, and emerges 10 years later to discover that the other Thundercats have been enslaved by Mumm-Ra and the mutants. Most of them have been put to work in mines, but Wilykit and Wilykat are Mumm-Ra's personal slaves, and he actually refers to Wilykit as his "concubine."
- Played for Laughs in Astérix and the Laurel Wreath; Asterix and Obelix need to infiltrate Roman society, so they apply to be slaves, much to the bewilderment of the slavemaster.
- Not that his other slaves took their roles seriously either. The british slave refused to let him sell off the protagonists until they had haggled for a decent price. (The slavemaster was ready to give the duo away for free, since they were causing trouble and beating up other slaves.)
- Gambit had the misfortune of being a child slave twice. The first time, he was stolen from the hospital as a baby by the Thieves Guild and given to a child slave trafficker and sorceror known as The Antiquary. The second time, the Thieves Guild's benefactress Candra caught him and his cousin sneaking into her home and sold him to a disgusting, monstrous creature known as The Pig, who sold children to Hydra as soldiers. It was in escaping The Pig that Gambit learned to use playing cards as weapons.
- Several mutant heroes were subjected to this by the government of Genosia, (a nation where mutants were a Slave Race); victims have included Wolverine, Rogue, and their ally Madelyne Pryor (who were simply kidnapped) and later Storm, Meltdown, Rictor and Wolfsbane who were kidnapped and brainwashed, the resulting rescue mission toppling the original government, which as it turned out, was allied with anti-mutant hate group leader Cameron Hodge. Genosha was eventually destroyed shortly after the destruction of the Legacy Virus, and is now an uninhabited wasteland; it is doubtful the threat will arise again.
- In Star Wars: The Clone Wars "Slaves of the Republic", Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano and Clone Commander Rex. Anakin and Ahsoka sneak into Zygerria as master and slave, but then get caught for real. Anakin ends up a servant of the queen, and Ahsoka is taken to a place where a group of kidnapped Togrutans are waiting to be sold. Obi-wan and Rex get captured and sold to work in the mines. Naturally, everyone escapes in the end. It was adapted into a three episode arc of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series.
- In the DC miniseries from the eighties Conqueror of the Barren Earth, Zhengla captures Jinal and makes her his slave temporarily. Then they became lovers and join forces to conquer the world together.
- Judge Dredd: In the story "Dead Zone", Yodie and his girlfriend Belle are captured by a slave ring that forces people to mine the mass grave of Chaos Day victims to loot the corpses.
- In the Italian fairy tale The Slave Mother, a peasant woman is asked by an owl whether she would rather be happy in youth or age; after she chooses age, she is carried off by pirates. Her husband and sons find, somewhat later, a treasure and move to the city; one day they buy a slave — at the husband's insistence, an old woman who can manage their household. In due course they figure out that she's the mother.
- In the German folk tale The Ice Child, a woman claimed to have been impregnated by ice while thinking of her absent husband. He raised the child for some years, took him on a journey, and sold him as a slave — claiming to his wife that the boy had melted.
- In Fair Brow, he buys an enslaved woman; later, he and an old man are enslaved.
- In The Fledgling Year, Cor was kidnapped by slavers and spent several chapters MIA as a result until Aravis and Hana rescued him. The brutality of his experience is especially poignant not just because he’s his country’s crown prince, but also because he was raised as a slave by an abusive adoptive father, who actually tried to sell him to someone else, until he ran away. Getting dragged back into that life would be a Fate Worse Than Death for him more so than for any other character in the fic.
- In the second installment of Yognapped, Peva enslaves the surviving Yogscasters and forces them to work in his mines until they break bedrock, a seemingly impossible task. They accomplish it after nearly a month of work, resulting in Peva and the Ironstorm Remnants getting absolutely annihilated by the freed Herobrine. Peva survives, suffering a Villainous Breakdown after the incident.
- In the 16th chapter of "Game of Doctors" Gem Market, this almost happens to the 11th Doctor's companion Norine on the planet Sapphire, when she is kidnapped by the Quelta. This is apparently a common occurrence in the Gem Market. 11 rescues her and many other slaves.
- In the Kim Possible AU fic Ronman The Barbarian, this is the fate of Ronman and Ruthless after being on the losing side of the Battle of Go City. They free themselves soon enough. This happened to Wadelin, too, in the backstory.
Films — Animated
- In Tangled, the Stabbington brothers threaten Rapunzel with this.
Films — Live-Action
- Judah Ben Hur in book and film.
- Peter Blood, in Captain Blood; he is examined by Colonel Bishop, eventually bought by Bishop's niece (narrowly escaping the evil Dixon?s mines), and is employed by the Governor of Jamaica as a doctor.
- Maximus, in Gladiator.
- Geoffrey Thorpe, in The Sea Hawk.
- Ash, in Army of Darkness, which was a pretty significant Retcon from the end of Evil Dead 2, which ended with him being hailed as a hero.
- A subversion, as he wasn't really a slave, just a battlefield captive whom the medieval screwheads had yoked and shackled for the hike back to the castle. In his mind, chains + whips = slavery.
- Conan in Conan the Barbarian (1982). He was taken as a kid after Thulsa Doom doomed his village, was made to work on the Wheel of Pain, and then was made a gladiator, all of which contributed to making him a supreme badass by the time he was freed by his master.
- In Don Juan DeMarco, the title character relates a yarn about being captured by slave dealers and sold into the 'service' of a lusty Sultana. Not that he seems to have minded much. It probably helped that the Sultana kept him hidden in her husband's large harem (apparently she didn't object to sharing.) This incident also occurs in Lord Byron's epic poem Don Juan, upon which the movie is partially based.
- Doctor Edward Shaw of Cutthroat Island (played by Matthew Modine) was a teacher and medical doctor before being sentenced to slavery for "theft and moral turpitude" (its implied he seduced a nobleman's teenaged daughter) prior to the beginning of the movie's plot. By the end of the movie, he's free again, having become a member of a pirate band.
- Sam Flynn in TRON: Legacy. When he's picked up as a "stray program", he's immediately sent to the Games Grid, where he will fight until he dies.
- It's a running theme in the franchise. His father got the same treatment upon arriving in Cyberspace for the first time, and User-Believer Programs (including Tron and Ram) were conscripted into the Games as a way to get them killed. Beck was made into a game slave when he got captured. And in the Alternate Continuity of Tron 2.0, Jet is spared from execution when Mercury suggests this as his punishment instead.
- In The Ice Pirates, political prisoners and others are sold into slavery after being "redesigned" lobotomized and neutered, however, females remain "fully functional." They don't "redesign" clergy (shown by a captive monk) "just in case." Unfortunately for the monk shown, a much larger prisoner beats him up, changes clothes with him and escapes.
- In Young Guns, Yen Sun (Doc's Romantic Interest) becomes this to Lawrence Murphy when reputetly her mother (a washerwoman) ruined his shirt.
- The premise of 12 Years a Slave. Solomon Northup is a freeborn black man of New York, until he is drugged, kidnapped, and sold at auction as a Georgia runaway slave called Platt. He spends the next twelve years on three separate plantations, always seeking a path to return to his family.
- In Dracula Untold, Vlad in his youth was given as tribute along with 999 other Transylvanian boys to be trained as members of the Ottoman Janissary corps. The Ottomans try to do the same again when Vlad is ruler, but he defies them.
- Star Wars seems to like this.
- Leia in Return of the Jedi is the best known example. Jabba catches her after she snuck intno his palace dressed as a bounty hunter and he intends to keep her as his slave after killing the others. But while they're making their dramatic escape, Leia uses the chain Jabba put on her to strangle him.
- Chewbacca was made one, and was later rescued by Han when he was about to be killed, resulting in the life debt.
- Shmi Skywalker was made one sometime before Anakin's birth. She was rescued by her future husband who bought her from Wattoo and freed her after Anakin was freed and left home.
- Probably quite a few more examples in the expanded universe as well.
- Susan Gail in Five Weeks in a Balloon, though she is a slave when we first meet her.
- In A Brother's Price Jerin fears this fate - if he becomes unmarriageable by being Defiled Forever, his sisters will have no other choice than to sell him as Sex Slave. There is even an offer by some women they meet to rent Jerin for a night. His eldest sister is not amused. He is kidnapped later on, which would eventually lead to some form of slavery, but he is rescued.
- Oreg in Dragon Bones has this as his backstory. When he was about seventeen, his father gave him some (apparently drugged) soup, and when Oreg woke up he was the castle in which his father lived. And magically bound slave to the respective owner of the castle.
- Both Odysseus's swineherd Eumaius and his nurse Eurycleia were born royals but later enslaved in the Back Story.
- Hecuba and all the princesses of Troy after The Trojan War. Except for the one who is sacrificed at Achilles' tomb — in some versions, she tells Hecuba at least she's escaping slavery. In The Iliad Hector foresees and laments such a fate for Andromache.
Well do I know that the day will surely come when mighty Ilius shall be destroyed with Priam and Priam's people, but I grieve for none of these — not even for Hecuba, nor King Priam, nor for my brothers many and brave who may fall in the dust before their foes — for none of these do I grieve as for yourself when the day shall come on which some one of the Achaeans shall rob you forever of your freedom, and bear you weeping away. It may be that you will have to ply the loom in Argos at the bidding of a mistress, or to fetch water from the springs Messeis or Hypereia, treated brutally by some cruel task-master; then will one say who sees you weeping, 'She was wife to Hector, the bravest warrior among the Trojans during the war before Ilius.' On this your tears will break forth anew for him who would have put away the day of captivity from you. May I lie dead under the barrow that is heaped over my body ere I hear your cry as they carry you into bondage.
- In Beowulf, Hrothgar's queen is described as queenly and wearing gold, but her name is "Wealhtheow," which means "foreign slave." This is a possible Back Story for her, especially since the name is unique to her in Anglo-Saxon literature.
- Robinson Crusoe is briefly enslaved by Arabs at the start of the book.
- Phedre no Delauney in Kushiel's Legacy is made the Sex Slave of Skaldic (Viking) raiders.
- Thorby in Robert A. Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy has gotten halfway through the process described. The opening line:
"Lot number ninety-seven," the auctioneer announced, "a boy."
- Rhodry from the Deverry Cycle spends most of one book enslaved and amnesiac. He's not happy when he gets his memory back.
- Cohen the Barbarian in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series spent some years as a slave in his backstory.
- The protagonist of The Obsidian Chronicles was the sole survivor of a dragon attack on his village. The men who came to check for survivors found him... and promptly sold him as a slave to a nearby mine.
- The professor in A Distant Episode by Paul Bowles is made a slave. It doesn't end well.
- Several times during the course of the Gor series. Tarl's Heroic B.S.O.D. came when he chose "the ignominy of slavery" over "the freedom of honorable death."
- Forms the latter half of the plot of A Little Princess.
- In A Harvest Of War thousands of Draeze citizens are marched out of the city into slavery. It doesn't stick.
- The protagonist Dr. Cherijo Grey Veil from the Stardoc series gets enslaved by the Hsk'skt. She doesn't make a very good slave.
- The main character in Trickster's Choice, by Tamora Pierce, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in a neighboring nation. This actually forms the premise of the whole duet. Luckily the people she ends up with are fairly nice as things go, although extenuating circumstances mean she is treated better than most.
- She still deliberately gets herself injured during her first night in the slave pens, though, because she wants to avoid any owners who think she'd make a good bed-warmer; she deliberately makes her bruises look worse than they are, so that she'll give the impression of someone who would be more trouble than it's worth. She only finds out later that she didn't even need to do this—probably—because the Trickster god of the area is watching over her and wants her help. She's not happy to find out that she could have survived without needing to break her nose.
- This occurs to the main characters in C. S. Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in The Chronicles of Narnia. Good thing that the man who purchased Caspian was an old friend of his dead father, thus he releases the young king and decides to help.
- Shasta overhears the discussion to sell him as the newest slave of a rich Calormene military man in The Horse and His Boy and decides, with said man's mount Bree's help, to run away. It is Bree and Hwin's Back Story, as they were kidnapped from their valleys when very young and then used as Calormene mounts. And Queen Susan has reason to fear it, considering that Prince Rabadash is Yandere for her and wants her as his puppet at any cost.
- Alaric's fate in Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 novel Hammer of Daemons, in Gladiator Games. But he leads a Gladiator Revolt.
- In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novel Death or Glory, the orks have enslaved civilians.
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Traitor General, the surviving inhabitants of Gereon have been enslaved to destroy its Imperial temples. Later they were forced to work under excruciating conditions, and those who managed to live long enough to see the Imperial liberation became physical and emotional cripples.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs:
- In Chessmen of Mars, the Reverse Mole who saves Gahan and Tara was a childhood friend of Gahan's, enslaved.
- Tavia's Back Story in A Fighting Man Of Mars, though she was too young to remember. And also that of Tavan, a minor but significant character; John Carter frees him for his services and because he was obviously of noble birth gave him a place in the fleet. Plus, he turns out to be Tavia's father.
- In At the Earth's Core, David Innes fights for Dian. He does not realize that after it, he could take her hand to claim her as his wife, take her hand and let go to free her, or do nothing to make her his slave. He does nothing. She is not pleased.
- Diana Wynne Jones's The Tough Guide to Fantasyland lists it twice:
- Male Tourists, who become either galley slaves or gladiators
- The daughters of merchants who were brought along with the caravan; these appear to be the only source of harem slaves.
- This is the premise of Marion Zimmer Bradley's book Warrior Woman where the amnesiac protagonist is sold as a pleasure slave to the gladiators. She becomes a gladiator herself when she halves a newbie's skull with his own sword during inspection.
- A recurring plot in ''The World Of Gor'', it even occurs to Cabot more than once. Typically by the end of the book female characters learn to accept their place while male characters earn their freedom and otherwise rise above their slavery.
- Edward Rutherfurd's Sarum includes a few characters who are enslaved, and treats them more realistically than many writers (e.g. a pregnant woman is terrified to be made a slave, knowing her master will probably have her baby killed at birth rather than let a useless infant become a drain on his household).
- In Iron Dawn, Kepru is surprised that Barra wants to avoid the slave market, and assumes she was a victim of this trope. ("Nothing to be ashamed of: it could happen to anyone!") Subverted in that no, Barra was never a slave; she wants to avoid the market because she knows she won't be able to resist buying some out of pity.
- Aminata Diallo in The Book of Negroes is made a slave early on, and stays as one for roughly half the book.
- In book two in The Wheel of Time, Egwene al'Vere is made a damane by the Seanchan and treated like a dog. Although she is saved by the end of the book, it's tough on her mentally.
- Several characters are also captured and made slaves for the Shaido Aiel in the later books.
- Happens to Sophos in A Conspiracy of Kings.
- The various reactions that characters have to enslavement by the Draka drive the plot of S.M. Stirling's Under the Yoke, with some handling it far better than others.
- This happens to Soraya's mother and brother in the Farsala Trilogy. Surprisingly enough, she then arranges to be sold into slavery herself so that she might spy and gain information to free them.
- Happens in the Timothy Zahn book Dragon and Slave, after the main character is made a slave.
- Happens in one book in the Ranger's Apprentice series, when Will is kidnapped by Skandians after they find him burning down a bridge.
- In Space Wolf, the presumed fate of the survivors of Ragnar's tribe. Motivating his desire for revenge.
- In John C. Wright's The Orphans of Chaos, Miss Daw's Back Story. She can not help the children because she would break her oath. This would mean the next time they would not have mercy on the defeated side but just kill them all.
- In Neil Gaiman's Stardust, why Una is tending the stall at the market.
- In John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, one character recounts his managing to evade this trope:
It came burning hot into my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his House, he would sell me for a Slave.
- Jack Chalker's Flux & Anchor series begins with the main character, Cassie, being thrown into slavery after she discovers the corruption endemic in Mother Church. She eventually overcomes this to become the most powerful woman on World and in the Church, only to be put back into slavery by New Eden when she loses both her power and her ambition to hold it.
- In addition, pretty much the entire female population of New Eden can be said to be enslaved, complete with magical modifications to make it stick.
- Seyonne in Carol Berg's Rai-Kirah trilogy has this as his backstory. also several other characters, since there was something of a campaign for a long time.
- Mary Renault's The King Must Die is replete with Deliberate Values Dissonance here. Which is to say that since Theseus is a nice guy, when he picks his woman out of the choices, before he fights with another man, he gives orders that if he loses, they are to give her to one man and not make common sport of her, and when he survives he takes to her bed and promises that night never to give her to a guest against her will. (And the other slave women in his household don't get this, hmm?)
- Mary Renault again, in The Persian Boy, the second of her Alexander the Great novels. She has her title character, Bagoas son of Artembares, describe in precise detail how he was taken by his father's enemies, sold at market and castrated. At ten years old.
- In Aaron Dembski-Bowden's Warhammer 40,000 Night Lords novel Soul Hunter, the navigator Eurydice is captured by the Night Lord Talos, who already has a slave named Septimus — Primus, Secondus, etc have already died. Septimus doesn't even have to ask to start calling her Octavia. On the other hand, she was always treated as a pawn while free, so when the two slaves are attacked, and Talos treats Septimus's injuries, sets out into a stronghold of his enemies to save her from Attempted Rape, and gives Septimus the best quality augmentics for his body parts injured beyond repair — better than many rich can get — it's not too surprising that she becomes a loyal slave and even accepts Octavia.
- This seems to be the fate of Tsu'gan in Nick Kyme's Warhammer 40,000 novel Firedrake.
- In Sharon Shinn's Samaria series, Rachel's Back Story.
- In Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere Richard notes and carefully avoids a slave market.
- In James Swallow's short story "The Returned" Tarikus remembers his Back Story: being captured by the Red Corsairs and sold like cattle to Fabius Bile.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The People of the Black Circle", threatened to Yasmina:
"But for all your stupidity, you are a woman fair to look upon. It is my whim to keep you for my slave."
The daughter of a thousand proud emperors gasped with shame and fury at the word.
"You dare not!"
His mocking laughter cut her like a whip across her naked shoulders.In the glutted slave markets of Aghrapur, Sultanapur, Khawarizm, Shahpur, and Khorusun, women were sold for three small silver coins—blonde Brythunians, tawny Stygians, dark-haired Zamorians, ebon Kushites, olive-skinned Shemites.
It was exactly such laughter as he had heard bubble obscenely from the fat lips of the salacious women of Shadizar, City of Wickedness, when captive girls were stripped naked on the public auction block.
- Olivia's Back Story in "Shadows In The Moonlight"; of Royal Blood, she had refused an Arranged Marriage.
- Thoth-amon's Back Story in "The Phoenix on the Sword"; he lost his Ring of Power.
- In "The Scarlet Citadel" Conan remembers these markets
- Land of Oz series:
- In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is told it is easy to find the Witch: just go into her lands and she'll enslave you. Which is what happens, though the Witch finds the Lion much harder.
- Actually, the Witch ordered her servants to kill them, except for the Lion, who she thought was useful. The Winged Monkeys were only able to incapacitate the Scarecrow and the Tin Man (who Dorothy and the Witch's liberated slaves were able to find and repair later); Dorothy was spared because a blessing put upon her by the Witch of the South prevented them - or the villain - from hurting her. Taking her prisoner was the only option at that point, and the Witch simply had to bide her time until she could find a way around it.
- In Ozma of Oz, the Nome King justifies turning the queen of Ev and her children to ornaments because they had been sold to him as slaves, and it was more humane than slaving in the mines.
- In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is told it is easy to find the Witch: just go into her lands and she'll enslave you. Which is what happens, though the Witch finds the Lion much harder.
- Andre Norton:
- In Ordeal in Otherwhen, Charis signs an indefinite term labor contract; she is being traded for slaves for agricultural labor.
- In Judgment on Janus, Niall sells himself to buy enough drugs for his mother to have a peaceful death.
- In Graham McNeill's Horus Heresy novel False Gods, Maggard is an indentured servant, but his vocal cords have been removed to keep him from speaking in the presence of his mistress, and she uses him as a Sex Slave.
- In James H. Schmitz's The Witches of Karres, the hero's problems start when he helps a girl who had suffered this. Then she persuades him to help her two sisters.
- In Robert E. Howard's Kull story "The Shadow Kingdom", the Snakemen can enslave the ghosts of those they kill. After Kull and Brule see a king bound a thousand years ago, they promise to kill each other if the other is mortally wounded.
- In The Farthest Shore, Prince Arren is briefly sold as a galley slave, until Ged turns up, lays a smackdown on the slavers, and frees Arren and the other slaves.
- In George Eliot's essay "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists", she complains of a work supposed to be instructive because "the hero is a Jewish captive".
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion being sold to the galleys is part of the main character's backstory. The resulting scars are a minor plot point a few times, and then a major plot point in the end. (spoilered because once you know this the logic is obvious)
- In Shadows of the Apt, what the Wasps do with everyone not a Wasp and not killed.
- In Karen Hancock's The Light of Eidon, Abramm is kidnapped and sold as a slave (first as a scribe, later to be trained as the in-universe equivalent of a gladiator) at the order of his older brother who's gone insane.
- Happens to a number of characters in various books of Brian Jacques' Redwall series.
- The Gladiators, by George John Whyte-Melville, has a young man from Celtic Britain captured by invading Romans and eventually becoming an emancipated gladiator.
- In Stephen Hunt's The Rise of the Iron Moon, the fate of some humans under the slats.
- In The Roman Mysteries, Nubia starts the series as a slave. Many other children are also kidnapped and enslaved, forming the basis of the plots for The Pirates of Pompeii and The Colossus of Rhodes. The Four Detectives are briefly captured in The Pirates of Pompeii and are going to be sold as slaves. Jonathan is also briefly enslaved in The Assassins of Rome and at the end of The Enemies of Jupiter he uses the brand mark to pose as a slave. Three of the Four Detectives are captured yet again in The Colossus of Rhodes.
- In Dragonflight, the first book in the Dragonriders of Pern series, Lessa begins the story as a kitchen drudge.
- In The Silmarillion, both Men and Elves are enslaved by Morgoth and his minions. A specific example would be Gwindor, who is captured and forced to work in the forges of Angband, but later escapes.
- Tyrion Lannister and Jorah Mormont get caught by slavers and sold in A Dance with Dragons. Tyrion eventually talks his way out of slavery.
- The Stormlight Archive: Kaladin spends the first book of as a slave, having been enslaved by a treacherous aristocrat in the backstory. Highmarshal Amaram was being attacked by a full Shardbearer—a man wearing Magitek Powered Armor and a sword that can cut through anything. Kaladin led his squad of spearmen against the Shardbearer. Most of them died, but Kaladin himself managed to kill the Shardbearer, meaning the Shards now belonged to him. He refused them, as they reminded him too much of his lost friends. Amaram then killed the survivors of Kaladin's squad, took the Shards, and branded Kaladin a slave as a "mercy," since one slave won't be believed. It's no wonder that Kaladin violently hates nobles.
- According to the 13th century Heimskringla, Olaf Tryggvason, later to be king of Norway (ruled c. 995-1000 AD), as a boy was captured by Estonian vikings in the Baltic, and spent seven years as a slave in Estonia before he was found and ransomed by his uncle.
- Oliver, Lionel, and Rosamund in The Sea Hawk.
- The gamebook Quest for King Arthur has the player end up as a Saxon's farmhand in the Dark Ages.
- Two characters at the beginning of A Voice in the Wind: a young Jewess named Hadassah is enslaved along with many of her people when her hometown is raided; Germanic tribal warrior Atretes is taken as a prisoner of war and forced into the gladiatorial arena.
- In Victoria Hanley's The Seer and the Sword, the king returns with the enslaved prince of the conquered country, and gives him to his daughter.
- Dallet is enslaved by the Orcs in the opening pages of Captiveofthe Orcs, and stays that way through the whole of the story.
- In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, kobolds are enslaved tree spirits, made by carving the wood of their trees. Oberon has enslaved them all. Also, Titania enslaved the changelings, entrapping them all in delusions.
- It happens with some regularity to Rosemary Sutcliff's protagonists (or their Heterosexual Life-Partners), sometimes with tragic consequences, sometimes not: Esca in The Eagle of the Ninth, Beric in Outcast, Aquila in The Lantern Bearers, Owain and Regina in Dawn Wind, Conn in The Shining Company, Jestyn in Blood Feud, Arcadius and Timandra in The Flowers of Adonis, and Lubrin's entire tribe in Sun Horse, Moon Horse.
- The Hunger Games: Lavinia. Avoxes are the slaves of Panem.
- In The Girl From The Miracles District, Zelda, like many of her co-workers, has been kidnapped from her home and kept in the Miracles District until it "claimed" her, making her unable to leave and in effect perpetually enslaving her. She was lucky to have an excellent singing voice, which is why she was picked up by one of the better and thus more humane establishments in the district, but it's noted that many other women end up in a far worse position.
- Subverted in The Saga of the Faroe Islanders: Thrand of Gotu intends to rid himself of the boys Sigmund and Thorir, his kinsmen whose fathers have been killed with his accompliceship, by selling them as slaves. But the merchant Hrafn does not want to buy them unless Thrand gives him money to take the boys, and ultimately Hrafn thwarts Thrand's plan by setting the boys free in Norway.
- The Crimson Shadow: This is the fate of all Huegoth captives.
Live Action Television
- Roots: This famous story based on the novel of Alex Haley was made into an award winning TV series in 1976 and tells the story about black slavery in 19th century America. It was famous for being the first TV show to make slavery a topic.
- In one episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, nine Enterprise crew are captured by Orion slavers. One (T'Pol) sells for a high figure, presumably as a sex slave. Before her new owner can even complete filling out the paperwork, the Enterprise attacks.
- Doctor Who:
- In Warriors' Gate, the Tharls had enslaved people in the past — "The weak enslave themselves" — and now are slaves themselves. The Doctor gives them an Ironic Echo, and one concedes the justice, but they have suffered enough.
- Then there are the Ood enslaved and mutilated by humans. Poor Ood.
- In The Mutants, Ky complains this has been done to his people.
- In Underworld, most of the people on the planet are enslaved to labor. They think the "sky falls" (tunnel collapses) are done to keep their number low, just enough to labor.
- In Frontios, to captured humans.
- In ''The Dominators'', the Dominators enslave the Doctor and Jamie.
- In The Ark, between the two time periods, humanity has been enslaved.
- In Planet of the Daleks, the Spiridons.
- This is Spartacus' story in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, but goes for pretty much all slaves in the series.
- Survivors: Tom, who gets this treatment as punishment for a murder he committed. Greg too, for trying to help him escape.
- Angel: Fred and Cordelia both end up having this happen when they go through a portal to Pylea, a demon dimension that keeps humans as slaves. Fred managed to disable her explosive collar and lived hiding out in a cave for five years, while Cordelia is seen having a vision and is declared a prophesied Chosen One.
- Jessica Jones: Kilgrave frequently controls the same people for long periods of time to cater or support him during his endeavors.
- Jessica Jones was Kilgrave's all-purpose slave while he had her under control, serving as his Sex Slave and Slave Mook in addition to fulfilling his fantasy that they were in a romantic relationship.
- On multiple occasions he is shown taking over an apartment and having the previous occupants cook and clean for him.
- One man in the Kilgrave support group was forced to be his chauffeur for more than a week.
- At least one woman he had follow him around for long periods just because he liked the way she smiled.
- When Kilgrave and Jessica speak later in the series she explicitly refers to these sorts of people as slaves (although, ironically, in that particular instance the two people under discussion - Hank and the bodyguards - were not, as Kilgrave had hired those two with actual money in order to defuse this specific accusation from Jessica). Double subverted later on, though, when it turns out he did have them under his control; just not in the way Jessica expected. He uses his powers as the primary way of controlling them, and he pays them so they continue to carry out his orders even when he isn't capable of giving them.
- In Flash Gordon, Flash and other political prisoners are enslaved at the atomic furnace in the city of the hawkmen.
- In Aida, this is how the princess, Aida, ended up in Egypt.
Religion and Mythology
- Greek Mythology: Heracles/Hercules was basically forced to do whatever Hera told him to do during the Twelve Labors. One of the actual labors was cleaning out the manure from a stable, a menial task which was meant to humiliate Heracles.
- This didn't work out, as Hercules diverted a river to flush the stables like a giant toilet.
- However, on another occasion he was forced to atone for a murder by becoming the slave of a queen named Omphale for a time, which had a more humbling effect (in some versions Omphale forces him to wear a dress and perform tasks normally reserved for women).
- ...and in other versions, he's tasked with impregnating 50 women (as the amazon queen assumed this would take him a long time, leaving her plenty of time to seduce his attractive friend). He managed it in a single night and departed for his next task the next day. Some of his tasks were pretty awesome.
- This didn't work out, as Hercules diverted a river to flush the stables like a giant toilet.
- Plato was invited to Sicily because the tyrant Dionysius the Elder, wanted philosophers at his court. Plato showed up, gave him advice, and sufficiently offended Dionysius that he sold him into slavery, and his friends had to buy him back. This did not stop him from going to advise Dionysius the Younger a generation later, too, which ended more peacefully, if no more successfully.
- After Persephone's abduction, Demeter wandered the earth, and when she finally stopped at a household, she told them she had escaped slavers who had captured her.
- Joseph (the one who got the Technicolour Dreamcoat) in The Bible.
- And in Joseph and his Brothers. He gets bought for his prettiness — as a kind of home accessory.
- Also in The Bible: The Jews in general, in Egypt (early in the book of Exodus) and again when conquered by the Assyrians and Babylonians. And just after the New Testament, happens to lots of Jews when the Romans crush a couple of rebellions.note
- The women in the Greek camp in the Iliad. Also, Tecmessa, who was Ajax's captive.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- This will definitely happening to anyone (Player Characters or otherwise) who are taken alive by the neogi, an evil race of bug-like creatures who first appeared in the Spelljammer setting but appear in other settings. Turning other races into slaves is their hat, so to speak, and powerful neogi even do it to weaker neogi. (They view the whole universe in terms of ownership; in their culture, the strong possess and dominate the weak.)
- The dao (a type of genie of elemental Earth) are another race known for being notorious slavers. Ironically, the dao themselves were forced into a type of divine slavery when their ruler was defeated by the Faceless God of the yikaria (or yak-folk), requiring the dao to serve the yikaria for "a thousand years and a year". (How much of that sentence had already passed at mainstream time is not known.) Due to this agreement, every yikaria has the ability to summon a dao - so long as he does not already have one as a servant - who must serve unquestionably until the sun has set twice.
- In the 4th Edition guidebook Monster Manual 2, Slavers are one of several varieties of humans that are outlined as possible antagonists. The Lore section states, "Slavers are themselves slaves to greed and power", which is true, more often than not.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Orks enslave humans on planets they fight on.
- Dark Eldar enslave with Pirate raids to capture.
- Chaos forces enslave the population when they take a planet.
- The Imperium enslaves convicts.
- Even Imperial Space Marines have slaves to do work that a Space Marine is not needed for. Though the Marines' slaves are generally failed Marine candidates who somehow survived washing out, and are often more than happy to help, since they're still in a better position than the vast majority of Imperial citizens. Most such slaves who appear in the fluff are immensely valued personal assistance who even receive longevity treatments that only the rich normally get.
- Although Space Marine serfs are also, in some cases, even better trained than the Imperial Guard in combat, being expected to join the defence of their masters' fortress-monasteries if an enemy ever manages to get close enough to be a threat to them. In some fluff it is revealed that some Chapters have serfs who are born, raised, live their lives and die in the Chapter's service.
- In the Back Story of the universe, Angron's childhood in the Gladiator Games and his leadership in the Gladiator Revolt stemmed from this.
- Gue'vesa, humans who have been folded into the Tau Empire's sphere of influence. Many Gue'vesa, and fans, might not see it that way.
- Space 1889 the great European powers, particularly the British are trying to stop slavery in general and slave trade in particular. However it is alive and well on Mars. At least one Red Sand scenario can start when the players are captured and enslaved by High Martians. There is another adventure in Challenge 42 where the players are captured by bandits who intend to sell them as slaves.
- Euripides' The Trojan Women 's entire premise is that the Trojan princesses being divided up among the victors.
- In Andromache, Andromache is the victim of her master's jealous wife, Hermione. Who was a Spartan — at the time of the Athenian-Spartan wars. Naturally, Andromache comes off well.
- In the Back Story of Othello, Othello won Desdemona by telling his Back Story — including this.
- Happens to Marina in Shakespeare's Pericles, Prince of Tyre. She manages to talk her way out of her Fate Worse Than Death, however.
- A standard plot in the plays of the Roman playwright Plautus. This being the best way to ensure that the adulescens can make a legitimate marriage with the "flute girl" he's fallen for: she turns out to have been captured by Pirates at a young age and is revealed to be the long-lost daughter of the next-door neighbor.
- The player character in Age of Conan starts out as a slave.
- Rhen is kidnapped from her village and is sold into slavery in Aveyond
- Dragon Quest V: You're the son of a hero and you travel with him. A short way through the game you meet the Big Bad Guy, get your ass handed to you and spend the next ten years as a slave.
- Fallout 3: Upon entering "The Pitt," the Player Character is jumped and enslaved. (Which is pretty egregious Cutscene Incompetence.)
- Also a massive But Thou Must!, since the way you're "supposed" to do it is by willingly dressing up as a slave and turning yourself in as a failed "escapee". And needless to say, you're immediately "volunteered" for the most dangerous job available, and then again "volunteered" participate in the Gladiator Games - only by a fellow slave! Granted, you're the only one capable of doing the jobs, and this was pretty much the entire escape plan from the start, considering that winning in the Gladiator Games means you're freed from slavery and can become one of the slavers, where you then have free run of the Pitt and can do anything and everything you want to free and cure the sick slaves. If only it were that simple.
- Neverwinter Nights module A Dance with Rogues had a particularly memorable long unskippable cutscene where you are being sold at the drow slave market.
"Buy one kobold, get one free!"
- This shows up in the plots of a few characters in Valkyrie Profile, mainly in the main character's, in which she ends up getting herself killed in order to avoid being sold off by her parents.
- This was part of Juhani's Back Story in Knights of the Old Republic. Turns out Revan was the one who freed her from it. You also can skewer the guy who tried to buy her on your lightsabers. You also find a small child who ran away from Mandalorian raiders who speaks mostly gibberish, a few people who were sold into slavery as punishment for debts, and you have to free Bastila from the swoop gang planning to auction her off on the galactic slave market.
- In the second game, Mira was also technically a slave of the Mandalorian raiders who destroyed her home. Unlike most examples, they weren't abusive to her, teaching her how to fight and handle explosives as though she were a Mandalorian child.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the backstory of the Sith Inquisitor is that they were a former slave, who earned their freedom when they were discovered to be force-sensitive. They were then given two options; Go to the Sith Academy on Korriban for Training from Hell... or die!
- In King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human, Manannan prefers to enslave young boys to do his menial work, calling them all "Gwydion," and killing them on their 18th birthday or if they learn too much. His latest is the Player Character.
- Fenris from Dragon Age II got a double dose of this in his backstory. Being an elf in Tevinter, he was already born a slave. Then his master Danarius augmented Fenris with lyrium tattoos in a painful ritual that literally burned his memories away. An "honor" Fenris competed for so he could win his mother and sister's freedom. The person Fenris was ceased to exist, leaving a powerful and completely obedient Blank Slate. Fenris didn't develop a taste for freedom until a certain My God, What Have I Done? moment prompted him to flee Tevinter and never look back. He can be Made a Slave again if Hawke allows Danarius to reclaim him. Fenris will be so disheartened by the betrayal that he'll surrender without a fight. A grateful Danarius will send a letter to Hawke mentioning that Fenris' memories were wiped out again and he is once more an obedient slave, and he extends an invitation to Hawke to visit his estate in Tevinter.
- In the Hegemony Series, if you manage to capture retreating enemies, you get to do this to them. It's a cheap alternative to hiring workers for the mines or supply duties.
- Generic Bandits in the Fire Emblem Series try to do this to pretty much any female character. They have nothing to do with the plot, they serve no purpose except to teach the player the ins and outs of the system, and it happens so frequently that it's become a Running Gag among the fanbase.
- In Transarctica, you can capture the crews of Viking trains and enslave them to work in your coal mines, or purchase slaves in towns to the same effect. Additionally, it is possible to capture slaves while fighting the Mole Men in underground tunnels.
- In the Splatterhouse remake, it is eventually revealed that the Terror Mask knows so much about the Corrupted because it was enslaved by them. For eons, by its own account. So it uses Rick to enact its own Roaring Rampage of Revenge against them.
- The Dreamland Chronicles: The pirates' threat of this inspires him to fight here.
- The Order of the Stick: The first step gets foiled here by Belkar's Berserk Button.
- Earlier, Belkar proposed it for Samantha after they defeated the bandits.
- When they get to the Empire of Blood, Roy and Belkar gets captured and become gladiators.
- Camp Calomine: Reflecting on history
- Fansadox: Every. Last. Issue. And it sticks.
- Lustomic: Male submission/forced slaves.
- Wapsi Square: The golem girls were used as enslaved guardians, only Bud recognized it for what it was.
- Impure Blood Roan. And Dara.
- In Endstone, they think they can enslave Kyri because she's a higher animal and one customer doesn't want her slaughtered yet.
- Nodwick and the other abducted henchmen
- Vattu is sold into slavery by her tribe as payment to the Sahtan empire.
- Terinu: Teri's best friend Matt is a notable case. He was indentured to a psychotic Space Pirate when he was eight to pay for his father's drinking induced debts. It says something about how sucktacular his family's life was that this was an improvement.
- In Our Little Adventure, the life of a raised wight until its creator is killed.
- In Sinfest, the aliens' plans for humanity.
- In Dragon Mango, some captured goblins are forced to work until they pay off their debt.
- Joe in Statless And Tactless talks the group into enslave Mari because it actually protect her more then harm her. Also it would piss off her player, Ian.
- Though this is technically supposed to just be for appearances and not actual slavery, Soo immediately takes a liking to the idea of owning someone.
- Futurama, "A Pharaoh To Remember": Fry, Leela and Bender are made slaves to an Ancient Egypt-themed planet. The Pharaoh is about to free them when he dies, and Bender scams his way into being the next Pharaoh, leaving Fry and Leela as slaves until the end of the episode.
- Also happens when Hermes and LaBarbara are enslaved on vacation. Hermes uses his powers of Bureaucracy to "efficiently" dump all the work on one Australian guy and free everyone else.
- A tamer example appears in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "A Dog and Pony Show". Diamond Dogs (a pack of dog-like creatures who love jewels) see Rarity using her magic to find gems, so they capture her and force her to work for them. It's never directly called slavery, but still. She manages to get them to let her go (and go off with all the gems) through the power of whining.
- In Beast Wars, this is how Rampage winds up serving Megatron. Rampage's spark is immortal, so Megatron cuts off a piece of it and places it in a box that he can use to inflict excruciating pain on Rampage if he disobeys.
- Starfire is rescued from this fate by the other Titans in the pilot episode of Teen Titans (which is how they met). No real details on how it originally happened were revealed.
- The original G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero showed that Cobra did this to quite a few civilians, and to Scarlet in the Five-Episode Pilot. This came back to bite them - in one scene, a gutsy female slave working as a maid threw water upon the M.A.S.S. device, causing it to break down and foiling Cobra Commander's attempt to vaporize New York City. And in the conclusion of the same arc, they had a full Slave Revolt on their hands when the heroes stormed their compound.
- Bear Story: The bear is kidnapped from his home and family and enslaved, forced to perform in a circus.
- Unfortunately still happens everywhere, yes even in first world countries. As many as 27,000,000 of them.
- A convoluted example comes from the early history of the United States. The first slaves in Britain's American colonies were prisoners transported to the New World and sold to the plantation owners as craftsmen, house servants, and field workers. While these "indentured servants" never regained their freedom, upon reaching adulthood any children born to them became free after a period of six years spent working for their parents' owners as "repayment" for the food, shelter, and education they were provided as children.
- Modern example: This is a huge problem in the cocoa industry. Children are bought cheap (or kidnapped) in Ivory Coast and forced to work. It is estimated that 95% of the kids are not paid for the work, and due to the heavy loads they carry and machetes they use they often get injuries that go untreated. Around 42% or so of cocoa comes from this place.
- When the Greek philosopher Phaedo of Elis was young, he was taken prisoner in war and was subsequently sold into slavery in Athens, where he was forced into prostitution. Eventually he met Socrates, who took a liking to him and had him freed.
- La Malinche, a Nahua woman who lived in what is now Mexico, was given to the Spanish conquistadors as a "servant". She ended up serving Hernan Cortes as a translator and eventually became his mistress, and bore him a child.
- Los Zetas, a major Mexican crime syndicate, has been known to kidnap telecoms engineers to build and maintain their communications network. Unlike their usual kidnapping victims, ransoms are not offered and the victims are believed to be killed when they have outlived their usefulness.
- The Islamic State in Iraq and Levant has been known, and proclamed publicly, to set up slave markets where female Sex Slaves capturated from Yezidi communities were to be sold.