Rescued from the Underworld

aka: Orphean Rescue
Orpheus in the underworld, rescuing his wife. For a value of "rescue" that includes walking off with a lute.

"Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?"

A beloved character has been taken someplace beyond mortal ken and reckoning. But thankfully, the land of the dead is a place that can be visited. If the protagonist can brave the journey To Hell and Back, they can free the soul and resurrect them. Success is not guaranteed though.

Sometimes it's not the body that's gone but the mind or soul, which can happen if they are lost in Cyberspace or in a Dream Within a Dream. They may have been trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine or Psychological Torment Zone, or had their Soul taken into the Spirit World.

Compare To Hell and Back.

This is a Death Trope so expect heavy spoilers.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • Black★Rock Shooter: Mato becomes/fuses with the eponymous Black Rock Shooter and goes to the Otherworld to save Yomi from Dead Master.
  • Bleach
    • The Soul Society arc sees the gang travel to the Soul Society to rescue Rukia.
    • The Arrancar Arc sees the gang travel to Hueco Mundo to rescue Orihime.
    • In the first film, Ichigo's and the gang have to travel to the Dangai to rescue Senna.
    • In the second film, Hitsugaya flees in exile to the human world, accidentally catches up Ichigo in his woes before sneaking back into Soul Society to try and solve the mess by himself, causing Ichigo to travel back to Soul Society to help save Hitsugaya and clear his name.
    • In the third film, Ichigo and co. travel back to Soul Society to rescue Rukia in what is an unashamedly obvious rewrite of the Soul Society arc with slightly different villains.
    • In the fourth film, Ichigo travels to Hell to rescue Yuzu.
  • InuYasha: Early in the series, Kagome doesn't enter hell, but gets very close to the entrance to save a child's soul who had died.
  • One of the many, many MANY subplots of Angel Sanctuary is about Setsuna trying to get back the soul of his beloved sister Sara. Cue travel to the Hades, learning she already left... and we have not even covered 25% of the series.
  • In Jack and the Witch the titular boy hero descends into a frigid cave full of growing and shifting ice to rescue the banished witch Allegra, who'd been sent there by the Harpy Queen to freeze to death. The Ice Cave and its subsequent shift into a magical battleground seem to be tied to the Queen's magic, as they fade out once her crystal ball is smashed.
  • Happens twice in the same instance in Kamisama Kiss when Nanami follows Kirihito into the Underworld only to wind up in trouble herself which causes Tomoe to come after her.
  • Happens twice in Dennou Coil, where one has the ability to connect to the internet through your mind via Augmented Reality glasses. Both Haruken and Isako get trapped in Coil Space, causing them to fall into a coma. Yasako has a hand in bringing them back both times.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion brings us this, with the most unlikely Orpheus of them all... Shinji Ikari goes berserk and red-eyed, utterly stomps the Tenth Angel into the dust and pulls Rei, who got eaten along with her Eva, out of the dead Angel's core. Subverted in true Evangelion fashion since bringing Rei back involved creating an apocalypse that nearly wiped out the whole world, and Shinji doesn't actually get to be with Rei after Kaworu stops the apocalypse by spearing Eva-01 from space.
  • This trope is subverted in Shamanic Princess. The heroine's childhood companion, Sara, is trapped in a painting. The characters try various things to extract her, including entering the painting itself (although that was more the painting's idea,) but they never succeed. Sara cannot be saved and does not need saving, because it was her destiny to fuse with the painting.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion. It's a major plotline of the movie, as the Incubators had tried to force Homura to become a Witch by selectively isolating Homura's Soul Gem from interference, thus forcing all the grief and despair building up to remain within. Madoka mounts a rescue mission by entering Homura's Soul Gem and breaking her out from within; Magical Girls both still alive (Mami, Kyoko) and those whom Goddess Madoka had already taken when their Soul Gems ran out of magic (Sayaka, Nagisa) join her, though the rescue hits a couple of snags en route.
  • Chapters 6 through 10 of Pupipo feature Wakaba and Po on a mission to bring back their friend Azuma after she is hit by a car.
  • In the original Neon Genesis Evangelion, one of the main characters—Rei Ayanami—is eaten alive towards the end of the series by one of the massive monsters called Angels, ultimately leading to Shinji Ikari's epic-level breakdown in The Movie. In the remake, however, Shinji snaps, ascends to Godhood in his giant robot (despite the fact that it could lead to The End of the World as We Know It) and dives into the Angel's core to pull Rei out and bring her back to life.

    Comic Books 
  • During Mark Waid's run, the Fantastic Four rescued their fallen teammate Ben Grimm in this manner.
  • The Sandman features at least two cases: The title character going into Hell to release an old love he'd condemned after she rejected him, and his son Orpheus's trope-naming trip to retrieve Eurydice.
  • In The Phantom Stranger tie-in to Trinity War, the Phantom Stranger and a few other heroes go to heaven's basement to rescue the soul of a dead hero. They fail and the Stranger is sent to oblivion while the heroes are sent back to Earth.
  • A story arc of Secret Six had them doing this to rescue Scandal's lover Knockout.
  • The second Swamp Thing Annual has the title character, with the assistance of The Phantom Stranger and Etrigan, journey out-of-body to Hell in order to rescue Abby, whose soul her uncle Anton Arcane had maliciously cast down there.

    Fan Fiction 

  • In Propagation Blackgaurd dumps Taylor, the LA Wards, some of the LA Protectorate, a couple supervillains, and about a square mile of LA into another dimension.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami features this in the Sailor Moon native-verse subplot. At first it's just Usagi, Rei, and Luna, later they are joined by Makoto. Played with somewhat, however, as a way to get Ami home is apparent quite early on from Ami's end, it's simply too dangerous for the Light Gods to send her, as the Dark Gods will immeadiately use that opportunity to attack Ami's world. The overarching plot then revolves on overcomeing this.
  • A variation appears in Shadowchasers Power Primordial. After a dark curse traps Ember's soul in the Venomous Tarns (the realm of Seghulerak, the demonic goddess of the ophidia, making it heaven for ophidia and hell for anyone else), with her physical body being guarded by her kidnappers, Jetta the Bronze Hearted (a Cosmic Entity whom Ember is supposed to sponsor) is the only ally who knows about it, but can't act herself. The solution is to communicate (through a vision) Ember's cousin and Big Brother Mentor to go there in spiritual form, and help muster up the willpower to break the curse on her own. (Not only does it work, but it sets up an important Chekov's Gun for when Ember physically escapes her kidnappers later, and has to confront her Arch-Enemy.)
  • In Being Dead Aint Easy, when Seto refuses to leave the Soul Room, leaving his body empty, Joey heads in to rescue him.

  • Black Orpheus is the Orpheus myth set in 20th century Brazil. Orfeo, who refuses to accept that Eurydice is really dead, is led down a staircase to The Underworld, where he hears Eurydice's voice at a native religious ceremony. Before he even has a a chance to find out if he can lead her out, he turns and looks, and she's gone.
  • Inception had Cobb rescue Fischer and Saito from the deepest subconscious.
    • Funnily enough, Limbo's closest to his deepest unconscious, as he's the only one who's been down there long enough (local time) to build anything.
    • Mal became The Missingno. and The Ophelia because Dom's attempt to rescue her from Limbo worked much too well. Dom planted the idea that they should kill themselves to get out of Limbo in her mind, but the idea was so firmly implanted that she ended up killing herself in waking life. After that, Dom's subconscious projection of Mal tormented him with memories of the botched Orphean Rescue and played havoc with damn near every one of his dream schemes. Dom eventually conquered her with a complete inversion of the Orphean Rescue—he told Mal's projection that he was done with her and would leave the memories in Limbo.
  • Poltergeist: Carol Anne is kidnapped by the ghosts and taken to the astral plane where they are trapped.
  • The low-budget film Tequila Body Shots doesn't even hide the fact that the climax will be this: The protagonist's name is Johnny Orpheus. Plus...guess what he uses to bring his love interest back from where she is?
  • In What Dreams May Come, the protagonist goes into hell to find his wife's soul who is trapped in her own guilt after committing suicide.
  • Averted awesomely in Hellboy. Hellboy's love interest has just been captured by the things the villains have been trying to summon. Knowing that they're using her body as a host, Hellboy tells them to let her go—or he'll come in and get her. She's immediately released.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, starts off with Will, Elizabeth and Barbossa planning on going to the afterlife to retrieve Jack Sparrow.
  • Done by the protagonist in the campy 1992 movie Highway To Hell, after his girlfriend is kidnapped by the devil. (That's right, kidnapped; while still alive. The Deal with the Devil part is saved for when they try to escape.)

  • Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator has Willy Wonka and Charlie go deep down to rescue Grandma Georgina from Minus Land, where she went after having reduced her age to below zero.
  • Overdrawn at the Memory Bank has this trope, though in this case, Apallonia knows exactly where Fingal's mind is; it's his body she's having trouble finding.
  • In Briar's Book, Briar follows his teacher into death to convince her to come back.
  • Full Tilt by Neil Schusterman involves a boy going to rescue his brother from some kind of hell, appearing as an Amusement Park of Doom, after he was lured in.
  • In A Wizard Of Earthsea, Ged tries to save a dying child, following her soul on the way to the land of the dead; but he doesn't manage to keep her from entering it and being lost.
  • There's a medieval narrative poem, Sir Orfeo, loosely inspired by Orpheus, where King Orfeo successfully wins back his wife held captive by The Fair Folk. He plays his harp so beautifully that the king of the fairies promises him any reward he wants.
  • The Friendship Song by Nancy Springer has this with Harper and Rawnie venturing to the underworld to rescue the soul of a rock singer. It's then played with as he has to choose to come back on his own.
  • In Deep Secret, Nick goes to Babylon in order to restore his half-sister Maree after her soul is stripped from her. Babylon isn't the land of the dead exactly, but it's definitely "outside here or there." On the way back, Nick remembers the legend of Orpheus and refuses to look back even though he can hear Maree behind him, which was a very wise decision.
  • In the Heirs Of Alexandria series, Maria assumes a Persephone like role to become Queen of the Underworld and use her powers to save everyone. Upset that she was tricked into this, Benito travels to the Underworld to rescue her. Hades agrees to let her go, under one condition: she will follow him back to the land of the living, but he must take it on trust that she's actually there. If he ever looks back to verify her presence, she must return to Hades. Of course, being who he is, he cheats: he has one of his companions, a knight in mirror-polished armor, walk in front of him so he can see her reflection in the armor.
  • In the Discworld novel The Light Fantastic, Twoflower is hit by a poisoned blade and his soul is sent to Death's domain. Rincewind is given a potion by the necromancer in a nearby settlement, and his soul also leaves for Death's domain. He finds that Twoflower has been teaching the four horsemen of the apocalypse to play bridge, which has not gone down terribly well. Rincewind then rescues Twoflower and both of their souls manage to get back to their bodies soon.
  • The Iron King is about a sister rescuing her kidnapped brother in Fairyland.
  • In the Star Wars EU, Jaina Solo at one point tries to enter Tahiri Viela's mind to help Tahiri overcome her Yuuzhan Vong persona.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Mat and company enter the Tower of Ghenjei to rescue Moiraine.
  • Paul Kidd's third Greyhawk book, Queen of the Demonweb Pits, ends with a trip to Thoth's realm to rescue Enid.
    Enid: Just how much trouble have I put you to?
    Escalla: None! Nothing we minded! Well, we had to steal the clone spell from this wizard guy in Greyhawk, then make you a new body at Dad's place, then find the river Mnemos, fight a few evil denizens, avoid a few rampaging armies, then find this place and bust in. Simple!
  • Double Subverted in "The Land Of Oblivion". The heroine's brother is really dead, and nothing can actually resurrect him. However, he is captured in the Bad part of afterlife (the titular land), and about to be made Deader Than Dead, and she manages to bust him out and bring him to a place where he can enjoy a happy afterlife.

    Live Action TV 
  • Seamus Zelazny Harper did this a time or two on Andromeda for the AI of the ship. It included a combo Journey to the Center of the Mind that happened to be Cyberspace.
  • The third season of the UK Being Human (UK) included one of these early on. It's not without larger consequences.
  • Doctor Who
    • The two-parter "Silence in the Library" and "Forest of the Dead", where Donna is 'saved' into a virtual computer system world. The Doctor works to get her back and restore the rest of the planet's population, all the while fighting off the Vashta Nerada.
    • "Dark Water" sees an attempt to rescue Danny Pink after he passes on to an afterlife that Clara and the Doctor can't quite understand yet.
  • Most of the plot of The Lost Room is the lead character recovering his daughter from this situation.
  • Episode 4 of MythQuest sees Alex, as Orpheus, go into Hades to rescue Eurydice.
  • Charmed:
    • The final episode of Season 4 has Phoebe cast a spell on herself to enter the Wasteland - where demons go when vanquished - when Cole contacts her through a medium. Subverted in that she has no interest in rescuing him, she wants him to let go and stop bothering her.
    • The Season 6 opener has them travelling to Valhalla to save Leo, who has been trapped there for a month. This involves stealing Darryl's soul (and then saving him too once Leo emerged).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel both involve this trope from time to time.
    • Rescues from Hell pop up more than a few times on both shows.
    • Buffy goes catatonic right before the season 5 finale (requiring a Journey to the Center of the Mind by Willow to help her snap out of it).
    • When Angel loses his soul (again), he and Faith end up sharing a drugged dream state where they trade barbs while observing Angel's memories from his quest for redemption as she tries to find a way to restore his soul.
    • The last season of Angel has a disproportionate number of these as well.
      • The attempt to rescue Spike's ghost before he is destroyed
      • The journey to the private little suburban hell with the torture chamber in the basement (an unalterable "Groundhog Day" Loop that the person knows ends with hours of torture). Done a couple times, once to rescue someone with important info who was trapped there by the Senior Partners, then back again later to rescue the guy who had to take his place on the first trip.
  • Happens a few times on Supernatural, albeit offscreen. Castiel rescues Dean from Hell and Sam from Lucifer's cage. A group of angels rescue Castiel from Purgatory. An onscreen example occurs in Season 8, when Sam rescues Bobby from Hell, only for both of them to be rescued from Purgatory by Benny.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Orpheus is the Trope Codifier. When his wife Eurydice died, Orpheus entered the underworld and convinced Hades to let her return to the world of the living. However, Hades allowed it on the condition that Orpheus lead his wife back without looking at her until they're on the other side. Unlike the majority of the examples on this page, though, he ultimately failed in his quest. Some versions of the myth state that Orpheus was out of the underworld when he turned to look at her, but his wife wasn't. Orpheus' response to this was to blaspheme the gods through his songs until they got sick enough of him to strike him dead.
    • Heracles did something similar when he went to the Underworld to abduct Cerberus for his Twelfth Labor. While there, his found his cousin Theseus and Theseus' friend Pirithous, who Hades had bound to a chair as punishment for trying to kidnap Persephone. Hades said he could take Theseus with back with him - if he could. Heracles managed to wrest Theseus free, but he wasn't allowed to do the same for Pirithous. (Pirithous had been the orchestrator of the plan and Theseus was only guilty by association, so Hades was willing to let him go.) As this story and the one with Orpheus seems to show, more-or-less, even attempting a rescue like this in Greek Mythology is impossible unless you have Hades' permission.
      • Another possible example of this Trope regarding Heracles — depending on the version — was the story where when he wrestled Thanatos to rescue the soul of Alcestis, a brave woman who sacrificed herself so her husband could live. Whether this fits the Trope or not is disputed, because some versions say the battle did, indeed happen in the Underworld, while others suggest that Thanatos had not left Earth yet; but since the myth always claims that Thanatos had already taken Alcestis' soul, it is possible. Whatever the case, Heracles was successful this time too.
    • Persephone was, herself, literally abducted and dragged into Hades, and her mother went batshit insane, which is bad when you're the goddess of The Earth. Hermes went to retrieve Persephone, but discovered that she had eaten of the food of the underworld while there, which bound her to Hades. A compromised was reached that allowed Persephone to leave Hades for half the year, then spend the other half as the queen of the dead. The half which she is on earth is the autumn, winter, and spring (growing seasons in Greece), while the dry, hot Greek summers are caused when she leaves for the underworld and her mother grieves.
      • A modern retelling has her voluntarily running off with Bad Boy Hades to get away from her overcontrolling and overprotective mother, and when it looks like war between the gods if she doesn't come back, she eats a few pomegranate seeds deliberately to ensure she at least gets a vacation from mom once a year, meaning for her "purgatory" is actually the half of the year she's not in the Underworld.
      • Theseus also accompanied his friend Pirithoos into Hades when the latter took a fancy to Persephone; they both got stuck there until Heracles freed them on a completely unrelated mission (see example above).
  • Japanese Mythology:
  • Mesopotamian Mythology:
  • Hindu Mythology:
    • A female version from India: the princess Savitri followed Yama, the lord of death, when he took her husband Satyavan. Yama was so impressed with her wisdom and courage that he eventually let her take Satyavan back.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Champions Organization Book 1 The Circle and M.E.T.E.: One of the adventure seeds for the Circle is having Oeramm attack the Circle, capture Aureole or a PC and take them back to his home plane, from which they will have to be rescued.
  • You can bring back dead people from The Underworld in Geist: The Sin-Eaters, but not without paying some (very terrible) price to the Kerberoi.
  • The Greek Mythology themed Theros cycle in Magic: The Gathering has the black card Rescue from the Underworld, which involves one of the players creatures leaving play and returning next turn along with one that was in the graveyard. The same block also has Reviving Melody, which depicts a Gender Swapped version of the original tale.
  • The supplement to Don't Rest Your Head, Don't Lose Your Mind, has a lovely example in the example Madness Power titled "O is for Orpheus":
“You need to understand it wasn’t her fault, alright? You need to understand none of this was her fault, but suicide means something to a Catholic. So I walked down and carried her back. She tried to fight me and run back to it. Can you believe that? She tried to run back to the eating and purging and eating and...”
“I’m going to walk back when I get my head together a little and try and find the rest of her, but until then...”
Like he said, she’s got to eat.
  • Easily possible in Forgotten Realms, due to the ease with which the Outer Planes can be accessed.
    • Occurs with the soul of Aribeth in the Forgotten Realms-set game Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark.

    Video Games 
  • This is actually Arthur's goal in the second game of the Ghosts N Goblins series. (He's still trying to rescue his beloved Princess Prin-Prin, but in this one, Lucifer kills her and captures her soul.)
  • This seems to be the entirety of Drawn to Life. The creator (seemingly the player character and the force behind the protagonist) is Heather, who in the real world was Mike's older sister. In the real world, Mike and Heather were in a devastating car crash which put Mike in a coma and killed their parents. Heather's imagination plus The Power of Love sent Mike into the world of Drawn to Life. The Next Chapter consists of getting everything together so that Mike can wake up again.
  • Kingdom Hearts sets up about six of these in Birth by Sleep. Interesting because all six are important characters whose growth, contribution to the plot, and tragic downfall took up about the space of a full game each, and each of them went in a completely different way. So it's a bit of a task for The Hero to bring them all back. coded and 3D continue the set up for these rescues, giving the heroes the information and abilities they need to stage them in an upcoming game.
  • Touhou 07: Perfect Cherry Blossom has the three main characters going to Hakugyokurou, a realm of virtuous dead (think Elysium), to take back the Spring essence of Gensokyo which is stolen by the hungry ghost Yuyuko.
    • In Touhou 12: Undefined Fantastic Object, it's the bad guys followers of Byakuren who seek to liberate her from imprisonment in Pandemonium. She was imprisoned by her fellow humans for befriending the youkai. The player characters mistakenly believe they're trying to resurrect a terrible monstrosity.
  • Fatal Frame 2: Mio shoots her way (with a camera!) through a village worth of hordes of vengeful ghosts to save her little sister Mayu. Bonus point for (in Best Ending route) going down into Abyss to retrieve her back. She didn't come out unscathed from the whole ordeal, but at least she's now closer to Mayu than ever.
  • Happens in some route in Aoi Shiro. These are the bad ends.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In Disney's Hercules, the main character travels to the Underworld in order to rescue Meg's spirit and reunite it with her body, thus getting his godhood back.
    • The animated series features Orpheus himself in need of rescue from the Underworld. Depicted as a pop-star, his fans including girls at the school and monsters alike results in him becoming a Living Macguffin for Hercules (trying to secure a date for the prom by getting Orpheus to play) and Hades (trying to recruit a powerful new minion through an Underworld concert) to clash over on the same day.
  • Teen Titans has Robin do this for Raven in the Season Four finale. (He had Slade's help.)
  • In Adventure Time, Finn and Jake go to the underworld to rescue the soul of Princess Bubblegum's dead plant, which they accidently killed while taking care of it. Unfortunately they mess up, and Finn ends up having to save Jake's memory as well.
  • In The Book of Life, Manolo thinks he's doing this for Maria when Xibalba sends him to the Land of the Remembered. In reality, he's the one who's been killed.
  • In the Pinky and the Brain Halloween episode, Pinky sells his soul to the devil and the Brain has to go to Hades and challenge the devil to a gymnastics competition to get him back.
  • In The Legend of Korra, when Korra and Jinora meditate into the spirit world, Jinora's soul is acquired by Unalaq with the aid of Wan Shi Tong to force Korra to open the Northern Spirit Portal. Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi have to go into the Fog of Lost Souls to retrieve her.
  • In a 2009 episode of South Park all the celebrities that had died that year were stuck in Purgatory, which looked like an airplane stuck on the runway, until Michael Jackson admitted he was dead. In the meantime they haunted Ike.

Alternative Title(s):

Katabasis, Orphean Rescue