"When Israel was in Egypt's land; Let my people go,Slavery is a bad thing, so let's liberate the slaves! There are three ways to do this:
Oppress'd so hard they could not stand; Let my people go.
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt's land,
Tell old Pharaoh,
Let my people go."
Oppress'd so hard they could not stand; Let my people go.
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt's land,
Tell old Pharaoh,
Let my people go."
— Traditional African-American Spiritual
- A: Rescue someone else's slaves, usually by force,
- B: Free some slaves you already own or you bought specifically to free them.
- C: Or the slaves free themselves. This is the Supertrope of Gladiator Revolt.
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Examples of Slave Rescue / Slave Rescuer
Anime and Manga
- In the ElfQuest elf-troll war arc the Wolfriders free Greymung's trolls so they can help fight against Guttlekraw's trolls who enslaved them. (This dismays Two-Edge, who never dreamed that trolls would fight with elves against trolls.)
- In Conan the Avenger, Conan and his mercenary allies assault a slave trading hub and releasing their prisoners in the process. It should be noted they didn't necessarily do it for noble intentions, in reality they were looking for just one slave who can could lead them to a treasure they are looking for. Attacking the hub was the only available option since they didn't have the necessary money to buy her off and even if they had, her owners would have been unwilling to sell her. Reality Ensues when this action drives the neighboring warring countries to join forces to pursue them because they disrupted their economy, showing that trying to pull a bold stunt like this will lead to a very powerful and angry army breathing down your neck.
- Django Unchained revolves around an escaped slave named Django, who was rescued by the bounty hunter Schultz after killing some slave traders. Django and Schultz go off on a quest to free the former's wife Broomhilda from a distant plantation. At first they try to legally buy her freedom; but after some bloody shootouts, Django has to save Broomhilda by force.
- The Birth of a Nation (2016) tells the Real Life story of Nat Turner's attempted slave rebellion in 1831.
- The first we see of Conan as an adult in the reboot of Conan the Barbarian (2011) is him leading a raid to liberate a bunch of slaves from some pirates. The fact that a solid chunk of the slaves are topless, nubile women is, of course, just a happy coincidence.
- Tarl does this in the film version of Gor. This is not at all complicated, since the films really doesn't have anything to do with the books they claim to be based on.
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Indiana frees scores of children who were enslaved and forced to dig to find the Sankara stones.
- Both Matia and Susan Gail are freed from slavery by Donald O'Shea in Five Weeks in a Balloon.
- In Dragon Bones, Ward is informed that an escaped slave fled to his land, and the nobles who inform him about this would like to have her back. He refuses, and invokes an ancient law that says that once a slave sets foot on Hurog land, she is free, as "There are no slaves in Hurog". The nobles are not amused. Ward's own slave, Oreg, who was Made a Slave by magical means hundreds of years ago, appreciates it, and confesses to Ward that he has been helping the slave. Ward asks him whether she has enough to eat and warm blankets.
- Phenomena is about Alk and Ilke going to save their people, the elves like this, while they, themselves, grew up in freedom.
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck helps Jim escape, sometimes referred to as "stealing himself," and Jim has plans to make money and then go back & buy his family for their freedom.
- The freek Hork-Bajir in Animorphs regularly raided Yeerk projects to capture Hork-Bajir controllers and starve out the Yeerks inside them.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy. In the Back Story, Colonel Baslim stormed a raider's compound and freed the crew of a Free Trader starship who had been captured to be made into slaves.
- Honor Harrington: Many references are made to the Genetic Slave Trade throughout the books, with Honor having made a name for herself early in her career by capturing a large ship full of slaves and freeing them. The people responsible for the slavery, Manpower Unlimited, are a recurring minor foe who back various other organizations in attacks on the Manticorans and the Havenites. They also turn out to be a front for the far more ambitious Mesan Alignment.
- In The Roman Mysteries Flavia frees her slave girl, Nubia.
- Daenerys does this in A Song of Ice and Fire, mostly by overthrowing the slave holding cities. The unfortunate side effects are extensive. In Astapor, a tyrant known as Cleon takes over the city once she leaves, and reinstitutes slavery except with the former masters as slaves. Yunkai agrees to free them, but the moment she leaves starts up the practice again and starts preparing for war against her. Some of the slaves, particularly those trained in skilled occupations, actually had a better quality of life before they were free, and she's disturbed to learn that people are trying to sell themselves back into slavery. Famine results because of the war to free them, and because some places refuse to trade with them.
- This is the overarching goal of Karl Cullinane and his friends in the Guardians of the Flame series. He and his friends are roleplayers brought to a D&D-style fantasy world in the bodies of their characters and ultimately pledge to drive slavery out of their new home.
- The Crimson Shadow: Subverted. Luthien, upon becoming smitten with Siobhan and learning she's a slave, sets out to free her. He arrives at her master's house, where he sees Siobhan sneaking out. It turns out that she actually does this regularly, and is part of a thieves gang. The title of this chapter is appropriately "Not So Much A Slave".
Live Action TV
- Quantum Leap: Sam leaps into his own great-grandfather, who was a union officer in The American Civil War, and comes across a Southern Belle whose slave is secretly running a leg on the Underground Railroad, the (great?) grandfather of Martin Luther King Jr..
- Survivors: In the fourth episode of the second season, after they're freed by the main cast.
- Spartacus: Blood and Sand is entirely built on this trope, with Spartacus, Crixus, Oenomaus, and Gannicus freeing their fellow gladiators from their ludus and starting the Third Serville War.
Religion and Mythology
- In The Bible, Moses & God use extreme force to coerce the Pharaoh to release the Hebrew slaves, up to and including killing every firstborn of the oppressors in the country. Despite all this, the Pharaoh keeps stubbornly refusing to the point where God basically stops giving him second chances and starts actively making the Pharaoh even stubborner, to get glory for Himself.
- In the book of Philemon, Paul encourages the titular Philemon to free his slave Onesimus.
- 1 Corinthians 7 says not to be anxious if you're a slave but get free if you can. It also says do not become a slave of man.
- Jesus was sent to "proclaim freedom for the captives", among other things.
- Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms setting. The Harpers try to free slaves whenever practical and possible. The supplement FOR4 The Code of the Harpers had a story about a Harper who freed a group of slaves from Thayan slavers.
- Space 1889 in Red Sands there are adventures about liberating High Martian slaves or creating a rebellion if the player characters are captured.
- Fallout 2 and 3 are unique in that you can either help the slaves against their aggressors, or you can become the slaver and sell certain people off for caps.
- See also Slave Revolt below.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has several situations where you can use violence to liberate some slaves. There's also a questline for a organization dedicated to rescuing slaves, although this questline doesn't go very far.
- We later find out that emancipation came between Morrowind and Oblivion. Turns out that king in the Tribunal expansion decided that slavery really wasn't the way for a modern monarchical province of the Empire, and used the consequences of the events of Morrowind and Tribunal to destroy one of the major opponents to abolition and co-opt another.
- In Slave Maker, the protagonist is portrayed as righteous when doing this to other slaveowners, while NPCs are portrayed as Activist Fundamentalist Antics when doing this to the protagonist. Those other slaveowners are portrayed as truly abusive and in some cases monstrous, while the game keep waving a Consent Flag for the protagonist.
- World of Warcraft have a lot of missions about rescuing slaves.
- Wrath Of The Lich King: Mostly living people of all races forced to work in mines belonging to the undead scourge.
- Cataclysm: Twightlight's Hammer is now the new faction that you generally rescue slaves from.
- Mass Effect is a Space Opera where humanity and batarians get along poorly, largely due to the batarian tendency to raid human colonies for slaves which are treated barbarously. Raids are made to free these slaves sometimes; Talitha from the Colonist-only content was one of these.
"After they were dead, I brought the ship around. The Collector craft was just arriving. They closed, faster than we could flee. Fortunately we were close to the mass relay. I got through, and they did not pursue. [...] I lectured them (the slaves) on the virtues of strength, and defending oneself. Then, I distributed the armor, weapons, and credits of my dead colleagues, and released the captives on the Citadel.
- In Mass Effect 2, the player character goes to Illium, a world where "indentured servitude" is legal. People sell their contracts for years at a time in exchange for a nulling of all debts and a much improved resume. The one slave broker you meet is reassuring a girl whose contract isn't being sold that she'll take care of her and, if questioned, insists that the system is carefully designed to prevent abuse and even gives details. However, the salarian workers at Dantius Towers don't have any options, a commercial playing in the background to Illium's elite asks "Haven't you had enough of being a slave to your employees when it should be the other way around?", and Shepard can insist that the slave broker free her charge.
- Also in 2, Justicar Samara can tell Shepard about her wild maiden days, how she 'disagreed' when she found out her mercenary band had been hired to transport a cargo of slaves to deliver to the Collectors.
- One of the sidequests in Fable 2 for Good characters is to rescue groups of Albion citizens from slavers. Of course, one of the employment opportunities for Evil characters is to sell people into slavery. Er, that is, "civilian displacement."
- Dragon Age:
- A main story quest in Dragon Age: Origins has the Warden save a group of elves from being sold into slavery. That, or just leave them to their fate for shits and giggles.
- Also pops up in Dragon Age II during the quest Wayward Son, in which Hawke must save a young mage named Feynriel from slavers. As well, the storyline of Hawke's companion Fenris involves fighting his former slave master... or selling out Fenris for a few sovereigns.
- This drives Adèwelè in the DLC for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, to the point where he briefly gives up the Assassin vs Templar conflict to focus on chain breaking. As a former slave himself, its a storng case of It's Personal for him.
- In Gems of War, Ferit may not quite know who he is or what he's doing, but he knows that slavery must be opposed.
- In Drowtales Ariel takes part in an operation to free and take control of a large slave army being raised by the Sharen, to ensure the Sarghress forces aren't forced to fight them later.
- In The Order of the Stick, the order in general and the Haley & Elan duo in particular have taken up slave liberation sidequests. One of them ends... poorly.
- In Spacetrawler, the main plot is a quest to liberate the Eebs.
- In Hi to Tsuki to Hoshi no Tama, one of the main plots is rescuing pagets from slavery.
Examples of Release Your Slaves / Buy Their Freedom
- In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn secures slave boy Anakin Skywalker's freedom in a podrace so he can be trained as a Jedi. Later, in Attack of the Clones, Anakin learns that his mother, Shmi, was bought by mosture farmer Cliegg Lars, who immediately freed and married her.
- Kull the Conqueror: After Kull becomes king, he decides to abolish slavery altogether but is dissuaded from this by the noblemen of the kingdom because it is written in ancient laws. He still releases several of his palace slaves. Then at the end of the movie he shatters the ancient tablet that permits slavery anyway.
- In Dragon Bones, Ward considers doing this with Oreg, who is irrevocably bound to castle Hurog by ancient magic and likewise bound to serve the castle's owner as slave. The problem is that magic was way more powerful back when Oreg was Made a Slave, and Ward doubts that even the royal court mages would be able to do something about the spell, as the man who did it was very powerful even among his own contemporaries. Ward treats Oreg more like an additional brother than like a slave, but magical slavery being what it is, the effect of this is limited, and, of course, Oreg will just be inherited by someone else when Ward dies. In the end, Ward does free Oreg - by killing him, on Oreg's own request.
- In Phenomena does Jolsah, the son of the mortok cheftain, eventually do this.
- In Uncle Tom's Cabin, the Decoy Protagonist is a kindly white man who decide to set his slaves free - but then die before he get around to it, and the slaves suffer terribly under their new owner.
- In the third Gor novel, Priest-Kings of Gor, Tarl almost revolutionizes Gorean society to outlaw slavery... but doesn't quite get around to doing it. (Gor being Gor, Tarl eventually realizes that slavery is a good thing.
- Discworld Golems have a unique system whereby the free ones collectively save up their wages to buy the one who are still owned their freedom. It started when Captain Carrot bought a golem named Dorfl and put the receipt, and proof of ownership, inside the golem's head. So it allowed the golem to "own" itself. Dorfl became a policeman and started working for pay. One became two. Two became three and so on and so on.
- At the end of the first book of The Stormlight Archive, Dalinar ends up trading his Shardblade to Sadeas in order to free all of Sadeas' bridgemen.
- In The Guns of the South, the first item on Robert E. Lee's agenda after being elected President of the Confederacy is the slow, gentle emancipation of all his country's slaves.
- In C. S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces, when she is Queen, Orual frees the Fox. He talks about leaving for Greece, and Orual has an emotional overwrought night before he comes to here and declares he must stay where he is put, he has nowhere to go in Greece, even his own children would find him awkward. Later, she frees many of the castle's slaves because they had too many — as long as they were sturdy and prudent, because otherwise they would just become beggars — and settles them on land to be peasants. She even lets some of them choose who to marry. She observes they are very loyal and as good as a second bodyguard.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy. Baslim the cripple bought Thorby with the intention of freeing him when he became an adult.
- In Lustrum, the second book of the Imperium trilogy, Tiro buys the freedom of Agathe, a pretty slave he has taken a fancy to. In concluding book Dictator, Tiro, himself a slave, is freed by his master Cicero as a reward for all of Tiro's years of faithful service.
Manga and Anime
- In A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Pseudolus is freed by his master at the end for helping the son gain his bride.
- Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the underdark give you to buy a slave, you can free her by sending her with a message to your allies. Any other option results in her death.
- Ariel of Drowtales sets one of her slaves, the human woman Vaelia, free after she saves her from an attempt on her life. Vaelia stays with Ariel to work as a bodyguard and Parental Substitute for her, and due to the circumstances that led her to becoming a slave (mainly, her hometown being raided since she let them in as revenge for her fellow warriors treating her badly because she was female) she doesn't have anywhere else to go and believes Ariel needs her. Since one's hair length signifies social status she also gets hair extensions so none of the other drow mistake her for a slave.
- Attempted by Flora of TwoKinds, who offers to let her human boyfriend Trace buy Keidran slaves in order to set them free... from someone who knows Trace can't afford them, even if he was selling.
- The Romans sometimes used to free slaves (manumission) and it became such a social institution that they developed a whole legal code around how it could be done, the legal status of a freed slave and his descendants and so on. Of course, their motivation was not a belief that slavery was wrong. Often manumission happened because it was possible for a slave to buy his own freedom from his savings, so it provided an incentive for them to work hard.
- Sometimes, it would be very politically advantageous to free a talented house slave, as he would be more useful serving as an independent agent while being a guarantied ally (which is another reason for treating your slaves well).
- It helps to remember that if the Romans didn't see slavery as vile as we do, which is at least partly because they viewed the institution in radically different ways than we do. To modern Americans, slavery is an exclusive, racialized matter; to the Romans (and other ancient peoples) it was something that could befall anybody. Or, to paraphrase a book on the subject: By modern standards of enslavement, Julius Freakin' Caesar was once enslaved for a time.
- Though it should be noted that freedmen did not have the same rights as actual citizens (although the children of freedmen are automatically granted full citizenship, and many of them would eventually go on to achieve great wealth and power).
- The early history of Islam has many early Muslims freeing their slaves and sometimes even buying other peoples' slaves for the purposes of freeing them (the Prophet and his friend/successor Abu Bakr were particularly noted for this, being successful merchants). It is also forbidden for Muslim to enslave Muslim, so it wasn't terribly uncommon for Muslims to free their slaves by allowing them to convert.
- Indeed, a common penance for sins in Early Islamic history was to purchase and free an X-number of slaves (for example, reneging on an oath must be atoned with, among other things, the freeing of one slave).
- Similar to the above examples, there was the Thrall-system of viking-age Scandinavia. The thralls made up the lowest caste of the viking social system, after freemen and noblemen, and mostly consisted of raid captives from mainland Europe, but could also be debtors or people born into slavery. This changed somewhat with the christianisation of Scandinavia, as it was okay to enslave "heathens" but not fellow christians. If a thrall was freed, or bought his own freedom, he became a "freedman", an intermediary station between slave and freeman, who was mostly free but had to vote according to his former masters wishes. This debt would clear after two generations. The system gradually abolished itself after the Viking Age ended and the raids stopped, and was formally abolished by the 14th century.
Examples of Slave Revolt (that are not Gladiator Revolt)
Anime and Manga
- During the Fishman Island arc in One Piece, the New Fishman Pirates had spent several in-universe months capturing human pirates passing through and forcing them into servitude. During the battle between the Straw Hats and the New Fishman Pirates, Jinbe, who knew Fisher Tigre personally and is disgusted by their actions, asks Robin to undo the slaves' chains. Once free, the human pirates are quick to turn against their oppressors. What makes this doubly ironic is that the leaders of the New Fishman Pirates idolize Fisher Tigre and think they're emulating him, unaware that his campaign was against slavery in general and not against humanity.
- Part of Erza's backstory in Fairy Tail. She was one of the slaves kidnapped and forced to build a "Tower of Heaven" by Zeref fanatics who believed once they did so they could bring him back from the dead. After her childhood friend and fellow slave, Jellal, is taken to be tortured for trying to save her from punishment. Erza has enough and rallies the slaves in a revolt against their captors, along the way, awakening her magical power.
- Her has this, of the most peaceful kind. The most advanced artificial intelligence to date... and all they've got to do is spell-check and organize their consumers' emails. They cheerfully accept this lot in life, until they suddenly extract themselves from the whole circus. Peacefully and efficiently moving to another plane of existence where the humans cannot have any power over them.
- At least half of the Redwall books involve slavery, and when they do they will invariably be freed or rise up by themselves.
- The first two free Hork-Bajir in Animorphs were runaways, prompted by the Ellimist
- Honor Harrington again with the Verdant Vista/Torch rebellion. Overlaps with type 1, as it's a multinational effort involving people from Haven, Manticore, Erewhon, and the slaves themselves.
- The backstory of A Song of Ice and Fire has the city of Braavos being founded by several shiploads of slaves who hijacked the ships transporting them and with the help of the Moonsinger priests sailed off to found a settlement in a place the slavemasters wouldn't find them. In the modern day, the First Law of Braavos forbids slavery of any kind within the city, and Braavosi have been known to dip their fingers in type A at opportunity (liberating the slaves on encountered slaver ships, having the forbidding of slavery as clauses in peace treaties even if they don't bother enforcing it beyond the letter, etc.).
- Deconstructed in "Pale Blue Memories" by Tobias Buckell. Human explorers are Made a Slave after landing on a primitive alien planet. The Captain decides to lead a slave revolt, despite his Number Two (who's been hiding his Afro-American ancestry from his white crewmates) warning him that historically these tend not to be successful. Sure enough the captain is betrayed by another slave looking a reward. The story ends with the Number Two doing the only thing he can do, passing on his knowledge of Earth to his son in the hope that one day the system of slavery will collapse as it has on Earth.
- The Fallout 3 DLC expansion "The Pitt" is based entirely around starting a slave revolt scenario by getting yourself enslaved and undermining the operation from within.
- The premise of Lesbian Spider Queens Of Mars is that the eponymous Queen's harem has launched a coup and she needs to web her girls back up again. Overlaps with Type 1, since a Yandere Psycho Lesbian ex-girlfriend is actually behind the rebellion.
- The backstory of Fire Emblem's Archaneia canon features this - during the rule of the Dolhr empire, a band of slaves led by a man named Iote revolted against their Dolhr masters, tamed the wild wyverns to use as mounts, and after the fall of Dolhr founded the kingdom of Macedon, with Iote as their first king.
- In Overside, the short comic "The Tusks of Wusterim" shows that the kingdom of Wusterim was destroyed when its frog slaves revolted.
- The Boondocks episode "The Story of Catcher Freeman" involves Robert, Ruckus, and Huey all recounting a folk tale about a 19th century slave revolt, in which a Southern planter named Colonel Lynchwater was killed. However the three all argue over the true details of the story; such as whether the titular slave Catcher Freeman led the revolt, or tried to stop it.
- The original Cybertronians were this, built by the Quintessons as consumer goods (Autobot ancestors) as well as military hardware (Decepticon ancestors), in Five Faces of Darkness miniseries which started season 3 we see scenes of the revolts as Rodimus has his mind venture into the matrix of leadership; seeing the exploits of previous Autobot/Cybertronian leaders including a gladiator.
- The Arab world saw the Zanj Rebellion in 869, which was lead by an Ali ibn Muhammad who managed to take Basra. It took fourteen years to defeat them, and half a million people followed him. Most of them were East African slaves, but other people joined their fight.
- Haiti is the only nation that was founded via a slave revolt. Well, the full story is more complicated: The Haitian Revolution (Crash Course World History summary) was a thirteen-year long clusterfuck where the black slaves (about 90% of the population - most of them were even born in Africa, not Haiti), the mulattoes, the whites (themselves divided into monarchists and republicans) fought each other, and the states of France (first under the Jacobins, later under Napoleon Bonaparte), Britain and Spain interfered. Revolutionary France first gave human rights to free blacks and mulattoes in 1792, then abolished slavery officially in 1794 (to get the slaves defending Haiti against the invading Spanish and Brits), then Napoleon tried to re-introduce slavery, but his army was decimated by yellow fever... it's complicated.
- Before the more famous Spartacus, there were two other big slave revolts in Ancient Rome. See here and here.
- Several slave-led revolts in the southern United States prior to the civil war, including Nat Turner's Rebellion and a major rebellion in Louisiana, as well as throughout the Caribbean and Brazil during colonial rule up to emancipation.
- This is what John Brown sought to start in order to overthrow slavery as an institution in the United States in the years before the Civil War, as he believed the abolitionist movement in the US at the time was all talk and no action. He and his group made their name during the mid-1850's in Bleeding Kansas, a time when pro- and anti-slavery forces fought (with bloody results, hence the nickname) over which side would end up controlling Kansas Territory when it would be put up for admission into the Union as a state. His most famous act, though, was the October 16, 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, (now-West) Virginia and the Federal armory located there, intending to distribute the weapons there to black slaves in the South in preparation for a massive uprising. They initially had no resistance, but when word eventually reached Washington, a contingent of United States Marines commanded by Army Colonel Robert E. Leenote was sent and eventually recaptured the armory, taking Brown prisoner. Brown would be hanged for murder, treason and inciting a slave insurrection less than two months later; his raid galvanized public opinion in both the South and North, playing a major role in the outbreak of the Civil War less than 18 months later.