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The Runaway
Run my baby run my baby run
Run from the noise of the street and the loaded gun
Too late for solutions to solve in the setting sun
So run my baby run my baby run

Garbage, "Run Baby Run"

The Runaway is a child or teenager who runs away from their home and parents or guardians. They can do this for a variety of reasons, but there are five motivations commonly used in fiction:

  • The Circus Runaway: a child wants to run away to the circus (or some other "exotic" location) because they feel they are not appreciated by their parents or given enough attention. If successful, becomes a Circus Brat or The One Who Made It Out. Probably a Discredited Trope (or perhaps a Dead Unicorn Trope) by now, especially the "circus" part.
  • The Abused Runaway: a child or teenager who runs away from a truly abusive or unloving parent. Much more serious than the first reason, but if done in sitcom, can lead to a Very Special Episode.
  • The Attention Seeking Runaway: Often Played for Laughs variant, in which the child merely believes they are abused and more likely a Spoiled Brat whose departure is part of a tantrum at not having things their way. Their reason for running away is specifically to get the attention and concern of those they abandon and get doted over upon their inevitable return.
  • The Orphan Runaway: a child or teenager who runs away because they have no one left, nowhere to go. Often the most tragic of runaways and can sometimes lead the story to Grave of the Fireflies territory.
  • The Vagrant Runaway: a child who realizes that they need a good old fashioned soul searching and decides to pack their bags and see if the world is that cold of a place and hopefully open their eyes up.

The Runaway may be going to a Run Away Hide Away.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  

  • Ruby in Pokémon Special ran away because his father wouldn't let him compete in Contests. Turns out Norman was going to let him do it anyway.
  • Grave of the Fireflies, a mix of abused and orphan runaways, with tragic results.
  • Elfen Lied
    • Mayu. Abused.
    • Lucy. Orphan Runaway.
  • Lucy in Fairy Tail runs away to join the eponymous guild. It's later revealed that she was also emotionally abused by her neglectful father.
  • Miyuki from Tokyo Godfathers ran away from home because she couldn't face her family after stabbing her father out of anger.
  • Androids #17 and #18 from Dragon Ball were implied to be this when Dr. Gero first encountered them as humans.
  • Sabo from One Piece is possibly a tragic example of the abused runaway; after his boat his destroyed by a Celestial Dragon, his final fate is left vague.
  • Fruits Basket:
    • Yuki, running away from an abusive home.
    • Kyo, running away from a home where everybody hates him.
  • Isidro from Berserk. It isn't exactly clear which type he is, but from what is shown, he is probably a rare case of Circus Runaway.
    • Rosine was an Abused Runaway. Her first attempt didn't go very well, and when she came home it got worse. And then she found the Behelit.
  • Maria does this in episode 3 of Season 2 of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai. Kodaka is understandably confused at first when she shows up, but when he asks her how she knew where he lived, Maria says the "old hag" (her sister, Kate) showed her where she lived. Kate constantly calls to check up on her, and after spending the night, Maria goes back, largely because Kobato telling her running away the night before was childish.
  • In episode 9 of Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi, Hina runs away from her father after the latter refuses to allow her to go to a university in Tokyo. She ends up staying at the inn Kazuma lives at, and after hearing about her reasons for wanting to attend school there (to learn about business so she could help her father's brewery out), he has a tug of war contest with her father to force him to listen to her.
  • In Sakura Trick, Kotone is living with her cousin Shizuku to try and get out of an Arranged Marriage, especially when Shizuku is her crush.

     Comic Books  

  • All the Runaways start out being on the run from terrible parents. After the first arc, they are orphans.
  • All versions of the backstory of Rogue in Marvel's X-Men comics have her running away from home as a young teen or pre-teen, although no two issues have been able to agree on whether she ran away after her mutation activated and left a boy in a coma, or had already run away from home before that because of an unstable and/or abusive home life.
  • Megan McKeenan from Local has a history of running away, not only from her parents, but from boyfriends, roommates, and bad jobs. She even knows this is bad and resolves to stop running...some day.
  • Shazam: Young Billy Batson was essentially a runaway, living on the streets; except in his case his miserly uncle threw him out at the age of 8 after getting his hands on Billy's parents' estate.
  • Helen in The Tale Of One Bad Rat. She starts as an example of an abused runaway, but then travels northwards as a vagrant.
  • In the Cosmic Reboot world of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, Rotor became this after he got tired of his father's abuse towards him.

    Fan Works 
  • Rosy the Rascal from Always Having Juice has run away from her parents along with her cousin Rob O' the Tyrants. It is currently unknown why they ran away, but they apparently saw fit to change their names from Amy Rose and Robin Rose, respectively.
  • Dee from DJINN Way To Home is the Abused variant. Thankfully, she is also The Chosen One and gets taken in by her predecessor when they meet.
  • Both Scootaloo and Pinkie Pie are orphan runaways in the MLP:FiM fan fiction Our True Colors.

     Film - Animated  

  • In Aladdin, Princess Jasmine meets Aladdin when she runs away to avoid being forced to marry. It doesn't last long.
  • We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story features Louie, a Circus Runaway, joined by Cecila and the dinosaurs.

     Film - Live-Action  

  • On Our Own is about four orphans who run away to avoid being split up in foster care.
  • X-Men:
    • In X-Men, Marie a.k.a Rogue runs away from home after her power manifests itself while kissing her boyfriend, causing him to have a seizure and fall into a coma for three weeks.
    • In the beginning of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, young James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine and Victor Creed ran away from home together after James stabs and kills Thomas Logan for murdering his father, then finds out that Thomas was his real father.
  • In the Disney movie Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken the main character runs away from her aunt's home and starts riding horses in a traveling show.
  • In the new Star Trek film, George Samuel Kirk, the older brother of Captain James T. Kirk, ran away from home when the brothers were young to escape their stepfather's constant abuse.
  • The film version of The Wizard of Oz has Dorothy running away because no one would listen to her about Miss Gulch coming to take Toto away to be killed. She actually doesn't run away until Toto comes back.
  • Annie: Annie runs away from the orphanage (but given what the owner is like, it's hard to blame her). When she's caught and returned, it's implied she's done it before:
    "All you ever do is run away."
  • The Land Beyond the Sunset, a 1912 short film that ends with the young boy protagonist drifting to sea in an open boat, escaping his abusive home.

     Literature  

  • Five years prior to the start of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, then-seven-year-old Annabeth Chase ran away from home after enduring what she (once again, seven years old) perceived as emotional abuse by her father and stepmother.
    • Thalia Grace ran away from home when she was around twelve after her brother was kidnapped by Hera and she blamed her alcoholic mother.
      • Luke Castellen runs away from his insane mother at a young age.
      • Leo Valdez, after being orphaned, runs away six times from foster homes that did not turn out so well.
  • The title character of the novel Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli is an orphan who runs away from his aunt and uncle because he is tired of being caught in the middle of their cartoonish marital problems. His subsequent adventures turn him into a larger-than-life folk hero who ends up inspiring racial tolerance in an inner city neighborhood.
  • Older Than Radio examples from from Mark Twain:
    • Tom Sawyer briefly runs away from home with a couple of friends to play at being pirates.
    • Huckleberry Finn fakes his own death to escape his alcoholic father and rafts down the Mississippi with an escaped slave.
  • Oliver Twist. After the orphanage where he grew up sells him to an undertaker as an assistant, he runs away to London where he is taken in by a gang of pickpockets before being reunited with his charming, modestly wealthy relatives.
  • The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman is about the spoiled and arrogant Prince Brat who runs away from home out of boredom, dragging with him his poor, much-abused servant Jem (the titular Whipping Boy, whose job, it being illegal to strike the prince, was to take his beatings for him when he misbehaved). The two boys come to respect and eventually befriend each other before finally finding their way home.
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsberg: a brother and sister run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the end, they return home.
  • The title character of Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis runs away from an unpleasant foster family to track down the man he suspects may be his father.
  • In the book The Mysterious Benedict Society, three of the four main characters are runaways. Constance's situation is never explained in detail. Sticky ran away from overbearing parents, and Kate joined the circus after her father disappeared. In the end, Constance gets adopted, Sticky goes back to his very worried parents, and Kate's Disappeared Dad gets a Luke, I Am Your Father. It has been revealed that Constance was an orphan who ran away from the orphanage in order to avoid the Ten Men.
  • In Steven Gould's book Jumper, the main character soon runs away from an abusive father once he discovers his ability to teleport.
  • Pinocchio runs away from his creator/father, Geppetto. The book version is actually far more disturbing than the Disney movie, featuring the puppet being hanged and then nursed back life by the Blue Fairy, before he goes on the run again, and eventually, turns into a donkey, gets swallowed by a whale, and etc.
  • In Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, Paul Dempster runs away to join the circus.
  • Harry Potter:
  • In one of the Smallville novels, Clark runs away to Metropolis. This is similar to an plotline that occurs in the TV Series, except that in the novel, Clark doesn't put on a red kryptonite ring and go insane.
  • In Dinoverse, Janine Farehouse tries this. She and three other eighth-graders were cast back in time and put into the bodies of prehistoric beasts, a Quetzalcoatlus in her case. She was happy. Eventually she abandoned the others to try to live as a pterosaur, feeling like she wasn't valued at home and wouldn't be missed. One of the others had to go and talk her into helping them.
  • after the quake. Landscape with flatiron. Junko ran away from home in her third year of highschool. Her reasons weren't mentioned.
  • The protagonist from My Side of the Mountain has a perfect relationship with his parents and a nice life, still decides to run away to the Catskill Mountain and live in a hollowed out tree for the pure adventure of it all.
  • Warrior Cats examples:
    • Hollyleaf runs away at the end of the Power of Three arc after learning a shocking secret that leaves her feeling betrayed by her family.
    • Crookedstar was a runaway as a kit, but he didn't mean to stay away from his Clan for a long time. By the time he gets back, he soon becomes an apprentice rather late.
  • Halt from Ranger's Apprentice ran away from his native Hibernia when his brother tried to kill him.
  • Portia of Wonder Show joins the circus partially to escape a Boarding School of Horrors and partially because she believes it will help her find her Disappeared Dad.
  • Blake Thorburn, from Pact, is an Abused variant, having fled his family home due to the toxic environment of his Big Screwed-Up Family, which had torn themselves apart in infighting over a valuable inheritance, to the extent that his mother deliberately sabotaged a college dorm and left students without a place to stay mid-semester just to inconvenience his cousin. After Blake's grandmother declared that only a granddaughter could inherit, his parents gave up on winning the inheritance for themselves, but continued to attack the other heirs and were themselves targets, until Blake, unable to deal with the stress, left to stay with friends and never came back, living on the streets of Toronto. He later notes that his parents stopped looking about a month, and had a new child a year and a half later.

     Live Action TV  

  • The Brady Bunch: "Every Boy Does It Once," even youngest son Bobby, who wants to leave the family in this early first-season episode because his stepmother and stepsisters are "evil." "Evil stepmother" Carol convinces Bobby that such is not true. This fits the "circus runaway" trope.
  • Little House on the Prairie:
    • Albert, a street urchin introduced in the Winoka episodes to open season 5, is a runaway orphan who is ultimately adopted by the Ingalls.
    • In the final season, the folks of Walnut Grove meet Matthew, a deaf and mute boy who is "The Wild Boy" (after having run away from the circus to escape a cruel master). Mr. Edwards adopts him for awhile, until Matthew's biological father shows up.
  • Buffy runs away at the end of season two, not because her mother was unloving, however, but her mother found out she was the Slayer, she had killed Angel, and she was wanted for murder.
    • And in the first episode of season 3, she meets Lily/Chanterelle, a Sunnydale teen who had also run away to Los Angeles. It's heavily implied that she was abused at home.
  • Pushing Daisies: Emerson was once hired to find a girl who had run away to join the circus.
  • Jenny Humphrey ran away from home in season two of Gossip Girl (and kind of did it again for one night in late season three).
  • Carmen runs away in an episode of The George Lopez Show. George finds her in a hotel in Hollywood as a groupie for the rapper Chingy.
  • The Circus Runaway was referenced in the Nancy Drew episode, "Mystery of the Fallen Angels." Nancy tries to get a job at a travelling carnival to investigate a lead on a burglary ring. The carnival's owner exasperatedly says that she has to deal with "runaways" asking for work at every town the carnival comes to, and tells Nancy to go home and try to work things out with her family instead.

     Music  

  • The aptly named Soul Asylum song "Runaway Train" has this as its theme. The video even went so far as to post the pictures of peoplenote  who were missing at the time it was made, with at least a couple or so updated versions.
  • Rapper Ludacris has a song called "Runaway Love" about an abused runaway.
  • The second verse of Cowboy Troy's "If You Don't Wanna Love Me" is about one.
  • Referenced by the name of the 1970s rock band The Runaways, featuring a group of teenage girls, led by Joan Jett and Cherie Currie.
  • Tatu's "They're not gonna get us" song.
  • The music video for Pat Benetar's "Love Is A Battlefield" chronicles one who flees from suburbia to The City before she moves on to elsewhere.

     Music Videos  

  • The video for the Pat Benatar song "Love is a Battlefield" has the main character run away from home after a fight with her parents. She ends up dancing at a sleazy club (in the original concept for the video, she was a hooker) until one of the co-workers gets mishandled by their boss; she retaliates with a fierce group dance routine and by throwing a drink into the boss' face before she and the other workers leave the club. Sadly, the boy who played Benatar's kid brother in the video later ran away from home in real life; no word on what happened to him.

     Newspaper Comic 
  • Linus, very briefly.
  • One Far Side comic inverts the circus runaway, showing 2 circus boys running away to join corporate America.
  • In Little Orphan Annie, Annie hears Mrs. Warbucks tell "Daddy" Warbucks that she'll leave him if he keeps Annie, so Annie runs away from home to save his marriage.

     Tabletop Games  

  • In the Mystara setting's kingdom of Karameikos, it's an unspoken tradition for human youths to run away from home and live under an alias for a few months, to prove to themselves and their families that they're capable of taking care of themselves. Hard feelings aren't usually involved, and the runaways often find jobs with distant relatives who know exactly who they are, but play along with the ruse that they've hired a stranger. An even more lighthearted variant of the Circus Runaway.

     Theater  

  • In the musical version of Spring Awakening, it's implied that the character Ilse ran away after being sexually abused by her father.

     Video Games  

  • Psychonauts has Raz running away from the circus to attend psychic summer camp.
  • Mr. Driller has Ataru, who ran away from home after getting in an argument with his father.
  • Selphie from Rune Factory Frontier. While she never outright states it, she couldn't be more heavy handed in hinting that she's the princess of a small kingdom who ran away from home. Another character will even mention that there's a small kingdom in turmoil because its princess went missing. Her motive for fleeing seems to be that she wanted to just find a quite place to read rather than always be in the political spotlight.
  • Prince Ironfist runs away to the circus in Might and Magic VI. It's not because he feels unappreciated or not given enough attention, he just decided that he wanted to have a closer look at the circus (being the crown prince of a kingdom whose king is missing and whose regent is a paladin, he wasn't about to be given permission, so he took matters into his own hands after being inspired by having snuck out with you for a quick visit to the circus). He's quick enough to return to the castle once you catch up with him (the circus moves around).

     Webcomics  
  • Rachel, from Tower of God, who fled from her previous life into the Tower.
  • Jae-min from Orange Marmalade ran away from home for two years. He says this is because his mother abandoned him, but she claims this isn't the case - what really happened has yet to be revealed.
  • Helen of Penny and Aggie, bitter over her parents' favouritism of her sister and her (largely self-caused) social outcast status, runs away to Boston to apply for a phone sex operator job, leading directly into a Cross Over with Something Positive (ongoing as of mid-March 2010).
  • In Strays Holland's Back Story.
  • Storm begins when Arche runs away from home to have adventures.

     Web Original  

  • A number of agents have joined the Protectors of the Plot Continuum either to run away from home or because they had nothing to go back to.
  • Some of the kids Toki took in.
  • Worm has a few instances:
    • Taylor Hebert, the heroine, is cornered by her dad about her recent odd behavior and ditching school for weeks. Faced with the untenable choices of confessing she's a supervillain or lying to him, she avoids the problem by jumping ship.
    • Lisa runs away from home because her parents try to exploit her superpower to enrich themselves, all while pretending that they still love her despite blaming her for her brother's suicide.
    • Amy tries to run away from home, but between her severe personal problems and the gang of psychopaths trying to recruit her, ends up crossing her own Moral Event Horizon twice during a nervous breakdown.

     Western Animation  

  • Avatar The Last Airbender:
    • Toph Beifong. Her parents weren't physically abusive, but were definitely cold and stifling (even hiring bounty hunters to bring her back).
    • Ty Lee preferred life as a circus acrobat to life among upper-end Fire Nation aristocracy, but Princess Azula "convinced" her to come away and help hunt her brother down.
    • Aang as well, running away from the Southern Air Temple because the monks were going to send them away.
  • Amon in The Legend of Korra, as revealed in the season one finale to stop dealing with his abusive father, Yakone.
  • In one episode of The Fairly OddParents, Timmy runs away to join a carnival. It turns out kids wish for this so often that Fairy World runs a carnival to serve as a safe place for kids to go until they come back to their senses.
  • Penny in The Rescuers, though in her case, she was already an orphan. She was trying to run away (that is to say, escape) from her kidnappers, and failed each time, until the mice of the Rescue Aid Society turn up to help.
  • In Don Bluth's Banjo the Woodpile Cat, Banjo runs away from home after his father tells him to fetch his own switch to be beaten with.
  • In an episode of Rugrats, Angelica runs away because Drew punishes her for wrecking his office equipment, claiming that he'll be sorry. She stops by Tommy's house, and later sees her dad laughing with Tommy's parents, thinking he's happy she ran away. He didn't even know she was gone.
  • In the Pingu episode "Pingu Runs Away", Pingu runs away from his home after getting spanked by his parents for ruining their dinner. Despite running away, Pingu's parents think he'll show up again, that is until it gets late. They soon realize that they were too hard on him. They didn't even know that he was going to be gone for so long.
  • An episode of The Littles deals with this, but doesn't appear to be any of the three. A one off "bigg" (The Littles' name for us normal sized humans) girl runs away because her father threatened to send her to a special school where her friends "wouldn't be such a bad influence" on her unless she got straight As on her report card, discovering that she had gotten one "B" and one "C".
  • Deirdre, one of the Starlight girls runs away in the two part Jem episode "The Music Awards". After Jerrica kept blowing her off, the straw came when Jerrica blew her off as Jem. Fortunately, Jerrica/Jem learned her lesson and Deirdre eventually came back home.
  • In the COPS episode "The Case of the Runaway Buzzbomb", Buzzbomb runs away after Big Boss hurts his feelings. He is joined by Highway's niece, who is also running away because she did something that would make her uncle mad if he found out.
  • Adventure Time plays this for laughs in a sort of subplot-story arc where Lumpy Space Princess runs away from home and lives out in the woods.
    LSP: I'm doing so awesome on my own, like right now, I found this can of beans.
    • At the current she still living on her own as a vagrant. The silly thing is her parents are very caring people. But LSP is a major drama queen who thinks they're stifling her.
  • Otto Osworth in Time Squad had the case of coming from an abusive orphanage. Once Tuddrussel and Larry explained who they were he jumped on the chance to get away from the place forever.
  • Brain Griffin of Family Guy has a recurring tendency to do this. This usually took the form of Vagrant Runaway, though later cases Lampshaded this tendency, making him more an Attention Seeking variant who usually attempts to milk it for fanfare.
  • Cartman made a very poor attempt at running away in an episode of South Park after his mother finally started disciplining him. After failing to get any of the other kids to take him in, he spent a very short time in an alley in the rain before slinking back home indignant.
    • Another episode has Stan run away with Cartman on a trip to his Grandparents after his parents forbid him.

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