Thrown Down a Well

"It's a place you put people... to forget about 'em!"
Hoggle, Labyrinth

A character gets rid of another character by physically or magically trapping them within some uncomfortable location so remote it will be impossible for them to escape by themselves.

This is a way to do the death/resurrection plot without cheapening death, since the trapped character is always brought back.

A fun word for a prison of this type is "oubliette" where a prisoner would be thrown to be literally forgotten about (from "oublier" = "to forget").

Related to Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Put on a Bus and Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere. Compare And I Must Scream.

Not related to Timmy in a Well, although they can both involve someone in a well.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In DiC's Sailor Moon dub the Doom and Gloom girls trap each of the Sailor Scouts in the Negaverse except for Sailor Moon in the first season finale, Sailor Moon's magic frees them all and wipes their memories in the next episode. In the original however the DD Girls (rather graphically for a show aimed a young girls) killed every Sailor Senshi except for Sailor Moon in the first season penultimate episode, with Moon's dying wish in the next episode resurrecting everyone. Japanese kids apparently got sick watching the original, so it is not that bad it was censored. What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?.
  • Excel is temporarily held prisoner in a deep well when she accidentally stumbles onto a military group, where she finds the Man in the Iron Mask at the bottom and slowly loses her sanity over the course of a few hours before finally escaping in the typically hilarious manner Excel, well, excels at.
  • In Ranma ½, this is how Mr. Tendo and Genma get rid of Happosai the first time: they tie him up, put him in a barrel, seal the barrel, tie it in seals, tie it up again, then throw it in a cave, dynamite said cave, and sealed the entrance. It kept him away for about a decade before lightning re-opened the cave.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yugi is trapped this way in mid-season 4. Different in that it's not done specifically to trap him, but as part of a bigger plan.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Marvel Ultimate line, Wolverine catches Cyclops as he's just about to fall down a chasm (depth unknown) whilst they're in Genosha, fighting some machine monster. Wolverine decides this is the best time to get rid of the competition for Jean Grey and chucks him down. Luckily for Cyke but not really for Wolvie, Cyke survives, and after various hijinks (being rescued by the badguys) eventually confronts Wolverine a few weeks later. Wolverine goes "I was a twat. Do what you have to.", what Cyke "Had to." was ZORT him in a single blast, leaving him naked, scorched and knocked the FUCK out in an Alaskan terrain. Scott leaves him there, saying that he's off the team. He does think better of it later, as much to prove that he can forgive as to bury the hatchet between them so that they don't end up like Xavier and Magneto.
  • In the Superman Story Arc "Last Son of Krypton", General Zod traps Superman in the Phantom Zone. Since the storyline is a partial adapation of Superman II, this was expected.

    Fairy Tales 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Belloq leaves Indiana Jones trapped inside the Well of Souls, the underground temple where the Ark was hidden. He taunts Indy thusly: "You're about to become a permanent addition to this archaeological find. Who knows? In a thousand years, even you may be worth something."
  • In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Khan leaves Kirk and company trapped inside the Regula planetoid, "...marooned for all eternity, in the centre of a dead planet...buried alive."
  • Superman:
  • The Ring:
    • Samara is tossed in a well by her mother.
    • The book has it that Sadako was tossed in by a guy she threatened to kill.
    • Sadako's father in the movies.
  • In Labyrinth, Sarah fell into an oubliette, where she would've stayed if Hoggle hadn't rescued her.
    • Subverted in that Hoggle was supposed to be there to rescue her and lead her back to the beginning to break her spirit. Jareth failed to take The Power of Friendship into account though and Hoggle did a classic Heel-Face Turn.
  • The basic plot of Enchanted.

  • Joseph (of the Dreamcoat) gets thrown in a pit by his brothers in The Bible (book of Genesis). OK, they pull him out and sell him as a slave, but that was the original plan.
    • The prophet Jeremiah gets lowered down an (almost) dried-up well, with the implied intention that he starve to death there. Fortunately some friends in high places spoke up for him and he got pulled out.
    • Another prophet (Daniel) was thrown into a well with hungry lions. He was pulled back out when he was just fine the next morning.
  • In Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden by Jack Vance, Aillas is thrown into an oubliette by the king. He discovers a number of skeletons all sitting against the walls as if in a conference, with a message scrawled on the wall, "Welcome to our brotherhood." Aillas manages to escape with his sanity more or less intact.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Nathaniel threatens to do this to Bartimaeus if Bartimaeus gets him killed... although in this case it also invokes the Genie in a Bottle trope.
  • In Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the narrator is thrown down a well in a somewhat symbolic episode. Actually, the author has a bit of a thing for wells.
  • In Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King, Dolores leads her drunk husband on a wild goose chase to make sure he falls into the well, then she throws a rock on his head to make sure he died.
    • King uses the trope to Nightmare Fuel effect in the short story "A Very Tight Place," as well. The titular "place" is, rather than a well, a Port-O-Potty.
      • Discussed in Rita Hayworth And Shawshank Redemption, in terms of older prison methods in the state of Maine. Rather than a well, Red describes a hellish fate called gaol, used to punish minor offenses such as leaving the house without a handkerchief on Sundays.
  • The literal fate of Miss Taylor in John Harding's Florence and Giles, thanks to an assist from our narrator, Florence.
  • In Vulkan Lives, Vulkan is imprisoned in one of these. He escapes by climbing the subtle imperfections in the walls.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Angel, his son trapped the title character in a box and then tossed the box into the ocean.
  • In Heroes, Hiro Nakamura disposes of Adam Monroe/Takezo Kensei in this way.
    • Another Heroes example, with an interesting twist: in season 3, Future-Peter gets Present-Peter out of the way by shoving him into someone else's body.
  • Happened to Callisto on most of her appearances on Xena: Warrior Princess, until it was time to bring her back for another episode. This was especially true once she became immortal.
  • Charmed stuck Leo in a giant block of ice for most of the last season (referred to by many as "The Doltsicle") before bringing him back for the series finale. (After the show's budget got slashed they couldn't afford the actor, but didn't want to kill Leo and Piper's near series-long marriage.)
  • Stargate SG-1 has a clever variation using artificial gravity. Baal has O'Neill thrown into long cell with no door. Artificial Gravity then kicks in and causes the back wall to become the new floor. What was a corridor is now a deep pit with absolutely smooth walls. This leads to some fun interactions with guards and visitors, as the door is now a hole in the "ceiling", and those outside the cell seemingly standing on the wall.
  • A memorable storyline on All My Children in 1991 involved crazy Janet throwing her sister Natalie down a well in order to take her place.
  • Literally done to Desmond in the last season of Lost
  • Lucifer's cage in Supernatural.
  • Discussed on The Millers. Debbie figures they can't afford to pay for Tom to live in a nursing home, so she tells him "We're going to have to throw you down a well."
  • In a segment of Da Ali G Show, Borat went to the southern U.S. to learn about country music. When he tries to sing a supposedly real Kazakh song translated to English, it turns out to be about throwing "transport", Jews, and finally his own family down a well.

  • The main conflict and the fate of the titular character of Sound Horizon's Märchen.


    Video Games 
  • In Banjo-Kazooie, Gruntilda is defeated by being thrown from her tower and being buried below a giant rock. Naturally, it's rescued in the next game by her sisters, but being buried for 2 years left her as a living skeleton.
  • In Crusader Kings II, you can throw prisoners into an oubliette if you want them to hurry up and die but can't or won't execute them yourself for whatever reason.
  • Done in Metroid Prime Hunters on a Cosmic Horror Story scale: The resident Eldritch Abomination, Gorea, is sealed away in the Seal Sphere, which is then sealed away in the Oubliette, which, in turn, is sealed away in a rift between dimensions known as the Infinity Void. He comes back by tricking the Hunters into freeing him.
  • Fallen London has Mr. Eaten who was apparently thrown down a well among other things in the game's backstory. Although it might have been metaphorical. Unfortunately, it didn't really work and what's left of him is now out for revenge. A reckoning will not be postponed indefinitely.
  • In the bad ending of the Marathon scenario Gemini Station, you are convicted of Jack Melville's murder and sent to an oubliette where you are forced to kill yourself with a Descending Ceiling trap.
  • In Silent Hill 2, when entering the Historical Society, James jumps into a well with no apparent way out, until you examine the loose bricks, which can be broken with a board or pipe.
  • This is the driving force in the plot in Vanish. You're thrown into a sewer filled with molemen and have to escape.
  • This happens to Adol a few times in the Ys series, and Dogi or another character usually has to smash the wall for him to escape.

    Web Comics 
  • In Looking for Group, Richard was sent to an empty white space he dubbed "The Plane of Suck" for several pages before being put on trial.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, in the Harry Potter parody "Torg Potter and the Sorcerer's Nuts", Torg puts a sleeping Ralfoy Malfoy in a trunk and has him sent to Antarctica. He's later show trying to escape by bungee jumping (???). Of course, in the next installment he's back without any particular explanation.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of South Park Cartman locked Butters in a storm cellar (convincing him that the world was ending) so that he could take his place at Kyle's birthday dinner, causing the whole rest of the town to think he was abducted or missing.
  • Norm the Genie on The Fairly OddParents has been trapped a lot like this by Timmy. First, sent to Canada in a smoof lamp, then sent to Mars in the same smoof lamp and then Jorgen later took his lamp to be put on urinal cake. Genie in a Bottle, just like The Bartimaeus Trilogy example.
  • In Steven Universe Lapis Lazuli is trapped in a mirror that can show anything that it has seen. However, Steven frees her and she flees for the gem homeworld.

    Real Life 

Alternative Title(s):