Maybe you've been Blessed with Suck
. Or maybe you were simply Made a Slave
or found yourself Trapped Behind Enemy Lines
. You Can Run, but You Can't Hide
. Unless these folks help you. A Sub-Trope
of La Résistance
, the Underground Railroad
is the group of people who work in secret to help you escape to freedom. Usually it is not actually
underground, or even necessarily a railroad, though there is no particular reason it couldn't be.
For modern American Super Hero
stories, the famous slave escape network is the perfect way to show the heroes comes from an honored history of heroism as they learn they have ancestors who risked everything joining the organization, and also left secret passages and hideouts
to use now.
- In The Three Kings: Hunt the mages are organizing one of these in order to get any mages that they find to safety
- The Philadelphia Experiment II. The American Underground has a route to help Americans (who are basically slaves of the Nazis) escape to safety in Alaska, which is apparently not under the Nazis' control.
- In 101 Dalmatians, the Twilight Bark networks of dogs and other animals who help the dalmatians escape Cruella.
- In Batman Begins, a Historical In-Joke reference to the Civil War Underground Railroad is made when Bruce and Alfred are exploring the Batcave.
- The Scarlet Pimpernel is an early literary example, smuggling French bluebloods from the clutches of the revolutionaries and the embrace of Madam Guillotine.
- In The Handmaid's Tale, there was an underground railroad for getting people (mostly women, IIRC) from Gilead to Canada.
- In Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, American dissidents flee Windrip's regime by traveling to Canada via an underground railroad, including Doremus after he escapes the Trianon camp.
- Number the Stars is a work of historical fiction set during World War II, about the Real Life efforts by Danes in Nazi occupied Denmark to smuggle Jews into neutral Sweden.
- In Jo Walton's Small Change trilogy, several groups focus on getting Jews and other undesirables out of fascist Europe. When Carmichael is blackmailed into becoming the head of The Watch, a British gestapo, he and a few trustworthy allies found the Inner Watch and use their resources and feared reputation to secretly get innocents to safety.
- One is developed in the Star Wars: New Jedi Order series to help Jedi evade the various invaders, sympathizers, and bounty hunters who want to capture them. The "Great River" is later converted into a branch of the Insiders and later the Ryn Network, which both have a more active intelligence role.
- In Rapscallion, Matthew Hawkwood has to infiltrate and shut down an underground railroad that is smuggling escaped French POWs out of England.
- Shadowrun supplement Aztlan. The Aztlan Freedom League helps refugees from Aztlan escape to the Confederated American States.
- Fantasy Games Unlimited's Psi World adventure Underground Railroad. The Free State operates, with the aid of a psionic underground in the Confederacy, a series of escape routes for psis who wish to get out of the repressive police state of the Confederacy.
- Half-Life 2: Black Mesa East ran a network of safehouses and supply caches to help people escape City 17, with the help of resistance agents planted in Civil Protection. When the manhunt for Gordon Freeman is set off, much of the network ends up being broken by the Combine, although the resistance group that was running the network manages to survive and fight on.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has The Twin Lamps, who help free slaves and get them to safety (as well as occasionally killing their masters). Considering that slavery is a thriving business in Morrowind, they are kept very busy.
- Fallout 3 took the Underground Railroad and ran with it in one of the sidequests, essentially by combining it with the plot of Blade Runner and having the Lone Wanderer either assist in protecting an escaped android, or helping capture him and return him to his creators in Massachusetts.
- Dragon Age has a couple of these, helping mages escape the local religious Mutant Draft Board. Origins has a series of sidequests where you can either support or oppose the Mages' Collective, a group of Ferelden apostates.
- Dragon Age II is built around the Fantastic Racism mages in Kirkwall deal with, so the presence of a "Mage Underground" should come as no surprise. There's even a sidequest called "Underground Railroad." By act 3, the increasingly-paranoid Meredith has dismantled it, which doesn't do much for Anders' mental state.
- The Simpsons had an ancestor who was a part of this. Bart suggested it should've been called "Aboveground Normalroad". To be more precise, a fugitive slave and a woman who helped him are ancestors of the Simpsons.
- The Trope Namer is the Underground Railroad that existed in the United States before the American Civil War, which helped escaped slaves make their way north to safety. Some found refuge in the Northern states that were anti-slavery, but some ended up fleeing all the way to Canada to avoid slave extradition laws that required escaped slaves to be arrested and returned to their owners (especially following the Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court).
- During World War II, airmen from the Allied Powers who were shot down over Occupied Europe would often find themselves being hidden and protected by members of various resistance groups, who would try to smuggle them back to England or to a neutral country such as Switzerland or Sweden.
- Counter-intuitively, the easiest path back to England was not across the English Channel, but rather a lengthy and difficult trip through Occupied France, Vichy France, and neutral Spain to the Mediterranean, due to the density of German defenses and patrols along the French coastline.
- And immediately after WWII, the remnants of the Nazi leadership, with a lot of help from elements within the Vatican, created ODESSA (Organisation Der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen; or, Organization of Former SS-Members) and the San Girolamo ratline to smuggle Nazi politicians and officers—and whatever stolen treasure that they can get their grubby hands on in short notice—to Argentina.
- There were also the British who smuggled thousands of Jews (children especially) out of Europe and to England before and during WWII. This was presented as the work of Hallam in Upstairs Downstairs.
- There's currently an underground railroad which smuggles defectors out of North Korea. The usual route is through the northern border with China, bribing border guards along the way. Once in China, North Korean defectors have to keep a low profile since China is friends with North Korea and the Chinese government will send back any defectors it finds. However, it's much easier to get out of China than North Korea, so from there they can travel to whatever country they want. Under Kim Jong Un's rule, the border with China has been strengthened, which has slowed the flow of defectors.
- Cracked wrote an article after interviewing someone who got out. Apparently, they had to go all the way to Vietnam before it was safe to go to South Korea.