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Androcles' Lion

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"Do not eat me when I set you free!"
D'Leh before saving a saber-toothed cat from drowning, 10,000 BC

Just as in the ancient fable of Androcles and the Lion, a character befriends or aids a wild creature. In a moment of need, the creature returns the favor. Sometimes the creature was a Pet Baby Wild Animal, and the character wonders "Why Isn't It Attacking?" before recognizing it.

While a pessimist will claim that No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, this Trope can often prove the exact opposite, and sometimes save the hero from certain doom.

Hitchhiker Heroes often acquire animals like this; they are often Talking Animals, perhaps even humans trapped in an animal's body.

For your safety, however, please note that this is not Truth in Television. The vast majority of animals are simply not intelligent enough to grasp the ethical concepts involved in this sort of thing. In fact, most won't even be able to realize that you're trying to help them, and will instead associate you with whatever situation they're in, and lash out at you. And even if you're dealing with one of the rare handful of animals that are intelligent enough to both understand that you helped them and be thankful for it, those animals are by that very fact also intelligent enough for different individuals to have different personalities, so even then there's a chance that the particular individual you saved happens to be too much of a Jerkass to care. Unless you are a trained professional, DO. NOT. APPROACH. WILD. ANIMALS. THAT. ARE. IN. DISTRESS. Instead, contact a wildlife rescue immediately.

See Character Witness when this Trope applies to humans and other sentient creatures. A specific kind of Chekhov's Gunman.

See also: Predator Turned Protector, Interspecies Friendship, I Owe You My Life, Disproportionate Reward, Character Witness, Rampage from a Nail, Laser-Guided Karma, Because You Were Nice to Me, and Come Back, My Pet!. Contrast with The Farmer and the Viper.


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  • In a tire commercial, a driver brakes suddenly to avoid running over a beaver. Returning to the same road in a rainstorm, he brakes to avoid hitting a tree that falls in his path. Looking out the window, he sees the bridge up ahead being washed away, as the beaver (who's just saved him from an unplanned swim) salutes him from beside a gnawed-through tree stump.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In one episode of Azumanga Daioh, a young wild cat Sakaki had befriended in Okinawa tracks her all the way back home after its mother dies, and shows up just in time to save her from a pack of cats led by Kamineko.
  • Variant in Doraemon: Nobita's Three Visionary Swordsmen. Nobita-as-Nobitania saves a bear cub from a Bear Trap, and gets into trouble for it. Later he encounters a huge bear, but then the cub comes to Nobita's rescue by stopping the larger bear from attacking - turns out the cub is the huge bear's offspring, who later becomes Nobita's ally for saving its child.
  • Futari wa Pretty Cure, Episode 6, a bear cub rescued by Nagisa stands between the girls and its demon-possessed mother long enough for them to figure out a plan.
  • Inverted in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. Iggy, a Boston Terrier, saves a human boy's life from the guard falcon who'd killed and eaten his two dogs. Later, after defeating the falcon, Iggy nearly drowns from exhaustion and blood loss as a result of the fight, only to be saved by the same boy he'd protected earlier.
  • Koihime†Musou subverts this as a Running Gag, with Chouhi keeps bumping into wild animals she took care of, supposedly — only to discover too late that they aren't.
  • Momo-chan, the dolphin that Lucia and her friends free early in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, shows up later to take Kaito to bail them out at Lucia's palace.
  • Natsume's Book of Friends: An extremely powerful Youkai jumps to Natsume's defence against an evil Ayakashi because Natsume helped him earlier in the episode. This is a pretty big reward considering all Natsume did was cover up a puddle in the road so that his servants could pass despite the fact they could just as easily have walked around it...
  • The lapins in One Piece. During the Drum Island arc, Luffy pulls a mother lapin free from the snow after an avalanche. Later, the lapins protect Luffy from the attacking villains. Unfortunately, while allowing Luffy to get his True Companions to safety, they end up viciously beaten for their trouble.
  • Pokémon: The Series: Many of Ash's Pokémon tend to be acquired in this fashion. As well, there's Ash's Charizard, who was completely disobedient until Ash saved its life, again.
    • In particular, Pikachu warmed to Ash (and saved his butt) when Ash protected him from a flock of pissed-off Spearow. However, Pikachu already belonged to Ash at this point.
    • Also, when the Team Rocket scientist Dr. Namba kidnapped Lugia's child in order to capture the parent, Ash and his entourage, along with James and Jessie (who sympathized with it) helped rescue the young Pokémon, and the adult Lugia later became an Androcles Lion towards all of them.
    • Some of Ash's human companions fall into this as well. Serena became devoted to Ash after he rescued her from the wilderness as a small child.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, Pearl helps a Luxio redeem itself in front of its pack and it eventually ends up saving his life twice before officially joining his team.
    • A bunch of Unown that the Sinnoh trio rescue later helps Pearl break into the Veilstone Galactic Building by performing a Zerg Rush to distract the guards.
  • In an early issue of the No Need For Tenchi manga, Sasami finds and tends to a wounded wolf that had escaped from a truck, whom she affectionately calls "Doggy". It protects her from a group of wild wolves and, many years IRL-time later, returns to help tend to a group of abandoned raccoon cubs in her school.
  • The Testament of Sister New Devil: At one point, Zest feeds and pets a stray baby unicorn. Later, when Zest gets knocked out and about to be trampled, the unicorn goes to her and licks her face to wake her up, allowing her to roll out of the way.
  • In a first season episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Judai helps procure the release of a monkey named SAL who is being used as a test animal in a dangerous experiment. Later, in Season 2, SAL finds Judai lost on the island, starving and hallucinating, and brings him some bananas (and water, when Judai starts to choke from eating them too fast).
  • Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun: The titular hero Iruma is a human who after being sold to an elder demon by his greedy, selfish, abusive parents, is now going to school in the demon world. His status as human is kept secret from most everyone in the cast. At Babyls School, one of the first tests first years endure for rank evaluation is a Flying Test with paths either through Cutthroat Valley or Warbling Valley. Due to a series of events, Iruma, who lacks any wings, ends up in the nest of a bus-sized demonic bird with a deep gash on its leg. After Iruma intentionally injures himself to help demonstrate empathy for the creature a single drop of his blood enters the wound and it completely heals it. The bird recognizes that Iruma did something to mend it, becomes grateful, and carries Iruma to its parent, the boss of Cutthroat Valley and a truly gigantic demonic creature. This is fortunate as the parent is in the middle of fighting and overwhelming Sabnock, one of Iruma's classmates, in its rage over the injured child and Sabnock invading its territory. The boss is grateful as well to Iruma's actions and as thanks carries both to the end of the race.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 4 Episode 10, while cleaning a polluted lake, Smart S. notices a fish trapped in a net and sets her free. The fish is actually a mermaid with water powers, and she takes this form when Big M. orders her to go after Smart S. When she realizes who Smart S. really is, she returns his favor by rescuing him from drowning in the water near the end of the episode.

    Comic Books 
  • Bone: The heroes befriend a baby rat creature whom Smiley Bone names "Bartleby". In part because it's dangerous for a rat creature to be near humans, in part because they figure he belongs with his own kind, they manage to get him back in the company of rat creatures. Of course, later on, when they need the help, one of the rat creatures turns out to be Bartleby, and by the end he's their travel companion for keeps.
  • Hound: Cú Cullan saves a magnificent bull from a ritual sacrifice and a cattle raid over the course of the story. The bull repays the favour by helping him escape from Maeve's soldiers when one of them wounds him in the shoulder and others violate the bargain of single combat.
  • Looney Tunes: Bugs Bunny, in ancient Rome, is about to be thrown into the coliseum. He sees the lion he will have to fight has thorns from his other opponent, an enormous Venus Flytrap, stuck in his paw. Bugs pulls the thorns free and explains how this trope works to the reader. When the battle starts, however, the lion refuses to back down. ("Sorry, I'm a professional", he explains.) Fortunately, the monster plant is grateful for having the lion's paw removed from his thorns, and comes to Bugs' rescue.
  • The Punisher MAX: Played darkly in the "Valley Forge, Valley Forge" arc. A group of soldiers have been tasked by to bring down Frank Castle, knowing he won't use deadly force against them, by a cabal of corrupt U.S. generals. In the end, it turns out that the Colonel tasked with leading the soldiers was once a soldier in Vietnam who had been rescued by Frank's Marine Recon squad. When the generals come around to view their "prize", they find an untied Frank with a fully loaded 1911. You can guess what happens next. Mildly subverted in that the Colonel covered up the corrupt generals' crimes in the processnote , and that Frank Castle wanted them dead more than he wanted their crimes exposed. It turns out that the Colonel wanted the Punisher stopped, but the generals wanted the Punisher dead — so the Colonel actually volunteered for the task to ensure the former.
  • Red Sonja: Berserker: Sonja rescues a polar bear cub from a pair of sadistic hunters who were tormenting it. The bear stays with her through winter. Years later, Sonja has been sentenced to die in the arena and a bear is unleashed against her. It turns out to be the same bear and refuses to attack her. The two team up and escape the arena.
  • Shazam!: Monster Society of Evil: Billy always shoos away the cockroaches that infest his abandoned building but is never seen killing them. When all the insects of the city come under the control of Mister Mind, this turns out to be very helpful.
  • Star Wars: Invasion: In Issue 2, Finn, Lowbacca, and the Solo kids are attacked by a tuk'ata when they encroach on its cave. During the confrontation, Jacen notes a piece of wood embedded in its side and, when the beast is distracted attacking someone else, he darts in to remove it. The tuk'ata largely calms down after this and retreats back into its lair.
  • Superman:
    • All-Star Superman: Superman keeps a baby sun-eater as a pet. After he releases it, it comes back to save him when he is battling Solaris, the Tyrant Sun.
    • The Condemned Legionnaires: In the past, Supergirl saved one alien animal species from extinction by stopping a toxic cloud from engulfing their planet. When Supergirl takes the Legion of Super-Heroes to their homeworld to protect the Legion girls from Satan Girl, the super-team is welcomed by the animal species saved by Kara. And when Satan Girl shows up and fights the Legion off, they willingly dogpile the dangerous villain so the heroes can escape.
  • Swordquest: In Swordquest: Fireworld, the fire-goblins spared by Torr later return the favor by summoning Tarra to rescue him when he's attacked by an undersea monster.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Whirl (of all bots) nearly sacrifices his life for a Doorstop Baby that turns out to actually be a vicious swarm of scraplets (think piranhas, but microscopic). It subsequently takes over the rest of the ship's scraplets, and when they're turned loose on Team Rodimus by Getaway, the swarm turns into a giant hand, gently caresses Whirl, and sides with Team Rodimus, and is eventually the one to kill Getaway for his many and varied crimes.
  • The Walking Dead: Ezekiel, the leader of the Kingdom has a pet tiger named Shiva, from the zoo he used to work at. He explains to Michonne that she was badly injured falling into a pit in her exhibit and would have died if Ezekiel hadn't helped her, getting slashed across the stomach in the process. Shiva never lashed out at Ezekiel again and is loyal to the point that she sacrifices herself to save him from walkers.

    Comic Strips 
  • U.S. Acres: Parodied. In the February 15, 1989 strip, a tree lets Sheldon have its apples because he "once pulled a thorn from its trunk".

    Fairy Tales 
  • This tends to be a stock element of Fairy Tales in general. Sometimes it features in a Right Way/Wrong Way Pair, where the worthy protagonist looks for things to save on the journey and thus gains allies, while the false contender ignores them and comes up short.
  • Aesop's Fables: The Trope Namer is an old roman fable about the slave Androcles (sometimes spelled "Androclus") who earns the friendship of a lion by removing a thorn from its paw.
    Apion: Afterwards we used to see Androclus with the lion attached to a slender leash, making the rounds of the tabernae throughout the city; Androclus was given money, the lion was sprinkled with flowers, and everyone who met them anywhere exclaimed, "This is the lion, a man's friend; this is the man, a lion's doctor".
  • "The Death of Koschei the Deathless": Prince Ivan is feeling terribly hungry, but he spares a bird's chicks, does not touch a beehive's honey, and leaves a lioness' cub alone. Later, they help Ivan against the witch Baba Yaga.
  • In "Don Joseph Pear" (link) the hero spares the fox's life when he catches it stealing, and it plays a Chessmaster Sidekick role for him.
  • Subverted in some versions of The Frog Prince or East of the Sun and West of the Moon; the girl does not only not wish to set the animal free, she bashes it against the wall and has to make amends.
  • In The Frog Princess" (link) while on his quest to free the imprisoned princess from evil Koshey, Tsarevich Ivan successively spares a bear, a rabbit, a duck, and a pike, and gets help from each of them at the end of the story to get Big Bad Koschei the Deathless' Soul Jar: The bear tears down the tree, the hare kills the hare, the duck strikes the duck, and the pike retrieves the egg from the pond it had fallen into.
  • One of the most frequent plotlines in the entirety of ancient folklore, to judge by the number of times it pops up in The Brothers Grimm and other sources. Typically, while on his way to rescue the princess, the hero assists several small critters in succession; later, when the villain places seemingly-impossible tasks in his way, the grateful critters return to complete them for him (for instance, when charged with sorting an enormous heap of mixed grains, the hero of one tale is helped by the ants he'd rescued.) It can be guaranteed to work if someone else (preferably an older sibling) ignores the metaphorical lion first.
  • In Indonesian folktale "The Golden Antelope" (link), a boy helps all kinds of animals, getting transportation, guidance, protection, and even fundraising in return.
  • In "The Fisherman and His Wife", an old fisherman catches the magical Fish who promises to grant his wishes in exchange for freedom. It doesn't work out, because the old man is a Henpecked Husband, and his wife is too greedy for her own good, but the Fish was keeping its end of the bargain as long as was reasonably possible.
  • In The Golden Mermaid, the prince actively offers his horse to the starving wolf and gets its aid.
  • In The Grateful Beasts, Ferko magically cures some animals; in return, they perform his impossible tasks.
  • In Magick Ring the main hero literally gives a shirt off his back to buy a dog, a cat, and a snake from a cruel owner. The snake turns out to be a princess (not a cursed human, just a snake princess) and rewards him with a wish-granting ring. The cat and the dog are also smart and rescue him when the ring is stolen and he's thrown into prison.
  • This is the premise of tale type ATU 560, "The Magic Ring", of the international Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index: the hero, a poor, but kind boy, uses his savings to buy a dog, a cat and a snake from some boys torturing animals. The snake, in gratitude, explains it is the son of the king or ruler of snakes, takes the boy to its kingdom and grants him a magical gift (a wish-granting stone or ring). Later, when the object is stolen, the dog and the cat join forces to retrieve it to their master.
  • "The Nine Peahens and the Golden Apples": As looking for his wife, the prince throws a fish back into the river to save it from suffocating, and frees a fox and a wolf from a trap. In return, the three animals help him carry out the old witch's impossible task.
  • In Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf, the hungry gray wolf eats Ivan's horse, and in amends helps him.
  • Grimms' The Two Brothers and Andrew Lang's The Three Princes and Their Beasts are related stories in which the brothers go out hunting and spare the lives of various animals; each thanks them by giving each brother one of its cubs, and the cubs grow up to be Loyal Animal Companions and invaluable assistants in their subsequent adventures.
  • Reversed in the English tale "The Buried Moon", in which the moon spirit helps a man escape the bog, and then he in turn leads the quest to return her to the sky.
  • A traditional tale of the Kamba people from Kenya tells the story of a man who cultivated a field. The crops attracted gazelles so he set traps to defend his crops. One day he saw a lion had fallen into one of the traps. He freed the lion after making him promise that he would not hurt him. Once free, however, the lion attacked him. Then the man convinced the lion to let him go after promising that he would give him the heart of every animal that fell in his traps from then on. One day his wife accidentally fell into one of the traps, and just as the man ran to free her the lion appeared and demanded the wife's heart as part of their agreement. The man refused, saying that this wasn't part of the deal, so the lion killed the wife and badly injured the man. Moral of the story: Don't trust lions. They fucking eat people.
  • In "Prince Ivan, the Witch Baby, and the Little Sister of the Sun", Prince Ivan uses the gifts of the Sister of the Sun to prolong the lives of two kind giants whom he met during his travels. In return, both giants put obstacles in the witch's way when she is chasing after him.
  • A Panchatantra story has a traveller come across a well in a jungle, inside which are trapped a tiger, monkey, snake, and man (a goldsmith). He helps out the four of them, who swear to repay the debt someday. Sometime later, as he is crossing a mountain, he comes across a tiger which, to his surprise, does not attack him. He recognises the tiger to be the one he helped out of the well, and in return she feeds him and gives him a golden necklace from her den. On the way to the capital city, he is waylaid in a forest by bandits who tie him up, take his valuables, and set up camp there for the night. The monkey, who lives in the forest, comes to know about this and comes to the traveller's rescue. He throws away the bandits' weapons, restores to the traveller his valuables, and frightens the bandits away by summoning his friends, who throw rocks and stones at the bandits. The traveller then makes it to the city where he meets the goldsmith and asks him to appraise the necklace given by the tiger. The goldsmith recognises the necklace as one owned by the missing princess of the kingdom, and upon learning that the tiger was the one who had the necklace, deduces that the tiger must have killed and eaten the princess. In the only subversion of this trope, the goldsmith goes to the king with the necklace and falsely accuses the traveller of having killed the princess and stolen her jewellery, and collects the reward for this information. The king has the traveller locked up and scheduled for execution. In his jail cell, he hears a whispering noise and looks up to see the snake he helped out of the well in the jungle. The snake, having heard everything, gives the traveller an herb with instructions on how to use it. The snake then bites the king's mother, who becomes gravely ill and cannot be cured by the kingdom's best physicians. While the king is grieving in his chambers, the snake enters and whispers to the king that he only who was wrongfully imprisoned can cure the king's mother. Intrigued and desperate, the king summons the traveller, who uses the herb to relieve the queen mother's illness and explains his side of the story to the king, who locks up/executes (depending on the version) the goldsmith for his perjury and avarice. The moral of the story is that while this trope is well and good to note in fiction or with animals, it is unrealistic to expect fellow humans to repay kindness with kindness.
  • There is a Persian folk tale, famously put to verse by Rumi about a hero who saves a bear from a dragon. The bear starts following the man around and fiercely protecting him. The story takes a dark turn though, as the bear is not too bright and the only one who doesn't see it is the hero. His friends warn him that hanging around with a gigantic beast without much wit is a bad idea and that he would be better off spending time with humans, but he ignores them. Then one day as the man is taking a nap, the bear notices that a fly is annoying his friend and has the brilliant idea to kill it with a boulder. While it's sitting on the dude's face.
  • The trope appears in tale type ATU 425B, "Son of the Witch" (previously, "The Witch's Tasks"), a subtype of the more general type ATU 425, "The Search for the Lost Husband", of the international Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index, and also in former tale type AaTh 428, "The Wolf": the heroine finds herself at the mercy of her husband's mother (a man-eating creature or sorceress), and has to perform tasks for her. One of the tasks is to visit her sister (who lives in Hell in Scandinavian variants), and get from there something (usually, a box or casket, but it may also be a comb or tamis). Advised by her husband, she treats the sorceress's sister's guardians/servants with kindness: she is to give the correct fodder for two animals, a carnivorous one and a vegetarian one. The pair varies, but usually involve a bone for a dog (or meat for a wolf) and hay/straw/grass for a horse (in other variants, a cow or a camel). When the heroine escapes from the sorceress's sister's house, the animals are ordered by their mistress to stop her, but they say that, due to heroine's kindness, they will let her go. In Italian variants, the heroine is advised to throw a piece of bread to the second witch's guard dogs, to win them over to her side.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Inverted – Godzilla believes that a Titan going out of its way to defend the human race will lead humans to return the favour. As said by Monster X:
    "Think of them as neighbors, like Godzilla or Rodan. If we don't bother them they'll leave us alone, but if we get in the way or break something they'll get mad at us. [...], and if you do something like protect them from something bad, they'll remember it."
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic The Cadanceverse has the main characters run into a kraken as they journey through the Everfree. Most of the group wants to fight or run, but Lyra realizes that the kraken is trapped and in pain, and convinces the group to help out. When they remove the stakes fixing the kraken to the lakebed, the kraken is so grateful that it gives them a ride across the lake.
  • In several Harry Potter fanfics like the Danger Verse universe or the Alpha series, Harry helps the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets to survive (instead of killing it as in the books) or to get rid of Riddle's influence, and the basilisk ends up helping defend the castle.
  • In a Dresden Files fic, Marcone adopts an injured stray dog and gets it veterinary treatment. The dog turns out to be a shapeshifted wizard, whose magical powers save his life years later.
  • In Dragons of Ice and Fire, when Jon tries to take control of the dragon Sonagon, he learns that dragons are natural wargs, and mentally dominating Sonagon isn't an option. So instead Jon saves it from the Others, helps it find food in an unfamiliar environment, treats its injuries, and guides it away from the wights trying to kill it. Eventually Sonagon becomes very protective over him, and feels comfortable enough with him to let him warg with it.
  • In The End of All Things, during his stay in Ordon Village, Zach rescues a baby hawk that falls from its nest. When he returns as a wolf, the baby's father provides helpful information for him and Midna.
  • In Friendship Is Magic: Prime: Act III, Fluttershy saves an Insecticon from getting eaten alive by a Scraplet, and the Insecticon (which she names Bob) becomes ever-faithful to her.
  • In The Jaded Eyes Series Harry/Tristan befriends Alucard after giving him a bite to drink and freeing him from the alchemical leash put on him by the Hellsing family.
  • Misty's Gyarados is revealed as this in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines. When he was a Magikarp, some kids in Cerulean City were using him as a soccer ball, and Misty, then 10 years old, drove them away. Fast forward five years, Misty is in danger of dying after getting covered in Vileplume spores, and Ash is trying to find a way to cross the river to take her to the hospital. Gyarados recognizes her, so he's more than glad to help Ash save her.
  • In Prehistoric Park Reimagined, Diego the smilodon fatalis is narrowly saved from getting killed by Smokey the arctodus via a timely intervention from the rescue team's resident animal expert Leon. Much later, Diego engages in a rematch against Smokey just in time to save Leon's life right as the bear has both started charging towards Leon with the intent to attack as well as unwittingly gotten worrisomely close to where Diego's mate Shira and their three fairly recently born cubs are lying asleep.
  • This trope is how Adam Squall is introduced to the namesake family of Rise of the Galeforces, specifically after Sarah frees him from Aperture's Mind-Control Device. While it's true that all of the family members are humans, Adam is the only Prehistoric Monster-turned-human protagonist.
  • In Son of the Western Sea the Firebird outright states that she would repay Percy's kindness after he releases her from his ropes and tells her she could take as many of his apples as she wanted, granting Percy one of her feathers and the ability to call on her by waving a feather if she is nearby. The only reason Percy had trapped her in the first place was that he was waiting on an important call and she kept trying to put him to sleep with her song. She also agrees to assist him in hunting down Baba Yaga.
  • Played for Laughs in Poisoned Blood, when the heroes encounter the Hydra (who for some reason is named Noodles and speaks in LOLCats) and prepare to attack, but Percy, due to his uncanny ability to understand and speak to monsters, recognizes that it doesn't want to fight and convinces Annabeth and Grover to stand down. The Hydra is so grateful that the heroes spared it and rubbed its head and belly that it gives them money from its secret stash, which the strapped-for-cash heroes really need.
    Percy: So... that happened.

    Film — Animation 
  • The Big-Lipped Alligator Moment in All Dogs Go to Heaven is there to set up King Gator coming in at the end to save Charlie's skin.
  • Astro Kid: While exploring the alien planet he crash-landed on, Willy sees how a large, buglike creature breaks the horn on its head, he rushes in and helps the creature restore the broken horn by fastening it with a vine. The creature later returns the favor by helping Willy out of a pit he fell into and can't climb out of on his own.
  • In The Frog Princess, each one of the animals that were spared or helped by Ivan ends up helping him in his quest and fight against Koschei.
  • In Hercules (Pure Magic), the Mad Boar of Erymanthean is only mad because of a thorn stuck behind his ear. Once the thorn is removed, he gladly serves as a mount for Hercules and Iolaus.
  • Hiccup and Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon (2010). Hiccup downs Toothless with a catapult, and initially wants to kill him but realizes the creature is just as scared as he is. They befriend each other and Hiccup invents a rudder-like device to function as a tail for Toothless since his is partially damaged/deformed.
  • Ice Age: Diego the Smilodon does a Heel–Face Turn after his soon-to-be True Companions save him from falling into lava. Granted, most characters were animals, but Diego was the only carnivore protagonist.
  • In The Rescuers Down Under, Cody saves Marahute the eagle from a poacher's trap, and she returns the favor by saving him from plummeting to his doom when she accidentally knocks him off the ridge.
  • In the short Sintel, the title character rescues and befriends an injured baby dragon she calls Scales. Later, adult Scales recognizes and hesitates to harm Sintel, who doesn't recognize Scales and strikes her down.
  • In Vivo, because the title character helped Dancarino the Roseate spoonbill talk to his crush Valentina, Dan comes to save him from the giant python in the Everglades. He later assists in helping Vivo rescue Gabi.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In 10,000 BC, D'leh saves a saber-toothed cat from drowning in a pit trap. Not only does it spare his life out of gratitude after being freed, it saves his and his father figure's lives later and marks him as The Chosen One to bring down The Empire.
  • The Bandersnatch in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) helps Alice after she gives it back its disembodied eye, by licking the scratch wounds it inflicted on Alice's arm earlier and healing it, lest it (quoth Cheshire Cat) "festers and putrefies". It later serves as her mount in the Final Battle against the Jabberwock.
  • In Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Baxter (Ron Burgundy's dog) befriends a wild bear in his travels. This comes in very handy when the main characters are confronted with that bear's cousin and Baxter is able to talk him down.
  • Avatar: The Way of Water curiously inverts the trope with Lo'ak and Payakan. In the classic vein of the trope, Lo'ak helps Payakan, a massive whale-like tulkun, by dislodging a rusty whaler's harpoon from his fin. However, this only happens after Payakan saves Lo'ak's life from a hungry predator and carries him to the surface to keep him from drowning. Since the tulkun are in fact sentient and profoundly intelligent, it could be argued that Lo'ak is actually the Lion to Payakan's Androcles.
  • A variation in The Avengers: Tony Stark's kindness towards Bruce Banner, and his lack of fear and suspicion of the Hulk, pays off later on, when the Hulk, previously described as a "mindless beast" consciously and deliberately saves Tony's life during the final battle.
  • Darkly subverted in Bright; the tagger Jakoby let go turns out to be the son of orc gangster Dorghu, and when his father orders him to kill Jakoby and Ward, he refuses... so Dorghu just sends the kid away and shoots Jakoby himself.
  • In Cinderella (2015), Ella is kind to the animals on the farm, and, particularly to the mice: she not only feeds them but also protects them from the cat. In return, not only do the animals serve as the attendants, driver, and horses for her pumpkin carriage but at the end, two little blue birds tip off the mice about the glass slipper search party coming so that the mice can unclasp the window to let out Ella's voice, thus revealing her presence and defeating the plan of Lady Tremaine and the Grand Duke to hide Ella from the Prince by keeping Ella locked up.
  • In Crank: High Voltage, Chev Chelios saves a dog that was being tortured by two assholes with a Shock Collar. The dog returns the favor by assaulting someone who was about to attack Chev from behind.
  • Godzilla (2014), Ford Brody has a downplayed example with Godzilla. After saving the saurian kaiju from getting double-teamed by the MUTO couple to get him a breather, Godzilla saves Ford from the female MUTO trying to kill him twice. While Godzilla might have done one or both saves incidentally, his sapience and locking eyes with Ford between the events implies some of it was intentional.
  • A wrongfully imprisoned Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel gives a fellow prisoner some of his porridge in the mess hall. That prisoner later kills his cellmate, who was about to rat out Gustave and Zero as they attempted to escape.
  • Double Subversion in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Despite Harold's protests, the titular pair picks up a hitchhiker that turns out to be Neil Patrick Harris, borderline crazy from drugs, who ends up stealing their car, which only adds to the problems they were already facing trying to get to White Castle. In the end, when they finally arrive at White Castle, Harold realizes he has no money (he was unknowingly robbed), so Neil, who's also there, pays for their meal.
  • In It Could Happen to You, Charlie loses all his money in court to his ex-wife but feeds a homeless man and even gives him bus fare. The homeless guy is actually an undercover reporter (and the movie's narrator). He writes about Charlie's generosity in the paper which is so touching that people donate money to him. Meanwhile, his ex-wife marries another "millionaire" who turns out to be a con man who steals all her money, forcing her to move in with her mother and go back to her old job in a nail salon.
  • Natty in The Journey of Natty Gann befriends a wolf by opening a door for it to escape a dogfight and later giving it some of her food. The wolf subsequently returns the favor by bringing her a freshly-killed rabbit when she's lost and hungry in the woods and accompanies her for most of the rest of her travels.
  • In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Zia and Franklin, along with Claire and Owen, help treat the raptor Blue's injuries and give her a blood transfusion. Later, when Zia and Franklin are about to be attacked by a mercenary threatening to tase them with a cattle prod, Zia opens Blue's cage. Blue seems to remember them and acknowledges Zia and Franklin before attacking the mercenary in front of them.
  • Labyrinth. Sarah rescues Ludo from some Goblins. Later on, he saves her from attack in the Goblin City by "calling the rocks" and sending the Goblins flying like tenpins.
  • Played for equal parts Rule of Funny and squick in the Land of the Lost movie when Rick Marshall is swallowed by "Grumpy" the exceptionally intelligent T-rex who's been chasing him for most of the movie. He later shows up to rescue Will and Holly by riding Grumpy into a pack of Sleestaks. It turns out that he... er... escaped through the back door, and in the process removed some intestinal blockage, for which Grumpy was very grateful.
  • Maleficent receives the services and undying loyalty of the raven, Diaval, after she saves him from a farmer's net.
  • In Night at the Museum 2, Larry gives a Giant Octopus the water it desperately searches for. They instantly become friends, and the Octopus helps out in the Final Battle against Kahmunrah.
  • Deconstructed and subsequently defied in Nope. Jupe tries to tame Jean Jacket by feeding it horses from the Haywood siblings (who weren't aware of what he was doing with their horses). While Jupe is able to summon Jean Jacket, he's severely out of his depth, and when Jean Jacket accidentally eats a plastic horse, Jupe is consumed alongside his family and the audience at the Star Lasso Experience by an angry Jean Jacket.
  • In the Korean film The Pirates, the characters all hunt a large whale that has swallowed a very important royal seal. The pirate captain, however, hesitates to kill it, and when she is defeated by her rival and tossed overboard, a flashback reveals that when she was a young fish-diving girl and the whale was a calf, she rescued it from a net. The whale recognizes her by the sound of the small bell she still wears on her wrist and carries her to safety.
  • At the beginning of Rolli – Amazing Tales, this is invoked, and later ultimately double subverted. Rölli finds a large old tree and wants to make firewood out of it, but the tree starts talking and pleads for him to spare it, promising to help Rölli out if it can. Near the ending, while Rölli is trying to evade the Trashers, he hides behind the tree and asks for its help. The tree does nothing and Rölli is captured by the Trashers, but the tree pities him. The tree finally repays its debt right in the ending by letting itself fall all over the High Priest before the villain can kill Rölli and the Forest Fairy.
  • In Secondhand Lions, the two uncles purchase an old circus lioness to have dangerous prey to hunt. However, they find the lion too old and decrepit and take pity on her, so they release her into their cornfield instead. Throughout the movie, Walter leaves food for the lion, caring for her from a distance. The lion repays the favor in the end when Walter is being attacked, by attacking his assailant. While she successfully protects him, the lion is so old that in the sudden excitement, she suffers a heart attack and dies.
  • In Shanghai Noon, Chon Wang saves a young Sioux Indian boy from an enemy tribe. Impressed by his skills, he gets welcomed as a tribe member, even accidentally marrying the chief's daughter, who provides Big Damn Heroes moments throughout the rest of the movie, especially in the end with the rest of the tribe.
  • In Son of Kong a white ape believed to be King Kong's son befriends Carl Denham after he bandages its finger. It then protects him and the Damsel in Distress from several prehistoric creatures.
  • ''Star Wars:
    • George Lucas claims in the commentary for The Empire Strikes Back that Yoda is based on a myth about a magical frog that sits on the side of the road, teaching things to people who are kind to him.
    • Return of the Jedi: Behind-the-scenes footage of filming the Ewok village scenes show Lucas intended a similar idea to that of Yoda. Since Luke convinces the others not to harm the Ewoks and surrender, they return the favor by saving the Rebels from the Imperials during the planetside part of the final battle.
    • In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn saves Jar-Jar Binks (albeit inadvertently) from a Trade Federation battalion, prompting Jar-Jar to offer himself as a servant in a life debt. Later, it is thanks to Jar-Jar that they persuade Jar-Jar's people, the Gungans, to help the people of Naboo fight and defeat the Trade Federation.
    • In The Rise of Skywalker, Rey and her group are briefly attacked by a beast known as a Vexis snake in the underground tunnels of planet Pasaana. When Rey sees the creature is injured, however, she uses her Force-healing abilities on the snake's wounds. When the snake sees it's no longer wounded, it calmly slithers away but not before opening an exit for our heroes with its tail.
  • Two Brothers has two tigers that fail to attack the humans that used to own them, even though everyone else is convinced the tigers are dangerous.

  • Animorphs:
    • In The Message, the fourth book in the series, the kids help a humpback whale that is being attacked by sharks. The whale guides them to their objective, and at the end of the book, the entire pod shows up and drives off Visser Three (who was attacking the kids in the form of an alien sea-monster).
    • This trope is recycled in the thirty-ninth book, The Hidden, which is perhaps not-so-coincidentally another Cassie book.
  • The Calf Of The November Cloud: Konyek befriends a family of elephants while he is living in the Hill of Good Refuge. When Konyek returns to his hamlet and denounces his cousin Parmet for leaving him for dead, their tribe's elders are inclined to believe Parmet's lies (about Konyek running away when his cattle was raided by enemy warriors) over Konyek's claims (after being severely injured by the raiders, Konyek was nursed back to health by a friendly Dorobo hunter and retrieved the stolen calf, but he got stuck in a hill during a flood). Before he can be punished, though, Konyek's elephant friends show up, his Dorobo friend on his trail. Seeing Konyek interacting with the elephants, the tribe comes to believe he was indeed living with them, and the Dorobo hunter further confirms Konyek's story.
  • The Chronicles of Prydain: In "The Book of Three", Taran helps a wounded baby gwythaint (a species of gigantic dangerous bird creatures forced to serve the Big Bad Arawn). The favor is repaid twice; once in the first book when the gwythaint tells Gwydion where to find Taran and the Horned King, and more significantly at the end of the fifth and final book.
  • In Drugstore in Another World, the protagonist Reiji Kirio is tasked with subduing the Kodora, a dragon-subspecies. It was the guardian of the local forest but for some reason is going on a dangerous rampage, threatening the local ecosystem and all the villagers who rely on it for their livelihood both. After Reiji uses his alchemy skills to learn the Kodora was poisoned and subsequently cured it, the Kodora regularly gifts him rare, valuable rokushou fruits as thanks.
  • In Jean Auel's Earth's Children series, Ayla adopts a cave lion and raises it from a cub. Later on, after the same cave lion kills Thonolan, she's able to calm it down and preventing it from killing Jondalar. Also, she saves the life of someone else in a similar fashion in the next book (same lion).
  • The Edge Chronicles: In Beyond the Deepwoods, Twig removes a rotten tooth from a mouth of a Banderbear, a species normally nonthreatening but not very social, and befriends it, and even after it dies, he keeps the tooth as a charm and manages to more or less befriend the whole species.
  • In the Lords of Deliverance book "Eternal Rider'' by Larissa Ione, Cara Thornhart earns a hellhound's love and respect after she heals it from a bullet wound.
  • Firebird (Lackey): The protagonist Ilya gets help from a horse, nightingale, fox, and the titular Firebird by saving their lives (or tasty apples, in the horse's case).
  • Basically applies in reverse in Fire Bringer; after the deer protagonist Rannoch spends some time as a human's 'pet' before he is released, years later the human 'fawn' who helped him kills the villainous deer Sgorr, but spares Rannoch after recognising him.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In "Chamber of Secrets", Harry frees a House Elf named Dobby, who ironically had tried to covertly save Harry's life in a rather...roundabout way. Many books later, Dobby makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save the lives of Harry and his friends when they are imprisoned in Malfoy Manor and trying to escape.
    • When he was a student, Hagrid kept hidden and saved the life of a baby Acromantula named Aragog. The giant talking spider therefore feels a debt of gratitude to Hagrid: he has forbidden his children from ever harming Hagrid, and has personally refrained from eating humans. However, this is as far as his kindness extends: any other human who wanders into his neck of the woods is fair game for his family.
  • The Hobbit. The Eagle saves Gandalf, Bilbo, and the Dwarves because Gandalf once helped him heal his wounded wing.
  • Intruder in the Dust: Years before the story, Lucas saved Chick from drowning and refused Chick’s attempts to make it up to him. Chick's continuing sense of obligation (and mixed feelings about being indebted to a black man whom much of the town dislikes) is what motivates him to keep Lucas from being executed (legally or otherwise) after he is accused of murdering Vinson Gowrie, and his Kid Detective work helps lead to Lucas’s exoneration.
  • It might not apply, but in The Jungle Book, Mowgli's ability to remove painful thorns from the paws of his wolf pack brothers makes him a popular fellow among them. At the same time, however, this is seen as a point of shame among some of the wolves; a fact which Shere Khan uses to turn the pack against Mowgli.
  • In the book King Crow, a crow helps the hero, Cormac, by bringing him news. It does this because Cormac pulled an arrow out of its wing.
  • Jean Valjean in Les Misérables saves Fauchelevant from dying after he gets trapped under his horse cart and arranges a job for him as a gardener in a Parisian convent. Later, when Valjean is on the run from Inspector Javert, Fauchelevant conceals him and adopted daughter Cosette in the convent.
  • In Monster Hunter International book "Monster Hunter Vendetta", the readers learn that young Julie befriended a shoggoth. Later, the creature throws off the Big Bad's mind control and refuses to hurt her. This shocks everyone, as shoggothes were previously classified as Always Chaotic Evil.
  • Moongobble and Me: In book 3, after being shrunk, Edward encounters a squirrel that was tied up by the titular Evil Elves. He frees her; later, when he's being chased by said elves, she comes back and gives him a ride out of the elf village in thanks for saving her.
  • Psmith tells a version of this story in Mike and Psmith, although he seems to believe that it was a pterodactyl Androcles encountered.
  • The Reluctant King: Early in The Goblin Tower, Jorian set Zor, an ape-man, free from his long captivity in the laboratory of an evil wizard. Later in the same book, he's rescued from ape-men who planned to sacrifice him as their leader is Zor, who recognizes Jorian. He repays him by letting Jorian go, along with Karadur. In fact, setting Zor free was wholly accidental, but Jorian is very glad for the good luck nonetheless of course.
  • The storybook ''The Selfish' Crocodile has the crocodile in pain midway through the story. A mouse removes the tooth from the crocodile's mouth. In return, the crocodile loses his selfishness. He even rewards the mouse with a nut for getting rid of the bad tooth.
  • Played with by Terry Pratchett in the Discworld novel Small Gods. The hero saves a predator, who (now bound by Narrative Convention to do the Androcles) tracks the hero down to symbolically not kill him. However, as is noted, other people didn't save it, and so are fair game.
  • In Snow Crash, Y.T. shows kindness towards a Rat-Thing, a monstrous cybernetic killing machine. This, as well as taking care of a stray dog with a bullet wound, results in some Laser-Guided Karma at the end of the book.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Ned Stark's children find several dire wolf pups dying of starvation (their mother died). They save the pups and adopt them, and the dire wolves become loyal animal companions (especially Jon Snow's albino wolf Ghost: Jon was the one who offered to save the little creatures).
  • Subverted in the Chinese short story The Story of the Zhung-Shan Wolf by Ma Zhung-Shi: the wolf pleads with a scholar to conceal him from a hunting party, promising to be grateful afterwards. When the hunters are gone, the wolf reveals its true nature and threatens to devour the scholar. Luckily, an old wise man passes by and tricks the wolf, which the scholar then kills.
  • Sword of Truth.
    • Richard's pet Gar (named, originally, Gar). He's only called that by Richard until he tells Richard his real name, "Gratch". And once Richard realizes Gratch's intelligence, he's more of a friend than a pet.
    • Scarlett the Red Dragon and her son. Richard helps Scarlett rescue her egg (which Darken Rahl was using to force her into servitude). Scarlett (and her son) later aid(s) Richard several times at critical junctures throughout the series when a dragon of her species would ordinarily just eat him regardless.
  • Tom Swift: Prior to the second book of the fifth series, Swift Enterprises executive Yvonne Williams was kidnapped by anti-technology terrorists. One of her guards was dying after being bitten by a snake, and Yvonne used her cellphone battery to shock him back to life. The next day, that guard let her escape.
  • Les Voyageurs Sans Souci: Sébastien and Agathe find and free Golden Eagle, which had been caged by an abusive circus ringmaster, and in return the giant bird personally flies their friend Rosalie -who had been kidnapped- back to their hometown.
  • Watership Down:
    • Invoked by Hazel, who realizes that the rabbits will need friends and allies in their new home. It ends up earning them the friendship of a mouse, who tells them about a good feeding place, gives them information on the proximity of men, and gives them advance warning when the Efrafans come to attack; and later nets Kehaar, a gull, as a very useful ally and scout.
    • In one of the El-ahrairah stories (The Story of King Fur-Rocious) in Tales of Watership Down, on his quest to win a nearly hopeless war against the titular King, El-ahrairah befriends a cat (who jumps into his ear), saves a flock of crows (who also jump into his ear), helps out a nest of ants (into the ear again), and even enlists the help of a river (the other ear, this time). This pays off when, on three consecutive nights, El-ahrairah challenges the King and is shut up with the Rabid Rats (taken care of by the cat), the Wildcat Weasels (killed by the crows), and the Savage Stoats (chased off by the ant nest). The fourth night, King Fur-Rocious decides to have El-ahrairah tied up next to his sleeping place so he can figure out what's going on. For his pains, he eats the full might of the river and promptly leaves thereafter. That was the only war El-ahrairah ever fought, and that was how he won it. Question: How big are his ears, anyway?! They are woven from starlight.
    • In "The Fox in the Water", El-ahrairah altruistically gives advice to many creatures. A snake he helps, having heard of his other deeds, gives El-ahrairah the power of hypnotic eyes temporarily, which he uses to defeat a family of foxes that had been causing problems for his warren.
  • Kit removes a bit of wreckage from around the axle of a sentientnote  Lotus Esprit in the Young Wizards novel So You Want to Be a Wizard, and the Lotus ends up becoming a friend and helper to them. It pulls a Senseless Sacrifice against the Lone Power, trying to buy them some time to run. It later shows up in Timeheart.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bernard's Watch: the eponymous Bernard used his time-stopping watch to remove a tack from an old man's foot. When he is later sent to the new Headmaster, a Mr Lion, who turns out to be the old Man, and instead helps Bernard escape punishment.
  • Doubling as a Brick Joke, an episode of Corner Gas has Oscar buying mousetraps to kill a mouse that had been seen at the gas station. Davis is against this, admitting to being somewhat of an animal lover and fondly recalling a time when he took care of an injured owl until it was healthy enough to fly again. At the end of the episode, Davis has finally worn Oscar down and convinced him to capture the mouse alive and release it into the wild. They let it go in a field... and what is implied to be the same owl immediately swoops down to snatch it up for food.
    Davis: [devastated] Hootie, NO!
  • Doctor Who: In "The Doctor's Daughter", the Hath trust Martha after she helps one of them with a dislocated shoulder.
  • Grimm: Averted in "Last Grimm Standing" where Monroe helps pull a nail out from the hand of a gladiator shortly before they are set to fight each other. But the gladiator had no problem trying to kill Monroe and probably would have if Nick didn't intervene.
  • House: In one episode, House heals his crazy cellmate's pet cricket that got sick from a pesticide. Towards the end of the episode, when another inmate is about to stab House with a knife, House's cellmate bashes the other guy in the head with a chair.
  • Jeremiah: In To Sail Beyond the Stars, Kurdy is being chased by several gunmen and encounters an impoverished and homeless young mother who he gave food to and then acted as a midwife for when she went into labor. She lets him hide under her sleeping bag, saving his life.
  • Merlin: Inverted, in which it is the dragon who gives advice and aid to Merlin whenever he's in trouble, and eventually extracts a promise from him that he'll eventually set him free from the dungeon under the castle. When Merlin finally gets around to destroying his chains, the dragon promptly lays waste to Camelot.
  • Power Rangers Operation Overdrive: Invoked when Tyzonn the Mercury Ranger removes an improbably long spike from the foot of Norg, a Yeti sharing his cave with one of the Big Bads. While it does mark the beginning of Norg's shifting loyalties, the fact that he hardly counts as a villain to begin with makes it more a case of Butt Face Turn.
  • Revolution: Averted Trope. In "Chained Heat", The bounty hunter Charlie persuades Miles to spare later on hands them over to the militia. Later, in the episode "The Plague Dogs", Danny manages to save Tom Neville from certain death and still ends up being rearrested.
  • Scrubs: Referenced in an episode when JD removes a splinter from the Janitor's toe (though he mixes it up slightly with the story of the mouse and the lion). When JD tries telling it, the Janitor cheerfully cuts him off with "Oh, right, and then the lion kills him anyway." Funnily, the Janitor does try to repay JD with unwanted help, causing JD to waste the favor by asking the Janitor to do something trivial. The Janitor notes afterward that JD could have asked to not be hassled for a year.
  • Sinbad: In the 2012 miniseries, Sinbad gives water to a chained-up Roc, for which it lets him pass and leave his prison, and later gets the key to its chains and releases it. In return, it saves him from a probably fatal fall, capsizes a boat full of people out to kill him, and beats its wings to provide enough wind for his ship to get on its way.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1: Daniel Jackson makes reference to this story during an episode when he is the captive of an injured Unas and helps its recover from its wounds. Along with other interactions, this develops into a sort-of respect, and the Unas saves his life.
    • Stargate Atlantis:
      • The story is referenced by the main characters. Sheppard and Teyla get kidnapped by a wild-looking man who has a Wraith tracker implanted in his back. Sheppard gets the expedition doctor to remove it and in exchange, the wild-looking man, Ronon, attempts to capture a member of the team who had gone AWOL. He fails, but eventually joins the expedition.
      • Also in Atlantis, Sheppard is kidnapped by Genii and imprisoned along with a Wraith. They form a truce with each other long enough for the pair to escape, and later the Wraith, "Todd", becomes a valuable ally in the fight against all the Wraith hives, and a (relatively) moderating influence within his own.
  • An example involving a kaiju occurs in Ultraman Leo, when Rolan, a friendly, peaceful avia monster, was injured by an arrow in her paw until a helpful local mechanic assists her by pulling the arrow out. Rolan ends up assuming a humanoid form (as a beautiful woman) and become friends with the mechanic, but this only leads to more problems when Alien Magma - the ruthless alien who injured Rolan in the first place - comes back to finish her off.
  • The Weird Al Show: According to the Expository Theme Tune:
    One day Al was in the forest, trying to get a tan
    When he heard the tortured screaming of a funny little man
    He was caught in a bear trap, and Al set him free
    And the guy that he rescued was grateful as could be
    And it turns out he's a big-shot producer on TV
    So he gave Al a contract, and what do you know?
    Now he's got his very own Weird Al Show!

  • Defied in this Old Master Q comic strip; Master Q helps a tiger remove a thorn from it's paw, so said tiger repays Master Q by eating him and using the thorn as a toothpick.

  • HoneyWorks' "Holy Flag" centers around a fantasy adventuring group helping others on their way to fight a demon. When the party leader first starts out, he helps a young girl out of a particularly bad slump, but she does not join him. However, she does return the favor during the final battle, where comes in just in time to restore everyone's health enough for them to accomplish a finishing blow to the demon. And she only really does this because she's thankful for the party leader's assistance that time long ago.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • In Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, Yvain helps a lion fight a giant serpent. The grateful feline then follows Yvain, saving his butt quite a few times.
  • In the old tale "The Golden-Headed Fish," an Egyptian prince is sent on a mission to capture the title animal, which is the only thing that can save his father from a deadly illness. He succeeds, but can't bring himself to kill the beautiful creature and sets it free. His father (who recovers anyway) banishes him from the realm. Out in the world, he encounters a strange man who wishes to work as his servant, and accompanies him on a number of adventures, saving his life frequently. After the prince's father dies, his mother summons him back to take his rightful place as king, at which time the servant requests permission to leave.
    Prince: If it were not for you, I should long ago have been dead.
    Servant: And if not for you, I too should long ago have been dead. For I am the golden-headed fish.
  • St. Jerome and St. Gerasimus also tame a lion by removing a thorn from its paw.
  • There is a story that says that when when King David was on the run from King Saul, he went to hide in a cave, where he saw a spider he was going to kill, before the spider stopped him, saying he'd help him somehow. King David laughed but spared it anyway. The spider spun a web around the cave's opening, so when King Saul came by the cave, he said there is probably no one in there, as they'd have to tear through the cobweb to get in. He left, and King David blessed the spider.
  • An almost identical story is told of Muhammad, albeit different in an important way: the cave that he and his friend Abu Bakr were hiding in during the Hijra (flight from Mecca to Medina) had a spider in it, which Abu Bakr was about to absentmindedly kill but which the Prophet had him spare. The spider made a cobweb over the opening, and some birds nested, leading Quraish (the pursuing Meccans) to look elsewhere.
  • A similar story tells of how King Solomon was stung by a bee once and wanted to kill it, but it asked him to spare her so she'd help him someday. King Solomon reacted the same as David. Later, when the Queen of Sheba came over to test King Solomon's famous wisdom, she asked him to pick the real flower out of three―the other two were impeccably fabricated. The King was stumped until the bee came over and sat on the real flower.
  • In the Mahabharata, Yudhishtira makes it up the mountain to Heaven (and is indeed the only one of the Pandavas to do so), because he refused to leave behind a dog that followed him. It turns out the dog is a reincarnation of his father, Dharma.
  • Melampus from Classical Mythology was a soothsayer and healer who gained fame and fortune simply by being kind to animals. In one version of the myth, he saved a pair of orphan baby snakes. In gratitude they licked his ears, giving him the power to understand animals.
  • Maud and the Wyvern — The Wyvern killed almost everyone in the village that it lived in... except for one, Maud, who he sees as its only friend.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Dane Cook once did a comedy bit about this, noting how if there's someone at work with a creepy, outsider-vibe to them, it's best to be nice to them so they'll spare you when they inevitably show up at the office with a shotgun.
    "You know that one fat guy in work who's always shunned and made fun of? I always give that guy a Snicker's bar, because the day when he inevitably snaps and storms the office shooting everyone and finds me, he'll go 'Thanks for the candy' and walk away." — Paraphrased version of the routine
  • Deadpan comic Jackie Vernon had a bit about this. A man is in the African jungle when he hears moaning and finds an elephant with a thorn in its foot. Very carefully he approaches and removes the thorn. The elephant tests its foot and goes away. Ten years later the man is in Madison Square Garden in NYC at the Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey Circus. During the entrance march of the elephants, one of the elephants stops in its tracks, looks across the arena at the man, and then breaks away and runs up to him, scattering everyone in its path. It stops in front of the man, reaches down with its trunk, raises him out of his seat, throws him on the ground, and steps on him, crushing him to death (in some other versions of the same joke, it simply throws him out of the enclosure instead)!"It was a different elephant."
  • Bill Hicks frequently brought it up while discussing his views on creationism.
    If the world is 6000 years old and the Bible covers all of it, why doesn't it say "Jesus and His disciples walked towards Nazareth, but lo, the trail was blocked by a giant Brontosaurus... with a splinter in his paw. And the disciples did run a-screamin' 'What a BIG FUCKING LIZARD, Lord!' But Jesus was unafraid and took the splinter from his paw and the Brontosaurus became his friend. And Jesus sent him to Scotland to live in a loch and attract fat American tourists with fat American wallets and the Scots did praise the Lord!

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has the story "Awakening the Bear".
  • Hunter: The Vigil: Suggested in one of the stories in Spirit Slayers. In an ancient account by a Roman historian, a merchant joined a Scythian caravan and noted that a slave, a blinded man from a people called the Neuri, was treated far worse than any others; he eventually learns that he is a prisoner of war, and that the Scythians and Neuri are bitter enemies. He largely accepts this as being the way it is, but begins to slip morsels of food and drinks of water to the abused slave. Eventually, a storm forces the caravan into the cuntry of the Neuri, where a pack of huge wolves attacks and slaughters everyone save the merchant, who is spared when the leader of the wolves, a scarred and blinded specimen, calls them off and leads them back into the night. The modern transcriber notes that it is tempting to read this as the slave being a werewolf who spared the merchant for his kindness, although the account notes that the merchant couldn't be sure of this due to the bodies being so mangled that he couldn't tell whether the blind slave was or wasn't among them.

  • George Bernard Shaw's Androcles and the Lion plays this as straight as you'd expect from the title.
  • Subverted in The Hairy Ape — the ape in question kills the main character after he frees it.
  • Subverted in Wicked: as a student at Shiz, Elphaba (who will later become the Wicked Witch) rescues a lion cub from experimentation and frees it from its cage. This cub grows up to be the Cowardly Lion, who apparently holds Elphaba responsible for his cowardice and helps Dorothy and the Tin Man to hunt her down.

    Video Games 
  • In Banjo-Kazooie, the various Jinjos Banjo and Kazooie have been rescuing through the game will turn up to help you during the final battle with Gruntilda.
  • Battle for Wesnoth: In Heir to the Throne, if Konrad saves the gryphons from the loyalists in "Gryphon Mountain" and doesn't capture them himself, the gryphons will return and become recruitable when Konrad return to Wesnoth.
  • In the BioShock Infinite DLC Burial at Sea, it is revealed that this is how the bond was formed between Elizabeth and Songbird; she reattached its breathing hose as a young girl after it crashed into her tower and was damaged. Something similar is implied with the first pair-bond of a Big Daddy and two Little Sisters, when the Sisters heal a Daddy by injecting it with ADAM, but in this case, it's the Sisters being the source of the ADAM that creates the biological link between them.
  • In the first Clock Tower, Jennifer can rescue a crow from being imprisoned in the Barrows Mansion. It's the only way to achieve one of the better endings when Mary tries to kill Jennifer at the top of the clock tower but is assaulted by a group of crows who cause her to fall to her death. They can also attack Bobby (if he's chasing Jennifer) if he's led into the room where the original crow was freed.
  • In Crusader of Centy, many of the player's animal companions must be saved from a horrible fate. Three are held captive by bosses, and two are hopelessly stuck somewhere awaiting death.
  • Chuck in Dead Rising 2 can tame one of the bosses, a hungry tiger named Snowflake, by finding pieces of steak in the casino where she lives and feeding them to her. After which she becomes a very useful follower, protecting Chuck from the zombies that have infested Fortune City and can be given to Chuck's daughter Katey as a pet.
  • Dizzy meets a lion who needs a thorn removed from his paw in Prince of the Yolkfolk. In a subversion, it's not the lion that helps Dizzy in return but the thorn which helps him eliminate his Evil Twin.
  • The animated introduction for Don't Starve Together character Walter depicts him giving his jerky stick to Woby in her monstrous form. He then tries the same with Deerclops, prompting Woby to carry him away to safety at top speed.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, if you're not playing as the Human Noble, you can recruit the mabari warhound party member by doing a side-quest in Ostagar, which involves finding a cure for a mabari that's been infected by the darkspawn taint. The dog will appear in a special encounter on your way to Lothering and join your party. Justified, in that mabari are intelligent enough to count as a Uplifted Animal.
  • Dragon Quest V: Saber — a sabrecat monster — becomes the hero's loyal companion after he and Bianca save him from two cruel kids' abuse.
  • Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth: In Fetid Necropolis, you can feed a dog during a field event. On a later floor, you will encounter a zombie dog that turns out to be the same dog from before, mourning its deceased Master. If you spare this dog, that retains its sense of self despite being rendered undead, it will give you some of its late Master's money.
  • Averted in Exile and the first three Avernum games. There are a few minor encounters where freeing a trapped monster will result in it trying to kill the player because they're "nowhere near bright enough to comprehend the idea of gratitude." However, the later Avernum games do toss in a few hungry animals who will follow the player around briefly and help during fights after being fed.
  • In Fallout 3, the player comes across a dog and a wastelander fighting some raiders in a junkyard. The wastelander always dies, but if the dog is saved it becomes a useful companion.
  • Haunting Ground: Fiona frees the dog, Hewie, near the beginning of the game, after he's been tied up. Hewie returns by fending off Debilitas a few minutes later and subsequently accompanies Fiona through the rest of the game.
  • Hiveswap: Joey is initially terrified of Dammek's lusus, a huge cat-like beast with deer's antlers, which she runs from every chance she gets. After deducing the creature is following her because it's wounded, not aggressive, she uses a vet's kit to remove a thorn from its paw. In return, the lusus allows Joey to ride on its back.
  • King's Quest V:
    • A rat that Graham saves by throwing a boot at the cat that's chasing it returns the favor by gnawing through Graham's ropes when he's tied up in a cellar, about to be killed. Of course, this becomes less sweet when the gameplay mechanics come into play: If the player doesn't think to throw the boot when the cat and the rat unexpectedly, briefly appear the first time they enter a certain location, good luck when reaching the cellar.
    • In the same vein, the mountain range has a starving eagle on the mountain range that needs to be fed when the player only has two food rations left. Failure to do so means he won't save Graham from the Roc that plucks him away at the end of the chapter.
    • An army of ants Graham saves from a dog that was digging up their anthill. They later find a literal needle in a haystack for him.
  • In League of Light: Dark Omens a mama griffin who had her injured baby returned to her by the player character shows up at the end to transport the hero and the Damsel in Distress to safety.
  • The Legend of Zelda
    • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the boss of the first dungeon (Gohma) is tormenting the tail of the resident guardian spirit, the dragon Valoo. Once Link has put the pain on that monster, Valoo expresses his gratitude. Later, when Link is captured by Ganon, Valoo pulls a Big Damn Heroes and brings help, then blasts Ganon with a gout of flame.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the first dungeon is full of monkeys that need to be saved, and are quick to return the favor, proving themselves to be vital to progressing through it. Furthermore, the first miniboss is a possessed baboon named Ook. After Link beats the insect possessing him off of Ook, he returns the favor by helping Link in the fight against the dungeon's boss Diababa.
  • Mad Rat Dead: Mad Rat saves a black cat from drowning. In return, the cat refuses to eat him when they later cross paths. Also, in a rare case of the main character being the lion, Mad Rat rewinds time to save a little girl from getting run over after she rescues him from a cat's jaws.
  • Mass Effect: Commander Shepard has the option of letting the last Rachni queen go free. She's captured again in Mass Effect 3, this time by the Reapers. Shepard can once again set her free, leading the Queen to send Rachni workers to aid in the construction of the Crucible project.
  • Metroid
    • At the end of Super Metroid, the baby Metroid which Samus spared at the end of Metroid II: Return of Samus sacrifices itself to rescue Samus from Mother Brain, after having imprinted on Samus beforehand, seeing her as its mother.
    • In Super Metroid, the Etecoons and Dachoras were friendly creatures who helped Samus by teaching her techniques like the Wall Jump and the Shinespark. At the end of the game when Samus is trying to escape the Zebes-Shattering Kaboom, taking a slight detour shows them trapped in a room. If they're saved, a tiny dot will be seen escaping the explosion in the ending sequence. By Metroid Fusion, the same Etecoons and Dachoras are seen in a containment hold in the BSL labs partway through the game, and Samus sets them loose. At the end of the game, they return her both favors by activating her ship, (which has to be done manually) allowing the onboard AI to pilot it into the docking bay allowing her to escape the station just before crash landing.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Pikachu plays this role with Samus. In the story mode Subspace Emissary. After she rescues him from a generator, he accompanies her through the enemy base, helping her get her suit back, and eventually saving her ass when Ridley tries to smear her across the wall.
  • Monster Hunter: World: In The Witcher 3 crossover event, Geralt comes across roots that have trapped and killed several Pukei-Pukei. If he finds and rescues the one that's still alive, it will later jump in during the final battle with the Leshen and help him.
  • In Neverwinter Nights 2, the player can choose to help out a hungry giant spider by feeding it some bugs. When the player is given ownership of Crossroads Keep later in the chapter, it will take up residence in the castle's basement and knit some spider-silk clothing in gratitude.
  • Odin Sphere:
  • Ōkami:
    • Inverted with the player character, a white wolf who's actually Amaterasu, Shinto goddess of the sun. Through the game, she runs around assisting helpless villagers, and eventually they save her in her time of need by restoring her to her former strength by praying for her.
    • Played straight in Sasa Sanctuary. In Sasa Sanctuary, a man in one of the rooms is a hunter who is being served by a Sparrow girl. If you talk to him, he mentions that when he was a young man, he saved an injured sparrow. If you talk to the sparrow, she'll tell you (excitedly) that when she was a little girl, she was rescued by a hunter, and now that very same man is staying in the inn — so she's making sure he has everything he needs.
  • Pink Panther: Hokus Pokus Pink: After Pink helps a shark in Indonesia get his tail and fins back, the Shark repays the favor by giving Pink rides to 2 nearby islands.
  • In Portal Runner, The first thing Vikki does upon her arrival in the dinosaur world is tend to Leo's injuries and find some food; this is enough to get Leo's loyalty in return.
  • In Psychosis, if you save the caterpillar from the ants at the beginning of the game, a swarm of butterflies will help you fight the first boss.
  • Early in Resident Evil 4, Leon Kennedy encounters a dog caught in a bear trap. If the player has him free the dog, it returns later to help Leon fight his battle against the first "El Gigante" boss by distracting the monster. The Resident Evil 4 (Remake) continues this: In chapter 3, you will encounter a wolf trapped in one of the bear traps you passed earlier. When you reach the El Gigante boss fight in chapter 4, it shows up and repeatedly distracts and attacks the El Gigante. After the fight, it will spend the rest of its time chilling on a rock and relaxing.
  • In Revived Legends: Road of the Kings giving a mama roc her lost baby results in her acting as a living bridge across an impassible chasm.
  • In the SEGA Shadowrun game, Joshua saves Licourtrix, a dragon, from a squad of hunters sent by Renraku. In thanks Licourtrix allows Joshua to take a scale from his body, which can be used as a spell component by a shaman during a ritual. He also pulls a Big Damn Heroes moment during the final battle, binding Thon with his magic and offering Joshua a strategy to destroy him.
  • During an early stage in StarTropics, Mike rescues a dolphin. At the end of the game, the dolphin saves him, taking him back to C-Island.
  • The Boxing Kangaroo in Streets of Rage 3 isn't unlocked immediately without a code — only when you defeat its abusive trainer and run out of lives on the character you used to do it will you eventually be able to pick him mid-game.
  • Terranigma
    • Early on, Ark helps Liam, a young lion cub, pass a test to descend into a valley of death and return alive. Later on, after Beruga wipes out Neo-Tokio with a bio-weapon, a girl in the sewers is found being menaced by a lion. Guess who it is!
    • Inverted and then played straight during Liam's escorting mission, as the monster that acts as the stage boss pleads for its life and offers a "treasure" to Ark if he lets it go. The treasure chest is a booby trap, but before the monster could catch Ark off guard, Liam kills it offscreen and then guides Ark back to the safety of the lion den, where his kin welcomes Ark as one of them.
  • In Until Dawn, If Mike gives a bone to the wolf in the sanitarium, during his return visit it'll help guide him through and warn him when the Wendigo's are attacking.
  • Warframe: On some weeks where the Break Narmer mission is Junk Run, one optional side-objective will be to free caged Drahks (mutant dog-like creatures). When you help them, they will be so grateful that they will fight the enemy Sentients in the area alongside you, then turn peaceful.
  • World of Warcraft features a variant of this, where someone is kidnapping Wyvern babies. They follow the player around for a little while after they're saved, then seem to leave. After fighting the person who captured them as a miniboss, the wyverns then reappear, attack the boss, carry him off a cliff, then drop him.
    • World of Warcraft would also carry one out over the course of ten real-life years: In the original level 60 version of the Upper Blackrock Spire dungeon, a blue dragon whelp could be rescued from two orcs and would thereupon tell his storynote  before granting the players a scale of hers to begin a short quest chain. A decade later, the developers would retire the level 60 version in favor of a level 100 dungeon of the same name, where in a specific boss fight a grown-up Awbee charges into the fray:
      Awbee: "You saved me once, now i am here to return the favor!"

    Web Animation 
  • AoHaru Manga Library: Keiichi's kindness will eventually lead him to help someone in trouble without looking into their background, while the antagonist will be ignorant and even ruin Keiichi's life for it. Later, it turns out that the one Keiichi saved is a figure of power who does their best to repay the favor and make the antagonist suffer for their callousness.
  • The Star Wars: Galaxy of Creatures episode "Nexu" has Aree saving a Nexu from poachers, which means the Nexu quickly returns the favor and saves Aree from the poachers.

  • Subverted in the earliest pages of Bailin and Li Yun. After Li Yun treats Bailin's arrow wound, the latter dives back into the sea without looking back, just like any wild species.
  • In Doc Rat, they discuss but do not push this trope with Charmane.
  • In Endstone, Vandric recognizes Kyri in the arena.
  • In the world of Kevin & Kell, this is actually a law, where if an herbivore helps a predator, that predator owes a downplayed Life Debt and cannot harm the herbivore that helped him or her.
    • Played for Laughs in a strip where a male lion is trying to teach himself to hunt and tries to pounce on a mouse. He misses and lands in a thorn bush, and the mice line up to pull a thorn from his paws.
    Mouse: Friends forever, right?
    Lion: (wearily) Right.
  • Oglaf:
    • One strip deconstructs the "kindly hunter" version of the story. The hunter releases a deer, a rabbit, and a sandwich upon their requests, and then keels over and starves to death. In the last panel, the creatures gather around his grave and wonder if there wasn't something they could have done.
    • In another strip, a dentist-wizard is asked to save a town from a rampaging monster. Despite his limited skill-set, he's able to subdue and befriend the creature because it had an impacted molar.
  • Belkar in The Order of the Stick released an allosaurus that was being held in a cage in the Empire of Blood's arena. Even though it was sedated and returned to the cage, it seems to remember Belkar's deed; in a later scene when one of the Empire's soldiers uses it as a steed during an attack on the Order, it obeys Belkar's command not to eat Roy and helps drive away the other soldiers. Justified, as Belkar is a ranger with the Wild Empathy ability, making it easier for him to tame and command wild animals.
  • Torg does this for the demon Mosp in this Sluggy Freelance strip. This ends up saving his life when the "That Which Redeems" arc rolls around.

    Web Original 
  • In Graven Hunter Files book Death by Demon young Sye encounters a baby demon and raises her, giving her the name Cat and teaching her not to eat people. Adult Sye later encounters Cat, who is eager to reconnect with Sye despite Sye's reluctance. By the next book Treacherous Grounds Cat has become a regular companion of Sye's.
  • In the 5e Dungeons & Dragons stream TheUnexpectables, the party encounters a crab holding a knife. While the DM, Monty, was certain that the crab would meet his demise, the party instead befriended him and was able to retrieve the knife for some Northlanders nearby. A few sessions later, the crab returns, named Crabbius the Mighty, and vouches for the party when confronted by a storm giant. Crabbius returns once more in episode 68 to save the party after they had been tossed into a channel by the hyper-religious United Clergy of Orun.
  • Protectors of the Plot Continuum: Velociripper reveals in his first mission as an agent that he sought revenge on his author for being used as a tool for terrorizing the protagonists, resulting in his grudge against said author's persona, Falchion. He ultimately puts an end to this grudge, and his general hatred of humanity, after Falchion shows him the kindness and mercy he needs to emotionally recover.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in Adventure Time in the episode "Freak City," where Finn gives food to Magic Man, disguised as a beggar, and he repays Finn by turning him into a giant foot against his will, because, as the episode's Spoof Aesop will tell you, "Magic Man is a jerk."
  • American Dad!: Roger apparently raised a wolf from when it was a cub and released it in the wild, and later, finds a wolf while he's stranded with the family in the middle of a desert (which is owned by Stan's cousin). It's not the same wolf.
  • This was the plot to one of The Ant and the Aardvark cartoons, where the Tiger agrees to protect Ant and his gang from the hungry Aardvark after he pulled a thorn off his foot. In the end, the Tiger steps on another thorn and this time the Aardvark pulls it off. You can guess what happens next.
    • And a few years earlier this happened with The Pink Panther. A man pulls a nail off of the Panther's foot and he becomes his slave. The man was annoyed at first but found helpful when he realized that he can use him to scare his shrewd wife and her mother. After many attempts at getting rid of the pink cat, the wife gives up and decides to leave home... only for the Panther to step on another nail, with the wife pulling it out of his foot. Again, you can guess what happens next.
  • In the "Tibbles to the Rescue" episode of Arthur, D.W. saves Timmy and Tommy Tibble from a fall, and after Grandma Tibble tells her twin grandsons that returning the favor would make them feel good, D.W. and Emily are bothered when the Tibbles try to save D.W. from drinking an avocado and banana smoothie, interfere with a frisbee game and knock the candy being given away that D.W. would have caught. After Emily tells the Tibbles that the best way to help her is to stay away, they pretend to be Mrs. Read and put her Mary Moo Cow on the monkey bars. They finally manage to return the favor when D.W.'s shoe strap breaks and they fix it up by tying the loose ends.
  • Zig-zagged in Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • In one episode, the gaang befriends a Well-Intentioned Extremist bandit named Jet, who at one point tries to rob an innocent old man but is prevented from doing so by Sokka. Later in the episode, Jet tries to destroy a village by breaking open a dam and flooding it; Sokka goes to the village and tries to warn them to evacuate, but no one believes him until the old man from earlier speaks up on Sokka's behalf.
    • In another episode, friend-of-the-day earthbender Haru saves a villager from a rockslide. The villager promptly turns him in to the Fire Nation.
  • Mentioned as a throwaway gag on Bob's Burgers. Tina rescues a sea urchin by pushing it back into the sea with her foot, and both Gene and Tina are absolutely convinced it will repay the favour someday.
  • The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse: The fox, when he first encounters the boy and the mole, tries to eat the mole. Later, however, the boy and mole find the fox in a snare, and the mole frees him. Afterwards the fox becomes their friend, first rescuing the mole from drowning in a river and then joining them on their journey.
  • In Infinity Train, Grace repairs some origami birds after Simon stomps on them. In return, they later save her from getting kicked off the train by Simon.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Numbuhs 2 and 3 adopt a baby skunk they name Bradley. Although Numbuh 1 doesn't like this, it ends up helping them in their mission to infiltrate a camp, and even makes a Tomato Surprise cameo in another episode two seasons later.
    • The skunk's parents also play this Trope. They reward the KND for keeping their son safe by showing up and saving them when they're in trouble.
  • There was an old Conan the Adventurer series that played this up. In one episode, Conan encounters a dragon that acts much like a genie (Conan found a MacGuffin, and the Dragon had to swear loyalty and grant wishes to whoever held it). When the Dragon calls Conan "Master", Conan declares that he is master of no man... or beast, and tells the Dragon he is free. Fast forward to the end of the season and the giant climactic battle, the Dragon appears out of nowhere to aid Conan and his allies.
  • Subverted in The Day My Butt Went Psycho! episode "Legend of the Butt-Squatch" when Zack removes a giant splinter from the titular Butt-Squatch's back — only for the beast to unfurl its previously-stuck wings and eat Zack as well as Deuce and Elanor, who tagged along to find the creature.
  • Almost anything ever made by Disney.
    • However, it's double-subverted in an episode of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, where Buzz and his zoologist love interest help a dangerous predator... which, despite Buzz citing the Androcles myth, immediately turns to try to eat them. Afterwards, the zoologist even chastises Buzz for being irresponsible for expecting human behavior from a wild animal, instead of accepting it as it is. It still does help them later in a moment of need — keeping it from being a full subversion — but this is treated as entirely coincidental, with Buzz's assumption that it's "returning their kindness" being overly romantic.'
    • DuckTales (2017): In "The Other Bin of Scrooge McDuck!", Huey comes across a Bigfoot with a thorn in his foot. After removing it, the Bigfoot befriends him and Huey decides to take him back to McDuck Manor. However, it's subverted as it turns out the Bigfoot is actually a fully sentient creature capable of speaking English. He staged the entire thing so he could live in the mansion and mooch off the triplets instead of living in the woods.
    • Played straight in Lambert the Sheepish Lion about a lion raised by a sheep.
  • A darker variant happens in Generator Rex which serves as a nod to the original story: Van Kleiss is sent back in time and one of the many stops on his journey back to the present is in ancient Rome during the Severan Dynasty, where he is captured and turned into a slave to fight in the Coliseum. To earn his freedom and an audience with the Emperor during a match, he grabs an attacking Lion and infuses it with Nanites to transform it into a three-mouthed Minotaur-like EVO that would serve as his faithful bodyguard while in Rome. When Van Kleiss went into stasis again, he told the beast to "Go start a few Legends."
  • George of the Jungle is a Friend to All Living Things, so he tends to get this treatment whether he has a history with the particular animal in question or not. However, in one episode, he was saved by a lion and explains that "George once took thorn from his paw," and then saved again, this time by a Man-Eating Plant, with the explanation, "George once took paw from his thorn."
  • A plot device in many Hanna-Barbera cartoons (those which they produced for TV as well as in the Tom and Jerry shorts).
    • Speaking of Tom and Jerry, also used in at least one Chuck Jones' Tom and Jerry cartoon ("Much Ado About Mousing").
    • Spike the Bulldog was usually the "lion", who would protect Jerry from Tom after Jerry got him out of trouble. Zigzagged in the "Fit to be Tied" short, a deliberate call-out to the old Aesop fable, when Jerry pulls a tack out of Spike's paw. At first, Spike helps Jerry when he rings a bell until Tom shows him a newspaper article where dogs have to be chained on leashes, and Tom makes Jerry his servant. Later on, the next day's newspaper reads that the leash law is repealed, and Spike starts pummeling Tom again.
    • In "The Bodyguard", Jerry pulls the wooden peg from the latch on the dog catcher's truck, releasing Spike who tells Jerry to whistle for help. After Tom tries to make Jerry into a sandwich, Spike crunches Tom into an accordion shape, Tom knocks a chip off Jerry's shoulder and Spike punches Tom. After Tom walks away from Spike, he catches Jerry in the alley and gives a wolf whistle when he sees a female cat, with Spike hitting Tom again. Tom resorts to shaking two gumballs out of a machine, dipping one in glue, giving the coated one to Jerry, which stops him from whistling. Stuck in a fence hole, Jerry tries hard to blow a bubble, and after much effort, he finally blows a piercing whistle; subverted when Spike has been caught by the dog catcher, and Tom chases after Jerry.
    • In "Hic-cup Pup", Tom is noisily chasing Jerry, which wakes Tyke up and gives him a case of the hiccups. After Spike warns Tom not to make any noise, Jerry finds various ways to make Tom scream, such as biting his tail, Tom accidentally hitting Spike with a shovel, putting a mousetrap on Tom's paw, blowing into a hose with a trumpet at the other end, and putting bicycle horns on Tom's feet. After Spike himself gets the hiccups, Tom chases Jerry onto the house, and falls off a rain gutter, falling to Earth and praying for his life. This cures Spike's and Tyke's hiccups, and Spike tells Tom that anything he does is acceptable; as soon as Jerry hears the news, he heads to the South for his health's sake.
    • A truly bizarre variation occurs in Tex Avery's MGM cartoon "King Sized Canary"; as a hungry cat stalks a mouse, the mouse says, "Hey, I just sat through this picture, and if you're smart you won't eat me, because later in this picture I'll save your life." He does too.
  • In one episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), Prince Adam frees a dragon that was buried by a cave-in. Later, He-Man is fighting some dragons and is nearly killed. The dragon from earlier (the mother of the other two) recognizes him from his scent and calls her children off. Then, when Skeletor attacks Greyskull, she later comes back to help him.
    • The mother dragon comes back in a later episode, helping He-Man again when a crisis happens that requires him to traverse Eternia faster than Battle Cat can handle. Fortunately, she can fly much faster than any landbound mount can. (Unfortunately, she can't swim, the one thing that still made He-Man's job hard.)
  • Hilda: A flashback in the episode "The Deerfox" reveals that Hilda first met Twig when she rescued him while he was trapped under a pile of rocks. He repaid the favor by saving her from falling off a cliff, sacrificing his chance at being with the rest of his kind to do so.
  • Hit-Monkey:
    • In episode four, Hit-Monkey rescues a mouse from a trap while infiltrating the prison. The same mouse later helps him to safely escape the prison.
    • In the same episode, Hit-Monkey chooses to spare Fat Cobra’s life. Fat Cobra returns the favor by helping him fight off the other prisoners and retuning in the season finale to help him reach Shinji.
  • Johnny Bravo parodies it in "Quo Doofus". Johnny is sentenced to be eaten by a lion in Ancient Rome. Luckily, the lion gets a splinter stuck in his paw which Johnny kindly removes, pleasing the audience but not the bloodthirsty emperor. Johnny gives a moving speech and shakes the lion's paw, only to lodge the splinter back in and earn its contempt.
  • Jonny Quest.
    • "A Small Matter of Pygmies". A pygmy is being punished by the other pygmies by being tied to a stake so he can be eaten by a panther. Race, Jonny, and Hadji save him by shooting the panther and releasing him. When they're captured by the other pygmies, he returns the favor by releasing them.
    • "Treasure of the Temple". The Quest team releases an Indian who had been staked out to die by the Big Bad and his mooks. When the team is captured by the Big Bad, the Indian gets them out of their cell to freedom.
  • In the final episode of Jumanji: The Animated Series, Alan's long-lost riddle is revealed; the kids figure out that Alan has to pull out a thorn from a lion's paw to escape from Jumanji once and for all.
  • Korra from The Legend of Korra accidentally injures a baby dragon bird and then helps it back to its nest. In return, the adult dragon bird gives her a lift to the spirit portals and then saves her from Unalaq by giving him a big Tail Slap.
  • A version of this happens in the Looney Tunes short Roman Legion-hare. After chasing Bugs Bunny through the lion cages beneath the Colosseum and in the process infuriating all the lions (and being comically mauled a few times), Captain of the Guard Yosemite Sam throws Bugs into the arena so that Nero can watch a victim be eaten. Instead, the lions rush past Bugs, jump up the stands, and go after Sam and Nero. It's thanks to Bugs providing them with the tools needed to dismantle Sam's stilts beforehand.
  • Downplayed in the Molly of Denali episode "Fire, Food, and Family" in that we don't really see Nat taking care of his sled dogs on screen, but in his story, his dogs came back to get him during the blizzard. He outright says that if you take care of animals, animals will take care of you, which implies that he did take care of the dogs.
  • Deliberately referenced in the opening two-parter of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, where Fluttershy removes a thorn from a (very lion-like) Manticore's paw, resulting from Fluttershy's special connection with animals.
  • Primal (2019): In "Terror of the Blood Moon", Spear opting to save a wounded member of the albino Primitive Men from certain death caught out in the open, and furthermore bringing them food in their shelter, prompts the Primitive Men to return his lost weapon to him.
  • Road Rovers, "Where Rovers Dare". While the Rovers are busy stopping a weapons dealer from starting a War for Fun and Profit, Colleen takes in, and fixes up, an injured wolf. While the bad guys have cornered her and her all-male teammates, the wolf howls, and next thing you know, tons of wolves have shown up, allowing the UN to easily capture the baddies.
  • Fractured Fairy Tales on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show had an episode titled Androcles and the Lion. Unfortunately, by the time Androcles met the lion in the arena, it'd been starved by the Romans, and the score was soon Lion:1, Androcles: 0.
  • The Rupert episode "Rupert and the Crocodiles" had Rupert Bear free a snake called the Serpent King by removing a log that was pinning him to the ground. The Serpent King later repays Rupert for his kindness by saving him, his friend Podgy Pig, a captain, and the captain's first mate from a tripe of bipedal crocodiles that tried to eat them.
  • In She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Hordak found baby Adora in a field after Light Hope teleported her to Etheria. In a rare act of compassion, he took her back to the Horde with him. In the climax of "Heart, Part 2", she exorcises Horde Prime's spirit from his body, saving him.
    Hordak: I remember you.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Dog of Death," Santa's Little Helper takes on the role of the fearsome, bloodthirsty lion who shows mercy when he refuses to attack Bart, on Mr. Burns' command and, in the process, drives off the other dogs and turns them into whimpering cowards. This is despite the family treating SLH like dirt as they struggle to regain their financial footing to pay for emergency surgery on the dog.
    • In another episode, Homer tells Bart the story of "Hercules and the Lion." Hercules is able to pull a thorn out of a lion's paw, and the lion in turn grants him riches. When Bart points out the obvious flaw in that story and asks how a lion could somehow get rich, Homer simply replies that it was back in "the olden days."
    • In "The Fat And The Furriest", Homer gets attacked by a bear at the dump. Later, after he makes the anti-bear armor, he realizes why the bear was so aggressive: the tracking tag on its ear is faulty and gives anyone wearing it painful electric shocks, causing constant agony. When Homer removes it, the bear becomes friendly to him and they strike up a friendship. Homer ends up saving the bear from hunters by leading it to a wildlife sanctuary.
    • Inverted in "Bart Gets An Elephant": when Bart wins an elephant named Stampy in a radio phone-in contest, Homer quickly finds that he's too expensive for the family to keep and tries to recoup his losses by selling Stampy to an ivory dealer. However, when he falls into the Springfield tar pits and Stampy rescues him, he decides to donate Stampy to a wildlife preserve instead.
  • The Smurfs (1981) episode "All Creatures Great And Smurf" has the adult Nat Smurf mistake a The Farmer and the Viper situation for this when he nurses a wounded Azrael back to health when he had his paw stuck in an iron trap, with Azrael being grateful at first, but upon hearing his master Gargamel's voice reverts back to his old nature. What kept Azrael from tearing Nat to shreds wasn't Nat's talking or any kindness on Azrael's part, but the sound of a fiercer creature coming straight for him and chasing him off into the forest.
  • In The Smurfs (2021) episode "Lost Cat", Wild befriends Azrael and helps him heal from a paw injury. In return, when Gargamel captures Wild, Azrael helps that Smurf escape by biting his master in the butt.
  • Star Wars Rebels has the purrgil. Ezra rescues a pod from a bunch of miners encroaching on their territory, even though it makes the mission much more dangerous, and they repay him by taking out the TIEs harassing the Ghost. Handwaved because the Force lets him communicate his intentions to them, otherwise they would act like normal animals. Becomes a Karmic Jackpot in the series finale when several pods' worth of purrgil, including older and much bigger members of their species, arrive to disable and abduct a Star Destroyer fleet.
  • In the "Commander McBragg" segment of Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, McBragg has a story like this, and it's one of the few times he has actual evidence to prove it. According to him, he is captured by "strange men" after his plane crashes in a remote valley, and left as a Human Sacrifice to appease a giant who is angry. McBragg quickly discovers that a thorn is lodged in the giant's foot and that he's not angry, but in pain; so he dislodges the thorn, gaining the giant's friendship. (The proof? A large, metal ring that the giant gave him from his little finger, which McBragg now uses as a hula-hoop.)
  • In Thunder Cats 2011, Lion-O saves a pair of Lizard prisoners from a lynch mob and sets them free. Later, when Lion-O and Tygra are Locked in the Dungeon during The Siege of Thundera, the more antagonistic of the two repays the favor sneaking Tygra and Lion-O the key to their cell in some soup.
  • Played With in an episode of The Wild Thornberrys, when Eliza and her grandfather find a bear caught in a trap. While the attempt does work thanks to Eliza's ability to speak with animals, her grandfather is quick to point out just how dangerous this can be in real life.
    "You have no idea what an animal in pain will do!"
    • In another episode, Eliza works her butt off to return a lost lion cub to his family. When she succeeds, the lions try to eat her anyway. When she protests, they say that while they are grateful, they would have to be fools to pass up a chance at fresh meat, especially since they are in the middle of a drought.

  • Subverted (and double-subverted) in a classic joke. A man saves an elephant with a thorn in its foot. The elephant takes a long look at the man and then hurries off. Some years later, the man sees the elephant in a local circus. Since elephants never forget, the man decides to enter the elephant's enclosure to comfort his old friend the elephant. He is promptly crushed to death (or, in some versions, simply thrown out of the enclosure), at which point the narrator usually points out that it was probably not the same elephant.
  • In Hitherby Dragons, "A succession of magical fish" a woman gets offered her heart's desire from various fish. But it turns out, she's just being kind for the sake of it. She gets ice cream, though.
  • At least two stories from the Reddit subreddit, r/nosleep, have used this trope.
    • The Price of Sugar: A poor artist gets tired of a sentient colony of ants stealing sugar from her kitchen and makes a deal with them, which they agree to: if they stop stealing from her supplies, she will leave a bowl of sugar out for them every day. Her racist neighbor tries to get her thrown out of the apartment building for feeding the ants, and the ants kill him and make his bones into carved pendants for the woman to sell at the local market. As it turns out, they sell for quite a bit of money—"enough to keep my little friends in sugar for a lifetime".
    • The Cat Lady: A lonely old woman named Doris makes a habit of feeding the stray cats living in her neighborhood, her favorites being a large, fierce tomcat named Goliath and his mate Duchess. When their Jerkass neighbors the Hubbards harass Doris and try to get her to stop feeding the cats, Goliath and the cats start driving the Hubbards crazy, howling all night on their porch, using their lawn as a toilet and leaving dead birds all over the grass. The war escalates as the Hubbard boys retaliate by riding past Doris' house every day, cursing and throwing rocks at the cats. When the Hubbards cross a line by fatally poisoning Duchess, Goliath grows to the size of a mountain lion and tears the Hubbard boys into bits.

    Real Life 
  • Christian the Lion and the men who set him free.
    • Another lion story — in the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas, one of the lions turned on its trainer for an unknown reason... however the lioness went and started biting at the lion's tail and chased him away from the trainer to save him while the trainer escaped.
  • Similar to Christian the Lion's story is that of a Bald Eagle named Freedom and her handler Jeff Guldry. In this interview Jeff explains the state Freedom was in when she was brought to the Sarvey Wildlife Center. And in this video Jeff talks about her recovery, and how she later helped him overcome cancer.
  • A real-life instance involving a tiger, made the rounds on Tumblr in gif form, seen here (later uploaded on Youtube here). The man pulls a rotten tooth out of the tiger's mouth, after which it gently bites the man's arm to test how its mouth feels rather than mauling him.
  • Pocho, an American crocodile that was found with a serious head wound, was fed and taken care of by a local fisherman. The crocodile in turn stayed by the fisherman's side, acting not unlike a dog, until its death.
  • Wojtek, the soldier bear. During World War II, some Polish soldiers bought a (abandoned) bear cub during their stay in Iran from a local boy. After raising him and taking him with them on their deployment to Italy, Wojtek helped the soldiers carry artillery ammo.
    • After the war, Wojtek was sent to live in Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland. The Polish soldiers who stayed in the UK would occasionally visit him, and jump into the bear pit to play with him.
  • People who regularly feed crows or ravens will often be given gifts by the birds in return. Corvids are intelligent enough to differentiate one human from another, and are able to not only know which humans give them food, but are able to come up with a good means of showing gratitude.


Video Example(s):


The Origami Birds

Grace repairs some origami birds that Simon previously stepped on. Later, those birds save Grace when Simon kicks her off the train.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / AndroclesLion

Media sources: