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Born into Slavery

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"I was born into slavery. Deprived of any right, of any faith. I was sold, traded for labor. Forced to watch the suffering, treated like a beast of burden."
Adéwalé, Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry Trailer

Many a character will get Made a Slave in the course of his or her adventures, and then get away again; sometimes this is even the driving force of some Long Lost Heir or Proud Warrior Race Guy. Other times it's just Wacky Hijinks, because who isn't going to laugh and enjoy the Fanservice of a little harmless Go-Go Enslavement?

And then there are the ones who were never made slaves, because they were born into it. Some of these people may come from a Slave Race, and some of them may even find Happiness in Slavery, but an overwhelming number of protagonists born into slavery are deeply opposed to this condition. They may wish to avenge particular wrongs, or start a war to free their people, or just join a moral crusade for general emancipation. And that's if the story isn't entirely focused on them struggling to gain freedom just for themselves and/or loved ones.

It is also not guaranteed they will succeed, even in modern works, although it leaves a bad taste in our mouths when they don't. May ultimately invoke I Die Free.

If they're a girl, and grow up to be beautiful, they also belong on Beautiful Slave Girl.

Generally, a childhood spent enslaved will mess you up pretty much for all time, regardless. This is also considered interesting.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist reveals that the protagonists' father, Hohenheim, was over four hundred years old. It also reveals concurrently that around Ed's age he was a nameless slave designated #23, in the vanished Xerxes Empire. He climbs up from there with the help of Father, who regards him as his father, but until the little blob in the jar started talking to him he had no particular ambitions beyond doing his work and being left alone.
  • One of Legato Bluesummers' A Day in the Limelight bits in the Trigun manga shows us his backstory, which was either this or being Made a Slave in infancy or very early childhood. Then the little blue-haired Sex Slave who discovers his psychic powers and instead of using them to escape sets out to make sure of killing everyone in the entirety of the town. This causes them to start raping him to death as a punishment, apparently preventing him from focusing enough to stop them, since he's just starting to grow into his powers.
  • Gangsta.
    • Such was the fate of many children who were born Twilights, up until a few years ago when slavery became illegal at least.
    • Nicolas was born a slave by his Twilight mother with his dickhead mercenary father as his owner.
  • Askeladd in Vinland Saga was born a slave, his mother a Sex Slave of his father. He was eventually freed by his father after he showed promise.
  • Berserk: Guts was found half-born in his hanged birth mother, and adopted by mercenaries who saw him as less than dirt. The moment his mother died he was conscripted into his father's mercenary company, sold as a prostitute, and even after killing his father he had to keep fighting for food until he could sell his contract to someone remotely stable. Half the reason the Eclipse happened was because Guts was driven to sociopathy from such a cursed life and made some... poor... choices based on associating his ties to Griffith's Band of the Hawk with his former slavery and the need for freedom at all costs.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men member Longshot was a clone created by scientists working for Mojo, with the express purpose of working as a stuntman in movies; however, the inventor of the technology had planted a seed that would grow into the desire for freedom in his creations, and Longshot's first words were to tell Mojo, "No-one owns me." Eventually, he would indeed lead a rebellion and escape to Earth, beginning Mojo's long enmity with the X-Men and other heroes.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The Sangtee Empire practices chattel slavery, and Diana is seen feeding some children on the slave planet she and Natasha were conscripted to. Several of her revolutionaries are also implied to have been born as slaves rather than captured and made such.

    Fan Works 
  • Blood and Honor: Vette was born a slave on Ryloth and separated from her family at a young age. After being sold to various owners, she was freed, only to end up in a slave collar again shortly after the story begins. Eventually she manages to find both her mother and sister and buy the latter's freedom.
  • In My Master Ed, slaves that fall under this trope in Xerxes only receive numbers to be identified with. Van Hohenheim's rival Andal, by contrast, was sold into slavery to pay off family debts.
  • Velvet in The Assistant has been a slave her whole life. She still detests being enslaved and dearly hates her owner.
  • Much like in-canon, Pearls in Faded Blue are this. Blue Pearl was offered freedom by Pearl during the rebellion, but rejected it due to not knowing anything else. Even with Blue Diamond gone, she treats her son as her new master.
  • Vow of Nudity: Haara was born into slavery for the Genasi Empire, and it's clear she's far from the only one. Despite this, it seems to be more common for Genasi slaves to be captured commoners or defeated soldiers thanks to the current world war.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars:
    • Anakin Skywalker is a child slave when we first meet him in The Phantom Menace, though it's ambiguous whether he was born into it or if he and his mother were enslaved when he was a child: he remembers their sale to Gardulla the Hutt, who then lost them to their current owner Watto betting on the podraces, but doesn't speak of anything prior to that.
    • The clone troopers introduced in Attack of the Clones are an entire army of millions or even billionsnote  of purpose-bred Slave Mooks, genetically modified from an ethnic Mandaloriannote  human Bounty Hunter named Jango Fett. Such slave soldiers are in fact the planet Kamino's primary export product.
  • In Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Lucian was born from a Werewolf that was caged by the Vampires. Viktor swiftly killed his mother and raised him as a slave.
  • Harriet Tubman in Harriet, as per Real Life. Also pretty much all the other enslaved characters, and quite a few of the freedmen.

  • Crescent City: All of the descendants of the sprites who fought on Shahar's side in the Rebellion are slaves from birth.
  • Akai, as well as his parents and mostly all elves in Phenomena with the exception of Alk and Ilke. And a hidden elf tribe called Dark Elves.
  • Kullervo from the Finnish epic Kalevala.
  • Manpower's genetic slaves in the Honor Harrington novels.
  • Oreg of Hurog is eventually revealed to be the bastard offspring of a previous Hurog lord by one of his slaves, sold on to another noble family and then bought back by his father when it turned out he needed a mage of Hurog blood to bind as a slave to the castle for eternity.
  • Paulo the Elder and the Malê of Malê Rising, as were most politicians in post-Civil War South Carolina.
  • The Mark of the Horse Lord: Phaedrus the gladiator's father didn't get around to freeing his housekeeper and their son before he died. Phaedrus is rather lost after winning his freedom and ends up moonlighting as a tribal king.
  • The Attwell family, in Pact, is enslaved by an Incarnation of Conquest, due to mistakes made by an ancestor. Each child is allowed to grow until they reach thirteen years of age, and then they are forcibly awakened by their parents and then bound. Malcolm Fell Attwell, Conquest's main agent, is a Death Seeker who's looking for someone to kill him so that he won't have to do it to his niece in his deceased brother's stead.
  • Pharaoh, being set in Ancient Egypt after its golden age, has fellahin (peasants) who are, for all intents and purposes, slaves. Of the state, so they don't have any protection from the clerks.
  • In the Red Rising trilogy, every character not born into the Gold ruling caste is typically seen as property. Some colors have more freedom than others, but their roles in society all exist to prop up Gold.
  • In the Hayven Celestia universe the krakun crew Generation Ships with slaves who live, die, and produce the next generation of slave crewmen in deep space, while their millennia-old krakun masters use the attached Portal Network to commute back and forth to their planetside dwellings which are maintained by "self-sustaining" slave villages. Meanwhile the sourang can't breed slaves because the gene therapy they subject their slaves to render them sterile.
  • In Sorcerer to the Crown, Zacharias was born a slave before being bought by Sir Stephen, brought to England, and freed.
  • Vesta of Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World admits this is her backstory when she's purchased by the protagonist, Michio. While she claims her childhood was happy, she's purely a Stepford Smiler. Being treated like an equal, given the best available gear, regardless of expense, and treated to what's universally considered her world's lap of luxury had her confused and dismayed. When she's ordered to sit at the same table with everyone else, and served hot, fresh food, possibly for the first time in her life, she breaks down in Tears of Joy, to Michio's chagrin and confusion.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Jaffa in the Stargate universe, as an engineered Slave Race, are all this. Teal'c, the Jaffa we see the most of, is more or less the Trope Namer for I Die Free.
  • Melisandre in Game of Thrones was this. She reveals that her mother was a slave, presumably making her daughter one as soon as she was born. The books reveal she was sold to the Red Temple as a young girl.
  • In both adaptations of Roots, Kunta Kinte's friend Fiddler was born a slave since his ancestors were brought over from Africa over a hundred years before Kunta was bought by John Waller. Kunta's wife, Belle, their daughter Kizzy, as well her children and descendants were all born into slavery as well, and only gained freedom at the end of the Civil War.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "The Camp", Earth was conquered by the Tsal-Khan (otherwise known as the New Masters) twelve generations earlier, meaning that eleven generations of camp inmates were born into slavery.
    • In "The Grell", Jesha was born a slave, as were his parents before him. The same is true of every Grell for the last two generations.
    • In "The Human Operators", three generations of starfighter operators were born into slavery. They are forced to conduct repairs and have no knowledge of life outside their ships.
    • In "A New Life", the members of Father's religious community do not know it but their descendants will be born into slavery aboard a massive spaceship.
  • Pandora: The Adaran clones are manufactured to be slaves, so their status as this begins at "birth", with them being sold shortly thereafter. Atria recounts the ceremonies where this happens to Tom, and just how horrifying it was for them.
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton: Frannie was born in Jamaica to an enslaved black mother, and thus legally enslaved herself as a result of this. She's freed later by being taken to England (where slavery's forbidden) but this doesn't do much to change her state as she only gets changed to a totally dependant servant.

    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls series' backstory, this was the case for St. Alessia, the "Slave Queen", as was the case for nearly all of Cyrodiil's native humans under Ayleid rule. Alessia would escape, pray to the Aedra for aid, and would then lead a slave uprising known as the Alessian Revolt. After defeating the Ayleids, she would be crowned as the first Empress of Cyrodiil.
  • In Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Edward Kenway's original first mate Adewale was a former slave born in Trinadad who was highly valuable due to his ability to speak multiple languages. His connections to slavery are explored more thoroughly in Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry.
  • SunDog: Frozen Legacy: Zed (the protagonist) was born as a glass miner, as was his father, and his father before him. Somehow, his father's brother got out, and that's what gives Zed a way out as well.

    Web Original 

    Real Life 
  • In slavery in the Americas:
    • Pursuant to Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, the US actually banned the importation of slaves in 1808 (fifty-seven years before the ratification of the 13th amendment banning all slavery). Those among the Founding Fathers who were anti-slavery hoped that the activation of this law would rapidly strangle slavery in the US by depriving the plantations of replacement slaves. However, what they did not foresee was the fact that by 1807, there were so many slaves in the US that the slave owners were simply able to breed more slaves from their current "breeding stock". Older male slaves who had worked well would be put out to "stud" (which provided the slave owners with another source of income). And in many plantations, slaves would be forced into marriages and made to breed (many masters cut out the middleman and raped the women themselves). The intra-US slave trade was a massive business, and slave population actually rose post-1808. And all of those slaves freed at the end of the Civil War were probably born into slavery (any foreign-born slaves would have been in their late 50s at least,note  which, given slaves' life expectancy, would be quite rare).
    • This sort of thing did not happen in South America or the Caribbean in large numbers because working conditions were so harsh that most of the slaves were worked to death before age 30 (or they were freed, whereupon their children are no longer slaves).