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 Whacky 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.
Generally, a childhood spent enslaved will mess you up pretty much for all time, regardless. This is also considered interesting.
- 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 Homunculus, who regards him as a 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.
- And then Knives has an accidental Big Damn Heroes moment, and decides to spare the kid and let him tag along when he offers his life gladly in thanks. Reaches Tear Jerker when the boy is clearly crying for joy even as he admits that he doesn't have a name, and stumbles after the Magnificent Bastard with the shackles still trailing shattered chains.
- Rather than becoming a Morality Pet, as one might expect given the general scenario, the little boy pulls a From Nobody to Nightmare, and grows up to be both a major purveyor of horror and a poster boy for Happiness in Slavery, because of his Mad Love for the aforementioned Big Bad. Also a Boomerang Bigot and Nietzsche Wannabe completely on board with his boss's plan to Kill All Humans.
- In Gangsta. such was the fate of many children who were born Twilights, up until a few years ago when slavery became illegal at least.
- 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.
- Vesta of Slave Harem in the Labyrinth of the Other 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.
- 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 he was driven to sociopathy from such a cursed life and made some... poor... choices based on associating his ties to his gang with slavery and the need for freedom at all costs.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The universe of Running with Rats has thoughtforms - people created out of a magical dreamstuff called lio - who are widely claimed to be soulless automata performing an illusion of real emotions and therefore perfectly acceptable to hold as slaves and treat the way slaves are treated.
- 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). The anti-slavery Founding Fathers 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).
- The other factor, economics making slavery untenable, also never happened due to the invention of the cotton gin which made harvesting it much easier. So slavery remained a profitable institution up to its abolition.