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Captured by Cannibals

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"De cannibals is hungry and de whites am in a stew."
Little Nemo (1908 musical version), "Cannibal Barbecue"

One specific, discredited version of I'm a Humanitarian is the idea that when people from the "civilized world" (like missionaries and explorers) encounter Hollywood Natives, they are in danger of being eaten. The "civilized" characters may initially think that the natives are treating them as respected guests or even gods, and feeding them better than they ever have been... but then, without fail, out come the pots and the chanting.

Cast-iron cauldrons are a staple of the trope, even though the natives appear to be otherwise stuck in the stone age — talk about Anachronism Stew!

Jungle Drums, Skeletons in the Coat Closet and a Tribal Carry may well be involved. If they escape, they can expect to be Chased by Angry Natives.

Sometimes, the eating aspect isn't as stressed, but the idea remains that the outsider will be attacked and sacrificed instantly upon entering foreign territory; a particular Sister Trope is Appease the Volcano God.

If the captured is one of the Human Traffickers, they'll wind up being an Asshole Victim.

The trope was updated for the 20th and 21st centuries with the idea of a Cannibal Clan: a creepy, disturbed family or community that captures and eats people. The clan may be in the backwoods, deep in the Wild Wilderness, or in a blighted wasteland of a post-apocalyptic setting.

See also Wacky Wayside Tribe, Cannibal Tribe, Cannibal Clan, Hollywood Natives, or The Captivity Narrative. Likely to overlap with Black Comedy Cannibalism, Cooking the Live Meal, or Stewed Alive.


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    Comic Books 
  • Red Ears: Subverted. In one comic set in Darkest Africa, a father and his son from a cannibal tribe are sent out to hunt for food by his fat, foulmouthed wife when they stumble across a pretty young European woman. After they capture her, the son asks his father if they'll take her home and eat her. The father replies that they'll take her home and eat his mother instead.
  • In one old horror comic (in the Thing #16), a group of mostly anti-heroic types, except for one guy who's really smart and inventive, crash on an island with a Cannibal Tribe who promptly confine them, except for the smart guy. The leader says that they'll have plenty of time to come up with an escape plan, since in this tropical climate, the cannibals won't cook more than one of them at a time so they won't spoil. But then later, they drag all three of the others out and start boiling them, since the smart guy had taught them how to can meat.

    Comic Strips 
  • Happens a number of times to Little Nemo and his friends. One time a missionary shows up, trying to convert the natives to vegetarianism.
  • Disney does not like talking about the way Africans were portrayed in their 1930's Mickey Mouse comics. This trope has a lot to do with that.
  • One comic spoofed this by having an expedition come across the famous lost explorer they were searching for, inside a cooking pot over a fire. After they charge in to rescue him, the indignant explorer complains that he was just having a bath.

    Films — Animation 
  • Spoofed in Surf's Up. Chicken Joe is captured by native penguins who put him in a pot, which the oblivious Joe mistakes for a hot tub. He eventually befriends them with roast squid on a stick, which the natives find it Tastes Like Chicken.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation avoids the racist connotations by going with a different stereotype, Hillbilly Horrors, instead. In an extended parody of Deliverance, Banjo Possum's equally hillbilly family attempts to turn Babs into rabbit stew while Buster is distracted doing a "Dueling Banjos" version of the theme tune.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Cannibal tribes are a staple in Russian Humour. Usually, the stories feature someone captured by the cannibals and trying to avoid being eaten, the chief offering some impossible task and threatening to cook and eat the captured if they fail. Some stories reveal that the cannibal chief Majored in Western Hypocrisy at the Moscow Patrice Lumumba University, which specialized on giving university education to citizens of developing countries. Usually, whatever the cannibals are eating still isn't as awful as the university food.
  • Three men were lost in the jungle, and found themselves captured by a trible of cannibals. They are brought to the king, who tells them that they will be set free if they can pass a test. Naturally, all three jump at the chance to not be killed, and accept the challenge eagerly. They are told to go into the jungle and gather up 10 each of a fruit of their choice, then to come back and await further instructions. The first man comes back with 10 apples. The king tells him, "You must put all these apples up your butt, without showing any emotion. If you can do that, you will be allowed to go free and unharmed. But if you show any emotion, even the slightest hint, you will be killed and cooked for the village feast. With that, the man took a deep breath, dropped his trousers, and began the test. He managed to get the first one in OK, but on the second one, he winced in pain and was immediately killed. The second man returned with 10 berries, and had to pass the same test. He got 9 berries in, but on the 10th one, he burst out laughing. He, too, was killed. Later, he met the first man in Heaven, who asked him, "Why did you laugh, you idiot? You almost made it!" The second man replied, "I couldn't help it! I saw Bob coming back with pineapples!"
  • Two explorers are captured by a cannibal tribe and left to stew, when one of them starts giggling. "What could possibly be funny about this?" "I just pissed in the stew!"
    • In a variant, the cook gets mad and starts banging one of the explorers with his ladle. The chief tells him to knock it off, the cook says "But chief, he's eating all the rice!"
    • In yet another, the village women start dancing provocatively in front of the cauldron. The explorer complains about this extra sadism, the cook tells him it's so there's more to eat.
  • A Finnish joke has an explorer thrown in the cauldron and the lid closed. A little later, the cannibals open the lid briefly to see how well the man is boiling, only to see him quite alive and quite angry: "Jumalauta, can't a man take a sauna in peace here?"
  • One Feghoot concerns a man named Steve searching for his friend Bob, who went to Africa to market a soda called Fresca. As he travels through Africa, Steve encounters all manner of locals, missionaries, explorers, etc., drinking Fresca with any food they gather or catch. They all learned from Bob that whatever they're eating "tastes good with Fresca." Eventually, Steve runs across a Cannibal Tribe who ate Bob after buying a bunch of Fresca from him. As the leader explains, "Bob tastes good with Fresca." Horrified, Steve inquires about what exactly the cannibals ate from Bob's body: "You mean you ate his eyes? His legs? His heart?" And so on. The leader explains that yes, all those body parts taste good with Fresca too. Finally:
    Steve: Uh...wait a minute. Wait one minute. You don’t mean to tell me you — you ate his — you know, his, uh, thing?
    Leader: Yes.
    Steve: ...You ate his thing with Fresca?
    Leader: No.
    Steve: Huh? But I thought...
    Leader: Things go better with Coke. (Note: for younger readers, that was an advertising jingle for Coca-Cola in the 1960s.)
  • Three explorers (a Frenchmen, an Englishman, and an American) are caught by a cannibal tribe. The chief tells them their fleash will be eaten, their bones ground to fertilizer, and their skin used to make canoes. Then he asks if they have any last requests. The Frenchman asks to spend a night with the young women of the tribe, the Englishman for a cup of tea, and the American for a spearhead. The last one is granted, as the tribe greatly outnumbers the explorers, and once he has the spearhead in his hand the American starts stabbing himself like a madman yelling "Here's your fucking canoe!"
  • Three men are captured by a cannibal tribe and given a choice: death or unga-bunga. Unga-bunga turns out to mean "limbs hacked off and eaten", which the first two men go with. The third man spits on the chief and chooses death.
    "Very well. Death... by unga-bunga!!!"

  • Averted in the original book version of Adventures of Captain Vrungel. At one point, the crew of the Trouble ends up in Australia, and Vrungel, waking up from his sleep, sees his first mate, Lom, with some aboriginals over by a campfire, causing him to think they're about to eat Lom, and so he rushes over to rescue him. It turns out to have been a misunderstanding, Lom was just hanging out with the indigenous people, and they were sitting at a distance so as to not wake up Vrungel.
  • The children are capture and put into a cooking pot when they visit a South Seas island in Bedknob and Broomstick.
  • This is the main theme of several stories by Frank Richards, most notably in Billy Bunter Among The Cannibals and Big Chief Bunter.
  • In Evelyn Waugh's novel Black Mischief, the black tribesman are cannibals in the fictional East African country in which the novel is set. Ultimately, one group of characters has a plane crash/is slaughtered by them, and one of the protagonists ends up eating them, not realizing what or who he is eating until the natives tell him.
  • A non-culinary example: In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Burning Tower, Arshur the Wanderer enters Aztlan with the other heroes and is immediately crowned king. He's given four virgins as body servants, a palace to live in, everyone in the city follows his every order... and a week later he's drugged, dragged to the top of a pyramid, and is "sent to the gods" by having his heart cut out and sealed in a stucco wall.
  • Actually used fairly straight in two novels of The Culture. In Consider Phlebas, the protagonist is captured by a cult who practice cannibalism. He literally pulls Regret Eating Me on them, as his Bloody Murder powers ensure death to anyone taking a bite of him. Also, in Use of Weapons, the protagonist is tortured and sacrificed by natives on a planet he lands on, and is down to Losing Your Head by the time he is rescued, and needs a new body as a result.
  • In A Feast of Freedom, the Vice President of the United States visits a small island nation recently granted independence from Britain and inadvertently violates a cultural taboo while talking with a major chieftain. The chieftain kills him on the spot and then has him ritually cooked and eaten in accordance with his tribe's customs.
  • The children's book series Koziołek Matołek has most of the fourth book devoted to Matołek captured by a cannibal tribe in Africa. He manages to save himself by winning a riddle contest with the chieftain.
  • This is one of the biggest fears of Robinson Crusoe. He eventually acquires one of the cannibals as a faithful servant he names Friday, but remains convinced that Friday's people will eat him if he ever ventures over there, despite Friday's insistence otherwise. They later rescue a Spaniard and Friday's father from being eaten by another group of cannibals.
  • Subverted in Tales of the Magic Land. Charlie Black was presumed dead for years after being captured by a cannibal tribe. When he turns up alive in the second book, Ellie asked whether he managed defeat them in combat. Charlie stated there was no way for him to have fought off thousands of people, but the cannibals turned out to be quite nice guys, and once he showed himself to be more useful alive than cooked, they were all too happy to leave him alive, accepted him into the tribe, and, eventually, helped him return home.
  • In This Immortal the group of protagonists is taken captive by the Kouretes, a tribe of half-human mutants living near a a Hot Spot in the mountains of Greece. They don't bother with niceties, but pretend their captives could win their freedom through a Duel to the Death against the Dead Man, whom the Kouretes worship. While Hasan fights the Dead Man, the others try to break free, and through a combined effort they manage to both kill the Dead Man and flee.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Captain Redbeard Rum's (offscreen) fate in Blackadder II.
    Blackadder: He was a third-rate captain, but a first-rate second course.
  • An episode of The Goodies had the lads placed in a native cooking-pot. They got out of it by encouraging the natives to cook "human clear soup" - the point being that when cooking clear soup you remove the meat before serving.
  • In one of the more recent Jonathan Creek episodes, the titular character's boss had got in trouble with the media for saying words to the effect of "We'll be eaten alive" while visiting an African nation (He was, apparently, talking about locusts).
  • The Torchwood episode "Countrycide" had the team investigating missing persons. They ended up finding out what happened to the people who went missing when they got captured themselves.
    Tosh: We're food.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. The crew of Voyager are stranded on a planet, and are captured by a primitive tribe. Neelix says, "They're trying to work out what to make of us... not in a culinary sense, I hope."
  • The Two Ronnies used this to excuse some pretty dire puns, such as a reverend being eaten giving the tribesmen their "first taste of Christianity", and a gay liberation group who regrettably ended up as fairy cakes.

  • "Monsieur Cannibale" by French artist Sacha Distel
  • One of Shel Silverstein's songs about a girl who is forever claimig "Ladies first!" ends with a jungle trip captured by cannibals. And when deciding who gets eaten, well...
  • Voltaire's "Cannibal Buffet" is all about this.
  • The controversial song "Congo Man" by Trinidadian calypso artist Mighty Sparrow (real name Slinger Francisco) mixes lyrics about this trope with an incongruously upbeat-sounding tune.

  • Appears with the add-on "Devil's Island" table for Balls of Steel, along with a threatening giant scorpion.

    Print Media 
  • This is a recurring theme of "Duck" Edwing's one-page "Tales from the Duck Side" comics in MAD magazine.

  • In one episode of Moon Over Africa, Edwards, Larna, and Jack (adventurers in Darkest Africa) are all captured by a tribe of cannibals who threaten to eat them.

    Theme Parks 
  • This was the theme of a merry-go-round in Dutch amusement park Efteling, in which visitors were seated in 'cooking pots' gyrating around the figure of a cannibal chef, accompanied by the song "Monsieur Cannibale" by French artist Sacha Distel. After drawing multiple protests over the years due to the racial caricature of the cannibal chef, the ride was completely re-themed in 2021, with the cooking pots becoming merchant ships.

    Video Games 
  • Dead by Daylight has this for the backstory of the Hag, a young woman who was captured and slowly cannibalized alive until she escaped via Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Then she was brought to the Entity's realm, and became a fully-fledged Serial Killer.
  • Jungle Hunt combines this trope with Save the Princess.
  • The Last of Us has this be the setup for the winter section.
  • In Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals, there's a part where Larry runs off into a jungle and the player assumes control of his girlfriend, at which point she has to find him, and help him escape from lesbian cannibals.
  • Monkey Island:
    • Subverted with the vegetarian "cannibals" in The Secret of Monkey Island. They capture Guybrush, but afterwards they stand around and debate whether or not it would be healthy to eat him. They're also notably more annoyed by the fact that you stole their bananas than anything else.
    • In The Curse of Monkey Island, the cannibals have relocated... and gone vegetarian. Doesn't stop them from trying to Appease the Volcano God, but fortunately the volcano is lactose-intolerant and on a very carefully regulated diet.
  • Your explorer can be captured by a cannibal tribe in a certain Random Event in The Wager. They won't eat you, but if you don't have the proper items or pick the right choices in the event, some of your crew may suffer horrible fates.
  • The first time you meet recurring character Clara Lost in Yooka-Laylee, she's in such a plight. In the world Tribalstack Tropics, she's being held inside a large pot (also sentient, his name is Potty Mouth), and she asks you to dispatch the "natives". The "natives" in question are monsters, which helps avoid the Unfortunate Implications the trope often carries. Amusingly, Clara Lost is a sentient skeleton, so it begs the question of just what part of her they want to eat.

    Western Animation 
  • The Dr. Zitbag's Transylvania Pet Shop episode "Bungle in the Jungle" has Dr. Zitbag, Horrifido, and Zombunny get captured by a cannibalistic tribe.
  • Great: A bit about Britain's growing empire in the 19th century shows two white missionaries in Africa, being cooked in the standard iron pot by the natives.
  • The Legend of Korra: It's implied that this happened to Bumi. While walking around the fog with his siblings, he started having flashbacks of this event. Even though his siblings believed that his stories were fabricated, it's pretty clear that this one really did happen.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle:
    • Happens to Rocky and Bullwinkle. Lampshaded and Subverted when they point out that since they're not human it's technically not cannibalism.
    • This also happens to Sherman and Mr. Peabody during one of their segments on a trip to meet Dr. David Livingston. Peabody gets them out of it by impressing the cannibals with some showmanship.
  • Rupert had a strange example of this in "Rupert and the Crocodiles" where Rupert Bear, his friend Podgy Pig, and a captain and first mate who were both human were captured by a tribe of bipedal crocodiles who attempted to eat them.
  • Mystery, Inc. is captured by cannibals in Scooby-Doo! and the Samurai Sword. The boys are going to be eaten and the girls are going to be married to the chief.
  • TaleSpin: In "The Bigger They Are, the Louder They Oink" Becky's truffle hunting expedition turns sour when they're found by "pygmies" who try to cook her and the pig she brought to sniff the valuable fungus out. The biggest irony is, the pygmies seem to have plenty of truffles; they use them in the soup that Becky nearly becomes a part of.
  • Van Beuren Studios used this in several of their cartoons:
    • Waffles the Cat and Don the Dog wind up in this situation in "Jungle Jazz".
    • The Little King gets captured by a tribe of them in "On The Pan"; he's even served with Happy Birthday topping written in him!
    • Tom and Jerry also suffer this fate in "Jungle Jam". They win them over with their music, at least until they try to run away.
    • Robinson Cruesoe suffers this fate in "Molly Moo Cow and Robinson Cruesoe", but Molly manages to save him.

    Real Life 
  • Although the trope certainly over-sensationalizes the facts, a handful of Christian missionaries did indeed have the misfortune to be killed and eaten while attempting to reach tribes that practiced cannibalism: notably Thomas Bakernote , John Williamsnote , and James Chalmers. Thomas Baker's boots, cooked with him but found to be inedible, can reportedly be seen on display in the Fiji Museum. It's believed that the tribespeople may have seen the Europeans as a threat and practiced ritualized cannibalism in an attempt to neutralize the enemies' power. In recent years the tribes (now Christianized) have held formal ceremonies of reconciliation and apology with descendants of the missionaries.