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Chained to a Rock

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Now Time's Andromeda on this rock rude,
With not her either beauty's equal or
Her injury's, looks off by both horns of shore,
Her flower, her piece of being, doomed dragon's food.
Time past she has been attempted and pursued
By many blows and banes; but now hears roar
A wilder beast from West than all were, more
Rife in her wrongs, more lawless, and more lewd.
Gerard Manley Hopkins

A character (more often than not: young, female, attractive, royal, and wearing a revealing outfit or sometimes nothing at all) is chained to a rock, wall, or hard surface. The reasons for this vary; maybe she has been kidnapped, maybe she's the Action Girl who needs to be kept out of the bad guy's way, and maybe she will be eaten by a monster, alien, or whatever. Alternatively, the victim may be expected to succumb to a natural hazard such as incoming tide or the heat of the sun. The classic explanation is that she is being sacrificed to appease the monster, the Gods or whoever sends it. This Damsel in Distress will more often than not be saved by a handsome hero.

If a monster is involved, sometimes the princess is the first woman put up for slaughter; other times she is only the latest of a long line of sacrificial maidens. Why a hero never stepped up to save them is a question rarely asked. In this case, it is likely that the king has made a plea to slay the monster and rescue the princess, often offering her hand in marriage or the Standard Hero Reward to any man who can do it. The trope may be averted if the dragon or monster turns out to kind and gentle, and so it frees the Princess rather than eats her.

As a trope, this is Older Than Feudalism, going back to Greek Mythology. It remains popular among fictional dastardly villains today.

Compare Chained to a Railway, Breaking the Bonds, Bound and Gagged, Unwilling Suspension.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: It happens to Shiori disguised as Asuna in chapter 283 during her interrogation.
  • Ranma ½:
    • Ranma once has to pin Ryōga to a statue by wrapping him in chains, just to keep him from getting lost again.
    • In an anime-only episode, Ryōga has to rescue a girl who is chained to a rock from a group of thugs. When the fight is over, the girl nonchalantly stands up, effortlessly lifting the boulder off of the ground so she can run over to Ryōga, who frees her by blowing the rock up and using it to pummel the regrouping thugs rather than breaking the chains.
    • The Super Soba episode had a variant of this, with Ranma pinning a super-strong, somewhat frenzied Akane to the floor of a podium with severed chain links, used to trap each limb. Akane promptly rips the chunk of floor she is pinned to out of the ground in her anger.
  • Saint Seiya: The myth of Princess Andromeda is the backstory of Bronze Saint Andromeda Shun. In the final test for acquiring the Bronze Cloth of Andromeda, the candidate is chained to the rock pillars at the bottom of a chasm; as the tide rises, they must hold back the water with the force of their Cosmo alone, or drown.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Kaiba is chained to a rock when testing his virtual game thing for no apparent reason. other than the one given in The Abridged Series: "It gives the fan girls a chance to see you in chains."

    Comic Books 
  • Conan the Barbarian: Grab any random comic book and flip through its pages. Good luck not finding a chained woman being menaced by a monster.
  • The Incredible Hulk: The Hulk had this done to him by Marvel's Zeus, like Prometheus, but instead of eagles, it's vultures, cause he's worth less.
  • Vicente Segrelles' The Mercenary: It happens in the tenth chapter. The woman the titular character rescues is an Amazon from Lady Land where no one likes men and she was captured and tied to a rock by men from society that her sisters regularly attack. She's killed by one of them shortly after.
  • In Red Robin, Tim Drake wakes up chained in the catacombs beneath Paris after being attacked and knocked out by a metahuman in Russia who has kidnapped him for the "Daughter of Acheron". The "Daughter of Acheron" doesn't intend to actually eat him, instead planning on raping and murdering him, but he triggered a homing beacon right before he lost consciousness and his sister Cassandra Cain saves him.
  • Sensation Comics: In the Wonder Woman feature in issue 39 the Holliday Girls Roberta "Bobby" Strong and Glamora Treat are bound hand and foot to stone pillars to be killed and devoured by hungry tigers.
  • Supergirl:
    • In Many Happy Returns, Supergirl is chained to a rock by demonic villain Xenon, who intends to slay her to free himself from his prison. Remarkably Kara is rescued by another Supergirl and not for a man.
    • In Bizarrogirl, the eponymous anti-hero kidnaps a bunch of people -including Jimmy Olsen, Gangbuster and Dr. Light- and chains them to the wall of her "lair" until they're found and freed by Supergirl.
    • In Supergirl (1984), Selena chains Ethan to one stone wall of her lair to bait Supergirl into a trap.
    • The Other Side of Doomsday: After knocking the heroes out, T.O. Morrow gets Supergirl, Flash, Atom, Iris West and Jean Loring chained to a dungeon's wall.
    • In "The Unknown Legionnaire", Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5 and Sun Boy are captured by the Proteans, brought to the Llorns' underground city and chained to a cave wall to serve as hostages.
  • Thorgal at the start of the first book is sentenced by Viking king Gandalf-The-Mad to be chained to a rock in the sea and left to die from cold or starvation because Thorgal and Gandalf's daughter Aaricia are in love. The cruel king also forces Aaricia to watch her lover one last time. Fortunately, the hero is soon rescued by the sorceress Slive.
  • XXXenophile: Subverted in "Rescue 911 A.D.", where the reason why the damsel is chained up has nothing to do with being eaten by the dragon.

    Fan Works 
  • FIRE! (DarkMark): After kidnapping Falcon and Sharon Carter, Red Skull chains them to a wall in order to lure Captain America into a trap.
    There was no time for subtleties anymore. Cap smashed through the doors, shield foremost, and looked upon the scene before him in horror.
    Beaten bloody, hung by their arms from the ceiling by chains, but still alive, the Falcon and Sharon Carter were visible on the walls near the pulpit. First Sharon, then Falc, turned bruised faces towards him. Their feet were at least ten feet above the floor, and their arms showed the strain.
  • In The Night Unfurls, this happens to Chloe after her capture by her father John Mandeville. Unlike typical examples where the victim is waiting to be a sacrifice of some sort, she suffers a prolonged period of abuse in the dungeons, even losing an eye.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Russian protagonist in The Beast of War (1988) is tied to a rock by his own comrades and booby-trapped for the Afghan rebels to find. When he's attacked by wild dogs and the grenade slips from under his head, some frantic wriggling is required to let the grenade roll out from under him, over the edge of the rock where it detonates (fortunately driving off the dogs). Convincing the Afghans not to cut the throat of this served up infidel is another matter.
  • According to Heather's documentary speech in The Blair Witch Project (before things start getting freaky) Coffin Rock became infamous for being used as the altar in the ritual murder of five locals: they were tied to the rock, facially disfigured, and finally disembowelled.
    • In the documentary Curse of the Blair Witch it's revealed that an old woman by the name of Elly Kedward was executed by being tied to a tree and left to die of exposure. Unfortunately, this backfired badly on her accusers when she returned as the Blair Witch.
  • Clash of the Titans distorts the Greek mythic original somewhat, showing the rock-bound Andromeda being rescued from the Kraken by Perseus.
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982) features three examples. When Conan first encounters his future sidekick Subotai, he is chained to a rock to be eaten by wolves as punishment for various crimes. Later, Conan himself is tied to a tree to be eaten by vultures. Finally, the Damsel in Distress gets this treatment by the heroes when they lay a trap for the Big Bad's war party. In a variation, she eventually has to be saved from the 'rescuers'.
  • Cthulhu (2007). A female store clerk who tries to warn the protagonist is seen towards the end of the movie tied to a bitthead with barbed wire out in the ocean, as a sacrifice for the Deep Ones.
  • Dragonslayer. Subverted a bit because the princess rejects rescue and ends up baby dragon kibble. Also, the main point of the plot is how effed-up it is that all this effort is being made to save the princess, but nobody lifted a finger for the previous sacrificial victims, who were all peasants.
  • John Carter has the titular character chained at the center of a Romanesque coliseum, to fight for his life against the white apes.
  • In King Kong, the natives tie a young maiden to stakes outside the village and leave her as an offering for Kong. Ann Darrow becomes the last 'bride of Kong' to be offered.
  • In The Maze Runner, after the Griever invasion, Gally plans to tie Thomas and Teresa to posts in front of the opening to the maze and leave them as an offering for the Grievers, in the hopes that the Glade will return to normal.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Elizabeth Swann chains Jack Sparrow to the mast of the Black Pearl to deliver him to the Kraken.
  • In the finale of Star Wars: Episode 2 Attack of the Clones, Padme, Obi-Wan, and Anakin are all chained to stone pillars to be killed by large monsters.
  • X2: X-Men United: Magneto chains Gen. Stryker to a concrete slab, where he is later smashed by a wall of water from a shattered dam.

  • Books of the Raksura: When the Cordan hunters mistake the protagonist for a Fell, they shackle him to a stake in the forest and leave him to be eaten by wild animals, a cruelty that horrifies him more than simply being killed. Stone rescues him in the nick of time, though given they don't know each other yet and Stone is in the form of a massive winged monster, it takes Moon some time to realize it's a rescue.
  • Discworld:
    • Done in the novel Guards! Guards!, to Lady Ramkin. Since Ankh-Morpork is built on loam, they had to settle for chaining her to a piece of broken wall.
    • Also done in The Last Hero, where the last heroes track down the first hero (A Prometheus Expy), cut him loose, give him a sword, and leave him to seek revenge on the eagle.
  • In one of the "Files" books, Nancy Drew is knocked unconscious. When she comes to, she realizes that she's been tied to a piling, left to drown when the incoming tide inevitably rises over her head. This is especially sadistic on the bad guys' part, as if they wanted to kill her, they could have easily dumped her in the ocean while she was unconscious, but chose a method that borders on torture.
  • In "One Good Knight", by Mercedes Lackey, the Acadians chain their sacrifices to a stake despite an ample supply of rocks in Acadia. No rescuers come to save the virgins until the princess herself is chained there, but the dragon was intelligent and noble and carried them all safely away instead of eating them.
  • In Orlando Furioso, two princesses are chained to rocks at different times: Angelica and Olympia. Although both are rescued, neither one ends up marrying the rescuer.
  • The villagers do this to Amelia in Red Reaper novel Sword Sisters as part of their Human Sacrifice ritual. Thankfully, Aella is nearby to intervene.
  • In The Silmarillion, Maedhros is chained to a cliff by his right wrist. There is no monster; there is no need for one, since he is chained there for years. By the time his cousin comes to rescue him, he is begging to be killed.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Bridgemen who commit serious infractions, such as murder or repeated theft, may be chained to a wall facing into a highstorm. This is tantamount to a death sentence, as highstorms are incredibly powerful, with winds capable of stripping skin off (assuming you aren't crushed by flying debris first), but it still allows the executioner to claim that "the Stormfather decided their fate," washing their hands of the matter. This also leads to a potential The Man They Couldn't Hang scenario, as there is a very, very slim chance of surviving the process, whereupon one's sentence has been carried out and they can't be executed again. This amounts to a source of false hope for most, unless they have special powers.
  • Played straight in The Wardstone Chronicles, when as a young woman, the main character's mother is chained to a rock The chain used was silver, which burnt her due to her being a lamia witch, and she was also harmed by sunlight for similar reasons. And they nailed her hand to the rock, although she pulled it free with no effort once rescued. rather than a monster, however, she was left to suffer for several days before her enemies would return to drain her of blood. Predictably, the person who rescued her became her husband. The silver chain was eventually given to her son, who used it as a weapon from the second book onwards.
  • Walter Moers's Wilde Reise durch die Nacht: Deconstructed. After her rescue, the maiden's first words to the gryphon who bore the hero to the rock are: "Hey, I thought the little bleeder was supposed to buy it! Who's going to reimburse me for my dead dragon now?"

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blake's 7: Servalan is chained to an antique brick wall in "Rumours of Death".
  • Played straight in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of all shows.
    • Buffy, Cordelia and another Damsel in Distress are chained to a dungeon wall and about to be fed to a giant monster, then rescued by the rest of the gang in the nick of time. Also bizarrely, this turns out to be all leading up to one of a series of "drinking kills" aesops.
    • Done again in the season six episode, "Normal Again". Xander, Willow, and Dawn are tied up in a room with a demon, and the demon is let loose to kill them. The villain who did this to them? Buffy (under the influence of her hallucinations). She snaps out of it and kills the demon herself — but not immediately. The demon would have killed them if Tara hadn't shown up.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Jo is tied to a rock when she is prepared to be a sacrifice to Azal in the serial "The Dæmons".
    • In "The Sontaran Experiment", Styre has Sarah tied up to the rocks places a device on her forehead that subjects her to a series of terrifying hallucinations.
    • In "The Power of Kroll", the cliffhanger to Part 1 has Romana tied her to a rock by the Swampies who are about to sacrifice her to Kroll, a giant squid creature that lives under the swamps, which they worship as a god.
    • In "Timelash" Peri is brought into a cave and strapped down while Morlox gather to feed.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys: Thor's punishment during his exile in "Somewhere Over the Rainbow Bridge". He fully expects some nearby creature to rip his liver out, which he considers a deserved punished for disobeying Odin. Hercules shows up to break the chains, just as a wolf was prowling around.
  • Midnight Sun (2016): The first helicopter pilot is chained nude to rocks in a gully, where he is mauled by wolves.
  • Possible Subversion. In the Stargate SG-1 Direct-to-DVD movie, Stargate: Continuum, the supposed final Ba'al (its a long story) is secured by alien chains to a sandstone-textured wall awaiting his execution. The possible subversion? The Monster is the symbiote, the removal of which will save Baal's innocent host-body from his millennia-long imprisonment.
  • Wynonna Earp: In "On the Road Again", Waverly is chained to one of the stones in the Garden of Eden when Doc finds her. Her chains are tied to something that has been tossed down a well and they’re getting tighter and choking her. Doc manages to pull the chains up from the well and saves her.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • The Trojan princess Hesione was Chained to a Rock to appease a sea monster set loose because the king of Troy had cheated the gods of their payment for building the walls of Troy. Hercules rescued her. (Whereupon the king of Troy tried to cheat him, and Hercules sacked Troy.)
    • This was also poor Princess Andromeda's plight when her mother's arrogance, and claims that she was more beautiful than the Nereids, angered Poseidon. She was saved by her future husband, Perseus, who stepped in with Medusa's head.
    • Prometheus was also chained to a rock at Zeus's orders, as punishment after he gave fire to humanity. Then, an eagle would fly in every day to devour his liver, which would also regrow every day, until Herakles freed him.
  • Norse Mythology: As punishment for his role in the death of Baldur, Loki was bound to a rock with magic chained forged from the entrails of his murdered sons Narvi and Valinote  while a snake drips venom into his eyes. His escape from that situationnote  will herald the start of Ragnarok.

  • In The Gamer's Alliance, the Sirithai chain the heroes they have captured into large poles, prompting the other heroes to challenge the monster in the Sirithai arena to save their friends from being eaten.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Talisman board game's Sacrificial Stone card has artwork depicting a young woman chained to a rock. Players encountering the Sacrificial Stone must draw an adventure card, and if the card drawn is a dragon their character is outright killed, making them the sacrifice in this scenario. This card can be especially dangerous in conjunction with effects that move cards from the top of a dragon deck to the top of the adventure deck, drastically increasing the chances that the next card drawn will in fact be a dragon.

  • In the BIONICLE serial Federation of Fear, the former Makuta leader, Miserix, is found chained to a cave wall, unable to escape despite his incredible amount of special powers. He spent centuries there absorbing the nearby creatures into his own essence to pad out his armor and make himself grow, but the chains increased in size with him. This cruel imprisonment was actually meant to keep him (and his still loyal Makuta brethren tasked with killing him) out of harm's way, by making sure the then-current leader would not learn about his existence.

    Video Games 
  • Played almost absolutely straight in the opening scene of Bikini Karate Babes where a young attractive female in a bikini is tied to a tree. Another young attractive female in a bikini then removes her top. To be fair though it was payback for doing it to her earlier sans ropes and trees.
  • At the start of Cannon Dancer's Stage 3, Kirin is chained to a rock and is left there to be eaten by a monster. Fortunately, he managed to break his bonds before the monster can consume him.
  • In Dark Devotion, the Virgin is a mysterious woman bound to a rock by strands of Meat Moss. Praying to the statues on either side of her will make the rock sprout fleshy arms any attack you; praying enough times will destroy the rock and release her, at which point the player can decide the Virgin's fate.
  • In Dead Rising, if you are late to Kent's appointment he knocks you unconscious, takes your clothes, and puts a collar on your neck, with the chain being attached to the mall's fountain to be eaten by zombies. The resulting barehanded boss fight against Kent and the zombie horde is one of the hardest in the game.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Braig chains Master Xehanort to a pole in Radiant Garden and uses him to lure Terra into a trap. It's later revealed to have all been an act to further force Terra to rely on the Darkness, though it costs Braig one of his eyes as a result.
  • King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human: After a maiden is eaten each year by a three-headed dragon, King Graham allows Princess Rosella to be tied to a stake to be eaten.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Ganon pulls this trope on Princess Zelda, by tying her to a statue of the Golden Goddesses and the Triforce.
  • Not surprisingly, there's one of these in Shadowgate. Even less surprisingly, she kills you if freed. So much for Video Game Caring Potential . . .
  • In Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis, after completing Formello, Alphonse gets captured and interrogated by Nichart. After realizing that Alphonse doesn't know anything beyond the party line, Nichart buggers off, leaving Alphonse chained up in the dungeon to drown when the tide comes in. Naturally, he gets rescued, setting the next bit of the plot in motion.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: This is the punishment doled out to Birna Bran for a scheme to ensure her son Svandrige succeeded Bran as king of the viking-like isles of Skellige. She is left exposed to the ravages of a cold, stormy sea and the local sirens to tear her apart. This scene is how she is depicted on her card in Gwent: The Witcher Card Game.


    Web Original 
  • In the second Carmilla story of the Whateley Universe, Carmilla ends up chained to a flat rock with magical cuffs to suppress her abilities, so that Bloodworm can sacrifice her to a dark god to gain a boon. To say that things don't go too well for him would be a serious understatement. Moral of the story: Don't try to summon a demon with a sacrifice he likes more than you.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: In "Being Human", Chang does this to Jake after she kidnaps him so she can use him for her resurrection ritual for the Dark Dragon. Jake takes it pretty well, actually.
    Jake: Okay, not a bad show, but the ending's not really living up to the hype. Can I go now?
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: In "Operation F.O.U.N.T.A.I.N", Sector V find Leona tied to a pole by the Delightful Children who left her to die after she has led them to the fountain.
  • In the Futurama episode "I Second That Emotion", Leela gets chained to a post as bait for the dreaded mutant monster "El Chupanibre" as a "Virgin Sacrifice" (the mutants conducting the plan know she isn't actually a virgin, but don't seem to be picky about it). To further invoke the trope, the leader asks one of them to tear her shirt a little to expose a tad more cleavage.
  • In one episode of Justice League Aquaman is chained to the bottom of an erupting undersea volcano along with his infant son by his usurping brother. Somewhat subverted when he breaks one chain, then pulls a sharp implement off of his belt and hacks his own hand off at the wrist to save the both of them.


Video Example(s):


"But you're a kid..."

Davis learns that his kidnapper and their ruthless enemy the "Digimon Emperor," who's been enslaving and abusing Digimon all over the Digital World is... a kid his own age.

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