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.
A character (more often than not: young, female, virgin, attractive, royal, and wearing a revealing outfit or sometimes nothing at all) is chained to a rock, wall, or hard surface, with the intention that she will be eaten by a monster/alien/whatever. The reasons vary, but the usual explanation is that she is being sacrificed to appease the monster or whoever sends it, so that the monster will consume only her and spare the rest of the people.
This Damsel in Distress will more often than not be saved by a handsome hero. Indeed, many a desperate king has made a plea for someone, anyone to slay the monster and rescue the princess, even going so far as to offer her hand in marriage to any man who can do it. (Not that you can count on his carrying out his part.)
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.
As a trope, this is Older Than Feudalism, going back to Greek Mythology.
- The myth of Princess Andromeda (see below) is the backstory of Bronze Saint Andromeda Shun from Saint Seiya. 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.
- Ranma from Ranma ½ once had to pin Ryouga to a statue by wrapping him in chains, just to keep him from getting lost again.
- And in an anime-only episode, Ryoga had to rescue a girl who was 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 Ryoga, 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 ripped the chunk of floor she was pinned to out of the ground in her anger.
- 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."
- This happened in Mahou Sensei Negima! to Shiori disguised as Asuna in chapter 283 during her interrogation.
- Subverted in XXXenophile story "Rescue 911 A.D.", where the reason why the damsel is chained up has nothing to do with being eaten by the dragon...
- 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.
- Happens in the tenth chapter of The Mercenary by Vicente Segrelles. The woman 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.
- Incredible Hulk had this done to him by Marvel's Zeus, like Prometheus, but instead of eagles, it's vultures, cause he's worth less.
- Grab any random Conan the Barbarian comic book and flip through its pages. Good luck not finding a chained woman being menaced by a monster.
- 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.
- In Red Robin Tim 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.
- Clash of the Titans distorts the mythic Greek original somewhat, showing the rock-bound Andromeda being rescued from the Kraken by Perseus. To be fair, that's far from the only way the movie "distorts the mythic Greek"...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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'.
- 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.
- JohnCarter has the titular character chained at the center of a Romanesque coliseum, to fight for his life against the white apes.
- Done in the Discworld 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.
- 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.
- 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 featured illustration to this work is used for a vicious deconstruction in Walter Moers's Wilde Reise durch die Nacht. 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?"
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Jo in Doctor Who serial The Daemons.
- The Power of Kroll, with the Doctor and Romana I.
- Also in Timelash with Peri.
- And in The Sontaran Experiment, with Sarah Jane.
- 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.
- Not immediately. The demon would have killed them if Tara hadn't shown up.
- 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 millenia long imprisonment.
- Greek Mythology:
- Prometheus, who stole fire from the Olympian gods and gave it to mankind, was chained to a rock, with an eagle eating his liver every day for centuries until Hercules came to get him. At night, his liver would regenerate so the eagle could eat it again.
- 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.
- Norse Mythology: Loki, the trickster god from the Edda and father of Miðgarðsormur, Fenrir the wolf and the death goddess Hel, was chained to a rock with the entrails of his murdered sons, and a snake hanging over him dripping poisonous acid into his face. Whenever his wife went outside to empty out the bowl she was holding up to catch the drops, Loki's pain made him writhe in his bonds, which created earthquakes. The prophecy says his chains would fail when Ragnarök starts. He will be killed in the Final Battle between the gods of Ásgarðr and their enemies.
- 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.
- The Magic: The Gathering set Theros (based on Greek Mythology) features a card named Chained to the Rocks that, flavor-wise, removes one of your opponent's creatures from play by chaining it to a mountain.
- 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.
- Ganondorf got this treatment in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, when the Sages were attempting to execute him. He broke out of course, but given how the Sages usually aren't the most useful bunch, it's a credit that they could chain him up like that to begin with.
- He later 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 Dead Rising, if you are late to Kent's appointment he knocks you unconscious, takes your clothes, and chains you to a mall 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 Enthralling Sirens to tear her apart. This scene is how she is depicted on her card in Gwent: The Witcher Card Game.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lampshade hung in an episode of Futurama, where it happens to Leela. For good measure, the leader rips her top to expose more cleavage.
- In Disney's The Three Musketeers, Mickey is chained in a underground dungeon on an island to drown when the tide comes in. Just as he's about to drown, Donald and Goofy break him out.