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Human Pack Mule

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The role for someone overqualified to be an adventurer.

"I am sworn to carry your burdens..."

When a character is shown to be the personal carrier on which all other members of the traveling party dump their belongings onto, much to that person's chagrin and everyone else's amusement. The person in question usually does not possess Super (or even above-average) Strength, so the experience is usually an unenjoyable one for them. On the other hand, sometimes the guy is all too happy to demonstrate his strength to onlookers.

Seen often in episodes where the women take a man shopping with them — the man almost always carries the shopping bags.

Compare Lots of Luggage. In video games, this is one possible variation of a Utility Party Member.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kyon of Haruhi Suzumiya is almost always carrying everyone else's stuff, though occasionally Koizumi lends a hand.
  • Dragon Ball: Goku usually takes this role in the Filler episodes whenever ChiChi goes shopping. Being a Saiyan with a ridiculous power level, this means Goku's usually lost behind an epic mountain of shopping bags.
  • Jigoku no Gouka de Yaka re Tsuzuketa Shonen: Due to his Super Strength, Primavera and Aishera end up loading all of their supplies onto Flare. As a result, he tends to draw unwanted attention as a guy carrying a sack twice his size without issue. He doesn't mind much, seeing it as a training exercise.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Kenichi is this to Miu whenever she goes shopping for groceries. Given the girl's family, this too is Training from Hell. His mentors often force him to carry extra weights on those occasions, just for the sake of training his strength and endurance.
  • In the beginning of Rance Sabaku no Guardian (the Hentai Anime of the Game for Rance), the first hint that the Designated Hero is a sexist pig comes when he has his slave Sill carry a huge load of useless stuff.
  • The Supporter class in Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? basically acts at this, picking up plunder after Adventurers killed monsters during a dungeon crawl. They even have specific abilities such that they can have an unlimited load. One such supporter, a Prum named Lilly, easily totes around a pack four or five times her total body mass.
  • Pokémon: The Original Series: Ash and Brock end up as this for Misty, carrying her shopping during the "Princess Vs. Princess" episode. Jessie also forces James and Meowth to do the same for her.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot: A trip to the mall with Paige (theoretically to buy a pair of shoes) ends in Peter carrying a dozen bags, none of which contain shoes.
  • Blondie has had many instances around the holidays where Blondie goes Christmas shopping with Dagwood carrying all the packages. At least one featured Blondie getting to the car and then finding out the guy with the packages was NOT Dagwood.

    Fan Works 
  • Implied to be the way that the uncle transports his instruments and belongings around in Songs Uncle Sings.
  • In White Knights and Dark Lords, while lugging around a disassembled werewolf cage, Buffy comments that "I am so not a pack mule!"
  • In Random Elements: Coincidences Can Happen, during the infiltration of Canterlot Castle, Trixie ends up having to carry Rainbow Dash around for a good while. The latter is exhausted because she just had to hoist the rest of the party into the castle to begin with — one pony at a time — and unlike her canon counterpart, is neither strong nor a good flyer.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, the cowardly Trickster Mentor Flip is demoted to carrying luggage after the gang finds better and more knowledgeable guides to escort them through Nightmareland. He even lampshades it by stating he's been reduced to a human pack mule.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Spaceballs: In one scene, Lone Star and Barf end up carrying all of Princess Vespa's luggage, including a giant hairdryer.
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, each knight is accompanied by a "steed", a henchman with an overstuffed backpack and a pair of coconuts to simulate the sound of hooves.
  • In one film of the Danish Olsen-banden series, Egon Olsen, the head of the group, had to carry the computer hardware (in a few very large suitcases) for the new, modern head of the group.
  • In the 1950s movie version of Journey to the Center of the Earth, Count Satnusem has a servant who carries all the equipment for both of them — until he dies.
  • The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising has a cameo by Nodwick, who the players' previous characters hired to carry their spare items and whom their new characters meet when they enter the same dungeon that killed the last ones.
  • In Support Your Local Sheriff, McCullough loads down Jake with all their equipment during their (very unsuccessful) gold-mining expedition.

  • The Lord of the Rings: Samwise Gamgee inflicts this on himself, being stalwart and all; his assumption of this role is also illustrative of the class difference between him and the other hobbits. At least once Frodo tells him he suspects he's taken too much of their luggage and he intends to check at the next pause for rest.
  • And in The Hobbit, it's a running gag that Dori always ends up carrying Bilbo.
  • Fezzik in The Princess Bride is this for both the bad guy and good guy teams he ends up on. However, he is a Gentle Giant with particularly strong arms, so he doesn't mind too much — except when he has to haul the entire party up the Cliffs of Insanity.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Walking Dead, Michonne had zombified versions of these solely for this role.
  • This is one of the reasons why Niles from The Nanny hates accompanying the family on holidays. As he explains to Fran, she gets to relax, he gets to carry the bags, take the photos and do the shopping.

    Music Videos 

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is a general occurrence in these types of games, sometimes with characters being carried as well. In general, this is fostered onto the Fighter, Barbarian, or other physically oriented Big Guy, as their higher strength means they can carry much more than say, the Squishy Wizard.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Ork specialists may be accompanied by Grot Orderlies, Grot Oilers, or Ammo Runts, who allow characters to reroll dice for shooting attacks or vehicle repairs or whatnot. The models tend to represent the poor Gretchin as bent double under enormous ammo crates or tool boxes.


    Video Games 
  • In the opening of Bayonetta 2, Enzo has been forced to tote a mountain of Christmas shopping for Bayonetta.
  • Death Stranding has this played straight with Sam Porter Bridges starting the game being able to carry up to 120kg/264lb of inventory on his person. The more weight he has on him, the more you have to keep him balanced, otherwise he falls, the cargo falls off and gets damaged.
  • As the only player character in Resident Evil: Outbreak with more than four inventory slots, Yoko is often relegated to this role. A popular strategy for online gamers was to kill the Yoko player and use her corpse to store extra items.
  • This seems to be Yun-seong's role in the Soul Series, courtesy of his Cool Big Sis Seong Mi-na (as seen in Mi-na's ending in Soulcalibur II and III, as well as Yun-seong's B ending in III). However, if the player does not press the right button(s) in time during Seong Mi-na's ending in III, Mi-na herself will have this fate befall her.
  • EverQuest players are known to create characters just to hold overflow items and money.
  • Fallout: New Vegas:
    • Lampshaded by several of the companions. Raul, having lost faith in his abilities, suggests you assign him this role. Veronica sometimes complains that you're making her carry "the heavy stuff" when you access her inventory and Arcade Gannon specifically warns you not to treat him as a pack brahminnote  when you open his. Interestingly, the game was at one point meant to have an actual pack brahmin named Betsy as a companion.
    • A more tragic version can be found inside Ceasar's Fort. All women in the Legion are slaves and reduced to this. It goes into Nightmare Fuel when you inspect their legs in VATS and notice they have 0 health, meaning their legs are crippled. Most likely this is merely a result of having to carry around so much heavy stuff constantly, but the Legion are big enough dicks that it's perfectly plausible they did it to them on purpose just to make their job harder.
  • Fallout 4 adds Charisma-based perks that increases the amount of stuff your companions can carry for you, or allows you to set up supply lines between settlements so they'll share a pool of resources and save you the trouble of hauling scrap around when you want to upgrade their defenses. And with the Automatron DLC, you can build your own robot lackeys and customize them with loads of pouches and satchels to increase their already-high carrying capacity.
  • In Metal Slug, supply sergeant Rumi Aikawa is seen carrying an oversized backpack holding an incredible amount of cargo. She appears in several locations, trying to deliver these weapons and items to friendly forces (i.e. the player). Her older (but identical-looking) sister Madoka takes up this role in 4 and 5.
  • The role of followers in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim mostly amounts to this as well as serving as a tank. A fair amount of them will lampshade this; your Housecarls all mention that they're "sworn to carry your burdens," but the way Lydia puts emphasis on "sworn" makes it clear she's not happy about it, while if you offer to "trade" with Marcurio he'll declare "I am an apprentice mage, not a pack mule — oh, very well, but make it quick!" With the Dragonborn DLC, you can even gain the power to summon up a Dremora Butler for the sole purpose of offloading random junk onto.
  • An overloaded Jaheira in Baldur's Gate II exasperatedly states that "I am no mule!"
  • Half-ogres in Arcanum are often used for this, due to their greater carrying capacity and the fact that they don't need a lot of gear to fight.
  • Marle's official art in Chrono Trigger shows her hauling a half-dozen puches around, though the game uses a Bag of Sharing.
  • This is the only actual use for the blind and feeble Duncan in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Licensed Game for the NES when he's in your party. He can hold on to all your spare healing items and such, but it's dangerous to grow too reliant on it as Marian will take him away in the third act to bring him to safety, and he will take all the things he's holding with him when he goes, including any game-critical items.
  • Played with in The Outer Worlds. Instead of having their own inventories, party members passively increase the Captain "Alex Hawthorne's" carrying capacity. The "Pack Mule" Perk will increase Hawthorne's carrying capacity, while the "Pack of Pack Mules" Perk increases the bonus provided by party members.
  • Fallout had an amusing bug where your companions would only check for weight when bartering — but not stealing or planting items. Thus, NPC followers became pack mules with an unlimited carrying capacity as the player kept planting miniguns and suits of metal armor on their person. It really sucked when they died — how are you going to move 500 pounds of stuff now?
    • Bugs aside, it's likely your party members will be ones, more likely if your carry capacity is low.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • An Imagine Spot on The Simpsons has Lisa and Maggie along with their hypothetical little sister, now adults, out shopping, with Bart along as their package carrier.
  • The Fairly OddParents:
    • While not done properly, one episode of used this as a gag when Timmy's forced to carry baseball star Chester's stuff. Timmy even was fed with a morral, like the one used on horses.
      Timmy: And I'm sick of eating these oats... even if they are low in fat.
    • Played straight in "Timmy the Barbarian", a Conan the Barbarian parody told by Jorgen Von Strangle to Binky as a bedtime story. Cosmo is not only the "no respect" carrier of the group's bags, but Jorgen's narration turns him into a mule-faced human pack mule just to add insult to injury.
  • Roger Rabbit, in the theatrical cartoon Trail Mix-Up.
  • Duck Dodgers: The Eager Young Space Cadet does this for Dodgers in "The Green Loontern", despite it being his vacation day.
  • Daffy Duck has to carry a humongous pile of luggage for Bugs Bunny in a flashback on Carrotblanca.
  • Batman: The Animated Series, episode "Holiday Knights": A mind-controlled Bruce Wayne is forced to carry the packages for Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy after they go on a shopping spree with his money.
  • The Tom and Jerry cartoon "Down and Outing" has Tom being forced to carry his master's fishing gear.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Rarity's Lots of Luggage sometimes lead to such situations, like with a pony bus boy in "Sweet and Elite" or with Spike in "The Crystal Empire, Part 1" and again in "Rarity Takes Manehattan", repeatedly. He also has to carry a load of souvenirs for the rest of the Mane Six in the same episode.
  • The Legend of Korra: Zhu Li, as part of her beleaguered assistant role, does this for Varrick.

    Real Life 
  • In military squads (typically a group of 12 soldiers), there is usually one person who is tasked to carry more than the others, typically The Big Guy, who has to carrying either the BFG, extra supplies, or things like radios or special items. Which isn't to say the others get off light either. Between body armor, weapons, ammo, water, radios, and other supplies they might need, modern infantrymen commonly carry as much as 100 pounds of gear while traveling on foot. Chronic back, knee, and foot injuries are fairly common as a result.
  • The whole point of hiring porters in a climbing or exploration expedition.