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Kidnapped by the Call

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It's not every day Santa has you stuffed in his sack.

North: I hope the yetis treated you well?
Jack: Oh, yeah. I love being shoved in a sack and tossed through a magic portal.
North: Oh! Good! That was my idea!

A situation where the hero is kidnapped or otherwise forced to come along on an adventure via any means, direct or indirect, or otherwise forced to partake in a heroic cause.

Sometimes the hero of your adventure (or one of his allies) just isn't going to come willingly. Maybe they've got other responsibilities; you know, those pesky families would-be heroes are so often attached to. Maybe they've got little reason to believe that mysterious prophetic dream you had once while you were asleep and possibly drunk. Or perhaps they're just cowardly. At any rate they aren't coming.

Problem is you're the good guy. You can't just destroy the place the hero has settled him or herself into. And the bad guys aren't about to make that mistake themselves, at least not until it's too late. You've either tried various means of coercing the hero into adventure or discounted them as impossible. Or at least you should have. The answer remains no. What can be done?

Simple. If the hero isn't willing to come along, you're just going to have to force them, whether through softer measures such as blackmail or the draft (or threatening the hero with the draft) or through the considerably more direct means of stuffing the recalcitrant rascal in a sack and slinging them over your back in the dead of night. Either way, the hero is now off to adventure, whether they like it or not!

One indirect method is the subtrope Boxed Crook; the government agrees to let a criminal go early provided they partake in some (in this case heroic) venture first. The crook usually ends up wishing they'd taken the jail time. A fantasy version is Summon Everyman Hero if the would-be hero wasn't consulted first before being dragged through the portal.

Methods vary regarding how to keep the hero from sneaking off again. An Explosive Leash is a good guarantee, but you have to at least appear ruthless enough to use said leash. If you can keep the hero around long enough a combination of Stockholm Syndrome and the hero seeing firsthand the righteousness of your cause may set in.

Oddly enough, this never seems to backfire on the kidnappers. Despite having plenty of reason to hate their guts, the kidnapped hero will rarely, if ever, betray or kill them in retaliation for this treatment, even if they get the chance to do so.

Compare and contrast The Call Knows Where You Live. Contrast Jumped at the Call. Closely related to Press-Ganged which covers direct incidents where someone is actually kidnapped into serving a cause, be it good or evil. Compare Summon Everyman Hero, where the only way for the good guys to get the hero is via cross-dimensional kidnapping. Also compare Kidnapped by an Ally, where the kidnapping isn't necessary but happens anyway.

Subtrope of Call to Adventure. See also Trapped in Another World.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Ninja Scroll, the protagonist, Jubei, is forced into the film's main story when he is faced with a Poison and Cure Gambit.
  • Iggy "The Fool" from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders used to live as a king of dogs in a New York slum, but gets caught by Mohammed Avdol and is forced into a backup unit for heroes. He complains numbers of time with himself about his losses, but things gets personal after he barely survives a fight against a killer bird Pet Shop.
  • In Digimon Ghost Game, Cowardly Lion Kiyoshiro was strongarmed by his tsundere partner Jellymon into joining the team, taking advantage of her Invisible to Normals status to terrorize him until he accepted with her reasoning being It Amused Me. He even briefly tries to say Screw Destiny and return his Digivice to Hiro, but his pleas go ignored.
  • In Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA, the titular magical girl, unlike other magical girls, doesn't get her powers exactly willingly. Her wand comes flying through her bathroom window, crashes into her big brother's face and knocking him out after he comes in (while thinking she was done because the light was off), and then...
    Magical Ruby: "Nice to meet you! I am the stick of love and justice, Magical Ruby-chan~! You have been chosen as the next magical girl! Now, please take me into your hand! Devote yourself (and use me) against evil!"
    Illya: (Thinking) This is so sudden, but... My intuition is telling me... THIS GUY IS SUSPICIOUS.
    Magical Ruby: "Ah! You think I'm suspicious, don't you?!"
    • Hilarity Ensues, which results in Illya being tricked into making a contract with the mischievous (and perverted) wand. And to make things worse, Ruby's previous master, Rin Tohsaka, proceeds to rope poor Illya into helping her with an extremely dangerous assignment...
  • Deconstructed in Kuro no Maou. The protagonist is magically summoned to the new world without his consent, gets a slave "collar" strapped to his head, and then is put through hell.
  • Sanada Shirou in Let's Start An Inn On The Dungeon Island may have wished for creation magic from a magical flounder, after having various other wishes outright rejected, but he never, ever agreed to be yanked off his company's deep-sea fishing vessel and dumped in the middle of a war-zone on a world in the Victorian Era, with the gender roles reversed.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: Happens to all four Cardinal Heroes comprised of Naofumi Iwatani, Motoyasu Kitamura, Ren Amaki and Itsuki Kawasumi. Though for some characters it might be considered "rescued by the call" depending on the variation of the series you choose to start with.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: Sarah Brandeis was an ordinary lab technician when she was kidnapped by the sinister Hellsignor during his attack on Earth. To foil his plans, the Point Man stole the Gem of Thebis from him, then tossed it around Sarah's neck. She instantly became the new Cleopatra and banished Hellsignor to another dimension.
  • Bart Simpson: Played with in one story where Bart is knocked out by "Agent K" as part of a government plan to get him to stop a diabolical scheme of Mr. Burns's, when Bart would've come along willingly. It's actually to hide the fact the "agents" are actually Principle Skinner and Mrs. Krabappel.
  • Blackbird (2018): While not quite the main character, the heroine's sister, Marissa, is literally kidnapped by her long-thought-to-be-deceased mother and forcibly initiated into the world of the paragons- turning her into a wizard in the process, whether she wants to be one or not. Unsurprisingly, she does not appear to be very good at it.
  • Green Lantern: The Lost Army: Guy had given up his rings and wasn't a member of any of the emotional spectrum Corps at the time when the Green Lanterns were all forcibly flung through space, which didn't mean the event excluded him. As Guy succinctly puts it;
    One second I'm on earth minding my own business, not wearing any damn magic rings, and the next I'm wearing two and I'm flung across the universe to god-knows where!
  • Suicide Squad, if you loosen your definition of "hero".
  • Wonder Girl Vol 1. Hercules and his allies try this on Cassie after she refuses to team up with him willingly to help save the gods as their father Zeus has claimed is her destiny, though just how heroic this venture would be is up to interpretation. It does not work out in his favor at all. When he's almost dragged her through a Boom Tube portal to her "destiny" her mother tosses her the gauntlet of Atlas and Cassie beats him unconscious. He ends up having to be dragged away by his allies and Cassie avoids the mess entirely with the aid of her old Young Justice teammates and Wonder Woman.

    Fan Works 
  • In Angel on my Shoulder (MHA), Chen, the fifth wielder of One for All, never wanted the power; it was forced on her by the fourth wielder, Aftermath. She's still kind of put out that she had her fate decided for her like that.
  • Implied to be the reason why Chara is compelled to leave Asgore's protection in Ruined Home in the Neutral and Pacifist routes in the first TS!Underswap demo, as it's made clear that they like Asgore and do want to stay with him (especially since hidden narration reveals they are actually afraid of returning to the human world). It's hinted by Team Switched's statements about the player that this may be the result of us controlling Chara and making them leave so we can play the rest of the game. Which is for a noble purpose if the player is aiming for a True Pacifist-type Golden Ending where monsters are freed and Chara can reunite with Asgore afterward, but otherwise...
  • Into Unknown Waters strongly implies the Sea Emperor Leviathan forcefully triggered the Thought Elevator in order to teleport Lelouch — with Suzaku and Kallen tagging along — to Planet 4546B since the man that was intended to help her was killed in a freak accident and she's a bit desperate to fix everything. It causes three teenagers to be stranded away from home and completely panicked about it.
  • Riding a Sunset: Charlie was simply taking a quick bathroom break while waiting for 'Bee's voice box surgery to end when she was kidnapped by Decepticon agents. The kidnapping allows the Autobots to learn that the Decepticons know about the Earth (although it's not high on their radar...yet) and helps them learn that Charlie (along with her family and Memo) have been exposed to enough Energon Radiation that they will always be in danger of being kidnapped (or worse) by Decepticons, which kicks the plot in motion...

    Films — Animated 
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2: Hiccup finds himself here after his father tries to stop him from going on his mission to find Drago Bludvist. Hiccup flies away and ends up getting kidnapped by a mysterious, masked dragon rider who turns out to be his mother and takes him to the dragons' hidden sanctuary.
  • In Rise of the Guardians, the main character, Jack Frost, is in his own words "shoved in a sack and tossed through a magic portal" by Bunny and two Yetis in order to get him to the North Pole. Unlike most in this trope, this happens before Jack finds out he's a Guardian. North even proudly proclaims that it was his idea.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Scott was three days away from finishing his house arrest sentence when Hank and Hope knocked him out and he woke up in Hope's car with his ankle-monitor gone (placed on an enlarged ant). Scott had to help them rescue Janet without the FBI realizing he was gone.
  • In The Last Starfighter, Centauri kidnaps Alex for his skills playing the Starfighter arcade game. In this case the kidnapping is more out of overexuberance though: Centauri is utterly convinced that Alex would love to fly a Space Fighter in defense of a Federation he's never even heard of.
  • In Die Hard with a Vengeance after Zeus plays Good Samaritan and saves McClane, the villain forces him to team with McClane and solve together several puzzles to defuse some bombs scattered all along the city.
  • In Children of Men, Theo is kidnapped at gunpoint by the Fishes, but it was at the behest of his ex-wife, who "only wants" his help in securing travel papers for an illegal immigrant.
  • In Space Jam Michael Jordan is kidnapped by Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes because they need his help to defeat the Nerdlucks now the huge Monstars in a game of Basketball so that the Looney Tunes don't end up as slave star attractions on the amusement park on the planet Moron Mountain.

  • This is how Sixth Ranger David joins the fight in Animorphs. The titular heroes kidnap him after his home becomes ground zero for a battle against the Yeerks and leave his parents behind, something he never really gets over.
  • In Black Legion, Telemachon has the misfortune of being taken prisoner by Khayon after the latter jumps at the call and so he's kind of pulled along. In the end, however, he embraces the call fully.
  • Empire from the Ashes begins (after the Distant Prologue) with NASA survey pilot Colin MacIntyre getting abruptly kidnapped by sentient Planet Spaceship Dahak, who is disguised as the Moon, because he really needs a captain, and Colin was the first person available who was completely out of contact with the rest of the human race at the time.
  • In Michael Moorcock's novel series Eternal Champion, Ekrose (a man of many, many names and lives such as Prince Elric) is always summoned to a different world to perform a heroic task. He has no say in the matter.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • Mild version in The Hobbit. The morning after Bilbo Baggins has been visited by Dwarves looking to hire him as a burglar, Gandalf reveals that a note accepting Bilbo's services (which he never offered!) and laying out the terms of his contract has been left under the mantelpiece clock. This is followed by Gandalf hurrying Bilbo out the door and off to join the others before the hobbit has any time to gather his thoughts or protest.
    • In The Fall of Gondolin, Ulmo, the Lord of the Waters, chooses human warrior Tuor to carry one message to the Hidden City of Gondolin. In the original draft, Ulmo subtly nudges Tuor into the path to Gondolin by luring him into a subterranean stream and then cutting him off the entrance so Tuor must follow the river until reaching its mouth, and he then uses three swans to guide Tuor towards the mountains. Though, when Tuor reaches the banks of the Sirion and considers to stay in the region, Ulmo appears before him to tell he is awfully sorry about disturbing his quiet life, but the future of the Middle-Earth depends on Tuor fullfilling his mission. Tuor does not fully understand Ulmo's explanations but he nonetheless packs his belongings and leaves towards the hidden city.
  • In The Ladies of Mandrigyn the eponymous ladies force Sun Wolf to train them in combat so they can rescue their kidnapped husbands by poisoning him and withholding the cure from him until their training is complete.
  • One Nation, Under Jupiter: Youtai and Aurelius Taurus both kidnap Diagoras to convince him to join their cause.
  • In Tom Clancy's Without Remorse, John Kelly (later Clark) is gently coerced out of his semi-retirement by naval officers/the CIA intent on securing his behind-the-lines expertise for a rescue mission, by reminding him that if he doesn't want to, they can always call him back into active duty (this was during The Vietnam War). This is in addition to The Call Knows Where You Live for his ... private hobby.
  • One of the Nintendo Adventure Books, Koopa Capers, opens with Luigi being captured by a magic rug and delivered to Bowser's doorstep so he can help find Wendy.
  • This is how several Heralds of Valdemar end up starting thier careers:
    • A thief named Skif spotted a white mare with apparently impressive resale value and tried to abscond with it. Once he got a halfway decent grip Companion Cymry bolted off at a gallop, presumably dropping whatever Glamour she had been using to let any Haven-reared miscreant think such a move was a good idea and definitely not slowing down until past the city walls.
    • Captain Alberich of the Karsite Sunsguard was likely grateful enough for the strange stallion rescuing him from summary immolation, but if he was in any condition to think about it at the time he would have requested to be spirited across any other border than the one with Karse's longtime enemies.
    • For that matter, Companion Rolan did not exactly make a good faith effort to secure informed consent from either thirteen year old Talia of Sensholding or her family before walking her halfway across the kingdom with her thinking she was trying to find his owner.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Cosmic Wiz Kid". Lieutenant Dia Cyrton asks Buck to rescue her boss Hieronymus Fox, the president of the planet Genesia. When Buck refuses, she uses a Mind Control drug on him and takes him to Genesia against his will.
  • Doctor Who: A number of the companions were basically this.
    • In "Asylum of the Daleks", the Daleks kidnap the Doctor, Amy and Rory and force them to help get rid of an asylum of insane Daleks.
    • In "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", the Doctor impulsively materializes the TARDIS around Amy, Rory, and Rory's father and takes them on an adventure. Upon first taking notice of Rory's father, the Doctor demands to know why they brought him, with Rory retaliating that it was him who abducted them.
  • This was quite literally a case with Jax in Legends of Tomorrow — Martin Stein, the other half of Firestorm wanted to jump at the call but Jax initially refused. So Martin simply drugged him.
  • Supernatural: In Season 4's "Lucifer Rising" the angels forcibly teleport Dean to Heaven's green room in preparation for the coming apocalypse. Zachariah offers Dean all sorts of pleasures, from his favorite foods to a threeway with Ginger and Maryann from Gilligan's Island, but Dean realizes he's a prisoner and their plans are far more nefarious than he had realized in that they don't want him to stop the apocalypse but rather want him as a soldier during the final battle.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Most Imperial psykers are rounded up and dragged onto the Inquisition's Black Ships (crewed solely by Blanks) all the way to Terra, where their psychic potential is judged. If insufficiently powerful, they are sacrificed in order to keep the Astronomican beacon burning, if not, they get repeatedly Mind Raped in order to protect their minds from the daemons of the Warp (this doesn't always work) and sent to refine their skills to serve the Imperium. Note that this is the best outcome, non-sanctioned pykers have a marked tendency to fall to Chaos and kickstart demonic invasions when the Warp starts bleeding through them.

    Video Games 
  • In may happen to the Warden in Dragon Age: Origins. If your character refuses to go with Duncan, he invokes the Right of Conscription effectively forcing you into the ranks of Grey Wardens. You may then do the same to Nathaniel Howe instead of letting him go or hanging him.
  • Played with in Final Fantasy IX, Cid Fabool orders Tantalus (Zidane's group) to kidnaps Princess Garnet to initiate a political observation at Queen Brahne's corruption, but it turns out Garnet wants to be kidnapped in the first place for a similar reason.
  • At the end of Half-Life, Gordon Freeman can either go with the G-Man willingly, or be pitted against a roomful of aliens he can't possibly defeat. It's been implied that the G-Man would have just taken him either way and was only giving him "the illusion of free choice". Same thing happens to Adrian Shephard, though so far we've only seen the kidnapping, with no "call" to speak of having occurred as of yet.
  • In the fangame MOTHER: Cognitive Dissonance, the blue Mook Alinivar is just a simple artist who went out to go buy fresh paint to finish off his masterpiece. He's killed by the main antagonist, and the Apple of Enlightenment won't let him leave purgatory unless he accepts its quest, allowing the Apple to give him his Freeze PSI.
  • In Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! Spyro the Dragon wants to go on vacation to Dragon Shores to escape the rain in his home world, however he is kidnapped by Elora, the Professor, and Hunter, who need a Dragon to fight Ripto. Ripto appears and destroys the portal that leads back to Spyro's home world and now Spyro can't go back to either his home world or Dragon Shores until he defeats Ripto for all of Avalar.
  • TRON 2.0: The situation is desperate. A corrupted, digitized User has become a living computer virus threatening to destroy all of cyberspace. Even worse, thugs hired by a rival corporation have kidnapped Alan Bradley (possibly the best computer security guy in that universe) in broad daylight from Encom HQ. Alan's son Jet runs into the laser lab trying to figure out what's going on. The AI Ma3a figures Jet will have to do...
  • Luke fon Fabre's Call to Adventure in Tales of the Abyss happens when Tear accidentally teleports the two of them halfway across the world during a botched assassination attempts on Luke's swordmaster.

  • Conan of Galebound by way of Tranquillizer Dart. He wakes up much later, miles from home, draped over a horse like so much luggage.
  • Lalli of Stand Still, Stay Silent was almost literally dragged by Tuuri on their expedition to Silent World. She did tell him that they were going, but he thought she'd been telling bad jokes. Not to mention that he's a night scout, and falls asleep during the day, when Tuuri is awake, which means he was asleep during some of the times at which Tuuri thought she was reminding him of it.

    Web Original 
  • In Dream High School, you don't know how you got to the school and neither does the Principal. You just sort of showed up.
  • Empires SMP Season 1: Shrub is only on this adventure to defeat Xornoth because she has to be. She was chased out of her home dimension with no way to get home because the people of Rivendell banished Xornoth there, and she accidentally let Xornoth back into the wider server during her escape. She later also gets literally kidnapped by Xornoth and Joey, prompting her allies (Scott, Gem, Katherine and Pearl) to mount a rescue operation that ends with Xornoth's imprisonment.
  • Magnus the Red first appears on If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device after being stuffed into a box by the Ultrasmurfs and brought to Terra to join the main cast.

    Western Animation 
  • Peppermint Rose starts with Rose being kidnapped by Dimi and Petalpuff and taken to the land of Peppermint Rose, where she's tasked to save it.

    Real Life 
  • Anselm of Aosta, a Catholic cleric, became a favorite of Duke William II of Normandy (the eventual William the Conqueror), using his position to build a major seminary school at Bec Abbey. After the Norman conquest of England, Anselm was seen as a potential successor to the first post-Conquest Archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc. But as time went on, and Anselm grew older, he decided he no longer wished to rise to that level. After Lanfranc's death in 1089, the archbishopric sat vacant for four years, primarily because the next King of England, William Rufus, was in conflict with it. But in 1092, after Anselm advised William Rufus during a serious illness, William Rufus insisted that Anselm become the next Archbishop of Canterbury. On 6 March 1093, Anselm was literally dragged kicking and screaming into a church, and finally agreed to become Archbishop on 25 September 1093. He would hold the position for the last 16 years of his life (though that included exile by William Rufus from 1097-1100, returning after his youngest brother, King Henry I, took the throne).
  • Ye olde methods of recruiting in Age of Sail navies, such as press-ganging and shanghaiing. The former is plain old kidnapping, the latter is giving a lot of booze to drink and kidnapping while drunk.
  • This is of course what governments hope to invoke with the practice of conscription into military service (a.k.a. the draft), assuming that government isn't a horrible tinpot dictatorship establishing said draft for a few more moments of sweet, sweet power, and also isn't just using the war as a cynical PR exercise to distract from problems at home. Whether or not the draftees agree with the government on the worthiness of the cause they are drafted for is another matter entirely, but that's a whole other can of worms. Note that many armies are against conscription precisely because they'd rather rely on soldiers who want to be there and are actually motivated to learn military skills.
  • Limyaael's Fantasy Rants: In her blog, Limyaael advises against this.
    Few reluctant fantasy heroes miss their homes. Few miss their families. Many were abused at home. Others were “misunderstood”, which in the eyes of many teenage and amateur writers of this kind of story translates to “told to do chores.” Still others are orphans and have no especial ties to their villages. They’re still reluctant, because authors are freakin’ in love with the thought of their protagonist being forced against his will to do something, but they don’t have much reason to stay. They find their truest friends and their love interests on the road, they always end up wielding the mysterious magical powers of doom that they have to use to save the world, and they always come to believe in the cause they were kidnapped for. I can’t think of a single instance where a fantasy hero at the end of the book still resented that he’d been kidnapped. Many even thank their captors for doing so.


Video Example(s):


Cyan Abducted to Midi-City

Cyan gets taken from her room by a strange piece of otherworldly technology to help save the magical world of Midi-City... again.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / KidnappedByTheCall

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