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Locked in the Dungeon

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A dungeon is a secluded place, often underground, where criminals or innocent victims alike are (usually) chained to a wall or ceiling and are subjected to corporeal punishment or, ahem, "questioning". Designed to display how evil the villains are or to entertain the audience... or both. Depending on the setting, expect the torturer to be a thug, a Dominatrix, a Torture Technician or an Exalted Torturer.

Common in medieval settings and spy stories. Expect our heroes to escape from one at least once, even in video games where they are strong enough to beat down the guards when you finally fight them. Unless it's that kind of story, in which case escape is impossible but probably not wanted anyway.

The heroes may occasionally be thrown into the dungeon because they are falsely accused of a dangerous crime. If so, expect a jailbreak attempt.

Compare Torture Cellar, for more modern examples. Only loosely related to Dungeon Crawling, where "Dungeon" refers to a monster-filled area in Tabletop Games or Video Games.

An interesting fun fact is that technically, the use of "dungeon" for a castle's prison is a misnomer, albeit one that's got into the dictionary by sheer age. A "donjon" was originally the main building of a castle. When gunnery made castles militarily obsolete they were used as prisons, until "dungeon" became just a fancy word for a prison. The association with torture chambers is self explanatory.

Most of the time, the Man in the Iron Mask is in a dungeon.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In one episode of the Black Butler anime, Sebastian is locked in a dungeon where the crazy Angela is prepared with her own sleazy torture-monger to extract information out of him and to convince him to join her side to destroy Ciel.
  • Happens a lot in Berserk. Guts in his early days and as the Black Swordsman, Griffith in the Tower of Rebirth, Casca in Mozgus' dungeons, various other characters...
  • Chapter 365 of Fairy Tail: Fairy In The Jail. Said fairy is Erza.

    Comic Books 
  • City of Dreams has "The Tower of Atonement" where people are taken to be whipped et cetera for whatever mischief they have done.
  • In one Deadpool adventure, our hero gets chained up in a dungeon to be eaten by zombies. Being the person he is, he have only one thing to say about his situation: "SAFEWORD!!!"
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Annette Dubois was locked in a dungeon by her beau Philippe's Evil Uncle. He had Philippe imprisoned in a tower, with the end goal of killing them both once he could get away with it and take Philippe's inheritance as King.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • A Diplomatic Visit: As the third story reveals, this is where Chrysalis and later Cozy Glow are imprisoned, in cells under Canterlot Castle.

    Films — Animated 
  • This happens to Elsa near the end of Frozen (2013) after Hans brings her back to the castle. Notably, it is her dungeon that she is locked in, as Elsa is the queen. She escapes easily using her ice powers. There was also a Cut Song called "Life's Too Short (reprise)", which was a Dark Reprise of both "Do You Want To Build A Snowman?" and the also-cut song "Life's Too Short", sung by Elsa in the dungeon and Anna while she was freezing to death in the castle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the movie Labyrinth, Hoggle and the Sarah are taken to an "oubliette", which Hoggle describes as a place where one puts prisoners who are to be forgotten. (Actually, Hoggle knows the way out of it, and shows her the door after she bribes him.)
  • The Princess Bride had the Pit Of Despair, where Westley was tortured to mostly death.
  • In the 1929 film The Iron Mask, the Man in the Iron Mask is kept in a dungeon until he's released by The Three Musketeers.
  • In the 1998 Leonardo DiCaprio film The Man in the Iron Mask, the Man in the Iron Mask is kept in a dungeon until he's released by The Three Musketeers.
  • The Inquisition scene in History of the World Part I would be a subversion. Fairly standard dungeon: people in shackles, getting tortured, etc.... And then everyone breaks into song.
  • The Dark Knight Rises has Batman captured by Bane and thrown into a dungeon with a chimney, up which only one person, believed to be Bane has ever escaped.
  • Cruz Diablo: Carlos and Marta end up here. Carlos is tortured into admitting his plan to elope with Marcela while Marta is left alone, quickly going crazy.
  • The Holy Office: The Carvajales are locked in here while they await judgement. They're fed pork, jailed with a spy, raped and tortured in the meantime.

  • Harry Potter averts the concept of Dungeons. Some Hogwarts dungeons are classically dungeon-ey, and some serve as Potions classes (mind you, this setting is dangerous if the potions being brewed there may be explosive if not done correctly). House Slytherin even has their dorms down there. Note that most Real Life high schools have the chemistry lab(s) on the uppermost floor of the building.
  • In The Silmarillion, Beren, Finrod Felagund and their followers were locked in a particularly horrific Dungeon and eaten one by one by a werewolf.
  • In Slave World, every aristocratic mansion or castle comes with a dungeon block for the slaves.
  • Most castles in A Song of Ice and Fire have this. Many have their own flavor to add as well. Here are a few:
    • The black cells in the Red Keep, where Qyburn gets a little too happy with his scientific pursuits.
    • The sky cells in the Eyrie are a weird example. They have fresh air, the most beautiful view you could imagine, and the opportunity to escape whenever you wish - because the missing fourth wall opens over thousands of feet of empty space. The floor is inclined slightly to the empty space, and if you spend too long there, you'll go insane.
    • The ruling house of the Dreadfort, the Boltons, really love flaying people, so you can probably guess what goes on down there. As a bonus, we get inside the head of a character who spends a year enjoying the finest treatment the Boltons have to offer. He doesn't fare well.
    • Casterly Rock has cells that are literally just suits of armor. When the rats start gnawing on your toes, all you can do is scream.
      • It's even worse than that. Jaime doesn't call them cells — he calls the oubliettes. As in, the idea is to put someone in one, forget about them, and never come back.
  • Many of the settings in Terry Pratchett's Discworld universe utilize dungeons.
    • Lord Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, uses the dungeons under the palace to great effect as a deterrent and, naturally, as a punishment. However, as revealed in Guards! Guards!, he has made certain preparations in the event that an usurper throws him into the dungeons. The deepest, darkest dungeon has a door covered in chains, deadbolts and locks ... and they're all on the inside.
    • The Inquisitors of Om in Omnia, as described in Small Gods, were employed to torture confessions out of alleged heretics. They did their work in the dungeons beneath the streets of Omnia. To the Inquisitors, though, it was just another job, not something done for pleasure or sadism.
      "There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do."
    • Clearly the Inquisitors (and other higher ranking members of the Church of Om, such as the Exquisitors) believed in a form of Pay Evil unto Evil. Since suspicion of wrongdoing was considered proof of wrongdoing (because why would Om put suspicion in the mind if it wasn't true?), then the torture inflicted on their victims by the Inquisitors was considered justified, moral, and holy.
      "The figures looked more or less human. And they were engaged in religion. You could tell by the knives (it's not murder if you do it for a god)."
    • Nanny Ogg spends some time in Lancre Castle's dungeon in Wyrd Sisters. She amuses herself by playing I-Spy with the ghost of the late king, except all they can spy is torture equipment.
  • Journey to Chaos: After being (falsely) charged with sedition in A Mage's Power, Kasile and Eric are locked in the dungeon of Roalt Castle. It is a dark and cold ungerground place with torment-by-fire imagery and anti magic runes. They spend the time blaming each other for the mess while despairing the inevitable torture and/or execution.
  • Goblins in the Castle: The goblins' alive but spiritless bodies are all locked in the dungeons of Toad-in-a-Cage Castle for years. William, Fauna and Igor later spend some time locked in the dungeons of the Goblin King's castle.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Historical Fantasy The Spirit Ring, one of the protagonists, Thur, is locked up in the dungeon of the castle of the Duchy of Montefoglia after he is caught spying on the villains (who have seized the castle and are attempting to seize the entire duchy). He winds up a cellmate of Lord Pia, the former castellan (now held prisoner in the dungeons he was himself once the master of as the Duke's castellan); fortunately for Thur, Pia is able to help him escape before the villains can sacrifice Thur as part of the necromantic rites to create a new spirit ring.

    Live-Action TV 

    Theme Parks 
  • In the pre-show of Shrek 4D at Universal Studios, all of the guests find themselves locked in the dungeons of Duloc along with several of the film's supporting characters.

    Video Games 
  • A feature in Crusader Kings and its sequel. For obvious reasons, locking people up there tends to lower their opinion of you. Furthermore, locking people up without reason or legal justification will lower other peoples' opinion of you, and if they hold land, may trigger a revolt.
  • Castlevania games often include a dungeon area.
  • Fear & Hunger: The famed mercenary captain Le'garde has been jailed within the dungeons — and it's recently been overrun with monsters. All four playable characters thus venture off to retrieve him before it's too late, each for their own reasons.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you can be locked in one of these for crimes. You have a choice: serve your time and lose some skills, or attempt an escape.
  • In EverQuest, Highpass Hold has one of these in the basement. Complete with mad prisoners, a Dark Elf dominatrix and her poor suffering male High Elf victim.
  • In the Dungeon Keeper games, you are encouraged to build a dungeon in your dungeon. that is, a dungeon of this kind inside the "heroes come here to kill monsters" kind of dungeon. From there you can either leave them to starve to death (and eventually turn into skeletal minions) or you can throw them into a torture chamber, which allows you to gain information, sway them to your side, or simply amuse yourself.
  • In Quest For Glory II: Trial By Fire, you are captured and put in a dungeon with a recently tortured Hero of Another Story. 10 seconds later, you escape together.
  • While Diablo III involves plenty of dungeon-crawling, the prime example of this trope occurs in the final part of Act I, where you have to storm the Halls of Agony, King Leoric's old torture chambers, in order to find and rescue the Stranger you found at the impact zone of the Fallen Star, who has been taken there by Maghda and her Dark Coven. Since this is the Diablo universe, the Coven has turned the Halls into a site for Human Sacrifice and Cold-Blooded Torture of their many victims, with all the horrificness that this implies, and the place is loaded with undead and demons for you to kill in addition to the cultists, as well as the ghosts of those who were put through hell and executed down there back when Leoric was still alive and insane.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, player character is briefly put in one of those, leading to the possibility of party members orchestrating the escape. Some of the possible origins of the Warden, most notably a female City Elf, also involve it.
  • "Trouble 4" in Dark Castle and "Dungeon" in Beyond Dark Castle have three prisoners chained to a wall being whipped by a torturer.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo has Neo help a Witch to rescue herself from the Merovingian's dungeons, she was being tortured by some of the vampire mooks for unspecified reasons.
  • Enter the Matrix when either Niobe or Ghost gets captured the other has to enter a different section of the Merovingian's dungeons, one where the doors are barred and all the prisoners are too skinny, very pale and were possibly blinded.
  • In the original Prince of Persia, the eponymous Prince is locked by the Evil Vizier Jaffar in the palace's dungeon at the beginning of the game in order to be kept out of the way from Jaffar's goal to marry the princess, who loves the eponymous Prince. From there begins the Prince's time limited Save the Princess quest (beginning with the Prince escaping from the dungeon through a fragile floor). In the SNES version of the game, the Prince is tortured by Jaffar's guards before being dragged to his cell.
  • Fable: The Hero needs to rescue his mother the MacGuffin Super-Person from a remote island prison owned by the Big Bad, who's had them trapped for years. After the first attempt fails, the Hero spends more than a year locked there himself, including lengthy scenes of Controllable Helplessness in an Anti-Magic cell.


    Web Video 
  • 7-Second Riddles: One common plot involves characters being locked up in dungeons or basements and having to escape with one of the means provided by the riddle. Usually, this means picking from one of several doors and determining which one is safest.

    Western Animation 
  • Alfred J. Kwak: Happens to Alfred far too many times to count, most commonly after being wrongfully accused of a crime, to the point that you could make a drinking game out of it. It even gets lampshaded in the song "In De Val" ("Trapped") on one of the soundtrack albums, where Herman van Veen wonders "do barred windows like ducks, perhaps?"
  • The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald: In "Have Time, Will Travel", King Murray ends up sending Ronald and friends to the dungeon during the McDonaldland gang's visit to medieval times, Birdie being sent there when she fails to sing well after agreeing to act as entertainment for the king to avoid being cooked by an Evil Chef and the rest of the McDonaldland gang going to the dungeon after they accidentally humiliate the king in front of everyone else in the room by exposing his undies. The incarceration doesn't last, as Ronald manages to get himself and his friends out of the dungeon so they can get back to the time machine and time-warp their way out.