Drop to your knees. Fall forward with arms outstretched, bow your head, and curse cruel fate. Sometimes called OTL, orz,note or STO because the shape of the letters approximates this folding of the body.
If things are particularly bad, or the favor is particularly big, the supplicant will touch their forehead to the ground in a full kowtow. If played for laughs this is usually done in a Corner of Woe, Color Failure optional.
If this is towards an antagonist who still won't grant the humble person a favor, it's a good sign that they're a complete Jerkass who will be zapped by Laser-Guided Karma later. And if a hero rejects helping the supplicant, expect them to be chewed out by the rest of the cast. Compare Kneel Before Zod, Knee Fold Fall of Defeat, Ain't Too Proud to Beg. See also Cower Power.
Note for Anime/Manga fans: This is called "dogeza (土下座)" in Japanese, and is often used in works as a sign of complete humiliation (either humiliation forced upon someone by making them do it, or humiliation received by a character willing to accept it as their just due, or as a price to pay for a failure). However, it is used without this context (as more a sign of respect than humiliation) in various formal ceremonies (religious, political, even sports), as well as when beseeching various favors as a supplicant to someone higher on the social ladder.
- Gravity Falls: Lost Legends: In "Comix-Up", during their journey through the comic book world the Mystery Shack crew finds themselves in a parody of shojo manga. Mabel encounters a bishonen version of Gideon Gleeful but rebuffs his advances, leading him to go into this pose.
- The Supergirl-Batgirl Plot: Batman is about to attack a crook who is holding Robin hostage when Batmite sneakily influences Batman into falling to his knees and pleading for Robin's life.
- Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia is a graphic novel dealing with the duty and ritual of supplication. As such, this pose and its meaning is dealt with heavily.
- The main protagonist Liska does this in Katmandu in front of the Goddess at the very end of The Search of Magic sub-arc as a way to show her respects for her.
- The "Prince Ali" song in Disney's Aladdin directly refers to this: "Genuflect/Show some respect/Down on one knee". And when Jafar becomes Sorcerer Jafar, one of the first things he does is magically make the Sultan and Princess Jasmine genuflect.
- The Lion King (1994): Multiple:
- A lot of the animals do this at the beginning of the film at Simba's presentation.
- Pumbaa does a quadruped version of this, bending his front legs and bowing his head, after the revelation that Simba's the king. And then he screws up trying to say 'grovel' at your feet' and says 'gravel' instead.
- Pose taken by Leonidas in 300, gathering his strength before the final battle (and simultaneously duping King Xerxes into thinking that he was surrendering).
- John Preston in Equilibrium, after Mary O'Brien is executed.
- In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, one of the three tests to be worthy to reach the Grail is being a penitent man, who kneels before God, (conveniently putting one's head below the huge buzzsaw blade that lops off the head of those not worthy.)
- No Time to Die: James Bond is left with no option but to go into this pose and beg for forgiveness when Safin threatens to have his henchmen execute Mathilde, James's daughter, on the spot. However, when Safin is gloating about how he has power over James, James is able to draw a hidden gun and kill Safin's henchmen.
- In Mister Roberts, the ship's crew, upon noticing that someone has uprooted their tyrannical captain's prized palm tree and thrown it overboard, do this in front of the now-empty planter in an act of mockery.
- After marrying into the family, Songlian of Raise the Red Lantern is instructed to kowtow to the shine of the Chen ancestors; it's implied that she does not. Those important family customs she disregards will come back to haunt her later.
- In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar adopts this pose before his human father. An Alpha Ape later adopts it before Caesar, who happens to be using Gunboat Diplomacy at the time.
- One of the nuns in The Song of Bernadette does this after calling out Bernadette because she believed that suffering was required to meet God, and didn't believe Bernadette had. But when Bernadette revealed the tuberculosis tumor on her leg, the other nun ran into the chapel and fell down in this pose to pray for forgiveness (as is common for nuns in Real Life, see that section below.)
- In Train Man, the main character does this in a Dream Sequence after losing hope completely.
- When Dr. Manhattan is working for the government in Vietnam, there is a scene where some Viet Cong surrender to him personally in this pose.
- Nite Owl adopts this pose when Rorschach is burst into flesh and blood by Dr. Manhattan near the end.
- A repeated scene in Wayne's World and its sequel has Wayne and Garth kowtowing as they chant, "We're not worthy! We're not worthy! We're scum!" before one of their Heavy-Metal gods; Alice Cooper in the first, Aerosmith in the second.
- Older Than Feudalism: In Greek epics such as The Iliad and The Odyssey, the gods themselves will occasionally fall to their knees before Zeus and clasp his legs to beg mercy or favors.
- Supplication is common in the heroic society of the Homeric epics (and, probably, the warrior societies of Dark Age Greece they were composed for), not just among the gods. Most famously in book 7 of the Odyssey, Odysseus supplicates Queen Arete of the Phaeacians in order to plead for aid in getting home to Ithaca. Homeric supplication does not involve pressing one's head against the floor, but rather kneeling and grasping the knees of the one supplicated, and symbolically touching their chin with the hand. The symbolism of this is as an appeal that the one supplicated does not walk away or speak until the request is made. As a position of weakness and vulnerability it is very much a last resort for a heroic character, damaging to his heroic reputation (kleos) and thus not undertaken at all lightly. Given the significant degree of body contact involved in the Homeric hug-the-knees version, it could sometimes cause problems. In Odyssey 6, Odysseus ponders supplicating Arete's teenage daughter, Nausicaa, for aid, but decides not to as he is naked and filthy and the act may be mistaken as one of (perhaps sexual) aggression, (so he resorts to purely verbal pleas and elaborate praise for her from a distance instead).
- In Hecuba, Odysseus physically recoils from Polyxena to keep her from supplicating him for her life.
- On the subject of Greeks, Xenophon's Anabasis records that, during the debate of the Ten Thousand (the Greek mercenaries, one of whom was Xenophon himself) after trying to overthrow the Shah in favor of his younger brother (only to have said younger brother killed in the battle, resulting in the murder of their leaders at a Persian banquet), the consensus was that the Ten Thousand were screwed. A single mercenary sneezed. All of the others immediately prostrated themselves—the Greeks considered a sneeze a sign from the gods—and decided right then and there to elect new officers and fight their way, if need be, all the way back to Greece.
- Subverted in Animorphs, where Marco and Cassie are captured by the Helmacrons, who order them to grovel before them. Being general morons, however, they fall for it when Marco says that Earthlings grovel differently than other races, and proceeds to lounge on the ground while pretending to beg for his life.
- In the short story "Assumption" (scroll down) by Desmond Warzel, the primitive people of an unexplored world—a literal Cargo Cult—make this gesture before the object of their worship. The narrator is incredulous and makes an explicit comparison to jungle tribes in old movies.
- City of Bones by Martha Wells:
- When Khat is arrested by the Heir's forces, he is forced to his knees by security; after that, when he sees her, he drops to his knees without any provocation, seeing nothing to be gained by defiance.
- Lampshaded later when Khat meets the Elector and collapses from a fever, but he thinks to himself that it's fine because he's probably supposed to be on the floor anyway.
- One relic collector has his manservant genuflect in a way that's outdated and far beyond what's appropriate for the trader's rank. Elen makes a note of it for possible Blackmail purposes.
- Parodied in the Discworld novel Interesting Times where incompetent, cowardly, wizard Rincewind muses that not only does it symbolise submission, but it also provides quite a good launching pose to break into a sprint from if the person you are doing it for doesn't accept your submission.
- Nanny Ogg has a different take in Lords and Ladies. She's of the opinion the route to a happy life is to 'Stand before your God, Bow before your King, and Kneel before your Man.'
- In the Dresden Files, Lasciel does this in Harry's mind when Harry agrees to work with her.
- In the sequels to Ender's Game, the nobles of Chinese-esque planet Path are taught so strictly to honor their elders that the sight of her father touching his forehead to the ground for her horrifies Qing-jao.
- In Galaxy of Fear, people who are experiencing their worst fear cringe and kneel at best, or this at worst.
Luke Skywalker was on his hands and knees. He seemed to be fighting hard against something. He whispered over and over again: "Ben! Ben!"
- Mary Renault's The Persian Boy describes the serious controversy over this practice as (historically) espoused by Alexander the Great. He's just conquered Persia and become Great King, so the Persians naturally accord him this respect. The Greeks and especially the Macedonians deplore it as "groveling." Alex wants all the people to adopt it to emphasize equality.
- Yamani guardsmen bow like this in a flashback in First Test, the first Protector of the Small after Ilane of Mindelan saves the god's swords from Scanran pirates. Keladry also bows to the Yamani princess this way when they meet years later in Tortall, because Yaman is basically Japan.
- Pretty much once a chapter in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. When the author wants to tell you that it's really serious this time, a character will knock their head on the ground until they bleed.
- Referred to by name in The Song of Achilles, when Patroclus performs the Greek version (see Older Than Feudalism above) in order to beg King Peleus for Achilles's whereabouts.
I went to Peleus. I knelt before him on a wool rug, woven bright with purple. He started to speak, but I was too quick for him. One of my hands went to clasp his knees, the other reached upwards, to seize his chin with my hand. The pose of supplication.
- In the Star Trek Novel Verse, the Voth demand this from others as their due, particularly when bestowing their benevolence. As the eldest race in the Delta Quadrant (or at least they assume so), they consider themselves its rightful rulers. In a story from Star Trek: Myriad Universes, when agreeing to spare Fluidic Space from destruction their condition is that the Species 8472 representative bow before them and pledge his loyalty to the Voth Council.
- Parodied in The Tamuli, by David Eddings: this is the traditional way to greet the Tamul emperor, but only because one of his less-than-bright ancestors mistook an inebriated minister's drunken bumbling for a show of respect.
- In Temeraire, this becomes a diplomatic hazard: Will Laurence is expected to kowtow before the Chinese Emperor, but to do so would implicitly place his home nation of Great Britain in a subservient position. However, by the time they meet, he's been adopted as the Emperor's son, so he resolves the issue by kowtowing in his capacity as Prince of China rather than as a representative of the British Crown.
- In The Thrawn Trilogy, some of the Noghri do this to the daughter of their savior; one genuflects when he realizes who she is, and others do so at the end of Dark Force Rising after she's proved to them that their debt has been more than paid. Afterwards, they tend to limit themselves to bowing and sometimes kneeling.
- In Ascendance of a Bookworm after one of Myne's many mistakes, she instantly leaps into a dogeza pose. However, she's (basically) in medieval Germany and they've never heard of anyone kowtowing when giving an apology. After she explains they sort of get it, but in context it's probably too extreme of a gesture anyway, though they wouldn't know that either.
- Cluedo: Professor Plum does this, in front of a gloating Jack Peacock, from whom he desperately wants to buy a drug to cure the common cold.
Jack Peacock: Let's start at fifty thousand.
Prof. Plum: I can't get my hands on that sort of money.
Jack Peacock: Too bad, old bean. (Sets fire to the drug)
Prof. Plum: (in a pose of supplication) Noooooo! I'd have paid, I'd have found the money somehow.
Jack Peacock: That's better.
- Kamen Rider Zero-One: In the penultimate episode, Aruto crossing the Despair Event Horizon and becoming the villainous Ark-One is seen as an utter betrayal by the HumaGears (whom Aruto had championed and fought for throughout the entire series), making them threaten to go rogue and follow MetsubouJinrai.net's commandment to Kill All Humans. Just when it looks like everything is going to boil over, Hiden Intelligence's Vice-President Jun Fukuzoe gets down in dogeza with his head on the ground and begs the HumaGears to give Aruto the same trust that he placed in them. Immediately afterwards, his HumaGear secretary Shesta does the same of her own free will, which helps defuse the situation.
- In Lexx, officers deliver reports to His Divine Shadow from this position.
- Merlin: In "Lancelot du Laq", Gwen falls to her knees when brought before Arthur after being caught kissing Lancelot. Arthur orders everyone out, then insists Gwen stand up.
- On The Office, Dwight surreptitiously tries to unseat Michael and take his place — when Michael angrily tells Dwight he's on to him, Dwight goes into a terrified fit of dog-like submission and drops to the floor as if waiting to be beheaded.
- Star Trek: The Original Series: Captain Kirk does this a lot.
- One of Quark's employees in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine does this in front of Liquidator Brunt when he realizes they've been caught forming a union/worker's guild.
- In the musical The King and I, the titular king bans the pose of supplication from his subjects since he's come to think of it as humiliating.
- Played for full comedy in Chapter 7 of Code:Realize when Impey and Cardia realize that the airship race they've been refitting the group's ship for is that day and not, as they'd believed, the day after, and the work on the ship is not yet complete.
Impey: This is the ultimate form of apology, created by the finest minds in all of Asia! DO! GE! ZA!
- In Little Busters!, Kanata demands that Haruka do this when Haruka beseeches her twin sister to tell her the truth of which girl was the child of a criminal. Haruka immediately falls to the ground and lowers her head, showing that she wants to get to the truth and cast off her hate for Kanata and her family even if it means abandoning her pride. Kanata even mentions "have you no shame" when Haruka is so quick to comply, but Haruka finally being serious and telling the truth is what compels Kanata to finally come clean, and, along with some support from Riki ("I think you want to talk from the bottom of your heart as well"), finally tell the heroes her true feelings: that she's been bullying Haruka to keep her safe from their twisted and evil family because she loves Haruka as her little sister "and nothing can change that".
- The image potholed in the description comes from the doujin soft visual novel, ''OMGWTFOTL''. The option to genuflect pops up almost entirely throughout the game. Every instance leads you to the same bad end.
- In El Goonish Shive, Nanase does this when her repeated experiences of death as a fairy doll get too much for her to continue to stand.
- In Questionable Content, Beeps performs the full "forehead to floor, hands clasped over head" version while begging Roko to not fire her for a less-than-intelligent move. At the time, Beeps is actually Roko's boss and tries to promote her to make the "begging to not be fired" work. Roko does eventually accept promotion, since she's the most competent person in the office.
- Unsounded: When Duane realizes just how horrifically he's messed things up he apologizes to Lori for Sara's death and the destruction of the shrine which his actions made possible kneeling and lying prostrate before her.
- Bogel and Weerd from The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo in a cave after Zimbulu chastens them for bungling the task of stealing the Demon Chest at the TV studio, they bow to his knees, kissing on his hooves.
- Pictured above, Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender receives a prostration from Shyu, the sole Fire Sage who is still loyal to the Avatar. Avatars in general tend to receive prostration from people, as Roku did when he was first proclaimed Avatar.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's "Party of One", Pinkie Pie, after Spike tells (or rather, repeats back to) her that her friends are avoiding her because they don't like her parties, assumes this pose.
- In Steven Universe, Steven does this in "I Am My Mom" when he starts to blame himself for being responsible for his friends getting nearly abducted by Homeworld Gems. When the situation gets worse, he decides to surrender himself to the Diamonds in exchange for letting the others go.
- In Islam:
- According to beliefs, one may bow, even kneel before humans, but never prostrate oneself. Only GOD gets this treatment. It's actually forbidden to touch your forehead to the ground unless it's for Him. And if you aren't practicing, not even then. This does lead to culture clash in some places. In Indonesia for example, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, prostration is still used in some cultures to respect people much higher in social class.
- Prostration is a major component of salat (ritual praying to God) and is done twice for every rakaat (the amount of times you prostrate from standing up). So for example, the dawn prayer, which has two rakaat, requires four prostrations, while the noon prayer, which has four rakaat, requires eight prostrations. The only time that prostration is forbidden during salat is when you are praying for the dead (salat al-janazah if the corpse is present or salat al-ghaib if it is not present) because of the aforementioned restriction of prostrating to anything other than God. During funeral prayers, the salat is conducted strictly while standing up.
- The Jewish religion works the same way, except that even bowing to another human is discouraged (because Jews pray standing up, and therefore bow to God rather than make full prostration).
- Karaite Jews are known to make full prostration in prayer.
- It was practiced in the Jerusalem temple, but it was discontinued since it was destroyed. Twice.
- Some Jews do a full prostration, known as the "great Aleinu" (Aleinu being the prayer said during it), but only on Rosh Hashanah.
- In ancient Iranian culture, there were three ways for people to greet others. The first was a kiss on the lips, done between people of equal standing. The second was a kiss on the cheek, done by a person of slightly (but not much) inferior standing. The third was proskynesis, a type of bowing/prostration done by a person much lower in social standing. It might be a slave to his master, or a commoner to a government official. Naturally, the only person who received proskynesis from everyone in the empire was the shah. The ancient Greeks mistook this as a sign that Persians worshiped their emperors and gleefully attacked it in propaganda during the Greco-Persian Wars.
- Proskynesis is still used today as the term used to refer to Orthodox Christian genuflection. This was rooted in the Eastern Roman Empire, which adopted the Persian custom to venerate emperors as agents of God. Full prostration before God (bowing so that one's forehead touches the ground) is practiced on certain special occasions. It's particularly associated with Orthodox monks and nuns, but it is not limited to them. Orthodox priests are supposed to perform one prostration while consecrating the Eucharist on Sundays. As in Islam, it is a type of extreme reverence strictly reserved for God.
- In imperial China, the kow-tow on the ground was considered a standard formal greeting to those of high rank (when you are really in the mood for grovelling, the procedure requires you to hit your forehead on the ground hard enough to make an audible noise). To greet the emperor, the subject performed 9 kow-tows, the empress received 8, and so on.
- In Russia, there are two verbs for supplication: "poklonit'sya" and "bit' chelom," which mean to bow with the knees and to beat (the ground) with your forehead, respectively. "Chelobitye" was seen as humiliating, as the Muscovite princes had to prostrate themselves before the Khan during the years of the Mongol yoke. The meaning was carried over into the "Chelobitnyy Prikaz," a Muscovite government office to which people sent complaints and petitions meant for the tsar. A letter sent to that Prikaz would begin "Vash kholop byot chelom..." (Your slave prostrates himself...)