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Recruited from the Gutter

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"You want me to have a god? Fine. Stannis is my god. He raised me up and blessed me with his trust. He gave you a future I could never have imagined. You know how to read, you'll be a knight some day. You think a fire-god commanded all of that? It was Stannis, only Stannis."
Ser Davos Seaworth to his son, Game of Thrones

This trope is about characters who work for or with someone who (and often because they) saved them from a life of crime, poverty or another situation with bleak prospects. With heroic (or neutral) characters, this reinforces how close the two of them are. With villains, it serves to establish a Villainous Friendship or to explain why the Mook Lieutenant or The Dragon is so loyal despite working for a Bad Boss (or demonstrate that the villain isn't - or wasn't - so bad). An Army of Thieves and Whores is usually full of such recruits.

The trope can also be treated more cynically (especially with villains). The sponsor might have an ulterior motive, or simply be extremely patronising and insincere; possibly even abusive (or both if the sponsor is helping because they feel they owe them). A particularly nasty villain might even recruit their mooks this way (with the implication they're preying on the vulnerable). Heroes should be aware that the rescued character might be loyal enough to end up Avenging the Villain. Conversely, the rescued character might be a Token Evil Teammate or Psycho Supporter, thanks to the habits from their old life, in which case their reformation will factor into their Character Development (especially if they were recruited by the All-Loving Hero).

N.B. This doesn't include characters who were only rescued by a Good Samaritan but don't work for/with them (although they might decide to invoke this trope and work for their benefactor later) or characters who were happy with their life but joined up for their own reasons after having a more immediate problem solved (that falls under Recruitment by Rescue).

Compare Changeling Fantasy, Better Living Through Evil, Defeat Means Friendship (if the character in question was antagonistic at first), My Master, Right or Wrong (if this is the reason a good character is in league with a villain), Because You Were Nice to Me, Satisfied Street Rat, and The One Who Made It Out. If an entire team's formed this way, you'll have a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. Contrast Boxed Crook (whose employment is their punishment). For characters who were rescued from more acute danger see I Owe You My Life and/or Recruitment by Rescue. For cases where the recruitment was a bit less than voluntary, see Saved to Enslave.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • Many of the Black Bulls in Black Clover were recruited this way as opposed to the annual Magic Knights Exam. Yami offers membership to Henry whose illness confined him to the hideout, Gauche who had escaped jail, Vanessa whose mother trapped her in a cage all her life, Zora who was on a vengeful rampage against corrupt Magic Knights, Noelle who was rejected from her family's squad the Silver Eagles, and Nero who was on trial for the elves' reincarnation, initially protesting to save the Black Bulls but giving in after being touched by the squad's words. Even Asta was recruited after he failed to get any other captains' offers at the Magic Knights Entrance Exam.
  • In Chainsaw Man, The Hero Denji was a homeless orphan who was basically enslaved by the yakuza. After becoming a Half-Human Hybrid and killing his bosses, he's recruited by the Demon Slaying Public Safety agency boss Makima. However, it's also a case of Resignations Not Accepted as his half-Devil nature meant the loss of his human rights. He doesn't really mind since nobody ever treated him like a human to begin with, and he ends up falling for Makima in spite of her being Obviously Evil.
  • In Endride, Demetrio, as the leader of the Ignauts, recruits heavily from the gutter because his mission is to right the social wrongs in Endora. Felix in particular is shown living on the streets, digging through trash for food, and getting beaten up by gangs before Demetrio literally offers him a hand up from the gutter.
  • Hayama Akira from Food Wars! was rescued from life as a street rat by Shiomi Jun, and became her Battle Butler, as well as a highly accomplished chef.
  • In Gundam Build Fighters, Aila was "rescued" as a poverty-stricken orphan by Nine Barthes, who treats her less than pleasantly. Later Reiji rescues her from him and she goes to Arian with him in the finale.
  • I'm the Evil Lord of an Intergalactic Empire!: Con Man swordsmanship trainer Yasushi finds two Street Urchin girls, and senses opportunity to train them specifically in the same technique he accidentally taught Liam in the hopes of having them assassinate him so that Musashi can live in peace from all the trouble their association has brought him. Liam gives the two a Curb-Stomp Battle and forces them to work as maids to Break the Haughty.
  • In Inu Baka, Kentaro works at Teppei's pet store despite his dislike for animals because Teppei had "rescued" him from destitution after he failed to make a living as a street musician.
  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Lilliruca. Her parents' death left her effectively as an indentured servant among a bunch of well-armed wine junkies. Not to mention any attempt at simply leaving the Soma Familia to live a non-adventurer's life led directly to her familia mates following her and literally stomping out said attempt. She defected to Bell’s familia after he rescued her when she was left for dead by her previous familia. It becomes permanent when she’s blackmailed into returning to her old familia and succeeds in passing a test of resolve made by Soma himself.
  • This was how Bruno Bucciarati in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind recruited everyone in his gang prior to meeting Giorno. He saved Mista from a long prison sentence, gave Abbachio a purpose after he'd fallen into depression, saw Fugo's true worth after he'd been disowned by his family, and saved Narancia from dying on the street. As a result, all of them are incredibly loyal to him.
    • Speaking of Narancia, he was first spotted by Fugo trying to scavenge garbage cans but was later accepted into Passione, although Bucciarati was against it.
  • In Kodocha, Rei is literally begging on the streets when Sana finds him and brings him home with her to be her "boy toy" (of course Sana has no idea what being a boy toy actually entails). After that, he works for Sana's mother as Sana's combination manager/bodyguard/nanny/father figure.
  • Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine shows Oscar's backstory, where Inspector Zenigata rescued him from the gutters. Afterwards, Oscar became very dedicated to helping him.
  • Chibodee Crocket of Mobile Fighter G Gundam recruited his entire support team this way; they were Street Urchins who'd been caught trying to stowaway on a spaceship just as he walked by. Apparently they had a glint in their eyes which reminded him of himself.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: While it certainly seems as though William does this a lot, the most notable example of him recruiting someone wracked by despair is Moran, who had returned from India marked Killed In Action, without the family he never fit into or the squad he'd grown to love in the military, and was shown sitting on the street in the rain when William found him.
  • In Naruto, Kimimaro was the lone survivor of his clan as the result of severe infighting. Orochimaru showed up and offered him a new life, as well as being the first not to discriminate against him (because of his freaky powers). It is implied that Orochimaru recruited his other henchmen this way, too, but only Kimimaro shows a high amount of loyalty because of this.
  • In One Piece:
    • Robin was a criminal who asked Luffy for a place on the crew instead of the other way around (Luffy's usual MO). At first it appeared they were just the latest in a long string of criminals she'd associated herself with, but it turns out that she'd been on the lam for 20 years and this was the first time she felt like she had a "home".
    • Zoro counts as well. Before meeting Luffy, he was a drifter who'd resorted to bounty hunting to feed himself as a result of leaving his village and not being able to find his way back. He was later imprisoned and was on death row by the time he met Luffy, who rescued and freed him. Zoro became Luffy's first crew member and faithful lancer as a result.
    • This is essentially how the entire Franky Family was made: Franky went around Water 7 and beat-up punks who tried picking a fight with him, told off the square-sisters for drinking underage and gave all the jobless, homeless bums around town a home, a job, and a purpose for their lives. As Man of the City, he protects Water 7 with help from the Frank Family, who serve as bounty hunters and dismantlers of pirate ships (the city is a major trading hub with the Sea Train and home to the best shipwrights in the seas). It's pointed out by Iceberg that this was likely Franky's way of trying to improve Water 7 and make-up with his memory of Tom.
    • Shiryu is bored to death with Impel Down prison and, when the Blackbeard Pirates broke in, he asked them to join their crew, and they let him in. After he saved them from his boss' most dangerous poison with antidote.
    • Luffy specifically recruited Nami to free her from Arlong's rule. That, and he needed a navigator.
  • Overlord (2012): Princess Renner saved Climb from a short, worthless life of abstract poverty with no one caring about him, and raised him up to be her personal knight, with near-nobility status. Because of this, Climb is in love with and utterly loyal to her. For her part, Renner just sees him as a loyal "puppy", being enamored by the look of love in his eyes.
  • In Princess Mononoke, Lady Eboshi runs a large and profitable iron mine, and steel mill which caused conflict with the local woodland spirits, whose forests she cut down, and a nearby powerful lord, who wants the valuable real estate for himself. Her loyal employees who mine the iron and forge the steel, and defend the mine/mill are composed landless peasant men, their former prostitute wives, and a number of talented gunsmiths who were cast aside in their old hometowns because they were lepers.
  • Kyubey of Puella Magi Madoka Magica sometimes recruits Magical Girls this way. Most notably, Kyoko was living a life of poverty along with her family because of her priest father’s unpopularity, and Kyubey allowed her to Make a Wish that her father would finally be listened to by the people, in exchange for becoming a Puella Magi. Unfortunately, she unwittingly put them under mind control, and her father killed the family and himself after realizing his daughter effectively made a Deal with the Devil.
  • Rebuild World:
  • Re:Monster: Rou, as part of payment from "Tomboy" Princess Ruberia, asks for permission to round up orphans from the capital for his tribe/Private Military Company Parabellum, providing food, medical treatment, and fresh clothes before making them an offer to join. He did this because he wants access to the flexibility with job classes that human soldiers can have, but raising infants as a Tyke Bomb takes too long.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • Before joining Kenshin's group, Yahiko was a pickpocket for a gang of criminals and Sanosuke was a brawler.
    • Ashitaro Zenka Ari and Hokkaido arc have the teenagers Alan Inoue, Ashitaro Hasegawa, and Asahi Kubota pretty much adopted into the Kamiya dojo. Alan was a petty thief whereas Asahi and Ashitaro were child members of the Juppongatana.
  • On Soul Eater it's revealed that the Thompson sisters were originally criminals before Death the Kid recruited them as his weapons. Liz planned to milk it for what she could, especially since it meant giving Patty some place nice to live. Over time though, the two genuinely bonded and cared for him. Liz was driven to tears over how she never properly thanked Kid for saving her and Patty from becoming monsters and making them better people. All this on route to save him in the Book of Eibon.
  • Spy X Family: Loid adopted Anya from an Orphanage of Fear to serve as his fake daughter for Operation Strix. He doesn't know that she knows all about his secret identity as a spy, and she's not officially "working" for him, but she does everything she can to secretly help him since she doesn't want to lose her new family.
  • The Villainous Daughter's Butler, I'll Crush the Destruction Flags: When Roy takes his sister Emma to escape from her being sold by their parents to Human Traffickers to pay off debts, the two runaways run into Cyril and Sophia who recruit them as servants and bodyguards. The ways this is a double-edged sword are discussed because their parents are still alive and could be used as leverage to make the two children into spies for The Mafia.

     Comic Book 
  • Batman: In some versions of the origin of Robin II, Jason Todd was a street urchin that tried stealing the wheels off the Batmobile. Bruce Wayne takes him as his ward and trains him up as his new sidekick.
  • Captain America: Steve Rogers: Throughout Captain America's history, it is shown that Steve Rogers got his values from his mother, who stood up to her abusive husband and left him. In the first issue of this series, it turns out that Steve was a HYDRA agent all along, and a flashback shows that Mrs. Rogers was actually rescued by a HYDRA agent who invited her to join them. Of course, there were all Fake Memories.

     Fan Fiction 
  • The Night Unfurls: Many instances of this trope involve the Good Hunter, due to his sympathy towards the poor and the desperate.
  • In Vengeance of Dawn, Breaking Dawn grew up a Street Urchin in the alleys of Canterlot, and her magical potential was only discovered when she tried to defend her friend Razor Wind from some guardsponies pursuing them for stealing a scone from the royal kitchens. After being impressed by her display of power, Princess Celestia took her on as her personal student. However, after Dawn grew lazy, vain, and indolent, Celestia would eventually set her aside in favour of a young Twilight Sparkle.
  • In Zero 2: A Revision, all 70 members of the Order, which includes Gennai, the only survivor, were previously in a perpetual state of poverty and homelessness, so when the Guardian Beast offers them a passage to the Digital World to safeguard them from mankind's interference, they all willingly accepted, imbuing them with special powers in the process.
  • In The Victors Project, District Two's training academy (The Institute) strongly prefers recruiting children from broken and dysfunctional homes, because they have survival mechanisms that normal children may not. Bartimaeus was one of those children, as he comes from a home with an abusive stepfather.
  • In Cheating Death: Those That Lived, Elias Overwhill recruits some of his training academy cadets from community homes. After the attendance rate dropped by twelve percent due to a lack of Victors in the '60s, Olga continues the practice of scouting from community homes according to Magnus.

     Films — Live-Action 
  • An unusual example in Batman Begins. Ra's al Ghul finds Bruce Wayne in a Third World prison and sets him on the path to becoming Batman, though they ultimately betray each other.
  • In Deewaar, Daavar hires dock worker Vijay to help his criminal organization.
  • Played for Laughs in Happy Gilmore, where Happy's caddy is a homeless man he hires (who eats the crackers Happy sets down to mark his ball). After the events of the film, he hires him full time as a butler.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indy relates how he first met his Kid Sidekick, Short Round, when the latter was a street orphan trying to pick his pocket. Short Round's loyalty saves him from "the black sleep of Kali Ma" later in the film.
  • In the second The Matrix film, The Kid wants to serve on the Nebuchadnezzar with Neo (who helped him escape from the Matrix), which he'll soon be old enough to do. However, Neo defies the trope:
    Neo: I told you, Kid, you found me, I didn't find you.
    Kid: I know, but you got me out! You saved me!
    Neo: You saved yourself.
    • The Kid's Story is told in the The Animatrix short "Kid's Story". They're kinda both right. The Kid idolized Neo, and self-redpilled through sheer belief in him.
  • Subverted in Cruel Intentions. Mrs. Caldwell, after catching Ronald kissing Cecile, she tells him that she "got him off the streets". Ronald, incredulous, states that he lives at 59th and Park Avenue (an area full of luxury condos and apartments).
  • In The Princess Bride', Vizzini recruited both Inigo and Fezzik from bad situations, as he reminds them when they question his orders:
    Vizzini: (to Inigo) When I found you, you were so slobbering drunk, you couldn't buy brandy! (to Fezzik) And you: friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless! Do you want me to send you back to where you were?! Unemployed, in Greenland?
  • In The Punisher (2004), Howard Saint erroneously believes that his wife is cheating on him with his best friend. While the two take what will ultimately be their last ride together, he reiterates how he took her out of poverty, made her rich and only asked for her loyalty in return.
  • The Star Wars prequels reveal that this is how Anakin Skywalker became a Jedi; the second act of the first film is basically devoted to freeing him from slavery so he can be trained as a Jedi.
  • Stuart Little 2 has a very dark take on the trope. The Falcon took Margalo in when she was a starving, orphaned she could steal for him. He uses this fact to emotionally abuse Margalo and keep her isolated from everyone else (even killing any friends she makes). Fortunately, once she grows up she is much less reliant on him, and soon realizes it.
    The Falcon: Oh, and just what do you think you'll be without me?!
    Margalo: Free.
  • In The Magnificent Seven (2016), this is implied to be the basis of the Odd Friendship between Goodnight Robicheaux (a former Confederate soldier) and Billy Rocks (an Asian immigrant who ran afoul of the law). Robicheaux, who originally sought Billy out to serve a warrant on him, found him kicking the crap out of a bar full of racists in Texas; he was so impressed that he recruited Billy as a traveling partner instead. By the time of the movie's events, they've developed a mutual Undying Loyalty.

  • In Dragon Bones, Ward is more or less stuck with Oreg, who is magically enslaved to whoever is the rightful heir of his last owner. His current owner happens to be Ward. As Ward is a much better man than his late father, it counts as this trope, and Oreg's loyalty is earned. A straighter example would be Bastilla, who is a slave, too, but doesn't belong to Ward and has fled to his estate because she heard that slavery is outlawed there. Ward's decision to rescue her is what gives him a reason to flee from his own castle, and found a group of mercenaries.
  • In Sir Terry Pratchett's Dodger, the title character is a street urchin and scavenger from the sewers who lives on his wits. His realisation that there are better things in life, and his introduction to morals and principles, comes first from an old Jewish craftsman, who adopts him, and later from Charles Dickens. Who finds him engagingly interesting.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Smuggler Davos Seaworth delivered a lifesaving ration of onions to Stannis Baratheon while his fortress was under siege and starving. As repayment, the lawful Stannis raised him to knighthood and shortened the fingers of his left hand to punish him for his smuggling. Davos remains one of Stannis' most loyal servants.
    • This is also a standard method of recruitment for the Night's Watch. The recruits are given a new life, a cleaned reputation, and good military training, but their living conditions and regulations make the deal somewhat sour.
  • The Stand: Lloyd Henried is in prison when the super-flu hits. He winds up the only survivor in this prison. He would have starved to death in his cell if the Antichrist Randall Flagg hadn't rescued him. Because of this, he remains Flagg's most loyal follower.
  • Talen from The Elenium starts out as a street thief and is brought into the travelling group by Sparhawk after Annias finds out he's been spying on his behalf. He later ends up a royal page (and Pandion novice-to-be) in The Tamuli. Although at least part of Sparhawk's motive is to keep Kurik's son safe.
  • Antonina in the Belisarius Series was a courtesan who married the Roman general of the title, thus becoming "respectable" (and occasionally joining him on campaigns). She later used her husband's reputation as well as her own intelligence to become a great stateswoman.
  • Sgt Bothari from Vorkosigan Saga was an Ax-Crazy slum orphan who entered the Barrayaran Imperial Service to find someone to control his violent impulses. Later he was used as a minion by a sadist to torture prisoners, until he refused to torture Cordelia Naismath, the heroine, and killed his master. When Cordelia married a Barrayaran aristocrat Bothari became an honoured bodyguard.
    • Cordelia passes this on to her son Miles, as well, who proceeds to use this magnetic charisma to recruit literal legions into his insane schemes. Arde Mayhew is emblematic of this ability, in part because mother and son both recruit him, coincidentally, twenty years apart. When Cordelia did it, he was a pilot involved in some shady business; when Miles does, he is a washed-up pilot holding his own ship hostage because it's been sold for scrap.
  • 1632:
    • In "Seas of Fortune", Henrique Pereira da Costa's friend and assistant Mauricio was his father's slave. On his inheriting his father's estate, Henrique immediately freed him and employed him as an equal.
    • In the original story Gretchen was rescued from being a Sex Slave by the Grantsville Army and marries a soldier, gaining a reputation as a Rabble Rouser.
  • Alinadar of The Red Vixen Adventures was a Child Soldier Space Pirate recruited at the age of six after pirates murdered her family. After being left for dead after a failed raid, the pirate she'd been attacking took her in to help restore a measure of her sanity and re-socialize her.
  • In Circle of Magic, Niko Goldeye rescues street urchin Briar from being sent to hard work on the docks, having recognised his magical potential. He then rescues Tris, who had been rejected by her family because of the freak weather events she causes, from a school where she was relentlessly bullied. Tris becomes Niko's student, learning from him to control her previously unrecognized weather magic. At one point, when asked to trust him, she reflects that of course she trusts him, as her teacher and the first person to believe she wasn't crazy.
  • Many of Jesus's followers in The Bible come from unhappy or questionable backgrounds, and the religious leaders of the day tried to discredit him by pointing out his association with such despicable people.
    • Some evangelical training programs instruct would-be missionaries to base their ministries in poorer areas, as poor people tend to be more receptive to their teaching. It's not uncommon in these areas for some of the former bums, addicts, criminals, etc. to even join the ranks of the clergy.
  • In the Honorverse novel Shadow of Saganami Paul d'Arezzo reveals that he joined the Manticoran Navy because the Navy rescued him and his father from slavery.
  • Martian Time-Slip: Arnie rescued his "tame" Bleekman, Heliogabalus, from the desert. He keeps Helio on as his slave. The two openly despise each other, but Helio sticks around because serving Arnie is better than dying of thirst.
  • Deeplight: Dr Vyne buys Hark at an auction of indentured criminals, saving him from the galleys. He works for Dr. Vyne at Sanctuary, but she makes it clear she'll send Hark back to the gutter if he steps out of line.
  • In The Real Boy, Caleb tells his autistic eleven-year-old shop boy Oscar why he recruited him from the Orphanage of Fear, instead of all the other children available: because the wards told him that Oscar would never be adopted. Caleb needed someone who would work hard and be loyal, and the best way of ensuring that was to take a child no one else wanted.
  • Jimmy the Hand in The Riftwar Cycle started out as a street thief who crossed the path of Prince Arutha by sheer chance and helped him out for money. A year later, Jimmy warns the Prince of an attempt on his life out of personal fondness of their previous meeting, and Arutha repays him by getting him off the streets and into a court position as Squire. He would go on to be one of the royal family's most loyal and talented followers, and his descendants would continue in that path for four generations and the rest of the series.
  • Charmion from The Schizogenic Man was an ordinary palace slave until Cleopatra took a liking to her. Now she's the most trusted servant of Cleopatra, to whom she is highly loyal.
  • In the backstory, in Girls Kingdom Sakura recruited Sara from a life of homeless poverty by shaking the poor girl awake, slapping her as hard a she could, then giving the poor girl her address and telling her that is she wanted to make something of herself she should go there. Sara, whose only other option at that point was dying on the street, took her up on her offer, though not without a bit of initial grumpiness about how Sakura treated her.

     Live-Action TV 
  • One Victim of the Week on CSI: NY was an up-and-coming musician who was a homeless drug addict until his girlfriend and her band took him in. It turns out that they'd been invoking this trope; rescuing a drug addict to join their band and arranging a relapse/overdose when their life insurance had "matured" enough to give them a big payout.
  • In the original pilot of The Big Bang Theory Sheldon & Leonard take in a recently homeless woman and decide to reform her. She goes along with it mostly because she has nothing better going on in her life.
  • Game of Thrones
    • Former smuggler Davos Seaworth remains loyal to Stannis Baratheon because Stannis knighted him for smuggling lifesaving rations when he was Reduced To Rat Burgers during The Siege of Storm's End. He even respects Stannis' decision to shorten four fingers as punishment for his past smuggling.
    • Qyburn gives this as the reason he is loyal to Queen Cersei. She saved him from dying penniless on the streets after the Citadel kicked him out for practicing Mad Science, became his patron, gave him the freedom to continue his studies, and rewarded his loyalty by making him Hand of the Queen, an office he could never have dreamt of holding.
  • In Nikita, Division recruits young runaways, criminals, and/or junkies and gives them a second chance in exchange for Undying Loyalty. Alex is a downplayed example; Nikita rescued her only because she was the one inadvertently responsible for Alex's situation. Alex then volunteered to infiltrate Division since they had her parents killed.
  • Subverted in a Season X episode of Red Dwarf, when Rimmer, pretending to be a Space Corps captain, introduces his brother Howard to the crew:
    Rimmer: When we found Kryten, he was a burnt-out wreck of a junkie.
    Howard: And you rebuilt him, gave him something to live for?
    Rimmer: No, we just hosed him down and gave him a hat.
  • Grimm: A Bad Guy of the Week recruits homeless young women, dresses them in fine clothes, then sends them out to shoplift from high-end fashion boutiques.
  • In Seven Days Frank is recruited/drafted into the Backstep program from a military mental institution because he's the only person they could find on short notice who proved able to pilot the Sphere.
  • On Gang Related part of the premise is that Ryan Lopez was protected from the violence and poverty of his neighbourhood by Javier Acosta, the leader of the local Los Angelicos street gang after being orphaned. As a result, Ryan has Undying Loyalty towards Acosta and acts as The Mole, helping Acosta stay ahead of the LAPD's Gang Taskforce.
  • On Person of Interest John Reese is living as a homeless man on the streets of New York when Finch recruits him to help save the people on the Irrelevant List. Reese's homelessness is voluntary since he has reached a Despair Event Horizon and really does not care how he lives and what happens to him. Finch is able to pull him out of it by showing him a way to atone for his past actions by helping to save people who have been deemed not important to the big picture.
  • Jayne Cobb on Firefly met Mal and Zoe at gunpoint while robbing them. When Mal offers him a spot on his own team, a better salary, and his own bunk, Jayne immediately turns on his partners and joins the crew. Possibly a subversion, as the crew of Serenity spends most of the series in Perpetual Poverty themselves and Jayne is never the most stalwart ally.
  • On Scandal Huck was a government assassin who fled a Resignations Not Accepted situation. He lived as a homeless man on the subway where he rescued Olivia ( the daughter of his former boss) from some muggers. An arrangement was reached which ended with Huck working for Olivia as one of her Gladiators when she formed her own PR firm.
  • One episode of Just Shoot Me! showed that Jack hired most of the main cast when they were at their lowest point. Nina, once a successful model, was reduced to posing as a mermaid in boat shows; Elliot was selling his photographs on the street; and Dennis was a movie theater usher who had just been fired. Maya was hired in the pilot after she had been fired from a newscast after pissing off the anchorwoman.
  • Lampshaded on one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When a villain takes the crew hostage, his enforcer tells the story of how he'd rescued her from starvation on her poverty-stricken colony. Kira (who grew up in poverty herself) is thoroughly unimpressed.
    "That's it? He got you out of a bad situation, and now you're willing to kill for him?"

     Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Space Marines frequently recruit criminals from the worst slums in the universe because they have to be truly exceptional to survive some of the worlds humanity inhabits.

     Video Games 
  • In the Metal Gear series:
    • In Metal Gear Solid, Naomi reveals that her adopted brother rescued her (and put her through medical school) after she was orphaned. Her brother was Grey Fox, Snake's old Friendly Enemy; she joined the team to get revenge on Snake for killing him.
    • In Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Grey Fox reveals that he's defected to Big Boss's side because he was recruited to Foxhound by him as a child soldier (the later games which starred Big Boss would elaborate on this).
    • Big Boss in general founded Outer Heaven as a refuge for disenfranchised soldiers and war orphans...albeit to form a private army. To his credit, he does sincerely care about them.
  • Most of the Family's agents in A Dance with Rogues have been rescued from the streets by Master Nathan and his cohorts. For instance, Pia was a Starving Artist before her recruitment as the Family's in-house bard (and sex instructor).
  • In the back story for Soul Calibur 2, Raphael is on the run from the king's men when he comes upon a village ravaged by plague. A young girl (Amy) hides him in a nearby building and when asked by the king's men, she sends them in a different direction. Since Amy's parents died from the plague, Raphael adopts her as a daughter.
  • The Thief series contains a few examples;
  • The entire post-game sidequest featuring Looker in Pokémon X and Y revolves around this trope with Emma, who was living as an orphan in the streets of Lumoise City. At the end of the storyline Looker has to move on, but purchases the agency building for her to live in and lets her keep the expansion suit so she can fight crime as Essentia.
  • Happens to a lot of Grey Wardens in Dragon Age. It's not uncommon for a Warden to have been rescued from prison, the hangman's noose, or other punishment.
    • Depending on the Origin you choose in Dragon Age: Origins, this could be how your character ends up in the Wardens, with backstories involving everything from a life of crime and poverty to being exiled for a crime they didn't commit to being orphaned. This is also stated to be the case for Daveth, one of your fellow recruits, who was about to be hanged as a thief when Duncan intervened.
  • Talon in League of Legends was an assassin living in the Noxus sewers when he was recruited by General Du Couteau. Even though the initial offer was "join or die," Talon developed a sense of loyalty to the General, and when he disappeared, Talon remained with the Du Couteau household, hoping to find him again.
  • Yangus in Dragon Quest VIII; the reason he travels with the party is that the hero saved his life, even after he tried to rob them.
  • In Evolve, Abe was a thief and a murderer before Parnell recruited him. As a result, Abe was driven to live up to the person Parnell believed he could be. Their friendship was strong enough that even after they were driven apart for years, Abe returned the moment Parnell asked him.
  • Fire Emblem Fates has some examples, particularly in the Nohr side:
    • A bunch of bandits tried to rob the Royal Palace and, when caught by Prince Leo, they left one of their recruits behind to save themselves. The thief, Niles, told Leo to kill him, but Leo found this request oddly interesting and made him his retainer instead. Ever since then, Niles has held an Undying Loyalty for Leo.
    • Leo's older sister Camilla once managed to stop a hitwoman named Beruka from murdering her, and instead of killing or turning her to the guards, she offered to make her her retainer too. Beruka has stayed with Camilla ever since then.
    • Jakob, one of the Avatar's servants, was abandoned by his noble parents and left behind at the castle. The kindness and compassion the Avatar showed Jakob when no one else would earn them his Undying Loyalty.
    • The Avatar can also invoke this if they choose to recruit the bandit Shura in the Nohr path: the player is faced with the option of killing him for attacking the crew, and in fact, the Nohrian siblings encourage it. If he/she executes Shura on the spot, they will gain a very rare item; if he/she takes Shura in, the trope will be played completely straight, and if the Avatar is a woman Shura can become a potential love interest.
  • Assassin's Creed: While killing Talal, Altaïr learns that the slaver has imprisoned people who were either poor, sick, or insane, with Talal claiming in his dying breath that he wanted to rescue them from their miserable lives. Altaïr then consults with Al Mualim who explains that it is possible to create from downtrodden people loyal followers by invoking the Stockholm Syndrome. It later turns out that Talal was using them to supply the Templar ranks.
    Al Mualim: What better way to make a soldier than to take a broken man and rebuild him? Give him all he's been denied with the promise of more.
    Altaïr: It seems a lot of work.
    Al Mualim: It is. But what you get in return is loyalty. Knowing what it was they stood to lose, such men would be loathe to betray their savior.

     Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Emerald used to live on the streets, surviving by using her illusion powers to steal and facing a future filled only with constant hunger and no prospects. When Cinder witnesses Emerald steal an expensive ring by convincing the jeweller to 'voluntarily' give it to her, she decides to recruit Emerald to her cause. She corners Emerald in an alley and gives her the option between being caught by the cops who are closing in on her or becoming a part of something that will ensure she never goes hungry again. Since joining Cinder's team, Emerald has been completely loyal even when mistreated by Cinder or terrified by Salem. When Ruby tries to understand what Emerald is doing with Salem, Emerald emphatically declares that she doesn't care about Salem, but owes Cinder everything.

  • Quain'tana of Drowtales has built an entire clan this way. Having grown herself as a street rat, she grew tired of being repressed by the nobility for trying to survive, formed her own Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, grew into a mercenary company, became a clan, became one of the "holy nine" great clans and is powerful enough to challenge the city administration.
    Jivv'Kyn: People born in a clan don't realise it, but food is darn hard to come by when you got no money. It's a daily struggle to survive. To be picked like this, no matter how harsh the training, that's a miracle. I still remember many of my street companions who died when I was young...
  • GF Serendipity: Stan Pines was a homeless grifter until Fiddleford McGucket, who was desperately looking for a way to sell his invention, recruited Stan's help just because Stan claimed all it took was "the right sales pitch" and he could sell it "in a snap". They now run "one of the most successful companies in the country".

     Western Animation 
  • In the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Ghost in the Machine", Mercy Graves explains to Superman that Luthor took her in off the streets, explaining her loyalty to him. Unfortunately, Luthor doesn't return the sentiments and abandons her when the room collapses, prompting her to turn on him in Justice League.
  • Inverted in the second season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, when the aristocratic(-born) Toph Bei Fong becomes Aang's Earthbending teacher to escape from the Gilded Cage her parents keep her in.
  • Star Wars Rebels has the protagonist Ezra, a Street Urchin that the crew picks up when he's stealing from them. His mentor Kanan also counts, as he was more or less an apathetic barfly before Hera found him and brought him into the rebellion.
  • In American Dad!, episode The Hall Monitor and the Lunch Lady, Principal Lewis recruiting hall monitors this way. Though it is later revealed he is doing this for his own criminal scheme.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil shows that hundreds of years ago, Mina was a dirt-poor peasant who sold rags in a village frequently attacked by a giant monster that lived nearby. When Queen Solaria drove the monster off, she invited the villagers to become her soldiers, and Mina was the only taker.