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Rescued from the Underworld
aka: Orphean Rescue

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Orpheus in the underworld, rescuing his wife. For a value of "rescue" that includes walking off with a lyre.

"Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?"
Hamlet, Hamlet

A beloved character has been taken someplace beyond mortal ken and reckoning. But thankfully, the land of the dead is a place that can be visited. If the protagonist can brave the journey To Hell and Back, they can free the soul and resurrect them. Success is not guaranteed though.

Sometimes it's not the body that's gone but the mind or soul, which can happen if they are lost in Cyberspace or in a Dream Within a Dream. They may have been trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine or Psychological Torment Zone, or had their Soul taken into the Spirit World.

There tend to be rules and Leave Your Quest Tests involved in getting into and out of the Spirit World, such as having money for The Ferryman, ways to calm the Hellhounds, and the self discipline to ignore the phantoms trying to make you leave the path. It's also generally a bad idea to eat or drink anything while you're there.

Sub-Trope of To Hell and Back. Compare Escaped from Hell, which need not involve assistance from the outside. If someone dreaming starts to wake up when he realizes that he's not in the real world, he may have found A Glitch in the Matrix. If he is helped to wake up by a character from within the dream, then the Dream Tells You to Wake Up. Contrast Weirdness Search and Rescue when the hero is being helped to escape a weird setting.

This is a Death Trope so expect heavy spoilers.


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  • In The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, after Aristaeus kills Eurydice, Orpheus heads to Hades' underworld nightclub to rescue her. They make it out, but turning back at any point makes him lose her.

    Anime & Manga 
  • One of the many, many MANY subplots of Angel Sanctuary is about Setsuna trying to get back the soul of his beloved sister Sara. Cue travel to the Hades, learning she already left... and we have not even covered 25% of the series.
  • Berserk: The Skull Knight did this upon rescuing Guts and Casca from the Godhand and their Apostles during the Eclipse. Having a sword that can slice through dimensions definitely helps.
  • Black★Rock Shooter: Mato becomes/fuses with the eponymous Black Rock Shooter and goes to the Otherworld to save Yomi from Dead Master. In the OVA, everything else in the Otherworld happens after that event. In the anime series, this is all the information she has and she gets there after her sword goes in.
  • Being a series that deals with the afterlife, Bleach does this a lot.
    • The Soul Society arc sees the gang travel to the Soul Society to rescue Rukia.
    • The Arrancar Arc sees the gang travel to Hueco Mundo to rescue Orihime.
    • In the first film, Ichigo's and the gang have to travel to the Dangai to rescue Senna.
    • In the second film, Hitsugaya flees in exile to the human world, accidentally catches up Ichigo in his woes before sneaking back into Soul Society to try and solve the mess by himself, causing Ichigo to travel back to Soul Society to help save Hitsugaya and clear his name.
    • In the third film, Ichigo and co. travel back to Soul Society to rescue Rukia in what is an unashamedly obvious rewrite of the Soul Society arc with slightly different villains.
    • In the fourth film, Ichigo travels to Hell to rescue Yuzu.
  • In The Boy and the Heron, the Heron tries to lure Mahito into the tower by claiming his deceased mother is alive and trapped inside. Mahito calls him a liar and only enters to rescue his step-mother Natsuko after she is lured into the tower.
  • This trope is discussed in Children Who Chase Lost Voices with the story of Izanagi and Izanami in Asuna's class; Morisaki also mentions that there are similar stories around the world. He later tries to pull one off with his wife, Lisa.
  • Inuyasha: Early in the series, Kagome doesn't enter hell, but gets very close to the entrance to save a child's soul who had died.
  • In Jack and the Witch the titular boy hero descends into a frigid cave full of growing and shifting ice to rescue the banished witch Allegra, who'd been sent there by the Harpy Queen to freeze to death. The Ice Cave and its subsequent shift into a magical battleground seem to be tied to the Queen's magic, as they fade out once her crystal ball is smashed.
  • Happens twice in the same instance in Kamisama Kiss when Nanami follows Kirihito into the Underworld only to wind up in trouble herself which causes Tomoe to come after her.
  • Happens twice in Den-noh Coil, where one has the ability to connect to the internet through your mind via Augmented Reality glasses. Both Haruken and Isako get trapped in Coil Space, causing them to fall into a coma. Yasako has a hand in bringing them back both times.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion. It's a major plotline of the movie, as the Incubators had tried to force Homura to become a Witch by selectively isolating Homura's Soul Gem from interference, thus forcing all the grief and despair building up to remain within. Madoka mounts a rescue mission by entering Homura's Soul Gem and breaking her out from within; Magical Girls both still alive (Mami, Kyoko) and those whom Goddess Madoka had already taken when their Soul Gems ran out of magic (Sayaka, Nagisa) join her, though the rescue hits a couple of snags en route.
  • Chapters 6 through 10 of Pupipo! feature Wakaba and Po on a mission to bring back their friend Azuma after she is hit by a car.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion brings us this, with the most unlikely Orpheus of them all... Shinji Ikari goes berserk and red-eyed, utterly stomps the Tenth Angel into the dust and pulls Rei, who got eaten along with her Eva, out of the dead Angel's core. Subverted in true Evangelion fashion since bringing Rei back involved creating an apocalypse that nearly wiped out the whole world, and Shinji doesn't actually get to be with Rei after Kaworu stops the apocalypse by spearing Eva-01 from space.
  • This trope is subverted in Shamanic Princess. The heroine's childhood companion, Sara, is trapped in a painting. The characters try various things to extract her, including entering the painting itself (although that was more the painting's idea,) but they never succeed. Sara cannot be saved and does not need saving, because it was her destiny to fuse with the painting.

    Comic Books 
  • Angela: Queen of Hel: This is the basic premise of the series, albeit the title suggests that Angela's quest to save her dead beloved Sera probably won't go without complications.
  • Chicago Typewriter: A demon steals the soul of Emilio Enzo's girlfriend, Katherine. Enzo must venture to the underworld to rescue her.
  • Day Of Judgement: Various heroes are forced to travel to Purgatory to recruit a new soul to bond with the Spectre after Jim Corrigan ascends into Heaven, resulting in Hal Jordan bonding with the Spectre and starting a chain of events that will restore him to full life.
  • Fantastic Four: During Mark Waid's run, the Fantastic Four rescued their fallen teammate Ben Grimm in this manner (albeit retrieving him from Heaven rather than Hell).
  • Helcat: Patsy Walker had this happen to her twice, giving extra meaning to her superhero name Hellcat. And both stays in hell caused by her ex-husband Daimon "Son of Satan" Hellstrom: first, following her death, by accident (The Avengers unknowingly rescued her soul from Hell thinking she was the recently deceased Mockingbird), and then in Marvel Divas, after a Deal with the Devil where she agreed to spend time with Daimon to cure the cancer of her friend Firestar, only for Firestar and two others to go rescue Patsy.
  • The Sandman (1989): The series features at least two cases: The title character going into Hell to release an old love that he'd condemned after she rejected him, and his son Orpheus's trope-naming trip to retrieve Eurydice. The other underworld rescue in Greek Mythology (Heracles rescuing Theseus) is stated by Death to be complete BS: Heracles simply got blackout drunk for two weeks.
  • Secret Six: One story arc had them doing this to rescue Scandal's lover Knockout.
  • Stanley and His Monster: In Phil Foglio's 1993 adaptation, Stanley Dover's monster friend Spot turns out to be a demon who was kicked out of Hell for being too nice. When Spot goes back to Hell to protect the Dovers, Stanley must go and rescue him.
  • Swamp Thing: The second Swamp Thing Annual has the title character, with the assistance of The Phantom Stranger and Etrigan, journey out-of-body to Hell in order to rescue Abby, whose soul her uncle Anton Arcane had maliciously cast down there.
  • Trinity War: In The Phantom Stranger tie-in, the Phantom Stranger and a few other heroes go to heaven's basement to rescue the soul of a dead hero. They fail and the Stranger is sent to oblivion while the heroes are sent back to Earth.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Sofia Constantinas gets too close to an entrance to the underworld and is entranced and taken to Hades by Charon in response. Steve Trevor manages to rescue her and bring her back to the surface before her time there renders her properly deceased.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Diana, Cassie, and Ferdinand go to Hades to revive Hermes at Athena's bidding.

    Comic Strips 
  • What's New? with Phil and Dixie: One strip was about the tendency for adventuring parties to rescue members from Hell, despite all the problems with doing so. It also notes that this only applies if you die on an adventure; if you subsequently die of old age, you might find yourself back there for good.
    Zak: Maybe I should have read some of the cleric's pamphlets.
    Demon: Maybe you shouldn't have given everyone an Exploding Cigar on the way out.

    Fan Works 
  • In Being Dead Ain't Easy, when Seto refuses to leave the Soul Room, leaving his body empty, Joey heads in to rescue him.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami features this in the Sailor Moon native-verse subplot. At first it's just Usagi, Rei, and Luna, later they are joined by Makoto. Played with somewhat, however, as a way to get Ami home is apparent quite early on from Ami's end, it's simply too dangerous for the Light Gods to send her, as the Dark Gods will immediately use that opportunity to attack Ami's world. The overarching plot then revolves around overcoming this.
  • In Hell and Back, Ratchet goes down into the Pit to rescue Drift.
  • In Pony POV Series, this is actually part of the afterlife's set up. Havoc, the Warden and Anthropomorphic Personification of Hell, permits souls from Heaven to descend into his domain to try and rescue their condemned loved ones. However, it's not easy, as there are both trials for the attempted rescuer to travel past to reach their loved one, and the loved one themselves can only be freed if they're convinced to accept their actions were wrong and genuinely seek repentance. Dark World!Pinkie Pie, following her death, proceeded to do this with all her adopted children that ended up there while she was still Discord's brainwashed minion. From later scenes, it appears she succeeded. It should be noted the rescue isn't necessary, only accepting the wrongness of their actions and genuine repentance is (though they may have to act as an Angel for awhile depending on their crimes, or choose to do so) but one of the major reasons the condemned are in Tartarus to begin with is they refuse to accept how evil their actions were and thus few are likely to ever change on their own.
  • In Propagation, Blackgaurd dumps Taylor, the LA Wards, some of the LA Protectorate, a couple supervillains, and about a square mile of LA into another dimension.
  • A variation appears in Shadowchasers: Power Primordial. After a dark curse traps Ember's soul in the Venomous Tarns (the realm of Seghulerak, the demonic goddess of the ophidia, making it heaven for ophidia and hell for anyone else), with her physical body being guarded by her kidnappers, Jetta the Bronze Hearted (a Cosmic Entity whom Ember is supposed to sponsor) is the only ally who knows about it, but can't act herself. The solution is to communicate (through a vision) with Ember's cousin and Big Brother Mentor to go there in spiritual form, and help muster up the willpower to break the curse on her own. (Not only does it work, but it sets up an important Chekhov's Gun for when Ember physically escapes her kidnappers later, and has to confront her Arch-Enemy.)

    Film — Animated 
  • In The Book of Life, Manolo thinks he's doing this for Maria when Xibalba sends him to the Land of the Remembered. In reality, he's the one who's been killed.
  • The plot of Hell And Back centers on best friends Remy and Augie, who must rescue their other friend, Curt, after he gets trapped in Hell as punishment for breaking a blood oath (over a fucking mint).
  • In Disney's Hercules, the main character travels to the Underworld in order to rescue Meg's spirit and reunite it with her body, thus getting his godhood back.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Black Orpheus is the Orpheus myth set in 20th century Brazil. Orfeo, who refuses to accept that Eurydice is really dead, is led down a staircase to The Underworld, where he hears Eurydice's voice at a native religious ceremony. Before he even has a chance to find out if he can lead her out, he turns and looks, and she's gone.
  • Averted awesomely in Hellboy. Hellboy's love interest has just been captured by the things the villains have been trying to summon. Knowing that they're using her body as a host, Hellboy tells them to let her go—or he'll come in and get her. She's immediately released.
  • Done by the protagonist in the campy 1992 movie Highway to Hell, after his girlfriend is kidnapped by the devil while still alive. The Deal with the Devil part is saved for when they try to escape.
  • Honey Baby has a dream sequence where Tom, as Orpheus, goes to rescue Natascha from Karl, who are Eurydice and Hades, respectively. Seeing Karl's reflection in the mirror makes him turn back and lose Natascha.
  • Inception had Cobb rescue Fischer and Saito from the deepest subconscious.
    • Funnily enough, Limbo's closest to his deepest unconscious, as he's the only one who's been down there long enough (local time) to build anything.
    • Mal became a Glitch Entity and The Ophelia because Dom's attempt to rescue her from Limbo worked much too well. Dom planted the idea that they should kill themselves to get out of Limbo in her mind, but the idea was so firmly implanted that she ended up killing herself in waking life because she believed that she was still dreaming. After that, Dom's subconscious projection of Mal tormented him with memories of the botched Orphean Rescue and played havoc with damn near every one of his dream schemes. Dom eventually conquered her with a complete inversion of the rescue—he told Mal's projection that he was done with her and would leave the memories in Limbo.
  • A dream world variety in The Last Witch Hunter — Chloe dives into Kaulder's mind to rescue him from a Lotus-Eater Machine, and while he initially rejects her, she manages to bring him back.
  • In Parking (1985), Orpheus has to rescue himself from the Underworld first after dying before he was supposed to, then heads back in to save Eurydice.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, starts off with Will, Elizabeth and Barbossa planning on going to the afterlife — more specifically, Davy Jones' Locker, which is portrayed as a kind of Purgatory as Jones no longer takes those who died at sea to the afterlife — to retrieve Jack Sparrow.
  • Poltergeist: Carol Anne is kidnapped by the ghosts and taken to the astral plane where they are trapped.
  • Shredder Orpheus has Orpheus attempt to rescue his wife, Eurydice, from Hades, here an evil Underworld broadcasting corporation. In a twist on the traditional myth, he's later given a second chance to save her after successfully skating an Underworld parking garage.
  • The low-budget film Tequila Body Shots doesn't even hide the fact that the climax will be this: The protagonist's name is Johnny Orpheus. Plus...guess what he uses to bring his love interest back from where she is?
  • In What Dreams May Come, the protagonist goes into hell to find his wife's soul who is trapped in her own guilt and despair after committing suicide.

  • In Briar's Book, Briar follows his teacher into death to convince her to come back.
  • Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator has Willy Wonka and Charlie go deep down to rescue Grandma Georgina from Minus Land, where she went after having reduced her age to below zero.
  • In Deep Secret, Nick goes to Babylon in order to restore Maree after her soul is stripped from her. Babylon isn't the land of the dead exactly, but it's definitely "outside here or there", and it's associated with death in the folk songs Nick uses to guide him. On the way back, Nick remembers the legend of Orpheus and refuses to look back even though he can hear Maree behind him, which was a very wise decision.
  • Discworld:
    • In The Light Fantastic, Twoflower is hit by a poisoned blade and his soul is sent to Death's domain. Rincewind is given a potion by the necromancer in a nearby settlement, and his soul also leaves for Death's domain. He finds that Twoflower has been teaching the four horsemen of the apocalypse to play bridge, which has not gone down terribly well. Rincewind then rescues Twoflower and both of their souls manage to get back to their bodies soon.
    • Invoked in Wintersmith, where Roland has to descend into "an" underworld to rescue the Summer Lady, because that sort of thing is expected in these situations.
  • The Friendship Song by Nancy Springer has this with Harper and Rawnie venturing to the underworld to rescue the soul of a rock singer. It's then played with as he has to choose to come back on his own.
  • Full Tilt by Neil Schusterman involves a boy going to rescue his brother from some kind of hell, appearing as an Amusement Park of Doom, after he was lured in.
  • The aptly named Forgotten Realms novel Elminster in Hell featured Mystaria's attempt to rescue the title character from Nergal's realm, but it was not easy. After finding out she could not make the attempt herself (the Pact Primordial forbids gods from doing so) she recruited her other Chosen to do so. Both Halaster Blackcloak and the Mad Mage of Undermountain failed to do so, but the Simbul succeeded, both she and Elminster defeating Nergal in a climatic battle before escaping to the mortal world.
  • Inverted in the second Ghost Roads book. Rose is brought back to life through an Unwanted Revival, so she and her allies devise a plan where she will descend to the Greek underworld with a companion, ask Persephone and Hades to let her leave, and then have her companion deliberately look back at the last moment, returning her to her ghostly existence. Her boyfriend is already dead, and Apple can't leave her Place of Power, so the only person who can be Rose's Orpheus is Laura, her former (?) enemy.
  • Paul Kidd's third Greyhawk book, Queen of the Demonweb Pits, ends with a trip to Thoth's realm to rescue Enid.
    Enid: Just how much trouble have I put you to?
    Escalla: None! Nothing we minded! Well, we had to steal the clone spell from this wizard guy in Greyhawk, then make you a new body at Dad's place, then find the river Mnemos, fight a few evil denizens, avoid a few rampaging armies, then find this place and bust in. Simple!
  • In The Heirs of Alexandria series, Maria assumes a Persephone like role to become Queen of the Underworld and use her powers to save everyone. Upset that she was tricked into this, Benito travels to the Underworld to rescue her. Hades agrees to let her go, under one condition: she will follow him back to the land of the living, but he must take it on trust that she's actually there. If he ever looks back to verify her presence, she must return to Hades. Of course, being who he is, he cheats: he has one of his companions, a knight in mirror-polished armor, walk in front of him so he can see her reflection in the armor.
    • Being Genre Savvy, he even waits until they're on the boat before turning around. "To be sure."
  • The Iron King is about a sister rescuing her kidnapped brother in Fairyland.
  • The second Jirel of Joiry story sees Jirel return to Hell to rescue the soul of the man she spent the first story retrieving a devil’s weapon to kill. Atypically for this trope, she doesn’t get to bring him back to life, instead freeing his spirit for a more peaceful rest.
  • Double Subverted in "The Land Of Oblivion". The heroine's brother is really dead, and nothing can actually resurrect him. However, he is captured in the Bad part of afterlife (the titular land), and about to be made Deader than Dead, and she manages to bust him out and bring him to a place where he can enjoy a happy afterlife.
  • In Minecraft: The Crash, Bianca thinks that if she saves Lonnie in the game she can save him in real life. It ends up being subverted, as it's really a way for her to deal with losing him in a car crash.
  • Overdrawn At The Memory Bank has this trope, though in this case, Apallonia knows exactly where Fingal's mind is; it's his body she's having trouble finding.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians starts off with a variant, setting its tone as a quirky modern reinterpretation of Greek myth. Percy suspects his recently-kidnapped mother is in Hades' hands, so he does what any sensible son would do and storms the gates of hell. Unlike most Orphean rescues, this labor of love is totally platonic. And actually successful, albeit not in the way Percy expected.
  • Shadow Police: In The Severed Streets, DI Quill is murdered by the Ripper and sent to Hell. Costain uses a magical artifact called the Bridge of Spikes - a so-called 'Get out of Hell Free card' - to rescue him, despite wanting the Bridge for himself.
  • In The Sight, Larka has to travel via Vision Quest to the Red Meadow (an afterlife of sorts, but populated by Living Memories rather than the true dead wolves, with the injunction to never try to call the dead by name. When she does call them by name, Kar has to call her back so she won't be trapped there forever.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien 's The Silmarillion, Lúthien rescues her husband-to-be Beren, killed by wolf Carcaroth from Mandos. On the price of her own immortality.
  • There's a medieval narrative poem, Sir Orfeo, loosely inspired by Orpheus, where King Orfeo successfully wins back his wife held captive by The Fair Folk. He plays his harp so beautifully that the king of the fairies promises him any reward he wants.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Mat and company enter the Tower of Ghenjei to rescue Moiraine.
  • In A Wizard of Earthsea, Ged tries to save a dying child, following her soul on the way to the land of the dead; but he doesn't manage to keep her from entering it and being lost.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Seamus Zelazny Harper did this a time or two on Andromeda for the AI of the ship. It included a combo Journey to the Center of the Mind that happened to be Cyberspace.
  • In the Arrow episode "Haunted", Oliver and Laurel get the assistance of John Constantine to successfully infiltrate The Underworld to retrieve the soul of Sara Lance, who was resurrected by a Lazarus Pit as a Soulless Shell.
  • The third season of Being Human (UK) included one of these early on, when vampire John Mitchell enters Purgatory to retrieve ghost Annie and bring her back to the real world. It's not without larger consequences.
  • Beyond the Walls: Lisa searches for Julien, who has almost turned into one of the zombie-like inhabitants. In the black room, she manages to pull him back just in time. Afterwards they search for the exit of the House with renewed vigour.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel both involve this trope from time to time.
    • Rescues from Hell pop up more than a few times on both shows.
    • Buffy goes catatonic right in "Weight of the World" (requiring a Journey to the Center of the Mind by Willow to help her snap out of it).
    • When Angel loses his soul (again) in "Orpheus", he and Faith end up sharing a drugged dream state where they trade barbs while observing Angel's memories from his quest for redemption as she tries to find a way to restore his soul.
    • The last season of Angel has a disproportionate number of these as well.
      • The attempt to rescue Spike's ghost before he is destroyed in "Hell Bound".
      • The journey to the private little suburban hell with the torture chamber in the basement (an unalterable "Groundhog Day" Loop that the person knows ends with hours of torture). Done a couple times, once to rescue someone with important info who was trapped there by the Senior Partners, then back again later to rescue the guy who had to take his place on the first trip.
  • Charmed:
    • The final episode of Season 4 has Phoebe cast a spell on herself to enter the Wasteland - where demons go when vanquished - when Cole contacts her through a medium. Subverted in that she has no interest in rescuing him, she wants him to let go and stop bothering her.
    • The Season 6 opener has them travelling to Valhalla to save Leo, who has been trapped there for a month. This involves stealing Darryl's soul (and then saving him too once Leo emerged).
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Forest of the Dead": Donna Noble has been "saved" into a virtual computer system world. The Doctor works to get her back and restore the rest of the planet's population, all the while fighting off the Vashta Nerada.
    • "Dark Water" sees an attempt to rescue Danny Pink after he passes on to an afterlife that Clara and the Doctor can't quite understand yet.
  • Most of the plot of The Lost Room is the lead character recovering his daughter from this situation (although she is not actually 'dead', but just trapped in whatever strange limbo is created by the titular Room, which exists outside of time and space).
  • Deconstructed in Lucifer (2016). The sinner Malcolm Graham is resurrected after a thirty-second dip into Hell (which felt like years). Lucifer points out that the sinner is still mortal and will return within a few decades.
  • Episode 4 of MythQuest sees Alex, as Orpheus, go into Hades to rescue Eurydice.
  • Happens a few times on Supernatural, albeit offscreen. Castiel rescues Dean from Hell and Sam from Lucifer's cage. Later, Death rescues Sam's soul from the Cage because Castiel had somehow only gotten Sam's body. A group of angels rescue Castiel from Purgatory. An onscreen example occurs in Season 8, when Sam rescues Bobby from Hell, only for both of them to be rescued from Purgatory by Benny. Then, in the Series Finale, it is revealed that Jack has rescued Castiel from The Empty and they are rebuilding Heaven together. This happens offscreen.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Mesopotamian Mythology has Inanna's Descent to the Netherworld, probably the Ur-Example. In it, the goddess Inanna descended into the underworld but angered its queen, Ereshkigal, and was trapped there. As the goddess of fertility, this was obviously bad for the living. The god Enki eventually created a being which helped her escape, but the rules of the underworld necessitated that someone must take her place. After two futile searches, Inanna found out that her husband, Dumuzid, did not mourn over her during the duration of her imprisonment. In fury, she sent him as her replacement, only to regret it later. She then decreed that Dumuzid's sister, Geshtinanna, would take his place for half a year. Thus every time he came back topside, Inanna would bring life to the world (summers), while every time he went down, she would cause the world to wither (winters).
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Orpheus is the Trope Codifier. When his wife Eurydice died, Orpheus entered the underworld and convinced Hades to let her return to the world of the living. However, Hades allowed it on the condition that Orpheus lead his wife back without looking at her until they're on the other side. Unlike the majority of the examples on this page, though, he ultimately failed in his quest. Some versions of the myth state that Orpheus was out of the underworld when he turned to look at her, but his wife wasn't. Orpheus' response to this was to either commit suicide or foresake all worship of gods but Apollo, which got him torn apart by the Maenads, female worshippers of Dionysus.
    • Heracles did something similar when he went to the Underworld to abduct Cerberus for his Twelfth Labor. While there, his found his cousin Theseus and Theseus' friend Pirithous, who Hades had bound to a chair as punishment for trying to kidnap Persephone. Hades said he could take Theseus with back with him - if he could. Heracles managed to wrest Theseus free, but he wasn't allowed to do the same for Pirithous. (Pirithous had been the orchestrator of the plan and Theseus was only guilty by association, so Hades was willing to let him go.) As this story and the one with Orpheus seems to show, more-or-less, even attempting a rescue like this in Classical Mythology is impossible unless you have Hades' permission.
      • Another possible example of this Trope regarding Heracles — depending on the version — was the story where when he wrestled Thanatos to rescue the soul of Alcestis, a brave woman who sacrificed herself so her husband Admetus (a good friend of Heracles) could live. Whether this fits the Trope or not is disputed, because some versions say the battle did, indeed happen in the Underworld, while others suggest that Thanatos had not left Earth yet; but since the myth always claims that Thanatos had already taken Alcestis' soul, it is possible. Whatever the case, Heracles was successful this time too.
    • According to some versions of Hades and Persephone's legend, she was literally abducted and dragged into Hades, and her mother went batshit insane, which is bad when said mother is the goddess of The Earth. Hermes went to retrieve Persephone, but discovered that she had eaten of the food of the underworld while there, which bound her to Hades. A compromise was reached that allowed Persephone to leave Hades for half the year, then spend the other half as the queen of the dead. The half which she is on earth is spring, while Autumn is caused when she leaves for the underworld and her mother grieves.
      • Another version has Persephone voluntarily running off with Hades, to both get away from her overcontrolling and overprotective mother and grasp power for herself, as Zeus had his eye on her (and had apparently raped her already) and Hades is quite the catch, technically speaking. When it looks like war between the gods if she doesn't come back, she eats a few pomegranate seeds deliberately to ensure she at least gets a vacation from her mom and pervert father once a year, meaning for her "purgatory" is actually the half of the year she's not in the Underworld.
      • Theseus also accompanied his friend Pirithous into Hades when the latter took a fancy to Persephone; they both got stuck there until Heracles freed them on a completely unrelated mission (see example above).
    • Another myth has Dionysus dive to the bottom of a supposedly-bottomless lake to rescue his mother, Semele, who had died while she was still pregnant with him when she had asked to see Zeus's true form.
    • The Thebaid has Hades/Pluto/Dis talk about this trope when a living dude crashes into the Underworld and he assumes he's here to abduct one of his subjects back to life. Amphiaraus explains he's just a dead soul with a weird death, but Hades is still wary, citing his experiences with Theseus and Orpheus, as mentioned above.
  • Japanese Mythology: Similar to Orpheus is Izanagi, creator-god in Japanese Mythology. His wife Izanami died giving birth to the fire-god Kagutsuchi and fell to The Underworld, The Yomotsu. Izanagi traveled down the cavernous realm of the dead, only to be repulsed by a wife who is now an eternally decaying, maggot-ridden corpse. He fled the underworld as fast as he could while being chased by the local demons and Izanami throwing lightning at him. Eventually, he made it to the surface, and closed the way to the underworld with a huge boulder.
  • Hindu Mythology has a female version. the princess Savitri followed Yama, the lord of death, when he took her husband Satyavan. Yama was so impressed with her wisdom and courage that he eventually let her take Satyavan back.
  • Christianity: In the time between his crucifixion and his resurrection, Jesus "descended into Hell". One interpretation of this is that Jesus went down to rescue all the righteous people who died since the beginning of time in an event called "The Harrowing Of Hell".
  • Prose Edda: After Baldr has been accidentally killed by Hod through Loki's malicious agency, Hermod (another son of Odin) volunteers to ride to Hel (the realm of the dead) and bargain with Hel (the ruler of the dead) for Baldr's release. On Odin's horse Sleipnir, Hermod rides for nine nights through "valleys dark and deep" until he reaches the hall of Hel, where Baldr is being hosted in the seat of honor. Hermod obtains Hel's promise that she will let Baldr go back "if all things in the world, alive and dead, weep for him". Having received this message through Hermod, the Aesir can persuade all things in the world (including animals, stones, and trees) to weep for Baldr, except for a giantess in a cave, Thokk, who refuses to mourn Baldr. Thus Baldr must stay in Hel.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions Organization Book 1 The Circle and M.E.T.E.: One of the adventure seeds for the Circle is having Oeramm attack the Circle, capture Aureole or a PC and take them back to his home plane, from which they will have to be rescued.
  • Chronicles of Darkness:
  • The supplement to Don't Rest Your Head, Don't Lose Your Mind, has a lovely example in the example Madness Power titled "O is for Orpheus":
    "You need to understand it wasn't her fault, alright? You need to understand none of this was her fault, but suicide means something to a Catholic. So I walked down and carried her back. She tried to fight me and run back to it. Can you believe that? She tried to run back to the eating and purging and eating and..."
    "I'm going to walk back when I get my head together a little and try and find the rest of her, but until then..."
    Like he said, she's got to eat.
  • Easily possible in Forgotten Realms, due to the ease with which the Outer Planes can be accessed via Dimensional Travel.
  • The Classical Mythology themed Theros cycle in Magic: The Gathering has the black card Rescue from the Underworld, which involves one of the players creatures leaving play and returning next turn along with one that was in the graveyard. The same block also has Reviving Melody, which depicts a Gender Swapped version of the original tale.

  • In Eurydice, Orpheus goes to save Eurydice towards the climax of the play, with the twist being that Eurydice is unsure about leaving. She ultimately calls to him to make him turn around, choosing to stay in the Underworld with her father.
  • Hadestown is a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth where the Underworld is imagined as a hellish Company Town that Eurydice went to on purpose in the hopes of finding food and security, instead finding endless work that will leech her memories away. Orpheus's journey to save her isn't as peaceful as his mythological counterpart's, either, as Hades sics his workers on him to beat him up and later threatens to kill him once he's done singing.
  • Jasper in Deadland has Jasper journey to Deadland in order to rescue his best friend, Agnes, who killed herself.
  • The opera L'Orfeo revolves around Orpheus's quest to rescue Eurydice this way. He makes it all the way there and succeeds in moving Hades, but fails on the way out due to hearing a noise behind him and turning around.
  • Orfeo ed Euridice is an operatic retelling of the Orpheus myth, with Orpheus getting past the Furies and Cerberus before leading Eurydice out of Elysium. Unlike most versions of the myth, after Orpheus turns around, Cupid brings Eurydice back to life and they depart happily.
  • In Orpheus: A Poetic Drama, Orpheus sets out to seek Persephone's aid in bringing back Eurydice from the dead. While she's sympathetic to his cause and pleads for leniency, Hades holds the final word. Hades sends a spy to ensure he fails and turns around.
  • Orpheus in the Underworld parodies the trope to Hades and back as both sides of the couple are happiest without each other, but Public Opinion demands Orpheus at least try to save his wife.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Similar to in the source material, Percy suspects his recently-kidnapped mother is in Hades' hands, so he does what any sensible son would do and storms the gates of hell. Unlike most Orphean rescues, this labor of love is totally platonic. And actually successful, albeit not in the way Percy expected.
  • The last part of Tripod Versus the Dragon has Gatesy going to rescue his love from Hades after he was tricked into killing her, with the help of his friends and terrible songs.

    Video Games 
  • Adventure Time Finn And Bones: Finn fights through the land of the underworld to rescue Jake after Jake drinks the water of forgetfulness by a skeleton.
  • Happens in some route in Aoi Shiro. These are the bad ends.
  • Much of The Battle of Olympus is about Orpheus gathering the weapons and tools needed to take the fight to Hades and rescue his love.
  • Bayonetta 2 kicks off with Bayonetta heading off to Inferno to rescue her friend Jeanne after her soul is Dragged Off to Hell by a demon gone rogue.
  • Dante's Inferno has the title fallen crusader descending into Hell itself to save his beloved, Beatrice, after she is killed while he is on crusade and her soul is claimed by the Devil himself.
  • Your final challenge in Disney's Hades Challenge is to rescue Phil after Hades kidnaps him and takes him to the Underworld.
  • Don't Look Back, as the title suggests, takes Orpheus's original journey and reimagines it as a Platform Game.
  • A second, unrelated game also (confusingly) entitled Don't Look Back, swaps things up by having Euridice rescue Orfeo (it's based on the opera rather than the original myth).
  • This seems to be the entirety of Drawn to Life. The creator (seemingly the player character and the force behind the protagonist) is Heather, who in the real world was Mike's older sister. In the real world, Mike and Heather were in a devastating car crash which put Mike in a coma and killed their parents. Heather's imagination plus The Power of Love sent Mike into the world of Drawn to Life. The Next Chapter consists of getting everything together so that Mike can wake up again.
  • Played very straight in a quest on Dungeons & Dragons Online, where you must rescue Mistress Orphne, trapped inside her mind by a spell. Four objects are needed by the party to break the spell—which becomes a shadowy version of the rescued that tries to slay you.
  • Fatal Frame 2: Mio shoots her way (with a camera!) through a village worth of hordes of vengeful ghosts to save her little sister Mayu. Bonus point for (in Best Ending route) going down into Abyss to retrieve her back. She didn't come out unscathed from the whole ordeal, but at least she's now closer to Mayu than ever.
  • This is Arthur's goal in the second game of the Ghosts 'n Goblins series. He's still trying to rescue his beloved Princess Prin-Prin, but in this one, Lucifer kills her and captures her soul.
  • Kingdom Hearts sets up about six of these in Birth by Sleep. Interesting because all six are important characters whose growth, contribution to the plot, and tragic downfall took up about the space of a full game each, and each of them went in a completely different way. So it's a bit of a task for The Hero to bring them all back. Kingdom Hearts coded and Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] continue the set up for these rescues, giving the heroes the information and abilities they need to stage them in Kingdom Hearts III.
  • In order to get the best endings of King's Quest VI, Prince Alexander has to travel to the Land of the Dead and bargain with its Lord for the souls of the King and Queen of the Green Isles, who had been murdered by Abdul Alhazred in a bid for power. Given the series' roots in fairy tales and myths, this is almost certainly a reference to the myth of Orpheus.
  • Gwendolyn rescues Oswald from the underworld in Odin Sphere. Odin rescues her when she has problems leaving again.
  • In Persona 3: FES, the desire to bring back the main character after his Heroic Sacrifice to stop Nyx drives SEES to splinter and fight each other in a "Groundhog Day" Loop. But even when the members of SEES come back to their senses and work together to reach the place where the MC's soul is, they find out that they CAN'T bring him back without undoing his sacrifice. Moral of the story: It's better to let go of deceased loved ones.
  • The protagonists of Persona 4 perform a series of Orphean rescue missions into the TV World to save people who have been thrown in by a mysterious killer. Bonus points for the hero's Persona being Izanagi and the final boss, the one behind it all, being Izanami. The Persona series loves this trope in general.
  • One of the challenges of becoming a king in Quest for Glory 5 involves going into the Underworld and then coming back out. While you're there, you have the option of returning to life either Katrina, the Big Bad of the previous game, or Erana, the Big Good of the series, by sacrificing half your Vitality score to do so. Notably, this is optional: you can leave both of them to their fates without consequence.
  • Saints Row IV sees the Boss delve into a virtual simulation of Steelport to fight his way through the Ironic Hells of their crew, all trapped in Lotus-Eater Machines, to rescue them.
  • Touhou 07: Perfect Cherry Blossom has the three main characters going to Hakugyokurou, a realm of virtuous dead (think Elysium), to take back the Spring essence of Gensokyo which is stolen by the hungry ghost Yuyuko.
    • In Touhou 12: Undefined Fantastic Object, it's the followers of Byakuren who seek to liberate her from imprisonment in Pandemonium. She was imprisoned by her fellow humans for befriending the youkai. The player characters mistakenly believe they're trying to resurrect a terrible monstrosity.
  • The final chapter of the original Twilight Syndrome duology, "Reverse Town", sees the main characters venturing into the titular Afterlife Antechamber in search of a young girl who is believed to have done the same by accident, only to find that she is nowhere to be found and instead seems to have gone past a Point of No Return for spirits moving onto the beyond. When Yukari ends up drawn into that same place, she manages to locate the girl in question, but must go through a series of surreal psychological hardships that wrap up her personal character growth arc before she manages to find a way to get them both back home.

  • Elf Blood, to restore the status quo. It turns out that the journey is a LOT easier than expected, but the Sadistic Choice isn't. And then it turns out that the Sadistic Choice was just an educated assumption in the protagonist's mind, but in any case said choice REALLY helped everyone in the story.
  • Parodied in Oglaf, where the ruler of the netherworld realizes to his annoyance that the rescuer isn't there to save a specific person, he's just listing qualities he wants in a girlfriend.
    Fuck, man - the realm of death is not your dating agency.
  • Subverted in The Order of the Stick, where Roy spends all of Don't Split the Party waiting to be raised from the dead - but he's in Heaven, which is by all accounts perfect: he gets to see his dead mother and baby brother, the latter of whom was killed in an accident when Roy was young and meet his grandfather, who inspired him to become a fighter in the first place. It's only when he realizes that he's been dead for three months that he freaks out. And it's not even that he's in a Lotus-Eater Machine and Heaven was just an illusion - he just had more important issues to attend to on Earth.
  • Parodied in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: A man swears to find a woman (one might guess his beloved) even after death and goes To Hell and Back after her. It's rather embarrassing when it turns out she went to Heaven.
  • Sinfest seemed to be going in this direction after Criminy started digging his way to hell in search of Fuchsia, but it led to him staying there.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, Finn and Jake go to the underworld to rescue the soul of Princess Bubblegum's dead plant, which they accidentally killed while taking care of it. Unfortunately they mess up, and Finn ends up having to save Jake's memory as well.
  • Played with in the Futurama episode "Hell Is Other Robots" when Fry and Leela go to Robot Hell (which is underneath New Jersey) to rescue Bender after he's abducted by the Robot Devil.
  • Hercules: The Animated Series features Orpheus himself in need of rescue from the Underworld. Depicted as a pop-star, his fans including girls at the school and monsters alike results in him becoming a Living Macguffin for Hercules (trying to secure a date for the prom by getting Orpheus to play) and Hades (trying to recruit a powerful new minion through an Underworld concert) to clash over on the same day.
  • In The Legend of Korra, when Korra and Jinora meditate into the spirit world, Jinora's soul is acquired by Unalaq with the aid of Wan Shi Tong to force Korra to open the Northern Spirit Portal. Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi have to go into the Fog of Lost Souls to retrieve her.
  • An inverted variation occurs in the The Legend of Zelda (1989) episode "The Missing Link". During one of Ganon's attacks, he attempts to use a magic staff to zap Zelda into his Evil Jar. The blast is deflected and ricochets a few times before hitting Link instead. But only his body is captured, his spirit stayed behind, and Zelda is the only one who can both see and hear him. They travel to Ganon's underworld labyrinth to get Link's body back, and ultimately succeed.
  • In the Pinky and the Brain Halloween episode, Pinky sells his soul to the devil and the Brain has to go to Hades and challenge the devil to a gymnastics competition to get him back. The Devil wins but Brain then realises a loophole in the contract that enables Pinky to escape.
  • In a 2009 episode of South Park all the celebrities that had died that year were stuck in Purgatory, which looked like an airplane stuck on the runway, until Michael Jackson admitted he was dead. In the meantime they haunted Ike.
  • Teen Titans has Robin do this for Raven in the Season Four finale. (He had Slade's help.)
  • One episode of Thunder Cats has Lion-O venturing into the great beyond to rescue Jaga, who is being held prisoner by his old foe Grom the Destroyer. (Possibly a case of Only One Afterlife, as it's clear which side of the moral spectrum Grom is on.)

Alternative Title(s): Orphean Rescue