Follow TV Tropes


Self-Imposed Exile

Go To

"He was training a new generation of Jedi. There was nobody else left to do it, so he took the burden on himself. Everything was going great, until... one boy, an apprentice, turned against him and destroyed it all. Luke felt responsible. He just...walked away from everything."
Han Solo, Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens

So you did something bad. It could be intentional, accidental, or against your will. Whatever you did, the act was so bad that there's nothing you can do to make up for what you've done, and a severe punishment is in order. Now that society hates you and the law is after you, you are left with two choices — either face society's contempt and accept your punishment or exile yourself from society.

This is the self-imposed version of The Exile where instead of society exiling the character, the character exiles themselves from it. For one reason or another, the character separating themselves from society will realize that because of the gravity of what they've done, society has no place for them. Another reason for their self-exile may be because they want to avoid punishment from law enforcement. Either way, the self-exiled character will be lucky if they can find the resources to survive outside of society, and if they aren't lucky, law enforcement will manage to catch up with them and arrest them.

Sometimes a person could be a part of a Government in Exile, even if they were not associated with the actions that led to that exile. For example, the descendants of deposed monarchies may choose to continue to stay away from the current regime, even if the deposing antagonists died off generations ago. The modern descendants are not persecuted because they are so far removed that they are practically commoners at this point, especially if they are actually naturalized citizens of whatever country their deposed ancestors fled to. They may have more affinity for the country they were born in, as opposed to the country from which their royal or noble ancestors were exiled. And the current regime (which may be different from the deposing regime) may have no interest in an old ruling family whose status even its modern descendants no longer consider relevant. On the other hand, the descendants may still regard their once-distinguished heritage with reverence but accept that You Can't Go Home Again, potentially tinged with a little Old Shame.

Compare No Place for Me There when a character exiles himself because of his well-meaning, but questionable deeds to create a better world. Also related to You Can't Go Home Again and Starting a New Life.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Miho Nishizumi of Girls und Panzer was raised in the Nishizumi household, where the sport of sensha-do is a de facto religion. During a championship match, however, Miho chose to rescue a drowning teammate rather than command her tank crew. This lost Kuroromine the match, for which Miho's mother declared "I have no daughter." Miho fled Kuroromine to enroll at Oarai Academy, which at the time had no sensha-do team. Narrative Causality changes that, putting Miho back in the saddle again, leading a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits against other powerhouse teams.
  • At the end of Naruto, Sasuke decides to atone for his actions by leaving the village to seek out threats and the truth about Kaguya.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: After destroying reality in a futile battle against Samaritan, Evil Sorcerer Infidel agreed to exile himself into a pocket dimension where he could study and scheme without directly endangering the universe.
  • Fantastic Four archvillain Doctor Doom began as a foreign student at New York University, where his research into arcane transdimensional physics blew up his dorm room, for which Doom was expelled. He returned in shame to Europe, trekking to a lonely monastery, where he studied mysticism and forged his iconic armor. Doom then returned to his homeland of Latveria, deposed the ruling monarchs, and became the most dangerous man on Earth.
  • In Great Lakes Avengers, Mr. Immortal once spent a year Buried Alive, away from his teammates, as a way of forcing himself to get sober after all the drinking and erratic behavior he engaged in after the death of Dinah Soar.
  • Judge Dredd: Instead of retiring, street Judges who no longer meet the physical requirements of the job but don't see themselves as desk job or instructor material take the Long Walk, in which they head out alone into the Cursed Earth to "bring the Law to the lawless". No one, including the Judge taking the Long Walk, expects to return. Some do it out of atonement or personal conviction (Dredd among them).
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage): In the backstory, Hamato Yoshi went on a self-imposed exile to New York after fellow Foot Clan member, Oroku Nagi, when he was defending his wife, Tang Shen from Nagi's jealous wrath which permanently disgraced him from his position in the Clan. Shen accompanied him.
  • Watchmen: Doctor Manhattan teleports away to Mars when he believes his superpowers have inadvertently caused cancer in people close to him, both to isolate himself and because he's increasingly unable to relate to humanity. This turns out to have been Invoked by the Big Bad, who caused the cancer in order to provoke an emotional breakdown and take Dr. Manhattan out of the action.
  • Superman:
    • In The Supergirl Saga, Superman executed three Kryptonian criminals in an alternate universe after they wiped out all life on the alternate Earth. The stress of going against his morals prompted him to briefly develop a split personality, taking on the identity of the street-brawling vigilante Gangbuster during the night. Horrified by what he had become and fearing that he was losing control of his powers, he chose to exile himself from Earth into deep space in Superman: Exile. Ultimately he was abducted by Mongul and forced to fight in gladiatorial tournaments on Mongul's Warworld. Here, he also met an ancient alien being called the Cleric, who was present on Krypton centuries before its destruction, and shared much of Krypton's history with Superman. This helped Superman get his head straightened out and, once he took down Mongul, he returned to Earth.
    • In Superboy 1949 #160, Superboy briefly exiles himself to the moon after being tricked into thinking he killed "Cleop Amahdi" (actually the body of Cleopatra reanimated by Professor Tingly).
    • In The Girl with the X-Ray Mind, Supergirl is put under the effects of a device that turns all animals into plants when they go near her. Desperate, she flies to a barren desert island in the middle of the ocean so as not to endanger animal life.
  • X-Men Red (2022): After finally realizing the true cost of her power to never lose, Isca the Unbeaten takes off into the wilds of Mars, telling the Great Circle that if they follow her, she'll kill them.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Apprentice, the Student, and the Charlatan, Nova Shine and Twilight Sparkle are being told the story about Nova's namesake, Nova Shine I, and they are informed that Nova Shine I blamed himself for Envy's creation and exiled himself from Equestria the very day she attempted to take Clover the Clever's life. In actuality, it was because he was actually the present-day Nova Shine, and he was freezing himself in stasis so he could return to his own time in the present.
  • In the Facing the Future Series story "Trial By Fire", after seeing the destruction her new fire powers caused, particularly hurting Danny, Sam becomes scared and runs away to the Ghost Zone. Fortunately, Danny manages to track her down and gives her the encouragement needed to eventually get control of her fire powers.

    Film — Animated 
  • Frozen: Elsa retreats to the mountains and builds a "kingdom of isolation" when her ice powers are revealed to the people of Arendelle. When her sister Anna finds her and tries to bring her home, Elsa tells her "I know you mean well, but leave me be".
  • In the climax of Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, Stitch, believing his destructive side is re-emerging and he can't stop it, chose to leave Earth and isolate himself on a desolate planet where he couldn't harm anyone, unaware that he was actually suffering from out-of-control seizures as he neared the point of permanent shutdown. To make the situation worse, he was leaving Jumba's ship, which contained the fusion chamber needed to recharge him.
  • The Lion King: Simba, on the "advice" of Scar, runs away from the Pride Lands after he's convinced that he got his father killed.
  • Madagascar: Alex exiles himself into fossa territory after his primal instincts show and he nearly kills his friends.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie: The girls exile themselves to an asteroid in space upon finding out they were duped into helping Mojo take over the city and made everyone hate them even more.
  • In The Prince of Egypt, Moses's departure from Egypt after killing a foreman was an act of self-exile, unlike in the source material (where he fled to escape punishment) and The Ten Commandments (1956) (where it is his punishment).
  • The rooster Chanticleer from Don Bluth's Rock-A-Doodle gets in a tussle with another rooster, and neglects to crow up the morning sun. When the sun rises without his prompt, his confidence is shattered and the farm animals laugh him into exile. He turns up much later in the city as an Elvis expy.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Aquaman (2018): King Atlan went into exile after his experiments caused the sinking of Atlantis.
  • Eternals: Thena and Gilgamesh live in a remote part of Australia in the present — Thena lives in isolation to manage her Mahd Wy'ry affliction, while Gilgamesh accompanies her.
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home: Peter Parker/Spider-Man decided to isolate himself from everyone, including his friends, allies, and fellow superheroes, in order to keep them safe after he nearly caused his universe to collapse because of an unstable spell. Despite this, Peter still continues helping the people of New York as Spider-Man in order to protect the innocent and to atone for his mistakes.
  • Star Wars
    • Yoda exiled himself to Dagobah after Anakin became Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire was formed.
    • Like Yoda, Obi-Wan exiled himself to Tatooine and changed his name to Ben so he could remain near the infant Luke.
    • The Force Awakens: Luke was tasked with training Han and Leia's son, Ben, who was showing signs of turning to the Dark Side. When his efforts proved to be in vain and Ben became Kylo Ren — wiping out the New Jedi Order — Luke, feeling that he failed his family and the galaxy, exiled himself to a far-off planet, doomed to be the last Jedi once more. The Last Jedi expands on this, revealing that Luke holds himself responsible for Ben's turn because Luke sensed darkness in him and, for a moment, was ready to kill Ben before he fell to the darkness. In his time since, he has become far more cynical and jaded with the Jedi as a whole as a result.
    • Averted in The Rise of Skywalker. After Rey learns of her heritage as a Palpatine and sees a vision of herself as a dark sider, she heads to the same planet Luke did, intending to spend the rest of her life in exile. Luke's force ghost, however, talks her out of doing that.

  • Levi Zendt from James Michener's novel Centennial became an outcast among the Pennsylvania Dutch community, and departed for The Wild West. There, he founded a homestead, farmland, and a trading post. Many years later, he returned to make amends, but his kin still regarded Levi as an amoral apostate. Levi returned to Colorado, where he divested himself of his heritage.
  • Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein about a brilliant physician who creates a living man from salvaged corpses. His creation, however, has serious flaws, and cannot assimilate into human society, a la All of the Other Reindeer, which begins his first exile into the rugged mountains. However, after hearing that his creator planned on getting married, the creature returned to ruin Doctor Frankenstein's happiness by slaying his bride-to-be. Now a murderer as well as an abomination, Frankenstein's monster departs for the frozen north, planning to live in solitude to the end of his days.
  • I, Claudius: In two separate instances (about ten years apart), both Marcus Agrippa and Tiberius voluntarily ask for, and receive, permission to leave Rome to reduce tensions between rival factions supporting other potential heirs of Augustus (Marcellus in Agrippa's case, Lucius Agrippa Caesar and his brother Gaius in Tiberius's). Tiberius also wanted to get away from his wife Julia (the daughter of Augustus, whom he'd married for political reasons but whom he hated; in the television series, it is presented as the main reason for the exile, and that it wasn't voluntary).
  • Judge Dee: In "The Chinese Maze Murders", the judge finds the reason for which a brilliant official voluntarily ended his own metropolitan career and buried himself in a town of the Tartar border, refusing even a request by the Emperor to resume his duties: Yoo Shou-chien discovered that where he had tried to practice exemplary virtue during his life, he had failed to transmit any of those virtues to his eldest son. As said son later commits several murders, including an official magistrate, and plots to create his own satellite kingdom, and despoils his father's second wife and son of any belongings, you kind of see his point.
  • Towards the end of The Magicians, Quentin Coldwater exiles himself to the Muggle world in the aftermath of his foolhardy journey to Fillory which resulted in the death of his lover, Alice. It's not much of a penance considering that he quickly descends into yet another life of sloth and self-indulgence in order to escape from his guilt, and his arrogance returns once he starts thinking himself more mature for abandoning magic, so it's really just an extension of his earlier self-pity. After meeting fellow exile Emily Greenstreet and witnessing the depths of denial the two of them are descending to, he gradually realizes that he isn't becoming a better person at all, and abandons exile in favor of returning to the magical lifestyle with his friends.
  • In My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, the Bad Ends of the Geordo and Keith routes in Fortune Lover involve either of them exiling themselves after killing Alpha Bitch Catarina to protect the Player Character, over the shame of killing his fiancée in Geordo's case, or his older sister in Keith's case.
  • In Tales of the Magic Land, Urfin Jus goes into a self-imposed exile twice, both times after a failed attempt to conquer the eponymous land. In both cases, the heroes contemplate sending him into an actual exile, or even imprisoning him, but decide that the universal ostracizing of The Usurper by the people would be punishment enough.
  • In the Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note franchise, Sunahara goes into this after the twelfth novel The Valentine Knows. His several brushes with Japanese Delinquents makes everyone in town to believe he is one himself, which causes him to decide to leave the town.
  • At the end of the third arc of Warrior Cats, Hollyleaf reveals that she murdered a Clanmate, and claims that she can't stay with her Clan now that "everything is ruined". She runs into a tunnel, attempting to leave the territory, and is presumed dead in the ensuing rockfall. She survives, but stays away from her Clan out of shame and as a self-imposed punishment before returning over a year later.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Since the beginning of the series in 1963, this is the main premise of Doctor Who, in which the Doctor abandoned his own people and stoled a TARDIS to travel into time and space, almost always preferring Earth and its inhabitants. Inverted at the end of the Second Doctor's final season in The War Games, in which fellow Time Lords exiled him to Earth not before an execution that forced him to regenerate into the Third Doctor.
  • In the Lost episode "Confidence Man", Sayid exiles himself from the group because of his guilt in torturing Sawyer.
  • M*A*S*H: When Colonel Potter finds out that the reason he was offered a post stateside is that negative reports were coming from his own M*A*S*H unit, he is so demoralized that he takes the offer out of the shame he feels for having somehow failed. He takes the offer initially, that is. Once Hawkeye and B.J. weed out the anonymous reports as having come from a mole in the outfit, Colonel Potter recants.
  • Machos: After being expelled from the family by his Archnemesis Dad, Ariel Mercader decided to self-exile to Spain, coming back several years later, when the series starts to claim his last name back.
  • In Smallville, Clark put himself into self-imposed exile after feeling responsible for Martha's miscarriage.
  • At the end of Torchwood: Children of Earth, Jack leaves Earth in self-loathing after his lover Ianto died and he was forced to kill his own young grandson, due to an alien invasion partially caused by his earlier morally questionable dealings.
  • In the post-credits scene of the final episode of WandaVision, Wanda exiles herself to an isolated cabin in the mountains to better study the Darkhold.
  • One episode of Gilligan's Island involved the Skipper and Gilligan moving to the other side of the island after they believed themselves responsible for getting the castaways shipwrecked.

    Myth & Religion 
  • One Moroccan folk tale, which was later featured in One Thousand and One Nights goes like this: An unlucky man named Akbar (the original version has this to be the local sultan), explodes in a fart in the middle of the market place, loud enough for everyone to hear - as the place is crowded with people. The man is ashamed and goes into hiding, and lives the life of a hermit for several years (varies from ten and up to 30 years at the most) until he thinks it safe to return to his hometown because now people surely have forgotten the incident. Coming into town, and the market square, he spots a new building he has never seen before and asks a boy when that building was erected. The boy answers accordingly:
    That building was finished 13 years, five months, and six days after the fart of Akbar.
  • Classical Mythology: Oedipus left Thebes after he discovered he murdered his father and married his mother.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer Fantasy: Dwarf Slayers are dwarves who have committed some sin that can only be forgiven by death. So they dye their hair orange, shave it into a mohawk, and go out to fight the biggest, ugliest thing they can find to get a Mutual Kill. But dwarves are nothing if not stubborn, murderous little bastards, and many find themselves surviving battle after battle against ever-more dangerous foes, and gaining epithets like Trollslayer, Giantslayer, Dragonslayer, even Daemonslayer, that only bring them shame because it's a reminder that they still failed to reclaim their honor.

  • In Slowgirl, Sterling is in one of these to Costa Rica after realizing he was the head of a Ponzi scheme perpetuated by his business partner and best friend, and breakdown of his marriage. While he genuinely didn't know about the former, he still exiled himself to the Costa Rican jungle because of guilt and his awareness that everyone thought he did know.

    Video Games 
  • In Arcanum, the former king of the dwarves Loghaire Thunderstone has stepped down from his throne and exiled himself to a derelict mine known as the Dredge, ashamed of himself for banishing the Black Mountain clan and allowing elves to interfere in the dwarven justice system.
  • According to the lore of Brave Frontier, Vargas left the Agni Army after losing to Lava.
  • Doom Eternal: The Betrayer of Argent D'Nur exiled himself to hell as punishment for helping the demons conquer his homeworld. When the Doom Slayer comes for him to repair his celestial locator to find the remaining hell priests Valen tells him that he told him and the other Night Sentinels to leave him here and that he is where he belongs.
  • The End Times: Vermintide and Vermintide II: The dwarf ranger Bardin claims to be on a mission to rediscover the legendary city Karak Zorn but doesn't seem in any hurry to find it. The sequel reveals that he left his hold and wife out of shame after an injury prevented him from warning them of a Skaven attack that killed many of his clan, including his son.
  • At the end of Path of Exile, the god Innocence, deeply regretting being a Jerkass God, intends to set off in his own path of exile southward to the coldest region in the world, intending to return when he feels worthy of redemption.
  • At the end of Ultima V, Lord Blackthorne goes into self-imposed exile in penance for being manipulated by the Shadowlords into imposing his totalitarian rule on Britannia and perverting its Eight Virtues.

    Web Animation 
  • In Minilife TV, Master Quoker left the planet of Legondo and lived in isolation on Anoza after the demonic entity Mako possessed him and forced him to cause destruction.

    Web Comic 
  • In The Order of the Stick, upon learning that the reason Durkon was exiled from the Dwarven lands was because of a prophecy that he would bring death and destruction, Roy points out that if he had been told the reason, Durkon would've gone into exile without being forced.
    Roy: You've met Durkon! I'm pretty sure if you'd told him it would help innocent people, he'd break his leg trying to boot his own ass out the door!

    Web Video 
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared: In Episode 3, The Tree tells the story of Micheal, a boy who was hated by everyone for being ugly and found a cave to live in.
  • Empires SMP Season 1:
    • After killing the Ender Dragon and unknowingly helping to release Xornoth and restore him to full power, Pix goes on a self-imposed exile in an effort to atone. He's initially turned away by neighboring villages but gets taken in after saving them from a thunderstorm, and returns to Pixandria after building a Ghast farm to get many, many Ghast Tears.
      Narrator: Ashamed to walk in the light of the Vigil after the horror he had helped unleash, the Copper King fled from Pixandria.
    • Fittingly for an 'Elsa Arc', after deeming himself too great of a threat to his friends and people as a result of Power Incontinence, Scott packs some essentials into a shulker box, officially steps down as king, and flies off to a faraway ice spikes biome. It takes him a couple of episodes to return, mainly in response to the news of Shrub stealing the Xornoth-crystal.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10: Alien Force, Reiny exiles himself by remaining stranded on the barren planet, on which he was trapped with the title character. His reasoning is twofold: first, his arm was amputated during the ordeal and repaired with the DNA of another alien — a problem because he is allegedly a member of the first race in the universe, a race which views all other lifeforms as inferior to themselves. Secondly, he actually likes Ben and no longer feels superior to him, but feels losing this disdain for other lifeforms will be viewed as a character flaw.
  • Chaotic: It's only discussed in the Ultimate Guide, but the kings of the Mipedian Tribe actually have a tradition of this: when a new king ascends to the throne, he immediately cedes power to his heir, the Crown Prince, who will rule in his place while the king goes into exile in the desert. When he dies, the Crown Prince will do the same. There was supposed to be a storyline about the current king, Thebb-Sar, returning from exile and resuming the throne for the first time, but both the show and the game ended before this happened.
  • In the Justice League episode "Hereafter", a plan of Vandal Savage to Take Over the World ends up completely destroying the Earth and 30,000 years later, Vandal Savage is the last human on on the planet (thanks to his immortality). While playing host to a time-traveling Superman, Superman notices a spaceship in the backyard of his lavish estate, when Superman comments on it, Savage says he had planned to leave Earth and explore the universe but gave up on the idea thinking that after everything he'd done, he deserved to be punished.
  • Legends of Chima: After Laval steals a rare piece of Chi to save his friends from a magically induced sleep he accepts exile as his punishment even though his father and the council were willing to give him a pass.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Whatever Happened to SpongeBob?"note , SpongeBob leaves Bikini Bottom when he accidentally makes his friends angry and they call him "idiot boy". This leads to him bumping his head and getting amnesia.
  • Transformers: Prime: At the end of "Predacons Rising", a Grand Finale of the original series, Megatron, after getting freed from Unicron's influence, realizes how much suffering he had brought to Cybertron, disbands the Decepticon movement, and then willingly exiles himself from Cybertron, taking off into space to parts unknown.