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Throw 'Em to the Wolves

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Harry: We'll take him to the castle.
Wormtail: [falling to his knees] Oh bless you boy, bless you!
Harry: [quickly backing away] Get off! I said we'd take you to the castle. After that, the dementors can have you.

A way for The Hero to dispose of a villain without getting blood on his hands. Rather than the hero doing justice onto the villain (or what have you) himself, he decides to do it indirectly, by leaving him in the not-so-good hands of someone with fewer qualms about... harsh justice. Note that this is the hero's doing; this does not apply to the common situation of a villain leaving the hero at the mercy of his Mooks.


Do with Him as You Will, where The Hero turns the villain over to the villain's former victims, is a subtrope of this. All instances of that should go on that page, not this one. Or if the hero leaves the villain to other villains, Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work is in play. Exit, Pursued by a Bear is different in that not only are the "wolves" in question actual animals, they act without the hero's input.

In short, it's in the middle of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism; The Hero doesn't actually kill the Big Bad, and the Big Bad gets a Karmic Death... but one that The Hero throws them into. May be a subtrope of Murder by Inaction.

For cases where someone is literally being served up as a meal to a hungry creature, see Fed to the Beast.

As a way for a villain to meet their demise, this can easily be a Death Trope. Expect unmarked spoilers.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • In an episode of Naruto, Choji remarks about one suspect in the tracking of Hidan and Kakuzu, "We'll leave the torture to Ibiki."

    Comic Books 
  • One The Authority story has a Captain America knockoff called The Commander beating the crap out of (and raping) Apollo. At the end, the Commander is paralyzed and taunts Apollo into killing him. Instead of killing him, Apollo just says he promised him to someone else. Said someone else turns out to be Apollo's lover Midnighter, who shows up with a jackhammer. "A pleasure to finally make your acquaintance" indeed.

    Fan Works 
  • Invoked in Bring Me to Life: Invoked: in chapter 28, everyone is so furious at Kennedy that Angel explicitly threatens to throw her out of the Hyperion and leave her to the mercy of the First's Bringers if she doesn't shut up.
  • A variation occurs in Fire Emblem Awakening: Invisible Ties: In chapter 16, having seen Gangrel for the Ax-Crazy tyrant he really is, General Mustafa deliberately blocks off his escape route when the Mad King attempts a Villain: Exit, Stage Left, giving Chrom free rein to fight him and chop his head off.

    Film — Animated 
  • Played with in The Lion King. After being thrown off a cliff by Simba, Scar apparently survives the fall. Although Simba never intended to kill his uncle, his act of self-defence still sealed his relative's fate. In fact, a cornered Scar finds out his "friends" the hyenas were ready to finish him off.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In the remake of The Italian Job, the villain is handed over to the Ukrainian gangster whose brother he murdered. He faints on being told what will be done to him.
  • An example in The Killer That Stalked New York where "the wolves" is the criminal justice system. Sheila decides against killing Matt when she discovers that he has killed Moss, telling him that she doesn't have to anymore since he'll be executed for murder.
  • In The Living Daylights, James Bond hands General Koskov over to the Russians he defected from originally.
    Pushkin: Send him back to Moscow. *beat* In the diplomatic bag!
  • In the final scene of Notorious, US government agent Devlin manages to extract Alicia Hubermann from a group of Nazis in postwar Brazil. Alexander Sebastian, who'd married Alicia, begs Devlin to take him also, but he refuses. Sebastian is left to the other conspirators, who have already shown what they will do to one of their members who risks blowing their cover.
  • At the end of The Warriors, The Warriors end up leaving Luther and his gang to the Riffs, who now know that they're the ones responsible for killing their leader Cyrus.

  • Harry Potter
    • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry convinces Lupin and Sirius to spare the traitorous Wormtail's life, arguing that the friend they wanted to avenge (Harry's father) wouldn't have wanted them to become murderers. Wormtail obsequiously thanks Harry for his mercy, only for Harry to snap back that he fully intends to turn him over to the Dementors. Of course, in the Wizarding World, the Dementors are the justice system, so it's really the only other option.
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Hermione arranges for Umbridge to face centaur justice. She may or may not have read the legends about what centaurs do to captive women.
  • A Judge Dee story ends with the bad guy confessing freely admitting his murders. Being of the Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! type, any accusation would end with him getting away free and destroying the judge's career, so the judge fools him into entering a small courtyard containing a bear and locking the door. Said bear was earlier shown to leave those he liked alone and maul the rest, leaving the bad guy some chance.
  • Played with in Margin Play: Kasey does this to the main villain, by letting a gang of gopniki know that the bad guy was responsible for the death of a man they looked up to and respected. The protagonist comments later that there was "just barely enough left to identify him by" when the body was found. It's not entirely a straight use, because Kasey isn't The Hero, but he's more one of the good guys than he is a bad guy.
  • In The Mental State, Sargent Haig, a spiteful Jerkass who constantly insults, manhandles and sometimes beats the inmates finally crosses the line when he pummels and kicks one of the weaker inmates into the ground simply to let off steam. Zack arranges for him to be framed and arrested for drug possession. Ironically, he ends up becoming an inmate at the exact same prison. Zack delights in letting the other prisoners punish him for the way he treated them while he was in power.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The title character of Angel locking the Wolfram and Hart lawyers in with Darla and Drusilla.
    Lilah: For God's sake, help us.
    Holland: Angel, please. People are going to die.
    Angel: And yet, somehow, I just can't seem to care.
  • One of Michael's favorites in Burn Notice: Convince the Bastard of the Week to betray his organization, make sure it's done in a way that makes them clearly responsible, and then dump them either with the betrayed or where they can be found.
  • The Closer: In "Good Housekeeping", spoiled rich youth Austin Philips flees south of the border to avoid prosecution for killing the daughter of a Mexican immigrant. Knowing she can't get him extradited, Brenda goes to Mexico to get the full story from him, and he refuses to come back to the US no matter what she tries. Brenda meets him in a Mexican police station and asks him for the story so she can close the case, and offers to drop the accessory charges against his parents. The killer tearfully confesses that he did it by "accident". Then Brenda hands the Mexican cops evidence the victim was actually born in Mexico, not America, which made her a Mexican citizen. As she leaves, Brenda points out that the Mexican justice is not going to go easy on a rich, arrogant gringo who killed a poor Mexican girl. The Mexican cops take Austin into custody despite his sudden pleas to go back to the US with Brenda.
  • Mal leaving Dobson with Jayne in Firefly:
    Mal: I got to know... how much you told them. So I've given Jayne here the job of finding out.
    Jayne (pulling a knife): He was non-specific as to how.
  • NCIS featured one criminal who had killed the boss of his gang and then used phone and text messages to pose as his go-between to the rest of the gang. The team found enough information to show he had committed this and other crimes, but nothing that would get a conviction. Instead, they brought in his gang and showed them the evidence that they had been duped and used by the man who killed their boss, but the law couldn't do anything about it. The criminal is released, and found dead the next day.

    Video Games 
  • In Alpha Protocol, if you spare Konstantin Brayko and confront Surkov about how he's been manipulating the both of you, you get the option to let the stab-happy Brayko deal with his former boss.
  • One 'Assassin's Creed: Unity'' trailer features Arno throwing a Templar noble straight into the hands of La Résistance. They promptly chop his head off and parade it on a pike.
  • In Mortal Kombat X, the execution of Mileena is handled by Kotal Kahn's First Minister, D'Vorah, as he does not feel that she deserves death by an Emperor's hand. Said execution is one of the most horrific and Nightmare Fuel-ish deaths of the entire game.
  • Shadowrun Returns: At the end of Dead Man's Switch, you have your client's murderer / cult leader cornered. You can save them, but you can also shoot them... or you can leave them to be eaten alive by their own insect spirits, now that you've destroyed their control rod.
  • In Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, at the very end. Lazarevic, the final boss, has finally been defeated, but he pulls an If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!, basically telling Drake to gun him down, without hesitation or mercy, since that fits with his own philosophy. Drake, however, refuses, and when Lazarevic gloatingly states that he "does not have the will", Drake just agrees but comments "But THEY do..." and then quickly leaves as about a dozen of the monstrous, nigh-unkillable Guardians of the Tree arrive to tear him to shreds for trespassing on their holy ground.
  • You have the option to do this to Norma during the climax of the Michonne DLC of The Walking Dead: Season Two; she's trapped in a throng of walkers, completely defenseless, and you have the choice whether or not to let her be devoured or shoot her before they start ripping into her.

    Visual Novels 
  • The climactic case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All has Phoenix forced to defend a man who hired an assassin to kill his rival. (Said assassin has Maya hostage to ensure the right verdict). After he has been put through the moral and emotional wringer, Phoenix's allies bring in evidence that the client was going to betray the assassin. You, as Phoenix, then have the option to push for an acquittal in the full knowledge that the scumbag defendant will have to face the assassin himself if he goes free. (The man promptly confesses in a panic and is deemed Guilty after all).

  • One of the arcs of Schlock Mercenary has a group of mercs under the leadership of Kevyn get captured by the pirate captain, Commodore Shufgar, who proves remarkably cruel, and successfully kills at least one of them. At the end, when they've turned the tables and captured the captain, the men are all-too-eager to dispense their own, personal justice for their fallen comrade, but Kevyn warns them off, saying that that road leads to "A dark place".
    Kevyn: We are going to turn Shufgar, alive and healthy, over to the Judges of House Est'll.
    Kevyn: Then, per ancient tradition, he will be killed and eaten a little bit at a time.
    Brad: Your place sounds darker, sir.
    Kevyn: It has the advantage of being legal.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series: At the end of Mozenrath's debut episode, "The Citadel," Aladdin threatens to remove the Thirdac's Restraining Bolt and set it loose on Mozenrath unless he sends it back to its home dimension. Mozenrath laughs it off, stating that Aladdin isn't that ruthless. Aladdin agrees... but then points out that Iago is not so restrained.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • "Innocents of Ryloth": A droid army led by a tactical droid has been terrorizing a Twi'lek populace. Obi-Wan and some clone troopers fight the tactical droid directly, but get knocked over after it blasts their hijacked gun. It's about to finish off Obi-Wan after gloating when the Twi'lek prisoners he's been terrorizing form a mob, storm onto his tank and rip him to shreds. Obi-Wan covers the eyes of Twi'lek orphan Numa, but she lifts his hand to watch.
    • "Senate Spy": After Separatist-aligned Senator Rush Clovis helps Anakin, R2-D2 and a poisoned Padmé escape from Cato Neimoidia, Anakin leaves him behind to face a displeased Senator Lott Dod and his battle droids. Jealousy is partly to blame, as Anakin did not like that Clovis, who used to be in a relationship with Padmé, was trying to restart it since Padmé can't exactly make her relationship with Anakin, who's not supposed to be married at all, public.