• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic
File:CaptiveAndromacheLeighton 6449.jpg

After The Trojan War: "Captive Andromache" by Frederick Leighton

And as often as you reflect how much power you have over a slave, remember that your master has just as much power over you. "But I have no master," you say. You are still young; perhaps you will have one. Do you not know at what age Hecuba entered captivity, or Croesus, or the mother of Darius, or Plato, or Diogenes?

The main character ends up a slave at some point in the story. It doesn't necessarily stick.

There is often a scene in which the character is being sold on the slave market, which should be somewhat disturbing. The slave market showcases all the evils of slavery; the protagonist will witness how families are torn apart, will have to undress and be examined like an animal, and will perhaps be beaten. (Artists are particulary fond of the undress and be examined stage, for some reason. Especially for young women.) If he looks strong, he will be told that he will go to the galleys or the mines — a Fate Worse Than Death — or perhaps to the Gladiator Games. If she (or occasionally he) is attractive, she will be told that she will make a buyer very happy indeed...

If lucky, slaves will be bought for a certain skill or craft they possess. If they're really lucky, they will be bought by someone who intends to set them free when no one is looking. If unlucky, they will indeed be bought by someone who works his slaves to death or by a lecher or end up as gladiators.

If the character is female, this trope will probably lead to Go-Go Enslavement.

The Backstory of many if not most slave major characters; very few are Born Into Slavery, and most have a Secret Legacy of Blue Blood or Royal Blood.

Because We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future, this can occur even in futuristic scenarios. When it's done to an entire race, see Slave Race. They may be used as Slave Mooks or be the target of Super Human Trafficking as well. Can lead to Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death! or even I Die Free or Happiness in Slavery.

Examples of Made a Slave include:

Anime & Manga

  • Mahou Sensei Negima has Ako, Natsumi, and Akira selling themselves into slavery shortly after their arrival in the magic world to pay for a very ill Ako's expensive medicine. Tosaka abuses them on occasion, but their actual owner (a literal Mama Bear who's in charge of a tavern) beats the crap out of him for it and treats them much better. Even then, Tosaka only looks down on them because he was once a slave himself (and so was Mama, who knows him from these days). Negi eventually manages to buy their freedom, and that fires Tosaka's envy since it took him twenty years to buy his own.
    • Several chapters reveal that the reason Jack Rakan is so crazy powerful is because he spent pretty much his whole life fighting as a gladiatorial slave, before winning his freedom and starting to fight in wars.
  • In Vinland Saga, Thorfinn becomes a slave working in Jutland.
  • Used in Plus Anima when they go to sailand all of the four main character's are made into slaves Senri is the only one sold at a slave market though.
  • Several characters in One Piece on seperate occasions. Among them we have Nami, Fisher Tiger and other Fishmen (like Arlong, who'd later enslave Nami, and Jinbei), the Gorgon sisters H(ancock, Sandersonia and Marigold), Robin (When she was sent to Tequila Wolf), and even Silvers Rayleigh (Though in his case, it was on purpose so he could steal money from whoever was stupid enough to buy him).
  • Ayase in Okane ga Nai gets sold by an unscrupulous cousin to pay that cousin's Yakuza debts.
  • Teito in 07-Ghost.
  • This almost happens to Kino in Kino's Journey, where Kino helps a group of slavers from a life-threatening situation without knowing their true vocation, and they respond by trying to enslave her, even as they spout praises for her kindness.
  • Happens to Ciel in Black Butler, and to other characters.
  • A stock plot in Hentai Anime and manga, especially used to Break the Haughty.
  • An extant threat on Gunsmoke; never really applied to any of the main characters even as a possibility, although it's manga Legato's backstory...although apparently since he was young enough that he didn't even have a name until after Knives accidentally rescued him, and then chose to spare him and let him tag along. And then there was Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
    • Although it's not the mainline slave trade, Wolfwood got adopted under false pretenses and then Strapped to An Operating Table; that they then armed him and sent him out as a professional hitman was kind of their bad judgment, except he never actually did turn on the Eye--just his 'master,' and then only to get a shot at the Omnicidal Maniac they had a contract to.
  • The Fullmetal Alchemist manga and second series features it as back story in the case of the Elric brothers' father, Van Hohenheim. Four hundred years previously, there was a blond youth known as #17, who was Born a Slave... Also a From Nobody to Nightmare scenario, except that Hohenheim and anyone trying to kill him are the only ones who find him really scary.
  • An interesting variant occurs in Torikago Gakyuu, where, after Mikage 's Split Personality refuses to become Yuikai's slave, Yuikai himself offers to be Mikage's slave instead. In the chapters after this arc, he appears to like this arrangement just as well.
  • Pixie in the Monster Rancher anime does this to those who cross her.
  • Ai no Kusabi revolves around how Badass Biker Riki was forcibly Made A Sex Slave as a "Pet" through Break the Haughty and the effects it has on him, his master and his ex-lover.
  • While it's brief and the wording isn't exact, it's fairly obvious that this is what Beatrice does to Battler in Umineko.
  • Ageha in Basara. Shuri also has a slave tatoo.
  • At the start of GoLion (Lion Voltron), five young astronauts from Earth (Akira/Keith, Takashi/Sven, Tsuyoshi/Hunk, Isamu/Lance and Hiroshi/Pidge) have been captured by the Galra/Drule Empire and enslaved as gladiators. They escape and eventually are taken in by Princess Fala/Allura, who makes them the pilots of GoLion/Voltron.
    • The people from Galra/Drule conquered planets that aren't murdered or turned into Robeasts or Gladiators end up enslaved in the "traditional" sense. Fala/Allura's cousin Amue/Romelle and many people from her planet, Heracles/Pollux, become this when their lands are taken over, and the original strongly implies that Amue was also a Sex Slave to Prince Sincline/Lotor (The dub tries to cover it up, but said lines are still suspicious). It's also implied that Ryou Shirogane, Takashi's brother, was enslaved for some time before Amue finds him wandering the Pit of Skulls.
    • In the dubbed version, Sven survives his near-death experience only for the planet he's recovering on to be attacked and Sven to be forced into slavery by the Drules. When it's apparent he's still too weak to work or fight, they throw him into the Pit of Skulls, where he very nearly crosses the Despair Event Horizon before Romelle snaps him out of it.
  • He's Dedicated to Roses:
    • Ever since Shin Mi-Mi's father bailed Choi I-Da's father out of a gigantic debt, both I-Da's parents are this to Mi-Mi's family in practice. If they ever try to leave their works as their chaffeur and maid, respectively, Mr. Shin will demand for them to pay him back the massive sum of money he used to pay off their debts. Once Mr. Shin is ousted for corruption, Mr. Choi is almost immediately hired as a chaffeur for a Samsung top executive.
    • A little Mi-Mi uses two Wounded Gazelle Gambits to make little I-Da look like she's bullying her, which brings lots of trouble to I-Da's parents since they work for her family. Mi-Mi then tells I-Da to never stand up to her and be her maid, in exchange for her "forgiving" I-Da's supposed transggressions towards her; I-Da is so desperate to save her parents that she accepts, and from then on is all but a slave to her, believing she's protecting her parents from being targeted by Mi-Mi.


  • Many painters depicted such slave markets, usually in Orientalist scenes or ones from ancient Greek or Rome. The Other Wiki has a number here. Also the full Captive Andromache

Comic Books

  • Part of the backstory of Starfire in Teen Titans. Her evil sister betrayed their planet, Tamaran, and helped hostile aliens conquer it, and as part of the terms of their defeat, the Tamaranians were required to surrender Starfire, their princess, into slavery.
  • In Thundercats - The Return, Lion-O enters a magical book to train, and emerges 10 years later to discover that the other Thundercats have been enslaved by Mumm-Ra and the mutants. Most of them have been put to work in mines, but Wilykit and Wilykat are Mumm-Ra's personal slaves, and he actually refers to Wilykit as his "concubine."
  • Played for Laughs in Asterix and the Laurel Wreath; Asterix and Obelix need to infiltrate Roman society, so they apply to be slaves, much to the bewilderment of the slavemaster.
    • Not that his other slaves took their roles seriously either. The scottish slave refused to let him sell off the protagonists until they had haggled for a decent price. (The slavemaster was ready to give the duo away for free, since they were causing trouble and beating up other slaves.)

Fairy Tales

  • In the Italian fairy tale The Slave Mother, a peasant woman is asked by an owl whether she would rather be happy in youth or age; after she chooses age, she is carried off by pirates. Her husband and sons find, somewhat later, a treasure and move to the city; one day they buy a slave — at the husband's insistance, an old woman who can manage their household. In due course they figure out that she's the mother.
  • In the German folk tale The Ice Child, a woman claimed to have been impregnated by ice while thinking of her absent husband. He raised the child for some years, took him on a journey, and sold him as a slave — claiming to his wife that the boy had melted.


  • Judah Ben-Hur in book and film.
  • Peter Blood, in Captain Blood; he is examined by Colonel Bishop, eventually bought by Bishop's niece (narrowly escaping the evil Dixon?s mines), and is employed by the Governor of Jamaica as a doctor.
  • Maximus, in Gladiator.
  • Geoffrey Thorpe, in The Sea Hawk.
  • Spartacus.
  • Ash, in Army of Darkness, which was a pretty significant Retcon from the end of Evil Dead II.
    • A subversion, as he wasn't really a slave, just a battlefield captive whom the medieval screwheads had yoked and shackled for the hike back to the castle. In his mind, chains + whips = slavery.
  • Conan in Conan the Barbarian. He was taken as a kid after Thulsa Doom doomed his village, was made to work on the Wheel of Pain, and then was made a gladiator, all of which contributed to making him a supreme Badass by the time he was freed by his master.
  • In Don Juan Demarco, the title character relates a yarn about being captured by slave dealers and sold into the 'service' of a lusty Sultana. Not that he seems to've minded much. It probably helped that the Sultana kept him hidden in her husband's large harem (apparently she didn't object to sharing.) This incident also occurs in Lord Byron's epic poem Don Juan, upon which the movie is partially based.
  • Doctor Edward Shaw of Cutthroat Island (played by Matthew Modine) was a teacher and medical doctor before being sentenced to slavery for "theft and moral terpitude" (its implied he seduced a nobleman's teenaged daughter) prior to the beginning of the movie's plot. By the end of the movie, he's free again, having become a member of a pirate band.
  • Sam Flynn in Tron: Legacy. When he's picked up as a "stray program", he's immediately sent to the Games Grid, where he will fight until he dies.


  • Both Odysseus's swineherd Eumaius and his nurse Eurycleia were born royals but later enslaved in the Backstory.
  • Hecuba and all the princesses of Troy after The Trojan War. Except for the one who is sacrificed at Achilles' tomb — in some versions, she tells Hecuba at least she's escaping slavery. In The Iliad Hector foresees and laments such a fate for Andromache.

 Well do I know that the day will surely come when mighty Ilius shall be destroyed with Priam and Priam's people, but I grieve for none of these — not even for Hecuba, nor King Priam, nor for my brothers many and brave who may fall in the dust before their foes — for none of these do I grieve as for yourself when the day shall come on which some one of the Achaeans shall rob you forever of your freedom, and bear you weeping away. It may be that you will have to ply the loom in Argos at the bidding of a mistress, or to fetch water from the springs Messeis or Hypereia, treated brutally by some cruel task-master; then will one say who sees you weeping, 'She was wife to Hector, the bravest warrior among the Trojans during the war before Ilius.' On this your tears will break forth anew for him who would have put away the day of captivity from you. May I lie dead under the barrow that is heaped over my body ere I hear your cry as they carry you into bondage.

  • In Beowulf, Hrothgar's queen is described as queenly and wearing gold, but her name is "Wealhtheow," which means "foreign slave." This is a possible Backstory for her, especially since the name is unique to her in Anglo-Saxon literature.
  • Robinson Crusoe is briefly enslaved by Arabs at the start of the book.
  • Phedre no Delauney in Kushiel's Legacy.
  • Thorby in Robert Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy has gotten halfway through the process described. The opening line:

 "Lot number ninety-seven," the auctioneer announced, "a boy."

  • Rhodry from the Deverry Cycle spends most of one book enslaved and amnesiac. He's not happy when he gets his memory back.
  • Cohen the Barbarian in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series spent some years as a slave in his backstory.
  • The protagonist of The Obsidian Chronicles was the sole survivor of a dragon attack on his village. The men who came to check for survivors found him... and promptly sold him as a slave to a nearby mine.
  • The professor in A Distant Episode by Paul Bowles is made a slave. It doesn't end well.
  • Several times during the course of the Gor series. Tarl's Heroic BSOD came when he chose "the ignominy of slavery" over "the freedom of honorable death."
  • Forms the latter half of the plot of A Little Princess.
  • In Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries Nubia starts the series as a slave (though she's freed fairly early on.) Jonathan is also briefly enslaved by Caesar, and later uses this to volunteer as a Gladiator.
  • The protagonist Dr. Cherijo Grey Veil from the Stardoc series gets enslaved by the Hsk'skt. She doesn't make a very good slave.
  • The main character in Trickster's Choice, by Tamora Pierce, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in a neighboring nation. This actually forms the premise of the whole duet. Luckily the people she ends up with are fairly nice as things go, although extenuating circumstances mean she is treated better than most.
    • She still deliberately gets herself injured during her first night in the slave pens, though, because she wants to avoid any owners who think she'd make a good bed-warmer; she deliberately makes her bruises look worse than they are, so that she'll give the impression of someone who would be more trouble than it's worth. She only finds out later that she didn't even need to do this—probably—because the Trickster god of the area is watching over her and wants her help. She's not happy to find out that she could have survived without needing to break her nose.
  • This occurs to the main characters in CS Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in The Chronicles of Narnia. Good thing that the man who purchased Caspian was an old friend of his dead father, thus he releases the young king and decides to help.
    • Shasta overhears the discussion to sell him as the newest slave of a rich Calormen military man in The Horse and His Boy and decides, with said man mount's Bree's help, to run away. It is Bree and Hwin's Backstory, as they were kidnapped from their valleys when very young and then used as Calormen mounts. And Queen Susan has reason to fear it, considering that Prince Rabadash is Yandere for her and wants her as his puppet was at any costs.
  • Alaric's fate in Ben Counter's Warhammer 40000 novel Hammer of Daemons, in Gladiator Games. But he leads a Gladiator Revolt.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novel Death or Glory, the orks have enslaved civilians.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Traitor General, the surviving inhabitants of Gereon have been enslaved to destroy its temples.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Chessmen of Mars, the Reverse Mole who saves Gahan and Tara was a childhood friend of Gahan's, enslaved.
    • Tavia's Backstory in A Fighting Man Of Mars, though she was too young to remember. And also that of Tavan, a minor but significant character; John Carter frees him for his services and because he was obviously of noble birth gave him a place in the fleet. Plus, he turns out to be Tavia's father.
    • In At the Earth's Core, David Innes fights for Dian. He does not realize that after it, he could take her hand to claim her as his wife, take her hand and let go to free her, or do nothing to make her his slave. He does nothing. She is not pleased.
  • Diana Wynne Jones's The Tough Guide to Fantasyland lists it twice:
    • Male Tourists, who become either galley slaves or gladiators
    • The daughters of merchants who were brought along with the caravan; these appear to be the only source of harem slaves.
  • This is the premise of Marion Zimmer Bradley's book Warrior Woman where the amnesiac protagonist is sold as a pleasure slave to the gladiators. She becomes a gladiator herself when she halves a newbie's skull with his own sword during inspection.
  • A recurring plot in The World Of Gor, it even occurs to Cabot more than once. Typically by the end of the book female characters learn to accept their place while male characters earn their freedom and otherwise rise above their slavery.
  • Rutherford's Sarum includes a few characters who are enslaved, and treats them more realistically than many writers (e.g. a pregnant woman is terrified to be made a slave, knowing her master will probably have her baby killed at birth rather than let a useless infant become a drain on his household).
  • In Iron Dawn, Kepru is surprised that Barra wants to avoid the slave market, and assumes she was a victim of this trope. ("Nothing to be ashamed of: it could happen to anyone!") Subverted in that no, Barra was never a slave; she wants to avoid the market because she knows she won't be able to resist buying some out of pity.
  • Aminata Diallo in The Book of Negroes is made a slave early on, and stays as one for roughly half the book.
  • In book two in The Wheel of Time, Egwene al'Vere is made a damane by the Seanchan and treated like a dog. Although she is saved by the end of the book, it's tough on her mentally.
    • Several characters are also captured and made slaves for the Shaido Aiel in the later books.
  • Happens to Sophos in A Conspiracy of Kings.
  • The various reactions that characters have to enslavement by the Draka drive the plot of S.M. Stirling's Under the Yoke, with some handling it far better than others.
  • This happens to Soraya's mother and brother in the Farsala Trilogy. Surprisingly enough, she then arranges to be sold into slavery herself so that she might spy and gain information to free them.
  • Happens in the Timothy Zahn book Dragon and Slave, after the main character is made a slave.
  • Happens in one book in the Ranger's Apprentice series, when Will is kidnapped by Skandians after they find him burning down a bridge.
  • In Space Wolf, the presumed fate of the survivors of Ragnar's tribe. Motivating his desire for Revenge.
  • In John C. Wright's The Orphans of Chaos, Miss Daw's Backstory. She can not help the children because she would break her oath. This would mean the next time they would not have mercy on the defeated side but just kill them all.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Stardust, why Una is tending the stall at the market.
  • In John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress, one character recounts his managing to evade this trope:

 It came burning hot into my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his House, he would sell me for a Slave.

  • Jack Chalker's Flux & Anchor series begins with the main character, Cassie, being thrown into slavery after she discovers the corruption endemic in Mother Church. She eventually overcomes this to become the most powerful woman on World and in the Church, only to be put back into slavery by New Eden when she loses both her power and her ambition to hold it.
    • In addition, pretty much the entire female population of New Eden can be said to be enslaved, complete with magical modifications to make it stick.
  • Seyonne in Carol Berg's Rai-Kirah trilogy has this as his backstory. also several other characters, since there was something of a campaign for a long time.
  • Mary Renault's The King Must Die is replete with Deliberate Values Dissonance here. Which is to say that since Theseus is a nice guy, when he picks his woman out of the choices, before he fights with another man, he gives orders that if he loses, they are to give her to one man and not make common sport of her, and when he survives he takes to her bed and promises that night never to give her to a guest against her will. (And the other slave women in his household don't get this, hmm?)
  • Mary Renault again, in The Persian Boy, the second of her Alexander the Great novels. She has her title character, Bagoas son of Artembares, describe in precise detail how he was taken by his father's enemies, sold at market and castrated. At ten years old.
  • In Aaron Dembski-Bowden's Warhammer 40000 Night Lords novel Soul Hunter, the navigator Eurydice is captured by the Night Lord Talos, who already has a slave named Septimus — Primus, Secondus, etc have already died. Septimus doesn't even have to ask to start calling her Octavia. On the other hand, she was always treated as a pawn while free, so when the two slaves are attacked, and Talos treats Septimus's injuries, sets out into a stronghold of his enemies to save her from Attempted Rape, and gives Septimus the best quality augmentics for his body parts injured beyond repair — better than many rich can get — it's not too surprising that she becomes a loyal slave and even accepts Octavia.
  • This seems to be the fate of Tsu'gan in Nick Kyme's Warhammer 40000 novel Firedrake.
  • In Sharon Shinn's Arch Angel, Rachel's Backstory.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere Richard notes and carefully avoids a slave market.
  • In James Swallow's short story "The Returned" Tarikus remembers his Backstory: being captured by the Red Corsairs and sold like cattle to Fabius Bile.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The People of the Black Circle", threatened to Yasmina:

 "But for all your stupidity, you are a woman fair to look upon. It is my whim to keep you for my slave."

The daughter of a thousand proud emperors gasped with shame and fury at the word.

"You dare not!"

His mocking laughter cut her like a whip across her naked shoulders.


 In the glutted slave markets of Aghrapur, Sultanapur, Khawarizm, Shahpur, and Khorusun, women were sold for three small silver coins--blonde Brythunians, tawny Stygians, dark-haired Zamorians, ebon Kushites, olive-skinned Shemites.


 It was exactly such laughter as he had heard bubble obscenely from the fat lips of the salacious women of Shadizar, City of Wickedness, when captive girls were stripped naked on the public auction block.

  • Land of Oz series:
    • In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is told it is easy to find the witch: just go into her lands and she'll enslave you. Which is what happens, though the witch finds the lion much harder.
    • In Ozma of Oz, the Nome King justifies turning the queen of Ev and her children to ornaments because they had been sold to him as slaves, and it was more humane than slaving in the mines.
  • In Andre Norton's Ordeal in Otherwhen, Charis signs an indefinite term labor contract; she is being traded for slaves for agricultural labor.
    • In Judgment on Janus, Niall sells himself to buy enough drugs for his mother to have a peaceful death.
  • In Graham McNeill's Horus Heresy novel False Gods, Maggard is an indentured servant, but his vocal cords have been removed to keep him from speaking in the presence of his mistress, and she uses him as a Sex Slave.
  • In James H. Schmitz's The Witches of Karres, the hero's problems start when he helps a girl who had suffered this. Then she persuades him to help her two sisters.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Kull story "The Shadow Kingdom", the Snakemen can enslave the ghosts of those they kill. After Kull and Brule see a king bound a thousand years ago, they promise to kill each other if the other is mortally wounded.
  • Prince Arren is briefly sold as a galley slave in The Farthest Shore, until Ged turns up, lays a smackdown on the slavers, and frees Arren and the other slaves.
  • In George Eliot's Silly Novels by Lady Novelists, she complains of a work supposed to be instructive because "the hero is a Jewish captive".
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Curse of Chalion being sold to the galleys is part of the main character's backstory. The resulting scars are a minor plot point a few times, and then a major plot point in the end. (spoilered because once you know this the logic is obvious)
  • In Shadows of the Apt, what the Wasps do with everyone not a Wasp and not killed.
  • In Karen Hancock's The Light of Eidon, Abramm is kidnapped and sold as a slave (first as a scribe, later to be trained as the in-universe equivalent of a gladiator) at the order of his older brother who's gone insane.
  • Happens to a number of characters in various books of Brian Jacques' Redwallseries.
  • The Gladiators, by George John Whyte-Melville, has a young man from Celtic Britain captured by invading Romans and eventually becoming an emancipated gladiator.
  • In Stephen Hunt's The Rise of the Iron Moon, the fate of some humans under the slats.
  • In The Roman Mysteries, Nubia starts the series as a slave. Many other children are also kidnapped and enslaved, forming the basis of the plots for The Pirates of Pompeii and The Colossus of Rhodes. The Four Detectives are briefly captured in The Pirates of Pompeii and are going to be sold as slaves. Jonathan is also briefly enslaved in The Assassins of Rome and at the end of The Enemies of Jupiter he uses the brand mark to pose as a slave. Three of the Four Detectives are captured yet again in The Colossus of Rhodes.
  • In Dragonflight, the first book in the Dragonriders of Pern series, Lessa begins the story as a kitchen drudge.
  • In The Silmarillion, both Men and Elves are enslaved by Morgoth and his minions. A specific example would be Gwindor, who is captured and forced to work in the forges of Angband, but later escapes.
  • Tyrion Lannister and Jorah Mormont get caught by slavers and sold in the fifth book of A Song of Ice and Fire. Tyrion eventually talks his way out of slavery.
  • Kaladin spends the first book of The Stormlight Archive as a slave, having been enslaved by a treacherous aristocrat in his Backstory, he manages to win his way free at the very end of the book.

Live Action Television

  • Happens in Roots. Obviously.
  • In one episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, nine Enterprise crew are captured by Orion slavers. One (T'Pol) sells for a high figure, presumably as a sex slave. Before her new owner can even complete filling out the paperwork, the Enterprise attacks.
  • In the Doctor Who episode Warriors' Gate, the Tharls had enslaved people in the past — "The weak enslave themselves" — and now are slaves themselves. The Doctor gives them an Ironic Echo, and one concedes the justice, but they have suffered enough.
    • Then there are the Ood enslaved and mutilated by humans. Poor Ood.
    • In The Mutants, Ky complains this has been done to his people.
    • In Underworld, most of the people on the planet are enslaved to labor. They think the "sky falls" (tunnel collapses) are done to keep their number low, just enough to labor.
    • In Frontios, to captured humans.
    • In The Dominators, the Dominators enslave the Doctor and Jamie.
    • In The Ark, between the two time periods, humanity has been enslaved.
  • In Planet of the Daleks, the Spiridons.

Religion and Mythology

  • Greek Mythology: Heracles/Hercules was basically forced to do whatever Hera told him to do during the Twelve Labors. One of the actual labors was cleaning out the manure from a stable, a menial task which was meant to humiliate Heracles... but it didn't work out, as Hercules diverted a river to flush the stables like a giant toilet.
    • On another occasion he was forced to atone for a murder by becoming the slave of a queen named Omphale for a time, which had a more humbling effect (in some versions Omphale forces him to wear a dress and perform tasks normally reserved for women, and he found out he actually liked weaving and was good at it). And in other versions, he's tasked with impregnating 50 women (as the amazon queen assumed this would take him a long time, leaving her plenty of time to seduce his attractive friend), which he managed it in a single night and departed for his next task the next day. Some of his tasks were pretty awesome.
  • Legend has it that it happened to Plato at one point.
  • After Persephone's abduction, Demeter wandered the earth, and when she finally stopped at a household, she told them she had escaped slavers who had captured her.
  • Joseph (the one who got the Technicolour Dreamcoat) in The Bible.
    • And in Joseph and his Brothers. He gets bought for his prettiness — as a kind of home accessory.
    • Also in The Bible: The Jews in general, in Egypt (early in the book of Exodus) and again when conquered by the Assyrians and Babylonians. And just after the New Testament, happens to lots of Jews when the Romans crush a couple of rebellions.[1]


  • Euripides's The Trojan Women showed the princesses being divvied up among the victors.
    • In Andromache, Andromache is the victim of her master's jealous wife, Hermione. Who was a Spartan — at the time of the Athenian-Spartan wars. Naturally, Andromache comes off well.
  • In the Backstory of Othello, this is how Othello won Desdemona.

 Wherein I spoke of most disastrous chances,

Of moving accidents by flood and field,

Of hair-breadth ’scapes i' th' imminent deadly breach,

Of being taken by the insolent foe

And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence

And portance in my traveler’s history.


Video Games

  • The player character in Age of Conan starts out as a slave.
  • Rhen is kidnapped from her village and is sold into slavery in Aveyond
  • Dragon Quest V: The player character is the son of a hero and travels with him. A short way through the game the PC meet the Big Bad Guy, gets his ass handed to him and spend the next ten years like this.
  • Fallout 3: Upon entering "The Pitt," the Player Character is jumped and enslaved. (Which is pretty Egregious Cutscene Incompetence.)
    • Also a massive But Thou Must!, since the way you're "supposed" to do it is by willingly dressing up as a slave and turning yourself in as a failed "escapee". And needless to say, you're immediately "volunteered" for the most dangerous job available, and then again "volunteered" participate in the Gladiator Games - only by a fellow slave! Granted, you're the only one capable of doing the jobs, and this was pretty much the entire escape plan from the start, considering that winning in the Gladiator Games means you're freed from slavery and can become one of the slavers, where you then have free run of the Pitt and can do anything and everything you want to free and cure the sick slaves. If only it were that simple.
  • Neverwinter Nights module A Dance With Rogues had a particularly memorable long unskippable cutscene where you are being sold at the drow slave market.

  "Buy one kobold, get one free!"

  • This shows up in the plots of a few characters in Valkyrie Profile, mainly in the main character's, in which she ends up getting herself killed in order to avoid being sold off by her parents.
  • Warhammer 40000
    • Orks enslave humans on planets they fight on.
    • Dark Eldar enslave with Pirate raids to capture.
    • Chaos forces enslave the population when they take a planet.
    • The Imperium enslaves convicts.
    • Even Imperial Space Marines have slaves to do work that a Space Marine is not needed for. Though the Marines' slaves are generally failed Marine candidates who somehow survived washing out, and are often more than happy to help, since they're still in a better position than the vast majority of Imperial citizens. Most such slaves who appear in the fluff are immensely valued personal assistance who even receive longevity treatments that only the rich normally get.
      • Although Space Marine serfs are also, in some cases, even better trained than the Imperial Guard in combat, being expected to join the defence of their masters' fortress-monasteries if an enemy ever manages to get close enough to be a threat to them. In some fluff it is revealed that some Chapters have serfs who are born, raised, live their lives and die in the Chapter's service.
    • In the Backstory of the universe, Angron's childhood in the Gladiator Games and his leadership in the Gladiator Revolt stemmed from this.
  • This was part of Juhani's Backstory in Knights of the Old Republic. Turns out Revan was the one who freed her from it.
  • In King's Quest III, Manannan prefers to enslave young boys to do his menial work, calling them all "Gwydion," and killing them on their 18th birthday or if they learn too much. His latest is the Player Character.
  • Fenris from Dragon Age II got a double dose of this in his backstory. Being an elf in Tevinter, he was already born a slave. Then his master Danarius augmented Fenris with lyrium tattoos in a painful ritual that literally burned his memories away. An "honor" Fenris competed for so he could win his mother and sister's freedom. The person Fenris was ceased to exist, leaving a powerful and completely obedient Blank Slate. Fenris didn't develop a taste for freedom until a certain My God, What Have I Done? moment prompted him to flee Tevinter and never look back. He can be Made a Slave again if Hawke allows Danarius to reclaim him. Fenris will be so disheartened by the betrayal that he'll surrender without a fight. A grateful Danarius will send a letter to Hawke mentioning that Fenris' memories were wiped out again and he is once more an obedient slave, and he extends an invitation to Hawke to visit his estate in Tevinter.
  • In the Hegemony Series, if you manage to capture retreating enemies, you get to do this to them. It's a cheap alternative to hiring workers for the mines or supply duties.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Futurama, "A Pharaoh To Remember": Fry, Leela and Bender are made slaves to an Ancient Egypt-themed planet. The Pharaoh is about to free them when he dies, and Bender scams his way into being the next Pharaoh, leaving Fry and Leela as slaves until the end of the episode.
    • Also happens when Hermes and LaBarbara are enslaved on vacation. Hermes uses his powers of Bureaucracy to "efficiently" dump all the work on one Australian guy and free everyone else.
  • A tamer example appears in an episode of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Diamond Dogs (a pack of dogs who love jewels) see Rarity using her magic to find gems, so they capture her and force her to work for them. She manages to get them to let her go (and go off with all the gems) through the power of whining.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender starts similarly to GoLion and Voltron: this time, the ones captured and enslaved by the Galra Empire were the three members of an exploration team. The action begins when one of them, Takashi "Shiro" Shirogane, manages to escape...

Real Life

  • Unfortunately still happens everywhere, yes even in first world countries.
  • A convoluted example comes from the early history of the United States. The first slaves in Britain's American colonies were prisoners transported to the New World and sold to the plantation owners as craftsmen, house servants, and field workers. While these "indentured servants" never regained their freedom, upon reaching adulthood any children born to them became free after a period of six years spent working for their parents owners as "repayment" for the food, shelter, and education they were provided as children.
  • Modern example: This is a huge problem in the cocoa industry. Children are bought cheap (or kidnapped) in Ivory Coast and forced to work. It is estimated that 95% of the kids are not paid for the work, and due to the heavy loads they carry and machetes they use they often get injuries that go untreated. Around 42% or so of cocoa comes from this place.
  • When the Greek philosopher Phaedo of Elis was young, he was taken prisoner in war and was subsequently sold into slavery in Athens, where he was forced into prostitution. Eventually he met Socrates, who took a liking to him and had him freed.
  1. Though by then, lots of Jews were living outside of the biblical Holy Land--indeed, many never returned from Babylon--so not all were directly affected by the Roman defeat.