Androcles' Lion

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"Do not eat me when I set you free!"

D'leh to a giant Sabretooth "Tiger"10,000 BC

Just as in the ancient fable of Androcles and the Lion, a character befriends or aids a wild creature. In a moment of need, the creature returns the favor. Sometimes the creature was a Pet Baby Wild Animal, and the character wonders "Why Isn't It Attacking?" before recognizing it.

Hitchhiker Heroes often acquire animals like this; they are often Talking Animals, perhaps even humans trapped in an animal's body.

See also Character Witness, for when this Trope applies to humans and other sentient creatures.

See also: Interspecies Friendship, I Owe You My Life, Disproportionate Reward, Rampage From a Nail, and Come Back, My Pet. Contrast with Laser-Guided Karma and The Farmer and the Viper.

Examples of Androcles' Lion include:


  • In a tire commercial, a driver brakes suddenly to avoid running over a beaver. Returning to the same road in a rainstorm, he brakes to avoid hitting a tree that falls in his path. Looking out the window, he sees the bridge up ahead being washed away, as the beaver (who's just saved him from an unplanned swim) salutes him from beside a gnawed-through tree stump.

Anime and Manga

  • Futari wa Pretty Cure, episode 6, a bear cub rescued by Nagisa stands between the girls and its demon-possessed mother long enough for them to figure out a plan.
  • In one episode of Azumanga Daioh, a young wild cat Sakaki had befriended in Okinawa tracks her all the way back home after its mother dies, and shows up just in time to save her from a pack of cats led by Kamineko.
  • Momo-chan, the dolphin that Lucia and her friends free early in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, shows up later to take Kaito to bail them out at Lucia's palace.
  • A lot of Ash's Pokémon tend to be acquired in this fashion. As well, there's Ash's Charizard, who was completely disobedient until Ash saved its life, again.
  • In Pokémon Special, Pearl helps a Luxio redeem itself in front of its pack and it eventually ends up saving his life twice before officially joining his team.
    • A bunch of Unown that the Sinnoh trio rescue later helps Pearl break into the Veilstone Galactic Building by performing a Zerg Rush to distract the guards.
  • Natsume Yuujinchou - An extremely powerful Youkai jumps to Natsume?s defence against an evil Ayakashi, because Natsume helped him earlier in the episode. This is a pretty big reward considering all Natsume did was cover up a puddle in the road so that his servants could pass ? despite the fact they could just as easily have walked around it...
  • Alucard and Integra Hellsing first meet this way. Later, Alucard pulls their relationship into Poisonous Friend category, amplifying Integra's Church Militant tendencies.
  • Koihime Musou subverts this as a running gag, with Chouhi keeps bumping into the animals her father saved, supposedly - only to discover too late that they aren't.
  • The lapins in One Piece. During the Drum Island arc, Luffy pulls a mother lapin free from the snow after an avalanche. Later, the lapins protect Luffy from attacking villains. Unfortunately, while allowing Luffy to get his True Companions to safety, they end up viciously beaten for their trouble.

Comic Books

  • Played darkly in the Valley Forge, Valley Forge arc of The Punisher. A group of soldiers have been tasked by to bring down Frank Castle, knowing he won't use deadly force against them, by a cabal of corrupt U.S. generals. In the end it turns out that the Colonel tasked with leading the soldiers was once a soldier in Vietnam who had been rescued by Frank's Marine Recon squad. When the generals come around to view their "prize" they find an untied Frank with a fully loaded 1911. You can guess what happens next.
    • Mildly subverted in that the Colonel may have also covered up their corrupt generals' crimes in the process, and that Frank Castle wanted them dead more than he wanted their crimes exposed.
  • In All-Star Superman, Superman keeps a baby sun-eater as a pet. After he releases it, it comes back to save him when he is battling Solaris, The Tyrant Sun.
  • Shows up in Bone, where the heroes befriend a baby rat creature whom Smiley Bone names "Bartleby". In part because it's dangerous for a rat creature to be near humans, in part because they figure he belongs with his own kind (never understood that reasoning when "his own kind" is Exclusively Evil), they manage to get him back in the company of rat creatures. Of course, later on, when they need the help, one of the rat creatures turns out to be Bartleby, and by the end he's their travel companion for keeps.

Fan Works


  • George Lucas claims in the commentary for The Empire Strikes Back that Yoda is based on a myth about a magical frog that sits on the side of the road, teaching things to people who are kind to him.
    • Also, behind-the-scenes footage of filming the Ewok village scenes in Return of the Jedi show Lucas also intended a similar idea for that movie. Since Luke convinces the others not to harm the Ewoks and surrender, they return the favor by saving the Rebels from the Imperials during the planetside part of the final battle.
  • D'leh in 10,000 BC had second thoughts before his concern over an about-to-drown Sabretooth Tiger led him to release it from where it was pinned under some trees, since falling rain would quickly drown it. For the record, it saves his and his father figure's asses later and marks him as The Chosen One to bring down The Empire. It's nice to know PETA has long roots in history.
  • Anchorman did this.[context?]
  • Labyrinth. Sarah rescues Ludo from some Goblins. later on he saves her from attack in the Goblin City by "calling the rocks" and sending the Goblins flying like tenpins.
  • In It Could Happen To You, Charlie loses all his money in court to his ex-wife but feeds a homeless man and even gives him bus fare. The homeless guy is actually an undercover reporter (and the movie's narrator). He writes about Charlie's generosity in the paper which is so touching that people donate money to him. Meanwhile, his ex-wife marries another "millionaire" who turns out to be a con man who steals all her money, forcing her to move in with her mother and go back to her old job in a nail salon.
  • Played for equal parts Rule of Funny and Squick in the Land of the Lost movie when Rick Marshall is swallowed by "Grumpy", the exceptionally intelligent T-rex who's been chasing him for most of the movie. He later shows up to rescue Will and Holly by riding Grumpy into a pack of Sleestaks. It turns out that he... er... escaped through the back door, and in the process removed some intestinal blockage, for which Grumpy was very grateful.
  • In Night at the Museum 2, Larry gives a Giant Octopus the water it desperately searches for. They instantly become friends, and the Octopus helps out in the Final Battle against Kahmunrah.
  • The Bandersnatch in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland helps Alice after she gives it back its disembodied eye.
  • Two Brothers has two tigers that fail to attack the humans that used to own them, even though everyone else is convinced the tigers are dangerous.
  • Natty in The Journey of Natty Gann befriends a wolf by opening a door for it to escape a dogfight and later giving it some of her food. The wolf subsequently returns the favor by bringing her a freshly-killed rabbit when she's lost and hungry in the woods, and accompanies her for most of the rest of her travels.
  • In the short Sintel, the title character rescues and befriends an injured baby dragon she calls Scales. Later, adult Scales recognizes and hesitates to harm Sintel, who doesn't recognize Scales and strikes her down.
  • In Crank 2: High Voltage, Chev Chelios saves a dog that was being tortured by two assholes with a Shock Collar. The dog returns the favor by assaulting someone who was about to attack Chev from behind.


  • Discworld:
  • Kit removes a bit of wreckage from around the axle of a sentient Lotus in the Young Wizards novel So You Want To Be A Wizard, and the Lotus ends up becoming a friend and helper to them.
  • The Book of Three (1964), the first of Lloyd Alexander's Prydain novels. Taran helps a wounded baby gwythaint (a species of gigantic dangerous bird creatures forced to serve the Big Bad Arawn). The favor is repaid twice; once in the first book when the gwythaint tells Gwydion where to find Taran and the Horned King, and more significantly at the end of the fifth and final book.
  • In Watership Down, this is invoked by Hazel, who realizes that the rabbits will need friends and allies in their new home. It ends up earning them the friendship of a mouse, who tells them about a good feeding place, gives them information on the proximity of men, and gives them advance warning when the Efrafans come to attack; and later nets Kehaar, a gull, as a very useful ally and scout.
    • In one of the El-ahrairah stories (The Story of King Fur-Rocious) in Tales of Watership Down, on his quest to win a nearly hopeless war against the titular King, El-ahrairah befriends a cat (who jumps into his ear), saves a flock of crows (who also jump into his ear), helps out a nest of ants (into the ear again), and even enlists the help of a river (the other ear, this time). This pays off when, on three consecutive nights, El-ahrairah challenges the King and is shut up with the Rabid Rats (taken care of by the cat), the Wildcat Weasels (killed by the crows), and the Savage Stoats (chased off by the ant nest). The fourth night, King Fur-Rocious decides to have El-ahrairah tied up next to his sleeping place so he can figure out what's going on. For his pains, he eats the full might of the river, and promptly leaves thereafter. That was the only war El-ahrairah ever fought, and that was how he won it. My question: How big are his ears, anyway?!
    • In "The Fox in the Water", El-ahrairah altruistically gives advice to many creatures. A snake he helps, having heard of his other deeds, gives El-ahrairah the power of hypnotic eyes temporarily, which he uses to defeat a family of foxes that had been causing problems for his warren.
  • In Jean Auel's Earth's Children series, Ayla adopts a cave lion and raises it from a cub. Later on, after the same cave lion kills Thonolan, she's able to calm it down and preventing it from killing Jondalar. Also, she saves the life of someone else in a similar fashion in the next book (same lion).
  • Richard's pet Gar (named, originally, Gar) in the Sword of Truth novels.
    • He's only called "Gar" by Richard until he tells Richard his real name, "Gratch". And once Richard realizes Gratch's intelligence, he's more of a friend than a pet.
    • Don't forget Scarlett the Red Dragon and her son. Richard helps Scarlett rescue her egg (which Darken Rahl was using to force her into servitude). Scarlett (and her son) later aids Richard several times at critical junctures throughout the series when a dragon of her species would ordinarily just eat him regardless.
  • In Beyond the Deepwoods, Twig removes a rotten tooth from a mouth of a Banderbear, a species normally nonthreatening but not very social, and befriends it, and even after it dies, he keeps the tooth and manages to more or less befriend the whole species.
  • Psmith tells a version of this story in Mike and Psmith, although he seems to believe that it was a pterodactyl Androcles encountered.
  • In Snow Crash, Y.T. shows kindness towards a Rat-Thing, a monstrous cybernetic killing machine. This, as well as taking care of a stray dog with a bullet wound, results in some Laser-Guided Karma at the end of the book.
  • It might not apply, but in The Jungle Book, Mowgli's ability to remove painful thorns from the paws of his wolf pack brothers makes him a popular fellow among them.
  • Subverted in the Chinese short story The Story of the Zhung-Shan Wolf by Ma Zhung-Shi: the wolf pleads a scholar to conceal him from a hunting party, promising to be grateful afterwards. When the hunters are gone, the wolf reveals its true nature and threatens to devour the scholar. Luckily, a old wise-man passes by and tricks the wolf, which the scholar then kills.
  • This is how Twig becomes a friend of the Banderbears in The Edge Chronicles (the spike, in this case, is a painfully rotten tooth which he keeps as a charm afterwards).
  • In book 4 of Animorphs, the kids help a humpback whale that is being attacked by sharks. At the end of the book, the whale shows up and drives off Visser 3 (who was attacking the kids in the form of an alien sea-monster).
  • The Hobbit. The Eagle saves Gandalf, Bilbo, and the Dwarves because Gandalf once helped him heal his wounded wing.
  • In the Lords of Deliverance book Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione, Cara Thornhart earns a Hell Hound's love and respect after she heals it from a bullet wound.

Live-Action TV

  • The story is referenced by the main characters in Stargate Atlantis. Sheppard and Teyla get kidnapped by a wild-looking man who has a Wraith tracker implanted in his back. Sheppard gets the expedition doctor to remove it and in exchange, the wild-looking man, Ronon, attempts to capture a member of the team who had gone AWOL. He fails, but eventually joins the expedition.
    • Also in 'Stargate Atlantis, Sheppard is kidnapped by Genii and imprisoned along with a Wraith. They form a truce with each other long enough for the pair to escape, and later the Wraith, "Todd", becomes a valuable ally in the fight against all the Wraith hives, and a (relatively) moderating influence within his own.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Daniel Jackson makes reference to this story during an episode when he is the captive of an injured Unas and helps its recover from its wounds. Along with other interactions, this develops into a sort-of respect, and the Unas saves his life.
  • Referenced in an episode of Scrubs, when JD removes a splinter from the Janitor's toe (though he mixes it up slightly with the story of the mouse and the lion). When JD tries telling it, the Janitor cheerfully cuts him off with "Oh yeah, and then the lion kills and eats him anyway!" Funnily, the Janitor does try to repay JD with unwanted help, causing JD to waste the favor by asking the Janitor to do something trivial. The Janitor notes afterward that JD could have asked to not be hassled for a year.
  • In Bernard's Watch, the eponymous Bernard used his time stopping watch to remove a tack from an old man's foot. When he is later sent to the new Headmaster, a Mr Lion, who turns out to be the old Man, and instead helps Bernard escape punishment.
  • Invoked in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive when Silver Ranger Tyzonne removes an improbably long spike from the foot of Norg, a Yeti sharing his cave with the Big Bad Flurious. While it does mark the beginning of Norg's shifting loyalties, the fact that he hardly counts as a villain to begin with makes it more a case of Butt Face Turn.
  • In an episode of House, House heals his crazy cellmate's pet cricket that got sick from a pesticide. Towards the end of the episode, when another inmate is about to stab House with a knife, House's cellmate bashes the other guy in the head with a chair.
  • Inverted in Merlin in which it is the dragon who gives advice and aid to Merlin whenever he's in trouble, and eventually extracts a promise from him that he'll eventually set him free from the dungeon under the castle. When Merlin finally gets around to destroying his chains, the dragon promptly lays waste to Camelot.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myth and Legend

  • In Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf, the hungry gray wolf eats Ivan's horse, and in amends helps him.
    • In Golden Fish an old fisher catches a titular Golden Fish who asks him to let it go and promises all kinds of favors in return...We-ell, it didn't work out eventually but it was not its fault.
    • In Frog-princess while on his quest to free the imprisoned princess from evil Koshey Tsarevich Ivan encounters various animals and intends to kill them to eat but then changes his mind every time. They later help him to obtains Koshey's Soul Jar.
    • In Magick ring the main hero literally gives a shirt off his back to buy out a dog, a cat and a snake from a cruel owner. That works out PERFECTLY!
    • In Golden Antelope a boy helps all kinds of animals, getting transportation, guidance, protection and even fundraising in return.
  • In The Golden Mermaid, the prince actively offers his horse to the starving wolf, and gets its aid.
  • In Don Joseph Pear, the hero spares the fox's life when he catches it stealing, and it plays a Puss in Boots role for him.
  • In The Death of Koshchei The Deathless, Prince Ivan spares several animals and they help him against Baba Yaga.
  • Brutally subverted in some versions of "The Frog Prince" or "East of the Sun and West of the Moon"; the girl does not only not wish to set the animal free, she bashes it against the wall and has to make amends.
  • In The Grateful Beasts, Ferko magically cures some animals; in return, they perform his impossible tasks.
  • A traditional tale of the Kamba people from Kenya tells the story of a man who cultivated a field. The crops attracted gazelles so he put traps to defend his crops. One day he saw a lion had felt on one of the traps. He freed the lion after making him promise that he would not hurt him. Once free, however, the lion attacked him. Then the man convinced the lion to let him go after promising that he would give him the heart of every animal that fell on his traps from then on. One day his wife accidentally fell on one of the traps, and just as the man ran to free her the lion appeared and demanded the wife's heart as part of their agreement. The man refused saying that this wasn't part of the deal, so the lion killed the wife and badly injured the man. Moral of the story: Don't trust lions. They f*cking eat people.
  • In a tale about a frog princess, the hero successively spares a bear, a rabbit, a duck, and a pike, and gets help from each of them at the end of the story to get Big Bad Koschei the Deathless' Soul Jar: The bear tears down the tree, the hare kills the hare, the duck strikes the duck, and the pike retrieves the egg from the pond it had fallen into.
  • One of the most frequent plotlines in the entirety of ancient folklore, to judge by the number of times it pops up in Grimm's Tales and other sources. Typically, while on his way to rescue the princess, the hero assists several small critters in succession; later, when the villain places seemingly-impossible tasks in his way, the grateful critters return to complete them for him (for instance, when charged with sorting an enormous heap of mixed grains, the hero of one tale is helped by the ants he'd rescued.)
    • But it doesn't always work out like that: see The Farmer and the Viper.
      • It can be guaranteed to work if someone else (preferably an old sibling) ignores the metaphorical lion first.
  • In Chrétien de Troyes' Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, Yvain helps a lion fight a giant serpent. The grateful feline then follows Yvain, saving his butt quite a few times.
  • From Aesop's Fables, "The Lion and the Mouse" begins with a lion sparing a mouse, who then later returns the favor by freeing him from a hunter's net.
    • Also from Aesop's Fables, "Androcles and the Lion", of course. He took the thorn from its paw, which rather helped when they met in Gladiator Games.
    • Truth be told, the original moral of the story is, "Gratitude is the sign of a noble soul". As in, Aesop is actually commending the lion for returning Androcles' generosity, rather than saying that kidness is rewarded.
  • In the old tale "The Golden-Headed Fish," an Egyptian prince is sent on a mission to capture the title animal, which is the only thing which can save his father from a deadly illness. He succeeds, but can't bring himself to kill the beautiful creature and sets it free. His father (who recovers anyway) banishes him from the realm. Out in the world, he encounters a strange man who wishes to work as his servant, and accompanies him on a number of adventures, saving his life frequently. After the prince's father dies, his mother summons him back to take his rightful place as king, at which time the servant requests permission to leave.

Prince: If it were not for you, I should long ago have been dead.
Servant: And if not for you, I too should long ago have been dead. For I am the golden-headed fish.

  • St. Jerome also tames a lion by removing a thorn from its paw.

Tabletop Games

  • In Warhammer Fantasy lore, Skarsnik saved a squig on a whim. When he was put in a Fed to the Beast, it was the squig that he saved and the squig remembered Skarsnik.


  • Subverted in The Hairy Ape—the ape in question kills the main character after he frees it.
  • George Bernard Shaw's Androcles and the Lion plays this as straight as you'd expect from the title.
  • Subverted in Wicked: as a student at Shiz, Elphaba (who will later become the Wicked Witch) rescues a lion cub from experimentation and frees it from its cage. This cub grows up to be the Cowardly Lion, who apparently holds Elphaba responsible for his cowardice and helps Dorothy and the Tin Man to hunt her down.

Video Games

  • Early in Resident Evil 4, Leon Kennedy encounters a wolf (though Leon calls it a "dog") caught in a trap. If the player has him free the wolf, it returns later to help Leon fight his battle against the first "El Gigante" boss by distracting the monster.
    • Actually, it's Hewie, so it really is a dog.
  • At the end of Super Metroid, the baby Metroid which Samus spared at the end of Metroid II sacrifices itself to rescue Samus from Mother Brain.
    • This is a bit more justified than most examples: the Metroid imprinted on Samus when it hatched, causing it to see her as its mother. Naturally it would try to defend her against danger.
    • Metroid also has an example that transcends games with the Etecoons and Dachoras. In Super Metroid, they were friendly creatures who helped Samus by teaching her techniques like the Wall Jump and the Shinespark. At the end of the game when you're trying to escape the Zebes-Shatttering Kaboom, you can take a slight detour to find them trapped in a room with rising acid. You can then blast a hole in the wall that allows them to escape, and if you do so you'll see a tiny dot escaping the explosion in the ending sequence.
      • Later on, in Metroid Fusion, you'll find them in a containment hold in the BSL labs partway through the game, and you set them loose. At the end of the game, Samus sets the BSL space station on a collision course with the planet SR388 in order to wipe out the X Parasites once and for all, and has about three minutes to escape before impact. She heads to the docking bay only to find that her ship is not there. She soon discovers the reason: an Omega Metroid comes crashing through the wall in order to serve as the Final Boss. After she defeats the Omega with the help of a Villainous Rescue by the SA-X, the Etecoons and Dachoras return the favour she provided on Zebes by piloting her ship into the docking bay (with the help of her computerised CO, Adam), allowing her to escape the station just before it made planetfall.
  • Speaking of Samus, Pikachu plays this role with her in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. In the Subspace Emissary story, after she rescues him from a generator, he accompanies her through the enemy base, helping her get her suit back, and finally saving her ass when Ridley tries to smear her across the wall.
    • Granted, Pokemon appear to be sentient anyway.
  • In King's Quest V, a rat that Graham saves by throwing a boot at the cat that's chasing it returns the favor by gnawing through Graham's ropes when he's tied up in a cellar, about to be killed. Of course, this becomes less sweet when you figure in the gameplay mechanics: if you don't think to throw the boot when the cat and the rat unexpectedly, briefly appear the first time you enter a certain location, you're in a bit of trouble when you're trapped in the cellar...
    • In the same game, you are required to feed a starving eagle on the mountain range when you only have two food rations left. Failure to do so means he won't save you from the Roc that plucks you away at the end of the chapter.
      • The early part of the game contains several animals in need; helping them will result in their returning the favor later on.
  • Averted in Exile and the first three Avernum games. There are a few minor encounters where freeing a trapped monster will result in said monster trying to kill you because they're "nowhere near bright enough to comprehend the idea of gratitude." However, the later Avernum games do toss in a few hungry animals who will follow you around briefly and help during fights after you feed them.
  • The giant spider Kestral in Neverwinter Nights 2. And all you had to do was feed it some bugs.
  • During an early stage in StarTropics, Mike rescues a dolphin. At the end of the game, the dolphin saves him, taking him back to C-Island.
  • Played straight in Crusader of Centy, where many of your animal companions must be saved from a horrible fate. Three were held captive by bosses, and two were hopelessly stuck somewhere awaiting death.
  • In the first Clock Tower, Jennifer can rescue a crow from being imprisoned in the Barrows Mansion. It's the only way to achieve one of the better endings when Mary tries to kill Jennifer at the top of the clock tower, but is assaulted by a group of crows who cause her to fall to her death.
  • Inverted quite magnificently in Okami: the player is the wolf (actually Amaterasu, goddess of the sun) who runs around assisting helpless villagers—in her time of need they restore her to strength and health by praying for her.
  • Mass Effect: Commander Shepard has the option of letting the last Rachni queen go free, and it has been implied that the rachni will help Shepard in response in Mass Effect 3. Fairy-tale tropes? In my grizzly Space Marine-based Space Opera? It's more likely than you'd think.
  • In Terranigma, early on, you help Liam, a young lion cub, pass a test - to descend into a valley of death, and return alive. Later on, after Beruga wipes out Neo-Tokio with a bio-weapon, you encounter a girl in the sewers being menaced by a lion. Guess who it is!
    • Inverted and then played straight during Liam's escorting mission, as the monster that acts as the stage boss pleads for its life and offers a "treasure" to Ark if he lets it go. The treasure chest is a booby trap, but before the monster could catch Ark off guard, Liam kills it offscreen and then guides Ark back to the safety of the lion den, where his kin welcome Ark as one of them.
  • In the SEGA Shadowrun game, Joshua saves Licourtrix, a dragon, from a squad of hunters sent by Renraku. In thanks Licourtrix offers Joshua a scale, which is needed by a shaman to cast a spell. He also pulls a Big Damn Heroes moment during the final battle, binding Thon with his magic and offering Joshua a strategy to destroy him.
    • So the inverse of "Never Cut a Deal with a Dragon" is "Always have a Dragon owe you a favor"?
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the first miniboss is a possessed baboon named Ook. After Link beats the insect possessing him off of Ook, he returns the favor by helping Link in the fight against the dungeon's boss Diababa.
  • In Fallout 3, you come across a dog and a wastelander fighting some raiders in a junkyard. The wastelander always dies, but if you save the dog's life it becomes a useful companion.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, in the wilderness of Riften east of Fort Greenwall you can find a wolf trapped in an iron cage. If you free him, he will fight at your side against a band of poachers who will appear and attack you for freeing their captive. Afterward, he will remember you and be friendly.

Web Animation

  • In Camp Camp, Dave got attacked by a wolf. They both fell off a cliff. Instead of killing it, Dave treated the wolf's injuries. And then later on the wolf died saving Dave from a bear.

Web Comics

  • Torg does this for the demon Mosp in this Sluggy Freelance strip. This ends up saving his life when the "That Which Redeems" arc rolls around.
  • One of the rare worksafe pages of Oglaf brutally deconstructs the "kindly hunter" version of the story. The hunter releases a deer, a rabbit, and a sandwich upon their requests, and then keels over and starves to death. In the last panel, the creatures gather around his grave and wonder if there wasn't something they could have done.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Almost anything ever made by Disney.
    • However, it's double-subverted in an episode of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, where Buzz and his zoologist love interest help a dangerous predator... which, despite Buzz citing the Androcles myth, immediately turns to try to eat them. Afterwards, the zoologist even chastises Buzz for being irresponsible for expecting human behavior from a wild animal, instead of accepting it as it is. It still does help them later in a moment of need—keeping it from being a full subversion—but this is treated as entirely coincidental, with Buzz's assumption that it's "returning their kindness" being overly romantic.
    • Played straight in Lambert, the Sheepish Lion about a lion raised by a sheep.
  • Road Rovers, "Where Rovers Dare". While the Rovers are busy stopping a weapons dealer from starting a War for Fun and Profit, Colleen takes in, and fixes up, an injured wolf. While the bad guys have cornered her and her all-male teammates, the wolf howls and next thing you know tons of wolves have shown up, allowing the UN to easily capture the baddies.
  • Fractured Fairy Tales on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show had an episode titled Androcles and the Lion. Unfortunately, by the time Androcles met the lion in the arena it'd been starved by the Romans, and the score was soon Lion:1, Androcles: 0.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Numbuhs 2 and 3 adopt Bradley, a baby skunk. Although Numbuh 1 doesn't like this, it ends up helping them in their mission to infiltrate a camp, and even makes a Tomato Surprise cameo in another episode two seasons later.
    • Bradley's parents also play this Trope. They reward the KND for keeping their son safe by showing up and saving them when they're in trouble.
  • A version of this happens in the Looney Tunes short Roman Legion-hare. After chasing Bugs Bunny through the lion cages beneath the Colosseum and in the process infuriating all the lions (and being comically mauled a few times), Captain of the Guard Yosemite Sam throws Bugs into the arena so that Nero can watch a victim be eaten. Instead, the lions rush past Bugs, jump up the stands, and go after Sam and Nero. Although in this case, it's not because Bugs was friendly to the Lions, but because Sam was cruel to them.
  • A plot device in many Hanna-Barbera cartoons (those which they produced for TV as well as in the Tom and Jerry shorts).
    • Speaking of Tom and Jerry, also used in at least one Chuck Jones' Tom and Jerry cartoon ("Much Ado About Mousing").
    • Spike the Bulldog was usually the "lion", who would protect Jerry from Tom after Jerry got him out of trouble. In one short Jerry pulls a tack out of Spike's paw, a deliberate call-out to the old Aesop fable.
      • A truly bizarre variation occurs in Tex Avery's MGM cartoon King Sized Canary; as a hungry cat stalks a mouse, the mouse says, "Hey, I just sat through this picture, and if you're smart you won't eat me, because later in this picture I'll save your life." He does too.
  • Diego the sabre-tooth cat in Ice Age does a Heel Face Turn after his soon-to-be True Companions save him from falling into lava. Granted, most characters were animals, but Diego was the only carnivore protagonist.
  • In the final episode of the Jumanji cartoon series, the kids figure out that Allen has to pull out a thorn from a lion's paw to escape from Jumanji.
  • This was the plot to one of The Ant and the Aardvark cartoons, where the Tiger agrees to protect Ant and his gang from the hungry Aardvark after he pulled a thorn off his foot. In the end, the Tiger steps on another thorn and this time the Aardvark pulls it off. You can guess what happens next.
    • And few years earlier this happened with The Pink Panther. A man pulls a nail off of the Panther's foot and he becomes his slave. The man was annoyed at first but found helpful when he realized that he can use him to scare his shrewd wife and her mother. After many attempts at getting rid of the pink cat, the wife gives up and decides to leave home... only for the Panther to step on another nail, with the wife pulling it out of his foot. Again, you can guess what happens next.
  • The Non Sequitur Scene in All Dogs Go to Heaven is there to set up the gator coming in at the end to save Charlie's skin.
  • Jonny Quest.
    • "A Small Matter of Pygmies". A pygmy is being punished by the other pygmies by being tied to a stake so he can be eaten by a panther. Race, Jonny, and Hadji save him by shooting the panther and releasing him. When they're captured by the other pygmies, he returns the favor by releasing them.
    • "Treasure of the Temple". The Quest team releases an Indian who had been staked out to die by the Big Bad and his Mooks. When the team is captured by the Big Bad, the Indian gets them out of their cell to freedom.
  • American Dad: Roger apparently raised a wolf from when it was a cub and released it in the wild, and later, finds a wolf while he's stranded with the family in the middle of a desert (which is owned by Stan's cousin). It's not the same wolf.
  • Deliberately referenced in the opening two-parter of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, with Fluttershy and a (very lion-like) Manticore.
    • And then with Rarity and the flamboyant river serpent.
    • Justified in both cases, as Fluttershy's explicitly stated to have a special connection to animals in the first place and the river serpent was fully sentient.
  • Azrael the cat in The Smurfs reluctantly does this with Natural Smurf after the Smurf spared his life, when Azrael is then scared off by an approaching animal.
  • In the 2011 ThunderCats reboot, Lion-O saves a pair of Lizard prisoners from a lynch mob and sets them free. Later, when Lion-O and Tygra are Locked in the Dungeon during The Siege Of Thundera, the more antagonistic of the two repays the favor sneaking Tygra and Lion-O the key to their cell in some soup.
  • At the end of the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Avatar", Ra's al Ghul leaves Batman stranded in the desert. Ra's enforcer, Abu, who was grateful that Batman saved his life earlier, passes him a canteen.
  • In one episode of the 2002 version of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Prince Adam frees a dragon that was buried by a cave-in. Later, He-Man is fighting some young dragons and is nearly killed, until their mother - the dragon from earlier - shows up, recognizes him from his scent, and calls her children off.
    • The mother dragon comes back in a later episode, helping He-Man again when a crisis happens that requires him to traverse Eternia faster than Battle Cat can handle. Fortunately, she can fly much faster than any landbound mount can run. Unfortunately, she can't swim, the one thing that still makes He-Man's job difficult.

Other Media

  • Subverted in a classic joke. A man saves an elephant with a thorn in its foot. The elephant takes a long look at the man and the hurries off. Some years later, the man sees the elephant in a local circus. Since elephants never forget, the man decides to enter into the elephant's enclosure to comfort his old friend the elephant. He is promptly crushed to death, at which point the narrator usually points out that it was probably not the same elephant.

Real Life

  • Christian the Lion and the men who set him free.
    • Also, it is thought that this sort of thing may have been how the first pets were domesticated.
    • This is actually somewhat understandable, as predators will often try to pick off one of the weak or injured ones, since they're easier to get. Evolution dictates that animals will predictably become hostile to other animals when injured.
  • Subversion with most Real Life wild animals - because not All Animals Are Domesticated, as some people found out.
  • Truth in Television, though what degree depends on the animal and the circumstances. The extreme loyalty of some dogs is particularly noteworthy—there's a reason dogs are called Man's Best Friend.
  • In humans, this is an instinctive behavior that manifested due to the obvious benefits it provides. Since you aren't always at the top of your game, and you are not infallible, having someone go out of their way to help you is a huge bonus in your survival odds—and returning the favor keeps that relationship going for both individuals.