Fighting for Survival

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Information icon4.svg This page needs visual enhancement.
You can help All The Tropes by finding a high-quality image or video to illustrate the topic of this page.

"I suppose I should thank you, but don't think I couldn't have handled them meself! Still, you done right by me. I'll see that the favor is returned."

Heroes have it rough, people are Too Dumb to Live and Die Like Animals because of it. So when they get unexpected help from the populace they're trying to save, be they Heroic Bystanders, helpful NPC's, or even the villain's own henchmen, the hero counts his lucky stars that the common man will help, and are Fighting for Survival.

This trope uses various animal characters as archetypes, similar to Dying Like Animals.

Guides and Thinkers

  • Owl: "Rather than mount a suicidal attack like our enemy expects, I suggest we form a plan." Sometimes you need a plan in order to win that crucial One Sided Battle. This is who you go to for that plan.
  • Tortoise: "If any of you need advice or training, contact me. I may be old, and a bit slow, but that doesn't mean I can't help." Tortoise are venerable characters who provide wisdom and technique to the heroes. When they do fight, they prove to be excellent in combat.[1]
  • Eagles: "All right, now take a left, but stop at the painting, it has a laser activated buzz-saw." Often a Voice with an Internet Connection, these people will help the hero through a dangerous path, providing much-needed information.
  • Lions: "So the neighbouring King wants to open the can of pickled evil? Do you have any proof of this? Yes, then you and I shall ride together with my armies to stop him!" The Wise Lion is a leader who is willing to hear out the hero and possibly go to war against his neighbour should the hero be able to provide convincing evidence that the neighbour is going to cause trouble. He won't ignore the problem, and he won't be acting out of a desire for political gain, but rather because he knows it's the right thing to do.

Innocent, but not Bystanders

  • Hens: "Word on the street is the Big Bad wets his bed." They provide slander to defeat the villain through petty words. Or they give useful gossip to the heroes regarding what the word on the street is.
  • Mockingbirds: "Hey, you! The big, dumb guy with the spikes! Tell me: did you fall out of the ugly stick tree hitting every branch you could on the way down or were you just born looking like that?" Some people won't be able to provide more than a distraction, but sometimes, that is all that is needed.
  • Sheepdogs: "Before you leave, I would like to remind everyone that there will be a prayer meeting for young Anna this evening. We all hope that the surgery goes well and extend our deepest sympathies for her family during this difficult time. Go in peace." In times of crisis, religion can serve as comfort and unity. These are the people who provide that support. They have great influence, being able to turn their flock to the hero's side.


  • Hippo: "Get off my grass!" They're not friendly. They're not on your side. They're isolationist and violently territorial at best, and want you dead at worst. However, they're big, powerful, and more importantly, pissed off at the Big Bad more. So they're opening up a new front you can exploit. Just stay out of their way. They'll happily destroy both you and the Big Bad if they have the means and opportunity.
  • Piranhas: "There Can Be Only One Arch Villain!"' Evil is not one big happy family. Even when they get along, all it takes is a shiny apple to put them at each other's throats. Big Bad caliber villains will gleefully fight for power, to determine who is Eviler Than Thou or over the honor of killing the hero. Last Season's Big Bad might even come back to dethrone the "upstart" Snake who upstaged him. The hero may have an Enemy Mine on his hands where he can "pick" a side in this Enemy Civil War, or just sit back and let the two annihilate each other. Either way, expect a buried Plan.
  • Wolf: "Why am I helping you save the orphanage? Well, letting them die isn't my style, and let's just say I have some fond memories of the place." Being "irredeemably evil" is not that common; no matter how depraved, many villains will stop and help the hero to right things even they see as wrong. The wolf is noble, and even admirable - but it is also a killer and may very well turn on you when the time comes.
  • Raven: "I must stop you, it is too soon for the viridian dawn." He's mysterious, works for the bad guy, but isn't quite as evil or antagonistic as he should be. Keep your guard up; he might help, but not for your sake.
  • Beaten Dogs: "You have abused me for the last time. From now on, I roll with your enemies." When a villain hurts a minion one too many times, they create a beaten dog. These will often try to defeat the villain or help the heroes - especially if the heroes show them compassion or treat them nicely. At their most passive, they do civil disobedience.
  • Snake: "Sure, I'll help you take out my boss. Here's the keys to his throne room. Just make sure to bring me back his crown." A Reliable Traitor who can be willing to help the heroes, if it means getting his boss's job. This traitorous snake can rarely be trusted, however. After all, if he has no loyalty to HIS side, why would he be loyal to you?

Clawed and Dangerous

Helping Paws

  • Bloodhounds: "They headed east, but we can catch them in the Serpentine Swamps." Primitive locals who help out the heroes in a pinch. Often guides or hunters, they often possess skills and wisdom that be extremely helpful.
  • Beavers: "Whoa! What've you been doing with that busted up rig? Fighting the Big Bad? In that case, repairs are on me!" These guys are medics, mechanics, or even simple inn keepers that will provide medical assistance, vehicle repair, or room and board to help the heroes on their quest.
  • Stoats: "Sure, I can get you the dynamite, though it's gonna cost 'ya." These guys can get you what you need, no matter what it is, but they'll expect to be paid handsomely for it. They might forgo the fee if the situation truly is desperate.

Militant "bystanders"

  • The Pack: "The Cavalry has arrived!" Provide mostly reliable backup for the hero. One downside is that their reliance on numbers means they might still die in droves.
  • Soldier Ants: "All right men, Defense Pattern Blue!" These were Innocent Bystanders who are now no longer afraid to fight for their freedom/lives/happiness.
  • Foxes: "There's a secret entrance under the sewers, you can use that to get in. Go with you? I'm sorry, but that's not part of my plan." They'll help the hero... but because it helps their schemes, or they can at least see how his victory is preferable to the villain's.

Everything Else

Examples of Fighting for Survival include:

Anime & Manga

  • Dragon Ball Z had the Spirit Bomb, which could grow stronger the more people focused their energy on it... even if they were just Innocent Bystanders or comic relief. Special mention goes to Mr. Satan for rallying the masses to help Goku - Sheepdog style.
  • Anytime Sesshomaru in Inuyasha helps the heroes, he's usually the Hippo, not interested in fighting, helping, or hindering them, but quite interested in killing the villain.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima has multiple examples of these:
    • Tortoise (Riccardo, Seras)
    • Bulldog (Tosaka)
  • When everyone in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni actually starts working together in Minagoroshi-hen and Matsuribayashi-hen/Miotsukushi-hen, the characters metamorphosize spectacularly. Keiichi goes from Boar to Lion, Rena from Wolf/Boar Chimera to Owl/Soldier Ant Platypus, Shion from Wolf/Boar Chimera to Beaver/Soldier Ant Platypus, and Satoko from Rat to Bloodhound.

Comic Books

  • When the Green Goblin attacks a baseball stadium during a double-header, Spider-Man gets assistance from both the pro players and the members of the halftime act.


  • One of the most memorable moments in The Sound of Music was during the Von Trapps' escape. There is an exchange between the Mother Superior and two nuns. When questioned on why they looked so guilty, they answered with "we have sinned"... and lifted up engine parts they'd stolen from the Nazis' cars!
    • And taken further in the Family Guy parody of that scene where one of the nuns has also sinned, and proves it by holding up a Nazi's severed head.

"Hey, we didn't START this war!"

  • The Spider-Man films, the civilians pelt the Green Goblin to help Spider-man, and the train passengers stand up to Dr. Octopus for Spider-man (for all the good it does them, but the thought is there). Even Aunt May smacks Dr. Octopus at one point.
  • Many side characters in The Dark Knight Saga.


  • The Narnia books have several of these. Some are actual animals.
  • The Sword of Truth series is practically made of this trope in book six, Faith Of The Fallen.
  • Matthew Reilly's Contest is one giant fight for survival.
  • Redwall has lots of Soldier Ants.
  • The Dresden Files, although humanity normally function as Ostriches, there is a very real understanding that without the Masquerade, humanity would quickly become a swarm of angry hornets, armed with plenty of firepower.
  • War of the Dreaming features Lions Pendrake, as well as various platypi.
  • All over the place in Necropolis, with heavy resistance from the Vervunites, particularly the resistance forces caught outside the walls. Some of them offer such fierce resistance they receive field commissions from the Guard. Fittingly, many of the survivors join the Guard after Vervunhive falls.

Live Action TV


  • The Matoran of Bionicle are Platypi with examples all over the list. The race's hat as a whole seems to be a mix of Badgers and Soldier Ants, preferring to live in peace but willing to back up the Toa heroes or even fight without them if necessary. Some Matoran have also aided Toa by being Bloodhounds, Beavers, Owls, and Mockingbirds. Turaga elders (Matoran who were empowered as Toa, then gave up their powers and retired) tend to be Tortoises and Sheepdogs as well.

Video Games

  • Meta Knight from Kirby can be very much a Raven, especially in the anime.
  • The countless random citizens in Half-Life 2, and probably the rebels as Soldier Ants or Beavers.
  • The Suikoden series has a population that exceeds some small towns, so a full list of examples would be a fool's errand.
  • As does any BioWare game. Jade Empire seems especially populated with people looking to help you out. Some of those were part of The Plan that the games's Chessmasters decided to enlist in order to keep you on the board...
  • Mass Effect shows this a lot. Feros is attacked by geth, but the colonists are actually holding out against repeated geth assaults by the time you show up. Noveria has a whole group holding out against the Rachni outbreak in the labs. And then you have the turians, who are all given basic military training, and the krogan, who are a race of near-universal badasses.
  • Solatorobo eventually turns anyone with an airship or a robot (given the setting, that's pretty much everyone, period) into a giant nest of Hornets for the final battle against Tartaros.

Western Animation

  • One of the saddest parts of Superman: The Animated Series was Darkseid's invasion of Earth. While parading a beaten Superman through Metropolis, detective Turpin started throwing rocks at Darkseid's forces, inciting others to do so, and managing to free Superman in the process. It was a bit of a Downer Ending, since Darkseid killed Turpin to mar the whole affair with blood so Superman would know not to mess with him.

Superman: The world didn't need a Superman... just a brave one.

    • That episode also had the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit as Soldier Ants, fighting off most of the invasion force while Superman was busy stopping their WMDs.
    • Before Superman's capture, Turpin directs a battle copter and casually takes out Steppenwolf with two well-placed Anti-Air missiles.
  • In a flashback episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, when Sokka tried to warn the Fire Nation settlement that Jet was going to blow up the dam, they didn't believe him. But the old man Sokka stopped Jet from brutalizing vouched for him and they evacuated the town.
  1. Ask anyone who's been bitten by a Snapping Turtle if you doubt it