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William Wallace: "And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!"—Braveheart 1995
This is not about the phrase, so things that are only mentions of it, and variations on it, are not examples.
Basically this is when people are willing to fight to the death for freedom. Sometimes they actually do end up dying for it, but this trope is solely about being willing to die for freedom, regardless of the result. Expect a Rousing Speech or two.
Can overlap with I Die Free when those fighting for their freedom are on the losing side and they have only that choice left.
And there are many bloody revolutions in Real Life.
Compare Martyrdom Culture.
Anime and Manga
- Inuyasha: Kagura is enslaved to Naraku but is determined to obtain her freedom. Sesshoumaru warns her that her path will lead to her death if she's not careful, but she persists anyway because there is no other alternative for her. Eventually, even though she knows it will cost her life to do so, she saves Kohaku from being killed by Mouryoumaru and is promptly killed by Naraku. Bittersweet because she realises as she's dying that the only way she could ever gain her freedom was by dying, but that it is true freedom. Lampshaded later on by Mouryoumaru when he accidentally triggers Sesshoumaru's Berserk Button by insulting Kagura's willingness to die for her freedom, an ideal and death he views as worthless.
- In Scion, when the Raven and Heron kingdoms invade the Lesser Races' Sanctuary island, Exeter makes it clear that he's willing to die defending it, which leads to his Crowning Moment of Awesome:
"We're close to accomplishing the impossible. To making a dream reality. And some dreams are worth fighting for."
- Shows up in The Cartoon History of the Universe, Part III, in the bit about the Zanj Rebellion. "Zanj" was a term for East African slaves (bought from their native rulers in what is now Kenya and Tanzania) who were employed in southern Iraq's production of sugarcane. They rose in revolt against the Arab, Persian, and Turkish rulers of the Abbasid Caliphate, and (as Gonick notes) fought ferociously for their freedom (primarily because the alternative was death). It's specifically brought up in this panel:
Zanj army: LIBERTY OR DEATH!
Frightened-looking Arab soldier: You lack sophistication, my dear fellow! Have you ever thought of the idea that no man is ever completely free?
Zanj soldier: But completely dead, yes!
Film - Animated
- Spoofed in Chicken Run:
"We'll either die free chickens, or we'll die trying!"
"Are those the only choices?"
Film - Live Action
- And of course, those tiny blue Discworld William Wallace stand-ins, the Nac Mac Feegle. "Nae king! Nae Quin! Nae Laird! Nae master! We willna be fooled again!"
- Of course, they also think they're dead and in warrior paradise, so their views on getting killed are a little unique.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four, with the Brotherhood. It turns out to all be a Xanatos Gambit by the Big Bad, though. Only Thought Criminials would join such an organization and so the Brotherhood gathers all poetential rebels while the loyal party members ignore it.
Live Action TV
- The Free Jaffa of Stargate SG-1. The principal Jaffa character is also the Trope Namer for I Die Free.
- The song "A Tale They Won't Believe" (they get death):
"When we left Macquarie Harbour it was in the pouring rain
None of us quite sure if we would see England again
And some fool muttered 'death or liberty' ..."
- Trope name comes from Patrick Henry, a melodramatic patriot in The American Revolution.
- An interesting subtrope: in that same Revolution, the British government promised freedom to any colonial slave who ran away and joined the loyalist army. Thousands did, evidently preferring the risk of death on the battlefield to the certainty of a life in chains if the colonists won independence.
- The American Civil War was an ironic twist on this for the South. They wanted freedom ... the freedom to keep slaves.
- There were also a number of slave revolts, even though the slaves knew there was a high chance they'd be crushed by the militia and executed.
- Haiti might be the only country that started with a successful slave rebellion. Unfortunately, it lacked the leadership that could have made it a successful nation afterward.
- "Freedom or Death!" is the official motto of both Greece and Uruguay.
- "Live Free or Die" is the official motto of the state of New Hampshire.
- The Natchez nation went to war against French Louisiana in 1729 after being abominably treated in various ways and having their culture mucked up; the chief who touched things off is supposed to have said, "We walk like slaves, which we soon will be... Is not death preferable to slavery?"
- They were clever, too--they planned things out well, and folded over 200 black slaves into their forces after attacking their plantations, and presumably killing their masters.
- The French then bribed the Choctaw into killing the Natchez for them. Freaking politics.
- Harriet Tubman, a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad (that smuggled slaves from the American south to freedom in Canada), carried a handgun with her for protection. She once said that when a runaway slave lost heart and wanted to give up and return to the plantation, she pointed the gun at him and said, "You go free or die."
- Spoofed in Dubious Company, where a village revolts against the Evil Overlord, declaring this. After getting stomped by Mary and Sue, they renounce the revolt as if it never happened. This confuses Tiren to no end.