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Freedom -- it's one of the most important items on the list of things characters want. After all, you have to be free to pursue love or adventure or anything else you want in the first place. But as every patriotic song out there tells you, freedom doesn't come free. Thus, you have to work and/or suffer long and hard to get it, which gives you the plot of your story. It's not uncommon for the characters that obtain their freedom to have to work to remain free as well.
There may be an entire nation of people fighting to be free from The Empire and their Evil Overlord. There may be some force or regime keeping everyone from doing what they want, in which case, it might be necessary to ask some questions, such as "why is the government so petty", or is it that "Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters"? This can also be said of real life: part of the reason that we have governments and armies is to keep the perceived freedoms of some from impeding on those of others (whether they are or not oppressive, in real life as in fiction, is a crapshoot).
Individuals who just want to be free include:
- Imprisoned inmates, especially ones who are innocent and thus more worthy of audience sympathy.
- Slaves, of the traditional and magical kind.
- The latter includes genies.
- Refugees, which provides the perfect set-up for Batman in My Basement.
- Women -- This is the motivation of the Rebellious Princess, Runaway Fiance (along with Marry for Love), and (in darker stories) Sex Slaves.
So, how is freedom usually won? Indentured slaves or contractually-bound victims might make a deal with their master and perform some task for which they will be set free as a reward. Or "deal with" them. Another tactic is simply running away, changing your name, and starting a new life, hoping your past doesn't catch up with you... at least until you've recovered your strength and gathered forces to return and rescue everyone else. Marriage has an interesting role in the process, as it can be portrayed as a form of imprisonment (especially if it's an Arranged Marriage) or as an escape, such as a Citizenship Marriage.
Oddly, chances are very good that The Hero of the piece will be an ally aiding the victim (if not falling in love with him/her) as much as being the person actually struggling for freedom. If there is a Magnetic Hero, expect this whole "freedom" thing to catch on, because for some reason the other characters simply lacked the will or the power to act on their own.
Anime and Manga
- One Piece is a series that is about dreams and freedom,, expressed through piracy. This is apparent especially especially with the transformative qualities of the protagonist. Of course, for major characters, this seems to translate to "leave whatever the hell you're doing and do something unexpected". The emphasis on dreams goes both ways: with villains, the protagonist doesn't kill them, but leaves them alive to watch their hopes and dreams crumble around them.
- This is so often the case that when one character chose to be free to stay where she was and continue to be a responsible leader, it seemed out of place. In fact, the main character's primary motivation is to become the 'Pirate King' because it's the person, "with the most freedom in the world".
- In Shaman King, many characters seek the power of the greatest spirit in order to fulfill their dreams, though Yoh, the protagonist, seeks it in order to not be bothered by having to work for anything anymore. To him, it's logical to work himself to death (literally) if it means freedom later in life. Some characters are so caught up in the concept of needing the Great Spirit to accomplish their goal that they forget they could do it anyway.
- Some of the Tailed-Beast Hosts from Naruto seek freedom from the stigma of being the hosts of demons, and thus the requirement of being war machines. Killer Bee, host of the Eight-Tails, fakes his death so he can get away from his responsibilities.
- In Elfen Lied, everyone in the Dysfunction Junction just wants to live a normal, peaceful life, but since Humans Are Bastards and Lucy/Nyu and Nana aren't human, that proves quite difficult.
- Inuyasha: Kikyou wanted to be a normal woman, freed from the destiny of having to protect the Shikon no Tama. It was a dream she could only fulfill in death.
- Kagura was a wind youkai enslaved by magic to serve the Big Bad. Her overwhelming desire was to be as free as the wind and she was willing to work with Inuyasha's group and especially Sesshoumaru to achieve her ends. In the end, like Kikyou, she could only achieve her dream in death.
"I am the wind. As free as the wind."
- The Big Bad of Fullmetal Alchemist originally began as a lab experiment that couldn't survive outside of the flask it was created in. Everything its done is to escape its container.
- This is America's motivation for the American Revolution.
Britain! All I want is my freedom! I'm not a child anymore, nor your little brother. From now on, consider me independent!
Films -- Animated
- The Genie leads the theme in Disney's Aladdin, as not only he wants to be set free, but Jasmine and Aladdin also bond over how they both feel trapped in their respective conditions.
- Rapunzel in Disney's Tangled.
- The chickens in Chicken Run, especially the heroine Ginger.
- La Résistance of Les Misérables. On the individual level, Jean Valjean ended up spending 19 years in prison as a result of several escape attempts after being imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread.
- The Scarlet Pimpernel applies a Perspective Flip to this trope, as the French peasants who revolted against their aristocratic oppressors during the French Revolution are portrayed as becoming the monsters who have taken over France. The eponymous Superhero Trope Codifier has made it his mission to rescue their French aristocrat prisoners Underground Railroad-style.
- Dobby the House Elf in Harry Potter. Hermione is shocked that not all house elves feel this way.
- Runaways Shasta, Bree, Aravis, and Hwin in The Horse and His Boy -- Shasta and the horses are running away from slavery, Aravis from an Arranged Marriage.
- Edmund Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo
- Raven's Flight paints the rebel World Eaters in this light, although it's certainly not a good thing.
"Freedom from restraint, freedom from holding back. Freedom from guilt and orders."
- And of course, Kunta Kinte.
- The Golems in Terry Pratchett's Feet of Clay (and other books in the Discworld series).
- One goal of the Deryni characters in Katherine Kurtz's books is this, at least it's certainly on the list (once the rebellions and invasions and assassins are defeated). Kelson is exhorted to be a king to humans and Deryni by a figure of Camber visible only to Deryni, and he founds a new scola to preserve and teach Deryni magic and ethics. Essentially, Kelson, his courtiers and others aspire to The Unmasqued World, which would imply this trope.
- In Something Rotten, this motivates Bartholomew Stiggins' assistance at the old cloning facility. Thursday went there to find a Shakespeare clone to sort out The Merry Wives of Elsinore in the BookWorld; Stig went along to get information to allow him and the other Neanderthals (who were engineered sterile) to reproduce.
- During the middle seasons of Supernatural, a conflict of conscience occurred between Sam and Dean's desire to be free, and their destiny as the hosts of Archangel Michael and Lucifer.
- Nessiah from Yggdra Union and its related games wants to break the literal shackles that bind his full powers and keep him immortal. Doing so requires a lot more power than he actually has naturally, and so he's been accumulating it by converting negative emotions generated from human conflict into magical power. He also won't consider himself truly free until he's punished the ones who did this to him in the first place--who have actually been dead for a very long time, which Nessiah himself doesn't know.
- Likewise, Meria from Knights in The Nightmare wants to be recognized as her own person separate from Marietta, the other half of her soul.
- Mages of Dragon Age are legally required by the local religion to be confined to one of 14 separate facilities known as Circles where they are constantly monitored for life the moment their powers manifest, usually at a young age. Those who attempt to escape the Circle or simply know any forbidden arts, like Blood Magic, are hunted down and harshly punished by groups a warriors specifically trained to neutralize their powers. To the surprise of no one, a very large portion of mages have this trope as their goal and are willing to go to some very extreme lengths to reach this goal.
- Vaan from Final Fantasy XII decides to join with Ashe's quest to reclaim her kingdom because he detests the Imperials that have subjugated his country and deprived it of freedom. This is also the reason he wishes to become a sky pirate. Ashe's statement that she just wants to be free at the end of the game also implies that her journey was a quest for freedom.
- Even the villains ultimately desire freedom above all else (though they also want other things like power). Specifically freedom for mortals from the yoke of the Occuria.
- In Final Fantasy X, the goal of the Al Bhed is to free themselves, Spira and the Summoners from the cycle of Sin, but miscommunication also forces them to endure racism and the goal of freeing themselves from oppression.
- Samurai Jack faced a viking warrior cursed by Aku. The man was mystically bound by his stone surroundings, and could not die unless he was killed in battle. Being an excellent warrior as well as a stone giant, actually finding a warrior skilled enough to defeat him in honorable combat and break the curse was near-impossible until Jack came along.
- A few episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender had the kids directly assist villages crushed by the Fire Nation's occupation or general tyranny.
- The X-Men animated series had the Genosha story arc, where mutants were enslaved to use the powers for labor. They were told they'd be released when the work was done. Yeah...