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 You are part of the Legion to die and the Legion will send you somewhere you can die.

The French Foreign Legion is one of the most mythologized military units in the world. Its most famous writer was P.C. Wren but it has had other writers and it has been occasionally spoofed, notably by Charles Schulz. It is legendary as a place where people with a Mysterious Past go to disappear, and of course bereaved lovers, political refugees, and the like can always be found there.

The actual Legion exists to provide a body of cannon fodder who can fight in dangerous and distant lands without risking the lives of (many) actual French citizens. French citizenship is often the reward for a Legionnaire who has completed three years of service.

The stereotypical Legionnaire in fiction is represented as a member of a North African campaign from approximately 1900-1950. They are always depicted wearing white khepis while standing guard at lonely outposts in the Sahara. In real life, the Legion operates in a variety of environments and conflicts (such as French Indochina) and wears camouflage as needed.

See also Eagle Squadron, Army of Thieves and Whores.

Examples of Legion of Lost Souls include:


Anime and Manga

  • Area 88 revolves around a unit that is essentially the French Foreign Legion with the serial numbers filed off: a Quraqi air force squadron of foreign pilots, some with dark pasts and some recruited unscrupulously.
  • Crown: Badasses Ren and Jake are former members of the French Foreign Legion.

Comic Books

Film

  • Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion has Bud and Lou somehow enlisting with the Legion in Algiers by accident. They proceed to save the day by accident, and are rewarded with medals and honorable discharges.
  • Laurel and Hardy also joined the Foreign Legion in Beau Hunks and its feature-length remake, The Flying Deuces.
  • It was used to explain the McGann brothers' 40-year-long absence in Secondhand Lions, and the older brother goes back to it after his wife dies during childbirth (along with the baby).
  • Legionnaire, with the wonderful actor Jean Claude Van Damme. He's also a legionnaire in Lionheart.
  • Follow That Camel! with Phil Silvers essentially reprising the role of Sgt Bilko and a Beau Geste parody named BO. (Later renamed Carry On, Follow That Camel!)
  • In March or Die the French Foreign legion is pitted against Abd El Krim's rebel army in Morocco.
  • In The Mummy Trilogy, Rick O'Connell and his buddy Beni start off as Legionnaires before the Medji either kill off most of the platoon or chase them back into the desert.

Literature

  • Robert Asprin's Phule series has the Space Legion, which is the French Foreign Legion Recycled in Space, complete with false names to avoid problems with the law (and in the case of the titular character- to avoid problems that occurred during his service in the Legion when he strafed the surrender talks because 'they dropped their shield')
  • Also Legion of the Damned and sequels by William C. Dietz, which also gives the French Foreign Legion the IN SPACE treatment, complete with (returned from the dead) cyborgs, aliens, rebellions, revolutions, and even the odd odd love story.
  • Parodied in the Discworld novel Soul Music. The Klatchian Foreign Legion managed to completely forget their troubles... and their identities... and their orders... and pretty much everything, really. Except sand. You won't ever forget about sand.
  • Beau Geste by P.C. Wren is the Trope Maker.
    • Marty Feldman did a comic version of Beau Geste titled The Last Remake of Beau Geste.
  • Harvey Kurtzman parodied this setting in the third issue of Mad Magazine. Amid the usual motley assortment of Funny Foreigner stereotypes on the run from the law is a recruit who's run away from his hellish wife and kids in Brooklyn.
  • In Jerry Pournelle's science fiction stories, the Line troops of the CoDominium Marines were formed from the French Foreign Legion and maintained their Badass Creed and many of their customs, including accepting fugitives and criminals into their ranks.
  • Some of Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's Hokas set up a French Foreign Legion. It includes not only Hokas that want to be Legionnaires, but those who are inspired by certain works of fiction but are unable to get other Hokas to join in.
  • The Fifth Foreign Legion trilogy by Andrew Keith and William H. Keith. The French Foreign Legion, In Space!
  • The Free Corps from the Shannara series.
  • In the Honor Harrington books, starting with War of Honor, The Protector's Own Squadron effectively operates this way, owing to its origins: Many of its initial personnel were escaped prisoners from a Havenite prison, including POWs from conquered worlds and a significant number of Havenite political prisoners. The squadron's first vice-commander was a former Havenite naval officer who had fought the heroes in an earlier book.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Night's Watch is one of these. Made up of men throughout the Seven Kingdoms, they swear an oath upon joining to guard the Wall against threats from the Far North. Once, in the dim and distant past, they were a proud and honored unit, with "taking the black" being seen as a worthy sacrifice. Now, with duty on the Wall being such a hardship against a threat few believe to exist, it's become more of a punishment. Most of its members are criminals, lowborn outcasts and exiles who chose the wrong side of one political game or another. A common treatment of prisoners of war with no expectation of ransom is to allow them to take the black, as opposed to being held captive or executed.
  • in Who Goes Here? by Bob Shaw, the future legion guarantees you'll forget. They wipe your mind!
  • In Devil's Guard by George Robert Elford. It's the story of a nazi unit in the French Foreign Legion, in Vietnam. It's a perfect example of the none jew killing SS.
  • Leigionnaire is an autobiographical account of Englishman Simon Murray, who joined the Legion in 1960 (for extra badass points, he was in the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment) and fought in the Algerian War. Finishing first in the Corporal school, he turned down the opportunity to join either the prestigious Sergeant's school and Officer's school and left in 1965.

Live Action TV

  • There was an episode of Keeping Up Appearances in which Hyacinth's (and Daisy, Rose and Violet's) father decided to join, and Hyacinth was trying to stop him... while, of course, admiring him for wanting so badly to join.

Music

  • Frank Sinatra's "French Foreign Legion" has the singer threatening to join if his lover rejects his marriage proposal one more time.

Newspaper Comics

  • Snoopy in Peanuts sometimes imagined himself as leader of a Foreign Legion platoon, with a flock of birds as his troops.
  • Crock and Beau Peep are set entirely in the French Foreign Legion, with Anachronism Stew in both.

Video Games

  • In Dragon Age, the Dwarven "Legion of the Dead" is exactly this. Dwarves from any walk of life and any circumstance may join, including the worst criminals and Casteless, and upon joining a funeral is held for the new recruit and all their past sins are absolved. They are considered to "owe" the Dwarven people a death and usually set about earning it by going deep into the Deep Roads to fight the worst of the Darkspawn infestation there. In the Dragon Age Awakening expansion pack, there's a Legion of the Dead member whom you can recruit as a follower, ironically by saving her life after the rest of her squad gets wiped out.
  • Mass Effect 3, in a manner with the squads in multiplayer. They are ostensibly Systems Alliance units and operate under Alliance command, with most of their members being human soldiers and other military specialists, but they also include volunteers and mercenaries from a variety of other races, such as turians, asari, krogan, drell, and quarians. Now with the Resurgence Pack, geth and batarians join the party.

Real Life

  • Several White Russians went here. Several Jews during the Holocaust (including the future commander during the '48 Siege of Jerusalem) and ironically several former Nazis. All running away from some political disturbance or other, sometimes as in the last two cases from opposite sides. For most of the Legion's history it got recruits this way, from refugees fleeing to France.
    • Which led to A Nazi by Any Other Name, since after WW 2, about 80% of the Legion´s members where ex-German military because they were readily available. It lead to the nickname of "The last battle of the Waffen-SS", being the battle of Dien Bien Phu.
    • This had one ironic result. One Jewish soldier saw a guard who had been at a camp and shot him. Then he deserted and ran to Israel where he received a pardon.
      • Some Jews joined specifically to hunt down ex-Nazis who were part of a secret organization known as ODESSA, Organisation Der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen (Organisation of former SS members)
    • In more recent years, a lot of veterans from the Yugoslav wars (mainly Serbs) joined the Legion.
  • During the First Gulf War, units of the French Foreign Legion had a certain amount of trouble liaising with American troops. 'Yes, I said Foreign Legion.' 'Yes, the guys with the kepis.' 'Yes, we are real.'
  • For a time, Texas could serve this purpose in a way. Back when it was part of New Spain, and later when it was part of Mexico, Texas was a favored destination not only for folks hoping to strike out, seek adventure, and get their own land, but also folks hoping to escape the law, escape debts, or escape potential fathers-in-law. It was common to see the note "GTT" pinned to someone's door, or written in a financial register, to denote that someone had Gone To Texas, and that you were unlikely to ever see them (or your money) again.

Role Playing Games

  • The GURPS version has in canon a couple of units in obscure places that are distinctly patterned after the French Foreign Legion. One of these is the Vilani Legion of the Frontier in Gurps Traveller: Interstellar Wars.
  • Traveller uses this as one of the ways a character trains up.

Western Animation

  • In Looney Tunes, Porky Pig was a Legionnaire in a couple of cartoons.
    • Even Pepe LePew joins the Legion to forget.
    • Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam also had a conflict as Legionnaires.
  • Danger Mouse once encountered a Legionnaire who can't remember what he wanted to forget when he joined.
    • Penfold: "Well...nice to see it worked out for you."
  • Exo Squad: Alec DeLeon's Backstory explains that he was a petty thief in Paris in his youth and joined Exofleet to escape the past, meaning that it plays the role of FFL in the setting.
  • One Johnny Bravo cartoon has him join the Foreign Legion by accident, but he spends the entire time trying to "Find the Fort" in the desert with a talking camel before taking a Deus Ex Machina back home.
  • One Donald Duck short, "Donald's Diary", shows Donald marrying Daisy and leading a very miserable life when his new in-laws also move in. After waking up to see that it was all a dream, he frantically runs from her house and joins the Foreign Legion to escape his potential fate.
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