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"Who would fardels bear,Than fly to others that we know not of?"
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
The protagonist misses someone terribly, for whatever reason. Maybe The Hero is dead, or a loved one. But thankfully, the land of the dead is a place that can be visited. If the protagonist can brave the journey To Hell and Back, they can free the soul and resurrect them. Success is not guaranteed.
A subtrope of To Hell and Back.
Anime and Manga
- In the original Neon Genesis Evangelion, one of the main characters--Rei Ayanami--is eaten alive towards the end of the series by one of the massive monsters called Angels, ultimately leading to Shinji Ikari's epic-level breakdown in The Movie. In the remake, however, Shinji snaps, ascends to Godhood in his giant robot (despite the fact that it could lead to The End of the World as We Know It) and dives into the Angel's core to pull Rei out and bring her back to life.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5: Sheridan wanders through the ruins of Z'Ha'Dum after his death. He is rescued by Lorien and returned.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: After her Heroic Sacrifice to save the Earth from being folded into a Hell Dimension, Buffy's friends work to bring her Back From the Dead. What they don't know at first is that they dragged her out of Heaven, leading to much of the angst of the sixth season.
- According to Christian theology, Jesus Christ went to Hell after being crucified and rescued the souls of those who were sent there unjustly. It is said he will do this again, this time to free all the souls trapped in Hell, when Judgment Day comes.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: The Black Pearl in that desert with multiple Jacks.
- Subverted when Jack is actually leaving on his own and stops to pick up his rescuers.
- The Matrix Revolutions: That whole thing with the subway.
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
- What Dreams May Come: The main character is dead, but in Heaven. He receives word that his wife has killed herself and gone to Hell, and embarks on a trip to save her.
- Megatokyo: Though it was only Purgatory if you were both Largo and very drunk.
- Double Subverted in "The Land Of Oblivion". The heroine's brother is really dead, and nothing can actually resurrect him. However, he is captured in the Bad part of afterlife (the titular land), and about to be made Deader Than Dead, and she manages to bust him out and bring him to a place where he can enjoy a happy afterlife.
- The story of Orpheus, who went to Hades to bring back his wife, Eurydice, is the Trope Codifier. Unfortunately, he couldn't do the whole journey back without looking back at her, which was the condition of success, so she stayed trapped. Theseus also accompanied his friend Pirithoos into Hades when the latter took a fancy to Persephone; they both got stuck there until Heracles freed them on a completely unrelated mission.
- Persephone was, herself, literally abducted and dragged into Hades, and her mother went batshit insane, which is bad when you're the goddess of The Earth. Hermes went to retrieve Persephone, but discovered that she had eaten of the food of the underworld while there, which bound her to Hades. A compromised was reached that allowed Persephone to leave Hades for half the year, then spend the other half as the queen of the dead. The half which she is on earth is the autumn, winter, and spring (growing seasons in Greece), while the dry, hot Greek summers are caused when she leaves for the underworld and her mother grieves.
- Older Than Dirt: Inannas Descent to The Netherworld: Inanna sends her own husband to Irkalla when she comes back from the dead to find him relaxing under a tree instead of grieving openly. Later on, she misses him terribly and all the plants die and no animals or people can reproduce. She agrees to let his sister take his place in the Underworld for half the year, during which everything grows again, and stops growing when that time is up. Which is why we have summer and winter.
- Easily possible in Forgotten Realms, due to the ease with which the Outer Planes can be accessed.
- Occurs with the soul of Aribeth in the Forgotten Realms-set game Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark.