|Quotes • Headscratchers • Playing With • Useful Notes • Analysis • Image Links • Haiku • Laconic|
Leela: Take me first!Bender: Yes! Take her first!
A character offers him/herself in exchange for the freedom of another, willingly turning himself over to the villain in order to buy the safety of someone who will most likely be a love interest or a friend, although sometimes it's a complete stranger that the hero just met but has nevertheless decided that it's his job to save. And so a trade takes place, but this time the hero is using himself as a bargaining chip. (If the other character is aware of what is going on, a More Hero Than Thou dispute may arise.)
This is a specific kind of Heroic Sacrifice that may or may not end in death. Sometimes the Distressed Damsel, the Distressed Dude or the Badass in Distress is rescued by their friends or manages to escape by the end of the story, if they're lucky, but they usually won't try to escape on their own. As long as the villain keeps his end of the bargain, they're content to suffer in the other person's place.
Sometimes the villain has requested that the hero turn himself in, offering to free his hostage in exchange for the person he really wants. Often in such cases this was the villain's plan all along for getting his hands on the hero, as he is able to predict that the hero would sacrifice himself for the hostage. In other cases where the original hostage is the intended target, the sacrificer will shock the villain because Evil Cannot Comprehend Good.
In situations where Balancing Death's Books comes into play, a character makes this kind of deal with Death in order to save someone who is scheduled to die.
Character types most likely to perform this action are The Messiah, who really can't help it, and The Atoner, for whom Redemption Equals Death. More than once, also, this is how the Distressed Damsel or Distressed Dude enters the scene, by trying futilely to protect someone else in their surroundings.
Compare and contrast Silent Scapegoat and I Am Spartacus, which both differ in that a character is specifically taking the blame for the actions of another by claiming to be them, More Expendable Than You, in which the character is protecting someone he considers more important, and Prisoner Exchange, in which someone from the villain's team is captured and traded for the hostage.
- In Full Metal Panic, Kaname's teacher Kagurazaka offers to be the hostage in place of Kaname when Gauron hijacks the airplane they're on. Of course, Gauron refuses, because the teacher isn't a whispered, and is therefore useless.
- Seen in One Piece, when both Zoro and Sanji offers themselves up instead of Luffy. Zoro 'wins.'. Possibly one of the examples where the scene is literally MORE moving because he SURVIVES. And through One Piece logic, Kuma is actually able to put all the pain and suffering Luffy endured in an entire arc into Zoro's body. One touch makes the stoic (for this show, anyway) Zoro scream. So he relocates to a place away from the others, where Sanji later finds him amid blood-splatter and wearing the Thousand-Yard Stare. It really looks like a case of Died Standing Up until Zoro speaks. What's he say? "Nothing happened!!!"
- Alsoonce pulled by Princess Shirahoshi.
- Belldandy in the "Lord of Terror" arc in Ah! My Goddess, offering to be the host for the Big Bad rather than destroy Keiichi. Turns out that was exactly the right move, since the evil force can't possess a Goddess and has to release both of them.
- In Yu Yu Hakusho, they seem to be building up to such a life-for-life scenario when Kurama uses a magic mirror to offer his life in exchange for his Ill Girl mother Shiori's. However, Yusuke also manages to resolve this without anyone dying by offering his life instead. In honor of his selflessness, the mirror spares all three of them.
- Actually, what he suggests is that the mirror take half his life, and half of Kurama's--the whole reason he was willing to risk his life to save Kurama was that when he died he saw how badly it broke his mother up, and he couldn't stand back and let that happen to someone else's much-more-devoted mother. Afterwards, he was glad it had worked. The mirror seemed pleased that it had had the opportunity to grant a wish without killing anyone, too. Apparently it's depressing being a cursed object.
- Mahou Sensei Negima has Ako Izumi offering to be Tosaka's slave for life if he won't blackmail Negi into slavery, proving that you don't have to be physically Badass to be awesome. For the record Tosaka turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who agrees to just let Negi go. She didn't know at the time, but it's implied the actual agreement she was making would have gotten her raped. Legally. It's all but stated outright that it would have led to legal rape (or at least rape the government has no power to stop). Turns out Ako was pretty sure Tosaka was a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but that doesn't make it less Badass--just a little bit more intelligent.
- In Princess Tutu, when Mytho is fully transformed into a raven and abandons her to have his heart eaten by the Raven King, said King's daughter (Dark Magical Girl Rue) offers to have her own heart eaten instead. This breaks the Mind Control on Mytho and he's released, but Rue is taken captive instead of him. Mytho has to go rescue her, and once she's free, they finish off the Raven King together.
- Also happens in The Vision of Escaflowne, when Hitomi tries to Screw Destiny so her crush Allen won't marry her friend Millerna and It Got Worse as a consequence.
- In the one-shot episode of Yu-Gi-Oh GX the evil duel monster, Jinzo, is resurrected, but to gain full physical form, he has to sacrifice the souls of those that summoned him. One managed to make it to the Slifer Red dorm where he meets the main characters. Jaden willingly offered himself up to act as the poor boy's replacement (even though Jaden had only known the kid's name for barely twenty minutes.)
- It's hilariously played with in Shadyvox's abridged series. Jinzo responds by quickly accepting and pulling out a chainsaw. Jaden then says that they should have a duel.
- The Special Effect of Yusei's Ace Monster Stardust Dragon on Yu-Gi-Oh 5 Ds is essentially this trope -- it can be sacrificed to prevent any card-destroying effect, destroy the card responsible for the destruction, and revive at the end of your turn.
- During the Yu-Gi-Oh Doma arc, Yugi lets the Seal of Orichalcos take his soul, sparing Yami's.
- Daisuke says this in Digimon Adventure 02, trying to Take a Third Option and save his friends from being eaten in a Sadistic Choice. Then it's revealed that these were disguised monsters.
- Bokurano plays it straight when Kokopelli asked Koyemshi to let him do the demo battle and the last battle on their Earth so Yuu wouldn't have to battle and/or die. Being the kind of anime that it is, though it's subverted in that Koyemshi just decides to select Yuu as the last battle's pilot anyways, disregarding his promise, and sentencing her to death.
- Saito, from Zero no Tsukaima, doesn't give Louise an option. He drugs the wine used in their wedding, and passes off to their ally Julio, before taking off to fight the entire Albion army of 60,000.
- Milly Ashford tries this in Code Geass Nightmare of Nunnally when the terrorists occupying the hotel come to take Nunnally to Kusakabe, claiming that as the eldest daughter of the Ashford family, she has more value as a hostage. The terrorist tells her that the Ashfords don't have much political value any more and takes Nunnally anyway, causing Milly to suspect that they know Nunnally is a princess.
- Rosario to Vampire has Tsukune do this for his friends who had just been on the receiving end of a Curb Stomp Battle.
- In Death: The Time of Your Life, Death's lingering fondness for the protagonists leads her to agree to bring their baby back, but, she warns, she'll be back, and someone will be leaving with her...
- in Swamp Thing, Zatara sacrifices his life to save his daughter Zatanna from an evil power.
- In Usagi Yojimbo, Usagi's companion Kitsune the pickpocket tries to pull this trope when another friend of hers and her accomplice in minor thefts, the Gentle Giant Noodles, is caught (actually, framed for someone else's crimes) and is about to be crucified. She starts crying and screaming through the fence that she's the guilty one and that she should die. Her pleas are ignored and Noodles is executed anyway, leaving her a sobbing wreck in Usagi's arms.
- What If...? #9 sees the hostage Dwight D Eisenhower beg the Yellow Claw to kill him instead of Jimmy Woo. While the Yellow Claw admires the President's bravery, it would be ridiculous to get rid of his trump card like that.
- Beauty and the Beast has Belle using this exact line when she begs the Beast to imprison her instead of her father. Of course, since a kindhearted girl is exactly what the Beast wanted in the first place, he accepts.
- Father Damian in The Exorcist: "Take me!"
- Captain Needa decides to apologise in person to Lord Vader to minimise the fallout from his ship losing track of the heroes', knowing full what's going to happen to him.
- Max Shreck asks the Penguin to take him instead of his son in Batman Returns.
- Star Trek Generations. Captain Picard offers himself to the Duras sisters as a hostage if they will release Geordi La Forge. In First Contact he offers himself to the Borg Queen in exchange for Data. Fortunately, Data made other plans.
- In Darby O Gill and The Little People, Darby uses his third wish to go in his sick daughter's place when Death comes to claim her. His fourth wish is made on accident. The leprechaun shows up in Death's coach and says "I wish I could go with you." Darby casually says "Me too." Making a fourth wish negates all three previous wishes.
- In The Muppets Take Manhattan, a con artist cornered by police takes Camilla the chicken hostage. Gonzo says "Take me instead!" He takes Camilla and Gonzo.
- At the end of Jeepers Creepers Darry has been captured by the Creeper and is considering flying away with him to eat, Trish tearfully begs him to take her instead of her brother and that she is the one he wants. The Creeper pauses to consider it, then breaks out and flies away with Darry anyway. What happens afterwards isn't pretty.
- Captain Miller of Event Horizon offers himself in exchange for his crew to the possessed Dr. Weir, who responds, "No. There is no escape. The gateway is open, and you're all coming with me!"
- In the TV movie House of Frankenstein 1997, a vampire holds a woman's child hostage and has her call the protagonist (whom she is friends with) to lead him into a trap. After she reluctantly does so, the vampire proceeds to try to bite the child which the mother frantically offers herself. Of course, the vampire is a jerk and was looking to kill both of them anyway but luckily some ashes from her dead husband are enough to take the vampire down.
- Phone Booth
The Caller: ...Then I have to take somebody with me don't I? And since Kelly is the most important thing in your life, I'll take her.
Stu: No, take me! Take me! I'm the one you want!
- Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control
Lloyd: Let them go, I'm the one you want.
Bruce: No I am, I'm the brains, I went to MIT.
Lloyd: You know what? He did, take him.
Megatron: Come here, boy. You remember me, don't you?
Sam Witwicky: Just let them go, okay? It's me you want.
- Max uses a variation on this line to save his little sister in Hocus Pocus.
- Inverted in Penn and Teller Get Killed. When Penn & Teller and their female manager are abducted by thugs, Penn yells "Do what you want to the woman, but leave us alone!"
- Gomez said this to God in the 2nd The Addams Family film when he's horrified at the things his newborn son might become now that he's becoming normal. Also counts as a Funny Aneurysm Moment.
- At the end of The Lost Boys, Lucy is willing to let Max bite her in order to spare Michael and Sam. Grandpa saves her from this fate at the last second by crashing his jeep into the house.
- On the Run: Meg is taken hostage by the big bad, and her brother tries to take her place. The two fight over it, leading the big bad to laugh, and reveal that yes, he framed their parents; the Falconers are such loyal people, they'd do anything for family. Too bad for him Meg has a guardian guard pig, and the farm is bugged.
- In Dean Koontz's The Good Guy, Timothy Carrier encounters a hitman at a bar who mistakes him for the man who ordered the hit. The killer hands him $10,000 and a picture of a woman, promising the rest when she's gone. After Tim locates the woman, they are both hounded by the killer on a harrowing chase, and eventually he offers himself in the exact words, "take me instead'" so that she might go free.
- In Outlander, the villain captures the heroine, Claire, as she tries to rescue her husband Jamie from prison and hanging. Jamie offers himself to the villain, to torture and rape as he pleases without crying out or exposing him, if he'll let Claire free.
- In Watership Down, in the last legend of Prince El-ahrairah, the Prince of Rabbits is playing Chess with Death for the fate of his people. After he loses, he asks to die in their place. The Black Rabbit refuses (commenting that other rabbits offer him bargains like that all the time), but El-ahrairah tries to enforce the decision by jumping in one of the pits full of plagues, intending to catch a deadly disease and carry it home to the enemies besieging his warren. Then the Black Rabbit informs him that he is immune to that plague and cannot carry it ... but spares both him and his people because of El-ahrairah's bravery.
- Also done by Zak in The Dark Elf Trilogy's first book, Homeland to save Drizzt's life.
- In I, Claudius, when Caligula falls ill, some of his subjects make grandiose public announcements that if Death spares the Emperor, they'll kill themselves in his place. Later, when Caligula gets better, he forces them all to follow through on it.
- In The Last Command, Luke offers to stay with Joruus C'baoth if he lets Leia, Han, Mara, and Talon go. Fortunately for him, Joruus is power-hungry enough to refuse the offer.
- In Harry Potter, Mama Bear Lily Evans-Potter offers her life to Voldemort so he would let baby Harry live. He doesn't listen to her of course. And ultimately it was her Heroic Sacrifice what saved Harry by triggering a powerful ancient magic that protected him and destroyed Voldemort's body.
- This same magic is activated again when Harry allows Voldemort to kill him to save the world. When he comes Back From the Dead, he notices that none of the spells Voldemort tries to cast on anyone at Hogwarts affect them for very long.
- In Deathly Hallows, when Bellatrix gets Hermione to torture her, Ron offers himself to be taken instead of her. Bellatrix answers he can take her place... if Hermione dies under questioning.
- Painfully averted in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Those captured by the Ministry of Love inevitably give up their friends and family, some before being tortured, at hearing the threat. At the end, Winston tells O'Brien to take Julia instead, and do anything to her, to avoid having his face eaten off by rats. It later turns out that Julia betrayed him too.
Under the spreading chestnut tree,
I sold you and you sold me.
- Aslan secretly tells the White Witch this when she comes back for Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
- The Hunger Games: Katniss offers herself to possibly die in the place of her sister Primrose in the Hunger Games
- In the Star Trek: The Lost Era novel Well of Souls. The spirit lifeform Uramtali wants to use the telepathic civilian Ven Kaldarren as a host for her consciousness. Unfortunately for her, he's instinctively blocked her telepathic summons, and she can't reach him. As a back up plan, she lures his young son and another child instead, trying to possess them. She still wants Kaldarren, though; they're just bait and "incentive". She attempts to take the son (knowing Kaldarren would surrender himself for his child), but his mind is not suitable, so she's left possessing the other boy. This isn't quite so certain, but Kaldarren soon offers a Take Me Instead! anyway.
- The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents sees Maurice offering one of his nine lives to Death in exchange for Dangerous Beans'. Not a completely straight example, since he knew well enough that he wouldn't be going anywhere that moment, but still astonishingly selfless for a cat.
- In The Dresden Files novel Death Masks, Shiro appears to do this by offering to trade himself to Nicodemus in exchange for Dresden. However, at the end of the story, it's revealed that Shiro had terminal cancer and would have died soon regardless.
- In The Twilight Zone episode "One For the Angels", a salesman convinces Death to take him instead of a little girl who is sick.
- The street vendor was supposed to die that day, but he pleads with Death to let him live long enough to make one last great sales pitch. Death agrees. The man swears off making any more pitches and believes that he has cheated Death. Death then mentions that Someone Has to Die that day, and a little girl that the vendor knew is hit by a car. The vendor immediately offers to die instead, but Death refuses and leaves, promising to return to take the little girl before midnight. In an effort to stall him when he arrives, the vendor pitches himself as an assistant to the overworked Death. It's a great pitch that enthralls Death, and he misses the deadline to claim the little girl. The vendor then willingly goes with Death, having made his last great pitch. A more complicated example than most.
- Merlin spends most of 1X13 Offering his life in exchange for Arthur's after Arthur suffered a mortal...bite. in the same episode, we have Merlin trying to offer himself for his mother, Gaius doing so instead to protect Merlin, Merlin offering himself in exchange for Gaius, and ultimately the price paid is the life of the big bad of that season. Balancing Death's Books indeed.
- A Mad TV sketch takes place at a funeral, with a woman mourning her husband, screaming "Take me, Jesus! Take me instead!" Sure enough, Jesus shows up, brings the woman's husband back to life, and then asks the woman to go with him. Naturally, the woman wasn't expecting her wish to be granted, and Hilarity Ensues.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Surprise," Buffy and Angel are caught by Spike and about to be killed by the Judge, Buffy first. Angel offers "Take Me Instead! of her;" Spike replies, "You're not clear on the concept, pal. There is no 'instead.' Just 'first' and 'second.'"
- In the series finale of Life, Crews offers Roman to exchange himself for Dani. He then kills Roman with a punch to the throat and walks away unharmed.
- A variation occurs in the Supernatural episode "The Rapture." Castiel's former vessel, Jimmy, gets shot while trying to rescue his wife and daughter from demons. However, Castiel has taken up residence inside Jimmy's daughter Claire, and takes down the demons with ease. Castiel-in-Claire then tells the dying Jimmy that he can now be at peace. Jimmy begs Castiel to possess him again, instead of his daughter. Castiel says to Jimmy, "I want to make sure you understand. You won't die, or age. If this last year was painful for you, picture a hundred, a thousand more like it." Jimmy responds, "It doesn't matter! You take me! Just take me."
- In the Firefly episode "Safe," Simon says this when River is about to be burned at the stake by over-zealous backwoods villagers, asking them to kill him in her place. They refuse and decide to just burn them both (even though Simon just healed some sick villagers and he's the only doctor for miles around). They are only saved when the Big Damn Heroes show up in the moment that named the trope.
- Not exactly, after the townsfolk refuse his trade, he simply climbs up on the pyre anyways, FORCING them to kill them both if they want to kill River (Simon seems ok with it, since he wouldn't be able to live without her anyways)
- Cameron Mitchell tried this in one episode of Stargate SG-1. Of course, the bad guys of the episode just grabbed everyone and ignored him.
- O'Neill tries this too, it doesn't work for him either.
O'Neill: You can do anything you like with me.
Nirrti: (purring) I know.
- The Thin Blue Line episode "Fire and Terror" ends with a double Take Me Instead, the second instance throwing Gary the gay fireman out of the closet.
Lunatic: I'm armed, and I'm dangerous, and I'm gonna take a hostage
Habib: Take me!
Goody: No Maggie! you're too beautiful to die! Take me!
Gary: No Kev! you're too too beautiful to die! Take me!
- The number of times The Doctor has uttered this line or something similar to try and spare someone else's life. Let me count the ways...
- Fairly common in Police Procedurals involving a hostage crisis:
- A variation occurred on Cold Case, when the investigation of a drive-by shooting that killed a young girl over a decade ago revealed that her then-12 year old brother had done so (he was aiming at the man his mother was having an affair with). When they came to arrest the young man his middle-aged father tries to confess rather than let his son go to jail for murder.
- In the first season of Twenty Four, one of the thugs that has kidnapped Terri and Kim Bauer tries to drag Kim out of the room to rape her. Terri offers herself instead, promising not to fight, and the guy agrees. Terri uses the opportunity to steal his cell phone.
- Making this one Older Than Feudalism is the myth of Admetus and Alcestis. Admetus is a beloved king; and, when he is due to die, Death agrees to allow him to live if he can find another willing to die in his stead. However, he is unable to find anyone - for all that his subjects love him, they don't love him enough to die for him, with even his father refusing to do it. Finally, believing himself doomed, he returns to his room - to find that his wife, Alcestis, has already agreed to die in his place, and promptly expires. Admetus lives - but in the knowledge that he has lost the one person who loved him enough to die for him. Then, in a surprise twist happy ending, Admetus's Hot-Blooded friend Heracles arrives and punches out Death to bring Queen Alcestis back.
- In the first part of the Adventures in Odyssey episode "The Perfect Witness" Katrina Shanks speaks this trope verbatim to the criminals who were robbing the bookstore where she worked and were kidnapping young, blind costumer Jenny.
- There is one instance in Baldurs Gate where you can offer yourself instead of your love-interest.
- The 'Ritual of Soul Transfer', appears in several places in the Valkyrie Profile series of games, and allows anyone to sacrifice their own life to resurrect a recently deceased. You get a couple of... 'recruits' that way.
- Hazuki does this in Moonphase at some point in the series to spare the others from the antagonist's torture.
- Lampshaded in Crash Twinsanity.
- Laharl desperately tries to invoke this when Flonne gets flower-ized in Disgaea's endings.
- In Quest for Glory IV, one of the main quests involves making a Heroic Sacrifice in order to bring a little vampire girl back from the dead, exchanging her life for the hero's. Instead of the hero dying, the girl's Pet Monstrosity ends up exchanging his own life, in a particularly tear-jerking scene.
- Early in Final Fantasy XIII, Snow offers himself as a L'cie in return for the Pulse Fal'cie turning Serah back to normal. It doesn't listen.
- Heiss does this in Radiant Historia, in a truly tearjerking moment, in a desperate effort to save the one person he gave a damn about.
- Ninian pulls this almost at the end of Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade, to protect her brother Nils from the enemy. It works, but she later dies in terribly tragic circumstances.
- In one episode of Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, the characters are attempting to sneak deeper into Freelancer Command and come up with the plan for Washington to pretend to take Church prisoner to get past the guards. Caboose, being stupid, doesn't understand the "pretend" part, and attempts a Take Me Instead!.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang volunteers to surrender to Zuko if he agrees to stop attacking the Water Tribe village.
- Some years earlier, a woman named Kya confessed to being a waterbender and offered herself to the raiders attacking them as a prisoner. Unfortunately the commander of said raid did not see fit to take prisoners and murdered her on the spot. Unfortunately for him, Kya was covering for her young daughter Katara, the actual last Waterbender of the Southern tribe, who eventually tracked him down to correct the misunderstanding and almost killed him.
- Inverted in an episode of Family Guy when Death comes for Quagmire are he fakes his own death and his new wife (who he faked the death in the first place to get away from) tries to block death from getting (Glenn) Quagmire. After being touched by death, she dies. When Death tells everyone he needs to take someone, everyone convinces him to take her, noting that she was suicidal and her (last) name WAS Quagmire.
- The time Big Fat Paulie had a hit put on Lois, Peter offered to take her place.
- Kindly inverted in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, when deciding who should get the last ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala.
Applejack: Twilight, sugar, I...I didn't mean to put so much pressure on you. And if it helps, I don't want the ticket anymore. You can give it to somepony else; I won't feel bad. I promise.
Fluttershy: Me too. I feel just awful that I made you feel so awful.
Pinkie Pie: And me too. It's no fun upsetting your friends.
Rarity: Twilight, it was unfair of me to try to force you as I did.
Rainbow Dash: YES! That means the ticket is mine! Ha, ha, ha; ♪I got the ti-cket, I got the ti-cket!♪
[Beat with disapproving glares]
Rainbow Dash: Y'know...I haven't perfected my signature moves for the Wonderbolts anyway...I don't need that ticket either.
- Used and Inverted in The Simpsons. In a Halloween Special, Homer stands in front of a group of brain eating zombies, saying to take him and leave his family. The zombies crowd around, feeling his head... then go "no brain" (to Homer's annoyance) and chase after the rest of Homer's family. In another Homer says, "Please don't eat me, I have a wife and kids... eat them instead!"
- American Dad: While in Saudi Arabia, Stan offers to take Francine's place in being stoned to death. He ends up joining her...and Steve...and Hailey.
- In the "Coon vs. Coon and Friends" episode of South Park Cartman has Cthulu banish his friends to the sunken city of R'Lyeh fallen from the stars. Mysterion, who wakes up in bed after he is killed, commits suicide there to confront the Coon and Cthulu. He tells Cthulu to take him instead of his friends and rid him of his Immortality Hurts curse as only an immortal can kill another immortal. His friends are saved.... by Mintberry Crunch.
- The Somali pirate situation: the captain said "take me and let my crew go" or words to that effect.
- Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe was a Catholic priest sent to Auschwitz in 1941 because he sheltered Jews and openly spoke against the Nazis. When one man from his barracks was missing, the Nazis decided to kill ten random people by starvation. One of them, a Polish woodworker named Franciszek Gajowniczek, was worried about what would happen to him since he still had a family outside, so Kolbe volunteered instead, and led the other condemned prisoners in song and prayer for three weeks. The Catholic Church canonized him in 1982, and the man he saved attended his canonization.
- His fellow Badass Preacher Grigol Peradze(from the Georgian Orthodox Church) also was imprisoned in Auschwitz... and he either took the blame for the murder of a German officer to spare his fellow prisoners or willingly entered a gas-chamber in the place of a Jewish prisoner who had a large family (again, not unlike Father Kolbe).
- Blessed Marianna Biernacka was a Polish-Belarusian woman who pulled this in 1943, saving her pregnant daughter-in-law Anna from being imprisoned and executed by Nazi soldiers via willingly offering herself to be executed in her place.