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Which way now?


Run my baby run my baby run

Run from the noise of the street and the loaded gun

Too late for solutions to solve in the setting sun

So run my baby run my baby run
Garbage, "Run Baby Run"

The Runaway is a child or teenager who runs away from their home and parents or guardians. They can do this for a variety of reasons, but there are three motivations commonly used in fiction:

  • The Circus Runaway: a child wants to run away to the circus (or some other "exotic" location) because they feel they are not appreciated by their parents or given enough attention. If successful, becomes a Circus Brat or The One Who Made It Out. Probably a Discredited Trope (or perhaps a Dead Unicorn Trope) by now, especially the "circus" part.
  • The Abused Runaway: a child or teenager who runs away from a truly abusive or unloving parent. Much more serious than the first reason, but if done in sitcom, can lead to a Very Special Episode.
  • The Orphan Runaway: a child or teenager who runs away because they have no one left, nowhere to go. Often the most tragic of runaways and can sometimes lead the story to Grave of the Fireflies territory.

The Runaway may be going to a Runaway Hideaway.

Examples of The Runaway include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • All the Runaways start out being on the run from terrible parents. After the first arc, they are orphans.
  • All versions of the backstory of Rogue in Marvel's X-Men comics have her running away from home as a young teen or pre-teen, although no two issues have been able to agree on whether she ran away after her mutation activated and left a boy in a coma, or had already run away from home before that because of an unstable and/or abusive home life.
  • Megan McKeenan from Local has a history of running away, not only from her parents, but from boyfriends, roommates, and bad jobs. She even knows this is bad and resolves to stop running...some day.
  • Shazam: Young Billy Batson was essentially a runaway, living on the streets; except in his case his miserly uncle threw him out at the age of 8 after getting his hands on Billy's parents' estate.

Film - Animated

  • In Aladdin, Princess Jasmine meets Aladdin when she runs away to avoid being forced to marry. It doesn't last long.
  • We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story features Louie, a Circus Runaway, joined by Cecila and the dinosaurs.

Film - Live-Action

  • On Our Own is about four orphans who run away to avoid being split up in foster care.
  • In the first X Men film, Rogue runs away from home after a kiss to her boyfriend causes him to have seizure and puts him in a coma for three weeks.
  • In the Disney movie Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken the main character runs away from her aunt's home and starts riding horses in a traveling show.
  • In the new Star Trek film, George Samuel Kirk, the older brother of Captain James T. Kirk, ran away from home when the brothers were young to escape their stepfather's constant abuse.
  • The film version of The Wizard of Oz has Dorothy running away because no one would listen to her about Miss Gulch coming to take Toto away to be killed. She actually doesn't run away until Toto comes back.
  • Annie: Annie runs away from the orphanage. When she's caught and returned, it's implied she's done it before:

  "All you ever do is run away."



  • The title character of the novel Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli is an orphan who runs away from his aunt and uncle because he is tired of being caught in the middle of their cartoonish marital problems. His subsequent adventures turn him into a larger-than-life folk hero who ends up inspiring racial tolerance in an inner city neighborhood.
  • Older Than Radio examples from From Mark Twain:
    • Tom Sawyer briefly runs away from home with a couple of friends to play at being pirates.
    • Huckleberry Finn (fakes his own death to escape his alcoholic father and rafts down the Mississippi with an escaped slave) and Oliver Twist (after the orphanage where he grew up sells him to an undertaker as an assistant, he runs away to London where he is taken in by a gang of pickpockets before being reunited with his charming, modestly wealthy relatives).
  • The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman is about the spoiled and arrogant Prince Brat who runs away from home out of boredom, dragging with him his poor, much-abused servant Jem (the titular Whipping Boy, whose job, it being illegal to strike the prince, was to take his beatings for him when he misbehaved). The two boys come to respect and eventually befriend each other before finally finding their way home.
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsberg: a brother and sister run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the end, they return home.
  • The title character of Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis runs away from an unpleasant foster family to track down the man he suspects may be his father.
  • In the book The Mysterious Benedict Society, three of the four main characters are runaways. Constance's situation is never explained in detail. Sticky ran away from overbearing parents, and Kate joined the circus after her father disappeared. In the end, Constance gets adopted, Sticky goes back to his very worried parents, and Kate's Disappeared Dad gets a Luke, I Am Your Father. It has been revealed that Constance was an orphan who ran away from the orphanage in order to avoid the Ten Men.
  • In Steven Gould's book Jumper, the main character soon runs away from an abusive father once he discovers his ability to teleport.
  • Pinocchio runs away from his creator/father, Geppetto. The book version is actually far more disturbing than the Disney movie, featuring the puppet being hanged and then nursed back life by the Blue Fairy, before he goes on the run again, and eventually, turns into a donkey, gets swallowed by a whale, and etc.
  • In Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, Paul Dempster runs away to join the circus.
  • Harry Potter:
  • In one of the Smallville novels, Clark runs away to Metropolis. This is similar to an plotline that occurs in the TV Series, except that in the novel, Clark doesn't put on a red kryptonite ring and go insane.
  • In Dinoverse, Janine Farehouse tries this. She and three other eighth-graders were cast back in time and put into the bodies of prehistoric beasts, a Quetzalcoatlus in her case. She was happy. Eventually she abandoned the others to try to live as a pterosaur, feeling like she wasn't valued at home and wouldn't be missed. One of the others had to go and talk her into helping them.
  • After the Quake. Landscape with flatiron. Junko ran away from home in her third year of highschool. Her reasons weren't mentioned.
  • The protagonist from My Side of the Mountain has a perfect relationship with his parents and a nice life, still decides to run away to the Catskill Mountain and live in a hollowed out tree for the pure adventure of it all.
  • Hollyleaf from Warrior Cats runs away at the end of the Power of Three arc after learning a shocking secret that leaves her feeling betrayed by her family.
    • Crookedstar was a runaway as a kit, but he didn't mean to stay away from his Clan for a long time. By the time he gets back, he soon becomes an apprentice rather late.
  • Halt ran away from his native Hibernia when his brother tried to kill him.

Live Action TV

  • The Brady Bunch: "Every Boy Does It Once," even youngest son Bobby, who wants to leave the family in this early first-season episode because his stepmother and stepsisters are "evil." "Evil stepmother" Carol convinces Bobby that such is not true. This fits the "circus runaway" trope.
  • Little House On the Prairie:
    • Albert, a street urchin introduced in the Winoka episodes to open the fifth season, is a runaway orphan who is ultimately adopted by the Ingalls.
    • In the final season, the folks of Walnut Grove meet Matthew, a deaf and mute boy who is literally "The Wild Boy" (after having run away from the circus to escape a cruel master). Mr. Edwards adopts him for awhile, until Matthew's biological father shows up.
  • Buffy runs away at the end of season two, not because her mother was unloving, however, but her mother found out she was the Slayer, she had killed Angel, and she was wanted for murder.
  • Pushing Daisies: Emerson was once hired to find a girl who had run away to join the circus.
  • Jenny Humphrey ran away from home in season two of Gossip Girl (and kind of did it again for one night in late season three).
  • Carmen runs away in an episode of The George Lopez Show. George finds her in a hotel in Hollywood as a groupie for the rapper Chingy.


  • The aptly named Soul Asylum song "Runaway Train" has this as its theme. The video even went so far as to post the pictures of people[1] who were missing at the time it was made, with at least a couple or so updated versions.
  • Rapper Ludacris has a song called "Runaway Love" about an abused runaway.
  • The second verse of Cowboy Troy's "If You Don't Wanna Love Me" is about one.

Music Videos

  • The video for the Pat Benatar song "Love is a Battlefield" has the main character run away from home after a fight with her parents. She ends up dancing at a sleazy club (in the original concept for the video, she was a hooker). Sadly, the boy who played Benatar's kid brother in the video later ran away from home in real life; no word on what happened to him.

Tabletop Games

  • In the Mystara setting's kingdom of Karameikos, it's an unspoken tradition for human youths to run away from home and live under an alias for a few months, to prove to themselves and their families that they're capable of taking care of themselves. Hard feelings aren't usually involved, and the runaways often find jobs with distant relatives who know exactly who they are, but play along with the ruse that they've hired a stranger. Basically an even more lighthearted variant of the Circus Runaway.


  • In the musical version of Spring Awakening it's implied that the character Ilse ran away after being sexually abused by her father.

Video Games


Web Original

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Toph Bei-Fong. Her parents weren't physically abusive, but were definitely cold and stifling (even hiring bounty hunters to bring her back).
    • Ty Lee preferred life as a circus acrobat to life among upper-end Fire Nation aristocracy, but Princess Azula "convinced" her to come away and help hunt her brother down.
  • In one episode of The Fairly Odd Parents, Timmy runs away to join a carnival. It turns out kids wish for this so often that Fairy World runs a carnival to serve as a safe place for kids to go until they come back to their senses.
  • Penny in The Rescuers, though in her case, she was already an orphan. She was trying to run away (that is to say, escape) from her kidnappers, and failed each time, until the mice of the Rescue Aid Society turn up to help.
  • In Don Bluth's Banjo the Woodpile Cat, Banjo runs away from home after his father tells him to fetch his own switch to be beaten with.
  • In an episode of Rugrats, Angelica runs away because Drew punishes her for wrecking his office equipment, claiming that he'll be sorry. She stops by Tommy's house, and later sees her dad laughing with Tommy's parents, thinking he's happy she ran away. He didn't even know she was gone.
  • In the Pingu episode "Pingu Runs Away", Pingu runs away from his home after getting spanked by his parents for ruining their dinner. Despite running away, Pingu's parents think he'll show up again, that is until it gets late. They soon realize that they were too hard on him. They didn't even know that he was going to be gone for so long.
  • An episode of The Littles deals with this, but doesn't appear to be any of the three. A one off "bigg" (The Littles' name for us normal sized humans) girl runs away because her father threatened to send her to a special school where her friends "wouldn't be such a bad influence" on her unless she got straight As on her report card, discovering that she had gotten one "B" and one "C".
  • Deirdre, one of the Starlight girls runs away in the two part Jem episode "The Music Awards". After Jerrica kept blowing her off, the straw came when Jerrica blew her off as Jem. Fortunately, Jerrica/Jem learned her lesson and Deirdre eventually came back home.
  • In the COPS episode "The Case of the Runaway Buzzbomb", Buzzbomb runs away after Big Boss hurts his feelings. He is joined by Highway's niece, who is also running away because she did something that would make her uncle mad if he found out.
  1. At least some of who were runaways
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