A life debt is a literary phenomenon in which someone whose life is saved or spared by another becomes indebted or in some way connected to their savior. A life debt can only be paid off by saving the original savior's life in return.
Examples in fiction
- In the English novel Robinson Crusoe, Crusoe saves the life of the native Friday who swears to be his slave.
- In the Star Wars expanded universe, Chewbacca swore a life debt to Han Solo for saving him from slavery under the Galactic Empire (Star Wars).
- In the English novel Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Peter Pettigrew becomes indebted to Harry Potter after the boy spares Pettigrew's life.
- Life debts are an important part of the Northern Tribes of Velgarth, a planet in the American novels Valdemar Saga.
- In the movie Shrek 2, the character Puss In Boots owes Shrek a life debt for sparing the cat's life.
- In the movie Oz the Great and Powerful, Oscar saves the life of the flying monkey Finley and is pledged a life debt.
- In the movie Pacific Rim, Mako Mori feels a life debt to her adopted father Stacker Pentecost for saving her from a kaiju.
- In the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Azeem proclaims that he owes Robin of Locksley a life debt.
- In the movie Little Big Man, Jack Crabb (aka Little Big Man) saves the life of Younger Bear, who comes to hate him for the life debt incurred. Younger Bear finally repays the debt at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
- Numerous television situation comedies have used the concept of the life debt, and problems in repayment of it, as a plot for an episode. Examples include The Andy Griffith Show, The Odd Couple, The Brady Bunch, The Jeffersons and American Dad!.
- Bray, Adam (2015-09-04). Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know (1st ed.). DK Children. ISBN 978-1465437853. Search this book on
- The Andy Griffith Show: "Andy Saves Gomer", The Odd Couple: "You Saved My Life", The Brady Bunch: "My Brother's Keeper", The Jeffersons: "Tom The Hero", American Dad!: "You Debt Your Life"
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