A common trope in fiction is the "life debt," wherein two characters become "bound together by a bond of oath" because one has saved the other's life.
- Often the two characters are strangers when the lifesaving incident occurs
- Often one of the characters comes from a primitive culture wherein the tradition of a "life debt" is an unavoidable consequence
- either the person who gets saved feels indebted to the savior, and thereafter swears allegiance
- or the person who is the savior prevents the saved person from "meeting his fate" and thereafter must take responsibility for changing fate by watching over the person who was saved
- the story then may include a role-reversal scenario that absolves the subservient person from further responsibility
We consumers of media have seen this concept of a "life debt" haphazardly bandied about... from Gilligan's Island to Star Wars.
What is the determining cultural factor that governs which person becomes indebted, subservient or responsible?
(Wikipedia defines the "life debt" as a purely "literary phenomenon" - but can you think of any real-world cultures that are known to have this tradition?)