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View Full Version : "You can saw through the cuffs in 30 mins, your leg in 10." Who came up with this first?


griffin1977
01-20-2014, 07:01 PM
A protagonist ends locked up in some kind of peril (typical fire or imminent explosion), he is told that he has X minutes until he burns alive or is blown up, or whatever. He has access to a saw, and the chains restraining him cannot be cut through in that time, he is told, but the limb he is chained up to can be. So he is given a "Sophie's Choice" between horrible death or self-mutilation.

Various variants of this have turned up in popular culture over the years (Mad Max, Watchmen, and Saw). But the situation is basically the same (though in Saw, it is innocent victims that must make the choice, in the other examples it is someone who has committed a terrible crime and the choice is part of a vicious revenge). Who came up with it first? (It was not "Sophie's Choice" the dilemma in that novel was nothing like the one described). The earliest example of those above was Mad Max (1979), is that the first occurrence of this in any medium?

Left Hand of Dorkness
01-20-2014, 08:05 PM
Various variants of this have turned up in popular culture over the years (Mad Max, Watchmen, and Saw). But the situation is basically the same (though in Saw, it is innocent victims that must make the choice, in the other examples it is someone who has committed a terrible crime and the choice is part of a vicious revenge). Who came up with it first? (It was not "Sophie's Choice" the dilemma in that novel was nothing like the one described). The earliest example of those above was Mad Max (1979), is that the first occurrence of this in any medium?
Mad Max is the earliest I saw it, and it really bothered me for a long time, until it occurred to me that the criminal probably just sawed through the exhaust pipe and got away.

Larry Borgia
01-20-2014, 08:20 PM
Here's TV tropes. Have fun.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LifeOrLimbDecision

Little Nemo
01-20-2014, 10:55 PM
Which reminds me of a joke:

How do you know you've caught a stupid coyote?
He's chewed through three legs and he's still caught in the trap.

griffin1977
01-21-2014, 11:35 AM
Here's TV tropes. Have fun.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LifeOrLimbDecision

Somewhat embarrassed (as I am a huge fan of the book, but had forget this scene) to see the earliest example they give is Maedhros from Tolkien's The Silmarillion. Though I am not sure that counts, as someone else frees him but cutting off his arm.

griffin1977
01-21-2014, 11:40 AM
So based on Larry Borgia's TV Tropes link I think Shakespeare wins this one for Titus Andronicus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titus_Andronicus). It is not exactly the same but close enough to convince me this is the origin of this trope:

Aaron frames Titus's sons Martius and Quintus for the murder of Bassianus with a forged letter..... Aaron then visits Titus, falsely telling him that Saturninus will spare Martius and Quintus if either Titus, Marcus or, Titus's remaining son, Lucius, cuts off one of their hands and sends it to him. Titus has Aaron cut off his hand and send it to the emperor, but in return, a messenger brings Titus Martius and Quintus' severed heads, along with Titus's severed left hand.

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