Does (or did) any culture actually have the concept of a life debt?

It’s a meme in TV shows and movies: I save someone’s life, that person is bound to me until he saves mine.

Does any culture actually practice this? Was it used in any ancient cultures?

Google finds over 13,000,000 hits on the phrase “I owe my life”, so some concept of a life debt has to be commonly implicit, at least, I think. It depends on how “bound” we mean, perhaps.

Sounds like something thats easy to abuse. If I said “Hey dont drink that water, its poisonous, oh I just saved your like, thus you are my slave until your dying day.” I really doubt this was part of any mainstream culture. It would lead to an easy way to turn a non-slave into a slave.

Ancient cultures were almost universally slave states, so I dont even see why this would be needed or tolerated. A non-slave or slave owner would never make willingly make himself a slave.

I always imagined a life debt as not a debt on which a creditor can collect, but one that a debtor pays out of a sense of duty and gratitude. With that in mind, does the presence of readily-available slave-labor matter?

I’m not even talking about slavery, per se. You’ll recall that Morgan Freeman’s character in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves was hardly Robin’s slave. In fact, MF was kind of a prick to RH, but he felt honor-bound to stay with him until he saved Robin’s life in return. And it seemed to me that it was MF’s decision as to whether or not he had successfully saved Robin’s life, not Robin’s decision.

I’ve been hoping we’ll get some good examples from real cultures… but I think the Robin Hood example illustrates why this might be an exaggeration used for literary purposes.

Imagine that you’re a writer. How else can you get two character together who are totally different and who don’t particularly like each other? You want your witty banter and your insightful jokes on cultural differences, so you concoct some reason why the two have to stick together. Aha! The “noble savage” feels honor-bound to stay and the “regular guy” hero can’t get rid of him. Problem solved.

As for real life examples, there is famously casanova, who saved the life of a nobleman who then became a “life long patron” of casanova’s