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In the beginning of the film Batman Begins after Bruce takes down the league of shadows' monastery, he saves Ducard's life and leaves him with one of the locals who says:

I will tell him you saved his life.

Later in the movie, when Ducard and the league show up at Wayne Manor, they set it on fire and leave Bruce for dead after Ducard says the following:

Justice is balance. You burned my house and left me for dead. Consider us even.

But Bruce did not leave him for dead. So is he just overlooking this detail to justify his actions? It seems out of character.

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    "Leaving for dead" could be more metaphorical - Bruce destroyed his house, destroyed his ninjas, his power, he was left with nothing - no people, no money, no food, no house. Even though he was alive, he was left to die from starvation, etc. – TK-421 Jan 14 at 7:24
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    He was left in the care of a local monk. I don't think he would have let him die of starvation. – sanpaco Jan 14 at 7:50
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    FWIW, the "left me for dead" line is either the interpretation that others are placing upon it (i.e. that he considers it as if Bruce had left him for dead), or its a mistake by the character, or its a mistake by the writers. It seem unlikely that it would be a mistake by either the character or the writers - they explicitly put the 'I will tell him you saved his life" line in the movie ... therefore there is only one remaining conclusion. The facts and evidence are the line itself - he clearly believes Bruce betrayed him. – iandotkelly Jan 15 at 2:08
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    Concerning "left me for dead": Consider Alfred. Alfred (Bruce's one-and-only help) is left unhindered to save Bruce from the fire. Coincidence? Surely an all-knowing LoS and (even a vindictive) Ra's would not make such an egregious over site if the real goal was to kill Bruce. A stretch? Maybe. I see it similar to TK - Bruce seemingly took everything from Ra's (not Ducard), ergo Ra's seemingly returned the favor. Fittingly, both attempts failed and both rose from the ashes. Balance. – OhBeWise Jan 15 at 13:43
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Ducard is actually Ra's Al Ghul. The "Ra's" that Bruce leaves for dead in the monastery when he burns it down is a decoy. So Bruce did try to kill Ra's and burned down his house, he just killed the wrong guy and the real Ra's came back for revenge.

Hence the line "You burned my house and left me for dead."

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    @sanpaco Bruce did burn down Ra's Al Ghuls monastery and did try to kill everyone there he only saved Ducard out of 'compassion' (as he was his mentor) which Ducard repeatedly says is Bruces biggest weakness. I mean if a man were to burn the house of a mafia lord down and kill all his mean while saving a servant who (unknown to the man) was the mafia lord in hiding would not not expect the mafia lord to come after the man ? [keep in mind Ra's is far more ruthless than a simple mafia lord, hes the leader of a cult of assassins] – Karan Shishoo Jan 14 at 6:19
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    He said "you left me for dead", yet Bruce did not leave him for dead. The league of shadows are ruthless but their religion is justice. Just as he says, justice is balance, in other words an eye for an eye. Burning down Wayne Manor fits this logic, but leaving Bruce to die does not because Bruce did not leave Ra's/Ducard to die. He saved his life. Therefore in order for justice to be balanced, Ra's would need to save Bruce's life. – sanpaco Jan 14 at 6:45
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    @sanpaco He did leave "Him", Ra's Al Ghul, to death. He saved Ducard. – SZCZERZO KŁY Jan 14 at 11:06
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    @sanpaco You are asking for the meaning of "you left me for dead". A sensible answer is that Ra Al Ghul considers "attempting to kill Ra Al Ghul, thinking you had succeeded, and walking away" is sufficient for "you left me for dead" to make sense. Even if you also saved someone you didn't think was Ra Al Ghul, but was Ra Al Ghul. Are you confused, or do you just think Ra Al Ghul isn't sufficiently clear for his personality, or what? – Yakk Jan 14 at 16:03
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    @sanpaco Think of it this way: Bruce did want to leave Ra's Al Ghul for dead in the burning building, and tried to do so. Had he known that Liam Neeson's character was Ra's, Bruce presumably would have left him to die. Bruce wanted Ra's dead, not some random guy. – Upper_Case Jan 14 at 20:46
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Karan Shishoo's answer is almost certainly correct (Bruce tried to kill Ra's, and only mistaken identity caused him to drag Liam Neeson's character to safety. Had he known who Ra's really was, he would not have done so), but there is an important element of the movie that that answer leaves out: the difference between personal identity and symbolic identity. Batman as a symbol and an idea, more than as a specific person, is referenced frequently in the film.

Bruce's aim in burning down the monastery was primarily to break the League of Shadows, with which he had come to disagree. Whether or not he wanted Liam Neeson's character dead, he certainly wanted Ra's al Ghul, the purportedly immortal leader and director of that organization, to be finished. That Ra's true identity was hidden behind a dupe strongly parallels Bruce's own dual identity as Bruce Wayne and Batman.

Ra's may or may not have cared much if Bruce Wayne lived or died. But he cared very much about whether or not Batman lived or died, because Batman was directly opposing his efforts. Ra's tried to leave Batman to die in the fire, and had identified the correct person "under the mask" to target for that. He wanted to kill the symbol that Bruce had made Batman into, because Bruce was using that symbol to keep Gotham together while Ra's and the League were trying to destroy it.

That is pretty symmetrical to Bruce's actions: he tried to leave Ra's to die in a fire. But Ra's' mask was more effective than Bruce's, so the result was that some guy died but the symbol of Ra's al Ghul did not. Consequently the League's plans for Gotham continued, despite setbacks.

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  • Its an interesting theory but based on assumptions that I disagree with. I don't think that Bruce deliberately was trying to kill Ra's al Ghul in the monastery. Wouldn't it be kind of hypocritical for him to refuse to execute a known criminal only to deliberately kill a mercenary? He knew the only way out of the situation was to fight and the fire and deaths that happened were accidental not deliberate. Again I'm more than happy to be convinced otherwise but so far all the answers I've seen are complicating things and trying to make claims that don't make logical sense. – sanpaco Jan 14 at 21:42
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    @sanpaco If you're not convinced that's probably that. I haven't seen the movie in a while, but I don't recall any more in it on this issue and we're stuck with trying to interpret what was shown, so this is probably as much as I'll be able to offer. Though, for the record, Bruce only bothered trying to save one person from the monastery, and it's far from clear that his "only way out" was to fight an army right then. The decision to not save Ra's on the train is similar to not saving Ducard from the fire, but Bruce made different choices in each case. I don't see hypocrisy there for Bruce. – Upper_Case Jan 14 at 21:51
  • "and it's far from clear that his "only way out" was to fight an army right then". Actually its pretty clear. Maybe not if you haven't watched the movie I guess. – sanpaco Jan 14 at 22:14
  • @sanpaco As I said, I haven't seen the movie in some time. I have watched it, and a ninja assassin should have ample opportunities to escape various situations, particularly when they are entrusted with heading the invasion they want to prevent for the organization they want to escape, of which they are one of the most skilled members. But if everything is so crystal clear to you as you've presented it, then the mystery of that line of dialogue will remain with you forever. – Upper_Case Jan 14 at 22:26
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    @sanpaco - You are clearly not happy to be convinced otherwise. All the answers here have a common thread which makes perfect logical sense and is not complicated at all. Liam Neeson's character is saying "You came to Ra's al Ghul's house, burned it down, and left Ra's al Ghul for dead". Plain and simple. And correct. Everybody else is understanding it this way. The duality between alter egos is a staple of superhero/supervillain stories. It's also the mechanism by which mortal enemies can also be romantic partners (which I suppose you may also find confusing). – John Y Jan 14 at 22:30
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Emotion is a complicated thing.

Sure, Bruce saved Ducard, and left him in care so that he could continue to survive.

Bruce was clearly hoping that this information would be enough for Ducard to be okay with all of this.

Unfortunately, despite Bruce's best efforts, he was not. Bruce had burned down the house, and apparently the literal act of saving his life was not enough to leave Ducard with the feeling that Bruce had just dumped him on somebody else's doorstep and left him alone to get on with whatever little pieces were left of his life. In Ducard's defence, that's exactly what happened.

This feeling then spurred a vendetta of revenge. It's not far-fetched.

So it's not literal, but it's pretty close.

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