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Tragic Heroes

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It's not her fault. She's programmed with the most tragic back-story ever.
~ Kohut

The tragic heroes are part of a longstanding literary concept; these are characters with fatal flaw (like pride, for example) who is doomed to fail in search of their goals despite their best efforts or good intentions.

They are also not in full control of their actions/emotions and hence the reader/viewer can sympathize with them due to them not being alone by choice, but rather by them being (for the most part) a victim of circumstance. In an common breeder, these misfortunes can also cause these heroes to lose everyone they love and/or have every dream unfulfilled and broken is the most realistic way to turn a God Amongst Men into a pathetic crying wreck. In fact, they suffer from many parts including:

  1. The hero perseveres over the trials of life, rises above it and becomes a better person for it all. This tragic hero is the Iron Woobie.
  2. The protagonist throws off his hero mantle, tramples it, and in a cold rush of unrelenting cynicism becomes a villain just as bad, if not worse, than the antagonist. This tragic hero is the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
  3. The hero curls into a figurative or literal catatonic ball in a cold dark corner, then proceeds to give up on life and the world. This tragic hero is the part of Despair Event Horizon.
  4. The character goes out in a blaze of bloodthirsty rage realizing that the best way out is by taking it out on everyone. This tragic hero is part of Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  5. The character loses their sense of idealism, but not their morality. Most Anti Heroes who started out as an Ideal Hero are Type E. This hero is the Knight in Sour Armor.
  6. An rarest type: this character just shrug their shoulders at the Deus Angst Machina. No lessons are learned nor does the character behave differently. All that's changed is that the character now sleeps in a cardboard box and eats out of dumpsters. This tragic hero has a dissonant serenity even in the most dire of situations.
  7. Somewhere between the Despair Event Horizon and unbreakable resolve of the Iron Woobie is a common middle ground, where the survivor is clearly damaged by the ordeal, but is not lost completely or rendered insane (and thus has hope of recovery to Type A). This tragic hero is the Woobie.

These characters are not to be confused with byronic heroes, who are charismatic characters with strong passions and beliefs, yet are nonetheless deeply flawed individuals.

Examples of Tragic Heroes include:

  • Norman Bates was abused by his mother from childhood.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog was created by Professor Gerald Robotnik from Black Doom's blood to be the Ultimate Lifefrom and to provide a cure capable of curing people suffering from Neuro-Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (NIDS), particularly Gerald's granddaughter, Maria. However, before this could be done, G.U.N. soldiers raided the space colony ARK and murdered everyone onboard, including Maria, who was Shadow's closest friend.
  • Po lost his homeland and family because of Lord Shen.
  • Anakin Skywalker turns to the Dark Side of the Force when he is told that the powers of the Dark Side will save his pregnant wife Padme from impending death.
  • Big Boss was forced to kill his own mentor/spiritual mother to prevent nuclear war.
  • Several of Naruto heroes
    • Itachi Uchiha murdered his entire clan and left his younger brother, Sasuke Uchiha, alone and traumatically scared. The reason he did this was because they were planning on taking control of the Tailed Fox, Kurama to take over the Leaf Village/Konohagakure. The leader of Foundation/Root, Shimura, and the third hokage Hiruzen sarutobi sent him on that mission. He loved the village more than his clan, so that is why he accepted, but he loved his brother more than the village, so he couldn't kill him, too. In addition, if he did not act, the village would have, and Itachi wanted Sasuke's hatred to be toward him rather than the very village he fought to protect.
    • Naruto Uzumaki lost his parents in the Nine-Tails attack when he was a newborn and became the third jinchūriki of Kurama on the day of his birth. At the result, he became ostracised and neglected by most of Konoha throughout his childhood.
  • Due to having a lack of control of her ice powers when she was young, Elsa accidentally injured her sister, Anna while they were playing, thus receiving a vision of her possible future where she is seemingly attacked by an angry mob due to her powers. Therefore, the King promised to help Elsa control her powers, but the incident left the latter traumatized by them. As a result, the King and Queen ordered the gates to be locked for Elsa and Anna's safety and from then on, Elsa forcibly and willingly spent the rest of her life distanced from other people, including Anna, trying to keep her powers from growing out of control and harming those she cared about.
  • Finn Mertens had been abandoned in the woods during infancy. He made a defecation on a large leaf and fell on it. He lay there crying until Jake's parents, Joshua and Margaret, rescued him from the wilderness and brought him to their home.
  • Al Bundy used to be a high school football star and was eligible for a scholarship and had a part-time job as a shoe salesman. However, one night he got drunk and accidentally married Peggy Wanker. He also broke his leg, costing him his scholarship and forcing him to become a full-time shoe salesman. These events led Al to become a miserable, beaten down man.
  • Butters Stotch is a constant victim of child abuse, which led him to become Professor Chaos.
  • Carrie White unleashes her hidden telekinetic powers upon everyone after many years of abuse at the hands of her ignorant peers at school and her fanatically religious mother.
  • Magneto is a Holocaust survivor whose mother was killed by the Nazis. After this tragic event, Magneto decided to become a Nazi hunter.
  • Rusty Venture is an brilliant scientist, but his flaws- the biggest of which is his inferiority complex regarding his father- often hold him back while his brother manages to attain great successes.
  • Many Avatar: The Last Airbender heroes
    • Katara and Sokka lost their mother in the Fire Nation raid.
    • Jet's parents were killed and his village was destroyed when he was eight. As a result, he became the well-intentioned extremist leader of a group of rebels who tried and failed to destroy the village the Fire Nation was occupying.
    • Aang lost his homeland because of the genocide from Fire Lord Sozin and the Fire Nation.
  • Kratos was deceived into killing the only two people he ever loved and the Olympian gods refused to get rid of his memories of this, even though he killed Ares, which they wanted.
  • Litchi Faye-Ling was haunted by her guilt over not preventing her friend Lotte Carmine to turn into Arakune. Therefore, she set herself to save him from this horrible fate, still a good intention no matter what, even at cost of sacrificing her own well-being and eventually, unwillingly signed up for NOL and being pitted against her former friends, with minimal knowledge about how bad NOL was because her friend's uncooperative attitude for her plight and the fact that she is corrupted on her own and it's slowly claiming her. All because she cared so much for who she calls "friends" and her inability to forgive herself for that one incident.
  • Courage lost his biological parents into space when he was a pup.


This term has been taken from TV tropes. For more information, see the original article.

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