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”In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed."
William Ernest Henley, Invictus
"You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin'. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can't remember your last name. Your kids don't want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy."'
John McClane, Live Free or Die Hard

The Iron Woobie is a character who is not just a Woobie; he is the Woobie. Most Woobies are the victim of external circumstance. That may be how it started out for this little guy, but after having to deal with too much guff, he's lost the ability to feel sorry for himself, and will continue standing in the path of inevitable misfortunate. He will Rage Against the Heavens in anger for the ridiculous extent of his trials and tribulations, but when it comes right down to it, he's not expecting the big guy to start doing him any favors now.

Oftentimes the Iron Woobie is also a Determinator, though this isn't an essential part of the character. The chief difference is that a Determinator usually has a specific reason whereas Iron Woobie can be someone who just bears up gamely to things that happen to him for no particular reason that he can see. Be that as it may he stubbornly insists on walking the same misfortune-laden path he was on before, and won't give up his personal ethical code just because things continue to go poorly for him.

When his sufferings spring from his heroism, see also the Hurting Hero.

Opposite trope to Sympathetic Sue. Contrast Martyr Without a Cause and Angst? What Angst?, and compare the more snarky Knight in Sour Armor. See also Don't You Dare Pity Me! and Stoic Woobie. Most Inspirationally Disadvantaged characters are portrayed this way, often with insufficient justification and/or to the point of it being their entire characterization.

Examples of Iron Woobie include:


Anime & Manga

  • Angel Beats: Angel.
  • Axis Powers Hetalia: Arguably every Nation.
  • Azumanga Daioh: Sakaki. Animals hate her and most of her classmates are scared of her because they think she's a violent delinquent. But she persists and eventually gains True Companions and even a pet Iriomote Cat named Mayaa.
  • Baccano: Jacuzzi Splot. Shy. Introverted. Meek. Wimpy. Crybaby. Wiped out seventeen Mafia fronts with a machine gun in retaliation for the deaths of his Nakama. Almost goes up empty-handed against a guy with a flamethrower, and offers himself as a hostage to a psychopath who catches bullets with a crescent wrench, in order to save friends.
  • Bakuman。: Nobuhiro Mashiro. He set out to become a Mangaka to impress Miyuki Haruno, whom he liked and corresponded by letters. By the time he felt secure enough in his career to tell her how he felt, she had already married someone else and stopped writing to him, but he kept at it, believing that he was able to get this far because she was watching him, and (as it turns out, correctly) that she still is. When his contract got canceled after his Superhero Legend series and two other series that got canceled within a year, he told the editor responsible for informing him that this was a chance to start over as a newbie. In the end, he died from overworking himself, and while his nephew Moritaka initially thought his death was proof that few can make it in the manga world, he came to realize that he had tried as hard as he could, and that he should do the same.
  • Berserk: Guts. He never asked for any of the stuff that's happened to him, from his horrific childhood to the Eclipse, but he utterly refuses to lay down and die, for anyone, no matter what gets thrown at him.
  • Black Butler: Hannah Anasfeloz. Poor abused Hannah, bearing all kinds of abuse from Alois without any complains.
  • Blame: Killy. Good Lord, Killy. Let's see here...he has to go through:
    • Travelling a city that can be best described as multiple galaxy sized megastructure that is filled with hostile Cylicon Life and the Safeguards which are always out to hunt him and anyone close to him down in gruesome way.
    • Constantly having stuff blown out of him. Losing an arm? Headshot? Impalement? Decapitation? Being blown to pieces by explosions that rivals a supernova? Regular occurences. By the end of the series, he had suffered too much physical trauma (that would have easily killed entire cast of your average Shonen fighting series multiple times) that he loses an eye and a leg permanently. Doctors? What doctors, just stick a iron rod down your leg stump and keep going.
    • Having no companions, EVER. Sure, he does meet some comrades along the way but they never last long and they never leave him without making him going through some MORE massive physical trauma. In fact, THE heaviest physical torment he ever suffered was inflicted thanks to one of his friends, who died soon after. He has absolutely NOTHING, other than his objectives, to keep him company. Speaking of which...
    • Going through all that for at least three millenia. His journey has been so long that he can't even remember ANYTHING other than his name, how to use some equipments, and his objective. His goal is only thing that pushes him forward through hellish world of suffering. And the worst of all...
    • Massive suffering with absolutely no hope whatsoever. There's no guarantee that he actually CAN achieve his objective or things would be better once he did. Even when he succeeds, he would get no reward whatsoever, not even internally, for it is shown that he doesn't have any ideal or anything. Yet he soldiers on...
  • Bleach: Ichigo. Chad. Rangiku. Hitsugaya. The Vaizards as a whole. And several others.
  • Change 123: Kosukegawa Teruharu. He has become one in a big way. 98-pound weakling? Check. Unapologetic otaku? Check. Willing to put himself on the line against combat-trained opponents when his friends are in danger, including some who definitely qualify as Ax Crazy? You bet.
  • Code Geass: It's a pretty crapsack world, so most characters with backstory are either this, or normal woobies. Main character Lelouch is on the extreme end of this: Murdered mother, crippled sister, father who invaded a country that was using him as insurance, fleeing in a war zone where the natives hate his race, and the invaders are killing everyone, all long before he hits puberty. It gets worse. Still, he's very rarely shown to feel bad for himself, and goes around standing up for the little guy while trying to get revenge on the people who made his life hard.
  • Dancougar Nova: Aoi. She has had a pretty crappy life. She deals with it by punching stuff in the face.
  • Darker Than Black: Havoc. She goes a long way from Person of Mass Destruction to depowered amnesiac to The Woobie to Iron Woobie -- for extra head-spin, it's covered in but two episodes mostly not dedicated to her:

  Promise me one thing, though. If... If I revert back to my former self, kill me right away.

  • D.Gray-man: Allen Walker.
  • Dragon Ball: Son Gohan. Poor guy saw his father tortured to near death, was later informed, carelessly and brutally, by a third party that his beloved father was dead and then he was dropped alone in the wasteland for six months.. Piccolo made sure he survived, yes, but only that. He was later trained in full DBZ-Style by Piccolo for the next six months, in order to have what would be his first fight to the death in the series. Understandably, he was scared shitless. Then he was pummeled brutally by the much superior Nappa, of course after having seen all of his other friends die, culminating in the death of Piccolo, who by this point had warmed up to Gohan. Saw his father being tortured to near death again. Then went into a journey into space towards a planet he did not know, was forced to fight his way through his whole stay there, and there he saw his remaining friends being brutally destroyed by his enemies. All through out this, he is six, mind you. What does he do? he beats the living shit out of everything that opposes him, instead of laying down and crying himself to sleep. His life basically amounts to seeing everyone he cares for and loves, and himself, brutally beaten, killed, tortured or otherwise harmed. At no point does he ever show a hint of angst.
    • Oh, it's there; or do you think that he had Goku, his father dish out an attack that could kill him to go Super Saiyan wiut reason? Also, don't forget his Berserk Button.
  • Elfen Lied: Nana. Despite being tortured, losing all of her limbs, and watching the person she loves most slip into insanity (and back out, fortunately), she still keeps on going.
  • Fairy Tail: Erza Scarlet and Ur.
  • Fist of the North Star: Most of the cast (the good guys) would qualify, but the best example for the series is Rei. Got a woman he's in love with? She has hots with your new best friend so you have to settle with Courtly Love. Oh, and he's born under Star of Justice, meaning he dies for others, which came true when after he awakens his true self, he became a Sacrificial Lion, doomed to die an agonizing death by Raoh after failing to take him to the underworld with him. Then he spends his last days saving the woman he's in love with from her bad fate, then dies without ever kissing her and it was after he was really dying that the woman starts returning his feeling. Rei, you poor poor guy.
    • Even worse, the Hokuto Musou Dream Mode reveals that if Rei did several things, he would've avoided said death by Raoh and after much hijinx which had him Forced Into Evil into the Nanto Army's Token Good Teammate, he would reunite with his lover, stay true to his self and live Happily Ever After. Rei's reaction after he wakes up from the dream? Go die his fated death by Raoh. Because he doesn't want to burden and trouble his friends by not helping for that time. *sniff* There goes your chance to be happy, Rei...
    • Also from Fist of the North Star, said potential lover of Rei, Mamiya, whose parents were killed when she was 20 years old, and then she was kidnapped and taken to a harem. Then her only family left, her brother, dies as well. After this, she falls for a man who is already fated to die for her.
      • Why do tears pour with such ease from Kenshiro? In spite (or because) of his kind and soft heart, he resolved to bear the sadness of the entire world, torn by nuclear fire, on his broad shoulders alone so nobody else has to cry ever again. The big guy himself puts it best:

  "I refuse to build my own future on the blood and tears of others!!"

  • Fullmetal Alchemist: This is pretty much the defining trope of the manga and Brotherhood series. Every good character in this manga had their woobie moment, like Alex Armstrong who goes through a rather messy breakdown when he sees atrocities done by his troops in Ishbal, Roy Mustang, who starts as idealistic soldier, but is then faced with harsh reality on Ishbal, Riza Hawkeye, who joins army for the same reasons as Mustang, and finds, to her horror, that killing people is not as easy as just pulling the trigger, and many more. The good part, though, is that they're all so Badass that they just decide to live with it and continue forward.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler: Hayate. Despite surviving terrible neglect and danger and loneliness as a child, he retains a noble and compassionate demeanor as well as an unbreakable determination. Small wonder everyone loves and admires him.
  • Hellsing: Seras.
  • He's Dedicated to Roses (manhwa): I-Da/Yo-Dah.
  • Inuyasha: Let's see, from we have the titular character himself, Sango, Kohaku... Heck, pretty much every character in the series falls into this at some point or another, and most for darn good reasons.
  • Karneval: Gareki.
  • Kimba the White Lion: Kimba. Look at him. He's a cute little white lion cub. Guess what? Both of his parents managed to die in the first episode. Guess what else? He's the hero, he's the only character other than Roger Ranger to freaking DO ANYTHING USEFUL MORE THAN ONCE, and, in the 1989 dub, he has Light Yagami's voice actor.
  • Mazinger Z -and his sequel, Great Mazinger: Shiro Kabuto. Even his themesong implies this: he is sad that during Sunday, he dont have parents to hang with, and Koji, Boss, and Sayaka are most likely busy with a Mechanichal Beast. And then, you have Lorelei. And then you have he is an orphan. And in one of the last episodes, Big Bad Dr. Hell sent to the Institute a saboteur robot impersonating his mother, and he had to shoot at it before knowing for sure it was not his real mother. And in the sequel he states he feels lonely because Kouji and Sayaka left and he has to hang around with Boss since then, and he does not get letters from his older brother. And later he finds out his late father had been alive all these years. Yup, it sucks being him. On the other hand, he never {[Wangst}} about it.
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam: Domon Kasshu. Has his master betray him, his own government screws him over, he's forced to fight his brother and was convinced for a long time his own father was a viciously evil bastard, even has his eventual girlfriend eaten by a monster. Somehow, he manages to deal with all of it by beating the crap out of the causes of all the above and a lot of Hot-Blooded screaming.
    • Rain, as well. She's always calm and kind, offering support to everyone as the good Team Mom that she is and serving as Domon's support. She only fully breaks down when she think she's failed in her mission and to Domon and when she finds out the role that her dad had in a certain conspiration... But once this is over, she helps Domon to use the Power of Love and destroy the Devil Gundam for good.
  • Monster: Half the appeal of Dr. Kenzo Tenma isn't that his universe seems completely dedicated to eviscerating his spirit -- it's that his universe seems completely dedicated to eviscerating his spirit, and yet he still won't break.
  • Nagasarete Airantou: Ikuto. Before coming to the island he was drifting on a life preserver for seven days without food or water. He spends the first episode/book futilely throwing himself against the same few whirlpools until it's absurd but only until he points out that he did that to learn their flow and sneak between them (there's an even larger one beyond it, sadly). His grandfather gives him through Training From Hell and its gives him a fear of heights. In a free-for-all game of tag for marriage the day after he arrives, he gets dropped from a tremendous height and thrown an incredible distance, and loses only by an involuntary gesture of bravery on his part. And the hits keep coming. On the other hand, with renewed training, he becomes a Badass Normal who manages to outwit or fairly beat four of the island's most powerful champions in a span of two days.
    • Ayane is definitely a woobie who can take a beating. As the Butt Monkey of the harem, she gets stepped on, used as her sister's plaything, and gets stuck with some pretty rotten luck for no good reason. Her punishment threshold is leagues beyond most other members of the island and, for her troubles, has a curious number of immunities that help her with smaller problems. Also, despite sometimes being looked down upon she gets depicted as more competent than most of the harem (though it may be narcissism) and character development has boosted her beyond most of the harem in terms of understanding how they feel about Ikuto.
  • Naruto: The title character himself is this, where he is the pariah of an entire villaige that hates him and ignore him for something he had no contfrol of, the nine tailed fox sealed in him after it attacked. The only reason he didn't turn out like his first foil Gaara is because of the Third Hokage and Iruka Umino being there for him when he was alone.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari. Say what you want, but it can't be denied that he saves the world on a regular basis despite the pain it brings him.
    • The trope specifies someone who does not feel sorry for himself, Shinji CONSTANTLY feels sorry for himself.
      • Do the new movies coming out count as canon? If so, he might still fit under this.
  • Nightschool: The Sohrem actively seek children like this to use as hosts, including Alex, who is cursed to have anything she likes face destruction, Ronee, who suffers crippling pain whenever her little sister cries, and Marina, who must regularly take special medication or risk losing her mind thanks to her visions.
  • Peacemaker Kurogane: Tetsunosuke.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Homura. Basically, what would happen when Furude Rika is armed with an armory's worth of guns. Yeah, it's that kind of show. And fighting the Eldritch Abomination.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: Utena.
  • Saint Seiya: All of the main Bronze Saints. Yes, that includes Seiya himself. He may be ridiculously superpowered and an Idiot Hero and all, but he's got a good heart and loves his friends the Bronze Saints, and the few times Seiya cracks and cries are inevitable tear jerkers.
  • Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: Joe "The Condor" Asakura.
  • Serial Experiments Lain: Lain Iwakura.
  • Sora no Woto: Filicia Heidemann. She is a Shell-Shocked Veteran who maintains a cheerful facade and keeps her Bad Dreams at bay by focusing on making sure no one else goes through what she had to experience.
  • Tekkaman Blade: Takaya aka Tekkaman Blade.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Viral.
    • And Simon too. Sweet heavens, his ultimate fate would break ANYONE. But he bears it with a forced smile because it's for the greater good.
  • Texhnolyze: Ichise.
  • To Aru Majutsu no Index: Touma. He qualified after losing all of his memories saving Index from Laser-Guided Amnesia and then carrying on, keeping this a secret from everybody. He also continued to help anyone who needed it, even though most confrontations lead to him being hospitalized, even his wins. Plus, his Imagine Breaker negated his own luck, so he was perpetually unlucky to boot.
  • Trigun: Vash. Yeah, he does break down eventually--but he gets up again, and when you consider how many years he's been doing this already, and just how bad it's gotten, it's frankly terrifying that he hasn't given in yet.
    • His brooding tendencies late in the anime damage this cred, especially the way he was so busy moping over being unable to stop Caine the Longshot from blowing out his own brains that he failed to notice that Wolfwood had been mortally wounded in the meantime and was in the process of dying, and let him go off to die alone without looking up. But...still. All things considered, he passes.
    • He complains all the time about little things, which seems to be either a coping behavior or Obfuscating Stupidity, but when real suffering hits him he just takes it, and takes it, and takes it...and eventually folds, but he does get up again, so it doesn't count.
      • He is usually distracted by someone else's pain or the need to protect. For example, he would have been within his rights to have wigged out in anger or guilt or something in the second part of the Inepril arc when Miss Elizabeth brought up July, but he just smiles a very sad smile and gives her a hug. Because that's what you do when people try to commit domestic terrorism on a horrific scale in order to murder you. You hug them.
  • Violinist of Hameln manga: Pretty much the entire main cast. Don't be fooled by their crazy and goofy everyday behavior - only one of the major characters did not experience some soul-shattering tragedy and loss in the backstory. The actual story eventually corrects this oversight, and piles even more horror on the rest, yet still they persevere.
  • Black Rock Shooter
  • King Dedede and Escargoon in Kirby Right Back At Ya.


Comic Books

  • Empowered. Seriously, just Empowered. After the events in volume one alone, most people would have given up on superheroing for good. Emp's six volumes in and counting. Pain, humiliation, mortal terror, repeated failure, and the constant verbal abuse of her teammates do not stop her. It's either noble dedication or the worst case of Chronic Hero Syndrome I've ever seen. She could walk away at any time. No one would blame her. She doesn't. She never will. She's the poster girl for this trope, and anyone who says otherwise hasn't read the comic.
  • Dara Brighton from The Sword.
  • Cassie Hack.
  • Spider-Man takes more crap, deals with more tragedy, blames himself for his his shortcomings, and gets less credit than almost any other A-list superhero, all while constantly taking immense beatings by going up against threats way beyond his power level, but he never lets it break his spirit.
  • Colossus from the X-Men is a very literal example. He's seen his brother "die", come back after many years, and exile himself from this realm. He's seen his sister die from the Legacy virus. He the sacrificed his own life to find a cure for said virus. An alien resurrected and imprisoned him, tortured him for two years, and shortly after he was freed, his girlfriend disappeared in space. She came back recently... only to discover that she was trapped in her intangible form, and unable to interact with the rest of the world, including Colossus. And he's still one of the noblest of the X-Men.
    • Recently Colossus' sister also came back. She may or may not be a soulless abomination. Regardless, she acts more emotionless and detached than before, and endangered the entire world for her own vendetta. Colossus still stands by her.
  • Mother of Champions from The DCU's Great Ten. Essentially being prostituted by her country to strange men so that her special gift can be exploited is bad enough, but the children that result from these unions have a lifespan of roughly one week. She had never given birth before she had her first 25 boys, and eight days later they were all dead. The fact that she remains the picture of motherly dignity and poise is a testament to her emotional strength.
    • And note that the "strange men" part is occasionally changed; she's slept with most of the male members of her team, though her heart belongs to Socialist Red Guardsman alone.
  • Wolverine has over a century of bad memories starting with his father's murder, and after House of M he remembers all of them. His present and -- judging by the various bad futures so prevalent in X-Men -- his future aren't exactly a romp in the daisies either. He copes with all of this by being an active member of several superteams, fixing past mistakes, sleeping with every hooker in Bangkok, and playing pool.
  • Batman is the definition of the Iron Woobie. His parents were cruelly gunned down by a mugger when he was eight years old, and that's just the beginning. He's had one of his allies crippled by the Joker, then lost his adopted son to the very same man in the course of a year. To make matters even worse he had his spine broken once and then had aforementioned adopted son return to life, now permanently blaming him for his first death. Yet despite this he has NEVER broken his moral code (except once in Final Crisis when he shot Darkseid with a substance that fatally poisoned him- and by that time he truly deserved it- in any case there was no alternative). His refusal to break it, even in the face of the Joker (who Batman would like to kill but won't), is the reason he remains a highly prominent A-List superhero and the world's best detective.
    • Dick Grayson is quite the Iron Woobie too, for many of the same reasons.
  • The Hulk. Abused as a child, turned into a green monster, endured the death of three wives, chased around the world by the Army, shot into space, enslaved by an alien empire, loses the empire once he conquers it, has his Roaring Rampage of Revenge crushed by a Heel Realization, and fails to save one of his troubled sons. Man it SUCKS to be a big green badass.
  • Some incarnations of Tony Stark qualify especially if he's being The Determinator and disregards his health.


Fan Fics


Films -- Live-Action

  • George Bailey of It's a Wonderful Life is, perhaps, the ultimate example.
    • Well, except that the plot kicks off when he finally breaks.
  • Dr. Daniel Schreber of Dark City
  • The hero of The Karate Kid. Few have such a knack for suffering.
  • Noted for contrast is the aversion, Ebenezzer Scrooge. He was a Woobie who deserved to be a Woobie . The example is given to point out what an Iron Woobie would not be like.
  • Barney Coopersmith from My Blue Heaven. Despite the fact that his wife left him for another man, Barney is an FBI agent, and although he seems geeky (he was portrayed by Rick Moranis), Barney seems quite badass with a gun.
  • Tony Stark. And boy, does he fulfill the "iron" requirement!
  • In To Hell and Back Audie Murphy plays himself as one. And given how little credit he was willing to take for his real life heroic actions it would appear that he might be a Real Life example as well.
    • He is. Just look into the Real Life Folder.
  • Tom Bardo from Stuck. The man loses his job, his home, gets hit by a car and spends most of the film in complete agony. But he still manages to be astonishingly resourceful and determined for a man in his situation. Iron indeed.
  • Ben Kingsley's portrayal of Gandhi comes off as this, especially right at first. Watch him in the scene where he's burning the passes.
  • Jesus from The Passion of the Christ.
  • You could say Maggie Gyllenhaal has been Typecasting in this part. She's definitely capable of withstanding the slings and arrows, but you still want to give her a hug for being forced to endure them. And when she does start crying, if you don't start also, you have ice-water running through your veins.
  • Word of God states that Selena from Twenty Eight Days Later is this as a backstory for the character states that she had to kill her whole family in one afternoon including her baby brother.
  • Sarah Connor of the Terminator movies bears traces of this, especially in the first movie. She loses her roommate and best friend and the boyfriend she is obviously close to, one of the scenes a lot of people forget about shows that the Terminator tracked down and murdered her mother, she loses her love and is considered insane by everyone after a single insane two day period, and by the second movie has basically become a compleely psychotic militant, and good candidate for Worst Parent Ever awards. yet still, she goes up against Terminators and is determined that even if her son hates her he will be the leader humanity needs.
  • Po in the Kung Fu Panda series. Po learns about how his people were massacred by Lord Shen, including likely his mother. However, to Lord Shen's astonishment, Po manages to come to terms with his past to achieve an inner peace that enables him to defeat a warfleet armed with cannons by himself.
  • Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption.
  • Lawrence Talbot, Universal Studios' The Wolf Man, is depicted as this in his later appearances, once he resigns himself to never finding a cure and starts making the best of it by becoming The Atoner, siccing his monstrous side on other monsters. Given that he can't ever keep himself dead when he attempts suicide, becoming an Iron Woobie is really his only alternative.
  • Knives Chau in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Though an Action Girl in both the comic book and the film, the film incarnation truly makes the transition to Iron Woobie and is a deciding factor in Scott's final victory against the Big Bad. (In the comics, Knives instead sheds much of her woobie status by realizing that Scott is something of a Jerkass where relationships are concerned, and actively decides to move on for her own good.)
  • Bethany Hamilton in Soul Surfer.
    • She was actually a real person.
  • Luli starts out as a regular Woobie but by the end of Hick has become this.
  • Fantastic Four Ben Grimm, when he became "The Thing" his life started falling apart, including his (1st) girlfriend leaving him.
  • Jason Bourne from The Bourne Series

Literature

  • While Miles Vorkosigan in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga already takes this to extreme levels (born with abnormally brittle bones and needing multiple surgeries and painful physical therapy just to walk, and that was just the first six years of his life; it got worse), his brother Mark has it even worse. Created in a laboratory by absurdly insane and delusional terrorists to kill and impersonate his brother long enough to murder their father, raised by clone traders who sell their services to rich old people willing to murder their own cloned children and transplant their brains into the young bodies, every one of his childhood friends is dead by the time he starts trying to stop the clone trade. But after being physically, sexually, and psychologically tortured by someone vile by LITERALLY everyone else's standards (Mark makes millions from the assassination and ends up rescuing dozens of innocent lives), a beautiful female soldier touches his wrist and offers her pity for what he'd suffered. Mark's response: grab her wrist in a death grip and snarl viciously, "don't you DARE feel pity for me. I WON!"
  • Jurgis in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle - he is not only a Woobie, but also an Iron Woobie.
  • Danny Saunders from The Chosen. He was a Hassidic Rebbe's son and an incredibly gifted young scholar. His father actually shunned him as a form of Training From Hell (his father did not like doing it, which gives him as well some qualifications as a Well-Intentioned Extremist Iron Woobie once one gets past Values Dissonance).
  • Jean Paget in A Town Like Alice. Even when being marched by the Japanese with a party of women through the jungles of Malaya she always kept her spirits up.
  • Túrin Turambar in J.R.R.Tolkien's The Silmarillion.
  • ...who in turn was based on Kullervo in The Kalevala.
  • Jesus Christ. Your Mileage May Vary but Older Than Feudalism.
  • Harry Dresden. The entire universe hates him, but he still keeps saving it, usually making bad jokes at the same time.
    • Even more so, Thomas Raith.
  • In Wen Spencer's Endless Blue, Mikhail suffers, and long has, from depression. He nevertheless plays The Stoic until those rare conditions that manage to break him. When his foster brother Turk apparently dies, he conscientiously locks away his gun and gives away his vodkha, to prevent Drowning My Sorrows and Driven to Suicide -- at least until he gets his crew to safety.
  • Lloyd Henried from the The Stand remains determined to stick with his evil ways, even if Randal Flagg scares the heck out of him.
  • Huck from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He is utterly penniless, gets kidnapped by his abusive and alcoholic father, is nearly stabbed by said father, almost gets shot during a feud, has a run in with a homicidal gang of robbers and falls into the company of con men, among other things. Throughout all of this, he's infectiously cheerful, playful and heartbreakingly unaware of the Crapsack World surrounding him.
    • Jim is a pretty decent candidate for this trope as well. Despite being a runaway slave, he risks capture several times to protect Huck.
  • Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo. Starts out an all-around nice guy, is imprisoned after being falsely accused and having his life and fiancee ripped away from him, escapes, plans an elaborate vengeance against his accusers spanning several years and then, despite those years of planning, spares the life of one of his enemies because he would have to take the life of his innocent and honorable son in addition.
    • Abbe Faria, as well. Despite being innocent, he spends approximately a decade longer in prison than he has to because his most viable escape plan might involve killing a guard who's just doing his job.
  • Tycho Celchu is a Woobie in universe. He was an Alderaanian flying for the Empire who had been placing a call to his family there on his birthday when Alderaan was destroyed. He fought for the Rebel Alliance and was kidnapped and tortured by Isard, but never broke. When he was released the Alliance was suspicious of him, thinking that he'd turned into one of Isard's Manchurian Agents, and he was put under all kinds of restrictions. His old CO Wedge Antilles still trusted him absolutely and relied on him, even giving him roles in secret plans. Then someone who was suspicious of him died in suspicious circumstances, and he was put on trial with a mountain of evidence set against him. Everyone but Wedge, or nearly everyone, thought he was a traitor, wittingly or not, and even Wedge had a moment of doubt. So how did Tycho bear up with this? Stoically, and with an endless reserve of patience. Before Isard got him he was a hothead and impulsive - after that, he was subdued, haunted, and his nobility was laid bare.

  "I put up with it because I must. Enduring it is the only way I can be allowed to fight back against the Empire. If I were to walk away from the Rebellion, if I were to sit the war out, I would have surrendered to the fear of what Ysanne Isard might, might, have done to me. Without firing a shot she would have made me as dead as Alderaan, and I won't allow that. There's nothing in what I have to live with on a daily basis that isn't a thousand times easier than what I survived at the hands of the Empire. Until the Empire is dead, I can never truly be free because I'll always be under suspicion. Living with minor restrictions now means someday no one has to fear me."

  • The title character of The Windrose Chronicles, by Barbara Hambly, winds up going through fifteen kinds of hell at the hands of the good guys as well as the bad guys. He's been traumatized enough to go completely insane - and his insanity gives him the ability to sustain hope even when such is unrealistic - leading to such Awesome Moments as gaining secret control of the prison where he is being tortured, not that that makes the torture hurt any less, and dealing with everyone throughout courteously and cheerfully...
  • Niall from Wicked Lovely, oh so much so. He gave himself to the Dark Court, and we all know what that meant, to save a few mortals (who died anyway.) He managed to escape from them, becoming one of the Summer Court's most trusted advisors. Oh, but then, well, Shit happened. He would have every reason in the world to be all angsty and depressed, but he very rarely does, or at least not visibly. He's a "survivor", as Leslie put it.
  • Jean Valjean in Les Misérables.
  • With all the crap that the Baudelaire siblings endure in A Series of Unfortunate Events one would think they'd be broken about ten times over by now. While they may come close they always manage to continue on and survive in some epic way by sticking together through the hard times.
  • Marshal-General Atkins, from John C. Wright's The Golden Oecumene is the only warrior in a society that has forgotten the meaning of war or violence. He is regarded as an anachronism at best, a needless expense at worst. The only inkling the reader gets of his woobie nature is a brief Not So Stoic outburst after a dose of Amnesiac Dissonance.
  • Despite having endured events that would have broken lesser peoples the princesses of The Princess Series refuse to give in to despair or anger(mostly). They have even managed to find some happiness and sense of family with each other.
  • Robin Hobb loves a good Iron Woobie.
    • Realm of the Elderlings: FitzChivalry Farseer. A bastard whose unveiling causes his heir-to-the-throne father to go into seclusion, mercilessly trained as an assassin, executed for possessing forbidden magic (he got better), sent on a mission to save a kingdom that hates him, forced to give up his youth and vitality, leaving him broken for many years, only to return to find out his lover and his foster father have gone off to raise his child together and noone wants him around anymore. Then, umpteen years later when his kingdom needs him, he still goes off to save the day.
    • Nevare Burvelle of The Soldier Son suffers in much the same manner as Fitz, though Hobb has only tortured him for three books thus far.
  • My Happy Life is made of this. The nameless narrator describes being a beaten, neglected, friendless woman, with a mental deficiency who was abandoned, raised in a Dickinsonian orphanage, left homeless, kidnapped, abused, and eventually locked in an abandoned insane asylum to die in relentlessly cheerful terms. The reader may assume part of her insanity was an inability to feel unhappiness, but that's not explicitly stated.
  • Sofia Mendes in The Sparrow.
  • Georgie in The Fledgling. She seems like your ordinary introverted, outcast child, until a Canada goose befriends her and teaches her to fly, and it seems all the other characters are bent on stopping her. In the end, the goose, the only true friend she's had not only dies, but dies because Georgie calls him to her. And despite that, Georgie still never complains.
  • Neville Longbottom, full stop. His time growing up is arguably worse than Harry's (Neville basically grows up believing he will never be good enough at anything to measure up to Frank and Alice), and lacks a group of friends to help him cope once he starts going to Hogwarts. He also gets bullied by other students and Snape even worse than Harry, compounded by his crippling lack of self-confidence thanks to his well-intentioned but very strict grandmother setting impossible standards. His magic suffers from a lack of confidence and the fact that his grandmother is making him to use his father's wand in a misguided attempt to get Frank back. It's implied that much of Gryffindor sympathizes with Neville and encourages him, but few are close friends with him until the Trio start letting him hang out with them. Do you ever hear about any of this directly from him? No, no you do not. If anybody ever needed a hug, it's this poor child, but you'd never know it just to talk to him, since all he wants to do is help out his friends.
    • Even Harry lampshades it, when he learns Neville's backstory. After Dumbledore tells him and he goes back to the Gryffindor bedroom, he sees Neville sleeping and pities him, thinking about how his parents may be dead but what happened to Neville's parents was way worse.
  • Toni Ware in The Pale King has a horrifying backstory, but she's easily the toughest and most dangerous of the main characters.
  • Lissla Lissar from Robin McKinley's Deerskin. Just follow the link to that page. Lissar is the embodiment of the tragic backstory. The poor girl goes through utter hell, in one form or another, for seventeen years. And yet she survives it all--with the help of a being called the Moonwoman, who changes Lissar's appearance and conceals her memories until she might be ready to deal with them--becoming the most compassionate and courageous person imaginable.
  • Ruth Mallory of Someone Elses War: A fourteen-year-old comfort slave, mother to two dead children, lost her home, her innocence, her peace of mind, she has no friends, she's specifically antagonized by the men because she's ugly--but she never bemoans her fate. She never pities herself, instead doing what she can to save others from a similar life.


Live Action TV

  • Jack Bauer from Twenty Four. If he weren't such a Badass he would've killed himself by now.
    • He would need to invent a successful method of killing Jack Bauer first. Considering how many had tried and failed, it stands to reason that it simply cannot be done.
  • Mr. Spock from Star Trek. He is perfectly willing to sacrifice himself for others. He will also stand by his principles even when he expects that Kirk, Mc Coy, or his parents will hate him for it.
    • Picard picks up the role in The Next Generation. Assimilated by the Borg, living a whole lifetime's worth of experiences in a few moments, which effectively gives him the last memory of a dead civilization, suffers through centuries' worth of rage and heartbreak for Sarek, and was tortured for weeks by Gul Madred. He feels responsible for what he did as Locutus for years afterwards, as indicated by his interactions with Sisko in the Deep Space 9 pilot and in First Contact. Even after all that, Picard sticks to his beliefs and keeps going.
    • Also Data from TNG. He's constantly the victim of Fantastic Racism due to being an android, his "brother" turns out to be an Evil Twin and his body's been hijacked more than once. The fact that he can't feel emotion just seems to make it worse somehow.
  • The title character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Life screws her over royally time and again. Even when demonic forces aren't actively threatening everything she holds dear, she is still risking her life on a nightly basis and constantly alone, but she just keeps going. In fact, most Buffy Verse characters are this trope. Joss Whedon is just mean to his characters.
  • Heroes: Edgar, a new Season 4 character, is an interesting case--he kills people with his super-speed/weapon accuracy abilities, but he has said that he does not actually want to do it--and then Samuel started to Force-choke him. He has emotions, remorse, and feelings for people, but still does bad things rather coldly.
    • Claire has been one throughout. An alternate universe showed what would happen if she did break and it was frightening (but also awesome)
  • Supernatural:
    • Pretty much any hunter on the show would qualify, since hunters are usually created when their normal lives are ripped apart by some supernatural monster. Rather than drown in despair and alcohol, they pack up their lives, hit the road and chase those monsters.
    • A case could be made for Crowley. Sure, he's a bad guy, but he also spent most of Season 5 alienated from his own kind and with a death sentence on his head that could just as easily have been delivered by the Winchesters as by the demons he betrayed. Yet he snarks on.
    • Castiel, especially in Season 5 when he's falling. But even after he's re-angelfied and accepted into Heaven, he finds that he has to become the figurehead for an incredibly personal civil war between his brothers, and he's more or less had to go it alone.
  • Baldrick, Edmund Blackadder's hapless manservant in the British comedy series Blackadder. Not very bright, but always cheerful, no matter how much his sarcastic master abused him.
  • Cameron in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, who is almost a literal Iron Woobie. Well, she's a Coltan Woobie, at least.
  • The title character of Veronica Mars. No person should go through as much crap as she does, and the majority of people would have some kind of breakdown - but no. She'll move on with a plan and a quip, and try and help people.
  • Chloe Sullivan of Smallville qualifies, particularly following season eight... You know what? It's easier just to watch it than explain it. But she still manages to be perky and upbeat despite what she's gone through. Must be something about those perky blonde girls...
  • Fran from Power Rangers Jungle Fury. Poor, poor Fran. As the only employee to not be a Ranger, she is consistently the only one left to deal with the mass lunch rush. While she occasionally confronts Theo and Lily about always being gone, once to the point of quitting, she just as easily sets it aside. And this isn't even covering her crush on Dom...
  • Torchwood has Ianto Jones, who's been through just about everything. One of only 27 employees of Torchwood One to survive Canary Warf, he was half beaten to death by cannibals, and mind raped by an alien into thinking he's a murderer. And he does most of it with the wry efficiency of someone who was effectively hired to clean up after the team.
    • Jack is probaly the biggest Iron Woobie of the series. Dear god, he's been buried alive, had all the life sucked out of him, was buried in concrete, and in Torchwood: Miracle Day was murdered over and over again in a butcher shop. He's also died over two thousand times and spent a year being tortured to death over and over. Oh, and he was also forced to kill his own grandson in order to save the rest of Earth's children the day after his boyfriend died. How Jack isn't a babbling mess by now is kind of a mystery.
    • Then there's Tosh. She was forced to commit treason because her mother was being held hostage. Then, instead of getting rescued, UNIT sentences her to isolation until Jack shows up and recruits her for Torchwood. The man she has a crush on is a jerk who won't give her the time of day, but at least she has regular contact with him. Another interest was a soldier suffering from PSTD who had to go back to a time that didn't understand the disorder. Then there was her other love interest Mary who was revealed to have been using her the entire time. When Tosh finally does tell Owen she loves him, she's dying from a gunshot wound and it turns out he didn't even hear it. That poor woman never got a break.
  • Rory from Doctor Who, particularly the resurrected Auton Rory. To make up for a moment of weakness where his his Auton programming overrode his mind, he spends two thousand years guarding a box holding the body of his girlfriend. Two thousand years with nobody to talk to, no way to heal injuries, and nothing to think of but his love, his guilt, and his worry. And despite having no way to heal injuries, two thousand years later, he hasn't a scratch. His Iron Woobie status got another major upgrade in the series 6 finale, when a device he was wearing would cause him agony or even death if he kept it on. But since he needed the device to save the others, he refused to take it off:

 Amy: You have to take your eye drive off.

Rory: Can't do that, ma'am. Can't forget what's coming.

Amy: But it could activate any second.

Rory (with clenched, trembling fists): It has activated, ma'am.

  • Christopher Titus plays up this part on Titus; as does his fiance Erin. His father, though, is the ultimate, an Iron Woobie Jerkass Woobie.
  • From Numb3rs: Josephine Kirtland, the victim in the Season 3 episode "Nine Wives". She grew up in a polygamist cult. She was forced to marry its leader, Prophet Stone, who subsequently raped her. Instead of giving up, she escapes from a desert hideout and treks through the wilderness at night. Later, she faces two awful truths: her mother betrayed her to Stone, and she is the product of Parental Incest (she and her mother have the same father). Despite all of this, she's a mostly stable individual by the end of the episode. Oh, and did I mention that she's only sixteen?
  • Aaron Hotchner from Criminal Minds is possibly the best example of an Iron Woobie on TV today. Hotch is trying to raise his son after his ex-wife - his high school sweetheart - was murdered by the Reaper, who made him listen over the phone while she died. Hotch was so grief-stricken that he beat the Reaper to death with his bare hands. Oh, and this was after he got stabbed and possibly raped by the Reaper, and had his son taken into protective custody. And after that time he nearly got blown up by a suicide bomber, lost an old flame in the same attack, and had painful hearing problems for some time afterward as a result of it shattering his eardrums.
  • Bree Van De Kamp, from Desperate Housewives. Let's get this straight: She lost 3 husbands and 2 boyfriends, her son hated her with passion for several seasons, her daughter does not like her very much either, and she succumbed to alcoholism. Despite all of this, she managed to get back on her feet each time, despite the odds, the people and the universe working against her. That is, until season 8, where she finally snaps, and is on the verge of suiciding herself like Mary Alice by the end of the 9th episode.


Music

  • The narrator of Labi Siffre's classic Something Inside So Strong.
  • The main character of the video of Pink's "F***ing Perfect".
  • The main character of Joshua Radin's "Brand New Day" video. Heartbreaking that through it all, he keeps singing. Especially so since it's such a happy, upbeat song.


Newspaper Comics

  • Charlie Brown from Peanuts stopped being too bothered by things that don't turn out well for him as he's come to expect it. It doesn't stop him from continuing to run his baseball team or participating in competitions of all sorts, however, in hopes that he will one day get his big break.


Tabletop Games

  • The god Ilmater from the Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting Forgotten Realms (the god of suffering) and his followers.
  • Adamant caste Alchemical Exalted. Their duty is to keep the Eight Nations safe without the Octet ever finding out they exist. They spend most of their time in the dark, alone except for a tide of horrible monsters. They wait, and they watch, but if they do break protocol and reveal themselves to a small group of mortals or an assembly of Alchemicals, thanks to their anima effect it's likely their contacts will never remember who they are. Yet most of them keep carrying the torch of Autochthon's will into the darkness and use it to burn gremlins for people who will never know what they go through.


Theater

  • Tevye the Dairyman in Fiddler On the Roof.
  • Elphaba from Wicked. Not only is she green-skinned and thus shunned, her father has always blamed her (and thus she blames herself) for her mother's death and sister's paraplegia. Then the Wizard, whom she looked up to and was sure would help stop the animals from being silenced turns out to be the *cause* of it, and he not only disappoints her but calls for her death. Then her sister dies and she cannot even have the only thing that remains of her, Nessa's red slippers. Finally, just after reconciling with her best friend, she will never see her because she either dies or fakes her death.
    • On the upside, if you assume she lives, she did finally get to be with her lover, Fiyero.
  • Viola from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. After escaping from a shipwreck that her twin brother may have perished in, she takes a deep breath in lieu of mourning and dresses as a man to serve as the page of Duke Orsino. She goes on to fall in love with him and suffer in silence as he loudly pines over the woman he wants instead of her.


Video Games

  • Several characters from the Mass Effect series could qualify. The most extreme of these cases is Jack from the second game. She was kidnapped as an infant from Cerberus, forced into an experiment that was pure Nightmare Fuel day in, day out, for the sake of finding out if trauma increases biotic power. When she escaped, she flew with pirates, was used as a sex object repeatedly, dropped a moon onto a colony...

 Jack: ...and that's the boring shit.

    • The amount of suffering that Commander Shepard can be put through (losing the entire family to Batarian slavers/growing up an Earthbound orphan, losing an entire squad on Akuze, facing routine accusations of being crazy by the very people he/she's trying to protect, losing a love interest in either game, dying in the beginning of the second, being forced to work with the people responsible for Akuze, facing the consequences of The Arrival, and possibly dying for real during the Suicide Mission) is almost comical, yet none of this will stop him/her from shrugging it all off and saving the galaxy.
    • Shepard's status as this is multiplied by a thousand times in Mass Effect 3. S/he experiences an enormous amount of losses, experiences serious Survivor Guilt and is forced to carry the fate of the entire galaxy on his/her shoulders. Joker notes at one point that while resting s/he's under more stress now than s/he was in his/her background (which involves either holding an entire platoon by him/herself, watching his/her squad get devoured by Sand Worms, or leading a suicidal assault against an enemy fort). By the end, s/he's so exhausted that s/he can barely keep his/her eyes open, has suffered third-degree burns, is bleeding to death from a stomach wound, and got caught in a blast from HARBINGER, but when Admiral Hackett calls him/her, s/he immediately gets back up and responds.

 Shepard: [through labored, steadying breaths] W...what do you need me to do?

    • Javik, the downloadable Prothean survivor squadmate, never seems to be anything less than calm and in control. However, talking to him reveals a lot of suffering in his past. Not only is he the last of his species, but if you tell him to use the Echo Stone, he shares with you the fact that he was the commander of a ship like the Normandy... except that, when the Reapers had it attacked and the crew carried off, they got everyone except for Javik himself. He singlehandedly stormed a Reaper fortress, desperately trying to save his people... but they were already indoctrinated by then, and he was forced to Mercy Kill them all to escape.
  • Max Payne talks a lot about how bad his life is, yet he manages to keep his emotions in check through and through. And kill lots of people.
    • Gulping pain killers like Pez helps a lot.
  • Shirou and Archer in Fate/stay night. Archer may be a Badass Longcoat and memetic badass number one, but who would actually want to be him? Even Shirou pities him.
    • Also, Saber. She doesn't just get over the terrible, heartbreaking events of her life; they're actually her bizarre form of motivation.
  • Selvaria Bles from Valkyria Chronicles. It's hard not to feel sorry at the way she willingly put herself through hell (and later sacrifices herself) for a man who doesn't care about her - and she probably knows it. And even so, the way she faces her fate with pride and keeps leading her soldiers to the bitter end makes her very admirable. Even in her final defeat, all she asks of the Fat Bastard who came to take her as a prize and steal Squad 7's merits is that he spares her men...
  • Gorath from Betrayal at Krondor - most of his suffering is the result of his own difficult decisions, which he keeps making afterwards without complaint.
  • Take Marona from Phantom Brave. Now take all the hate, and loathing directed at her; and take Ash away. That's Carona. Willing to be considered a villain, willing to save the world anyway. Willing to train the people she's being forced to bring into a trap so that they're strong enough to break out of it. Willing to go back to her world even though Marona and Ash would have welcomed her in theirs and she refused to take Ash with her when Marona offered.
  • Ramza from Final Fantasy Tactics. Sure, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. So get the whips and chains ready, because he's going to do good anyway.
  • YUNA.
    • Tidus and Auron as well. Perhaps even moreso in the former's case.
  • Ethan Mars from Heavy Rain. The man goes through hell, all to save his son from a serial killer.
  • Timothy Pike from Dark Fall: The Journal is level-headed, affable, and helpful despite his unpleasant past and horrifying present.
  • Iji woke up after losing nearly everything. Whether she "breaks" or not is up to the player.
  • Poor, poor Isaac Clarke of Dead Space is just an engineer who was sent on a clean-up job in space. What he finds is a ship simply filled bow-to-stern with Nightmare Fuel. Yet, in spite of it all, he goes through Hell and back to not only complete his repairs, but also save his girlfriend, Nicole, who, it turns out, has been Dead All Along. After the spoiler makes him undergo a Heroic BSOD (that lasts for about five seconds), he sucks it up, moves forward, destroys an Eldritch Abomination, and escapes, unfortunately haunted by hallucinations of Nicole. He is confined to a mental institute, where the government keeps him in and out of stasis for three years, using his madness to construct another Artifact of Doom. Another Necromorph outbreak later, Isaac not only has to worry about the space zombies, government agents out to kill him, and the Church of Happyology trying to kidnap him, but also the hallucination of his girlfriend trying to drive him to suicide.
  • The main character of Dragon Quest V. No other character in the entire series compares to him. Where to even begin. His father is murdered right in front of him as a child. He lives as a slave for the next ten years constructing an icon of blasphemy. He and his wife are turned to stone for another seven years, mere days after his twin children are born. They get seperated during this, and she does not get unpetrified until well after he is. And as probably the biggest Player Punch in the entire series, his mother, who he and his father had been searching for the entire game, is murdered right in front of him just minutes after he'd finally found her. If that's not an Iron Woobie, what is?
  • Ayane from Dead or Alive qualifies. She was born from her biological father, Raidou, raping her mother to get back at one of his enemies, and was hated and mistreated by her village of origin as a result, with the only two that ever treated her well being her friends Hayate and Kasumi, and her adoptive father Genra. And even though she and Kasumi are friends and she's crushing on Hayate, the rest of the village tries to keep her away from them due to associating her with Raidou. Then she finds out from her mother that Kasumi and Hayate are her half siblings, and that while they're treated like ninja royalty, she's outcast because her mother didn't claim her due to the trauma of her birth circumstances. Then Raidou comes back to the village seeking a technique they guarded, and while she's beaten aside easily, Hayate is crippled when she fails to protect him. Kasumi then leaves the village to seek revenge, and Ayane is assigned to kill her for breaking the code of secrecy surrounding the village. And this is all before leaving the backstory! She proceeds to have to face off with both her best friend and her amnesiac love interest when Hayate is brought back by DOATEC as Ein as part of Project Epsilon. Then in the third tournament, she finds out that her adoptive father has been kidnapped by DOATEC and turned into the monstrous bioweapon known as Omega, forcing her to enter the tournament, whereupon she defeats and kills him to set him free of DOATEC's slavery. And past that, with Hayate back as of the fourth game, Kasumi is still marked for death due to Honor Before Reason, and Ayane is still loyally serving her clan to take her down. And through all of this, the only hint of the pain we ever see going through her is a single tear when she's cremating Genra's body after he dies. One really wonders how Tecmo could hurt her worse if the series had gone on.
  • If you are not feeling rather sarcastic due to the recent events, then Blaz Blue's answer for Iron Woobie would be Dr. Litchi Faye-Ling. Basically, she is a kind doctor who knew she's slowly being corrupted by the Boundary in exchange of a great power that she uses for fighting and trying to discover a cure for her lover turned Eldritch Abomination. And for that, she even left her previous job as scientist and pretty much endangers herself with a court-martial. Interaction with the townspeople where she resided, townspeople that looked up to her, would make you think that they'll make good moral support for her quest, but she never tells them her situation, which means she's carrying her burden alone. Then, when she sought help from her superior and got refused, the corruption is catching up to her limit, her only option to continue was to join the rival organization, which stores one person that she knew to be a Devil in Plain Sight, and she did so anyway, knowing that her previous organization would do even worse than court-martial from that point on if they ever catch her. And while at first she thought the organization was just 'normal' or better than her previous one, she starts seeing that it is rather... shady and questionable, but she decided to bear all that. In her own words... "I can't go back. Even if I have to sacrifice some of my humanity."
  • Klonoa exists simply for multiple realities to screw him over. And he will bear on to do the right thing without hesitating. The first game is pretty much one giant Break the Cutie aimed squarely at Klonoa's head.
  • Metroid's own Samus Aran. The toughest warrior in the galaxy, destroyer of worlds... and everyone she knows and/or cared about dies in front of her. She has been forced by circumstance to wipe out entire species of super-predator (the sole survivor of one died saving her life), and spends most of her time on-screen either wandering the crumbling ruins of the civilization she was raised in and its allies, or hunting down the ones responsible.
  • Reisen Udongein Inaba of the Touhou series. Despite being abused by her masters and her subordinate (And pretty much anyone she comes in contact with), she is STILL willing to protect them at all costs.
  • Ryuuguu Rena in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. See the second page quote.
  • Battler Ushiromiya. The man endures Trauma Conga Line after Trauma Conga Line. Will it stop him from trying to find the truth? Hell no.
  • Craig Boone of Fallout: New Vegas. You poor man. Take off your stoic sunglasses and let us see your pain.
  • Cubone is more of a straight-up woobie, having lost its mother and filling her empty skull with tears. However, the evolved form Marowak is pure Iron Woobie material: a badass club-wielding warrior who's gotten over mama's death and uses past anguish as fuel for its ferocious battling.
  • The protagonist of Zettai Hero Project, a Heroic Mime who appears to be nothing but an OC Stand In and over-the-top example of This Loser Is You, especially as a superhero. In Chapter 9, it's revealed that he actually has a backstory, and the countless Hopeless Boss Fights of the game are a reflection of his primary character trait. Eight years ago, he and his sister were captured by a serial kidnapper/cannibal, and he protected her by getting the crap kicked out of him repeatedly until the police and Unlosing Ranger arrived. But she was so traumatized that all she remembers is him getting beaten up and crying, causing the whole family to blame what happened on his weakness, and completely tearing them apart. As in, his parents are getting divorced over who raised him to be such a wimp and his sister wants him to just die. After becoming humanity's Butt Monkey, he continues to protect everyone in the only way he knows how, even if they all mock him for it.
  • Mickey Mouse from Kingdom Hearts. Everyone he knows either dies, disappears, goes into a coma, or falls to darkness, he's an utter failure at protecting the worlds and his friends and loved ones from the encroaching darkness, and his life is best described as "hell". He is also frequently compared to prequel trilogy era Yoda in combat prowess, and despite over 12 years of constant defeat and failure, refuses to give up, and even stays pretty damn optimistic.'
    • Well, at least he still has his supporting cast of the Disney cartoons.
    • Also, all three of Birth By Sleep's protagonists.
    • Also Beast. Living in a cold and dark castle in the middle of nowhere with a curse that had made him into a vicious-looking monster for several years can be depressing, no less with the fact that the curse can only be broken if a woman loves him for who he is. Depressed and angry for many years, a woman finally comes to his castle and after some hard time they learn to get along and Beast finally finds some happiness in his life. And then the castle gets destroyed and the woman kidnapped by The Heartless, and Beast ends up in nowhere of the universe. Does he cry or angsts about the sistuation as he used to? No, through sheer force of will alone he ends up in Hollow Bastion and with all his strength fights through the forces of darkness to save his beloved without complaning or whining.
  • Scorpion from Mortal Kombat is this. First his entire clan is killed, then after being brought back as a spectre he's forced by Shang Tsung to work alongside the guy who killed his family. In life and in death his story is an endless stream of tragedy, his game endings are usually bad, right down to becoming the vessel of Dark Kahn's rebirth in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (luckily, the game is non-canon). Yet he still continues on.
    • Even worse, the Elder Gods are pretty much dicks to him. In Deception, they make Scorpion their Champion to deal with the threat of Onaga. He agrees on the terms that his family and clansmen be revived by the Elder Gods. When he delivers, the Elder Gods uphold their end of the bargain... by reviving the Shirai Ryu as undead abominations in Armageddon. No wonder he goes all Rage Against the Heavens afterwards.
    • Kitana even moreso. Not only is her father is killed by Shao Kahn during his bloody takeover of Edenia, but her mother Sindel commits suicide out of grief for her departed husband. Shao Kahn then manipulates the poor girl into serving as one of his assassins and makes her falsely believe that he is her birth father. He also creates a disfigured clone of her to act as her "sister" and ultimately off her should Kitana prove to be unreliable. Who knows how long this lasted for, seeing as Kitana is over 10,000-years-old. When she finally breaks free, Kahn then revives her mother and brainwashes her as a tool for his invasion of Earthrealm. Eventually, all of this is sorted out. Then comes Shinnok. And after that is resolved, Kitana proposes to her love interest Liu Kang, only for him to reluctantly decline due to his status as Earthrealm's Champion. Then Quan Chi and Shang Tsung get the jump on him before Deadly Alliance and kill him. And then she dies in battle with Quan Chi and Shang Tsung, and is later revived by Onaga and--you guessed it--brainwashed to serve him. The one time she breaks down (her Unchained ending) is justified, as her premonitions about The End of the World as We Know It are coming true (as seen in Armageddon). The girl's got it rough.
  • Leon from F-Zero X onward. The kid was no more than four when invaders ransacked and virtually razed his homeplanet of Zou. Leon lost both his parents and his left eye that day. Eleven years later, the F-Zero GP races are gearing up for a revival and the people of Zou choose him to be their representative. All he has is a second-hand machine created by a guilt-wracked rebel soldier from the big war years ago. His chances of winning are slim and Leon wants to make the children of his planet happy again. Yet, he never complains about the hardships he's had to endure even once and instead stays optimistic and cheery, standing head-and-shoulders above the rest of the cast as the most selfless character of the series.
  • Arguably, Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII fits quite well. He falls into depression for the first half of Advent Children, but considering everything he's been through, it's pretty amazing that he can get up in the morning.
  • So many characters in the Metal Gear franchise. Solid Snake, Big Boss, The Boss, Ocelot, etc. Snake is a notable example with all the shit you see him go through during the entire series especially in Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots.
  • Arguably Recette, the protagonist of Recettear {{[[[Parental Abandonment]] not only was she pretty much abandoned by her dad in all but name & her mom might be dead,}} she also lived alone for 3 months, might've been starving by the time the game's events roll around, and has to basically perform child labor in order to pay off the enormous debt her dad left her (and she loses her house, & has to live in a box, if she fails)]. It's amazing she's able to put up such a friendly smile each day.
  • Fear Effect. Hana Tsu-Vachel is very much this.
  • Arguably many of the characters in Left 4 Dead, but Zoey most of all. Much of the supplemental material shows she's on the verge of breaking down, yet she keeps on fighting her way through waist-deep hordes of zombies.
  • Poor Garnet. As a princess, her father the king dies, and her mother goes nuts and starts randomly attacking nations in across the continent. She escapes her home, only to eventually return in a vain attempt to negotiate- and gets imprisoned for her troubles. Then, her innate powers are stolen from her (by her mother, obviously) so they can be used as Weapons of Mass Destruction against her beloved Uncle's city, and she's almost killed, until she's rescued by her friends- three of which stay behind to delay her pursuers. She discovers her origins as an orphan of another village (which was destroyed by aliens); no sooner has she learned that her real family has been dead for years, her adopted mother is burned half to death when her weapons-dealer turns on her, and she and Garnet barely have enough time to reconcile before she dies. Garnet then becomes Queen... just in time for her kingdom to be devastated by the same alien ship that destroyed her original village, and in the aftermath of all this, she ends up with enough psychological damage to render her mute until she's recovered from the grief and self-loathing.
  • Inazuma Eleven has not one, but an entire team of Iron Woobies. This may have something to do with taking place in a World of Woobie.
  • Cole from In Famous. The hero path version anyway.
  • Lost your parents in the war? Surrounded by the hostile thoughts, words, and deeds of paranoid warmongers on all sides? Brother got manipulated into destroying the country and endangering the world in a crisis that is only resolved when he saves you from a two-person Heroic Sacrifice by sacrificing himself instead? Welcome to another day in the life of Sveta Czamaral.
  • Nautilus, Oh boy. He was a sailor who was left to die by his fellow seamen after he dived into an unidentified, pitch-black section of the ocean and was grabbed by something and dragged down. When he awoke after who knows how long, his heavy diving suit had been fused with his skin, and he was lost in complete darkness. With nothing else left to do, he walked. Too heavy to swim and weighted down by the suit, he walked along the ocean floor until he eventually hit the shores. However, he found that there was nothing left for him on the surface. No home, no family, no friend, nothing. The only reason he joined the eponymous League of Legends is that someone might be able to help him discover something about himself.


Web Comics

  • Xkcd presents Spirit this way.
  • Susan of El Goonish Shive. She was introduced as warlike Straw Feminist, but turned out mostly harmless, except for those who deserved to taste a Hyperspace Mallet. Then we find out that not only this quirk has a Freudian Excuse, the same compulsive memory warps her whole life and doesn't let her to be happy. And she manages to set aside even this to help a friend.
    • The school uniforms plotline shows this too. She challenges the school administration over the new uniforms, which she finds sexist. The student body, who all HATE the uniforms, hate HER even more because she isn't challenging them enough. "Nothing that makes me happy ever lasts." Eventually, the uniforms are removed not by Susan's constant activism, but complaints from parents about laundry.
    • Later a flashback shows us how, while on a class trip to France, she was attacked by an Aberration, recruited/tricked by Immortals to help Nanase hunt it down and kill it, and ended up killing it herself. Immediately afterward, her expression shifts from happy to jaded, and stays there for years.
    • Surprisingly enough, Adrian Raven also counts, as was hinted before. When one feels kinship with an enchanted boar because the critter also doesn't belong anywhere, well...
  • Nodwick has died 538 times, usually because his employers are too lazy to pick up a 10-foot pole. Many of these deaths have been slow and painful. He hardly complains, and when the forces of goodness offer to remove him from all this he turns them down (after seeing what this does to his companions or replacement). He still saves the world every other plotline.
  • Punch, AKA Adam, a Frankenstein's Monster from Girl Genius, is stated in the shows about the Heterodyne Boys to be mute, because after all the shit 'n' abuse he goes through, "He's always with the dignity". The real reason is that he's a construct who wasn't well-made though Gilgamesh is shown to have given him the ability to speak after rebuilding him, and his wife, Judy/Lilith, has mismatched eyes for the same reason.
  • Mecha Maid aka Marilyn Seong from Spinnerette has this in spades. She has, at most, three years to live thanks to ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). She can barely speak without technological assistance and is only mobile in a wheelchair or her battlesuit. Yet she gets into the Mecha Maid suit and goes out to punch supervillains anyway. (Admittedly, part of this may be that the armour's systems allow her to actually walk.)
  • O-Chul of Order of the Stick is an example Made of Iron. Blasted through the air from the losing end of a brutal battle, captured and tortured by Team Evil, given half a chance to escape he takes the opportunity to strike out at Xykon and Redcloak, no matter how many times he's humiliatingly beaten down for the effort. O-Chul maintains his code of honor without complaint, and can even show consideration for others through the worst of his torments. His resilience and compassion throughout his imprisonment may also have laid the groundwork for a Hell Face Turn on the part of Xykon's most powerful minion (which could very well save the world at some crucial point down the line).
  • All of the Exiles on post-apocalyptic Earth in Homestuck, to varying degrees. In particular, WV, who was a simple farmer who rose up and led a rebellion against the Black King, then had to watch helplessly as his entire army was slaughtered by Jack Noir.
    • PM maybe even more so. She was originally just a mail carrier, and was tasked with delivering a package to John. After a whole lot of things go wrong, she winds up appointed queen of the Exiles, only to see all of her friends/subjects murdered when Jack Noir comes out of nowhere, destroying what little they had managed to rebuild. He only didn't kill her because he didn't think she posed a threat. But then she finds the White Queen's Ring that WV had been carrying, and follows Jack to kick his ass as Prospitian Monarch. The look on Jack's face when he realizes how badly he underestimated her is glorious.


Web Original

 Critic: "I may be pathetic, but I'm proud."

  • Tex She was "literally" designed to fail at everything she does.
  • Billy MC is generally seen as this in that despite the woobie-ish elements of his life, he ultimately perseveres in his Lets Plays and will beat whatever Nintendo Hard game he's playing.
  • Gino Gambino, especially in Gaia Online's earlier storylines. Subjected to malnutrition, immoral experimentation, fatherly disapproval, vampire kidnappings, Easy Amnesia, and yet when his dad's been sniped off the top of a skyscraper, Gino jumps after him, because he cares about him that damn much. Sadly this has faded in some of the more recent storylines, where he's more of a whiny Butt Monkey.
  • In the best-known Let's Play for the So Bad It's Good Pokémon romhack Pokémon Quartz, a young girl named Foxy contends with a land filled with rapists, idiots who mangle the English language, a villainous band with the stupidest goal in the history of the Pokemon world, a creepy molesting stalker, Groudon and Kyogre's deformed cousins, a Pokemon family based on the idea of Memetic Molesters (one of which she catches and trains), a Pokemon professor who's a huge creep and a Marty Stu Author Avatar, an over-abundance of flying-types, and gym leaders who have an infinite supply of full restores. She also wins, and even pulls a katana on her stalker-rival.
  • To a certain degree, Chuggaaconroy. His deleted 50 facts video revealed that he had four siblings that died in miscarriages, he nearly died from an allergic reaction as a kid, and he was bullied in school. He's also admitted that he was only pretending to be enthusiastic in his Super Mario Sunshine LP since he had been worrying about health problems during it. However, he doesn't talk about it or let it stop him from being the goofy, nerdy gamer we all know and love.
  • Chiaroscuro Themyst from Sinai Muck is a cute mongoose character who got trapped in another world, has to deal with a constant buzzing noise in his head, originally speaks in broken English and gets mistreated because he's often mistaken as a kavi yet he seems to function rather well. He crosses the line from Iron Woobie to pure Woobie in this log though.


Western Animation

  • Another literal example is WALL-E. That little guy's spirit is amazing.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog. This trope is more or less the premise of the show.
  • Raven of Teen Titans.
  • The final lines in La Resistance from South Park Bigger Longer Uncut advise the reistance members that, if their dicks are cut in half, they should laugh it off and go out with as much defiance as possible. If that's not being an Iron Woobie, what is?

  "And that's the way it goes, in war you're shat upon . . ."

    • Kenny is revealed to be this when it turns out that, in addition to having a crappy home life, he remembers every time he died, but noone else does.
  • The titular Samurai Jack went through hell in his quest to return to his native time, and never even achieved his final goal. And yet, he just soldiers on.
  • All four of the protagonists of Up.
  • Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants.
  • Wile E. Coyote and Sylvester of Looney Tunes. On a related note, Tom of Tom and Jerry.
  • Dukey from Johnny Test.
  • Ed Otter from Brandy and Mr. Whiskers.
  • Goofy as he appears in House of Mouse. Turns out he wasn't meant to be head waiter.
  • Tina from Bob's Burgers
  • Bessie Higgenbottom from The Mighty B.
  • Tom Peters from Tom Goes to the Mayor.
  • Prince Zuko is one, and summed it up this way: "I don't need luck, though. I don't want it. I've always had to struggle and fight and that's made me strong. It's made me who I am."
  • Takashi "Shiro" Shirogane from Voltron: Legendary Defender has been through absolute hell both before and during the series, but he never gives into his angst. The one time he shows cracks in his armor in front of the others, it's extra heartbreaking.
    • Keith straddles the line between this and Jerkass Woobie. While he's temperamental and cold to everyone but Shiro at first, he tends to keep his feelings all to himself.

Real Life

  • Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy, movie star and most highly decorated American soldier of World War II. Earned his status as a Memetic Badass in the US Army. He was also a long-time sufferer of what would later be known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, at the time referred to as "Battlefield Fatigue" or "Shell Shock", and spoke publicly about his problems (something that many sufferers do not do even today) in order to bring attention to soldiers returning from Korea and Vietnam suffering from it. At one point became addicted to sleeping pills, and upon realizing this, proceeded to quit cold turkey by locking himself in a motel room for a week.
  • Sylvester McCoy. Never even met his father, as he died in a submarine explosion during World War II, mother had a nervous breakdown and died in an asylum, and yet he manages to put a rather inventive "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" spin on it: saying that as orphan-status increases your need to charm respect and love from others, it makes you who you are as a performer.
  • The last Emperors of the Habsburg Empire, Franz Josef and Karl, arguably fit this trope. In the case of "Franzi", it's almost a miracle that he kept his stern composure and sanity following the horrific deaths of his brother (Maximilian, executed in Mexico), son/original heir (Rudolf, who died alongside his mistress Maria Vetsera in the Mayerling Incident), wife (Elisabeth/Sisi, stabbed by an Italian anarchist - this one doubles as The Mourning After)and nephew/heir (Franz Ferdinand, murdered in public - which started World War I), plus having the Kingdom of Italy, the ancient enemy turned ally, betray the Triple Alliance and join the enemy. His successor, on the other hand, faced the eminent downfall of Austria-Hungary and strove to at least ease the pain for his subjects. Though he did attempt (with failure) to reclaim Hungary after the War. He eventually died on Madeira from pneumonia, about two months before the birth of his youngest daughter, at the age of 34.
    • Empress Zita of Bourbon-Parma, Karl's widow (for 67 years!), was regarded as one too. From The Other Wiki: "After his funeral, a witness said of Zita: This woman really is to be admired. She did not, for one second, lose her composure... she greeted the people on all sides and then spoke to those who had helped out with the funeral. They were all under her charm."
    • It's also been argued that towards the end of his life, Franz Josef was a closeted Death Seeker. In a sense, the mere fact that he outlived just about all his contemporaries while having to cope with the deaths of those closest to him was a Fate Worse Than Death.
  • The Bronte Sisters. Seriously, they managed, owing to the unfortunately placed source of their water, see their mother die, their sisters die, their brother die, and then the two older sisters die, hell, even their AUNT died. Finally even Charlotte died, and the father was basically alone until he died six years later.
  • Beethoven. Deaf composer. Considered by some to be the greatest composer of all time. He wrote some of the most moving pieces of music ever composed. While not able to hear them. The popular legend contends that he had a piano without legs, and he would compose at it while laying on the ground to feel the vibrations since he couldn't hear the notes.
    • Reality is slightly less spectacular, but no less badass: By the time his hearing went, he was enough of a composer to know what the notes would sound like.
  • A surprising number of artists and visionaries throughout histories seem to have led lives of relative misery, to the point where many schools of thought contend that it's either a prerequisite for or an inevitable side effect of genius.
  • Abraham Lincoln. Grew up impoverished. His mother, sister and his lover and/or closest friend all died before he was twenty three. He struggled with depression his entire life. He had his early political career shot to pieces for speaking out against the war on Mexico. He outlived two of his sons. Despite all this, became one of the greatest American presidents and all-around great guy. Then he got shot.
  • The Chinese public views themself as this kind of Woobie. Just check out all those bad news about China, both political and economical, and ask someone there.
    • Ditto the Jews.
  • Richard Hatch from Survivor fame. He was raped twice before he turned ten, was thrown out of his house when he was 15, almost didn't graduate high school, flunked out of college because of drugs and he only got his corporate trainer job due to getting it handed from him. Also, he got married to a person who abandoned him for a green card! It also doesn't help when you realize everything he's done after Survivor Borneo was a failure. Also he got accused for not paying his taxes when he was innocent. His life is practically one bad event after another.
  • The Furry Fandom artist Evo T Rex, once an active artist, lost his ability to draw because of brain cancer. He remains well-respected because of his artwork and his online presence, but he could no longer draw after the operation to have his tumor removed. The tumor since grew back, but he is usually in high spirits despite the sad series of status updates. It's uncertain if he'll ever draw again, but he is regularly greeted by respecting well-wishers.
  • The Palestinians, who formulated the Sumud philosophy, which might be translated as steadfast perseverance. For the Palestinians, to exist is to resist.
  • Pitbulls. This is a breed that suffers pure Nightmare Fuel at the hands of humans, but humane organizations note it is extremely common for dogs seized from absolutely horrific circumstances to greet their rescuers with wagging tails and kisses.
  • Rubén Gallego, Russian writer of Spanish descent.
  • Brian Price of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as shown here
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