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"But ne'er the rose without the thorn."
Robert Herrick, The Rose

In contrast to its strictly romantic usage, roses have long been a symbol representing a duality between beauty and tragedy. The reasons for this are evident in the rose itself. The petals are outwardly very beautiful, making it one of the most famous flowers in the world and perfect for romantic occasions. On the other hand, the stem of the rose is covered with sharp thorns and the petals themselves are most commonly depicted as being a blood red color (or an innocent white). This duality within the rose has led to it being used to symbolize both beauty and tragedy simultaneously.

This trope is for characters and situations where the duality occurs. Frequently, a character with the name Rose is portrayed as being beautiful, yet ends up with a life full of trauma and tragedy. In other cases, roses can be used to symbolize any character or event with this duality. The trope can also be invoked by characters who adopt the rose as a symbol for this very reason. If you see a bunch of red roses in a scene and it doesn't look like anything romantic will be happening, expect tragedy. Gothic Horror uses this trope a lot in all variations. A bloody rose is a very popular and almost iconic image of the Gothic Horror genre.

Cherry Blossoms are used similarly in Japan. For roses used in a romantic setting, see Something About a Rose. Not to be confused with The Poppy, which is a blood-red flower that represents wartime tragedy.

Examples of The Tragic Rose include:

Characters with the name Rose:


  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Rosé Thomas becomes a pawn in her first appearance, she was an orphan, and her boyfriend died. This is canon to her manga and 2009 anime incarnations, but in the 2003 anime version adds even more disgraces...
    • In addition to this, in the first anime Rosé was raped off screen by soldiers occupying her town, became a mute and carried the resulting baby to term. She then had to lead her town to exile and merger with the nation due to another invasion of soldiers, was kidnapped by the Big Bad, and was spared by moments from a final Grand Theft Me that might have used her beloved baby as fuel. The guy she finally professes her love to, then, gets trapped in another dimension.
    • Finally, in The Movie, the guy who she professed her love to comes back from that other dimension hitchhiking with an army, never once sees her, then he and his brother (who did see her), go back to that other dimension after beating the army. Otherwise, however, Rosé is doing somewhat better.. Additionally, in said movie "our world" has a girl named Noah who looks just like Rosé, is strongly implied to be her counterpart there, and also goes through lots of terrible shit.
  • In Bleach a man named Rojuro Otoribayashi is nicknamed Rose. Him and his friends got an horribly raw deal by being forcibly transformed into Hollow/Shinigami hybrids by the Big Bad. It does seem that Rose has earned a happier ending, though: as of manga chapter 481, he has been allowed back home and regained his captain seat.
    • Until the Vandereich invasion, that is, since his liutenant Kira and a good part of his division were massacred by the invaders. Understandably, Rose is PISSED.
  • Rose of Versailles has it even in the title.


  • In Titanic Rose was on the Titanic, her old boyfriend is a Domestic Abuser Yandere and her new boyfriend freezes to death. She lived for almost 90 years afterwards, becoming pretty much a living legend; after telling the people digging in the sea for the Titanic what she witnessed there (which, yanno, makes the plot of the movie), Rose dies peacefully at the very end.
  • The 1979 film The Rose features a lonely and burnt-out singer living a destructive "sex, drugs, rock and roll" lifestyle. The film's titled after her stage name, and after a series of heartbreaks and other misfortunes, she collapses and dies of an overdose on stage in the first few minutes of her homecoming concert.

Live Action TV

  • In Doctor Who, Rose Tyler is the companion of the last surviving Time Lord, and became trapped on a parallel earth. With no means to get back to him.
  • Averted on Golden Girls. Rose is a Cloudcuckoolander who seemed to enjoy her idyllic (if very, very weird) life in St. Olaf.
  • On the Cold Case episode "Best Friends", a girl named Rose tried to leave her home with her girlfriend, the Bifauxnen Wilhelmina aka Billie after her homophobic and overprotective brother and guardian disapproved. The deal didn't go over as planned, and she spent the rest of her life writing sorrowful poems about her lost love. Decades later, a girl's corpse was found in an old truck that was at the bottom of a river; the detectives manage to find Rose, who finally confesses what happened and identifies the corpse as Billie's. Afterwards Billie's spirit comes to greet Rose, all being forgiven. It's all but stated that they're Together in Death.

Video Games

  • In Fable 2 your older sister Rose is shot in the face in the first half hour.
  • Raiden's girlfriend Rosemary in Metal Gear Solid. Apart from the fact that her lover's pretty broken, she was supposed to seduce him as part of a Honey Trap, but fell for him for real. Then in the fourth game (after dealing with the fallout from revealing she was The Mole) she pretty had to Shoo the Dog for the entire game to keep their child safe. They reunite at the end though.
  • Rose from the Street Fighter series. Beautiful, level-headed, a powerful Lady of Black Magic, Bison's "other self"... and much every ending she's ever had is a Downer Ending. Save for Street Fighter IV, where Rose finally manages to survive to Bison's influence due to her best friend Guy.
  • Rose from Legend of Dragoon ends up being the sole survivor of a brutal war, losing her fiance and best friends in the process, and is forced to accept immortality in order to save the world from complete destruction every 108 years. The necessary evils needed in order to accomplish said world-saving has resulted in the entire world hating her as a mythical demon of evil and destruction. By the time the game's storyline rolls around, she can't even remember the last time she smiled.
  • Rose Berstein from The King of Fighters is the Alpha Bitch daughter of the evil Rugal Berstein and the sister of the honorable Adel. She's Brainwashed and used as a pawn by the enemies (Those of the Past) in the Tales of Ash saga, culminating in Ash Crimson's Thanatos Gambit that has him Ret Goned.. She's even wearing a dress with rose motifs right as the latter part takes place.

Web Comics

  • Rose Lalonde fits this in Homestuck, although actual rose motifs only extend as far as her using a pair of weapons called the Thorns of Oglogoth.

Western Animation

  • American Dragon Jake Long: Rose is the love interest of the main character. She was stolen from her family as a baby, is brainwashed, and nearly erased from existence.
  • Sleeping Beauty, whose real name is Aurora, but the fairies named her Briar Rose. She got a raw deal with the whole finger-pricking, fall-asleep-until-your-true-love-kisses-you curse-thing put on her at birth by a witch who was pissed about not being invited to her christening by her parents. She gets the True Love's Kiss from her sort-of groom, and then gets better.
  • Balto: A girl named Rosy spends the entire movie slowly dying of a disease. Not only does she survive, but she's the Narrator All Along..

Other characters and settings with a thematic link:

Anime and Manga

Fairy Tales

  • In Sleeping Beauty, the roses were the source of the tragedy -- ninety-nine princes killed themselves on their thorns, trying to get in.


  • In Les Miserables, Eponine is described/alluded to as being a "rose in misery". This girl (at least during her teenage years) doesn't get a break: her family is impoverished and linked to an infamous gang of robbers, she's often starving, is implied to be not right in the head, and has the misfortune to fall in unrequited love with her neighbor.

Live Action TV

  • Used in a fairly effective subversion of the romantic meaning in Buffy, when Giles comes home to a beautiful romantic set-up, complete with roses and champagne... And goes upstairs to find his girlfriend, Jenny's murdered corpse; the whole setup was Angelus' way of torturing Giles that little bit more.


  • The Phantom of the Opera: The phantom gives Christine a rose with a black ribbon around it.
    • Only in the film. In the stage show, the rose only shows up in the logo and probably represents Christine herself (the other graphic part of the logo is a mask, representing the Phantom.)

Video Games

  • Miranda from Legend of Dragoon hates roses because they're linked with her abusive mother, saying that her mother kept them around because they were beautiful but the bouquet was always in sight whenever she was beaten.
    • Oh, also she doesn't get along with the character Rose mentioned above.
  • Rule of Rose, naturally. The most triumphant example being that The Rose Garden Orphanage falls victim to a massacre with one sole survivor.
  • In Ib, the gallery Ib starts out in has a sculpture of a red rose with vicious-looking thorns titled "Embodiment of Spirit" and is described as "beautiful at first glance, but if you get too close, it will induce pain." When Ib is transported to the painting world, she gets a red rose that's described as "almost too beautiful to be real" and gradually wilts away to nothing as she takes damage, and she finds out later on that playing Loves Me, Loves Me Not with another person's rose is a very, very bad thing to do.
  • In Fire Emblem Fates, the Kingdom of Nohr's floral emblem is the purple rose. Nohr itself is a Medieval Europe-inspired kingdom with few natural resources, a mighty military, a Deadly Decadent Court and a VERY tragic history.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Beauty and the Beast, which already plays on the duality of beauty and tragedy, uses the wilting rose literally as a time limiting plot device.

Real Life

  • Yoshiki Hayashi loves roses and rose motifs, and his life has been an parade of tragedies. He's done somewhat better in later years, though.
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