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It's bad enough that scars tend to be permanent and sometimes painful in fiction. The really unlucky, however, get something even worse: a wound that won't heal at all, and remains open and raw long after it ought to have healed.
This usually happens for supernatural or highly symbolic reasons. Either the wound was made by something powerful enough to prevent healing, or it was received as the result of treachery, cowardice, or evil so potent that the recipient of the injury must go on paying for it indefinitely. Either way, normal medical care simply won't do the job. The wound will have to be somehow purified of its taint, and the symbolic meaning behind the injury will have to be somehow rectified, before the sufferer will stand any chance of being healed -- if that's even possible. The really unfortunate can never be healed, and go on bleeding for the rest of their lives.
Anime and Manga
- In Mnemosyne, Sayara Yamanobe is severely disfigured in episode one, then turned into an immortal by the Big Bad to come back for episode three. The catch? Since she was effectively half-eaten alive when she became immortal, her wounds won't kill her and won't heal either. Naturally, she is very pissed at Rin for doing this to her.
- Somewhere around volume 11 or 12 of Priest, Ivan Isaacs gets stabbed in the chest by Armand. Even with an exceptional healing ability, the wound perpetually bleeds and never closes, never heals - not until volume 15, at least, due to a bit of magic.
- In the first Rurouni Kenshin OVA, the wound Kenshin received from Tomoe's fiancee, Akira Kiyosato bleeds whenever he kills someone or is reminded of the person he killed. When The Reveal finally happens it bleeds while he reads Tomoe's diary and realizes that she was a spy all along. The injury doesn't heal until after Tomoe deals him another cut across the first, creating Kenshin's iconic cross-shaped scar.
- The Brand of Sacrifice borne by Guts and Casca of Berserk is one of these, and bleeds when the demons draw near.
- The wound that Slan of the Godhand inflicted on Guts is another one of these. According to Schierke, it's a physical and a spiritual wound. The cursed Berserker's armor is the only reason Guts isn't already dead.
- In Escaflowne, Van makes some sort of bond with the titular Giant Mecha, increasing its responsiveness to his piloting, but after the following battle its revealed that any damage the armor receives is inflicted as a corresponding wound to his body, and doesn't heal until the damage is repaired. Oh yeah, he experiences that too. Now imagine how it feels to have a horrific chest wound welded shut with no anesthesia.
- In Rave Master, one of the villains carries a special weapon that can be especially deadly: wounds caused by this weapon don't heal, but actually worsen until the midnight hour comes along. Until the bell tolls midnight, any treatment of these wounds is futile, and the victim is forced to suffer as every second, the wound becomes worse and worse. Now, imagine if you were scratched by this weapon at exactly 12:01 AM.
- In Kekkaishi, Kaguro's blades don't heal properly even if the victim has a Healing Factor. This results in the death of one of the main characters.
- At one point, Marvel's The Mighty Thor really severely pissed off Hela, the goddess of the dead. Consequently she cursed him to never die -- and never heal. A truly horrible fate for a warrior god.
- The curse actually worked in Thor's favor in his last fight against Jormungandr. As part of the Ragnarok Cycle Jormungandr and Thor were destined to kill each other. Since Thor can't die Jormungandr was the only one who died. Thor was left a total wreck afterwards.
- In the Persona 3 fanfiction Death and Ker, Minako has a series of wounds all the way down her back from where she was pulled off the Great Seal. They alternately bleed, scab over, and bleed again throughout the story, by way of indicating Minako's status as an integral part of the Seal.
- In The Legend of Link: Lucky Number 13, an injury inflicted by the Originals cannot be healed by anyone, be they a mortal wizard or the strongest of gods. The effects of these permanent injuries also tend to be somewhat... varied.
- Charon's flesh was stripped away. His skeletal body constantly emits poisonous magic that is harmful to mortals and gods alike.
- Hadrian's body wasn't damaged, but instead he lost the ability to kill.
- Link lost his right eye and left arm, which were replaced with look-alikes made out of dark magic. They function just as well as... well, the originals. Notably, even after acquiring enough power to obliterate the Originals with ease, he still doesn't have the ability to restore the old limbs.
- In the Bleach fic Hogyoku Ex Machina, this is the ability of Kenpachi's zanpakuto, Shakushi.
- Lancelot suffers this fate in Excalibur. (It may be a metaphorical wound, though. He sustained it while wracked with guilt about sleeping with Guinevere, and it was done by Excalibur which chouldn't have been in his physical posession at the time.)
- Early in Highlander, Ramirez slices the Kurgan's throat open, but doesn't completely decapitate him. When Connor meets the Kurgan centuries later, he still has the wound, and it's apparently being held closed with safety pins.
- In Death Becomes Her, when the two women drink the immortality potion, they find every wound is like this. The women cannot die, but their bodies can be severely damaged.
- Middle Earth:
- In the first Lord of the Rings book, Frodo was stabbed in the shoulder with a Morgul-blade by the Witch-King. A fragment of the blade burrowed towards his heart, but it was removed and his life saved. Despite this, even after the fall of Sauron and all his minions the wound never fully heals.
- In The Silmarillion, unhealing wounds that never stop hurting are what the silmarils inflicted on anyone who touched them without being worthy (i.e., pure of heart and innocent of wicked deeds). That didn't stop less-than-innocent characters from stealing and even swallowing them.
- In Ian Watson's novel Queenmagic, Kingmagic, injuries inflicted by magic can only be healed by personally killing the magician who injured you. If someone else happens to kill them first, you're stuck with a permanently unhealed injury for the rest of your life. This can be very nasty if it's something like a broken arm or fractured skull.
- In the Dragonlance novels, Raistlin punished his apprentice Dalamar the Dark for spying on him by digging his fingers into Dalamar's chest, leaving five permanently seeping wounds.
- In The Wheel of Time, Rand has an unhealable and highly plot-significant wound in his side, the result of two separate blows across the same area by two different forces of evil.
- In His Dark Materials, Will's wound doesn't heal throughout the entirety of The Subtle Knife until Jopari fixes it in the end of the book. It just keeps opening up again.
- A justified non-magical example in The Knights of the Cross. Macko gets ambushed and shot with a crossbow bolt. A broken piece of the tip gets stuck under his rib and causes the wound to fester, nearly costing him his life before the heroes finally manage to remove it.
- Torak in David Eddings' Belgariad has half his face burnt away when he steals the Orb. Being a God, his body has no natural capability of healing, so he suffers for thousands of years.
- In The Space Trilogy by CS Lewis, Ransom receives a bite on his heel from the Un-Man, which never fully heals afterwards. (Shortly thereafter, he receives a bequest that requires him to change his last name to Fisher-King.)
- In Silmarillion, Melkor loses the ability to heal wounds after he becomes a full-fledged God of Evil. The burns from Silmarils and the wound from Fingolfin's stab stay with him.
- False Gods: In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40000 book, Horus is dealt a blow with the Anathame, a sword that is made to kill whoever is named to it when it hits them. A lesser man would have died, but being a Primarch Horus is instead dealt a wound that refuses to heal, knocking him into a coma. He gets healed, the galaxy wishes he didn't.
- Elantris: Due to a catastrophe that occurred ten years before the start of the novel, the Elantrians do not heal from their wounds, at all. And they're all immortal. Consequently, the city of Elantris is full of piles of undying Elantrians who are too pained or injured to move, but are still alive. Fortunately the problem gets fixed at the end of the novel.
- In The Hollows series, demon wounds don't heal if the victim owes the demon but hasn't accepted a mark for repayment.
- Robin McKinley
- Early in Chalice, Mirasol receives an accidental burn on the back of her hand from her land's new Master, a priest of Elemental Fire. The burn does not heal, and can't even be soothed by the usual remedies, until the Master uses his power over Fire to heal it; Mirasol argues that the failure to heal is a natural result of the burn being in such a thin-skinned and awkward place, but the Master is of the opinion that it's something more uncanny in accordance with this trope.
- Sunshine: The title character is given a cut on her chest by a vampire. While the other injuries she takes during the experience heal normally, the cut lingers for months, scabbing over and then cracking and bleeding again; it's later stated that the wound is supernaturally poisoned and that the only thing that has kept it from killing her is the time she has spent exposing it to direct sunlight, with which she has a magical affinity. It doesn't heal until another vampire helps her purge the taint.
- In Dracula, the wound to the forehead that Harker gives the count early in the novel never heals. Whether this is because Dracula, being already dead, cannot heal wounds, or simply because not enough time passes, or something else, is never made clear.
- Forgotten Realms Towards the end of the Time of Troubles trilogy, Midnight is wounded by Cyric's blood-drinking sword. When the two of them are elevated to godhood, her wound never goes away, and is sometimes used as an oath: "Mystra's Wound!"
- The secondary power of the Mindsword in Fred Saberhagen's Swords and Lost Swords series is that any wound it inflicts, no matter how slight, is poisoned and will not heal naturally, and will, indeed, be fatal. The only power known to be able to counteract this is Woundhealer.
- In Wicked Lovely, the scar on Niall's face, given to him by the leader of the hounds, looks as though he only just received it when he isn't wearing a glamour. It is unknown wether his other scars have the same effect. It's probably symbolic; Niall's even more scarred on the inside.
- Harry Potter
- Bill Weasley's wounds from an untransformed Fenrir Greyback are hinted to be this.
- Mr. Weasley's snake bite from Nagini. It did heal eventually, but the magical abilities of Nagini kept that "eventually" going: no magical or non-magical healing could stop the bleeding. It ate right through the stitches!
- Normally, it is possible (with quick action) to reattach and heal limbs separated due to magic gone wrong (for example, if it gets splinched), but if one loses a part of the body to a Dark Art, such as the curse Sectumsempra, it is impossible to reattach the lost part (that's what happens to George Weasley's ear).
- Donna Jo Napoli's Sirena is based partially on the legend of Philoctetes (see below): Sirena tries to take care of Philoctetes' wound, but every day it requires special care, and it never gets better (in a variance from the source material, the reason that the crew abandoned Philoctetes on the island was that he was bitten by a snake sent by Hera, and they didn't want to be harboring a man who had angered the Queen of the Gods.)
- Fate/Zero has Servant Lancer's Gae Buidhe, which will create a wound that cannot heal on the target. This afflicts Saber early on and becomes her Drama-Preserving Handicap until Volume 3 of the novel. Even then, after the curse gets lifted, Saber insists on fighting only with her right hand during her rematch against Lancer.
- In Sandman Slim, Lucifer (yes, that one) has one of these from when God booted him out of Heaven. It eventually drives him to leaving hell when Mason tries to take over.
Lucifer: Father showed me the door with a faceful of fire.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Dominion uses energy weapons that have anticoagulant effects, disrupting the natural healing process and typically requiring advanced treatment--even by 24th Century standards--to prevent death from blood loss.
- Torchwood: After dying and being ressurected, Owen discovers that (because he is essentially a walking corpse and thus his cells do not regenerate) his body will not heal from any wounds he receives.
- The song "Witch of the Westmereland" by Archie Fisher
Pale was the wounded Knight
That bore the rowan shield
Loud and cruel were the ravens' cries
As they feasted on the field
Saying beck water cold and clear
Will never clean your wound
There's none but the witch of the Westmereland
Can make thee hale and sound
- Kid Crusher also mentions this trope in "I'm Not Alone".
KC:"Sundown! I'm here! I'm so pissed cause my wounds won't heal!"
Mythology and Religion
- In Classical Mythology, this happened to a few unfortunates:
- The immortal centaur Chiron was accidentally shot by one of Heracles' deadly arrows, which happened to be covered in Hydra blood. The venom kept the wound from ever healing, and caused such excruciating pain that Chiron willingly gave up his immortality and died to be rid of it.
- Another victim was Philoctetes, who was either bitten by a serpent or accidentally scratched by one of these Hydra-arrows before the siege of Troy. Philoctetes was not caused pain by the scratch, but the never healing wound stank like a mountain of corpses, which was unbearable during a prolonged siege, as there was no way to escape it. Philoctetes was exiled to an island, taking the quiver of Hydra venom tipped arrows with him (they were his property, having been a gift from Hercules), and when the gods tell the Greeks that the only way the war can be won is with his bow, the Greeks end up having to swallow their pride and beg Philoctetes to return.
- En route to Troy, Achilles wounded Telephus. It would not heal, and Telephus learned from an oracle that it had to be healed by the one who inflicted them. Achilles refused because he has no ability to heal. Fortunately, Odysseus deduces that scraping off pieces of a spear onto the wound will do it, because it was spear-inflicted.
- Most stigmata are like this, as are any wounds that a saint wears as a mark of holiness.
- The stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi.
- The Crucifixion wounds of Christ are this. The Resurrection healed all His other wounds, but not the ones inflicted by the Crucifixion, which is why Thomas was able to place his finger inside them. Stigmata are supposed to be copies of these Crucifixion wounds.
- Arthurian stories:
- Some interpretations of the Fisher King (or a similar character) has wounds that won't heal except through divine intervention. More interpretations, however, explain these as crippling or disfiguring scars rather than permanently open wounds.
- In some variants of Tristan and Isolde, he killed her uncle and received a cursed wound, such that he had to go to Ireland to have it healed. In other variants of Sir Galahad, a wounded knight is brought to Camelot and the knights learn that he's under a curse: only when the best knight in the world searches his wound will he recover. This proves to be Galahad.
- In Malory, the knight is called Sir Urry, and is brought to Camelot after Galahad's ascension. In this version, he's cured by Lancelot, who - while not perfect as Galahad was -- is nonetheless at the time the best knight in the world. Yet more variants of Sir Gareth and Lady Lyonesse, they try to anticipate their wedding vows; Lady Lynette keeps them on the straight and narrow by using a magical knight to wound Gareth. Repeatedly. Finally, she has him inflict a wound that will not heal, and cures it herself just before the wedding.
- In Wolfram of Eschenbach's Parzifal the titular knight meets the King to the Grail, Anfortas, who suffers from a never healing wound due to him being unfaithful. The wound would be healed and Anfortas released from his duty as King (since he had become unworthy) if a visitor would simply have enough compassion to ask what his suffering is. Parzifal doesn't get it first. On his second visit he is wiser, asks and becomes the new King of The Grail.
- In The Bible Jesus still has the wounds on his hands, feet, and side after he resurrects himself.
- Amfortas in Parsifal.
- Dungeons and Dragons:
- The "Cursed Blade" spell makes wounds that don't heal unless a Remove Curse spell is cast, and vile damage only can be healed in a hallowed area.
- Clay golems have the ability to inflict a Cursed Wound on you that won't heal normally, resists healing magic and needs Remove Curse cast on it before you can be healed.
- There's also a Sword of Wounding that does the same. You don't even need to cast the spell, the blade just does that automatically for you.
- The Epic Level Handbook's Lavawight and Shape of Fire take it a step further with their blazefire ability, which causes damage that cannot be recovered, period.
- Vile damage can also only be healed within a hallowed or consecrated area.
- Magic: The Gathering: -1/-1 counters. At the end of every turn, normal damage heals. These stay and keep the victim weaker until they get removed (not normally available). This can even kill those who are Nigh Invulnerable (the Indestructible keyword).
- In Deadlands, when a person comes back from the dead as a Harrowed, the wound that killed them never heals completely, which is a problem if the killing wound was something readily visible.
- Vampire: The Requiem has the Eupraxus bloodline of the Daeva clan. Each bloodline has a specialized curse, and for the Eupraxus, it's that the bites they inflict -- which can usually be sealed up by a lick with other vampires -- will only heal naturally, which means their meals are usually left bleeding out while in a state of ecstasy unless first aid is applied. It also means that those who are Embraced into the bloodline usually has a bite mark that will never heal, which most members cover up with a scarf, bandage, or other accessory.
- Warhammer 40000: Kaela Mensha Khaine. It's not that surprising that a deity of war, murder, traitors and assassins has the epithet "The Bloody-Handed God", but it kind-of is surprising to learn that in some versions of his legend, said god's eternally blood-dripping left hand is constantly dripping with his own blood, as he was cursed for murdering a particular (space) elven hero. (admittedly, in other versions, it is constantly dripping in the dead hero's blood)
- Exalted: Various Charms can do this, the majority of them belonging to the Abyssals.
- Fucking A: The main character of the Suzan-Lori Parks play is an "abortionist." The letter A is burned into her body, and the scar occasionally "weeps."
- Cuts caused by the Spear of Longinus in Persona 2 would not heal. This unfortunately does in Maya .
- At the end of Castlevania 1, Dracula inflicts wounds that will never heal, just before he is defeated. Cue Castlevania 2, with Simon resummoning Dracula and beating the crap out of him to break the curse.
- Blaz Blue: On the Story side of Gameplay and Story Segregation, Hakumen's sword seems to inflict these, at least on Ragna. After all, his sword is designed to cut the Black Beast.
- Butcher's cleaver in Diablo is the same - while it is said that the wounds inflicted by it can't be healed because of infection, you can heal them as much as you like.
- Final Fantasy XII has the Virus status effect (also known as Disease.) Taking damage in Virus status lowers your MAX HP as well as your current HP, so to heal this effect, you need a vaccine, casting cleanse or by touching a Save Crystal.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2 has the same effect, only it's called Wound Damage and is healed using a wound potion. Luckily you are able to inflict this status effect yourself as well instead of just having to suffer it.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Ganondorf has one. Long before the game began, Ganondorf was captured, put on trial, and sentenced to execution by the Sages. However, it wasn't until after he was impaled by a great magical sword that he revealed that he had the Triforce of Power, which saved his life. The Sages sealed Ganondorf into another realm ( the Twilight realm), but it doesn't take. When he returns in Twilight Princess, he has the same wound where the Sages impaled him through the heart -- and he uses that same execution sword as a weapon.
- The wound even remains when he transforms into his Dark Beast Ganon form, and acts as his weak point in the battle. In the end, Link completes Ganondorf's long overdue execution by impaling him through the wound with the Master Sword. This time the Triforce of Power abandons him.
- Pokémon: The burns inflicted by Houndoom never stop hurting and (presumably) never heal. You would never figure this out by playing the game.
- Fire Emblem the Sacred Stones: This is what happens to the loyal knight Seth, after an attack in the prologue. Get to the last battle, and he might still be complaining about it.
- Dawn of War Winter Assault: Lord Crull invokes the Bloodthirster "By the Wyrm Eye that bleeds in all the dark places. By the wound that never heals!"
- Dominic Deegan boasts Karnak, known as the Demon of Wounds before he ascended to become the King of Hell. Most of the wounds that he inflicts remain permanently open even in the face of white magic.
Szark Sturtz, one of the wounded, has only managed to get it closed when Karnak became the King of Hell, and only then because it has since been assumed that he's now got so many new powers to play with that he can't be bothered to keep track of them all. Even then, the scar is still livid and healing seemingly in tandem with Szark's progress towards redemption.
- Bob and George: Alternate George gets his eyes pecked out between the 297th and 298th strips. (Don't worry, he deserved it.) His eyes are still closed and bleeding at the bottom of the last party, in strip 2634.
- Early in Gunnerkrigg Court, Antimony gets slashed by a ghost, but the wound appears to fade almost instantly. Later, as she develops her psychic powers, it turns out that her Astral Projection bears a fresh cut, even years afterwards.
- Several venomous creatures (some of the stingrays and the nastiest of spiders) can have this effect, with their venom causing necrosis - getting rid of the dead flesh before it poisons the body leaves a gaping hole that may take years to heal properly.
- Even with antivenom, the kraits (deadly venomous snakes of India and East Asia) will often leave their victims with serious and permanent nerve damage.