10 Heroic ways to die (according to the literature)

10 heroic ways to die, taken from literature but not (ever) to be taken literally


SACRIFICIALLY: In which you sacrifice your life so another may live.

  • Aslan dies in Edmund’s place in Lewis’ The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe
  • Sydney Carlton dies in the place of his look-alike in Dicken’s A tale of two cities


POINTLESSLY: In which you are good and innocent but die as the result of a lie or a mistake. Your death serves to demonstrate the overwhelming evilness of the villain, and it’s really very sad

  • Romeo dies after mistakenly believing that Juliet has perished – Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
  • Robin Hood is fooled by a rich woman, who pretends to heal him but actually lets him bleed to death – Percy folio version’s Robin Hood


DISEASEDLY: In which you die from TB or another so-called “Romantic Illness”, or any sickness which is socially acceptable and not too dis-figuring.

  • Diamond perishes from TB – MacDonald’s Back of the North Wind
  • Beth dies from scarlet fever – Alcott’s Little Women


CHEERFULLY: In which you die rather gloriously, unafraid and cheerfully encouraging all around you

  • Both Uncle Tom and little Eva – Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s cabin


MAGNANAMOUSLY: In which you die in one dramatic act in order to rid your world of evil

  • Dumbledore – choosing to die at the hand of Snape in order to protect his cover – Rowling’s The Half Blood Prince
  • Sherlock Holmes falling off the top of a waterfall, interlocked with an evil criminal mastermind – Doyle’s The Final Problem


STUBBORNLY: In which you die as the direct result of refusing to surrender in a fight

  • Katsumoto kills himself rather than concede defeat – The Last Samurai (film)
  • William Wallace is hung, drawn and quartered for refusing to surrender – Braveheart (film)


PREDESTINEDLY: In which your death is almost inevitable because by it you will fulfil a greater purpose

  • Harry Potter dying in a duel with Voldemort, both cannot live – Rowling’s Harry Potter and the deathly hallows
  • King Arthur who is prophesied to die by Mordred’s hand but one day to return – Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and other versions, including Merlin (tv series)


SADLY: In which you are dying or must choose to die, but are afraid and want to live

  • Captain Kirk wishes as he dies that he might be like Spock and not feel – Star Trek: Into Darkness (film)
  • The doctor must allow his human self to die in order to save the world, and his human self, John Smith, is devastated – Family of Blood, Doctor Who (tv series)


CLANDESTINEDLY: In which you die off-screen in order to further the plot by bringing a child into the world.

  • Sara’s father dies in war, leaving her in a boarding school – Burnett’s The Little Princess
  • Oliver’s mother dies in childbirth, leaving him in a poor house – Oliver! (musical)
  • Everyone’s parents because you know that the best protagonist is always an orphan. See also: Harry Potter, The Wolves of Willboughy Chase, Tom’s Adventures (tv series) and many others.


UN-IRREVOCABLY: In which you are too heroic and important to really stay dead and due to ancient powers you rise again

  • See almost every character listed above. Special mentions to Aslan; Gandalf; Harry Potter & Sherlock Holmes.


In other words… just die and you’ll be labelled a hero*! **

* according to literature

**= not applicable if you’re already the villain. If so, you’ll merely receive a ‘good riddance’. Unless of course you are an anti-hero or a bad-guy-turned-good – but that’s a whole other story…





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