Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow, vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore
Nameless here for evermore.
Edgar Allan Poe - "The Raven"
The person who nominated this trope is inviting all comers to add content at will
and Rolling Updates Are Go
. Any suggestions for ideal pictures to illustrate this trope will be fallen upon with cries of gratitude.
One of the Oldest Ones in the Book
, named for the famous deceased in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven". In short the three defining criteria are
- a love interest of a prominent character
- is dead before the story begins or dies during the course of the story
- their death has significant ongoing impact, consequences and relevance for the remainder of the story
Lost Lenores can be divided into two categories, Type A and Type B.
Type A: A Posthumous Character
like the trope namer, ie, dead before the story begins
Type B: Dies during the course of the story. In determining whether a character who dies during a story can be classified as a Type B Lost Lenore, the third criterion above is the most important. In order to fit this trope, the character must have just as much, if not more, importance to the narrative dead than they do alive.
For example, Anna in Van Helsing
is the heroís love interest and dies at the climax of the story, but she is not a Lost Lenore as all that happens after she dies is that Van Helsing is cured, lays her to rest, sees her happy with her family in the afterlife and roll credits. She does more for the story alive than she does dead.
It is not uncommon for characters who lost Lenore to become involved in other relationships, particularly if she is a Posthumous Character
or the story is part of an ongoing series. However, in order to qualify for this trope it must be clear that the character who lost Lenore still grieves for her, and that subsequent love interests never entirely replace her.
The Lost Lenore does not have to be a conventional love interest in the sense of having been in an established relationship with whoever loved and lost her. She may have been The One That Got Away
, The Best Friend's Wife, The Beautiful Stranger, I'm Going To Tell How How I Feel Whoops She's Dead, etc, etc. Nor does she necessarily have to be beautiful or a female, but most love interest characters are portrayed as beautiful and Most Writers Are Male
Several other tropes came close, especially Dead Little Sister
and I Let Gwen Stacy Die
, but the Lost Lenore is differentiated from the former in that romantic love of some sort is the key relationship dynamic and the two don't tend to overlap
and the latter in that another character doesn't always hold themselves responsible for her death. She is not a Disposable Woman
or Forgotten Fallen Friend
or as these characters arenít necessarily love interests, and/or their death does not sufficiently impact on both characters and the narrative itself.
The Lost Lenore's mode of death can vary but popular choices include:
- The Incurable Cough of Death or other related terminal illnesses - see Mary in Silent Hill 3, Jennifer in 'Love Story', Cathy Earnshaw in 'Wuthering Heights'.
- Death by Childbirth - see Marni in 'Repo! The Genetic Opera', Chani in 'Dune', Lilias in 'The Secret Garden'.
- Stuffed into the Fridge - see Murron in 'Braveheart', the dead wife in 'Memento', Mel Gibson's dead wife in any Mel Gibson movie, ever.
- Heroic Sacrifice - Farah in 'Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time' (along one time stream anyway), Marion in the recent 'Robin Hood' TV series, Lily Potter in the 'Harry Potter' series.
Lenores can also become lost through suicide
, Innocent Bystander Syndrome
, tragic accident or Random Act of God.
If she left children behind, said children often have considerable emotional baggage to deal with, including a father (or father figure equivalent) whose grief can render them overprotective or neglectful, or abusive or absent. The child/ren may feel, or even be told explicitly, that they are either too much like the Lost Lenore, or else not enough like them. Angst ensues.
If the Lost Lenore was murdered and Stuffed into the Fridge
, a Roaring Rampage of Revenge
may result. Which leads to an crucial identifying point: many Gwen Stacys
are also Lost Lenores, but not every Lost Lenore is also a Gwen Stacy, as someone explicitly blaming themself for the Gwen Stacy's death is an identifying criterion for this trope, whereas this is not always the case for a Lost Lenore.
After her death, whether it occurs before the story begins or during its course the Lost Lenore is present in the the thoughts, dialogue and actions of living characters. However she can herself be a dynamic presence within a story through the use of Flashback and or direct interaction with living characters in the form of a Spiritual Advisor
. Conversely, forces of evil
may evoke the memory of the Lost Lenore, or even masquerade as a manifestation of her, in order to manipulate living characters.
Sometimes living characters encounter another living character who for whatever reason strongly reminds them of the Lost Lenore. This new character could be a relative, reincarnation, or even just an uncanny doppelganger. In this instance a romantic relationship may develop, but this is always based primarily on the character's resemblance to the Lost Lenore and, yes, Angst can ensue.
Occasionally, due usually to a dramatic twist
Lenore turns out not to be lost after all, or still dead but for reasons or by means other than previously believed by characters or implied in the story. The Lost Lenore can sometimes be unlost through an act of Time Travel
or by magic
but her death must be treated as a real event within the story, even if the audience knows or characters subsequently discover a twist in the tale, and she must still satisfy the major criteria of having been loved and her perceived loss being of ongoing significance in order to qualify for this trope.
Not to be confused with the comic book character Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl
who tends to cause death to other people rather than experience it herself.
Related tropes include: Dead Little Sister
, Death by Origin Story
, I Let Gwen Stacy Die
, Death by Childbirth
, Stuffed into the Fridge
, Oh, and X Dies
Contrast with: Disposable Woman
, Forgotten Fallen Friend
As this trope deals in part with characters who die during the course of a story, Here Be Spoilers.
- Cyndia/Cecelia from Yu-Gi-Oh! is unusual in that she does Lost Lenore duty not for a hero of the series but for a villain, Pegasus. Compare to Lily in the Harry Potter series.
- Lilith certainly seems to qualify as Abel's Lost Lenore in Trinity Blood. Her murder changed his character forever and he mourned her alone in a cave for 'centuries' afterwards. While Abel later forms strong bonds with other female characters, no one else compares to his memory of her.
- Kanan from Saiyuki is Hakkai's Lost Lenore and may be the Most Triumphant Example, since she is also his Dead Little Sister AND I Let Gwen Stacy Die In The Origin Story!
Live Action TV
- Marni in Repo: The Genetic Opera
- The dead wife in Memento
- Elisabeta in Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula
- Shelly in both the comic and movie adaptation of The Crow
- Murron in Braveheart
- Satine in Moulin Rouge!
- Claudia in Interview with the Vampire
- Ellie in UP
- Hari in Solaris is a particularly interesting case: the prime mover of the story is Kris' guilt over her death, and her doppelganger's reaction to the knowledge of it.
- Angier's lust for revenge after the death of his love is what drives the plot of The Prestige.
- The appearance of Dr. Harvey's wife in Casper looks like this, when she says she's not a ghost because she accomplished what she needed to in this life; she Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence.
- Characters in at least two recent Leonardo Di Caprio movies, Inception and Shutter Island
- Parodied in ErikTheViking. The titular character connects briefly with a village maiden and saves her from a Fate Worse than Death by accidentally subjecting her to the latter. He remains haunted by her memory but when he reunites with her in Valhalla she is less than thrilled to see him.
- Victoria from the Dr Phibes movies (The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr Phibes Rises Agagin)
- Miranda in Picnic at Hanging Rock, so exquisitely beautiful and poignant that Michael fell in love with her at a glance before she vanished forever up that damn rock.
- 'Unforgiven' - Clint Eastwood remained so devoted to his dead wife that he graciously turned down a freebie from the Hooker with a Heart of Gold he was helping even though she was played by Anna Levine.
- "Dan In Real Life" does this rather generically, albeit effectively.
- In Season Three of the recent BBC series Robin Hood Robin Hood may have got another love interest in the form of Kate but the final scene of the final episode affirmed Maid Marian's status as The One True Love.
- Freya seems to be this in the current TV series Merlin
- The fact that he couldn't save his wife from a car wreck is what spurns David Banner to gamma experiments in The Incredible Hulk (the TV series).
- Kate for Neil in the current season of White Collar.
- A case can be argued for Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer fitting this trope for Willow subsequent girlfriend aside.
- Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks may not have had an explicit love interest, but she was such an object of fascination and mystery to so many characters, and her murder and the investigation thereof so crucial to the plot of the series, that she qualifies for this trope.
- Trudy in Monk.
- Inverted in a That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch involving a parody of the film Rebecca. The titular Rebecca arrives at her new husband's house only to find out he is obsessed with preserving everything in the house for his second wife.
- Male example - and doubly unique and interesting as he is the Lost Lenore to another male character - Brandon from Season One of The Wire, whose death continued to have ramifications through subsequent seasons.
- Exaggerated in The Simpsons episode "I'm Goin' to Praiseland." When Ned invites his date Rachel Jordan to stay at his house (to sleep in separate rooms, of course), she's skeeved out by all the photos of his late wife Maude, the Maude-shaped bedsheet indentation he preserves with sprayed starch, the robe he hands her, monogrammed with her name, and his calling her "Maude." None of which prepares her for her discovery, upon awakening the next morning, that Ned has cut her hair to resemble Maude's.
- Yue to Sokka in Avatar: The Last Airbender. While he does get a new love interest, he also spends a lot of time thinking about Yue, even after he gets together with Suki. As shown by his reaction to Suki's teasing during Ember Island Players.