Created By: raisingirl83 on September 18, 2010 Last Edited By: raisingirl83 on October 15, 2010
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The Lost Lenore

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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 woman I loved is... dead."
Christian in Moulin Rouge!

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.


Examples

Anime/Manga
  • 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!

Film
  • 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.

Literature

Live Action TV
  • 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.

Western Animation
  • 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.

Video Games

Theater

Community Feedback Replies: 46
  • August 31, 2010
    foxley
  • August 31, 2010
    MeanDean
  • August 31, 2010
    Duckay
    Does the dead love interest have to be a beautiful woman, or just a love interest? (Or, conversely, does it have to be a love interest, or just a beautiful woman?) Or must they be both?
  • August 31, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Subtrope of Posthumous Character.

    • Ellie in Up.
  • August 31, 2010
    amazinglyenough
  • August 31, 2010
    ChevalierMalfait
    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.
  • August 31, 2010
    Tannhaeuser
    @ Foxley: Rebecca is a subversion. Maxim hated Rebecca.

    From either side of the English Civil War: Lord Strafford's appeal to Parliament to spare his life, if only for the sake of his children--"the interest of these pledges, which a saint in Heaven left me." (His plea was not accepted; he was condemned and beheaded.) Then there is John Milton's famous Sonnet XXIII:
    Methought I saw my late espoused saint
    Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grave...
    (Alcestis, in classical mythology, gave her life for her husband Admetus, but was saved when Hercules beat Death up when it came to claim her.)
  • August 31, 2010
    shimaspawn
    Often times, the character keeps a Shrine To The Fallen for the lost love.

    Good name by the way. It makes sense even if you don't know the Raven, and on that note:

    • Eric Draven in The Crow comes back from the dead to revenge his murdered love Shelly.
  • August 31, 2010
    Jboyler
    Susan Delgado in Wizard and Glass. Roland continues to mourn for her throughout the remainder of the series, and her memory is also a significant part of the Marvel prequels.
  • September 1, 2010
    shimaspawn
    Do you mind if I take this over? It's a good trope and I don't think we should let it die.
  • September 2, 2010
    MeganPhntmGrl
    Bumping for good trope being good.
  • September 2, 2010
    Arivne
  • September 2, 2010
    Sackett
    Don't we have this? I know we have Dead Little Sister, I thought we already had this version too.
  • September 2, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Didn't we have a recent YKTTW where the character, after the loss of his/her True Love, vows never to love again?
  • September 2, 2010
    shimaspawn
    ^^ I searched all over it when I was doing Shrine To The Fallen, but we don't seem to. I think people just assume that it's going to be here already.
  • September 2, 2010
    Starry-Eyed
    Western Animation: Avatar The Last Airbender: Yue to Sokka. 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. (See his reaction to Suki's teasing during Ember Island Players)
  • September 2, 2010
    LeeM
    Beatrice for the narrator of A Series Of Unfortunate Events.
  • September 2, 2010
    dotchan
    We do have The Gwen Stacy, buuuuuuut...
  • September 2, 2010
    shimaspawn
    ^ The requires that the hero let her die. Not just that she's dead. It would be a subtrope to this.
  • September 5, 2010
    genius15
    What about Trudy from Monk?
  • September 7, 2010
    lord_yo
  • September 7, 2010
    Starry-Eyed
    Anime/Manga: Cyndia/Cecelia from Yu-gi-oh is unusual in that she's this for the main villain of the arc, Pegasus.
  • September 12, 2010
    RayKat
    Anime/Manga: 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.
  • September 12, 2010
    c0ry
    I believe that Marni from Repo The Genetic Opera is spelled without an "e", and just adding my two cents: I feel that this trope should include only characters who die outside of the main plot, either before the story starts (or before a certain part of the story starts) or soon after; either way, the a feature of the Lost Lenore should be that his/her/its death should be an established fact, not a plot point; a motivation, not an event. Adding those whose deaths are not previously established, I believe, would make the trope too big.
  • September 12, 2010
    octopedingenue
    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!
  • September 12, 2010
    shimaspawn
    I don't think that limiting this to Death By Origin Story is necessary. The event is a big part of the trope. Yes, it's going to be huge, but that's not a bad thing. It can always be split into subtropes later.
  • September 12, 2010
    c0ry
    Shimaspawn, perhaps it should then have a broader title - in The Raven, Lenore is dead by origin story, and I would encourage a subtrope named after her, but if this is going to encompass all plot-object dead/gone love interests, its title should reflect its universality.
  • September 12, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    OK, I don't know if this is really an example, but what about Brandon from The Wire? He gets killed in the sixth episode of season one (only three episodes after his introduction) in a pretty dramatic fashion, and he continually comes up as a source of inspiration for his boyfriend Omar's Roaring Rampage Of Revenge against the people who killed him until the end of season three, whereupon Omar finally kills the last guy who was behind it, and moves on; although Omar dates in the meantime, it doesn't work out. He (that is, Brandon) is currently listed on the Character Sheet page for The Wire as Stuffed Into The Fridge, but a notable aversion of Forgotten Fallen Friend.
  • September 12, 2010
    Yora
    Mono from Shadow Of The Colossus. Bringing her back to life is the entire premise of the plot.
  • September 12, 2010
    raisingirl83

    c0ry, the typo of Marni's name has been noted and rectified. Thanks for pointing it out. I have thought about your other point, and I do think that 'The Lost Lenore' should remain the umbrella trope name. But you do raise a very good point that Lost Lenores then fall into sub-categories of Dead Before Story Begins, and Die During Story And Other Stuff Ensues, and would welcome a paragraph or two within the article explaining this and pointing up examples. As Shimaspawn pointed out in one of their edits, this trope is ancient, examples are legion, and its entry could be categorised and sub-categorised in any number of ways. I am stoked so many people have chipped in so far, and am looking forward to the entry being ready for launch.
  • September 12, 2010
    raisingirl83

    I have put Dead Little Sister, Fallen Friend and Death by Origin Story in the 'Compare' category.

    I have put Disposable Woman, I Let Gwen Stacy Die and Forgotten Fallen Friend in the 'Contrast' category.

    Does anyone have suggestions for a 'See Also' category ?
  • September 12, 2010
    randomsurfer
    Journeyman had an interesting example. In the backstory his fiancee died in a plane crash. He eventually got over it and married someone else - the woman who was his brother's girlfriend when he was engaged. She thinks he's not over his old gal but he assures her he's moved on. Then when he starts travelling through time he discovers that his old girlfriend isn't dead; she's a time traveller too, only from the 1940s. She leaped out just before the plane crashed. His old feelings sort of resurface, but he sure as hell doesn't tell his wife that his old girlfriend is alive!
  • September 15, 2010
    Duckay
    @raisingirl83 Just one little nitpick - Fallen Friend is a red link. Other than that, it looks good.
  • September 15, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Live-action TV - "Dark Shadows": Josette, lost beloved of Barnabas Collins. He loved her and missed her so much he developed a tendency to see her in other dark-haired girls...
  • September 15, 2010
    JackSlack
    I'm going to argue against Jack from Titanic and Satine from Moulin Rouge.

    The idea of Lost Lenore, I'd argue, is that they make more impact upon the plot dead than alive; they're an idealized figure, more talked of than seen, perfect in their absence.

    Think again to the trope namer: Lenore is never seen directly, that's the point, indeed. If it had been about how Lenore had died, and then we see the story of how she died, well, that's not Lost Lenore. They're Oh And X Dies, not Lost Lenore.

    I'm fine with Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks. Yes, she's in some flashbacks, but they're the exception rather than the rule. That's where the edge of the trope lays, I'd argue. And I'm fine with stuff like Brandon and Gwen Stacey, who appear early on but make most of their impact in death rather than life.

    It's only when you're still IN most of the story as it's told that I don't think it counts.
  • September 16, 2010
    Duckay
    I would agree with Jack Slack, actually. A character who is in most of the story, even though we know going in that they're dead/die at the end, feels different in a way to a character who may or may not be in the story at the beginning, but who make more of their impact in death than in life.
  • September 16, 2010
    Gunslinger
    Donna in Sons of Anarchy is a Lost Lenore, at least for the first half of the second season.
  • September 16, 2010
    TBTabby
    Batman The Animated Series gave Mr. Freeze a deceased wife whose death he was trying to avenge. This made him a much more interesting character, so much so that his wife became a posthumous Canon Immigrant in the comics.
  • September 16, 2010
    chihuahua0
    Does the character L from Death Note count? He does has an impact on the introduction of Near and Mello.
  • September 18, 2010
    DaibhidC
    Lisa in Funky Winkerbean, maybe?
  • September 21, 2010
    WalkingTheShades
    I'm amazed noone mentioned Nolan. This has a central role in both of his last movies, The Dark Knight and Inception.
  • September 22, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    I, too, agree with Jack Slack.

    @Walking The Shades: I don't know if maybe I've missed something, but who was The Lost Lenore in The Dark Knight? Rachel Dawes wouldn't count, since she died right at the end; she had more importance to the plot alive than dead.

    Also, bump for good trope.
  • September 23, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Yes, I was thinking of Rachel. It might be subjective, but to me it feels like she dies in the middle of the movie, and her death is the key to the whole second act. It has a lasting influence on the main characters:
    • It triggers Harvey Dent's Face Heel Turn, and is his only reason to take hostages at the end of the movie. (He states so himself)
    • Because of it, the Batman has nearly an Heroic BSOD and then he stops pulling his punches against the Joker.

    Moreover, it seems that the death was planned all along by the Joker: He knows that both Dent and the Batman (since he jumped to rescue her at the party) are attracted to her. He switches the locations of the kidnapped Dent and Dawes to make sure the Batman will save Dawes so he can manipulate Dent to turn against his own.

    Edited for spoilers.
  • September 23, 2010
    Duckay
    You're right, it's really more like the halfway mark than the end... however, (maybe this is just me; I'll leave it open to others to make the call), that's still too close to the end to call it... if the next movie in the saga continues that trend, she'd definitely count, but if it's all forgotten by the next installment, it no longer counts, know what I mean?
  • September 26, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    @Duckay : I know what you mean. But, let's look at the definition: "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"

    Criteria number one: check, and twice check.

    Criteria number two: "or dies during the course of the story", check.

    Number three: refer to my last post.
  • October 15, 2010
    Prfnoff
    YKTTW Bump so I can launch this.
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