Having to kill another human being is traumatic enough. But when a child has to do it, either in defense of themselves, in defense of another, or being forced at gunpoint or swordpoint themselves to do it, the effect can be all the more horrifying. The fact that even children are forced to hand out violence in a setting to defend themselves adds to the cynicism
of a setting. Children having to kill on a regular basis is a red flag for a Crapsack World
The reasons for a child having to kill vary. They may have been attacked by someone and struck out in defence: they just happened to have the right thing on hand. Equally, they may manage to get the drop on someone who is trying to murder a parent or other carer. As mentioned before, they may be forced to do it, either as some form of Training from Hell
or just from a complete sadist.
This will be made all the more tragic if it was someone close to the character: a friend, relative or, worst of all, their own parent or even parents.
If this is in a characters past, it will be a dark and troubled one.
Can lead to an even more warped form of Blood-Splattered Innocents
. Often the cause of a Dark and Troubled Past
. Child Soldiers
must do this as a matter of course. Kid Hero
stories with a particularly dark tone may also have this as normality for the setting. Tyke Bombs
can become this if said Tyke bomb is forced to kill before it can be defused.
Seen It a Million Times
Anime and Manga
- Black Lagoon: the vampire twins.
- Gunslinger Girl is all about this.
- Madlax has this as part of the Back Story: the entire plot basically stems from the fact that Margaret killed her own father (in self-defence) when she was 5 years old.
- Killua from Hunter × Hunter is an example. Being a member of a Big Screwed-Up Family of assassins, he's taught to kill from infancy, and forced into the life of an assassin without being given much of any choice in the matter. He was murdering people before he turned 6, and by the time he appears in the show - at an age of maybe 10 or 11 - he's already killed hundreds of people.
- City of God has an infamous example in which a ganglord forces one small child to kill his even younger friend after they steal from him.
- The Quick and the Dead had The Lady, as a young girl, attempt to shoot a hanging rope in two to save her father, but she missed the rope and hit him square in the forehead instead. Not forced to kill her father, but forced to take an action that took her fathers life.
- H.H. Munro's The Easter Egg
- Robert Muchamore's "Home" in which the protagonist is a very young guerilla soldier. After doing it he is nicknamed "Psycho".
- Basically the whole plot of the Hunger Games books.
- The 24 Made-for-TV Movie Redemption included some children being trained to kill by the followers of an African general. (That was about when I stopped watching 24 so I don't know if it carried over to the season or not.)
- Sayid got his start in murder by covering for his brother when forced to kill a chicken.
- Mr. Eko did the same thing, but with a person.
- Iron Maiden's "Sun and Steel" has the following lines:
Well, you killed your first man at 13,
Killer instinct, Animal supreme,
By 16 you had learned to fight
The way of the warrior, you took it as your right.
- Whether or not this is an example depends on whether the child was forced to kill the man, but judging from the lyrics, he was probably put in that position.
- Example from, of all places, El Goonish Shive. Well, depending on your definition of 'child', but Susan and Nanase probably weren't much more than 12 when, during a class-trip to France, they wind up being targeted by a Somewhat Different Vampire. He's not technically human, but he LOOKS human - mostly - and while Nanase does most of the fighting, it's Susan who ends up having to kill him - with an axe, even. Unsurprisingly, she was somewhat traumatized, and the recent arc that featured the flashback culminated in an Immortal decrying the irresponsibility of the two french Immortals who originally equipped Nanase and Susan for the battle, while giving them no apparent alternative save dying at the hands of the vampire. Apparently, they could have simply informed the French Government's anti-supernatural-creature-squad instead, but elected to drag two pre-teens into a battle in order to 'recruit them for the fight against evil'. Omniscient Morality License, anyone?