Death by Adaptation

A character who remains alive in a work of fiction dies in the adaptation. Or dies a lot sooner in the adaptation.

The reasons for doing this vary. Perhaps the crew wanted to surprise everyone, including fans of the source material. Perhaps they personally viewed the unfortunate character as The Scrappy and wanted to get rid of them. Maybe Executive Meddling required this change to be made. Maybe the character in question was a villain, and in grand movie tradition, the villain had to die at the end of the movie, even if he or she was a recurring villain in the source material. Whatever the reason, the result is the same: a character you did not expect to die met their end. Frequently a cause of They Changed It, Now It Sucks and is actually one of the cases where that can be a very valid complaint.

Despite the above hypothetical example being a movie, this trope is hardly limited to book-to-film adaptations, as you'll see in the examples.

Compare with Schrödinger's Cast where a character's fate is different from the source material, but the source material is still ongoing (which may create the need for a drastic rewrite if the character in question becomes important later on in the source material) and Superhero Movie Villains Die for when death in adaptations is more permanent than the source.

Contrast with Spared by the Adaptation where a character who died in the source material does not die in the adaptation.

Not to be confused with Doomed by Canon.

Warning: This is a death trope and will contain unmarked spoilers. Read the examples at your own risk

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Examples where the character did not die in the source:

  • Dr. Robotnik in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, although he's a rather odd case: the comics treat Ivo Robotnik and Eggman Robotnik as two separate characters, then Ivo was Killed Off for Real and Eggman took his place. Splitting him into two characters is pretty much the only thing that prevents this from falling under Schrödinger's Cat.
  • Chaos in Sonic the Comic is eaten alive, but in the games, he's dragged to a safe place.
  • Ken Masters in Malibu Comics' Street Fighter is brutally beaten and scalped by Sagat after already dealing with Balrog and a handful of Shadaloo gunmen.
  • Afterlife with Archie takes place in a Zombie Apocalypse so this is obligatory..
    • There are three notable examples that occurred prior to the start of the series: Veronica's mother died some time ago due to illness, Cheryl's puppy Sugarr was murdered by her jealous brother, and Kevin states that his father died in the Gulf War. All three are alive and well in the main series.
    • Characters that have died in this comic include Hot Dog, Jughead, almost all the major adults, Ethel, Moose, Midge, Vegas, and Jason.

    Film (Animated) 
  • In the film adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin, Barnaby does not recover from his injuries after being shot by goons before he can tell Tintin about Sakharine.
  • In Animal Farm, Snowball is simply run out of the farm by Napoleon's dogs and Napoleon will probably rule the farm for the rest of his natural life. In the 1954 Animated Adaptation, the dogs actually killed Snowball and the film ends with all the other animals attacking Napoleon and the other pigs while his dogs are too drunk to defend them.
  • Hrothgar in the 2007 Beowulf. In the poem, we don't see him again after Beowulf kills Grendel's mother and the story skips to Beowulf as a king in a different country. In the film, once Beowulf claims to have killed her, Hrothgar gives him his throne and commits suicide out of the shame for being a fraud who fathered Grendel in the first place.
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • Cinderella and Snow White's fathers are alive in their respective Perrault and Grimm fairy tales, although the Disney counterparts kill them off to avoid the moral implication of them abandoning their children to their second wives.
    • Ursula, in The Little Mermaid. Her story counterpart, the Sea Witch, never shows up again after making the deal with the mermaid.
    • Quasimodo's mother in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In the original book, he was Switched at Birth with Esmerelda and then abandoned because of his ugly appearance before being adopted by Frollo who took pity on him. In the movie, she loved him, but Frollo killed her and made him think that his mother abandoned him as a baby.
  • The Sphere in Flatland: the Film, but not in Flatland: the Movie (another adaptation that was, oddly, released the same year).
  • In the DC comics, when Bolphunga the Unrelenting discovers that Mogo is a living planet, he flees from him fast. In Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Mogo kills Bolphunga before he could get away.
  • In the original The Hobbit, only three of the thirteen dwarves (Thorin, Fíli, and Kíli) die. In the Rankin Bass version, besides Thorin, five of them die, including Bombur.
  • Nicodemus in The Secret Of NIMH.
  • Metallo in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. In the comic version, outside of a mention that he might've been involved in the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne that turned out to be a Red Herring by Lex Luthor to keep Batman away, his subplot didn't have anything to do with the main plot; In the movie version, he was killed by Major Force (under orders from Luthor) to frame Superman.
  • In Superman: Doomsday, Luthor murders his longtime assistant Mercy after she erases all evidence of his hand in Superman's death.
  • Blackavar in the animated adaptation of Watership Down.
  • J. Thaddeus Toad in the Disney Theme Parks version of The Wind in the Willows, who apparently dies after being hit by a train during his escape from prison, and actually goes to Hell!

  • Everyone except the protagonist from the book adaptations of the Baldur's Gate games.
  • Chief in the Disney Read-along record/picture book version of The Fox and the Hound (he is simply never seen, heard, or mentioned again after being hit by the train, which implies his death). Interestingly, he died in the original novel as well, making the Disney film the only adaptation where Chief survives.
    • Some tie-in storybooks based on the Disney movies actually changed how the villains are defeated: For example, one out-of-print storybook based on Robin Hood had Prince John, Sir Hiss, and the Sheriff of Nottingham all simply disappear after the castle fire at the end, "and were never seen again" is what the book stated of their fates, implying that they were burned alive in that fire; while some storybooks based on The Lion King had Scar simply die after being thrown off a cliff by Simba, despite in the actual movie Scar survived the fall but is instantly killed by his own hyenas when he lands.
  • Barricade in both the novelization and comic book versions of Transformers. In the movie, he simply disappeared without a trace.
    • In the novelization of the 3rd film, Mirage is killed; in the film, he survives.
      • Skids and Mudlap also appear in the novel, apparently so they could get Rescued from the Scrappy Heap without having to appear in the film. They both get killed by Sentinel Prime, just right after he kills Ironhide.
  • The novelisation of the Doctor Who story "The Curse of Fenric" apparently decided that the Kill 'em All ending didn't go far enough, so Vershinin and Bates, practically the only guest characters to survive the TV version, get shot dead by Commander Millington.
    • Likewise, the novelisation of the next story, "Survival," makes a point of having Derek, one of the few survivors, killed by the Master, as well as having minor characters Harvey and Len transported to the Cheetah People's planet and presumably killed.
  • There is actually is a pro-hurting educational book out there called Little Jake and the Three Bears that has the titular Little Jake off one of said bears and Bambi's father, because this will totally make kids want to be ethical responsible hunters. As if kids weren't traumatized enough by Bambi's mother's death.
  • The Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots novelization reveals that Solid Snake lived long enough to raise Sunny into adulthood and gave her away at her wedding before dying peacefully. The original game left Solid Snake's final fate ambiguous.
    • The novelization of The Phantom Pain ends with Quiet committing suicide by pouring gasoline on herself and lighting a match. In the game, nobody knows what happens to Quiet after she leaves Diamond Dogs following the events of Episode 45.
  • The novel for The Death of Superman has Mongul killed at the hands of the Eradicator instead of getting knocked out by Hal Jordan, due to the fact that Hal was removed from the storyline entirely despite Coast City still being destroyed. Interestingly, Mongul does get killed in the comics, but in an entirely different storyline.
  • The novelization for Pacific Rim pretty explicitly states that Hannibal Chau's trip down the gullet of a Kaiju was fatal. In the movie he's spared by The Stinger.
  • Speedball dies alongside the rest of the New Warriors in the novelization of Civil War. In the original comic, he survives and becomes the Darker and Edgier Anti-Hero Penance.
  • Pretty much the entire supporting cast (or their Suspiciously Similar Substitutes, anyway) get axed in the Carl Dreadstone Novelization of Creature from the Black Lagoon. In contrast to the one written by Vargo Statten, which follows the movie more faithfully, Dreadstone's adaptation mercilessly gives pretty much everyone who survived the film a Cruel and Unusual Death at the hands of the Creature, a giant beast referred to as "AA" ("Advanced Amphibian"). Maia gets eaten, Dr. Thompson is impaled with a tree branch, and "José Goncalves Fonseca de Souza" (this book's incredibly unlikable Jerkass version of Lucas) has his head bitten off. Ouch.
  • The novelization of The Jewel of the Nile kills off Omar's Dragon Rachid. In the film, Rachid just gets defeated when Ralph uses a firebreathing trick to burn off his eyebrows (and possibly blind him). In the book, he ends up falling to his death down the bottomless while Omar has Joan and Jack dangling over in the dungeon.
  • In the novelization of Back to the Future Part II, Marlene Mc Fly commits suicide after her brother Marty Jr.'s incarceration. The film has her attempt to break him out of prison, only to get caught and incarcerated too.



  • The musical Little Shop of Horrors kills off several characters that survived in The Little Shop of Horrors, the movie on which it is based. These include Audrey (who is, however, spared in the film of the musical) and Mr. Mushnik (who isn't).
  • A notable staging of The Merchant of Venice had Shylock stab himself before exiting the court scene.
  • In As You Like It, Orlando comes to Arden with his Old Retainer, Adam, who's elderly, starving and close to death. Searching for food, Orlando stumbles upon the banished Duke Senior, who's feasting with his lords. The Duke, who was a great friend of Orlando's father, immediately sends Orlando to bring Adam to the table and feed him. However, Adam is conspicuously absent for the rest of the play, which has led some directors to imply that he died anyway. The 1996 RSC production went so far as to show a grave covered in flowers. Whether or not Shakespeare actually intended Adam's death, killing him off would be a case of this trope, since As You Like It is itself an adaptation of Thomas Lodge's novella Rosalynde, in which Adam lived to the end.
  • Schaunard, the musician, survives to the end of La Bohème. His counterpart in RENT, Angel Dumott Schunard, does not.
  • The 2013 musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cranks up the Black Comedy of the source material by, after establishing that Backstory-only character Prince Pondicherry died in the melting ruins of his chocolate palace (unlike in the book), having three of the naughty kids plus Veruca's father threatened with death as a result of their misadventures. Augustus might be rescued offstage, but that's Uncertain Doom at best. Violet might get an offstage Disney Death if she's lucky (given that she explodes). Veruca and her father are much iffier cases as they are last seen headed for an incinerator, with no hope of rescue mentioned. The fourth and arguably worst kid, Mike Teavee, doesn't face death, but he instead looks to remain shrunken forever (because his long-suffering mother prefers him that way). In the book and most adaptations, all the characters survive their potentially lethal experiences but are definitely changed for them, while the 1971 film version left their fates ambiguous.
  • King Lear was panned in Shakespeare's time because of this trope: the widely-known old fable that Shakespeare adapted had a happy ending, with Cordelia and Lear reconciling and successfully retaking the throne. Shakespeare's audience got a nasty surprise.
  • The serialized tale of The Cunning Little Vixen ended with vixen Sharp-Ears alive and wed (the latter may have just been a hallucination by the woodsman), though the last paragraph suggested that she was probably dead by now, since this was all set in an unspecified but idyllic past. The opera had her shot dead in front of her defenseless cubs, then skinned and her pelt presented as a wedding gift by the one stealing the woodsman's love interest. And yet it's still considered a comedy.

    Video Games 
  • Interesting case with Higurashi: When They Cry. When the game was ported to PS2, the original ending was changed into one where Hanyuu gets Killed Off for Real. Other adaptations used the original ending. Curiously, the author claims that the PS2 ending is the "True" ending while the "normal" ending is the "Good" ending. This is probably because traditional, route-based Visual Novels frequently have two endings to each route (aside from bad ends). The True ending is typically bittersweet, while the Good ending ensures everyone lives happily ever after. It's not to do with one being canon, as the PS2 ending certainly isn't.
  • The Coachman in the video game version of Pinocchio, and ONLY in the video game version. In the movie, he was a Karma Houdini.
  • In the adventure game Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Indiana himself can be killed in one of the Multiple Endings. The characters would lament it and the game would display the normal victory credit and score screens.
  • In Bandit Kings of Ancient China, which is based off of The Water Margin, Gao Qiu is executed by the player's winning hero in the game's Golden Ending, which revokes his novel counterpart's Karma Houdini.
  • In the 1982 Interactive Fiction of The Hobbit, you can 'kill Gollum with sword'. Okay, Gollum's dead! You just derailed the plot of The Lord of the Rings! Gollum survived the source novel of The Hobbit, and took an important role in the sequel.
  • Nervous Subject in the PSP version of The Sims 2.
  • Talia al Ghul, Ra's Al Ghul, Hugo Strange, Clayface (possibly), and even the Joker bite the bullet in Batman: Arkham City.
    • And in Batman: Arkham Knight, Poison Ivy is killed during the climax. Black Mask also dies when the Red Hood kicks him out a window.
  • In the SNES fighter Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition, one of the last opponents is Goldar...who gets blown up like any other monster.

    Web Original 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged
    • Captain Ginyu. In the source material, Vegeta considers stepping on him after he ends up in a frog's body, but relents. In the abridged series? "Psyche! Eight for eight!" and then he squishes him to death, as a result any footage that has Ginyu on it later is completely removed.
    • Icarus, Gohan's pet dragon from the movies/filler, dies almost every time he appeared, and the one other time it is still deemed non-canon. The two times that he appeared in the flesh, he wound up getting eaten. He also appeared early on in the flashback of episode 10, part 3, where he exploded.
    • In the source material, the Garlic Jr. saga ends with him being imprisoned in the Dead Zone for eternity. In DBZA, the Lookout Tower that he attacks in the source material is the home of resident nigh-Eldritch Abomination Mr. Popo, and the Garlic Jr. saga lasts all of twenty seconds before Popo apparently absorbs his soul.
  • Similarly, Code MENT. Jeremiah dies when his Knightmare Frame explodes. The anime it was based on, Code Geass, reveals he survived after receiving medical attention.
  • Honker and Gosalyn have died before the events of Ducktalez 6, as their costumes are seen in Darkwing's collection.
  • Rosalia, Pina and Grimlock in Sword Art Online Abridged.

    Western Animation 
  • Red Torpedo and Red Volcano in Young Justice.
    • Also L-Ron and Wally West in Young Justice: Invasion.
  • Viper in X-Men: Evolution.
  • Wonder Man, Radioactive Man, and several other obscure villains in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!.
  • Both Tom Sawyer (Bart Simpson) and Huckleberry Finn (Nelson Muntz) in The Simpsons version of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Their version ends with both Tom and Huck jumping into a river as an attempt to escape a mob of angry townsfolk, but the townsfolk were waiting right at the bottom. A funeral is held for them, where at first we see both Tom and Huck hiding in the rafters of the church said funeral is held in, as if they had survived and faked their deaths like in the original story, but then it is revealed that they both actually died when it was time for "the lowering of the bodies into the coffins."
  • Steppenwolf, Desaad, Professor Ivo, and Ocean Master in Justice League.
  • Mysterio notably died in Spider-Man: The Animated Series and it actually stuck (this was before he was Driven to Suicide by Daredevil in the comics).
  • Mei-Ling, Hsien-Ko's sister, was killed by Demitri at a young age in the Darkstalkers cartoon .
  • The special Garfield: His 9 Lives changes up the ending segment from the book. In the book's version of "Space Cat", it turns out that the ship Garfield is on is actually just a simulation video game he's been playing, while in the special, it's all real, and when the ship is destroyed he and Odie both get killed. Of course, this being a family special for prime time, it isn't permanent: after the two go to Heaven Garfield's able to convince God to give the both of them a second chance.
  • Captain Smollett is killed by Pew in the finale of the loosely based The Legends of Treasure Island cartoon, while Long John Silver, who had already died once and revived himself from hell previously, was dragged back down for cheating Death.
  • Gurth, Demoted to Extra and all, is dead at the beginning of his sole appearance in Ivanhoe The Kings Knight.
  • Static Shock sees the title character's mother, Jean Hawkins, die before her son Virgil become the titular Static, whereas in the Static comics, she's still alive.

Examples where the character died a lot sooner in the adaptation than in the source:

    Film (Animated) 

  • DanganRonpa: The Stage introduces a new rule to the Class Trial system which executes students if they vote against the correct majority vote. Because of this, Kioytaka Ishimaru is executed alongside Mondo Owada in the second trial and the events of the game's third case (in which Ishimaru dies) never happen.
    • The play's next case is when Sakura Oogami dies. This means that she dies before Celestia and Hifumi Yamada, who die in the game's third case, while Sakura dies in the game's fourth case.

    Video Games 
  • In the Nintendo Wii GoldenEye, Zukovsky is killed less than a minute after Bond meets him, instead of living until The World is Not Enough like he does in the films.
  • In Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X, Video Game Remake of the first Mega Man X game, Dr. Cain is killed off in the Day of Sigma OAV before the game even starts. In the original version he's a major character in the first three games and dies of natural causes sometime between X4 and X5.

    Web Original 
  • Yamcha in Future Trunk's timeline from Dragon Ball Z Abridged. Compared to the source who is killed during the Android attack, here he dies far earlier, because he is Driven to Suicide after realizing that Bulma is pregnant with Vegeta's baby.

    Western Animation 
  • Ferro Lad in Legion of Super Heroes was around for only three episodes before his Heroic Sacrifice, staying behind to destroy the Sun-Eater machine. In the comics, he was around for about two years before this event and his character was more fleshed out.
  • Dan Turpin died in Superman: The Animated Series long before he would die in Final Crisis, though since the DCAU ended before Final Crisis was published, it was a type 1 at the time S: TAS aired.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    • Commander Zog, the turtles' Triceraton ally in the original comics is sliced to pieces by the three mutant Shredder clones. In the second cartoon, he is mortally wounded by a stab to the stomach from Shredder and dies in the collapsing lair, taking Shredder with him.
  • Dr. Fate/Kent Nelson in Young Justice. He just can't catch a break!

Alternative Title(s): Killed By The Adaptation