Innocence Lost

"None of this was mine any more ... I was followed by a darkness of which this world of home knew nothing. How many secrets I had had, how often I had been afraid — but all of it had been child's play compared with what I brought home with me today. I was haunted by misfortune, it was reaching out toward me so that not even my mother could protect me, since she was not even allowed to know."
Hermann Hesse, Demian

A plot where an innocent person, usually a kid, is exposed to true evil, or the uglier and darker side of the world, for the first time, usually through being exploited by a criminal or suffering something traumatic like abuse or the loss of someone they love. However the story pans out, the character's innocence is gone forever by the end, with much regret by all involved.

Compare Harmful to Minors and Defiled Forever. See also Coming-of-Age Story.


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     Comic Books  
  • Double Subverted in the Harley Quinn series - the child in question was already pretty jaded, having been hunted by crooks her whole life, but hanging out with Harley she almost got her innocence and faith in the world back from being with her... until Harley's conscience fails and she cashes in the kid anyway. Ironically, after the villains take what they want from her (her eyes), the now blind girl has a feeling of peace for the world and a new lease on life (and nothing but pity for the crooks that used to come after her), while Harley is completely unable to look herself in the mirror.
  • X-23's origin story is even called Innocence Lost, as it depicts in disturbing detail the pain and suffering intentionally inflicted on her by the Facility and the incredibly monstrous Dr. Zander Rice to strip her of her humanity and turn her into an emotionless killing machine. Although they failed, the emotional damage that was done to her was still severe. Laura continually struggles to form relationships with others, and her desire to find a life as something other than a weapon and killer is an ongoing theme for her character.

     Fan Works 
  • This is one of the key differences between RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse and the Celestiaverse. Luna, as Princess of the Night, is already mysterious and a bit spooky, so her fall into madness and evil wasn't too surprising. But in the Lunaverse, it was Celestia, the very personification of the life-giving Sun, who fell into evil. Celestia, whose Sun keeps the world from freezing, who gives the light that your crops need to survive, who allows you to even see. If she can turn evil, then anyone could turn evil.

  • In L: change the WorLd, Maki watches her father kill himself violently in direct defiance of the threats of the bio-terrorists. This prompts her to want to murder them in revenge.
  • Prime Cut: Poppy spends her childhood in an orphanage, and is sold into prostitution by an abusive madam.
  • Corporal Upham in Saving Private Ryan is a desk clerk who has never fired a weapon in combat and is taken on a dangerous mission to find the titular Private Ryan. Along the way he witnesses comrades die horribly as well as come close to executing a German POW in cold blood. During the climactic battle he becomes too terrified to intervene when one of his comrades is being attacked, and he later shoots another man when the fight is over.
  • Caged is a women's prison film that follows the doe-eyed Marie Allen. She gets sent to prison only because she was unwitting accomplice in her dead husband's crime. She's sent while pregnant with his child, and said child is put up for adoption when her mother refuses to care for it. She's exposed to the harsh realities of the prison environment at the hands of the cruel matron. By the end of the film, she cheers bloodthirstily when another inmate stabs the matron to death, and leaves the prison with debts to the criminals who bailed her out. The warden's final words are "she'll be back" as Marie leaves.

  • This is referenced in the original Peter Pan; It's noted that every time Peter is exploited (e.g., by Captain Hook) or similar, he reacts with shock and the typical apparent sting of the loss of innocence, but he continues to fall prey to these tactics because he never will actually 'grow up' enough to lose this childish naïveté altogether. He also forgets traumatic events magically, so that he never matures via suffering.
  • An invoked form of this is a major plot point in the Amber trilogy in Dragonlance. To destroy the Beloved of Chemosh, they must be physically touched by an innocent child. The experience is so horrific, said child will lose their innocence, making dealing with them a Sadistic Choice for the good guys.
  • Presumably happened to Ginny in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but it's hard to tell since J. K. Rowling pulls an All Is Well That Ends Well.
  • An important theme in A Song of Ice and Fire, with the whole "Winter is coming" theme. Especially important in the storylines of Arya and Sansa, who both start the series fairly naive but very quickly lose any illusions they might have, in addition to more or less having any part of their old personality beaten out of them. The result is a somewhat manipulative and highly deceptive Sansa and a full-on child soldier Arya.
  • Frodo goes through this in the The Lord of the Rings. The burden of the Ring alone is enough to drive him to despair and make it difficult for him to return to the peace of the Shire. Add the pain of his injuries (the Witch-king's knife, Shelob's sting, and losing his finger) and the suffering he endured on the journey, and it becomes impossible, prompting him to depart into the West to be healed.
  • Lolita. Despite portraying Dolores Haze as a Fille Fatale, Humbert Humbert realises by the end of the book that he has destroyed her childhood.

     Live Action TV  
  • In Kung Fu, Caine remembers a time when he was tricked out of a precious scroll by a con man. Eventually, the con man is caught and the scroll is recovered, but Master Po and Caine have a disappointed conversation that ends with:
    Caine: But Master, the scroll was returned!
    Master Po: But your innocence, how will that be returned?
  • Subverted in Mork & Mindy when Mork is talked into freeing an escaped criminal who claims that he just needs to visit his sick mother and will return to turn himself back in afterward. Sure enough, Mork is arrested for freeing him and Mindy tells him that it is obvious that the crook took advantage of him and won't be back. In a genuinely moving moment, Mork tearfully agrees that he can't trust anyone again, until the crook suddenly returns as promised to turn himself in and get Mork released. With that, Mork's innocence is restored with his naive belief in the goodness of humanity vindicated.
  • On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick responded like this to getting mugged. He had tried to politely explain to the mugger how "this three hundred dollars is mine" and when that didn't work, he ended up losing his faith in humanity for the rest of the episode: "What kind of place is this where you can't wave handfuls of money around in the middle of the night?"
  • The Underground episode "Cradle" has this as a central theme. Boo has recurring flashbacks of her father's getting shot by arrows and dying right in front of her. Ben learns that his mother had a mental breakdown and was institutionalized. James is sent from the big house to pick cotton in the fields. On his first day his hands get horribly bloodied and his older brother opts to take a lashing for him. This causes him to break off his friendship with the master's son, T.R. In a darker example, T.R. gets so angry over James' rejection that he snitches on James' brother for trying to escape, hinting that he may become as callous as his father. And to highlight all the ruined childhoods, the episode cinematography features many close up shots of candy.
  • This is Ursula's backstory in Once Upon a Time. She was an innocent young girl who only wished to use her beautiful singing voice to make people feel at ease. Her father Poseidon forced her to use it to distract sailors to their deaths on the rocks. When Ursula escaped to live on land and made a deal with Hook, her father tried to bribe Hook with a shell that would steal her singing voice to prevent her from leaving. Hook double-crossed both of them, stealing Ursula's voice so that Poseidon could never use it to sink another ship. This betrayal broke Ursula and caused her to transform herself from a mermaid into a tentacled creature, and become the famed sea witch.

  • Doubt has an adult character go through this. Sister James is a Wide-Eyed Idealist who unfortunately has her idealism put to the test by the scandal that the school's priest could be molesting a young boy.

     Video Games  
  • The quest that starts the Dark Brotherhood questline in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is actually called "Innocence Lost". The innocent children in question get a double helping of this. Their innocence has already been shot to Oblivion by being orphaned and sent to Riften's Honorhall Orphanage where the very ironically-named Grelod the Kind makes their lives a living hell. Aventus Aretino flees the Orphanage and tries to contact the Dark Brotherhood through the Black Sacrament (using his own dead mother's remains) to kill Grelod. What's left of the orphans' innocence dies a nasty death when you kill Grelod, since you show them that Murder Is the Best Solution. Aventus even tells you that he wants to be an assassin like you when he grows up so he can "help" people too.
  • Pretty much the entire point of Tomb Raider is to show Lara's innocence being forcibly stripped away by her experiences on the island in one long Break the Cutie ordeal. Unlocking the model gallery even calls Lara's pre-shipwreck model "Innocent Lara."
  • Fallout: New Vegas has the Dead Horses. Honest Hearts has you decide whether you should defend Zion Valley following Joshua Graham at the cost of their innocence, or protecting it by following Daniel and helping them escape the valley.

     Web Animation  
  • RWBY Volume 3 could be called this trope: for Yang Xiao Long, Ruby Rose and Pyrrha Nikos this hits them as Mercury Black plays possum and turns public opinion against Yang and Beacon Academy when they think she broke his leg followed by Pyrrha splitting Penny Polendina in half via her magnetism Semblance and Ruby watching helplessly, unable to stop her from doing so. Pyrrha was hit worse with this, as the Big Goods talk with her and all but pressure her into accepting her newfound destiny as one of four superpowered beings. Things then get worse for her when she accidentally kills another student due to the villains' interference in a tournament match. To complete the Trauma Conga Line, she is murdered by Big Bad Cinder in an incredibly brutal and painful fashion (just after finally getting together with her love interest) while Ruby comes to her rescue just seconds too late and is again forced to watch helplessly as Pyrrha dies.


     Western Animation  
  • The Season 2 finale of Moral Orel is pretty much this, with Animal Motifs to symbolize it thrown in for good measure.
  • Liberty's Kids has the main kid characters, particularly James Hiller, learn that things are actually not so black and white with The American Revolution.
  • Played literally in the Christmas special of The Amazing World of Gumball. When Nicole tells the kids that Santa isn't real, an aura of multicolored light, representing their innocence, escapes their bodies through their mouths.
  • After the Season 1 finale of Steven Universe, Steven starts to understand how serious missions finding corrupted Gems and learning about The Crystal Gems' rebellion against Homeworld really are. Over the course of season 2 the revelations about the horrific Body Horror they'd done to Gems shattered in the war for Earth to form the Cluster slowly chip away at his enthusiasm, coupled with the near-betrayal by peridot before she turned on Yellow Diamond. Season 3 really hammers in his Break the Cutie status when he's swarmed with the thousands of fragmented minds crying out in pain fused together in the Earth's core for the last five thousand years, helping Lapis Lazuli cope with complicated PTSD and a mutually abusive relationship from her fusion with Jasper, entrappment in the mirror and deep self-hatred and depression, Centipeedle's past traumatic backstory with the corruption bomb by the Diamonds, the Crystal Gems' various cases of grief and self-worth, his own confidence issues and fears that he can't possibly measure up to Rose Quartz's legacy, being forced to seal away Bismuth after she proved to be too dangerous to keep her conscious form while still raising good points about the brutality of war, and lastly that after being unable to save Jasper from corruption, the knowledge that Rose had to shatter Pink Diamond for the greater good and he'd been forced to strand the Rubies in space to save his life, calling into question if he'll one day have to compromise his strict non-violence like she had. He's still keeping an upbeat mindset and optimism despite everything, but he's a far cry from the slightly obnoxious crybaby who was sad his favorite snack was discontinued in the first episode.
  • While Ezra Bridger from Star Wars Rebels wasn't that innocent to begin with, having spent half his life as a Street Urchin, the Malachor arc destroys whatever what was left. His Honorary Aunt Ahsoka is supposedly killed right in front of him, his master and father figure Kanan is blinded, they barely escape with their lives, and it's all his fault for trusting Maul. In a darker take on the trope, this event also triggers his association with the Dark Side.