The Iron Woobie is a character who is not just aWoobie; he is the Woobie. Most Woobies are the victim of external circumstance. That may be how it started out for this little guy, but after having to deal with too much guff, he's lost the ability to feel sorry for himself, and will continue standing in the path of inevitable misfortune. He will Rage Against the Heavens in anger for the ridiculous extent of his trials and tribulations, but when it comes right down to it, he's not expecting the big guy to start doing him any favors now.
Oftentimes the Iron Woobie is also a Determinator, though this isn't an essential part of the character. The chief difference is that a Determinator usually has a specific reason whereas Iron Woobie can be someone who just bears up gamely to things that happen to him for no particular reason that he can see. Be that as it may, he stubbornly insists on walking the same misfortune-laden path he was on before, and won't give up his personal ethical code just because things continue to go poorly for him.
Different from the Stoic Woobie in that while this character doesn't complain about his misfortune, they don't have to hide the majority of their feelings. The Iron Woobie still can show many emotions such as happiness or grief. They probably won't even mention how the universe makes them a Cosmic Plaything
When his sufferings spring from his heroism, see also the Hurting Hero.
Opposite trope to Sympathetic Sue. Contrast Martyr Without a Cause and Angst? What Angst?, and compare the more snarky Knight in Sour Armor. See also Don't You Dare Pity Me! and Stoic Woobie. Most Inspirationally Disadvantaged characters are portrayed this way, often with insufficient justification and/or to the point of it being their entire characterization.
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Anime & Manga
Ayashi no Ceres: Aya Mikage. At the age of sixteen, she gets the shock of her life by learning that she is the reincarnation of a powerful but despised ancestor of their bloodline (the eponymous Ceres), and Ceres' powers kill nearly every relative in sight on her sixteenth birthday. And it only gets worse from there. Nearly her entire family wants her dead. Her scheming older cousin wants to use her for his own goals. Her father takes a bullet for her. Her mother, driven insane by grief, is manipulated into thinking that Aya had killed her own father and tries to kill Aya. Her twin brother is separated from her, only to later be revealed as the reincarnation of Ceres' mortal enemy. Everywhere she goes, she witnesses someone die, including a cousin whose mother Ceres had killed, driving said cousin to commit suicide. She is separated many times from the man she loves, who is eventually killed (but gets better anyway) just when she learns she is pregnant with his child. She loses many friends. Finally, she is forced to watch as Ceres—using her body—kills her brother to finally end the curse on the family. But damn it if Aya ever let any of this bring her down for good.
Baccano!: Jacuzzi Splot. Shy. Introverted. Meek. Wimpy. Crybaby. Wiped out seventeen Mafia fronts with a machine gun in retaliation for the deaths of his friends. Almost goes up empty-handed against a guy with a flamethrower, and offers himself as a hostage to a psychopath who catches bullets with a crescent wrench, in order to save friends.
Bakuman。: Nobuhiro Mashiro. He set out to become a mangaka to impress Miyuki Haruno, whom he liked and corresponded by letters. By the time he felt secure enough in his career to tell her how he felt, she had already married someone else and stopped writing to him, but he kept at it, believing that he was able to get this far because she was watching him, and (as it turns out, correctly) that she still is. When his contract got canceled after his Superhero Legend series and two other series that got canceled within a year, he told the editor responsible for informing him that this was a chance to start over as a newbie. In the end, he died from overworking himself, and while his nephew Moritaka initially thought his death was proof that few can make it in the manga world, he came to realize that he had tried as hard as he could, and that he should do the same.
Berserk: Guts. He never asked for any of the crap that's happened to him, from his horrific childhood to the Eclipse, but he utterly refuses to lay down and die, for anyone, no matter what gets thrown at him.
Blame!: Killy. Good Lord, Killy. Let's see here...he has to go through:
Travelling a city that can be best described as multiple galaxy sized megastructure that is filled with hostile Cylicon Life and the Safeguards which are always out to hunt him and anyone close to him down in gruesome way.
Constantly having stuff blown out of him. Losing an arm? Headshot? Impalement? Decapitation? Being blown to pieces by explosions that rivals a supernova? Regular occurences. By the end of the series, he had suffered too much physical trauma (that would have easily killed entire cast of your average Shonen fighting series multiple times) that he loses an eye and a leg permanently. Doctors? What doctors, just stick a iron rod down your leg stump and keep going.
Having no companions, EVER. Sure, he does meet some comrades along the way but they never last long and they never leave him without making him going through some MORE massive physical trauma. In fact, THE heaviest physical torment he ever suffered was inflicted thanks to one of his friends, who died soon after. He has absolutely NOTHING, other than his objectives, to keep him company. Speaking of which...
Going through all that for at least three millenia. His journey has been so long that he can't even remember ANYTHING other than his name, how to use some equipments, and his objective. His goal is only thing that pushes him forward through hellish world of suffering. And the worst of all...
Massive suffering with absolutely no hope whatsoever. There's no guarantee that he actually CAN achieve his objective or things would be better once he did. Even when he succeeds, he would get no reward whatsoever, not even internally, for it is shown that he doesn't have any ideal or anything. Yet he soldiers on...
Rock fits the bill in Black Lagoon. He has been taken hostage, abandoned by his company, captured, shot at by friend and foe alike, berated, beaten, punched and just generally abused. Despite all this, he's managed to destroy a chopper by ramming it in midair with a torpedo, call out Revy when he gets tired of her abuse, and earn the respect of Balalaika. And that's just the first couple of episodes/chapters.
Code Geass: It's a pretty crapsack world, so most characters with backstory are either this, or normal woobies. Main character Lelouch is on the extreme end of this: Murdered mother, crippled sister, father who invaded a country that was using him as insurance, fleeing in a war zone where the natives hate his race, and the invaders are killing everyone, all long before he hits puberty. It gets worse. Still, he's very rarely shown to feel bad for himself, and goes around standing up for the little guy while trying to get revenge on the people who made his life hard.
Digimon Adventure 02: Ken, for his persistence in knocking down Dark Towers, even while fully expecting the rest of the team to continue hating him, and his concern for the Dark Seed kids, who followed Oikawa of their own volition.
Elfen Lied: Nana. Despite being tortured, losing all of her limbs, and watching the person she loves most slip into insanity (and back out, fortunately), she still keeps on going.
Fist of the North Star: Most of the cast (the good guys) would qualify, but the best example for the series is Rei. Got a woman he's in love with? She has hots with your new best friend so you have to settle with Courtly Love. Oh, and he's born under Star of Justice, meaning he dies for others, which came true when after he awakens his true self, he became a Sacrificial Lion, doomed to die an agonizing death by Raoh after failing to take him to the underworld with him. Then he spends his last days saving the woman he's in love with from her bad fate, then dies without ever kissing her and it was after he was really dying that the woman starts returning his feeling. Rei, you poor poor guy.
Also from Fist of the North Star, said potential lover of Rei, Mamiya, whose parents were killed when she was 20 years old, and then she was kidnapped and taken to a harem. Then her only family left, her brother, dies as well. After this, she falls for a man who is already fated to die for her.
Why do tears pour with such ease from Kenshiro? In spite (or because) of his kind and soft heart, he resolved to bear the sadness of the entire world, torn by nuclear fire, on his broad shoulders alone so nobody else has to cry ever again. The big guy himself puts it best:
"I refuse to build my own future on the blood and tears of others!!"
Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail. Her childhood was a terrible one. When she was a kid, she was a slave for a cult trying to make the Tower of Heaven. She led a revolt but lost some of her friends and was betrayed by the very person she was trying to save. But she remains a strong, brave girl who fights for those she cares for.
Fullmetal Alchemist: This is the defining trope of the series. Every good character in this manga had their woobie moment, like AlexArmstrong who goes through a rather messy breakdown when he sees atrocities done by his troops in Ishbal, RoyMustang, who starts as idealistic soldier, but is then faced with harsh reality on Ishbal, RizaHawkeye, who joins army for the same reasons as Mustang, and finds, to her horror, that killing people is not as easy as just pulling the trigger, and many more. The good part, though, is that they're all so Bad Ass that they just decide to live with it and continue forward.
Mobile Fighter G Gundam: Domon Kasshu. Has his master betray him, his own government screws him over, he's forced to fight his brother and was convinced for a long time his own father was a viciously evil bastard, even has his eventual girlfriend eaten by a monster. Somehow, he manages to deal with all of it by beating the crap out of the causes of all the above and a lot of Hot-Blooded screaming.
Rain, as well. She's always calm and kind, offering support to everyone as the good Team Mom that she is and serving as Domon's support. She only fully breaks down when she think she's failed in her mission and to Domon and when she finds out the role that her dad had in a certain conspiration... But once this is over, she helps Domon to use the Power of Love and destroy the Devil Gundam for good.
Athrun Zala from Gundam SEED can be considered this. Lost his mother in a nuclear strike, has to fight his long lost best friend, watches two of his closest friends and allies die due to his hesitation to fight Kira, has a horrible father, and is too socially arkward to emote or channel any of this grief until it boils over the top and he breaks down. Yet, he still manages to be possibly the best pilot in the series.
To add to it, in Gundam Seed Destiny he finds himself useless, finds his fathers sadistic ways are still cursing the universe, loses his fiance twice, first due to an arranged marriage and second through differing ideals.
Kira Yamato from the same two series might be sensitive but he gets over it in two minutes. Go ahead. Torture him. Insult his will to fight? Check. Kill people he is trying to protect? Check. Kill a friend? Check. Nearly kill him? Check. Reveal to him he is an experiment to manipulate mankind? Check. Kill first love? Check. Attempt against him? Check. Call him out several times? Check. Did I miss something?
Nagasarete Airantou: Ikuto. Before coming to the island he was drifting on a life preserver for seven days without food or water. He spends the first episode/book futilely throwing himself against the same few whirlpools until it's absurd but only until he points out that he did that to learn their flow and sneak between them (there's an even larger one beyond it, sadly). His grandfather puts him through Training from Hell and its given him a fear of heights. In a free-for-all game of tag for marriage the day after he arrives, he gets dropped from a tremendous height and thrown an incredible distance, and loses only by an involuntary gesture of bravery on his part. And the hits keep coming. On the other hand, with renewed training, he becomes a Badass Normal who manages to outwit or fairly beat four of the island's most powerful champions in a span of two days.
The title character himself is this, where he is the pariah of a village that hates and ignores him for something he had no control over, the Nine-Tailed Fox sealed in him after it attacked his home. The only reason he didn't turn out like his first foil Gaara is because of the Third Hokage and Iruka Umino being there for him when he was alone.
Kakashi is also a prime example. His father committed suicide when he was pretty young. His teammate and friend, Obito, died saving him which led him to live a guilt-ridden life with chronic guilt-ridden grave visits. Then we find out that Obito is actually Tobi He promised his dying friend to protect Rin, their other teammate. Only to have this happen ◊
A Certain Magical Index: Touma is initially introduced as a very typical Shounen main character, with a good heart and impossibly bad luck (except when it comes to women). But then you learn that before his bad luck would also spread over to the people around him, and that he was often harassed as a child because of it. He was even attacked by a man who blamed his business's failure on Touma. A TV Station then did a "supernatural" special on Touma's arm, the source of his nullification powers and bad luck. They released his name and face without his family's permission. Now despite all of this torment, Touma still came out as a kind, selfless individual who would gladly risk his life for anyone, even people who'd once been trying to murder him in cold blood, so long as it's the right thing to do. Even after he loses his memories at the end of book one, this part of himself still stays in tact. He keep his amnesia a secret for the sake of keeping his friend Index happy.
Trigun: Vash. Yeah, he does break down eventually—but he gets up again, and when you consider how many years he's been doing this already, and just how bad it's gotten, it's frankly terrifying that he hasn't given in yet.
His brooding tendencies late in the anime damage this cred, especially the way he was so busy moping over being unable to stop Caine the Longshot from blowing out his own brains that he failed to notice that Wolfwood had been mortally wounded in the meantime and was in the process of dying, and let him go off to die alone without looking up. But...still. All things considered, he passes.
The manga is a much better portrayal of Vash as an Iron Woobie than the anime. Much better. An example, Legato's gimmick late in the anime where he forces Vash to choose between killing Legato, thereby giving up his vow to not kill, or letting people die (because Legato would kill them) happened somewhat similarly in both the anime and manga. However, in the anime, Vash was brutally scarred, to the point of being broken, when he finally decided to shoot Legato. In the manga, Vash didn't mind shooting Legato too much. Also, Caine doesn't exist in the manga. The best example of all, though, is definitelyimportant note, please read! The following spoiler text is a MAJOR spoiler and should not be read if you intend to read the manga and have not yetVash is eating breakfast after his and Wolfwood's battle with Razlo, the Tri-Punisher of Death. Livio can't find Wolfwood and asks Vash where Wolfwood is. "He's dead. I buried him.", he says with a half sombre, half casual expression on his face. My favorite moment of the manga.
He complains all the time about little things, which seems to be either a coping behavior or Obfuscating Stupidity, but when real suffering hits him he just takes it, and takes it, and takes it...and eventually folds, but he does get up again, so it doesn't count.
He is usually distracted by someone else's pain or the need to protect. For example, he would have been within his rights to have wigged out in anger or guilt or something in the second part of the Inepril arc when Miss Elizabeth brought up July, but he just smiles a very sad smile and gives her a hug. Because that's what you do when people try to commit domestic terrorism on a horrific scale in order to murder you. You hug them.
Hishigi in Samurai Deeper Kyo. He has watched countless friends die over the years while he was helpless to save them. He has contracted the same disease and was forced to implant Devil Eyes in the left side of his body. The eyes stop the spread of the disease, but they are eating him alive, leaving him in constant and excruciating pain. But he is never shown to feel sorry for himself, and he keeps fighting until the end trying to save his best friend.
Empowered's titular character. After the events in volume one alone, most people would have given up on superheroing for good. Emp's six volumes in and counting. Pain, humiliation, mortal terror, repeated failure, and the constant verbal abuse of her teammates do not stop her. It's either noble dedication or the worst case of Chronic Hero Syndrome I've ever seen. She could walk away at any time. No one would blame her. She doesn't. She never will. She's the poster girl for this trope, and anyone who says otherwise hasn't read the comic.
Spider-Man takes more crap, deals with more tragedy, blames himself for his shortcomings, and gets less credit than almost any other A-list superhero, all while constantly taking immense beatings by going up against threats way beyond his power level, but he never lets it break his spirit.
Colossus from the X-Men is a very literal example. He's seen his brother "die", come back after many years, and exile himself from this realm. He's seen his sister die from the Legacy virus. He the sacrificed his own life to find a cure for said virus. An alien resurrected and imprisoned him, tortured him for two years, and shortly after he was freed, his girlfriend disappeared in space. She came back recently... only to discover that she was trapped in her intangible form, and unable to interact with the rest of the world, including Colossus. And he's still one of the noblest of the X-Men.
Recently Colossus' sister also came back. She may or may not be a soullessabomination. Regardless, she acts more emotionless and detached than before, and endangered the entire world for her own vendetta. Colossus still stands by her.
More recently he took the mantle of the Juggernaut, which makes him even more mentally unstable.
Mother of Champions from The DCU's Great Ten. Essentially being prostituted by her country to strange men so that her special gift can be exploited is bad enough, but the children that result from these unions have a lifespan of roughly one week. She had never given birth before she had her first 25 boys, and eight days later they were all dead. The fact that she remains the picture of motherly dignity and poise is a testament to her emotional strength.
The "strange men" part is occasionally changed; she's slept with most of the male members of her team, though her heart belongs to Socialist Red Guardsman alone.
Wolverine has over a century of bad memories starting with his father's murder, and after House of M he remembers all of them. His present and — judging by the various bad futures so prevalent in X-Men — his future aren't exactly a romp in the daisies either. He copes with all of this by being an active member of several superteams, fixing past mistakes, sleeping with every hooker in Bangkok, and playing pool.
His clone/daughter, Laura Kinney AKA X-23, as well. Bred and raised to be an assassin-for-hire under incredibly abusive and brutal conditions, (she was exposed to lethal doses of radiation at age seven to forcibly activate her Healing Factor, and having her claws surgically removed to be coated in adamantium in the most painful process possible) forced to kill her mother through her conditioning to enter an Unstoppable Rage when exposed to a trigger scent, giving up the only family she's ever known to protect them from her abusive handler—who periodically catches up to her just to make her life a living hell—all the while struggling to control her berserker rage and come to terms with all the death on her hands. She doesn't even have the benefit of Logan's swiss cheese memory to ease the trauma, and remembers all of it. Laura wantsto be normal, but she will keep fighting because she must.
Batman is the definition of the Iron Woobie. His parents were cruelly gunned down by a mugger when he was eight years old, and that's just the beginning. He's had one of his allies crippled by the Joker, then lost his adopted son to the very same man in the course of a year. To make matters even worse he had his spine broken once and then had aforementioned adopted son return to life, now permanently blaming him for his first death. Yet despite this he has NEVER broken his moral code (except once in Final Crisis when he shot Darkseid with a substance that fatally poisoned him- and by that time he truly deserved it- in any case there was no alternative). His refusal to break it, even in the face of the Joker (who Batman would like to kill but won't), is the reason he remains a highly prominent A-List superhero and the world's best detective.
Dick Grayson is quite the Iron Woobie too, for many of the same reasons.
The Hulk. Abused as a child, turned into a green monster, endured the death of three wives, chased around the world by the Army, shot into space, enslaved by an alien empire, loses the empire once he conquers it, has his Roaring Rampage of Revenge crushed by a Heel Realization, and fails to save one of his troubled sons. Man it SUCKS to be a big green badass.
Daredevil. Where to begin? His mother leaves when he is a baby, his father constantly pushes him to succeed so he can have a better life, he is blinded by chemicals and his father is murdered by the mob. Oh and the super senses? Matt can't turn Them off and They make life nearly unbearable. In Born Again, his ex-girlfriend sells his identity to the mob, he loses his legal license, he has all his money taken away and is reduced to living on the streets. Then in Shadowland, he is demonically possessed and forced to do horrible things. Lets just say life sucks for Matt Murdock. And yet he never gives up and becomes a stronger person for it.
Johnny Alpha of Strontium Dog: Born mutated, to a father running for high public office on an anti-mutant platform. Abused constantly throughout his childhood. Ran away and became a child soldier at age 12. General Armz second-in-command at 17. Watched the deaths of hundreds of his comrades-in-arms in the assault on Westminster. Lived the rest of his life as a bounty hunter. Estranged from his sister, who considered Johnny a threat to her family (not without reason). Watched several friends die. Killed his father and brother. Was cheated out of countless bounties. Faced constant anti-mutant discrimination. And soldiered on. If you don't want to buy the man a beer and give him a hug, you have no heart.
Takato Matsuki from the Tamers Forever Series could be the poster boy for this trope, the amount of physical and mental torment he suffers through over the course of the series must be seen to be believed, but he take it all on with a smile on his face. Seriously, the kid is a walking talking Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
That's what makes her a Woobie. The Iron part comes from how she still wants to be a Magical Girl after she's recovered, been depowered, and the Big Bad of the First Arc has been defeated. And from the consensus on the thread, she gains a new powerset, and becomes a Bad Ass Teacher.
From the war-torn future of Warhammer 40,000 comes an Ogryn named Gav from the fanfic The Ballad of Gav and Bob. Ogryn are a naturally loyal race of huge, violent manchildren fanatically devoted to the Emperor, and Gav is no different. He remains steadfastly loyal even after losing his Commissar and his best Ogryn friend Bob; seeing his new best friend Tarla gored by the tail of a Greater Daemon of Slaanesh and losing his left arm to said Daemon; living to see Tarla turned into a mind-wiped servitor because of her repeated exposure to Chaos. Gav is so loyal that he ends up on the retinue of a Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor, Traela.
Shinji Ikari in The Second Tryinvoked it willingly. After 3rd Impact and losing his (and Asuka's) child because they traveled back time to do the whole damn story again, he keeps on keeping on so he can prevent 3rd Impact and create a better future. Since Asuka is slowly giving into depression (and Character Development during 3rd Impact) he is the only thing keeping them both on track.
Elissa, in the Dragon Age: Origins story Shadow And Rose, is very much this. Her entire family is murdered, then she's one of only two Grey Wardens to survive a massacre of a battle. She and her fellow Warden are then blamed for all the deaths in that battle and hunted relentlessly while they try to rally forces to help them save the country. All the while, she picks up new friends who each have their own personal demons that she must help them overcome. She can't give up or her country is doomed, so all she can do is continue to fight - and occasionally find a reason to smile.
In Gensokyo 20 XX, we have Reimu and she is more than willing to put everything aside and endure hell, even going to hell and back, just to look forward even if she was facing the prospect of dying.
Films — Animation
Po in the Kung Fu Panda series. Po learns about how his people were massacred by Lord Shen, including likely his mother. However, to Lord Shen's astonishment, Po manages to come to terms with his past to achieve an inner peace that enables him to defeat a warfleet armed with cannons by himself.
Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck-It Ralph. Considering everything she's put through, this girl's bravery and spirit is jaw-dropping.
Barney Coopersmith from My Blue Heaven. Despite the fact that his wife left him for another man, Barney is an FBI agent, and although he seems geeky (he was portrayed by Rick Moranis), Barney seems quite badass with a gun.
In To Hell and Back Audie Murphy plays himself as one. And given how little credit he was willing to take for his real life heroic actions it would appear that he might be a Real Life example as well.
Tom Bardo from Stuck. The man loses his job, his home, gets hit by a car and spends most of the film in complete agony. But he still manages to be astonishingly resourceful and determined for a man in his situation. Iron indeed.
Ben Kingsley's portrayal of Gandhi comes off as this, especially right at first. Watch him in the scene where he's burning the passes.
You could say Maggie Gyllenhaal has been type cast in this part. She's definitely capable of withstanding the slings and arrows, but you still want to give her a hug for being forced to endure them. And when she does start crying, if you don't start also, you have ice-water running through your veins.
Word of God states that Selena from 28 Days Later is this as a backstory for the character states that she had to kill her whole family in one afternoon including her baby brother.
Sarah Connor of the Terminator movies bears traces of this. In the first movie, she loses her roommate and best friend, her mother and the love of her life. By the second, she has been committed to an asylum, and has not seen her son in years. Despite all this, she never loses sight of her responsibilities, and remains determined to mold John into the leader humanity needs him to be.
Lawrence Talbot, Universal Studios' The Wolf Man (1941), is depicted as this in his later appearances, once he resigns himself to never finding a cure and starts making the best of it by becoming The Atoner, siccing his monstrous side on other monsters. Given that he can't ever keep himself dead when he attempts suicide, becoming an Iron Woobie is really his only alternative.
Knives Chau in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Though an Action Girl in both the comic book and the film, the film incarnation truly makes the transition to Iron Woobie and is a deciding factor in Scott's final victory against the Big Bad. In the comics, Knives instead sheds much of her woobie status by realizing that Scott is something of a Jerk Ass where relationships are concerned, and actively decides to move on for her own good.
Bethany Hamilton in Soul Surfer. The real-life Bethany noted that she was actually more cheerful in the hospital than the film shows!
Luli starts out as a regular Woobie but by the end of Hick has become this.
Fantastic Four's Ben Grimm, when he became "The Thing" his life started falling apart, including his girlfriend leaving him.
Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise. In the first film, she's the sole survivor against a creature which killed her shipmates. In the second film, she gets demoted for destroying her ship in her attempt to destroy the creature, and in the extended cut, we learn her daughter grew up and died during her overextended time in cryo-sleep. When's she's called back by her company to investigate the colony on the planet from the first film, she finds another Iron Woobie in Rebecca "Newt" Jorden, the sole child survivor of the colony's infestation.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi. His master gets killed before his eyes while he is powerless to prevent it, he becomes a master long before he is ready, he winds up fighting in a war that goes against all he believes in, his Heterosexual Life Partner turns to the Dark Side and massacres the only family Obi-Wan has, he's forced to fight said former friend to the death, he lives in exile for nineteen years and then is killed by the same old friend he couldn't bring himself to kill years before. And that's not even mentioning the Expanded Universe. But he'll never compromise his principles, retaining his status as The Paragon through all the hardship. At the most, he'll snark about things, and it takes a heck of a lot to get him to show any negative emotion.
While Miles Vorkosigan in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga already takes this to extreme levels (born with abnormally brittle bones and needing multiple surgeries and painful physical therapy just to walk, and that was just the first six years of his life; it got worse), his brother Mark has it even worse. Created in a laboratory by absurdly insane and delusional terrorists to kill and impersonate his brother long enough to murder their father, raised by clone traders who sell their services to rich old people willing to murder their own cloned children and transplant their brains into the young bodies, every one of his childhood friends is dead by the time he starts trying to stop the clone trade. But after being physically, sexually, and psychologically tortured by someone vile by everyone else's standards (Mark makes millions from the assassination and ends up rescuing dozens of innocent lives), a beautiful female soldier touches his wrist and offers her pity for what he'd suffered. Mark's response: grab her wrist in a death grip and snarl viciously, "don't you DARE feel pity for me. I WON!"
Lloyd Henried from the The Stand remains determined to stick with his evil ways, even if Randal Flagg scares him.
Huck from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He is utterly penniless, gets kidnapped by his abusive and alcoholic father, is nearly stabbed by said father, almost gets shot during a feud, has a run in with a homicidal gang of robbers and falls into the company of con men, among other things. Throughout all of this, he's infectiously cheerful, playful and heartbreakingly unaware of the Crapsack World surrounding him.
Jim is a pretty decent candidate for this trope as well. Despite being a runaway slave, he risks capture several times to protect Huck.
Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo. Starts out an all-around nice guy, is imprisoned after being falsely accused and having his life and fiancee ripped away from him, escapes, plans an elaborate vengeance against his accusers spanning several years and then, despite those years of planning, spares the life of one of his enemies because he would have to take the life of his innocent and honorable son in addition.
Abbe Faria, as well. Despite being innocent, he spends approximately a decade longer in prison than he has to because his most viable escape plan might involve killing a guard who's just doing his job.
Tycho Celchu is a Woobie in universe. He was an Alderaanian flying for the Empire who had been placing a call to his family there on his birthday when Alderaan was destroyed. He fought for the Rebel Alliance and was kidnapped and tortured by Isard, but never broke. When he was released the Alliance was suspicious of him, thinking that he'd turned into one of Isard's Manchurian Agents, and he was put under all kinds of restrictions. His old CO Wedge Antilles still trusted him absolutely and relied on him, even giving him roles in secret plans. Then someone who was suspicious of him died in suspicious circumstances, and he was put on trial with a mountain of evidence set against him. Everyone but Wedge, or nearly everyone, thought he was a traitor, wittingly or not, and Wedge had a moment of doubt. So how did Tycho bear up with this? Stoically, and with an endless reserve of patience. Before Isard got him he was a hothead and impulsive - after that, he was subdued, haunted, and his nobility was laid bare.
"I put up with it because I must. Enduring it is the only way I can be allowed to fight back against the Empire. If I were to walk away from the Rebellion, if I were to sit the war out, I would have surrendered to the fear of what Ysanne Isard might, might, have done to me. Without firing a shot she would have made me as dead as Alderaan, and I won't allow that. There's nothing in what I have to live with on a daily basis that isn't a thousand times easier than what I survived at the hands of the Empire. Until the Empire is dead, I can never truly be free because I'll always be under suspicion. Living with minor restrictions now means someday no one has to fear me."
The title character of The Windrose Chronicles, by Barbara Hambly, winds up going through fifteen kinds of hell at the hands of the good guys as well as the bad guys. He's been traumatized enough to go completely insane - and his insanity gives him the ability to sustain hope even when such is unrealistic - leading to such Awesome Moments as gaining secret control of the prison where he is being tortured, not that that makes the torture hurt any less, and dealing with everyone throughout courteously and cheerfully...
Niall from Wicked Lovely, oh so much so. He gave himself to the Dark Court, and we all know what that meant, to save a few mortals (who died anyway.) He managed to escape from them, becoming one of the Summer Court's most trusted advisors. Oh, but then, well, Shit happened. He would have every reason in the world to be all angsty and depressed, but he very rarely does, or at least not visibly. He's a "survivor", as Leslie put it.
With all the crap that the Baudelaire siblings endure in A Series of Unfortunate Events one would think they'd be broken about ten times over by now. While they may come close they always manage to continue on and survive in some epic way by sticking together through the hard times.
Marshal-General Atkins, from John C. Wright's The Golden Oecumene is the only warrior in a society that has forgotten the meaning of war or violence. He is regarded as an anachronism at best, a needless expense at worst. The only inkling the reader gets of his woobie nature is a brief Not So Stoic outburst after a dose of Amnesiac Dissonance.
Despite having endured events that would have broken lesser peoples the princesses of The Princess Series refuse to give in to despair or anger(mostly). They have even managed to find some happiness and sense of family with each other.
Realm of the Elderlings: FitzChivalry Farseer. A bastard whose unveiling causes his heir-to-the-throne father to go into seclusion, mercilessly trained as an assassin, executed for possessing forbidden magic (he got better), sent on a mission to save a kingdom that hates him, forced to give up his youth and vitality, leaving him broken for many years, only to return to find out his lover and his foster father have gone off to raise his child together and noone wants him around anymore. Then, umpteen years later when his kingdom needs him, he still goes off to save the day.
Nevare Burvelle of The Soldier Son suffers in much the same manner as Fitz, though Hobb has only tortured him for three books thus far.
My Happy Life is made of this. The nameless narrator describes being a beaten, neglected, friendless woman, with a mental deficiency who was abandoned, raised in a Dickinsonian orphanage, left homeless, kidnapped, abused, and eventually locked in an abandoned insane asylum to die in relentlessly cheerful terms. The reader may assume part of her insanity was an inability to feel unhappiness, but that's not explicitly stated.
Georgie in The Fledgling. She seems like your ordinary introverted, outcast child, until a Canada goose befriends her and teaches her to fly, and it seems all the other characters are bent on stopping her. In the end, the goose, the only true friend she's had not only dies, but dies because Georgie calls him to her. And despite that, Georgie still never complains.
Harry Potter. Parents are dead murdered trying to save him, betrayed by their best friend. His only living relatives hate him because he was born with magic and physically and emotionally abuse him, starving him and until the age of 12 make him live in a cupboard under the stairs. His life and those of everyone he cares about is constantly being threatened by the most dangerous and evil wizard in history all because of prophecy made before he was born, to the point that every year he is put in mortal danger far beyond the abilities of the normal wizard let alone a child. He has a teacher that makes it his life's mission to make Harry unhappy and his mentor keeps him in the dark about nearly everything. The media spends half the time villifying him for telling the truth and powerful politicians either coddle him or try to discredit him. All of his protectors and father figures are horribly murdered and to cap it all he is forced to walk slowly to his death and isn't allowed to defend himself or run away (the fact that he doesn't actually end up dead isn't even that helpful because coming back he still has to fight the Big Bad again)
"Loony" Luna Lovegood has some of this as well. The first years of her life were... okay, one can presume. Okay, though friendless. She had loving parents and her mother, in particular, was rumored to have been an extraordinary witch. Keywords: Have been. When Luna was 9 years old she became an eye witness when one of her mother's experimental spells backfired. Her father, Xenophilius, is implied to have had a Sanity Slippage by the gruesome circumstances of her death and, all in all, life got tough for Luna. Things didn't get better when she went to Hogwarts. No, due to being the victim of a serious deconstruction of the Cloud Cuckoolander trope, she was teased and ostracized by the other students due to her easy-to-spot quirkiness, with Ginny Weasley being the only one to approach her. It's not until her 4th year in Hogwarts that she finally finds some true company together with the Main Trio, Ginny and Neville Longbottom, and she only says one year later that she liked being together with them because it "was like having friends."
Toni Ware in The Pale King has a horrifying backstory, but she's easily the toughest and most dangerous of the main characters.
Lissla Lissar from Robin McKinley's Deerskin. Just follow the link to that page. Lissar is the embodiment of the tragic backstory. The poor girl goes through utter hell, in one form or another, for seventeen years. And yet she survives it all—with the help of a being called the Moonwoman, who changes Lissar's appearance and conceals her memories until she might be ready to deal with them—becoming the most compassionate and courageous person imaginable.
Ruth Mallory of Someone Else's War: A fourteen-year-old comfort slave, mother to two dead children, lost her home, her innocence, her peace of mind, she has no friends, she's specifically antagonized by the men because she's ugly—but she never bemoans her fate. She never pities herself, instead doing what she can to save others from a similar life.
The Bible seems to portray God (of all people) this way occasionally. A lot of His big speeches in the Old Testament boil down to "Everyone keeps ignoring me and doing evil stuff that I told you not to do, and I feel really hurt by that, but I guess I'm not gonna give up you anyway" - it kinda reads like they want you to feel sorry for the Big Guy. Jesus certainly counts in the New Testament, though - He has one Rage Against the Heavens moment in the Garden of Gethsemane, but He pretty quickly comes to the conclusion that He's going to go through with the whole crucifixion thing because He's convinced there's no better way. He remains pretty impressively composed throughout the actual process of dying, too.
Live Action TV
Xander Harris from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He's been the most unfortunate of all of the main characters (except the titular character herself). Bad things happen to him for nearly no reason other than to provide comedy and/or angst for the main character, to the point that at one point he declares himself the butt-monkey of the BTVS universe. Furthermore, despite a highly impressive track record, his achievements, loyalty, and bravery are always downplayed/dismissed by his friends until such a time that he becomes useful for them. He is an Iron Woobie because despite this treatment, he never turns on his friends or the fight against evil, and you have to admire him for that determination.
Jack Bauer from 24. If he weren't such a Badass he would've killed himself by now.
He would need to invent a successful method of killing Jack Bauer first. Considering how many had tried and failed, it stands to reason that it simply cannot be done.
Michael Westen from Burn Notice. Raised by an abusive, alcoholic father who died mysteriously, he joined the military where he worked with sociopaths on a constant basis, only to lose his job and find himself stuck in a city he's out of place in and constantly targeted by a mysterious evil organization. Every time it seems like he might get his old job back, he is violently reminded why the show has the title it does. Even despite all this, he takes most things in stride and has a fairly optimistic view of the world.
Mr. Spock from Star Trek. He is perfectly willing to sacrifice himself for others. He will also stand by his principles even when he expects that Kirk, Mc Coy, or his parents will hate him for it.
Picard picks up the role in The Next Generation. Assimilated by the Borg, living a whole lifetime's worth of experiences in a few moments, which effectively gives him the last memory of a dead civilization, suffers through centuries' worth of rage and heartbreak for Sarek, and was tortured for weeks by Gul Madred. He feels responsible for what he did as Locutus for years afterwards, as indicated by his interactions with Sisko in the Deep Space 9 pilot and in First Contact. Even after all that, Picard sticks to his beliefs and keeps going.
Also Data from TNG. He's constantly the victim of Fantastic Racism due to being an android, his "brother" turns out to be an Evil Twin, his "daughter" died and his body's been hijacked more than once. The fact that he can't feel emotion just seems to make it worse somehow.
The title character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Life screws her over royally time and again. Even when demonic forces aren't actively threatening everything she holds dear, she is still risking her life on a nightly basis and constantly alone, but she just keeps going. In fact, most Buffyverse characters are this trope. Joss Whedon is just mean to his characters.
Heroes: Edgar, a new Season 4 character, is an interesting case—he kills people with his super-speed/weapon accuracy abilities, but he has said that he does not actually want to do it—and then Samuel started to Force-choke him. He has emotions, remorse, and feelings for people, but still does bad things rather coldly.
Claire has been one throughout. An alternate universe showed what would happen if she did break and it was frightening (but also awesome)
Any hunter on the show would qualify, since hunters are usually created when their normal lives are ripped apart by some supernatural monster. Rather than drown in despair and alcohol, they pack up their lives, hit the road and chase those monsters.
A case could be made for Crowley. Sure, he's a bad guy, but he also spent most of Season 5 alienated from his own kind and with a death sentence on his head that could just as easily have been delivered by the Winchesters as by the demons he betrayed. Yet he snarks on.
Castiel, especially in Season 5 when he's falling. But even after he's re-angelfied and accepted into Heaven, he finds that he has to become the figurehead for an incredibly personal civil war between his brothers, and he's more or less had to go it alone.
Baldrick, Edmund Blackadder's hapless manservant in the British comedy series Blackadder. Not very bright, but always cheerful, no matter how much his sarcastic master abused him.
The title character of Veronica Mars. No person should go through as much crap as she does, and the majority of people would have some kind of breakdown - but no. She'll move on with a plan and a quip, and try and help people.
Chloe Sullivan of Smallville qualifies, particularly in season eight... You know what? It's easier just to watch it than explain it. But she still manages to be perky and upbeat despite what she's gone through. Must be something about those perky blonde girls...
Fran from Power Rangers Jungle Fury. Poor, poor Fran. As the only employee to not be a Ranger, she is consistently the only one left to deal with the mass lunch rush. While she occasionally confronts Theo and Lily about always being gone, once to the point of quitting, she just as easily sets it aside. And this isn't even covering her crush on Dom...
Ianto Jones, who's been through just about everything. One of only 27 employees of Torchwood One to survive Canary Warf, he saw his girlfriend turned into a killer cyborg that eventually had to be shot in front of him, he was half beaten to death by cannibals, and mind raped by an alien into thinking he's a murderer. And he does most of it with the wry efficiency of someone who was effectively hired to clean up after the team.
Jack is probaly the biggest Iron Woobie of the series. Dear god, he's been buried alive, had all the life sucked out of him, was buried in concrete, and in Torchwood: Miracle Day was murdered over and over again in a butcher shop. He's also died over two thousand times and spent a year being tortured to death over and over. Oh, and he was also forced to kill his own grandson in order to save the rest of Earth's children the day after his boyfriend died. How Jack isn't a babbling mess by now is kind of a mystery.
Then there's Tosh. She was forced to commit treason because her mother was being held hostage. Then, instead of getting rescued, UNIT sentences her to isolation until Jack shows up and recruits her for Torchwood. The man she has a crush on is a jerk who won't give her the time of day, but at least she has regular contact with him. Another interest was a soldier suffering from PSTD who had to go back to a time that didn't understand the disorder. Then there was her other love interest Mary who was revealed to have been using her the entire time. When Tosh finally does tell Owen she loves him, she's dying from a gunshot wound and it turns out he didn't even hear it. That poor woman never got a break.
Rory from Doctor Who, particularly the resurrected Auton Rory. To make up for a moment of weakness where his his Auton programming overrode his mind, he spends two thousand years guarding a box holding the body of his girlfriend. Two thousand years with nobody to talk to, no way to heal injuries, and nothing to think of but his love, his guilt, and his worry. And despite having no way to heal injuries, two thousand years later, he hasn't a scratch. His Iron Woobie status got another major upgrade in the series 6 finale, when a device he was wearing would cause him agony or even death if he kept it on. But since he needed the device to save the others, he refused to take it off:
Amy: You have to take your eye drive off. Rory: Can't do that, ma'am. Can't forget what's coming. Amy: But it could activate any second. Rory (with clenched, trembling fists): It has activated, ma'am.
The Doctor himself also qualifies. We don't know exactly how old he is (and neither does he) but for somewhere over a thousand years now he's been coming up against the worst monsters the universe has to offer, day after day, and although he always tries to save everyone he very, very rarely succeeds. He's been forced to commit an act of absolute genocide against his own species. He's watched friends and family die - sometimes because he wasn't fast enough or clever enough or because they gave their lives to save him. It's pretty clear by now that, underneath the manic enthusiasm and bad sense of humour (which may or may not be more than just a coping mechanism), the Doctor has the worst case of Survivor Guilt in the history of time itself. But he rarely if ever lets himself angst about it - there's adventuring to be done, after all.
And he tells it all to a parasite god that feeds off emotions and experiences.
Matt Smith: That’s what interests me about The Doctor because, actually, look at the blood on the man’s hands. 900 years, countless very selfish choices, and he’s literally blown planets up. His own race, you know, that’s all on his hands. Which is why I think he has to make silly jokes and wear a fez. Because if he didn't, he'd hang himself.
From NUMB3RS: Josephine Kirtland, the victim in the Season 3 episode "Nine Wives". She grew up in a polygamist cult. She was forced to marry its leader, Prophet Stone, who subsequently raped her. Instead of giving up, she escapes from a desert hideout and treks through the wilderness at night. Later, she faces two awful truths: her mother betrayed her to Stone, and she is the product of Parental Incest (she and her mother have the same father). Despite all of this, she's a mostly stable individual by the end of the episode. Oh, and did I mention that she's only sixteen?
Aaron Hotchner from Criminal Minds is possibly the best example of an Iron Woobie on TV today. Hotch is trying to raise his son after his ex-wife - his high school sweetheart - was murdered by the Reaper, who made him listen over the phone while she died. Hotch was so grief-stricken that he beat the Reaper to death with his bare hands. Oh, and this was after he got stabbed by the Reaper, and had his son taken into protective custody. And after that time he nearly got blown up by a suicide bomber, lost an old flame in the same attack, and had painful hearing problems for some time afterward as a result of it shattering his eardrums.
Bree Van De Kamp, from Desperate Housewives. Let's get this straight: She lost 3 husbands and 2 boyfriends, her son hated her with passion for several seasons, her daughter does not like her very much either, and she succumbed to alcoholism. Despite all of this, she managed to get back on her feet each time, despite the odds, the people and the universe working against her. That is, until season 8, where she finally snaps, and is on the verge of committing suicide herself like Mary Alice by the end of the 9th episode.
The title character of Merlin. Just look at the last half of Series 2. Forced to tell your best friend that magic is evil in order to spare a man who would have you slaughtered? Check. Your best friend kills your girlfriend? Check. Forced to poison one of your friends for the greater good? Check. Finally meet your father only for him to die saving you two days later? Check. And while this is a compilation of the worst things to happen to him, they certainly aren't limited to just lining up in a row and hitting him. Only one person has learned his secret, accepted it, and lived. Everyone else is dead.
Oh, and did we mention that these are just specific events? His normal life is being called an idiot and distrusted despite always being right, getting abused and belittled by Arthur despite constantly saving his life, and if he's ever discovered saving all of Camelot, he will be killed. Why? Because he was born magical and thus must be evil. And it would most likely be Arthur who gives out the order.
He has never gone into Heroic BSOD, rampaged, broken down, or sunk into depression. He cries, sure, but he'll get back on his feet and keep trying with the same episode. Even on the one occasion when he truly felt his cause was hopeless after accidentally killing Uther and possibly turning Arthur against magic forever, he stuck around because Arthur needed his emotional support. He's not even that emotional towards Gaius, the one person who he can rant to. He's had one rant (early series two, before all the above happened), and the rest of the time he just takes comfort in the fact that there is one person who knows how much he's done for Camelot. Forget iron, this guy is an Adamantium Woobie.
Al Calavicci from Quantum Leap. In order: his mother ran out on her family; he bounced in and out of orphanages because his father was working overseas; his little sister died in a mental hospital; his father died from cancer (thus causing his falling out with religion); his father figure, a black man, was arrested for playing pool in a whites-only pool hall (this being the 1940s); he was a POW in Vietnam, during which time his first wife, the "only woman [I] ever really loved," left him; four more failed marriages; and he was a raging alcoholic, to the degree that he was in danger of getting fired from his job running a government project. Rock bottom was implied to be when Sam Beckett found him piss drunk and beating a vending machine with a hammer. Despite all of the crap that Al's been through, he's a pretty laid-back guy and rarely mentions any of these things unless it's relevant (all of these were learned when he used them to put a leap into context for Sam).
The main character of the video of P!nk's "F***ing Perfect".
The main character of Joshua Radin's "Brand New Day" video. Heartbreaking that through it all, he keeps singing. Especially so since it's such a happy, upbeat song.
Charlie Brown from Peanuts stopped being too bothered by things that don't turn out well for him as he's come to expect it. It doesn't stop him from continuing to run his baseball team or participating in competitions of all sorts, however, in hopes that he will one day get his big break.
Humanity as a whole. When you check the fluff you discover how badly they get screwed every time they try to make things somehow better; some of the rulebooks go as far as having a planet which managed to get rid of all disease invaded by the Chaos God of Desperation and Plague because it took offense at such achievement, while in another rulebook the Imperium manages to get some technological relic which may allow to cure all diseases only to get it stolen by the Dark Eldar, just because one of their leaders wanted to show they could harm humanity as a whole, and then there's the whole Horus Heresy with half of the Space Marines turning renegades. Yet, in a one on one none of these or any other major factions can truly match mankind's military capability whenever the Imperium gets enough time to mobilize their armies and specialists or just pulls some ruthless scorched sector tactic.
You have Commisar Yarrick, who is a simple old man... that has been involved in the defense of Armageddon from two Ork WAAAGH!s (read: global invasion). He has seen and sent thousands of men to their deaths, and he's been in charge of the war effort for a long time. He gets ambushed by Orks, and yet manages to stay alive and somehow make the Orks, who are all large aliens that live for the thrill of war afraid of him. He does all of this by himself. There is also a short story published by Black Library titled "Survivor" which is connected to his past.
And then there's Kaldor Draigo. He's hated by a lot of players because of his lore - he's a member of the Grey Knights, who are already badass compared to the other badasses of the 40K universe. They face the greatest horrors of the Warp, fighting daemons and spawns of Chaos, which would normally leave a normal person insane. He gets the even shorter end of the stick - he gets sucked into the Warp itself, and he's mostly trapped in it. He, however, refuses to surrender; even if all the victories he manages to win inside the Warp are fleeting since the daemons just reform elsewhere, he keeps on fighting alone, walking the Warp.
Adamant caste Alchemical Exalted. Their duty is to keep the Eight Nations safe without the Octet ever finding out they exist. They spend most of their time in the dark, alone except for a tide of horrible monsters. They wait, and they watch, but if they do break protocol and reveal themselves to a small group of mortals or an assembly of Alchemicals, thanks to their anima effect it's likely their contacts will never remember who they are. Yet most of them keep carrying the torch of Autochthon's will into the darkness and use it to burn gremlins for people who will never know what they go through.
Horton the Elephant from Seussical. Everyone he knows thinks he's crazy for taking care of a speck of dust, he's been chased all over the jungle, he's left with Mayzie's egg for months and months and in the process is captured by hunters and sold to a circus, but he never once gives up. Never.
Viola from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. After escaping from a shipwreck that her twin brother may have perished in, she takes a deep breath in lieu of mourning and dresses as a man to serve as the page of Duke Orsino. She goes on to fall in love with him and suffer in silence as he loudly pines over the woman he wants instead of her.
Elphaba from Wicked, the theater version. Not only is she green-skinned and thus shunned, her father has always blamed her (and thus she blames herself) for her mother's death and sister's paraplegia. Then the Wizard, whom she looked up to and was sure would help stop the Animals from being silenced turns out to be the *cause* of it, and he not only disappoints her but calls for her death. Then her sister dies and she cannot even have the only thing that remains of her, Nessa's magical slippers. Finally, just after reconciling with her best friend, she will never see her because she either dies or fakes her death.
On the upside, if you assume she lives, she did finally get to be with her lover, Fiyero.
And the book version's even worse - her mother doesn't die after Nessarose is born (and she's born without arms in the book instead of paraplegic) but dies after giving birth to a completely normal (Jerkass) of a son, Shell. After going through a childhood of being used as a pointer in her fathers' missionary work - 'Look what the Unnamed God did to *me*, a priest!' - she goes to Shiz, finally away from her needy sister and holier-than-thou father, and has her eyes opened to the systematic dismantling of Animal rights. She's one of the only people in the book to realize Doctor Dillamond was *murdered*. And all of *that's* just when she's at Shiz! Though she keeps on trucking, things just get worse...
Aribeth de Tylmarande, whose entire life story is a Trauma Conga Line of epic proportions best summed up as the tale of a woman who tried very hard in the face of a universe that hated her and ended up failing anyway, fighting tooth and nail to get an Esoteric Happy Ending at the end of the last expansion pack. She somehow puts on a calm public face through a series of tragedies that would make strong men weep in spite of all this.
Several characters from the Mass Effect series could qualify. The most extreme of these cases is Jack from the second game. She was kidnapped as an infant from Cerberus, forced into an experiment that was pure horror day in, day out, for the sake of finding out if trauma increases biotic power. When she escaped, she flew with pirates, was used as a sex object repeatedly, dropped a moon onto a colony...
Jack: ...and that's the boring shit.
The amount of suffering that Commander Shepard can be put through (losing the entire family to Batarian slavers/growing up an Earthbound orphan, losing a squad on Akuze, facing routine accusations of being crazy by the very people he/she's trying to protect, losing a love interest in either game, dying in the beginning of the second, being forced to work with the people responsible for Akuze, facing the consequences of The Arrival, and possibly dying for real during the Suicide Mission) is almost comical, yet none of this will stop him/her from shrugging it all off and saving the galaxy.
Shepard's status as this is multiplied by a thousand times in Mass Effect 3. S/he experiences an enormous amount of losses, experiences serious Survivor Guilt and is forced to carry the fate of the entire galaxy on his/her shoulders. Joker notes at one point that while resting s/he's under more stress now than s/he was in his/her background (which involves either holding a platoon by him/herself, watching his/her squad get devoured by Sand Worms, or leading a suicidal assault against an enemy fort). By the end, s/he's so exhausted that s/he can barely keep his/her eyes open, has suffered third-degree burns, is bleeding to death from a stomach wound, and got caught in a blast from HARBINGER, but when Admiral Hackett calls him/her, s/he immediately gets back up and responds.
Shepard: [through labored, steadying breaths] W...what do you need me to do?
Javik, the downloadable Prothean survivor squadmate, never seems to be anything less than calm and in control. However, talking to him reveals a lot of suffering in his past. Not only is he the last of his species, but if you tell him to use the Echo Stone, he shares with you the fact that he was the commander of a ship like the Normandy... except that, when the Reapers had it attacked and the crew carried off, they got everyone except for Javik himself. He singlehandedly stormed a Reaper fortress, desperately trying to save his people... but they were already indoctrinated by then, and he was forced to Mercy Kill them all to escape.
Selvaria Bles from Valkyria Chronicles. It's hard not to feel sorry at the way she willingly put herself through hell (and later sacrifices herself) for a man who doesn't care about her - and she probably knows it. The way she faces her fate with pride and keeps leading her soldiers to the bitter end makes her very admirable. Even in her final defeat, all she asks of the Fat Bastard who came to take her as a prize and steal Squad 7's merits is that he spares her men...
Gorath from Betrayal at Krondor - most of his suffering is the result of his own difficult decisions, which he keeps making afterwards without complaint.
Take Marona from Phantom Brave. Now take all the hate, and loathing directed at her; and take Ash away. That's Carona. Willing to be considered a villain, willing to save the world anyway. Willing to train the people she's being forced to bring into a trap so that they're strong enough to break out of it. Willing to go back to her world even though Marona and Ash would have welcomed her in theirs and she refused to take Ash with her when Marona offered.
Yuna. Losing her mother shortly after being born, then having her father leave her when she was little to perform a Heroic Sacrifice for all of Spira, becoming a summoner herself, enduring the same trip her father made, being labeled a traitor of the god she was worshiping, having to kill off all of her beloved Aeons, and worst of all, saying goodbye to the one man she loved, who was actually a dream of the Fayth. Someone give the poor girl a hug.
Final Fantasy XIII: Fang. She became Ragnarok to crack Cocoon's shell to complete hers and Vanille's focus. She mentions on several occasions that Pulse has a fear of Cocoon just like Cocoon has a fear of Pulse. Forgetting everything about her time as Ragnarok, she's tortured in front of Vanille by Orphan, watches helplessly as her friends are transformed into Cie'th and decides to go through with becoming Ragnarok to save Cocoon at the end of the game, becoming a crystal again. This woman has had it rough.
Ethan Mars from Heavy Rain. The man goes through hell, all to save his son from a serial killer.
Timothy Pike from Dark Fall: The Journal is level-headed, affable, and helpful despite his unpleasant past and horrifying present.
Iji woke up after losing nearly everything. Whether she "breaks" or not is up to the player.
Poor, poor Isaac Clarke of Dead Space is just an engineer who was sent on a clean-up job in space. What he finds is a ship simply filled bow-to-stern with Nightmare Fuel. Yet, in spite of it all, he goes through Hell and back to not only complete his repairs, but also save his girlfriend, Nicole, who, it turns out, has been Dead All Along. After the spoiler makes him undergo a Heroic BSOD (that lasts for about five seconds), he sucks it up, moves forward, destroys an Eldritch Abomination, and escapes, unfortunately haunted by hallucinations of Nicole. He is confined to a mental institute, where the government keeps him in and out of stasis for three years, using his madness to construct another Artifact of Doom. Another Necromorph outbreak later, Isaac not only has to worry about the space zombies, government agents out to kill him, and the Church of Happyology trying to kidnap him, but also the hallucination of his girlfriend trying to drive him to suicide.
The main character of Dragon Quest V. No other character in the entire series compares to him. Where to even begin. His father is murdered right in front of him as a child. He lives as a slave for the next ten years constructing an icon of blasphemy. He and his wife are turned to stone for another seven years, mere days after his twin children are born. They get seperated during this, and she does not get unpetrified until well after he is. And as probably the biggest Player Punch in the entire series, his mother, who he and his father had been searching for the entire game, is murdered right in front of him just minutes after he'd finally found her. If that's not an Iron Woobie, what is?
Ayane from Dead or Alive qualifies. She was born from her biological father, Raidou, raping her mother to get back at one of his enemies, and was hated and mistreated by her village of origin as a result, with the only two that ever treated her well being her friends Hayate and Kasumi, and her adoptive father Genra. Though she and Kasumi are friends and she's crushing on Hayate, the rest of the village tries to keep her away from them due to associating her with Raidou. Then she finds out from her mother that Kasumi and Hayate are her half siblings, and that while they're treated like ninja royalty, she's outcast because her mother didn't claim her due to the trauma of her birth circumstances. Then Raidou comes back to the village seeking a technique they guarded, and while she's beaten aside easily, Hayate is crippled when she fails to protect him. Kasumi then leaves the village to seek revenge, and Ayane is assigned to kill her for breaking the code of secrecy surrounding the village. And this is all before leaving the backstory! She proceeds to have to face off with both her best friend and her amnesiac love interest when Hayate is brought back by DOATEC as Ein as part of Project Epsilon. Then in the third tournament, she finds out that her adoptive father has been kidnapped by DOATEC and turned into the monstrous bioweapon known as Omega, forcing her to enter the tournament, whereupon she defeats and kills him to set him free of DOATEC's slavery. And past that, with Hayate back as of the fourth game, Kasumi is still marked for death due to Honor Before Reason, and Ayane is still loyally serving her clan to take her down. And through all of this, the only hint of the pain we ever see going through her is a single tear when she's cremating Genra's body after he dies. One really wonders how Tecmo could hurt her worse if the series had gone on.
If you are not feeling rather sarcastic due to the recent events, then BlazBlue's answer for Iron Woobie would be Dr. Litchi Faye-Ling. She is a kind doctor who knew she's slowly being corrupted by the Boundary in exchange of a great power that she uses for fighting and trying to discover a cure for her lover turned Eldritch Abomination. And for that, she even left her previous job as scientist and endangers herself with a court-martial. Interaction with the townspeople where she resided, townspeople that looked up to her, would make you think that they'll make good moral support for her quest, but she never tells them her situation, which means she's carrying her burden alone. Then, when she sought help from her superior and got refused, the corruption is catching up to her limit, her only option to continue was to join the rival organization, which stores one person that she knew to be a Devil in Plain Sight, and she did so anyway, knowing that her previous organization would do even worse than court-martial from that point on if they ever catch her. And while at first she thought the organization was just 'normal' or better than her previous one, she starts seeing that it is rather... shady and questionable, but she decided to bear all that. In her own words... "I can't go back. Even if I have to sacrifice some of my humanity."
Klonoa exists simply for multiple realities to screw him over. And he will bear on to do the right thing without hesitating. The first game is one giant Break the Cutie aimed squarely at Klonoa's head.
Metroid's own Samus Aran. The toughest warrior in the galaxy, destroyer of worlds... and everyone she knows and/or cared about dies in front of her. She has been forced by circumstance to wipe out entire species of super-predator (the sole survivor of one died saving her life), and spends most of her time on-screen either wandering the crumbling ruins of the civilization she was raised in and its allies, or hunting down the ones responsible.
Reisen Udongein Inaba of the Touhou series. Despite being abused by her masters and her subordinate (And anyone she comes in contact with), she is STILL willing to protect them at all costs.
Craig Boone of Fallout: New Vegas. You poor man. Take off your stoic sunglasses and let us see your pain. He was present at the Bitter Springs Massacre and suffers immense survivors guilt and PTSD as a result. He meets a girl who accepts him and becomes his wife but she doesn't get on with Boone's only friend causing tension between them. His wife, pregnant with his child, is sold into slavery by someone in their town. Boone tracks down the legion slavers to one of their biggest outposts where they are planning to sell her and faced with no other option kills his wife and flees (being outnumbered several hundred to one). When he gets back to Novac he cna't trust anyone because any of them might have been the one to sell his wife and he can't fix his relationship with his friend. In various dialogue with him he outright states that he's stopped expecting a break and thinks the universe is just waiting for him to let his guard down so it can screw him over again.
The protagonist of Zettai Hero Project, a Heroic Mime who appears to be nothing but an OC Stand In and over-the-top example of This Loser Is You, especially as a superhero. In Chapter 9, it's revealed that he actually has a backstory, and the countless Hopeless Boss Fights of the game are a reflection of his primary character trait. Eight years ago, he and his sister were captured by a serial kidnapper/cannibal, and he protected her by getting the crap kicked out of him repeatedly until the police and Unlosing Ranger arrived. But she was so traumatized that all she remembers is him getting beaten up and crying, causing the whole family to blame what happened on his weakness, and completely tearing them apart. As in, his parents are getting divorced over who raised him to be such a wimp and his sister wants him to just die. After becoming humanity's Butt Monkey, he continues to protect everyone in the only way he knows how, even if they all mock him for it.
Mickey Mouse from Kingdom Hearts. Everyone he knows either dies, disappears, goes into a coma, or falls to darkness, he's an utter failure at protecting the worlds and his friends and loved ones from the encroaching darkness, and his life is best described as "hell". He is also frequently compared to prequel trilogy era Yoda in combat prowess, and despite over 12 years of constant defeat and failure, refuses to give up, and stays pretty optimistic.'
Also Beast. Living in a cold and dark castle in the middle of nowhere with a curse that had made him into a vicious-looking monster for several years can be depressing, no less with the fact that the curse can only be broken if a woman loves him for who he is. Depressed and angry for many years, a woman finally comes to his castle and after some hard time they learn to get along and Beast finally finds some happiness in his life. And then the castle gets destroyed and the woman kidnapped by The Heartless, and Beast ends up in nowhere of the universe. Does he cry or angsts about the sistuation as he used to? No, through sheer force of will alone he ends up in Hollow Bastion and with all his strength fights through the forces of darkness to save his beloved without complaning or whining.
Scorpion from Mortal Kombat is this. First his entire clan is killed, then after being brought back as a spectre he's forced by Shang Tsung to work alongside the guy who killed his family. In life and in death his story is an endless stream of tragedy, his game endings are usually bad, right down to becoming the vessel of Dark Kahn's rebirth in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (luckily, the game is non-canon). Yet he still continues on.
Kitana even moreso. Not only is her father is killed by Shao Kahn during his bloody takeover of Edenia, but her mother Sindel commits suicide out of grief for her departed husband. Shao Kahn then manipulates the poor girl into serving as one of his assassins and makes her falsely believe that he is her birth father. He also creates a disfigured clone of her to act as her "sister" and ultimately off her should Kitana prove to be unreliable. Who knows how long this lasted for, seeing as Kitana is over 10,000-years-old. When she finally breaks free, Kahn then revives her mother and brainwashes her as a tool for his invasion of Earthrealm. Eventually, all of this is sorted out. Then comes Shinnok. And after that is resolved, Kitana proposes to her love interest Liu Kang, only for him to reluctantly decline due to his status as Earthrealm's Champion. Then Quan Chi and Shang Tsung get the jump on him before Deadly Alliance and kill him. And then she dies in battle with Quan Chi and Shang Tsung, and is later revived by Onaga and—you guessed it—brainwashed to serve him. The one time she breaks down (her Unchained ending) is justified, as her premonitions about the end of the world are coming true (as seen in Armageddon). The girl's got it rough. It gets more devastating in 9 when she finds her "sister" and hears from her so called father that he killed her real father and nearly gets executed. Then her mother gets brainwashed and unlike last time in the original timeline, she gets killed by her brainwashed mother who doesn't realize what she has done and is an undead warrior who is brainwashed.
Leon from F-Zero X onward. The kid was no more than four when invaders ransacked and virtually razed his homeplanet of Zou. Leon lost both his parents and his left eye that day. Eleven years later, the F-Zero GP races are gearing up for a revival and the people of Zou choose him to be their representative. All he has is a second-hand machine created by a guilt-wrackedrebelsoldier from the big war years ago. His chances of winning are slim and Leon wants to make the children of his planet happy again. Yet, he never complains about the hardships he's had to endure even once and instead stays optimistic and cheery, standing head-and-shoulders above the rest of the cast as the most selfless character of the series.
So many characters in the Metal Gear franchise. Solid Snake, Big Boss, The Boss, Ocelot, etc. Snake is a notable example with all the shit you see him go through during the entire series especially in Metal Gear Solid 4.
Arguably many of the characters in Left 4 Dead, but Zoey most of all. Much of the supplemental material shows she's on the verge of breaking down, yet she keeps on fighting her way through waist-deep hordes of zombies.
Nautilus from League of Legends. Oh boy. He was a sailor who was left to die by his fellow seamen after he dived into an unidentified, pitch-black section of the ocean and was grabbed by something and dragged down. When he awoke after who knows how long, his heavy diving suit had been fused with his skin, and he was lost in complete darkness. With nothing else left to do, he walked. Too heavy to swim and weighted down by the suit, he walked along the ocean floor until he eventually hit the shores. However, he found that there was nothing left for him on the surface. No home, no family, no friend, nothing. The only reason he joined the eponymous League of Legends is that someone might be able to help him discover something about himself.
Poor Simon Blackquill in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies . The series has no end of woobies, but Simon is definitely of the iron variety. He apparently walked in on Athena with her dead mother, covered in blood, and saying she was taking her mom apart to fix her. Harrowing enough, but then Simon confesses to the killing of Athena's mother to protect Athena, gets sentenced to death, serves 7 years of hard time for it, and comes within a day of his execution before the entire mess is solved once and for all. Yet he still seems pretty normal, if a little surly and fond of dark humour...
Becoming one of these is the entire journey of Lucas, the hero from Mother 3. The game begins with his life utterly falling to pieces after his mother dies, his twin brother disappears while trying to avenge her, his father is driven partially mad from the resulting grief and gets thrown into prison after a rampage, and everybody in the village he lives in slowly begin turning into self-seeking, cold-shouldered hedonists after the bad guys who are responsible for all this start planting Artifacts of Doom in their houses.All in the span of two days. Before all of this happened, he was already very sensitive and timid, but now he's an absolute wreck. Three years later, one things leads to another, and his adventure begins. During his quest, he faces countless more dangers and traumatic events, including discovering his mother's ghost but finding himself unable to touch or even talk to her, but with the help of his strange but loyal and true new friends, he holds up his head and presses on. And, by the end, how much has he grown? Well, he eventually finds his brother. He's been completely stripped of his memories and sent by the Big Bad to kill him. After one of the most heartbreaking I Know You're In There Somewhere Fights in the history of fiction, his brother realizes who he is and, unable to break the control on himself any other way, commits suicide and dies in Lucas's arms. And, after all this, does Lucas still have it in him to pull the final needle and save the world? Well, you might not, but he sure does.
Clive Barker's Undying: Patrick Galloway has been through a LOT that we know of and even more that we don't, most of which is all but stated to have scarred him in various fashions. Not that you would know it from how he acts.
Shirou and Archer in Fate/stay night. Archer may be a Badass Longcoat and memetic badass number one, but who would actually want to be him? Even Shirou pities him.
Also, Saber. She doesn't just get over the terrible, heartbreaking events of her life; they're actually her bizarre form of motivation.
The school uniforms plotline shows this too. She challenges the school administration over the new uniforms, which she finds sexist. The student body, who all HATE the uniforms, hate HER even more because she isn't challenging them enough. "Nothing that makes me happy ever lasts." Eventually, the uniforms are removed not by Susan's constant activism, but complaints from parents about laundry.
Later a flashback shows us how, while on a class trip to France, she was attacked by an Aberration, recruited/tricked by Immortals to help Nanase hunt it down and kill it, and ended up killing it herself. Immediately afterward, her expression shifts from happy to jaded, and stays there for years.
Surprisingly enough, Adrian Ravenalso counts, as was hinted before. When one feels kinship with an enchanted boar because the critter also doesn't belong anywhere, well...
Nodwick has died 538 times, usually because his employers are too lazy to pick up a 10-foot pole. Many of these deaths have been slow and painful. He hardly complains, and when the forces of goodness offer to remove him from all this he turns them down (after seeing what this does to his companions or replacement). He still saves the world every other plotline.
Mecha Maid aka Marilyn Seong from Spinnerette has this in spades. She has, at most, three years to live thanks to ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). She can barely speak without technological assistance and is only mobile in a wheelchair or her battlesuit. Yet she gets into the Mecha Maid suit and goes out to punch supervillains anyway. (Admittedly, part of this may be that the armour's systems allow her to actually walk.)
O-Chul of The Order of the Stick is an example Made of Iron. Blasted through the air from the losing end of a brutal battle, captured and tortured by Team Evil, given half a chance to escape he takes the opportunity to strike out at Xykon and Redcloak, no matter how many times he's humiliatingly beaten down for the effort. O-Chul maintains his code of honor without complaint, and can even show consideration for others through the worst of his torments. His resilience and compassion throughout his imprisonment may also have laid the groundwork for a Heel-Face Turn on the part of Xykon's most powerful minion (which could very well save the world at some crucial point down the line).
Redcloak of the same series also counts.
All of the Exiles on post-apocalyptic Earth in Homestuck, to varying degrees. In particular, WV, who was a simple farmer who rose up and led a rebellion against the Black King, then had to watch helplessly as his entire army was slaughtered by Jack Noir.
PM maybe even more so. She was originally just a mail carrier, and was tasked with delivering a package to John. After a whole lot of things go wrong, she winds up appointed queen of the Exiles, only to see all of her friends/subjects murdered when Jack Noir comes out of nowhere, destroying what little they had managed to rebuild. He only didn't kill her because he didn't think she posed a threat. But then she finds the White Queen's Ring that WV had been carrying, and follows Jack to kick his ass as Prospitian Monarch. The look on Jack's face when he realizes how badly he underestimated her is glorious.
Almost everyone in Homestuck can be seen as an Iron Woobie of some sort. They're all 13-year old kids, well, except for the Alpha-verse kids, who have all lost their parents/parent figures, been thrown into a crazy situation to try and save the world, all died several times, learned that their whole universe was made by some trolls, and are fighting SEVERAL god-like beings by this point. All the while, they keep going on and cracking jokes.
Sollux Captor, and every Gemini troll incarnation, get a particularly massive dose of Iron Woobie treatment. The Psiioniic is enslaved as a living ship for far past his natural lifespan, and finally dies overexerting his powers in a last-ditch attempt to prevent his race from being destroyed. Sollux: dies - well,sort of- twice, both times bleeding out every orifice, both times while saving his friends. One of these is also caused by power overexertion. Mituna: burns out his psionic powers and ends up with permanent brain damage in a sacrifice to save his friends.Are we seeing a theme here?
Jacob from Precocious fits this to a T, and knows it.
Tex of Red vs. Blue - She was "literally" designed to fail at everything she does.
The show also features Wash and Church, who despite all the terrible things they've gone through (psychological torture, losing the love of his life multiple times, having an AI whose mind is connected to his own go crazy and commit suicide, dying, going to prison, being shot in the back more than once...) still keep putting themselves in harm's way for what they think is important, even when they know it's not going to be easy.
Billy MC is generally seen as this in that despite the woobie-ish elements of his life, he ultimately perseveres in his Lets Plays and will beat whatever Nintendo Hard game he's playing.
Gino Gambino, especially in Gaia Online's earlier storylines. Subjected to malnutrition, immoral experimentation, fatherly disapproval, vampire kidnappings, Easy Amnesia, and yet when his dad's been sniped off the top of a skyscraper, Gino jumps after him, because he cares about him that damn much. Sadly this has faded in some of the more recent storylines, where he's more of a whiny Butt Monkey.
In the best-known Let's Play for the So Bad, It's GoodPokémon romhack Pokémon Quartz, a young girl named Foxy contends with a land filled with rapists, idiots who mangle the English language, a villainous band with the stupidest goal in the history of the Pokemon world, a creepy molesting stalker, Groudon and Kyogre's deformed cousins, a Pokemon family based on the idea of Memetic Molesters (one of which she catches and trains), a Pokemon professor who's a huge creep and a Marty Stu Author Avatar, an over-abundance of flying-types, and gym leaders who have an infinite supply of full restores. She also wins, and pulls a katana on her stalker-rival.
To a certain degree, Chuggaaconroy. His deleted 50 facts video revealed that he had four siblings that died in miscarriages, he nearly died from an allergic reaction as a kid, and he was bullied in school. He's also admitted that he was only pretending to be enthusiastic in his Super Mario Sunshine LP since he had been worrying about health problems during it. However, he doesn't talk about it or let it stop him from being the goofy, nerdy gamer we all know and love.
Chiaroscuro Themyst from Sinai Muck is a cute mongoose character who got trapped in another world, has to deal with a constant buzzing noise in his head, originally speaks in broken English and gets mistreated because he's often mistaken as a kavi yet he seems to function rather well. He crosses the line from Iron Woobie to pure Woobie in this log though.
The final lines in La Resistance from South Park Bigger Longer Uncut advise the reistance members that, if their dicks are cut in half, they should laugh it off and go out with as much defiance as possible. If that's not being an Iron Woobie, what is?
"And that's the way it goes, in war you're shat upon . . ."
Kenny is revealed to be this when it turns out that, in addition to having a crappy home life, he remembers every time he died, but noone else does.
Kyle has become this starting with Season 12's "Tonsil Trouble" (where Cartman gives him friggin' AIDS, to which he responds by breaking everything Cartman owns—including his favorite stuffed animal—in retaliation), and has been in situations of increasing frequency ever since.
Prince Zuko is one. All his childhood he's been shunned and treated horribly by his own father and his sister for not being a prodigy in firebending. His mother who loves him left one night for mysterious reasons. When Zuko was 13, his father challenged him to a cruel duel because "he shamed his father" by speaking up in a war meeting. When Zuko refused to fight, his father burned his face in public, banished him and sent him to hunt the Avatar who has been gone for a hundred years to regain his honor. Then he lost his men, his small ship, and all his possessions and became a wanted fugitive of the Fire Nation along with his uncle. He experienced hunger and watched his uncle beg for money and finally he was forced to do dishonorable things such as stealing to survive. When he was welcomed back to the Fire Nation he realized he wasn't happy being on the bad side so he betrayed his family, left his girlfriend and sacrificed his status as a prince to help the Avatar. Summed up as this way: "I don't need luck, though. I don't want it. I've always had to struggle and fight and that's made me strong. It's made me who I am."
Aang also qualifies: he had his entire culture wiped out, slept through a war which has hurt millions which he could have done something about, and has found that of everyone he ever knew and loved, only one boyhood friend and his beloved pet have survived. Despite this, he never totally breaks.
Asami Sato from The Legend of Korra. It's just sad to watch her. To sum it up, and most of this happens within a few weeks time, her mother was killed by a Firebender when she was six, she discovered her father was an Equalist after spending a whole day defending him, has to turn on her father because she wanted to do the right thing and has to leave the comfortable life she has always known, she finds out that Korra has a crush on her boyfriend and he might reciprocate, she gets arrested because of her father, then has to see her boyfriend go crazy trying to find Korra and neglect her, and when they find Korra, Mako is outright rude to her while focusing exclusively on Korra, and when she confronts her boyfriend about him kissing Korra while Asami and him were dating, he blames his brother for telling her and then storms off, then after having to fight her own father and help save the day, her boyfriend leaves her for Korra. And despite all of this, she never lashes out or blames anyone except Mako, and still remains friends with everyone. Poor girl just can't catch a break.
She breaks in "The Sting" when Future Industries goes bankrupt after a robbery.
Daria sometimes falls into this category. The beginning of the episode, Monster, as well as Boxing Daria give a bit of a glimpse as to why she acts the way she does.
Huckleberry Hound spends the majority of his appearances playing Extreme Doormat and taking slapstick abuse from the universe around him, however his mellow, easy going nature rarely fades, even when he's indented into a nearby wall.
Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy, movie star and most highly decorated American soldier of World War II. Earned his status as a Memetic Badass in the US Army. He was also a long-time sufferer of what would later be known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, at the time referred to as "Battlefield Fatigue" or "Shell Shock", and spoke publicly about his problems (something that many sufferers do not do even today) in order to bring attention to soldiers returning from Korea and Vietnam suffering from it. At one point became addicted to sleeping pills, and upon realizing this, proceeded to quit cold turkey by locking himself in a motel room for a week.
The last Emperors of the Habsburg Empire, Franz Josef and Karl, arguably fit this trope. In the case of "Franzi", it's almost a miracle that he kept his stern composure and sanity following the horrific deaths of his brother (Maximilian, executed in Mexico), son/original heir (Rudolf, who died alongside his mistress Maria Vetsera in the Mayerling Incident), wife (Elisabeth/Sisi, stabbed by an Italian anarchist - this one doubles as The Mourning After)and nephew/heir (Franz Ferdinand, murdered in public - which started World War I), plus having the Kingdom of Italy, the ancient enemy turned ally, betray the Triple Alliance and join the enemy. His successor, on the other hand, faced the eminent downfall of Austria-Hungary and strove to at least ease the pain for his subjects. Though he did attempt (with failure) to reclaim Hungary after the War. He eventually died on Madeira from pneumonia, about two months before the birth of his youngest daughter, at the age of 34.
Empress Zita of Bourbon-Parma, Karl's widow (for 67 years!), was regarded as one too. From Wikipedia: "After his funeral, a witness said of Zita: This woman really is to be admired. She did not, for one second, lose her composure... she greeted the people on all sides and then spoke to those who had helped out with the funeral. They were all under her charm."
It's also been argued that towards the end of his life, Franz Josef was a closeted Death Seeker. In a sense, the mere fact that he outlived all his contemporaries while having to cope with the deaths of those closest to him was a Fate Worse than Death.
And to be fair: He brought some of this stuff upon himself. He married an unwilling woman ("I could love him, if he weren't the emperor!" said his soon to be wife, who loved freedom, when told, he wanted to marry her instead of her sister) So she ran away as often as she could. He didn't talk to his son, except when Rudolf made an appointment (and the poor guy was psychologically abused as a kid by his Tutor and his father didn't do anything until his mother intervened.) He first failed his allies, so that staying on his side wasn't quite attractive and was a firm believer in absolutism until his end. So most People in Austria are quite in favour of the Empire's downfall.
TheBronteSisters. Seriously, they managed, owing to the unfortunately placed source of their water, see their mother die, their sisters die, their brother die, and then the two older sisters die, even their AUNT died. Finally even Charlotte died, and the father was alone until he died 6 years later.
Beethoven. Deaf composer. Considered by some to be the greatest composer of all time. He wrote some of the most moving pieces of music ever composed. While not able to hear them. The popular legend contends that he had a piano without legs, and he would compose at it while laying on the ground to feel the vibrations since he couldn't hear the notes.
Reality is slightly less spectacular, but no less badass: By the time his hearing went, he was enough of a composer to know what the notes would sound like.
It's also argued by some music historians that the notion he was stone deaf may be physical tragedy spun into promotional hype during his life, then spun into urban legend after his death. In other words, he might not have been completely deaf - just very hard of hearing. His later symphonies, despite the wide variation in composition and scoring, all share one quality - they're pretty loud.
Abraham Lincoln. Grew up impoverished. His mother, sister and his lover and/or closest friend all died before he was twenty three. He struggled with depression his entire life. He had his early political career shot to pieces for speaking out against the war on Mexico. He outlived two of his sons. AND his election to President caused the greatest civil strife in American history. Despite all this, became one of the greatest American presidents and all-around great guy. Then he got shot.
The Chinese public views themself as this kind of Woobie. Just check out all those bad news about China, both political and economical, and ask someone there.
Ditto the Jews... and the Kurds... and the nomadic Romanies (Gypsies)...
The North Koreans suffer thrice the amount of misery as the ones above everyday.
Richard Hatch from Survivor fame. He was raped twice before he turned ten, was thrown out of his house when he was 15, almost didn't graduate high school, flunked out of college because of drugs and he only got his corporate trainer job due to getting it handed from him. Also, he got married to a person who abandoned him for a green card! It also doesn't help when you realize everything he's done after Survivor Borneo was a failure. Also he got accused for not paying his taxes when he was innocent. His life is practically one bad event after another.
The Furry Fandom artist Evo T Rex, once an active artist, lost his ability to draw because of brain cancer. He remained well-respected because of his artwork and his online presence, but he could no longer draw after the operation to have his tumor removed. The tumor grew back but he was usually in high spirits. He passed away January 6, 2013.
Pitbulls. This is a breed that suffers pure Nightmare Fuel at the hands of humans, but humane organizations note it is extremely common for dogs seized from absolutely horrific circumstances to greet their rescuers with wagging tails and kisses.
Joanna Blackhart. After years of being harshly mocked and criticized unfairly for her reasonability and opinions, she has become one of the greatest aspiring guitarists.
A lot of people with anxiety and depressive disorders often have very low opinions of themselves without even realizing it. It can get to the point where some may simply accept bad things that happen to them because they assume that it's only to be expected.