Mistaken for Own Murderer

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Maybe The Hero is undercover to avoid a Frame-Up. Maybe he touched the wrong artifact and became a Baleful Polymorph. The point is, he's looking different, often monstrous. Then someone (often his loved ones, for dramatic impact) catch him with his personal effects. Uh oh. Our hero has just been Mistaken For Own Murderer. Now he has to correct the mistake, and fast, before the people who made the mistake kill him in retribution for his "murder".

A subtrope of Mistaken Identity. See also Guilt by Coincidence. Contrast Tomato in the Mirror and Kill and Replace.


Examples:

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     Comic Books  

  • Iron Man used to be known for body guarding Tony Stark. On an occasion where he couldn't take off the suit, Stark's disappearance made people suspect Iron Man.
  • In "Action Comics #303: The Monster From Krypton", red Kryptonite transforms Superman into a dragon-like creature called a drang. When he holds his cape to communicate the change, Jimmy Olsen thinks the monster killed him and alerts Supergirl and the army.
  • In Swamp Thing, government agent Matthew Cable, encountering the title character for the first time, believes that he's Alec Holland's murderer. Eventually the Swamp Thing manages to convince him that he is Holland or so he and everyone assumes prior to the Alan Moore retcon.
  • Princeless: Princess Adrienne's Dad thinks she was killed by the mysterious knight who destroyed her tower. The knight is Princess Adrienne.

     Fanfiction  

  • In Wargs And Peace, a Hobbit fanfic, Thorin is transformed into a warg by a bolt of lightning. After a few days of unsuccessfully trying to convince the company of his identity, he is spotted trying to get his cloak sheltered (which fell off during the transformation) the company believes that the warg has actually killed him, and attempt to hunt him down.
  • In the Land Before Time fanfic The Seven Hunters the gang of seven wishes for the power to defeat the T-Rex Red Claw and get their wish in an unexpected way by being transformed into meat-eaters. After realizing their children are missing the gang's parents find the transformed kids and chase them out of the valley with murderous intent under the mistaken assumption that they had killed their children.

     Film - Animated  

  • In Brave, Fergus stumbles on Elinor's torn dress and then on her bear-self attacking Merida. He nearly kills her before he discovers who she is.
  • In Brother Bear, Kenai and his brother Denahi are tracking down the bear who killed their oldest brother Sitka. Kenai corners the bear and kills it, but the spirits turn him into a bear directly afterwards. When Denahi arrives on the scene, he sees Bear!Kenai and thinks it is the bear that killed Sitka, surmising that it killed Kenai too. He spends the rest of the movie tracking down Kenai to kill him for...killing Kenai.
  • Invoked by Yzma in The Emperor's New Groove. She tells the guards that Pacha and Kuzco (who has been turned into a llama) murdered the emperor (Kuzco).
    Kuzco: No, wait I'm the emperor! It's me Kuzco!... They're not listening!
  • In Shrek, Donkey thinks an ogre ate Fiona after he finds one in her room. She calms him down enough to tell him that it's her curse.

     Film - Live Action  

  • In both the film and the original novel The Princess Bride Buttercup believes that the Dread Pirate Roberts killed Westley. Only when he tumbles down the hill shouting "As...you...wish..." does she realize that he was Westley.

     Literature  

  • In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Man With The Twisted Lip", the titular man is actually the gentleman he was accused of murdering in disguise. A rare example where he was not trying to prove his identity. He didn't want to shame his family with the revelation that he'd been begging as an occupation.
  • When Eustace from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader wanders away and is involuntarily transformed into a dragon, his companions frantically search the island for the missing boy. On first sighting Eustace as a dragon, they initially assume he's the monster that ate Eustace, although he's able to prove his identity with body language.
  • In Saki's "The Lost Sanjak", a man swaps clothes with a dead man to ditch his identity after an affair; unfortunately, by leaving his own clothes on the corpse, he becomes a suspect in his own murder and ends up hanging for it!

     Live-Action TV  

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "A New Man" Giles has been transformed into a Fyarl demon which is thought by the gang to have killed Giles.
    Buffy: (stabbing Demon!Giles) This is for Giles!
    Giles: (in demon language, which only Spike understands) For me?
  • The Incredible Hulk is suspected in the death of David Banner, because no one knows Banner's secret.
    The creature is wanted for a murder he didn't commit. David Banner is believed to be dead and he must let the world think that he is dead until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him
  • In the Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode "The Tale of the Hunted", while on a hunting trip, Diana gets turned into a wolf. Her father sees her wolf self in her cabin and assumes she killed her. Diana evades the hunting posse until the transformation wears off.
  • Argentine series Lalola (and its multiple Foreign Remakes) focused on Lalo, a man who was turned into a woman by a spell placed on him by a scorned lover. He then adopts the name of Lola, and is accused of Lalo's murder towards the end of the series.

     Theatre  

  • A non-murderous variant occurs in Dario Fo's play Trumpets and Raspberries, in which an industry mogul is under arrest for his own kidnap after a case of Mistaken Identity followed by restorative Magic Plastic Surgery.

     Video Games  

  • Exploited by the head of the monsters in one area of Dragon Quest VII. It strikes a deal with the local priest, claiming that as long as the priest lives in a cursed, monstrous form, it will leave his hometown and everyone living there alone. However, the transformed man is forced to return home and try to live among the residents, who naturally tend to assume that he killed the real priest and is mocking them. In other words, the monster expects them to invalidate the deal by killing the transformed priest themselves, at which point it can swoop in and finish them off...

     Western Animation  

  • Aladdin: Aladdin and Iago come across a young lady's footprints which gradually change into those of a jackal. This leads the two of them to think that the strange woman who's been trying to scare them away has just been eaten by a jackal, instead of realizing that she is said jackal.
  • On Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Buzz and Mira are exposed to Zurg's latest evil concoction that transforms and fuses them into a single amorphous blob creature unable to talk. When Booster and XR find the blob next to Buzz and Mira's empty uniforms they assume it ate them.
  • In the Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes episode "Hard Knocks", Susan tells Reed that the Hulk killed Bruce. Reed renders the Hulk unconscious, undoing the transformation and revealing his Secret Identity.
  • In the Futurama episode "Leela's Homeworld", Leela thinks the mutants who spied on her killed her parents, when in fact they were her parents. Her parents, so ashamed of being mutants and so desperate for their child to live a happy life free of the stigma of being one (they forged alien documents to make her orphanage think her minor mutation of having one eye was because she was an alien), tell her she's right and are actually about to let her kill them in vengeance before Fry intervenes and tells her the truth.
  • On SpongeBob SquarePants, SpongeBob and Patrick fall in love with one of Sandy's pets, a caterpillar named Wormy. When Wormy transforms into a butterfly overnight, they, having never seen such a thing, assume it's a monster that ate Wormy... and they were next!
  • In one episode of Visionaries, Leoric gets Mode Locked as a lion, and his fellow Spectral Knights who know he shapeshifts into a lion assume this other lion killed him.


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