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Pride Before a Fall
"Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."
The Bible, Proverbs 16:18

A character is introduced as an insufferable jerk; arrogant because of some amazing talent or high station in life. Everyone hopes, as soon as he's introduced, that he's going to eventually get what's coming to him...

...and then he does. Immediately. Right at the start of the story. The character is overthrown and knocked out of that high station; or has his marvelous talents somehow taken from him, and spends the rest of the story learning to cope, with varying levels of success.

That's right, this trope begins with his fall from a position of power or influence to learn An Aesop, rather than giving him his due late in the story. Alternatively, we may meet the character just after his fall from power, and learn about his stuck-up, careless past and subsequent karmic punishment via Flash Back. The story spends just enough time showing the audience (or, if the writers are in a hurry, telling us) that he's an arrogant bastard to convince us, before knocking him off his high horse.

The major conflict of the story usually involves the character learning to be humble. Or at the very least, learning not to indignantly ask everyone he runs into "Do you KNOW who I AM?!" as he is often, despite being hit over the head with the humility stick, still very interested in continuing his thoughtless ways.

The story arc completes with character accepting the Aesop. The Aesop can vary, but a typical lesson would be how dependent on other people he is, and how other people need to depend on him. With this change of character, the arc may continue to his return to a power as a juster, kinder soul.

Compare: The Atoner (who is necessarily repentant by definition), A Taste of Power (for when this happens in video games), or Break the Haughty for a slower descent. It also may overlap with Fallen Princess and Tragic Hero.

If you're looking for pride before a literal fall, see Disney Villain Death. On a cultural or setting level see Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!, Soiled City on a Hill, and And Man Grew Proud.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Aisha Clan Clan from Outlaw Star gets demoted in her introductory episode for letting the heroes get away, and is promptly dropped into the position of Butt Monkey for the next ten episodes as she has to hitchhike her way across the galaxy to track them down. She does, however, manage to upgrade herself to The Big Guy of the show's Five-Man Band when she sneaks on their ship and proves herself in battle.
  • In The Prince of Tennis, Hyoutei's Shishido is introduced as a cocky, conceited, over-confident jerk who makes snide comments about a player underestimating his opponent... only to get his ass handed to him in his next match against Fudoumine's captain, Tachibana Kippei. Since at the time Hyoutei regulars were not allowed to lose, he is immediately off the team. However, Shishido learns from the experience and after Training from Hell and an Important Haircut he earns back his spot on the team.
    • Also, Ryoma in the anime goes through another of these. He behaves uninterested and apathetic towards Kevin Smith until he sees him play, then pretty much demands to be included in the line-up of the Senbatsu team. Tezuka does NOT take this kindly and promptly b*tchslaps Ryoma in front of others, since his selfishness sounded extremely out of place for someone supposed to become a future leader in Seigaku. Ryoma has to go into a Pose of Supplication to regain Tezuka's favor and be even considered as a reserve player. Due to Values Dissonance (teamwork v/s stardom, Japanese mentality v/s Western views), the episode is often derided by fans.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, the homunculus Pride is reduced to a lilliputian-size infant, right after a Curb-Stomp Battle and a panicked attempt at Grand Theft Me of the main character. Kimblee even lampshades that Pride has essentially cast aside his own pride as a homunculus.
  • In Naruto, Pain has Naruto pinned down and impaled with six chakra draining rods to prevent movement. Instead of simply capturing him right then and there, he stabs Hinata in a way that would make her bleed out quickly without immediate medical attention. Turns out those chakra draining rods are no match for six tails of the Kyuubi's power, and his trump card is no match for eight tails. Pain snatches defeat, but also some redemption, from the jaws of victory because of nothing but his ego.
  • Reoccuring theme used in Pokémon. If a main character is being excessively prideful or vain, 9 times out of 10 they're going to suffer a Worf Effect to the trainer of the day. Now, if only Paul would actuallly heed this lesson, he might stall or reverse the growth of his hatedom. Especially given he got wasted by the Frontier Brain Ash actually defeated...
  • In Mai-Otome, newly crowned Queen Mashiro is more concerned about her birthday celebration and rebuilding her castle than about the lives of the commoners. This changes when Nagi's plan results in him controlling Windbloom and forcing her into exile with the poor people of her country, where she hears of their suffering and watches as they corner her maid Aoi and cause her to fall off a cliff when she refuses to tell them where Mashiro is, mainly because of her having served the Queen.
  • Frieza's entire downfall in Dragon Ball is a result of this. Frieza spent the entire fight screwing around with his opponents, and by the time he finally decides to go to his final form when overpowered, it turns out it was ineffective anyway because he drew the fight out too long.
    • Vegeta in general. He's very big on pride, and always gets stomped on for his trouble.
  • In Saki, this happens to a few mahjong players.
    • Kazue, an anime-only character, enters the indiviudal tournament and not her school one because she doesn't want weak players to drag her down. She ranks relatively high, but doesn't advance onward.
    • Although Izumi of Senriyama doesn't go around flaunting her skill, she thinks she's the strongest player among all first years (not entirely unreasonable, since she managed the unprecedented feat of getting onto the team as a first year). However, in the semifinals, she goes up against three third-year students, and ends up getting last place and losing over 30,000 points. Her teammate FunaQ doesn't mince words when saying Izumi not only is at a disadvantage against the third-years, but also isn't in the same league as the main character.
    • Awai of Shiraitodai is incredibly arrogant, considering her teammates' losing enough points to drop her school from an overwhelming first place lead to second as a mere handicap for her. However, she doesn't do quite as well as she expects, and ends up having to desperately seize second place to ensure her school remains in the competition.
    • From Saki Shinohayu Dawn Of Age, Kanna Ishitobi is undefeated at every game she's played until she branches off into mahjong; while she manages to reach the final round of the tournament, she loses to a young Hayari Mizuhara (who, in the present story, is a professional player), and while practicing for her rematch, loses to her friend Kyouka, despite Kyouka being just as inexperienced.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel's Thor, at least a few times.
  • Doctor Strange was an insufferable but talented young neurosurgeon with everything he could ever want, until he suffered nerve damage in his hands in a car accident. Cue the plummet to rock bottom, which ended only when he started to care about people other than himself.

    Films 
  • At the beginning of the movie Bella, we see the main character as a famous up-and-coming soccer player driving with his manager a few years ago. He is then shown in the present day working as a chef at his brother's restaurant. Through flashbacks throughout the movie, we find out that when he was driving, he accidentally hit and killed a small girl, causing him to stop playing soccer.
  • Stephen Chow's character in God of Cookery. When he starts to regain his former glory halfway through the film, he begins to revert to his haughty attitude, until tragedy forces him to reevaluate his priorities.
  • Vizzini, in The Princess Bride. When he meets Westley, he says, "Have you ever heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates? Morons." Within five minutes, he has been outwitted to the point of death.
  • You know, despite the fact Count Dooku was a Sith, Anakin really should have heeded his warning about "Twice the pride, double the fall" in "Revenge of the Sith".
  • Pacific Rim shows Jaeger pilot Raleigh Beckett's pride before the fall in the beginning. At first, he's brash, eager to fight, and sees the sighting of the Kaiju codenamed "Knifehead" as another potential notch in his and his co-pilot brother Yancy's belt instead of rightly giving it the regard as a threat it deserves. What results is him getting to witness his brother's Despair Event Horizon in his own head as he dies, the mental strain of piloting a Jaeger by himself, and the shattering of the invincible mystique of the Jaegers against the Kaiju menace. He becomes a Shell-Shocked Veteran and later has to be dared to come back into the service.

    Literature 
  • Kennedy in Bubba Ho Tep.
  • The appropriately nicknamed Prince Brat in the children's book The Whipping Boy.
  • The classic children's historical novel Johnny Tremain. The main character is more skilled and harder-working than his fellow apprentices Dove and Dusty, and doesn't hesitate to remind them of that, and their master, Mr. Lapham, has Johnny read the part about pride coming before a fall. While rushing to finish an order, Johnny gets a cracked crucible from Dove, resulting in molten silver spilling onto his hand, which fuses his thumb to his hand and ends his career as a smith.
  • A subtler version—or at least, one that would have been, had it not been for the journal entry that hammered the reader over the head with An Aesop—was when Drizzt left his friends to go dissuade the drow from invading Mithral Hall. Why? Because he didn't want to put them in danger, and only trusted in his own abilities to... scare off an entire city of his kinsmen, many of whom were more powerful than him? He is promptly captured (and not even by drow!).
  • Prince Roger in March Upcountry doesn't get knocked down quite in the first few pages, but pretty quickly nonetheless.
  • The first chapter of Melusine, the first book in Doctrine of Labyrinths, sees arrogant Lord Felix revealed as a commoner and former prostitute.
  • With his team needing a run in the bottom of the 9th inning and two runners on base, the namesake batter of Casey at the Bat deliberately took the first two pitches for called strikes because he didn't like them. He strikes out on the next pitch.

    Live Action TV 
  • My Name Is Earl. A petty criminal with no respect for authority has a $100,000 lottery ticket. He loses his ticket and undertakes to reform himself. When he starts, the ticket returns to him and he sees it as a sign that he's meant to use the money to keep trying.
  • Dominar Rygel XVI of Farscape definitely qualifies as a slow learner - despite having been deposed and imprisoned some 130 "cycles" before the events of the series, he's still an arrogant bastard when Crichton arrives. It takes most of the show's run for him to work his way to something more tolerable.
  • In The Daleks' Master Plan, a council of galactic leaders delude themselves into thinking the Daleks will give them power. This is most pronounced with Guardian Mavic Chen of the Solar System, who actually orders the Daleks around. Those others on the council who survive are able to warn their galaxies when the Daleks turn on them, but Chen is exterminated, his Last Words being "You cannot kill me!".
  • UK soap Eastenders does this all the time. Every single time anybody is the least bit proud of anything, the fall is just around the corner. Sure as eggs is eggs.
  • Babylon 5:
    • This is part of the Back Story for the humans, who after winning a war with the Dilgar refuse to listen to cautionary advice given to them by the Centauri, and proceed to boldly stumble into a war with the Minbari because they were too proud to just leave the Minbari alone. This is complicated by the Minbari warrior caste's blind assumption that a race they had never met would be familiar with a Warrior Caste greeting traditionnote , that even their own religious leader had to have explained to him. This is further complicated by said Minbari religious leader making the unilateral decision to take his ship, with the Minbari's governing body, on an ill-advised expedition to Z'Ha'Dum, the homeworld of the long-dormant Shadows, on a whim, just to see if they were back yet. If any of these parties had swallowed their pride enough to actually listen to anyone else before acting, the disastrous Earth-Minbari War would have been avoided. Of course, then the Babylon Project would have never happened either...
    • The fate of the Centauri Republic later in the show (actually an empire) all happens due to Ambassador Londo's pride... and given how most of the other emperors had behaved (save for the sweet dying Emperor Turhan Bey and future Emperor Vir ), it's a given that most of the Centauri upper class have the same failing. Similarly, their arch-nemeses, the Narn Regime, is too proud to back down from trying to pick a fight with the Centauri in retaliation for their past occupation and slavery at the Centauris' hands, and this leads them into a similarly disastrous and one-sided war with the Centauri and the Shadows.
  • The short-lived drama Citizen Baines qualifies as this, as Baines is a senator-soon-turned-former senator suddenly having to raise his kids.
  • On an episode of The West Wing, Josh attempts to run a press conference while CJ is out. Danny Kincannon warns him not to go up, and in response Josh rubs his Harvard and Yale background in his face. Josh then proceeds to get blindsided on two different fronts and become the White House's goat for the day.

    Religion 
  • Of course, the archetypal example is Satan, dating back at least to Paradise Lost. He has respectively been portrayed as too proud to take second place to man, or too proud to take second place to God, both of which result in him leading a rebellion against God, leading to him and his fellow rebel angels getting booted out of heaven.
    • It may go back to The Bible with Isaiah 14, but interpretations differ.note 
    • The titular character of DC Comics' Lucifer was a portrayal of the second type. He actually ends up making his own Creation outside of the first one, just to show the old man up. It gets complicated from there.
    • Horus, son of the Emperor of Mankind in the Warhammer 40K universe, parallels Lucifer's Fall so closely that it cannot possibly have been an accident.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition core setting, Asmodeus is a Satan analogue who served a god known only as He Who Was, who was implied to be the creator of humanity and the strongest of the gods, and their leader during the war with the primordials. Asmodeus used increasingly violent tactics in the war, often slaughtering innocent mortals in the crossfire. He Who Was ordered Asmodeus to stop, and in his pride, Asmodeus refused, and He Who Was cast Asmodeus and his army down as punishment. Pretty standard so far. Until Asmodeus rose up and slew He Who Was at the most oppertune moment. While the other gods publicly cursed Asmodeus, privately they thanked him; he had slain a weak willed general who in his pride had cast down their strongest warrior and greatest army, hoping to teach them a lesson in humility, even at the cost of the war.

    Video Games 
  • The first quarter of the Tales of the Abyss. The main character finds out the hard way that being rich does not make you right all the time — it's only when he stops relying on his family's reputation that he becomes useful.
    • Of course, it doesn't help that he's mentally a fiveseven year old and the story is really weird for expecting him to not be childish just because he's physically older.
  • This is (partially) how Phoenix Wright is tricked into presenting false evidence and losing his badge in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. When we see his flashback case against Klavier, he's quite full of himself, mocking Klavier's inexperience and his accent, and he presents his evidence without reflecting on it. After he's caught, he's pretty much instantly humbled, and he never reaches those heights of arrogance again.
  • Subverted in God of War 2. In the first level, Kratos is in his full God of War glory, but it ends with him drained of his godly power and killed by Zeus, almost immediately after screaming at the gods, daring them to fight him. This turn of events does absolutely nothing to change Kratos' mindset, and only gives him the motivation to go about the deicidal rebellion Zeus killed him to prevent in the first place.
  • King Trode in Dragon Quest VIII. He's an annoying, overproud king who's awfully fond of the line, "Do you know who I AM?" Just before the beginning of the game, he is transformed into a toad-like creature, and his kingdom is laid in ruins, leaving him to wander a world where most humans fear or despise him as a monster. Depressingly, he never seems to learn humility.
    • Then again, he was transformed and his kingdom was devastated because of an Omnicidal Maniac, not because of him. So why would he need to?
      • Considering said maniac was really using Trode's court jester as a temporary vessel on a mission of revenge against those who had belittled him, there probably should have been a lesson in there somewhere.
      • He does eventually come to understand that simply being a king doesn't entitle him to order everyone around. Sure, he does it anyway, but later in the game, there's a distinct shift from "Do it because I tell you" to "Please help me do this".
  • Marietta in Knights in the Nightmare, at least in Maria's route; happily enough, Maria is mortified at what Marietta's pride led to, and the other half of Marietta's soul, Melissa, is more worried about finding Ancardia than her dignity. We're introduced to Marietta's usual nasty attitude in Yggdra Union and Riviera: The Promised Land, along with Meria's route. (And for all her flaws, Meria's own pride doesn't stop her from being a loyal and caring individual. Marietta's still does.)
  • Clearly "inspired" by The Emperor's New Groove, Dragon Prince Ao-Jun of Tradewinds Caravans is turned into a lowly talking camel as punishment for a life of debauchery and caravan-eating, and must do one truly selfless deed to regain his true form. It goes about as well as you might think, and he briefly becomes an invisible lowly talking camel after denouncing his faith (of which he is a deity) to tithe a ridiculous sum of someone else's money to heathens because it was just the easiest thing he could think of.
  • Resident Evil 6: Big Bad Carla Radames, Ada Wong's reluctant Doppelgänger, suffers from this. Her Evil Plan is going off without a hitch, but then she calls up the real Ada to gloat about what she's doing and how Ada will take the fall for it. Ada's subsequent intervention is the very thing that ruins Carla's otherwise flawless plan.

    Web Original 
  • Trevor James Goodkind of the Whateley Universe, brilliant son of the richest man on Earth, second in line to take over his father's company, and heir to the Goodkind tradition of 'recognizing the mutant threat', i.e. hating those evil mutants. In the first chapter of his first story, he manifests as a mutant freak. He is immediately disinherited, experimented on and tortured by a Mad Scientist, humiliated, abandoned by his family, not to mention becoming intersexed due to his mutation ... Within a week he's living in a basement with nowhere else to go.

    Western Animation 
  • Emperor Kuzco of The Emperor's New Groove. We're made aware that he's a careless, self-absorbed emperor, and then the story begins as he's overthrown by Yzma and turned into a llama.
  • The Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. A prince refuses to provide shelter for an old woman. She turns out to be a powerful enchantress who curses him (and everybody in his castle, including a kid) for his judging her by her appearance. To be restored, the beast must learn to love another and receive love in return.
  • Stitch in Lilo & Stitch. He goes from being a Bad Ass mutant escapee to a little girl's "dog". He learns an Aesop about the value of family and his gleeful feral edge is ... softened.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender , Azula is very prideful and arrogant, though it does take awhile as any failures she does suffer she just brushes off, and to be fair she does win some pretty impressive victories along the way. However it isn't until she realizes that her technique of ruling through fear isn't as foolproof as she expected, and that her father considers her as expendable as Zuko, that she begins her fall.
    • Admiral Zhao is also an example of this, as his determination to make a name for himself by killing the moon spirit not only incites the wrath of Iroh, who tries to explain that such an action would cause inconceivable damage to the entire world, Fire Nation included, but also enrages the spirits of the ocean and the avatar enough to obliterate his entire war fleet. In an earlier episode, he accidentally burned his own ships after Aang's insults provoked him into being sloppy with his firebending, and his eventual death comes from his refusal to accept help from Zuko (the scene is a bit ambiguous, but preferring death to humiliation is one interpretation of his actions).
  • One episode of Sushi Pack featured four superhero Reality TV contestants who spent all their scenes bragging about their deeds of derring-do, and even their weaknesses. Unfortunately for them, this information is used by the show's host, an alien in disguise, to incapacitate them while he sends for the rest of his invading fleet. The Sushi Pack, snubbed by the Supers, save the day by using the alien's own bragging against him.
  • In Transformers Animated, Sentinel Prime is introduced as an arrogant Jerkass who constantly belittles Optimus and his team and makes aside insults about the "Organics" during a public appearance. Then came The Headmaster... It isn't until season 3 though that he starts to get along with Optimus again, but sadly he's become an even bigger ass than ever. Especially after being promoted to Magnus.

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