The Berserker
aka: Berserker

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/berserk_berserker_1429.jpg
His name is Guts, and he's about to spill yours.

"Bodvar Bjarki ploughed into them now, hacking two handed, his only thought to do as much damage as he could before he fell. And now they fall in heaps before him, one on top of another, and both his arms are bloodied to the shoulder, and he felled so many, the dead were stacked all about him. He stormed on as if he was insane."

The Berserker is a character who throws himself into a fight with such reckless abandon, it seems like he wants to die. It could be over-enthusiasm, overconfidence, Unstoppable Rage, or the desire to die (in battle). Whatever the cause, it's usually accompanied by a bellowing warcry. Sometimes with total obliviousness to whether he's actually fighting the enemy. And he never, ever retreats.

Berserkers are equally capable of being good or evil. If they're good, then out of battle, most will brood about whatever it is that causes their berserk fits, or show remorse about losing control of themselves. Most end up one of two ways: being taught by their teammates to control themselves after a particularly close call, or dying in a dramatic fashion while lamenting that they died without completing their mission. Good Berserkers are also very prone to Heroic Sacrifices, for very obvious reasons. When this is not played for drama, the Berserker may have a Boisterous Bruiser attitude when not in his battle rage. An evil Berserker, on the other hand, is generally just unrepentantly Ax-Crazy and very often Chaotic Evil.

The trope's title refers to the berserkr of Viking-age Scandinavia: Warriors who are said to have thrown themselves into battle wearing only animal hides for armour and with no regard for their own safety. Their 'battle-madness', whose exact nature is presently unknown (some say it came from eating weird mushrooms before a battle) is said to have been a gift from Odin. The word "berserkr" means "Bear-shirt" in Old Norse, referring to either their going into battle with the ferocity of bears or for wearing bear pelts into battle. Their effectiveness in battle is up for debate, but they were an imposing and terrifying nightmare to the continental Europeans — and, if The Icelandic Sagas are to be trusted, to their own civilization. Some Norse societies would eventually outright ban the practices of the berserker, no doubt influenced by its people converting to Christianity.

With terms in sources speaking of the Norse berserkr also occasionally giving off some implication of Shapeshifting (or at least stating their ferocity was like they became savage animals...), it's a possibility the tales of the berserker would later inspire that of the Werewolf.

Berserkers that truly do wish to die in battle are better known as Death Seekers — those who don't often overlap with the Blood Knight or Barbarian Hero instead. When foolishly done without any regard to strategy or planning, the Berserker becomes a Leeroy Jenkins.

Compare Berserk Button, which is when pressing a character's Trigger turns them into this. Compare Hulking Out for cases where the berserk character changes physically as well as mentally. If the Berserker fights this hard so that no one else needs to help him, he might also a Martyr Without a Cause.

This trope should not be confused with the now-disbanded Australian grindcore band The Berzerker, the Berserker universe, the manga franchise Berserk, the classic arcade game Berzerk, or the 1967 B-horror movie Berserk.

Examples

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    Films — Live Action 
  • Darth Vader from Star Wars is extremely brutal and violent when fighting. Rogue One shows him cutting down rebel troops with vicious cruelty, and then there's him cutting off Luke's hand for nicking him in the shoulder in The Empire Strikes Back.
  • The aptly-named Sven the Berserk in Erik the Viking is one comedic example. His father is also a berserker and lectures him on berserking.
  • In The 13th Warrior, Ahmad ibn Fadlan goes battle-mad during one attack, but seeing as he's hanging around Vikings and taking on more and more of their culture, it's not surprising.
  • Ajax in Troy. When he goes into battle, no Annoying Arrows or mere impalement can stop him from administering a righteous hammer of justice.
  • Parodied by Mr. Furious in Mystery Men. He gets angry. He gets real angry. That's it. No super-strength, no supernatural resistance to pain or injury, and he doesn't change into a monster. He's just a raging Ben Stiller with all the fighting ability of a loaf of bread. Then he finally finds something to get righteously furious about, and suddenly becomes as super-strong as he's supposed to be...
  • Dying in battle was a family tradition for Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump and he is furious when Forrest saves him (especially since he was crippled by his injury).
  • Benjamin Martin in The Patriot exhibits berserker-like qualities in battle. Especially his first and last fight scenes.
  • Unleashed: Danny fights with pure aggression when he's let off his leash.
  • Godzilla. When he gets into a fight, he doesn't stop until either his enemy has been defeated or until the battle ends in a draw. Only rarely has he been defeated in battle.
    • Godzilla vs. Destoroyah takes this Up to Eleven after Destoroyah kills Junior. Godzilla goes into a berserk rage and begins to unleash his wrath unto Destroyah all the while dying of a nuclear meltdown. This causes Destoroyah, one of the most (if not the most) sadistic and evil monsters in the films to run for his life.
    • This is a major plot point in the film Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. It turns out that hearing Godzilla's roar is enough to send Kiryu (a cyborg version of the original Godzilla) to rampage across Tokyo. The JSDF end up reprogramming him to ensure this doesn't happen again.
    • Gigan and King Ghidorah are two evil examples of this. They don't care what planet they're helping the alien villains to conquer and why. As long as they get to fight and destroy things, they're happy.
  • One of the replacement players in The Replacements (2000) is Danny Bateman, a riot cop and Gulf War veteran. Stoic and reserved under normal circumstances, the second he's expected to perform he becomes a lunatic, equally likely to inflict bodily harm on friend and foe alike.
  • The Captain during the final battle in 300 becomes the Death Seeker version of this trope, having already witnessed the death of his son and knowing no Spartan will survive this fight. Boar spears have a cross-bar behind the head to prevent animals from doing the same thing the Captain does, which is charge up the spear haft after it pierces his gut - so that he can kill the wielder. Like most fabled berserkers, he is only defeated by the combined efforts of several enemies hacking him to pieces.
  • In the X-Men films, Wolverine often flies into a rage when he's in a fight.
  • Kylo Ren from Star Wars. His lightsaber fighting style is very aggressive and he cares little about getting hurt in the process.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel:
    • Gunn, as a result of Survivor Guilt and blaming himself for Alonna's death. Negated when he fell in love with Fred, giving him a new lease on life.
    • Connor tries to commit Suicide by Cop after Jasmine's defeat, and doesn't care if the Cop has to be Angel.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: When we first meet Faith, the result of witnessing the gruesome death of her Watcher. She relapses back into it when she awakens from her coma.
    Buffy: Girl's not playing with a full deck, Giles. She has no deck. She has a 3.
  • Numerous alien species from the various Star Trek franchises, including the Klingons and Jem'Hadar (the latter first appearing in Deep Space Nine continuity), are brutally fierce warrior races which not only show no fear of death but in some instances actually seem to relish the prospect of death in battle (although the Enterprise franchise plays down this aspect of Klingon culture somewhat).
  • Gem and Gemma of Power Rangers RPM. A pair of psychopathic Man Children who have a five year old's fascination for guns and explosions (or rather, "boom time") and a Henshin Hero's armory. They have to be reminded rather frequently to, for example, not blow up the enemy factory until prisoners have been removed.
  • Kamen Rider Double's Mid-Season Upgrade, FangJoker, first started out as this, due to Philip's difficulty in controlling it.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In the Season 6 episode The Battle of the Bastards Jon Snow goes completely berserk in the battlefield after Ramsay kills poor Rickon, singlehandedly slaying every enemy soldier he can gets his hands on. Even Tormund is unsettled. At the end of the episode, he's a Blood-Splattered Warrior who beats the living shit out of Ramsay. Jon only calms upon seeing his sister Sansa, who ultimately kills Ramsay herself by feeding him to his own dogs.
    • In battle, Tormund and Styr both scream and howl while delivering powerful blows.
    • Brienne starts her fights with proper poise and footwork, but when she's pushed she'll go absolutely feral on her enemies, biting and screaming like a maniac until they are down.
  • The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Doomsday Machine" features an unstoppable machine constructed by an unknown alien civilisation constructed to kill and destroy for ever without stopping.
  • Vikings, while actually being a historical fiction series about the Trope Namers, didn't really have an actual Norse berserk warrior in season 1, but Tostig and Rollo fit this trope in all other respects. Then in season 2 Rollo, Jarl Borg, and a group of Borg's men are seen eating mushrooms before a battle and charging into the fight bare chested. Rollo's actions in the battle are horrifically brutal, and he attacks several of his former comrades savagely until a combination of having killed one of those comrades via Impaled with Extreme Prejudice and being confronted by his brother Ragnar finally snap Rollo out of it.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In the mythology of the Trope Namers, Odin was the patron God of the berserkers. The name Odin actually means the furious.
  • In Irish legend, when the hero Cuchulainn went into "warp-spasm," he was invincible — but could not distinguish friend from foe.
  • Lancelot from Arthurian legends had many aspects of this trope. When Monty Python did their Holy Grail movie, Lancelot's character was preserved. He was memorable for scenes where he would kill innocents and be pretty sorry for it later, just like the stories.
  • Greek mythology:
    • Although Ajax from is described as a defensive fighter in The Iliad, a post-Homeric source makes him into this. At one point, blind with fury over not getting the recently-deceased Achilles' armor, he goes into a berserk rage and kills a bunch of sheep, thinking they are the Greek army. When he realizes what he has done, he is Driven to Suicide. He is depicted the same way in Troy, although the whole "sheep-killing" thing is skipped over.
    • Diomedes also fits, being unwilling to stand down in the face of two deities. He wounds both of them and forces them to retreat.
    • Achilles himself is also an example— once he gets out of his tent, that is.
    • Heracles is also known to fly into mad rages at times. This is never a pleasant thing for anyone he was fighting— or for any innocents in the vicinity. He murdered his family one time after a particular nasty rage brought about by Hera, which led to him undertaking the Twelve Labors as atonement.
    • Ares represented this aspect of war, as opposed to Athena's more measured approach.
  • Kali in Hindu Mythology. Normally the benevolent mother goddess Parvati, she notably slew the demon Raktabija who kept making copies each time his blood was spilled. The solution? She drains his blood and eats the duplicates. Trouble was, she got blood thirsty, literally. She wouldn't stop until her husband Shiva either turned into a baby to bring out her maternal instincts or trampled by a dancing Kali who snapped out of it once she realized what she was doing.
  • The Book of Judges in The Bible reports that "the Spirit of the Lord came on Samson" several times, which inevitably resulted in a high body count. On one occasion he killed one thousand Philistines singlehandedly, armed only with a donkey's jawbone.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Oleg The Usurper of Wrestling Is and Chikara, who has The Gimmick of a Viking Berserker. Sidney Bakabella can keep him focused and under control but if Sidney is not around, Oleg will attack everything from fans, to referees to ring announcers.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Comics 
  • Otsana from Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki is a Valkyrie from The Days of Berserkers and "High Adventures" and she even has a wolf motif which would confirm her berserker status
  • Ed from MegaTokyo not only seems to relish bloodshed and destruction and to engage in said activities with reckless abandon, he has himself been seriously maimed and/or killed numerous times only to be rebuilt/resurrected by his superiors that he might put himself (willingly) in harm's way again.
  • Dominic Deegan had a one-shot character named Brok that was hired by the Infernomancer during his first appearance, who goes into an Unstoppable Rage after Bumper tries (and fails) to knock him out by smashing a staff on the back of his head. He was at first meant to have a much longer run, but writer/artist Mookie stated that he just didn't feel right throwing in a Berserker-type character in a magic-based world, so a raging Brok chases Stunt and Bumper into the sunset and is never seen again.
  • Drowtales: The bulk of the Vloz'res army consists of heavily tainted warriors called berserkers. Curiously, the only named berserker is a subversion.
  • Subverted in Guilded Age: Byron the Berserker is arguably the most level-headed, well-adjusted member of the party because he apparently lives in fear of his tendency to lose his shit and become a true, foaming at the mouth, screaming, psychotic, berserkergang killing machine. (He does enjoy a good bloodbath, though.)
  • Breakfast of the Gods: Several characters qualify, which makes sense given the premise. Consider how many cereal mascots over the years have regularly lost control over their preferred cereal...
    • Sonny the Cocoa Puffs Cuckoo-bird is a psychotic (and psychopathic) homicidal, maniac. When he's "sane" he's kept in a dungeon cell in a straitjacket.
    • Froot Brute is a pudgy sort of guy who turns into a bloodthirsty werewolf when he even thinks about his cereal
    • Near the end of book three, Super Bear makes an appearance. And everything the character has done through the first two books and first 3/4 of the final one makes perfect sense. In single combat he takes out Sonny and Froot Brute. And then is about to go after Tony the Tiger — one of his own friends.
  • Sweet, timid, Shrinking Violet Calvin in Lackadaisy can turn into a Berserker when you put a gun in his hands.
  • In Thistil Mistil Kistil, Coal's father, apparently. And Coal himself. Red Eyes, Take Warning...
  • Dragon Ball Multiverse: Broly. U16 Bra may count too.
  • A berserker visits a bordello in Oglaf, only to begin frothing at the mouth and pelvic-thrusting uncontrollably while engaging the services of one of the employees, who has an emergency sap on hand for just such an occasion. He is then kicked out for ignoring the clearly labeled "No Berserkers" sign the establishment has up.
  • Lewis Black has no superpowers in Fake News Rumble, but his sheer rage (and a chair) makes him just as capable of fighting monsters as his superpowered colleagues.
  • In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things Tank was literally engineered to be the berserker, forced into it by the army he worked for after an injury, because they wanted to see how far they can push this trope before a man becomes a liability to his team. His army family managed to jailbrake the chassis so the army couldn't pump Tank with aggro juice without warning, but this has left Tank with some hangups that occasionally prompt him to turn up the juice himself and take his insecurities out on his ex-boyfriend Commander Badass.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Razoul and the warriors of Vanna's Black Guard in general. They tend to devour Drakeroot before battle in order to become more ferocious and powerful, but the root also has the side effect of turning them into nearly mindless brutes as a result.
  • David of the GI Proz sure loves his screaming.
    • Nahman also shows some of this in his videos, albeit more from being into the game.
  • Regan Bard in Void Dogs uses this, referred to in text as the "warp spasm" of Irish myth.
  • In Dead West, the two MacArkills, and even possibly the Amber Duchess. This is more believeable from the elder MacArkill, nicknamed the Beast, who is absolutely built for it, but when the Porcelain Doctor has a meltdown, it is an impossible sight to behold. Mind you, the smaller brother is still 6 foot tall, but thin as a stick. This does zero to diminish the ensuing carnage.
  • The Whateley Universe features an official "rager" classification for mutants that's Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Students afflicted that way frequently come to Whateley Academy with a body count already on their record. Razorback (a student turned into a sort of velociraptor by his mutation, complete with loss of his human vocal apparatus) is both a poster child and one of the good guys.
  • Admiral Flota Vladimir Ilyavich Tokarev, HERO OF THE TRIBES, from v4 of Open Blue. The male population of the aforementioned "tribes" consists entirely of Hot-Blooded pseudo-Russo-Mongol warriors, and thus to be regarded as "HERO OF THE TRIBES" means you've gotta be a Berserker in your own right. It's even lampshaded as one of his specialties. Somewhat subverted in that he only does this when engaged in melees, and if there is no other viable ship tactic. When it's more effective to just blow you up from a distance, he will opt for that instead. Tokarev didn't become an admiral for stupidity, after all.
  • Red vs. Blue: The Meta is like this but seemingly in the "berserker rage" state permanently. In Reconstruction, he goes on a massive killing rampage whenever he gets a new AI fragment, and in Revelation this is taken to its final extreme.
  • The third RP of Darwin's Soldiers has Gustave, a man who has a penchant for violence and has little regard for his personal safety. Being an anthropomorphic Nile Crocodile with thick muscle, thick scaly skin and scutes that essentially serve as body armor, "personal safety" might mean different things to him.
  • Darth Apparatus in The Gungan Council. He may seem reserved when not in battle. Yet when the lightsabers light up, he rips apart enemies in a fit of pure rage. He even used Oghren's quotes on berserkers while describing how he fights.
  • In RWBY, Yang Xiao Long has some elements of this. Though she keeps a cool head most of the time, when a battle begins to go against her, there's a distinct change in her demeanor. She gets far more aggressive, accompanied by a boost in strength (which Ruby says is proportional to how much damage she's taken in the fight). This is usually accompanied by her normally purple eyes turning red, her hair glowing golden, and a Slasher Smile appearing on her face.
  • In The Anglo/American Nazi War , a lot of the Waffen-SS and Hitler Youth approach this due to fanaticism garnered through years of propaganda against the "evil English" and a general lack of options. Brainwashed Child Soldiers with automatic weapons are quite terrifying. But it's Deconstructed because no matter how crazy these kids are, they're no more or less vulnerable than anyone else; they tend to be brushed aside easily while the Heer troops, men in their fourties and fifties pressed back into service with their old WW2-era guns, have a more methodical and rational approach to battle that means they can pull off good, even sometimes impressive efforts against the younger, fitter and better armed Allied troops.

    Western Animation 
  • Zuko of Avatar: The Last Airbender is prone to such moments (running Zhao's Fire Navy fleet, seeking out fights with his more powerful sister) because he truly cannot fathom walking away from a fight.
  • Dinobot of Transformers: Beast Wars, is the very definition of this one. He wasn't afraid to die... Seeing a battle through to the end was a pretty significant part of his code of honor. True to form, he went out in a blaze of glory.
    • When Optimus gets infected with a cyberbee designed to make him a coward, but got the opposite effect, he tore through the Predacon base with apparent ease.
  • The Decepticon Sixshot is one of these. He is portrayed as possibly being the greatest pure warrior among the Transformers (though others may be more gifted at overall strategy, or just more powerful), aided by his (even more) rapid transformation speed and five alternate modes. Though a Decepticon, he speaks well of those he's beaten in combat, as he hopes that should anyone ever defeat him he will be treated as respectfully.
  • Buttercup of The Powerpuff Girls.
  • The minor character Shoza in Shogun's Samurai. When Tadanaga chooses to surrender to avoid the massacre of his troops, his retainer rebukes his decision. The samurai boldly announces his independence before his former master and the enemy and proceeds to set off on a lone charge, determined to defeat every last soldier and retrieve the rival prince's head. Even the enemy commander sincerely declares that Tadanaga has a retainer on his hands before ordering his troops to gun him down.
  • Superboy from Young Justice. It's justified by the fact that, due to telepathic g-gnomes always either inhibiting or inducing anger, he's never really been angry before and it takes him a while to learn how to deal with it. By the second season, he's grown experienced at channeling it.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Darth Maul initially starts out as one, due to years of isolation after his dismemberment at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi. He later regains his more cunning, manipulative side (along with a working pair of legs) but in a fight his berserker tendencies come back to the fore.

    Real Life 
  • The Vikings are both the Trope Namers and the best examples; among their soldiers there were the fabled Berserkers, warriors who, in a drug-induced fit of rage, would plunge themselves into battle wearing little to no armor and slash their way through countless amounts of enemies, and earned themselves the mythic reputation they have today.
    • The commonly-known term "berserker" and their bear symbolism wasn't the only way frenzied Norse warriors would manifest - "Úlfhéðnar" warriors had a similar fame for battle ferocity but instead used the wolf for their cult motif. Neither "fire or iron" harming the berserkers was a repeated phrase in reference to the warriors in throes of their signature rage. A boar warrior cult also existed, though it doesn't appear that they had the same reputation for going into an uncontrollable frenzy.
      • Descriptions also commonly mentioned the berserkers gnawing the rims of their own shields (as shown by some of the pieces of a 12th-century chess set found in Scotland) like crazed animals, unlike most media portraying berserkers as forsaking their fortitude by Dual Wielding or using a single oversized weapon (perhaps even the berserkers had a semblance of survival instincts?).
  • The Viking at Stamford Bridge volunteered to stay behind alone and hold back the Saxons while they waited for their reinforcements to arrive. For an hour, he stood alone on the bridge, killing over 40 men and wounding dozens more. He was only stopped when one soldier got the smart idea of floating in a barrel underneath the bridge, and jammed a spear up through the bridge right between the Viking's legs.
  • During the course of World War II, Audie Murphy went berserk at Anzio when his best friend Lattie Tipton was killed by a German machine-gunner pretending to surrender. The result was Murphy killing the entire machine gun crew that killed his friend before commandeering their machine gun and grenades and turning them on German positions and destroying anything not wearing the right uniform. This got him the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, which he got a year later in a truly ballsy move that involved commandeering the machine gun of a burning tank and using it to hold off a German squad, taking a wound in the leg in the process, before leading his men to repel the Germans.
  • Probably half of the real people profiled on Badass of the Week got on the site by going full berserker. Late US Senator Daniel Inouye's story has a good example. He charges a series of German machine gun nests, gets his arm blown off while trying to throw a hand grenade, then picks up the grenade he just dropped with his good arm and throws it, and then charges the next machine gun nest in a fugue state, firing one handed until getting wounded in the leg, at which point he props himself against a tree and keeps shooting. When his buddies told him what he did, he replied, "No, that can't be... you'd have to be insane to do all that."
  • As the above examples illustrate, "going berserk" is a rare but well established phenomenon that manifests as one of several responses to a person being pushed to their psychological limit. Instances have been recorded throughout history across many armies and battles.

Alternative Title(s): Berserker

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheBerserker?from=Main.Berserker