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** ''Literature/GravePeril'': Harry rescues Susan from the Red Court vampires, but she's already been partly turned, so she leaves town. And this started a war between the White Council and the Red Court.

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** ''Literature/GravePeril'': Harry rescues risks everything to try to save Susan from the Red Court vampires, but she's already Vampires, and he succeeds. But Susan has been partly turned, so corrupted by the vampires: while she isn't a full vampire, she is nonetheless irrevocably halfway towards becoming one, and she leaves town. And this started a war between town to protect herself and Harry. Also, Harry's actions to try to save her resulted in the White Council and of Wizards going to war with the Red Court.Court of Vampires, which has devastating consequences (people die in wars), and Harry also killed a ''lot'' of vampires with his magic, and possibly some humans as well (though it's hard to say), which indelibly stains his soul. Of course, the consequences of ''not'' doing all that ([[spoiler: ''Amorrachius'', the Sword of Love, Excalibur, one of the greatest weapons of against the darkness, would have been unmade and destroyed permanently]]) were even worse.

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** Morgoth also suffered this in his battle with Fingolfin. Though he eventually killed him, ending the life of one of the greatest elven kings, his actual objective was to crush Fingolfin to show that he wasn't a coward and it was futile to oppose him. Then [[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu Fingolfin basically ran rings around him for most of the fight]], inflicting many wounds that Morgoth only survived due to his giant size, and even when [[BrokeYourArmPunchingOutCthulhu the elf got tired and started taking hits]], he still managed to stay standing and maimed Morgoth's leg (giving him a permanent limp). On top of that, the eagle Thorondor showed up to take Fingolfin's body (so Morgoth couldn't desecrate it), and clawed Morgoth's face as a parting shot. It's said that the story isn't told much by elves or orcs: elves, because of the tragedy of losing their hero-king, and orcs, because their GodOfEvil made such an embarrassing showing.


* ''Literature/Percy JacksonAndTheOlympians'':

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* ''Literature/Percy JacksonAndTheOlympians'':''Literature/PercyJacksonAndTheOlympians'':



** Historically, the Dance of the Dragons was this. Although the Green faction officially won and crowned Aegon II over his elder sister (Rhaenyra, head of the Blacks), this came at a very great cost to their family as a whole. 1) Almost every Targaryen on both sides was dead. 2) The majority of their strongest dragons were outright dead, the rest were either disabled, very young and/or sickly. 3) ''All'' the fully experienced dragon riders from both sides were dead, meaning most of their know-how was lost, which then fed back into #2: any sick dragons couldn't get better, since there was nobody left who knew what to do to care for them properly. However, the ultimate tragedy of the victory was that Aegon II died ignominiously via surprise poisoning only a few months in, leaving the throne to... the last remaining son of Queen Rhaenyra, anyway. So, so much for that Green win. Said son (Viserys II) had also observed his mother being eaten alive by Aegon II's dragon, instilling in him a deep hatred for/ understandable fear of dragons. It is maliciously rumored that he was responsible for killing the last Targaryen dragon himself due to this fear/hatred, permanently crippling the Targaryen's strength. Except, he's actually on record as having tried to hatch dragon eggs several times, and then failing to get healthy outcomes. It's more likely that Viserys didn't know exactly what he was missing in the process to both properly hatch dragons or care for the rest, and was desperately trying to work it all out while ''some'' of the rapidly diminishing number of pieces of the puzzle were still available to his family. By the time he died in turn, there were no known dragons left in Westeros.

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** Historically, the Dance of the Dragons was this. Although the Green faction officially won and crowned Aegon II over his elder sister (Rhaenyra, head of the Blacks), this came at a very great cost to their family as a whole. 1) Almost every Targaryen on both sides was dead. 2) The majority of their strongest dragons were outright dead, the rest were either disabled, very young and/or sickly. 3) ''All'' the fully experienced dragon riders from both sides were dead, meaning most of their know-how was lost, which then fed back into #2: any sick dragons couldn't get better, since there was nobody left who knew what to do to care for them properly. However, the ultimate tragedy of the victory was that Aegon II died ignominiously via surprise poisoning only a few months in, leaving the throne to... the last remaining son of Queen Rhaenyra, anyway. So, so much for that Green win. Said son (Viserys II) (Aegon III) had also observed his mother being eaten alive by Aegon II's dragon, instilling in him a deep hatred for/ understandable fear of dragons. It is maliciously rumored that he was responsible for killing the last Targaryen dragon himself due to this fear/hatred, permanently crippling the Targaryen's strength. Except, he's actually on record as having tried to hatch dragon eggs several times, and then failing to get healthy outcomes. It's more likely that Viserys Aegon didn't know exactly what he was missing in the process to both properly hatch dragons or care for the rest, and was desperately trying to work it all out while ''some'' of the rapidly diminishing number of pieces of the puzzle were still available to his family. By the time he died in turn, there were no known dragons left in Westeros.

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* In ''Literature/ArrivalsFromTheDark'', the Earth governments turn the CurbStompBattle that was the Battle of Martian Orbit (where a [[HumanAlien Faata]] starship obliterated a dozen human warships) into this trope in order to conceal the truth about the true nature of the defeat of the invasion (assistance by another alien being) and to maintain morale and faith in the SpaceNavy. As such, the official story holds that, while the Faata did indeed destroy half of the Third Fleet, they also sustained damage in the process, which eventually proved fatal when they attempted to land the ship in the Antarctic.


** Historically, the Dance of the Dragons was this. Although the Green faction officially won and crowned Aegon II over his elder sister (Rhaenyra, head of the Blacks), this came at a very great cost to their family as a whole. 1) Almost every Targaryen on both sides was dead. 2) The majority of their strongest dragons were outright dead, the rest were either disabled, very young and/or sickly. 3) ''All'' the fully experienced dragon riders from both sides were dead, meaning most of their know-how was lost, which then fed back into #2: any sick dragons couldn't get better, since there was nobody left who knew what to do to care for them properly. However, the ultimate tragedy of the victory was that Aegon II died ignominiously via surprise poisoning only a few months in, leaving the throne to... the last remaining son of Queen Rhaenyra, anyway. So, so much for that Green win. Said son (Viserys II) had also observed his mother being eaten alive by Aegon II's dragon, instilling in him a deep hatred for/ understandable fear of dragons. It is maliciously rumored that he was responsible for killing the last Targaryen dragon himself due to this fear/hatred, permanently crippling the Targaryen's strength. Except, he's actually on record as having tried to hatch dragon eggs several times, and then failing to get healthy outcomes. It's more likely that Viserys didn't know exactly what he was missing in the process, and was trying to work it all out while ''some'' of the rapidly diminishing number of pieces of the puzzle were still available to his family. He failed.

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** Historically, the Dance of the Dragons was this. Although the Green faction officially won and crowned Aegon II over his elder sister (Rhaenyra, head of the Blacks), this came at a very great cost to their family as a whole. 1) Almost every Targaryen on both sides was dead. 2) The majority of their strongest dragons were outright dead, the rest were either disabled, very young and/or sickly. 3) ''All'' the fully experienced dragon riders from both sides were dead, meaning most of their know-how was lost, which then fed back into #2: any sick dragons couldn't get better, since there was nobody left who knew what to do to care for them properly. However, the ultimate tragedy of the victory was that Aegon II died ignominiously via surprise poisoning only a few months in, leaving the throne to... the last remaining son of Queen Rhaenyra, anyway. So, so much for that Green win. Said son (Viserys II) had also observed his mother being eaten alive by Aegon II's dragon, instilling in him a deep hatred for/ understandable fear of dragons. It is maliciously rumored that he was responsible for killing the last Targaryen dragon himself due to this fear/hatred, permanently crippling the Targaryen's strength. Except, he's actually on record as having tried to hatch dragon eggs several times, and then failing to get healthy outcomes. It's more likely that Viserys didn't know exactly what he was missing in the process, process to both properly hatch dragons or care for the rest, and was desperately trying to work it all out while ''some'' of the rapidly diminishing number of pieces of the puzzle were still available to his family. He failed.By the time he died in turn, there were no known dragons left in Westeros.


** Historically, the Dance of the Dragons was this. Although the Green faction officially won and crowned Aegon II over his elder sister (Rhaenyra, head of the Blacks), this came at a very great cost to their family as a whole. 1) Almost every Targaryen on both sides was dead. 2) The majority of their strongest dragons were outright dead, the rest were either disabled, very young and/or sickly. 3) ''All'' the fully experienced dragon riders from both sides were dead, meaning most of their know-how was lost, which then fed back into #2: sick dragons couldn't get better, since their was nobody was left who knew what to do to care for them properly. However, the ultimate tragedy of the victory was that Aegon II died ignominiously via poisoning, leaving the throne to... the last remaining son of Queen Rhaenyra, anyway. Said son had also observed his mother being eaten alive by Aegon II's dragon, instilling in him a deep hatred for/ understandable fear of dragons. It is maliciously rumored that he was responsible for killing the last Targaryen dragon himself due to this fear/hatred, permanently crippling the Targaryen's strength. Except, he's actually on record as having tried to hatch dragon eggs several times, and then failing to get healthy outcomes. It's more likely that Viserys II didn't know exactly what he was missing in the process, and was trying to work it out while some of the rapidly diminishing pieces of the puzzle were still available to his family.

to:

** Historically, the Dance of the Dragons was this. Although the Green faction officially won and crowned Aegon II over his elder sister (Rhaenyra, head of the Blacks), this came at a very great cost to their family as a whole. 1) Almost every Targaryen on both sides was dead. 2) The majority of their strongest dragons were outright dead, the rest were either disabled, very young and/or sickly. 3) ''All'' the fully experienced dragon riders from both sides were dead, meaning most of their know-how was lost, which then fed back into #2: any sick dragons couldn't get better, since their there was nobody was left who knew what to do to care for them properly. However, the ultimate tragedy of the victory was that Aegon II died ignominiously via poisoning, surprise poisoning only a few months in, leaving the throne to... the last remaining son of Queen Rhaenyra, anyway. So, so much for that Green win. Said son (Viserys II) had also observed his mother being eaten alive by Aegon II's dragon, instilling in him a deep hatred for/ understandable fear of dragons. It is maliciously rumored that he was responsible for killing the last Targaryen dragon himself due to this fear/hatred, permanently crippling the Targaryen's strength. Except, he's actually on record as having tried to hatch dragon eggs several times, and then failing to get healthy outcomes. It's more likely that Viserys II didn't know exactly what he was missing in the process, and was trying to work it all out while some ''some'' of the rapidly diminishing number of pieces of the puzzle were still available to his family.family. He failed.


** Historically, the Dance of the Dragons was this. Although the Green faction officially won and crowned Aegon II over his elder sister (Rhaenyra, head of the Blacks), this came at a very great cost to their family as a whole. 1) Almost every Targaryen on both sides was dead. 2) The majority of their strongest dragons were dead, disabled or young and sickly. 3) All the fully experienced dragon riders from both sides were dead, meaning most of their know-how was lost, which fed back into #2: sick dragons couldn't get better, since nobody was left knowing what to do for them. However, the ultimate tragedy of the victory was that Aegon II died ignominiously via poisoning, leaving the throne to... the last remaining son of Queen Rhaenyra, anyway. Said son had also observed his mother being eaten alive by Aegon II's dragon, instilling in him a deep hatred for/ understandable fear of dragons. It is maliciously rumored that he was responsible for killing the last Targaryen dragon himself due to this fear/hatred, permanently crippling the Targaryen's strength. Except, he's actually on record as having tried to hatch dragon eggs several times, and then failing to get healthy outcomes. It's more likely that Viserys II didn't know exactly what he was missing in the process, and was trying to work it out while some of the rapidly diminishing pieces of the puzzle were still available to his family.

to:

** Historically, the Dance of the Dragons was this. Although the Green faction officially won and crowned Aegon II over his elder sister (Rhaenyra, head of the Blacks), this came at a very great cost to their family as a whole. 1) Almost every Targaryen on both sides was dead. 2) The majority of their strongest dragons were outright dead, disabled or the rest were either disabled, very young and and/or sickly. 3) All ''All'' the fully experienced dragon riders from both sides were dead, meaning most of their know-how was lost, which then fed back into #2: sick dragons couldn't get better, since their was nobody was left knowing who knew what to do to care for them.them properly. However, the ultimate tragedy of the victory was that Aegon II died ignominiously via poisoning, leaving the throne to... the last remaining son of Queen Rhaenyra, anyway. Said son had also observed his mother being eaten alive by Aegon II's dragon, instilling in him a deep hatred for/ understandable fear of dragons. It is maliciously rumored that he was responsible for killing the last Targaryen dragon himself due to this fear/hatred, permanently crippling the Targaryen's strength. Except, he's actually on record as having tried to hatch dragon eggs several times, and then failing to get healthy outcomes. It's more likely that Viserys II didn't know exactly what he was missing in the process, and was trying to work it out while some of the rapidly diminishing pieces of the puzzle were still available to his family.


** Historically, the Dance of the Dragons was this. Although the Greens faction officially won and crowned Aegon II over his elder sister (Rhaenyra), this came at great cost to their family. (1) Almost every Targaryen on both sides was dead, (2) the majority of their strongest dragons are dead or disabled, (3) all the fully experienced dragon riders from both sides were dead, meaning most of their know-how was lost. However, the ultimate tragedy of the victory was that Aegon II died via poisoning and the throne ended up going to the last remaining son of Rhaenyra anyways... This son also observed his mother being eaten alive by Aegon II's dragon, instilling in him a deep hatred for/ understandable fear of dragons. It is maliciously rumored that he was responsible for killing the last Targaryen dragon himself due to this hatred, permanently crippling the Targaryen's strength. Except, he's on record as trying to hatch dragon eggs several times, and failing to get healthy outcomes. It's more likely that Viserys II didn't know exactly what he was missing in the process, and was trying to work it out while some of the pieces of the puzzle were still available.

to:

** Historically, the Dance of the Dragons was this. Although the Greens Green faction officially won and crowned Aegon II over his elder sister (Rhaenyra), (Rhaenyra, head of the Blacks), this came at a very great cost to their family. (1) family as a whole. 1) Almost every Targaryen on both sides was dead, (2) the dead. 2) The majority of their strongest dragons are dead were dead, disabled or disabled, (3) all young and sickly. 3) All the fully experienced dragon riders from both sides were dead, meaning most of their know-how was lost. lost, which fed back into #2: sick dragons couldn't get better, since nobody was left knowing what to do for them. However, the ultimate tragedy of the victory was that Aegon II died ignominiously via poisoning and poisoning, leaving the throne ended up going to to... the last remaining son of Rhaenyra anyways... This Queen Rhaenyra, anyway. Said son had also observed his mother being eaten alive by Aegon II's dragon, instilling in him a deep hatred for/ understandable fear of dragons. It is maliciously rumored that he was responsible for killing the last Targaryen dragon himself due to this hatred, fear/hatred, permanently crippling the Targaryen's strength. Except, he's actually on record as trying having tried to hatch dragon eggs several times, and then failing to get healthy outcomes. It's more likely that Viserys II didn't know exactly what he was missing in the process, and was trying to work it out while some of the rapidly diminishing pieces of the puzzle were still available.available to his family.

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[[PyrrhicVictory Pyrrhic Victories]] in literature.
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* ''Literature/AngelInTheWhirlwind'':
** In ''The Oncoming Storm'', Kat Falcone manages to turn what should have been a major defeat for the Commonwealth into a strategic victory. Kat ruins the Theocracy's surprise attack by finding their staging area, forcing them to launch the invasion before the supply ships had caught up. Kat then leads most of a fleet weakened by an [[GeneralFailure incompetent admiral]] into an orderly retreat under fire, then joins with forces in much better shape to come back and rescue trapped Commonwealth ground forces and go scorched earth on the system's industrial base before also retreating. The Commonwealth is down a system but took relatively light casualties, while the Theocrats are stuck with a worthless system and serious supply problems.
** In ''Falcone Strike'', characters on both sides regard forcing Pyrrhic victories in this manner as a winning strategy for the Commonwealth. Unlike the single-system polities that the Theocracy has rolled up before now, the Commonwealth is big enough to trade space for time as it ramps up war production, while the Theocrats are lacking in the required industries (due in part to revolt-suppressing economic strategies). If the Commonwealth can survive for two years or so, they'll gain the advantage.
* '' Literature/{{Animorphs}}'' ends with a [[BolivianArmyEnding cliffhanger]] implying the deaths of all but one of the surviving protagonists. While worth it for the free fate of Earth (at least temporarily), almost all of the children who survived until the end of the war were emotionally broken beyond repair from their trauma and the things they were forced to do.
* The ending of ''Gifts'', the first book in ''Literature/AnnalsOfTheWesternShore''. [[spoiler:Canoc gets his revenge for his wife Melle's death by unmaking Ogge Drum, but he's killed by a Drum crossbowman. With Orrec unable to fulfill the duties of brantor through lack of gift, it's implied that Caspromant will lose its standing and, at least for the time being, become a part of Roddmant.]]
* In ''Arena'', a short story by Creator/FredricBrown, an [[AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence energy being]], right before the first major battle between humans and aliens, states that they cannot coexist peacefully, and a war between the two will end in one extinction and one stone age. Since both races had the ''potential'' to evolve to the energy-being's level, ''unless'' their civilization was ruined by this war, the energy being snatched up both a human and an alien Roller and pit them against each other in a one-on-one duel with the complete and instant annihilation of the enemy's battle fleet up as the stakes specifically to avert this outcome.
* In Creator/AynRand's ''Literature/AtlasShrugged'', whenever the looters are going to seize one of the properties of the actual or future strikers, they end up with a worthless property. D'Anconia blows up his ore mines and docks, Dannager abandons his coal mines, Wyatt blows up his oil fields, Rearden walks away from his steel mill, etc.
* In ''Black Swan Green'' by David Mitchell. [[spoiler: Dad sounding out Mum over been scammed for the Rock Garden]] Julia responds with an exchange:
-->'''Julia:''' In my exam today this term I'm not totally sure about, ''Pyrrhic Victory'' came up. Do you know what a ''Pyrrhic Victory'' is Dad?\\
''Dad gave Julia a very complicated stare.''\\
'''Jason:''' A what victory?\\
'''Julia:''' Pyrrhic. Ancient Greece. A Pyrrhic Victory is one where you win, but the cost of winning is so high that it would’ve been better if you’d never bothered with the war in the first place. Useful word, isn’t it? So, Jace. Looks like we’re doing the dishes again. Wash or dry?
* In Dickens' ''Literature/BleakHouse'', one of the major plot points of the book is the infamous legal case Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. Near the end of the book, the characters finally win the case, but the cost and time -- several years, and the modern equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars -- that had to be invested in trying to untangle its legal MindScrew rendered it bankrupt by the time they finally finished. It ate up all its own assets, which would have been worth a fortune if it had been some halfway competent lawyers who drew up the mess in the first place.
* ''The Cat Ate My Gymsuit'', Marcy and the others' efforts pay off, and Ms. Finney is reinstated... only for her to promptly announce her resignation, [[RealityEnsues because the community is divided enough as-is, and she wouldn't be able to go back to teaching the way she did before with so much scrutiny on her]]. Marcy, having fought tooth and nail for this victory, doesn't take it well, but does come to terms with it.
* In the ''Legacy of the Twins'' trilogy for ''Literature/{{Dragonlance}}'', towards the end, Caramon travels to [[BadFuture an alternate reality showing what will happen if Raistlin succeeds in opening the portal and confronting Takhisis]]: Raistlin defeats her, and all of the other gods, and becomes the sole god of the world... and, in the process, he ''exterminates all life''. Absolutely nothing is left on Ansalon or in TheMultiverse, just Raistlin, slowly dwindling away into oblivion as his madness and his empty, futile hunger consumes him utterly, as he is so corrupt and evil that he cannot even create new life to replace the old. [[spoiler: Caramon's revelation of this so horrifies Raistlin that he gives up and allows himself to be trapped in the Abyss, where Takhisis torments him forever more, because he cannot bear the thought of such a "victory".]]
* ''Literature/DreambloodDuology'': Ehiru manages to stop a major war between Gujaareh and Kisua... by basically making it possible for Kisua to walk right in and invade Gujaareh.
* ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'':
** ''Literature/GravePeril'': Harry rescues Susan from the Red Court vampires, but she's already been partly turned, so she leaves town. And this started a war between the White Council and the Red Court.
**''Literature/TurnCoat'': [[spoiler:Morgan is dead, the (only identified) traitor in the council is dead, Dresden and [=McCoy=] have no further information on the Black Council, the White Council has lost three of its most valuable members (the man Morgan was framed for murdering, Morgan, and the traitor), virtually everyone within the council needs to go in for {{deprogram}}ming from mind-control magics, the Senior Council is now living in a permanent state of wondering if their actions were truly their own, and their newest member may or may not be a member of the Black Council.]]
** ''Literature/{{Changes}}'': [[spoiler:So Harry won the war, wiped out the ''entire'' Red Court, and saved his daughter. He only had to make a HumanSacrifice of his daughter's mother and become Mab's servant. And as ''Literature/GhostStory'' shows, destroying the Red Court only led to an EvilPowerVacuum and even ''worse'' forces moving in]].
** ''Literature/SkinGame'': [[spoiler:Not for Harry this time, but Nicodemus. He managed to recover the Holy Grail, but lost the other four artifacts (which were strongly implied to have been his real targets), two Denarians and their coins, his followers, his influence and reputation in the supernatural world, and even his own daughter. And if that wasn't enough, the only other success he had from the book, shattering the Sword of Faith, was undone when Butters turned it into a [[Franchise/StarWars lightsaber]].]]
* ''Duckling Ugly'': Cara, a girl so ugly she was once called "the Flock's Rest Monster", is invited to a paradise called De Leon where a magic fountain makes her supernaturally beautiful. She returns to Earth to take revenge on Marisol, a girl who bullied her, by stealing her boyfriend and using magic to make her ugly. She succeeds, but in doing so, she unwittingly activates a curse [[WalkingWasteland that causes everything and everyone around her to become ugly and rotten]], while she remains beautiful. As a result, she is kicked out of Flock's Rest. When she tries to return to De Leon, she finds out that [[YouCantGoHomeAgain she can't go back]], because the portal is closed. She is forced to wander eternally in search of a way to return to De Leon, never able to stay in the same spot for long lest everything around her turn ugly.
* The first ''Literature/{{Dune}}'' novel ends with Paul Atreides defeating the Harkonnens, overthrowing Emperor Corrino by marrying his eldest daughter and receiving more praise from the Fremen for being TheChosenOne. Come [[Literature/DuneMessiah the next novel]], Paul's fanatical followers unleashed a jihad which destroyed many worlds in his name which gave him a lot of enemies and conspirators inside his court. Likewise, he's trapped in the prescient future where he couldn't do anything to stop the jihad that he created and feared that his family name would forever be tarnished including all the achievements that his father, Duke Leto, made in the past. Then, he foresaw that his Fremen lover, Chani, died of giving birth to his children and he's unable to prevent it. In the end, Paul went to the desert after being blinded by a stone burner while his twins and his empire are left in the hands of his sister, Alia, who is slowly possessed by their grandfather, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
* ''Literature/EndersGame'' has Ender defeat the Buggers, only he ends up doing so by wiping them out entirely when they were revealed to have attacked only before they realized humans were sentient, and he gets exiled from Earth as well (not to mention how every human ship involved in the battle is destroyed either by Bugger Defenders or the M.D. Device).
* In the ''Literature/FarsalaTrilogy'' by Creator/HilariBell, the Roman Empire {{Expy}} have many rules about their conquering of other territories and one of those rules is that if they don't have full control of the country within a year then they will withdraw their forces and offer allegiance with it instead or just leave it alone. This rule was put in place because early in their history, they were victors of this and vowed that victory would never cost so high again. According to the books, they're so good at taking over countries that out of the dozens they'd taken over only two were been able to resist past the time limit.
* Described as an inevitability in [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergey_Lukyanenko Sergey Lukyanenko's]] novel ''Literature/{{Genome}}'' in a war between two galactic powers with relatively equal military strength. A historical example is cited with the ancient Taii Empire, whose territory once spanned much of what is now owned by the younger races. They engaged in an all-out war with another empire, resulting in a Taii military victory but at the cost of utter devastation of their empire. The Taii briefly described in the book are now a [[VestigialEmpire dying power]], holding no more then several dozen worlds and flying enormous ships that are ridiculously inferior when compared with more modern ships of the younger races. The same fate is predicted for the humans or the Czygu in a total BugWar. This prospect would force the humans to recruit the aid of a colony of {{Church Militant}}s whose goal is the total extermination of all aliens for the betterment of the "true children of God". This would cause all other alien races to ally against humanity, resulting in this for ''everyone'' who survives.
* ''Literature/TheGreatPacificWar'': The US victory is portrayed this way, wrecking the American shipping fleet and sending the economy into decline, causing it to lag behind Britain and Germany as a world power.
* In ''Literature/HandleWithCare'', Charlotte wins the lawsuit against her best friend Piper but is left friendless with no social life and lost both daughters - one to shipped away to sort out her bulimic problems and the other drowned in a skating incident. Piper lost her job and her reputation is destroyed. Charlotte never had the chance to cash in the cheque because Willow died, placing the cheque in her coffin, making all her efforts moot.
* In ''Literature/HarryPotter'', the backstory of [[BigBad Voldemort]]'s wizarding ancestors the House of Gaunt reveals that they were originally very wealthy and influential in wizarding society. However, they were also '''''VERY''''' [[AristocratsAreEvil arrogant]], to the point that they maintained their blood purity (namely from Salazar Slytherin, one of the founders of Hogwarts) via inbreeding. This had led to a ''NUMBER'' of defects in the family line, which included mental instability. By the time of Voldemort's birth, the Gaunts had managed to maintain their blood purity...[[ImpoverishedPatrician at the cost of their family fortune]], [[BigScrewedUpFamily sanity]], and [[HowTheMightyHaveFallen prestige]], all of which would have given their boasts a ''LOT'' more credibility.
* In one of ''Literature/TheHistoryOfTheGalaxy'' novels, the first battlefield use of the LIGHT [[AntiMatter annihilator]] device by LaResistance results in the total destruction of not one but two [[TheEmpire Earth Alliance]] armadas. However, the colonists lose nearly all ships in the process, leaving them with a total of ''eight'' warships, while Earth still has plenty of ships in other systems. They also lose the only existing annihilator they have (at the moment). Their only advantage is the fact that Earth has no idea the colonies are virtually defenseless. The new colonial admiral manages to enact a daring plan to steal two flagship-class cruisers from an Alliance shipyard... by stealing the shipyard with tugs. Oh, and the admiral's own son was killed in the explosion.
* In the ''Literature/HonorHarrington'' series, the Mesan Alignment managed a potentially crippling strike on the infrastructure of Manticore and its ally Grayson, just in time for their manipulation of the Solarian League leading to the largest navy in known space launching an overwhelming attack at Manticore. It seems to go off brilliantly, but it puts the Manticorans in such a precarious strategic position that they're willing to accept not only a permanent peace treaty with their decades-old enemy Haven but a formal military alliance when it's offered, and the Havenites deliver proof Mesa was behind everything, including their long war. The end result is that the two most technologically advanced and combat-experienced navies in the known galaxy team up, utterly curb-stomp the Solarian invasion force in the most one-sided battle in human history, and launch a plan to tear the Solarian League apart while also looking for revenge against Mesa. The Alignment leadership realizes things did not turn out quite the way they'd hoped.
* ''Literature/TheHungerGames'':
** Winning the Games is depicted as such. Because ThereAreNoTherapists, survivors of the arena walk out with wealth and fame for life, but with severe PTSD and ''nothing'' to help them cope with their experiences -- and if they're attractive enough, they're pimped out by President Snow as SexSlave[=s=] -- ''and'' they have to mentor the tributes for the following Hunger Games, until they die. For example, Haymitch, the mentor to Katniss, has spent twenty-four years trying to mentor children and bringing home corpses. The trope is Invoked in this case -- the Capitol doesn't want the Victors to be able to lead a coup.
** [[spoiler: Katniss's]] mental breakdown in ''Mockingjay''. [[spoiler:Even though the Capitol fell, Prim's death takes precedence.]]
* In ''Literature/IHaveNoMouthAndIMustScream'', Ted is damned to AndIMustScream for eternity, but he manages to save Benny, Ellen, Gorrister and Nimdok from the same fate. AM itself is also effectively condemned to an equally awful fate; quite who exactly the pyrrhic victor is can be debated.
-->"At least the four of them are safe at last. AM will be all the madder for that. It makes me a little happier. And yet... AM has won, simply... he has taken his revenge... I have no mouth. AndIMustScream."
* {{Lampshade|Hanging}}d in ''Literature/TheLiesOfLockeLamora''. [[spoiler:Locke and Jean kill their enemies, but they have to leave Camorr forever, they're both injured (Locke especially so), and all their friends are, by the way, dead.]] The exchange goes something like:
-->'''Locke:''' So this is winning.\\
'''Jean:''' It is.\\
'''Locke:''' It can go fuck itself.
* ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'':
** Lampshaded: "Today we may make the enemy pay ten times our loss at the passage and yet [we may] rue the exchange. For he can afford to lose a host better than we to lose a company."
** In fact, Pyrrhic victories are quite common throughout Middle-Earth's history. The [[Literature/TheSilmarillion War of Wrath]] ended with Morgoth's defeat, but all of Beleriand was laid waste in the battle and sank under the sea. The Last Alliance managed to defeat Sauron, but lost so many people that the kingdoms of Elves and Men ended up depopulated and ripe for attack by Sauron's human allies, which led to the destruction of Arnor and the reduction of the Elves to just a few small settlements. Even the final victory over Sauron in ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'' was Pyrrhic, in that destroying the Ring led to the final waning of 'magic' in Middle-Earth and the departure of the remaining Elves to the West.
** Other materials show the War of the Ring was almost much more this. If Erebor hadn't been held by the Dwarves Sauron's armies would have probably succeeded in destroying the Western lands, up to the Shire, and driving the last of the Elves overseas quicker despite Sauron's defeat. Thankfully averted, as the Dwarves of Erebor and the men of Dale held back part of Sauron's forces long enough for news of his defeat to reach them.
** The other two Battles of Beleriand against Morgoth (that the Elves actually won) were Pyrrhic as well. The first ended with one faction of Elves demoralized so badly they essentially demilitarized and took to a "stay hidden" policy against Morgoth since the bloodline of their leaders was killed off, while the second ended with the death of Fëanor, greatest of all the Elves. Sure it was still a crushing victory for the Elves short-term, and he was [[ByronicHero a right bastard to be sure,]] but one can only imagine what he would have done for the war effort (not to mention morale) had he lived.
** Nírnaeth Arnoediad was partially this for Morgoth. Despite winning his greatest victory in Middle-Earth and securing much of the North, it is some time before his forces recover.
* In ''Literature/TheLostFleet'', the 100 years war between TheAlliance and the [[OneNationUnderCopyright Syndicate Worlds]] is chock full of such battles. Any victory is won with huge casualties. This is in large part due to both sides forgetting complex fleet tactics and switches to an AttackAttackAttack mentality, where each ship individually charges into battle and hopes to win through sheer "fighting spirit". Battleships are considered to be posts for cowards, as they have too much armor and shields and can't get to the battle fast enough. Then Captain John "Black Jack" Geary is discovered as a HumanPopsicle and revived and uses his knowledge of fleet tactics to win without this trope... though the Alliance "won" in the sense that it isn't [[BalkanizeMe tearing itself apart]] ''quite'' as fast or as bloodily as the Syndicate Worlds.
* ''Literature/MalazanBookOfTheFallen'':
** The third book, ''Literature/MemoriesOfIce'', has two:
*** First the siege of Capustan is lifted when the [[GondorCallsForAid protagonist army arrives]], but the defenders (who are honorable mercenaries) have nearly been killed to the man.
*** This trope is used again in the concluding battle where the allied armies of the Malazans and Caladan Brood capture Coral. But a huge percentage of the named characters are killed during this second battle and the army is a shell of its former self.
** In book eight, ''Literature/TollTheHounds'', TheUndead army of everyone who has ever died since Hood became the God of Death manages to [[spoiler:hold off the forces of Chaos]] long enough, but most of them are destroyed even beyond undeath.
* ''Literature/Percy JacksonAndTheOlympians'':
** Kronos, the Titan Lord, is called "the Crooked One" for his ability to engineer schemes which leaves the good guys in a tight spot either way. It is possible to foil him, but it almost never happens without cost, often a heavy one.
** The third book is a good example of this. They finished their quest, saved Artemis and stopped the baddies from harnessing the powers of a world-destroying beast... but [[spoiler:two of their teammates died in the process]], and [[spoiler:the younger brother of the second one is ''not'' happy]]. It got worse when Percy realized that not only did he have another demigod bent on killing him, but said demigod was [[spoiler:a son of Hades, which qualified him for the prophecy that could destroy Olympus and all of Western civilization]]. Ouch.
%%* ''[[Literature/{{Reckless}} The Mirrorworld Series]]'': [[spoiler: Sure, Jacob ultimately accomplishes what he set out to do, but then there are all those people who end up dead..]].
* ''Literature/TheRiftwarCycle'': In ''A Darkness at Sethanon'', the invading army of the moredhel finally captures the city of Armengar, but with devastating losses--not only is the city an invader's nightmare, built with technologies and magic long lost to mankind, but those in charge of the defense ''blow it up'' just when the invading army has finally broken through, leaving the moredhel with a ruined city and great losses. Ten years later, the risk of a devastating defeat or a Pyrrhic Victory is what spurs one of the moredhel chieftains to oppose the efforts to launch another invasion, going as far as allying himself with the humans to accomplish it.
* Creator/RASalvatore:
** ''[[Literature/TheIcewindDaleTrilogy The Crystal Shard]]'' has the final battle presented as one of these for the good guys.
** ''[[Literature/TheLegendOfDrizzt The Thousand Orcs]]'' has another. The last of the survivors of the attack on the town are spirited away by means involving a fake idol of Gruumsh, the orc god. When the other orc shamans hear about this, they not only bring in ''thousands'' of new recruits to avenge the sacrilege, they also perform a rare ritual on the orc king that makes him permanently stronger and quicker.
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'': This series is rather good at giving us wins with undermining costs attached.
** It's heavily implied that whoever wins the Iron Throne in the end will have won such a victory, as the cost of warfare is rapidly depleting all their resources while an exceptionally long winter is coming.
** Historically, the Dance of the Dragons was this. Although the Greens faction officially won and crowned Aegon II over his elder sister (Rhaenyra), this came at great cost to their family. (1) Almost every Targaryen on both sides was dead, (2) the majority of their strongest dragons are dead or disabled, (3) all the fully experienced dragon riders from both sides were dead, meaning most of their know-how was lost. However, the ultimate tragedy of the victory was that Aegon II died via poisoning and the throne ended up going to the last remaining son of Rhaenyra anyways... This son also observed his mother being eaten alive by Aegon II's dragon, instilling in him a deep hatred for/ understandable fear of dragons. It is maliciously rumored that he was responsible for killing the last Targaryen dragon himself due to this hatred, permanently crippling the Targaryen's strength. Except, he's on record as trying to hatch dragon eggs several times, and failing to get healthy outcomes. It's more likely that Viserys II didn't know exactly what he was missing in the process, and was trying to work it out while some of the pieces of the puzzle were still available.
** Sunfyre was a dragon that had an almost unmatched record of winning fights with other dragons. But, each duel fought added crippling scars to the once-stunning dragon. It died in its last fight in the civil war, a winner who expired as much due to the injuries sustained over ''years'' as it did from the fresh batch of BodyHorror.
** So, Theon Greyjoy takes Winterfell in a daring attack using a small band of Ironborn raiders. So far, so good. But, deciding to try holding a large castle in enemy territory with a small number of allies? Not happening. RealityEnsues, and Theon loses the place faster than he claimed it.
** House Frey, House Bolton, and the Red Wedding. Sure, in the short-term, they are given all of the credit for killing King Robb and decimating the Northern forces in one night, and House Bolton gains control of the North, but Stannis and his armies are coming for the Boltons, the Freys now find themselves the unspoken enemies of almost everyone else in Westeros for violating SacredHospitality (the one custom that was thought to be universal across the entire kingdom), and several of their own "allies" are actively working to undermine them, leaving their position more and more precarious. And in the case of the Boltons, Ramsay isn't helping matters by going full-on StupidEvil. On the other hand, it was Tywin Lannister's plan, and from his perspective, there's no downside at all.
** The War of the Five Kings was never going to be pretty, always was going to be prohibitively expensive and the harrowing of the Riverlands was worse than it strictly needed to be. But, the clean-up needing decades pales beside the fact that [[spoiler: Joffrey and Tywin were killed shortly after, Tyrion is on the run, Cersei is running the Kingdom into the ground and Kevan got killed just as he was trying to fix what he could. Winning only weakened House Lannister]].
** The Battle of Castle Black ends in this for the Night's Watch. Yes, Stannis showed up to save them and Castle Black remains under the Night's Watch's control. However, Stannis soon left to retake the North from the Boltons, meaning that the Night's Watch, already very low on manpower due to the dilapidation of the organization over the centuries, is now ''dangerously'' low on men after the Great Ranging and the battle. In addition, several buildings and constructs were damaged quite badly in the battle, and [[ArcWords winter is coming]], and with it, [[GreaterScopeVillain the Others]] and [[NightOfTheLivingMooks the army of the dead]].
** Cersei learns to her cost that populist religious movements are not a toy, even if they initially get you what you want. They play back. With interest.
* In ''Literature/StarshipTroopers'', it's pointed out early on in the war that killing 1,000 bugs for each human is a net victory for the bugs, as their soldiers can be hatched at need and can be ready to fight in a matter of weeks, while it takes the better part of a year to make a Cap Trooper battle-ready.
* Yes, at the end of the ''Literature/StarTrekDestiny'' series the Borg are eliminated as a threat once and for all. It only cost 63 ''billion'' lives, dozens if not hundreds of inhabited planets throughout the Alpha Quadrant, the destruction of almost half of Starfleet, and significant casualties among all of the other major powers of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. President Bacco states that the toll essentially sets the Federation back almost a century.
* ''Franchise/StarWarsLegends'':
** Invoked by name in ''Literature/DarthMaulShadowHunter''. This triggers FridgeLogic when you wonder [[OrphanedEtymology who it was named for]].
** In the ''Literature/XWingSeries'' novels ''Wedge's Gamble'' and ''The Krytos Trap'', Ysanne Isard attempts to turn the New Republic conquest of Coruscant into one of these by poisoning its water supply with a virus that kills nonhumans but is harmless to humans, trying to DivideAndConquer. The attempt fails.
** ''Literature/NewJediOrder'':
*** In the ''Enemy Lines'' two-parter, Wedge Antilles commands the defense of Borleias against the Yuuzhan Vong after the fall of Coruscant. The Yuuzhan Vong gain the planet, but in the process lose a worldship and one of their greatest generals--former warmaster Czulkang Lah--among other heavy losses. The New Republic forces fare far better: while they do end up sacrificing the Super Star Destroyer ''Lusankya'' to destroy the worldship, they do so without losing the ''Lusankya''[='=]s crew and most of its weapons (which were transplanted to other ships, ''Lusankya'' having already taken considerable damage before the final confrontation). Furthermore, the tactical victory was worthless: Wedge's goal in the campaign was simply to drag out the battle and buy time for the New Republic to regroup, while inflicting as many losses on the enemy as possible. Czulkang Lah's final communication to his son, Warmaster Tsavong Lah, shows another perspective on the trope:
--->'''Tsavong Lah:''' Still, a great victory.\\
'''Czulkang Lah:''' No, son. Limited facts can point at victory when in fact there is only defeat to taste.\\
'''Tsavong Lah:''' Defeat? You have achieved the conditions of victory. You have once more brought glory to Domain Lah.\\
'''Czulkang Lah:''' In a minute I will be dead. Too many clever minds, however heretical they may be, have undone me.
*** A couple books later in ''Destiny's Way'', it's revealed that in the process of conquering half the galaxy, the Yuuzhan Vong have lost nearly a ''third'' of their warriors. This results in an untenable position for them, giving the New Republic, now the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances, a chance to fight back.
* ''Literature/TheStormlightArchive'': For millennia, the [[OurDemonsAreDifferent Voidbringers]] arrived in great Desolations to drive humanity off the face of the planet. Humanity, with the help of the divine Heralds, always managed to defeat them... but not without horrific casualties. It wasn't uncommon for ninety percent of the ''entire planet'' to be dead by the end of one Desolation, and they were knocked so far into the Stone Age that the Heralds couldn't be sure they'd have rediscovered ''bronze'' by the next Desolation. Eventually, the cycle of destruction became too much and the Heralds [[ScrewThisImOuttaHere gave up]], telling humanity they had finally won for good. By the time the next Desolation finally comes back, technology has advanced to the Steel Age, but people have forgotten all the magic and artifacts they once had. The Almighty advises that their best option is to just survive as long as they can; while they can't win without the lost artifacts, if they can convince the enemy that he might lose again, he'll begin making mistakes.
* ''Literature/TimeScout'': Congratulations, Skeeter! You just stood up to a bully! A bully with massive wealth, criminal connections, government power, and a vindictive nature. And you've a checkered past he won't have any trouble using against you.
* In the backstory of ''Literature/{{Warday}}'', the US technically won WorldWarIII. The Soviet Union is apparently in total anarchy, while the US is merely moving towards a DividedStatesOfAmerica situation.
* ''TabletopGame/Warhammer40000'':
** In Creator/DanAbnett's novel ''Literature/BrothersOfTheSnake'', a chapter of Space Marines retake a refinery from Chaos forces. They realize that the place was tainted by something it had pumped up from under the earth, and it could not be used any more -- which meant they could just have blasted it from orbit, without losing three Marines in the fight.
** In a similar vein, the defense of [[Literature/GauntsGhosts Vervunhive]], which leaves the hive with so many dead it is officially decommissioned at the end of the war. Although with Heritor Asphodel dead, Chaos has nothing to celebrate, either.
** Literature/CiaphasCain, in ''Caves of Ice'', digs his troops in to protect a Promethium refinery that he later has to annihilate to [[spoiler: stop a Necron tomb from reawakening]]. (Still, taking out an Ork Waaagh ''and'' a [[spoiler: Necron]] force is a solid deal for one refinery, especially since they managed to evacuate the facility beforehand.)
** The final book of the Literature/{{Ultramarines}} series has a surprisingly major one. The Ultramarines successfully beat back a massive force of traitor marines and permanently kill a daemon prince, an act practically unheard of in the universe, but Ultramar itself has lost several worlds and almost four companies' worth of marines.
** The novel ''Death of Antagonis'' in ''Literature/SpaceMarineBattles'' series is just a long string of those for the Black Dragons and just to punctuate it, their Captain goes traitor.
* In ''Literature/TheWarlordChronicles'', the Battle of Baddon Hill is a major one for Myth/KingArthur. He smashes the Saxon forces, (including mortally wounding Aelle, one of the Saxon kings), but... [[spoiler:his most powerful and reliable ally, [[TheWisePrince Cuneglas]], dies in battle, the Christians gain greater influence in the sectarian battle against Pagans, [[CorruptChurch which they later use to undermine Arthur's non-sectarian government]], [[RoyalBrat Mordred]] [[BloodKnight discovers a taste for battle]], [[MerlinAndNimue Nimue turns against Merlin and Arthur for good]], etc. Some of these results are directly linked to Arthur's downfall]].
* ''Literature/WhateleyUniverse'':
** The Halloween battle. What was originally intended as a cover so that the Goobers could kill Sara Waite turned into a full-on attack on Team Kimba, with many others getting caught in the cross-fire, and it ended badly for ''everyone''- while the Whateley crew won, they ended up with thousands of dollars of property damage, more than a few injured, a staff member dying and that triggering a rager attack by another staff member that turned him almost committing suicide because of the death of his girlfriend. It turned out worse for Englund, the instigator- almost everyone on the staff and more than a few students hated him even though they couldn't prove that he did it, the attack on Sara wasn't successful, and the staff member who went rager now wants to kill him with extreme prejudice. The Syndicate (the main evil attackers) lost hundreds of their soldiers, and the main general ended up nearly losing his boyfriend. In other words, nobody won and everybody lost.
** The attack on Team Kimba in the simulations. On the one hand, Team Kimba managed to successfully fight off the attackers after being placed in a situation where they had no weapons or armour except their powers, and were placed separately against specially-chosen enemies with the sims turned up so any attacks would really injure them. On the other hand, everyone was horribly injured; Tennyo ended up in the grip of a HeroicBSOD after being forced to remember memories that weren't hers, but that she thought were hers; the New Olympians are now very aware that Team Kimba is powerful enough to potentially defeat them; and while Make and Overclock are captured by the MCO, ''Ayla and the Mad Scientist'' reveals that they escaped. Again, nobody won and everybody lost.
* The backstory to ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'' series has the triumph of the Light and the sealing of the Dark One in the Age of Legends made out to be one of these for all concerned. The backlash of the sealing left a taint on the male half of the One Power that doomed every man who touched the Power to creeping insanity and death, without exception; this left a bunch of completely insane men with the power to level cities and raise mountains running around causing almost as much damage as the war that they ended would have, destroying so much that the knowledge and culture of the Age of Legends was in large part lost forever. And for Lews Therin, the hero who led the charge to seal the Dark One? His nemesis tracks him down at his mansion and uses a Dark version of Healing to cure his madness, allowing Lews Therin to see that, while insane, he had murdered everyone and everything he had ever loved. He did not take it well.
* In ''Literature/WorldWarZ'' humanity managed to be victorious over the zombie hordes. But the war and overall situation devastated the planet.
* ''Literature/{{Worm}}'':
** Leviathan is ultimately forced to retreat from Brockton Bay by Scion, but a lot of people are dead, most of the city is destroyed, and it is sheer anarchy in the streets.
** [[{{Kaiju}} Endbringer]] fights tend to result in this at best. Either a large portion of a continent is rendered uninhabitable or just ''SINKS'', or potentially [[HeroKiller hundreds of Capes die forcing the monster back]]. The exception was the [[WalkingWasteland Behemoth]] fight in India, [[spoiler: Scion shows up to KILL him]]! It [[NiceJobBreakingItHero doesn't stick]], because [[spoiler: More Endbringers show up in response, and they're unpredictable and immune to the tactics used against the others]].
** The Slaughterhouse Nine tend to provoke this on both sides. The heroes lose members, countless civilians are killed in the crossfire, and members of the Nine drop like flies unless they're {{Nigh Invulnerab|ility}}le like the Siberian. Their attack on Brockton Bay is a perfect example: [[spoiler: They [[BreakTheCutie break]] Panacea]], work on depopulating the already devastated city and irreversibly traumatize more than a few of Capes and civilians. In return, [[spoiler: the Nine lose [[AdaptiveAbility Crawler]] and [[PsychicAssistedSuicide Cherish]], get handed a humiliating "defeat" and have to invoke LoweredRecruitingStandards to get their numbers back up]].

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