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Death Of A Child / Literature

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Children dying in literature.

  • In The Adventures of Pinocchio Pinocchio's friend Candlewick dies as a donkey as a result of exhaustion and the injuries inflicted by his master, and who knows how many children suffered similar fates in the Land of Toys.
  • Alice, Girl from the Future: In Secret of a Black Stone, child protagonist Alice investigates kidnapping of 84 children. Turns out they were kidnapped to be used as child soldiers. While no children are shown dying and Alice, being drafted as a child soldier as well, is rescued seconds before the planned execution, the number count in the end clearly shows that some of the kidnapped children died. Also Alice befriends a child kidnapped from another planet, and he tells that out of 30+ children kidnapped with him, only 8 or so are alive now.
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  • In American Psycho, serial killer Patrick Bateman stabs a little boy to death in a zoo, just to see if he'd enjoy it. He doesn't (not because of guilt). He also kills a dog once (along with its owner).
  • The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton:
    • It starts strong in the second novel The Laughing Corpse where part of the plot deals with a flesh eating zombie that consumed a family, but having failed to find the body of one of the children ,an infant, it is assumed he is still alive. The assumption proves to be false in a very gruesome way..
    • The ninth novel Obsidian Butterfly takes the cake it has whole families, including children of all ages, gruesomely murdered, having their skins completely removed and reanimated as zombies, a pair of children, a 6 year old girl and 10 year old boy, kidnapped, tortured and raped by the bad guys — one of the previously mentioned skinless zombies getting loose in the maternity ward and eating several (like 20) newborns before the main character puts him or her down..
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    • The twelfth novel Incubus Dreams gives the readers several back stories, including a high school couple raped and murdered in such a gruesome way that the parents still haven't found closure after 3 years, and one of the lovers of the main character that witnessed at ten the death of his prepubescent brother at the hands of their father.
  • In Anne's House of Dreams, Anne's firstborn child dies the day it is born.
  • The Book of the Dun Cow, in which Chauntecleer's three sons are killed by basilisks, along with their nurse.
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas: You expect at least one of the children to die because he's in a Concentration Camp, but the ending has both the protagonist and his friend killed.
  • Bravelands: Cheerful Child elephant calf Moon dies in the second book.
  • The Brother Cadfael story "The Rose Rent" has Judith Perle, who lost her child not long after her husband died of disease (the TV version replaces the stillbirth with guilt over giving him a Mercy Kill), and feels it would be insulting their memory to remarry. She ends up finding love (and an adoptive daughter) by the end.
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  • Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? — an elementary school's worth of children can die, and you run into many child zombies.
  • Texas Jake's Dark and Troubled Past in Cat Pack has him the Sole Survivor of his litter. After their mother abandoned them, they all ended up dying. Jake narrowly avoided being drowned by a man.
  • Tamora Pierce doesn't shy away from killing kids in her Circleverse series, especially The Circle Opens:
    • In Magic Steps a horrified Sandry has to pull a child who had been reduced to a Soulless Shell apart with magic along with his captors in order to save her student. His captors also used his magic to murder the children of politically important people earlier in the book.
    • In Street Magic a bunch of kids in street gangs get murdered by each other and a vile noblewoman who knows she can get away with it.
    • In Cold Fire an arsonist sets fire to a home where children are having a party, and several of them die. When Daja tries to save an infant from the fire, he suffocates while she's carrying him out.
  • In Coraline the heroine discovers ghosts of children previously taken by Other Mother. And the only thing she can do is liberate their spirits so they rest in peace...
  • Some examples from Charles Dickens of children dying of (usually poverty-induced) illness:
  • The Divine Comedy: The only time Dante encounters a child in the afterlife is in the First Circle of Hell, where the poet briefly mentions seeing unbaptised infants among the virtuous pagans. By placing them in this First Circle, Dante affirms the necessity of baptism while maintaining that children are not tortured for remaining unbaptised by anything other than sadness and boredom.
  • The title character in the novel version of Dracula had no compunction feeding a baby to his three vampire wives. Then the baby's mother to a pack of wolves. And one of his victims, Lucy Westenra, gains a reputation for preying on children.
  • The Dragons of Requiem series kills off children as casually as the adult characters. It gets to a point where it's a surprise when a child or infant doesn't die.
  • The Earth's Children series:
    • All Ovra's pregnancies end in miscarriages, eventually prompting Ayla to start giving her the secret contraceptive herbs to spare her from the physical and emotional strain of repeatedly losing her babies.
    • At the Clan Gathering, Ayla and Uba meet Oda, a woman from another clan, whose baby daughter was killed when a man of the Others ripped off her wrap and carrying cloak (with the child inside) and raped her. Oda's daughter died after hitting her head on a rock and Oda, finding herself pregnant again, wished for another daughter, against the wishes of her mate, who, when Oda's second child, Ura, was born "deformed", made her keep the baby as punishment.
    • After Jetamio dies trying to give birth to her and Thonolan's son, the Shamud, hoping to at least save the baby, performs an emergency caesarian. But it is already too late.
    • While on the way to the Summer Meeting, the Mamutoi of the Lion Camp, along with Jondalar and Ayla, stop off at a Sungaea camp, where two young siblings have recently died.
    • And, during the Summer Meeting, Rydag, the "child of mixed spirits" raised by Nezzie (the mate of the Lion Camp's headman, Talut) dies from the congenital heart defect which has weakened him.
    • In the final book in the series, a young boy dies from the severe head injuries he sustained in an earthquake.
  • In the first part of Vilhelm Moberg's saga The Emigrants, the main characters are struggling through a life of poverty in rural Sweden in the 1840's. The main character, a farmer named Karl Oskar Nilsson, along with his younger brother Robert, both stumble across the notion of emigrating to America. Karl Oskar's wife Kristina adamantly opposes this notion, not wishing to leave her homeland or wishing to risk the lives of their four small children, Anna, Johan, Marta and Harald by crossing the ocean. On the evening of Harald's baptism, Kristina is preparing a barley porridge, which she places in a large wooden bowl in a cellar for it to cool. Anna helps herself to this porridge, even after her mother told her to stay out of it until later. She ends up eating so much of it that as it expanded in her stomach, it caused something to burst. Anna lingers in pain and agony throughout the night and dies early the following morning. Afterwards, Kristina agrees to emigrating to America.
  • In Eon, the infant future emperor is publicly executed by sword to ensure all other lines of power are wiped out.
  • The Fox and the Hound has a lot of cute fox pups fathered by Tod romping around in a few chapters. All but possibly one die. There's also a human child who's accidentally poisoned by bait meant to cull rabid foxes.
  • In Frankenstein, the Monster starts a vengeful killing spree against his creator, Victor Frankenstein, by brutally murdering the man's little kid brother William.
  • Though Jason never kills any kids in the movies, he does it quite a bit in the Friday the 13th books:
    • Jason kicks and stomps a baby and two toddlers to death in Friday the 13th: Jason's Curse.
    • Friday the 13th: The Carnival has kids being mangled and fried when the carnival rides go haywire and fires break out.
    • Friday The 13th: Hate Kill Repeat]] had Jason attacking a family of campers, killing them all, including the little boy and baby girl.
    • A zombie baby shows up in Friday The 13th: The Jason Strain.
    • Finally, Friday The 13th: Carnival Of Maniacs, after Jason's rampage in the titular carnival, a dead father is found holding his son's body in his arms.
  • Edward Gorey's book The Gashlycrumb Tinies features children dying in various ways. In the style of the alphabet.
  • Michael Grant's Gone series.
    • Sam and some others find a dead baby inside an abandoned house.
    • The final battle scene in the end of Gone kills a lot of children.
  • In Gone with the Wind, not only does Scarlett miscarry, her daughter Bonnie is killed in a riding accident. These two incidents put the nail in the coffin of Scarlett and Rhett's marriage.
  • Raiders of Gor: a band of slavers has destroyed a small village which Tarl had been a slave in. He's glad that they were all killed or taken prisoner, until he sees the body of a small boy who had been nice to him once. Cue Berserk Button.
    • Again in Blood Brothers of Gor except it was Tarl's friend, not Tarl himself, who has the reaction. Cuwignaka (who is part of a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Plains Indians) refuses to take the warpath against an enemy until he sees the body of a boy he was fond of.
  • Hannibal Rising: The plot revolves around Hannibal seeking revenge on the Nazis who killed and ate his sister.
  • Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway composed the following short story, a Dead Baby Drama that clocks in at six words:
    For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
  • The first book of His Dark Materials presents a full segment from the POV of a child character who is introduced and given a name and backstory exactly for the audience to be shocked when he suffers a Fate Worse than Death, which leads to actual death soon enough. The end of the book proper features the death of the protagonist's best friend (a boy about 10-12) as being plot relevant. No other deaths are featured later, but the Magisterium are nonetheless unhesitant in sending an assassin to kill children later on.
  • Henry Darger has many in In the Realms of the Unreal since it's about a huge war sparked by a child slave rebellion and the graphic murder of its leader Annie Aronburg. Miss Aronburg was five at the time. While there's a Civil War ambiance to the whole thing, the children's heroic martyrdoms are like those of early Patron Saints; Darger was devoutly Catholic so most of the good guys are as well. He explicitly compares some of his girl heroes to Little Eva.
  • In The Inverted World, during an attack on the City, the creche where the children are raised gets set on fire. Many children die, including the protagonist's infant son.
  • The novel Jurassic Park is Darker and Edgier than the film adaptation, partly thanks to this trope - whereby in the prologue a nanny finds a baby being Eaten Alive by compsognathus.
  • In the Keeper of the Swords series by Nick Perumov, Dark Magical Girl Sylvia, being in a city overrun with monsters, hears a plea for help, coming from a 6-year old girl. She rushes in, but cannot save the girl anymore. This sets Sylvia in a deep rage. Cue Sylvia inviting all monsters in a city to feast on her, and when they really come proceeds to hack them all in pieces with her sword. She single-handedly defeats a monster army capable of overrunning dozens of local wizards.
  • In the Ed McBain short story "Kid Kill" a pair of policemen answer a call where a boy has found a gun in his mother's house and while playing with it accidentally shot and killed his little brother. But the cop narrator realises there was too much dust on the gun for the boy to have just picked it up without smudging it... in other words, he murdered his brother. And there's nothing they can do about it.
  • Stephen King's books:
    • Young Tad Trenton dies in novel Cujo... but survives in the Film. King also kills off toddler Gage Creed in Pet Sematary (this death, crucial to plot, also happens in the first movie version).
    • The first victims of Barlow in Salem’s Lot are the Glick brothers. One is sacrificed outright while the other becomes the town's first vampire.
    • All of the above is topped by his novel It, where there is a monster that specifically targets children.
    • In Under the Dome, supporting characters are killed off left and right; adults, children, dogs equally.
    • There's Dinah from The Langoliers, who is stabbed to death by the insane Toomy near the end.
  • The Left Behind Kids' Series. Of the original four kids, ranging from ages 18 to 12, the youngest is the first to go. Rather violently.
  • Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan has a particularly nasty example during an unsanctioned Jaddite raid near the beginning of the book.
  • Little House on the Prairie: Although the death of Laura's baby brother occurs off-screen and is never mentioned, we do see the death by SIDS of her first son. And her subsequent depression was so crippling that she failed to react in time to an over-burning pot and their house burned down. Wasn't the Old West romantic?
  • Part of the reason The Little Match Girl is considered such a tragic story- the titular character freezes to death on New Years Eve.
  • Lord of the Flies is about a group of boys who are left stranded on a deserted island with no adults. By the end of the book several have been killed by the others.
  • In the book Lost by Jacqueline Davies, two of the protagonist's siblings were stillborn. Her younger sister also dies from being trampled by a carriage horse.
  • Mick Harte Was Here is about a twelve year old boy who didn't wear his helmet while riding his bicycle and died as a result when he skidded into the back of a passing truck. We are not eased into it. Mick is dead when the story starts. The story is told from the perspective of his older sister and it's about the family coping with the death. Nothing more.
  • In Les Misérables, Artful Dodger Gavroche dies in battle at the barricades, a tragic event that marks the turning point of the fight and foreshadows the rebels' loss.
  • The Mortal Instruments: In City of Glass, all the teenage protagonists survive the final battle.... but Max; the cute, manga-reading youngest Lightwood who wasn't allowed to fight is brutally murdered.
  • Newsflesh has a straight example and a played with one:
    • Novella The Day The Dead Came To Show and Tell has an elementary school full of children die.
    • Novella All The Pretty Little Horses has children declared dead by traumatized adults who survived the Rising, even when presented with evidence the child survived. The adults had written their children off as dead already, grieved, and refused any information to the contrary.
  • Considering that it's about the horrors of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel's Night has plenty of this. The first chapter of doesn't fly by without the mention of babies being used as target practice by the Nazis. Then we see children casually being shot and thrown into crematoriums, and later get a somewhat graphic scene of a child slowly being hanged.
  • Nina Tanleven: The titular character of The Ghost in the Big Brass Bed is a young girl who died of influenza a few years after World War I.
  • The Obituary Writer begins with a child in Claire's neighborhood being abducted and killed. And by the end of the novel, both Vivien and Claire experience this trope firsthand, with the death of the former's best friend's daughter and the latter's unborn baby.
  • The Once and Future King has multiple infanticides committed by King Arthur, albeit off-stage (and revealed to us decades afterward).
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Bianca di Angelo dies at the age of twelve. The rest of the deaths were teenagers and adults, not counting the off screen deaths.
  • Raptor Red: The Trinity Turtle's earliest memories include her siblings being devoured by pterosaurs, Raptor Red and her sister seriously consider abandoning the chicks during a famine, and one of the chicks dies of an infection.
  • The ogre-like titular monster from Clive Barker's Rawhead Rex devours a young boy alive, as well as dismembering and eating a little girl's riding pony. Much of the story is told from Rex's point of view, so although no infants are killed, the creature reminisces at length about eating them.
  • Redwall has gone into this territory several times, all of them being killed by vermin. There are at least four instances: 1) In The Long Patrol, where one of the characters is shown a vermin blade that's been notched for every kill. The shallower notches are for creatures who couldn't fight back, such as women and children. 2) Taggerung, where a vermin character causes a landslide that kills a family of dormice so that he could get their food. 3) Doomwyte, though this one was done by a snake, the infant in question was a tree rat, and it was a Karmic Death. After the tree rat ran away from a fight it ran into a snake and got eaten. 4) The Sable Quean, where a young otter is stabbed in the neck with a poisoned knife and dies shortly afterwards.
  • In Raymond E. Feist's The Riftwar Cycle:
    • A squad of reformed criminals located a creche containing the eggs of a race of evil humanoid snakemen, and destroyed every last one, dooming the race to extinction. Justified by the fact that all snakemen are inherently evil from the moment they hatched, demonstrated when one hatched while the squad was busy.
    • During the Serpentwar, a magic-wielding protagonist on a scouting mission discovers a village attacked by deserters from the Big Bad's army, including a hut containing only small, charred corpses. She took down several trained soldiers, WITHOUT using magic.
  • In Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece The Road, the two main characters come upon a campfire abandoned by cannibals. A baby has been left roasting on a spit. The man had seen a pregnant woman and a few other men passing by a few days before, too.
  • Running Out of Time is about a girl from a 19th century-themed historical preserve who leaves and stumbles about the "modern day" in order to find a cure for the diphtheria that has afflicted the children of her village. Two of them later die from it.
  • In Samantha Stone and the Mermaid's Quest, a large group of girls, aged 8 to 12, are all kidnapped in an attempt to find the heroine, 10-year-old Samantha Stone. When each one is shown to the main villain, one by one, he orders their execution when he discovers the girl is not Samantha. Which actually gets carried out in one case. Yup, a children's book where a child is executed.
  • Seeker Bears:
    • Toklo's twin brother Tobi graphically dies early in the first book of starvation and illness. Tobi's death causes Oka to abandon Toklo because she has lost her previous litters and didn't want to see more of her cubs die.
    • Ujurak at first has a Disney Death, however later he does commit a Heroic Sacrifice during an avalanche.
  • The Silmarillion: Dior's young sons are abandoned in a forest and it's strongly implied that they die there.
  • In Smaller & Smaller Circles, the Serial Killer's victims are poverty-stricken boys from Payatas.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Notable in that baby-killing isn't seen as exceptionally dramatic or vile, because the world is already saturated with evil. Though it is cited as one of the more notorious of Gregor Clegane's many, many, many horrible acts.
    • There's also the Unsullied, who have to kill babies as part of their training.
  • Stealaway: Crackspear avenges the theft of his horse by Walt of Wideopen by killing the latter's young son.
  • Stray: The cruelty of the animal testers is made clear to Pufftail when a researcher wrings the neck of a mangy kitten and throws him in the trash.
  • In Nancy A. Collins' Sunglasses After Dark series, Sonja comes across an ogre who is in the process of lowering a baby into his maw. He would've been successful in eating the baby if she'd been two minutes slower.
    Sonja: Uh-uh. No veal for you.
  • Survivor Dogs:
    • Wiggle was Grunt's and Lick's litter-brother. He was the shyest of his siblings. Blade ends up killing Wiggle, and Lick narrowly escaped. Grunt only survived because he insisted he'd be loyal to Blade. Blade also killed another of their siblings offscreen.
    • It's heavily implied that Blade killed her own son when she killed Morningstar (Wiggle's, Grunt's, and Lick's mother).
    • Cub Fire was a fox cub who was killed by the Fierce Pack. This caused the Fox Pack to attack the dogs in revenge. They however thought the Wild Pack had murdered the cub and thus attacked them. They tried to kill Beetle (who was a pup) but were fought off.
    • Alfie is described as a young dog. He is killed by Alpha when his pack is attacked by Alpha's for accidentally encroaching on their territory.
    • In the second book, Moon loses one of her very young pups, Fuzz, to foxes during the Leashed Pack's ambush on the Wild Dogs.
    • In The Broken Path, Mickey comes across the corpse of a human child who died several weeks ago in the earthquakes. He feels the child resembles "his longpaw" and wants to bury it. Lucky doesn't agree with Mickey's attachment towards humans, but he allows Lick and the others to help with Mickey's grief by giving the child to the Earth-Dog.
  • Tailchaser's Song:
    • As a kitten, Tailchaser's four siblings disappeared, along with their mother, and are presumed dead.
    • Roofshadow's entire clan was killed, kittens included.
    • Cats, including kittens, have been randomly disappearing. They've been captured by the Clawguard to become slaves and many are most likely dead.
    • One of the signs of the apocalypse is that many deformed kittens are being born who die quickly after birth.
  • In the Tales of the Otori prequel Heaven's Net is Wide, the turning point in The High Queen Maruyama's loyalty comes when her baby is killed by a member of a Ninja tribe. As a veteran Yamato Nadeshiko, she gives little outward reaction, except for a Tear Jerker poem:
    "Like young fern shoots
    My child's fingers curled.
    I did not expect,
    In the fifth month, frost."
  • In Erich Maria Remarque's novel A Time to Live and a Time to Die (set during World War II) the protagonist is on the streets of a German city during an air raid, and sees a five-year-old girl with an infant. Then a bomb hits the place; when the explosion is over, the girl is dead, and the baby has disappeared.
  • Tamora Pierce really likes to hold nothing back in her portrayals of medieval life in the Tortall Universe:
    • Particularly noteworthy are the last two books of Protector of the Small, where the hideous "killing devices" are apparently powered by the souls of dead children and infants who cry out for their mothers when released. It turns out that the necromancer who makes the devices doesn't need to use children. He does it because he likes to.
    • In the Trickster's Duet, the children of rebels are thrown into a piranha moat. (Mercifully, this does not ever happen onscreen.) Also, Kyprioth persuades Rubinyan and Imajane to kill the four-year-old King Dunevon and his closest cousin, Elsren Balitang, who is the same age.
    • The first Beka Cooper book has the Shadow Snake, a kidnapper who kills the children they abduct if the parents don't give up the valuables that the Snake wants. One of Beka's best friends lost her boy this way. There's also a woman who commits infanticide on her own. In the third, a child slave is murdered.
  • Little Eva St. Claire's saintly, romanticized death from tuberculosis in Uncle Tom's Cabin is one of the most famous sentimental 19th century examples of this trope.
  • In Utopia 58, many children are briefly seen getting abused or outright killed. The biggest standout is the young girl who was mauled to death by other schoolchildren for drinking chocolate milk before the other kids did.
  • In Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles series, it's generally frowned upon to turn a human into a vampire who hasn't lived to adulthood, but Lestat, that Loveable Rogue, turns Claudia who was, maybe, seven at the time. This results in an eventual Break the Cutie, turning her into a bitter creature who has a mature woman's mind but is trapped in a child's body.
  • Anyone Can Die in Warrior Cats. Throughout the course of the series, we have seen kits carried off by hawks, starved to death, and fallen into crevasses. And that's just onscreen! Offscreen we have kits and apprentices mauled by dogs, frozen to death in winter, killed by diseases, hit by cars, taken by hawks, and at one point the Big Bad brutally murders an apprentice from another Clan whom the protagonist had saved earlier, just to spite him.
  • In both the book and film adaptation of Where the Red Fern Grows Billy's bully Rubin dies when he tries to kill Billy's dog Old Dan with an axe for fighting with his dog Old Blue which he trained to be vicious, Billy tries to take the axe from him but he pushes him aside and as he's running Rubin trips over a rock and accidentally stabs himself in the chest with it.
  • Wings of Fire:
    • Right at the prologue, Burn tosses a soon-to-be-hatched dragon egg down a cliff before killing the dragon that tried to take it.
    • Peril's brother was killed shortly after hatching by his mother, Kestrel, who was forced to kill him so that Peril could live.
    • There was a genocide of soon-to-hatch dragon eggs on the night the prophetic dragonets were supposed to be hatched. The Dragonets of Destiny narrowly avoided the same fate.
  • The Witches: The main character's grandmother regales him with stories of kids who turned to stone, were transmogrified into slugs and killed by their parents, trapped in pictures, etc.
  • Renegades opens with Nova's infant sister being shot and killed.


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