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Death Seeker / Literature

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Death Seekers in literature.

  • Nuada in Alien in a Small Town, once he realizes that the monstrous hoon's arrival means that he can die as a hero (at least in his own eyes), futilely protecting the very people he was trying to murder only moments earlier.
  • Animorphs:
    • Prince Elfangor seems to be a good example of this after he gets pulled off Earth by the Ellimist. His first action was ramming the Blade Ship with his little fighter in what should have been a suicide run only to survive, turn the tide of battle, and become a war hero whose example was held up as a golden standard. And at the end of his life, he really wasn't out of options - he could have morphed, or even used his ship's shredder to cut through the concrete surrounding the Time Matrix.
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    • Another example is David by the end of his last book. Abandoned by Crayak, betrayed by his henchmen and still condemned to live out the rest of his days as a rat, he tearfully begs Rachel to end his misery.
  • Felix, from the 1984 science fiction novel Armor by John Steakley, following the death of his wife. In his case, he's explicitly nigh-unkillable (not a good thing, in the circumstances) as a result of his personal background; at the end of the novel, a former acquaintance who's come to find him, on being informed that he was last seen clinging to the outside of a badly damaged spacecraft with insufficient fuel to reach the next planet, merely nods and says that they'll keep looking until they find somebody who actually saw him die.
  • Umberto Eco's novel Baudolino features a group of warriors who all want to die in battle, because they believe that then they'll go to heaven. The main characters think that this will make them good fighters in an impending war, since they won't be afraid. They are wrong, because they don't even fight, just ask the enemy to kill them.
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  • In Ursula Vernon's Black Dogs, the elven Sinai blames herself for the capture, rape and death of her cousin, at the hands of the evil sorcerer Vade. She accepts increasingly dangerous and suicidal missions from the elven nation, and her behavior is so well known that in the elves' native tongue she is known as The Dead Wolf.
  • In works by Lois McMaster Bujold:
    • Dag in The Sharing Knife, which is part of why he manages to kill so many malices. The other is that he is very very good at what he does.
    • Inverted in Paladin of Souls. Arhys is dead, but his soul is still stuck in his animated body.
      "Fey is a man who looks forward to death. I look back upon mine. I am beyond fey, I think."
  • Saak-Fas from the Destroyermen series. After surviving Grik imprisonment, he sets forward with only two goals; to kill as many Grik as possible, and to die. He gets his chance when Mahan RAMS Amagi and Saak-Fas personally detonates over a dozen depth charges
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  • The main characters in Eden Green and New Night are death-seekers. Eden especially seeks to destroy herself after being unwillingly infected with an immortal needle symbiote.
  • Captain Beatty deliberately provokes Montag into killing him at the end of Fahrenheit 451. Why he would do so is left up to the reader, and is frequently brought up during discussions about the book.
  • By the end of KJ Taylor's The Fallen Moon trilogy, Arenadd has definitely become one of these. The only slight problem is that he is the undead avatar of the Night God, who likes him right where he is and is perfectly willing to bring him Back from the Dead again...and again...and again... if he stuffs up her plans.
  • In Tom Holt's Flying Dutch, Vanderdeken and his crew - who gained immortality, as well as horrifying B.O., through an alchemical mishap, rather than the usual Flying Dutchman experience - are wandering the Earth trying to figure out how to become mortal again. One member of his crew insists on throwing himself out of the crow's nest just to see if it'll work this time, to the aggravation of the ship's carpenter, who has to fix the resultant damage to the deck. Meanwhile, Jane Doland (the other main character) is trying to chase Vanderdeken down and stop him because thanks to his life insurance policy, he'd crash the world economy if he succeeded. Eventually, they regain their mortality while heroically stopping a nuclear reactor from melting down, only to immediately chug a new, weirder immortality formula while partying afterwards with the alchemist who created the first one...but at least they got a better ship, and Jane and Vanderdeken fall in love, so things sort of cheer up after that.
  • Lieutenant Dan in the book (and movie) Forrest Gump was a Death Seeker because it was a family tradition to die in battle. Presumably, he (and the ancestors who were killed in action) had plenty of brothers.
  • Max Pesaro in the The Gardella Vampire Chronicles, thanks to dead little sister (and father). He continues to fight against vampires, even when he shouldn't.
  • Gesta Danorum: When Starkad, some 200 years old and half-blind, feels he is getting too old for combat, he wishes to die by the sword and sets out on the road searching for somebody worthy to kill him.
  • Vito Corleone of The Godfather describes his most fearsome enforcer, Luca Brasi, in this way. After Luca's death, Vito tells his son Michael that Luca spent his whole life begging to be killed but was simply so tough that no one could do it for a long time. Vito advises that it is possible to control such a person if you "make yourself the only person in the world that he truly desires not to kill him."
  • In The Great Gatsby the main character mentions having this attitude during World War I, probably from having to leave the woman he loved behind. His death wish was mistaken for courage and he was decorated.
  • Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files becomes this in Changes, thanks to hitting the Despair Event Horizon after losing everything he cares for, being on the verge of dying as the daughter he never knew he had is sacrificed by monsters, and helpless to do anything to stop the bad guys without doing a Deal with the Devil (or Mab, anyway, who's not much nicer), which will very quickly turn him into the sort of thing he's spent his life fighting. A combination of the right words at the right time from Lasciel end up pushing him over the edge, to the point where he takes the deal (after arranging his own murder, has his memory wiped of it so he's apparently genuinely ignorant of his plans) with the explicit hope that he'll only last long enough to save his daughter, and initially reacts to barely surviving with absolute despair. However, the right words from Uriel tip the balance back, and give him some renewed hope, though he doesn't really totally shake it off until the middle of Skin Game - three books later.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Albus Dumbledore becomes this trope at some point in between Order of the Phoenix and The Half Blood Prince, when he becomes cursed to die by the ring containing the resurrection stone. To end the misery of dying slowly and to spare Draco Malfoy, who he learned had been tasked by Voldemort to kill him, Dumbledore asks Snape to kill him in an overly elaborate plot to also get Snape closer to Voldemort and to continue protecting Harry.
    • In fact, Snape himself became this after Lily Evans's death until Dumbledore snapped him out of it.
    • It's implied that this happened to Grindelwald. He willingly lets Voldemort kill him, even laughing in his face, and says, " I welcome death." At that point, he's been rotting in a prison for over half a century with nothing to do but wallow over his own misdeeds, he's in his 110s, and the only person he ever truly cared about and cared about him back ( Dumbledore) is dead.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: In And Another Thing... Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged reveals that this is the motivation behind his constant insulting of others.
  • In Holes, Kissin' Kate Barlow was an outlaw without a cause, having lost all will to live after Sam, the man she loved, was murdered right in front of her. This was what prompted her transformation from kindly schoolteacher to ruthless criminal. In the end, after being cornered by the man who killed Sam, rather than reveal the location of her hidden treasure she purposely provokes a yellow-spotted lizard into biting her and dies laughing.
  • Horatio Hornblower: The first story in Mr. Midshipman Hornblower has Hornblower becoming vaguely suicidal not long after he joins the Navy, being viciously bullied by Mr. Simpson and the general misery of life at sea. He challenges Simpson to a duel where one pistol will be loaded, chosen at random—Hornblower figures that if he picks the empty one and dies, he'll still win, because he would rather be dead than go on. (Needless to say he lives. The captain rigs the duel and transfers Hornblower to a ship where he'll be less miserable.)
  • This eventually happens to Katniss Everdeen in the third book of The Hunger Games. Having lost Peeta's love, she only wants to do two things: kill President Snow and then die. Ends up being subverted in the end, though.
  • In Phyllis Ann Karr's Arthurian novel The Idylls of the Queen, Mordred fits the role pretty well—he spends the majority of the novel expecting (and hoping) the narrator Kay will kill him (his theory of the murder he and Kay are attempting to solve is that it was an attempt on his life by Kay and Guinevere) and pisses a couple people off hoping they'll murder him because of the prophecy that he'll bring Arthur's kingdom down. A better example in his backstory: right after a hermit gives him the prophecy and tells him who his father is, he rides on into the tourney he was headed to and nearly succeeds. Most people think those injuries addled his brains.
  • In Inheritance Cycle: In the first book, Eragon, it is early on revealed that Galbatorix, the kingdom's tyrant king, was a Dragon Rider at first. When his Dragon died in battle, though, he went mad with grief, and sought death as best he could as he "chased after every breathing being." So recklessly he threw himself into anything that could get him killed—but failed to do so—that monsters started to fear him, and even ran away from him once they spotted him. He stopped after he got the idea that he might be able to convince the elders to give him another dragon. And once that didn't work, well...
  • In Insurgent, Tris is looking for ways to die due to grief over the death of her parents and her guilt over being forced to kill Will.
  • The Tharks in Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars series: "the cause of the Thark's great and sudden love of life I could not fathom, for it is oftener that they seek death than life—these strange, cruel, loveless, unhappy people." It's pretty effective, since 98 percent of them die in various violent ways.
  • The Killer Angels, the novel about the Battle of Gettysburg, features Confederate general Dick Garnett. "Stonewall" Jackson accused him of shirking shortly before his death, destroying Garnett's reputation. While his friends know that Garnett is no coward and Jackson sent him into an impossible situation on bad intelligence, most of the army believes their dead hero unconditionally, and the only way for Garnett to redeem himself is to die heroically on the field. Lewis Armistead tries to have Longstreet and then Pickett intervene to keep him out of the battle, but they all understand that Garnett won't accept anything else. As his leg is injured, he insists on riding Pickett's charge on horseback, which makes him a prime target and gets him the honorable death he desires.
  • Colbey, the main character of The Last of the Renshai novels, is a follower of the Norse gods, and must die in battle to reach Valhalla. (Dying while refusing to fight all-out doesn't count, and would get him damned to Hel.) He's in his eighties by the end of book 1, the oldest person his tribe has ever had, and the best swordsman in history. He's even given the title "Deathseeker" by some. Eventually, it's discovered that he became "semi-mortal" in his sixties (meaning he can't grow any older) and eventually becomes a god. He still rejoices in a challenging fight centuries later, mind you...
  • Druss in the David Gemmell novel Legend chooses to seek out death on the walls of Dros Delnoch rather than wither from age; he's sixty and doesn't really have much left to live for anyway. He gets it, and since the villains are Proud Warrior Race Guys they not only throw him a funeral for being a Worthy Opponent, they accept most of his closest allies as guests for the duration.
  • Legends of Dune: Jool Noret became this after he accidentally killed his father.
  • While (Dark) Ember in The Legendsong Saga does not as-such seek death because she is already dying (of a brain tumour), she does devote the rest of her life and her music to it. This is her way of coping with the fear of dying.
  • Éowyn in The Lord of the Rings, whose courageous ride to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields has also been described as a lovesick suicide attempt. According to Aragorn, the very object of her unrequited love, her disappointment was just the final straw—personal frustrations and grief having already robbed her of much hope. And then of course there's the apparent hopelessness of the global situation—Sauron cannot be defeated by force, no matter how many battles are won. To paraphrase Gandalf and Aragorn, she had to look after Théoden as he succumbed to Grí­ma's lies and part-truths, all the while listening to them herself, and it seemed like she would never do anything else but watch as the House of Éorl sank deeper into dishonor. Even after Aragorn heals her, she wants to go out and die.
  • The title character of Rudyard Kipling's "Love-o'-Women" (one of the army tales); he has both a tragic past and a disease that will kill him in slow and humiliating fashion, and yet, though he repeatedly throws himself into combat, he's left lamenting that "not a bullet would touch him".
  • This is the sole driving motivation of protagonist Jim from Mogworld. 60 years after dying he is resurrected by a necromancer, as a permanently immortal zombie. He spends the entirety of his servitude to said necromancer trying to kill himself again and again. The necromancer is then permanently killed off by angel-like beings called Deleters. Jim spends the rest of the book trying to find them and get them to kill him.
  • The Mortal Instruments:
    • Jace is explicitly described as being this. Isabelle flat-out says that Jace is "in love with the idea of dying" and she and her brother Alec put considerable effort into saving him from his own recklessness.
  • In My Dark and Fearsome Queen, Erik's reckless behavior turns out to be this at the end of the first book. Upon finding out, Jensen tells him to either be a hero or kill himself, but stop getting the two mixed up.
  • In the The Neverwinter Saga, Barrabus the Gray would very much like to die, but the magical sword Charon's Claw keeps him alive. He is one of very few humans that survived a century long timeskip because of his predicament, and he jumps at the opportunity to destroy Claw and end his life.
  • In Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, Jamie becomes this during and after the battle of Culloden, having sent Claire back into the future thinking he will never see her or their child again.
  • In the Paradox Trilogy, Maat is a Barrier Maiden who wants to die. Unable to kill herself, she attempt to persuade or coerce anyone she can into killing her.
  • Part of the initial premise of Timothy Findley's novel Pilgrim is that the main character is unable to die, no matter how many ostensibly successful suicide attempts he goes through.
  • In the Redwall novel "High Rhulain", it's explained that Cuthbert Blanedale Frunk has become a berserker since the murder of his daughter, with the hope of ultimately dying in a heroic battle. In the end, he gets his wish.
  • Yakhag of The Redemption of Althalus. Robbed of all his emotions by Big Bad Daeva, Yakhag's only remaining wish is a faint desire to die. It's not strong enough to spur him to suicide, but when he finally does die, he Goes Out With A Smile
  • Gal in Ruin of Angels. She's looking for an honorable death in battle, but she's a better fighter than ninety percent of the people she meets, so finding someone who can kill her in a fair fight is a difficult proposition. Which is a good thing, because her Death Seeking ways are imposed on her by her oath to a tyrannical Queen, and she doesn't really want to die.
  • Thormod, the protagonist of The Saga of the Sworn Brothers, tells King Olaf before the Battle of Stiklestad that he would rather die than outlive Olaf, in a way that suggests he actually expects Olaf to lose the battle. In the battle, Thormod always fights in the front line without wearing armor or using a shield; despite this, Thormod is still unwounded when King Olaf has been killed and most of his remaining warriors retreat. As he laments that he has not made good on his promise to die with the king, he is struck in the chest by an arrow, and "is glad of the wound because he knew it would prove fatal". Thormod dies from the arrow a short while later. In the Flateyjarbók manuscript, Thormod even helps a troop of survivors to escape from the battlefield, but refuses to go with them himself, and instead prays to Olaf (whom he already assumes to be a saint) to not let him get away from the battlefield alive. Immediately afterwards he is struck by the fatal arrow.
  • Himei starts out as this in Sailor Nothing, before The Power of Friendship gives her something to live for. The premier example, however, is Dark General Argon. Because of his nature as The Heartless, he's unable to kill himself directly, so he instead ensures that the protagonist will unleash her Unstoppable Rage on him—and the ways that he provokes her to that are terrible indeed.
  • The Secret Of Santa Vittoria: Letters from Captain Von Prem's brother, a soldier on the Russian Front, make it clear that he's becoming one, and his last letter outright states that he's going to let himself get killed.
  • Daylen in Shadow of the Conqueror, wants nothing more than to die and finally be released from his guilt, but can't bring himself to end his life until the last few falls before old age does him in, because he believes it would be cowardly opting out of the Light's chosen punishment for him.
  • There is a story by Robert Sheckley about a planet with humanoid aliens who believe that only violent death leads to heaven. Some deaths are dispensed by the priests, but many people (despite a strict taboo) arrange some accidents (like sawing a thorny tree so that it will fall upon you). They die smiling.
  • One of the characters in Peter David's black comedy fantasy novel Sir Apropos of Nothing was a Death Seeker whose reckless deeds resulted in him becoming the most highly respected knight in all the land. At that point he realised that he actually quite liked being alive, hung up his sword and retired behind a mantle of obfuscating senility.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: CIA director Calvin Span is revealed to be this in Home Free. He died of a heart attack as a result of him shovelling his driveway. He knew better than to do that, considering that he had heart surgery a few years ago. His co-conspirator Owen Orzell thinks that Calvin had a death wish. Considering that Calvin was in bed with Big Bad Henry "Hank" Jellicoe, had a gambling addiction that was going out-of-control, had to turn against Jellicoe to save his own hide when Jellicoe's bad guy status was revealed, had the deaths of CIA agents on his conscience because Jellicoe wanted Revenge for Calvin turning against him, and the president forced him to resign for failing to capture Jellicoe in one month, it's not much of a stretch for this guy to become a Death Seeker.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: By A Dance with Dragons, Theon Greyjoy's only wish is to be able to die as himself, and dreams of dying with a sword in his hand.
  • In The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, Captain, haunted by his Dark and Troubled Past, is implied to deliberately be putting himself in harm's way. During a training exercise with Demane, he deliberately fails to dodge a spear strike that would have been lethal if Demane's reflexes hadn't been good enough to miss at the last moment. During the fight with the second jukiere, he deliberately stops fighting and allows his own death to be the distraction that gives Demane an opening to attack it.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Szeth-son-son-Vallano is bound to serve whoever happens to be his master at any given time, even though he hates killing, which most of his masters make him do. He is not allowed to deliberately kill himself, but he is allowed to use unnecessarily dangerous tactics on assignments in the hope of being killed.
    • Rhythm of War introduces Raboniel, a Fused who has grown so weary of the endless cycle of deaths and rebirths that she just wants the war between the singers and humanity to end at any cost. She spends much of the book seeking a way to create "anti-Light", a theoretical weapon that can utterly annihilate Fused and truespren alike, in order to force the war to end.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Jenna is a Proud Warrior Race Girl and so belongs to the 'glorious death in battle' variety. On the verge of death she doubts the 'glorious' aspect. "Is this the glorious death we sought? It feels so cold..."
  • Vita Nuova: A Fever Dream Episode causes Dante such misery that he prays for death. His despair of life only grows worse as he hallucinates an apocalypse brought upon by the death of his one love.
  • Broxigar of the Warcraft: The War of the Ancients trilogy fits this trope perfectly, after being the sole survivor of his squad. He actually gets his wish in the end by performing a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Warhammer 40,000: In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts book this happens to some of the soldiers, particularly Gol Kolea.
    • In Only in Death, Ezrah ap Niht, believing Gaunt is dead, believes himself intolerably dishonored by surviving. He sets out on bludtoll, to kill as many of the enemy as he can before his own death. Fortunately, he finds Gaunt prisoner.
    • In the Thousand Sons novel Ahriman: Exile, the renegade Space Marine Thidias chooses to sacrifice himself in a You Shall Not Pass! moment because he knows that he has fallen from grace and will fall even further if he continues to follow Ahriman, and would rather die now “as a warrior who could still remember what honour was”.
  • A'lan Mandragoran (Lan) from The Wheel of Time series. Fortunately or unfortunately for him, depending on your perspective, getting married changes his outlook.
    • Rand al'Thor. He intends to stay alive juuuust long enough to get to the Final Battle, then die while winning it, because he sees life as pointless due to the circular nature of the Wheel of Time (the fact that he's got the insane voice of Lews Therin in his head, and is resigned to also going insane, doesn't help). However, after his epiphany in the second to last book, he decides that he does want to live, and ends up pulling a body swap with Moridin, a Straw Nihilist, before wandering off to live his own life, with only a select few being aware that he's still alive.
    • Also, any male among the Aiel that discovers they can channel, since men who channel eventually go insane, they go into the Blight and die fighting the minions of the Dark One. Of course, they don’t know that the Dark One wants them alive for supplying evil channellers for Tarmon Gai’don...
    • In the last book Moridin is revealed to be this—one of the primary motivations for his well-established nihilism is that he can't bear the thought of being him any longer and doesn't feel that a world capable of producing him deserves to exist. He's a Death Seeker for himself and the whole universe. His prolonged life isn't a sign of favor from The Dark One. It's a punishment.
  • In Antti Tuuri's The Winter War, probably out of sheer exhaustion in the last battles, the narrator's squad leader stands upright against a tree to fire his submachine gun at the oncoming enemy. He is said to live surprisingly long.


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