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Important Haircuts in literature.


  • Many religions have prohibitions or rules in regards to hair. In literature, the most famous example is probably the Biblical Samson (Book of Judges), whose parents were visited by an angel who allowed his barren mother to become pregnant if she would abstain from unclean meat and alcohol and never cut the child's hair or shave him. This essentially constituted a pre-natal initiation into a Jewish ascetic cult, and this super out-of-proportion before-birth devotion granted Samson the mystical power of invincible strength, allowing him to become one of the judges who were leaders of Israel. The major part of his story is a negative Important Haircut that eventually results in his blindness and death, making even the inversion of this trope Older Than Feudalism.
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  • The Bible, Isaiah 15: Hair is shaved as a mourning rite.
    Surely in a night Ar of Moab is devastated and ruined;
    Surely in a night Kir of Moab is devastated and ruined.
    They have gone up to the temple and to Dibon, even to the high places to weep
    Moab wails over Nebo and Medeba;
    Everyone's head is bald and every beard is cut off.
  • In Culhwch and Olwen, the hero Culhwch seeks the help of his cousin King Arthur to win Olwen, the daughter of a giant, from her father. Arthur, in traditional fashion, offers Culhwch any boon he may wish for (although they subvert the "rash boon" trope of romantic literature by having Arthur qualify his offer with a list of important items that Culhwch may not ask for). One of Culhwch's requested boons is a haircut from Arthur, marking a right of passage for the youth. Furthermore, Olwen's father, the giant Ysbaddaden, requires many onerous tasks from Olwen his knightly companions before granting his daughter's hand, culminating in a request for a shave (because shaving his mighty hair requires such obscure, powerful tools that it may as well be pointless). During the shave, they shave him down to the bone, and he grants his daughter's hand before being beheaded. This Welsh tale dates back to at least the 11th century.
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  • In the Heimskringla Harald Fairhair, the mythological first king of Norway, made a vow that he would not cut nor treat his hair until he had united Norway under him. As this conquest took several years, Harald became known by the nickname "Tangle-Hair" during the conquest, the nickname changing to "Fairhair" (or "Finehair") once he'd gotten the thing properly cut post-coronation.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms
    • Cao Cao chops off his hair to impress his men after transgressing against a rule that had execution (by decapitation) as its punishment. Calling it an attack on the head, his men were doubly careful to avoid breaking the rules when they saw that the highest ranks were still subject to punishment.
    • Subverted by Zhao Fang. When Cao Xiu questions Zhao's motives for defecting, Zhao threatened suicide. After being stopped from killing himself, he cut off his hair as a pledge. Zhao's defection was fake, though, and Cao Xiu would end up severely defeated in battle.
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  • If we include beards, the Earl of Gloucester's beard being cut off by Regan and Goneril in King Lear indicated an extreme insult.
  • In "The Little Mermaid" (the original story) the mermaid's sisters give the sea witch their hair in exchange for a knife that will grant the mermaid her tail back.
  • In Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Jo March cuts her long, beautiful auburn reddish hair and sells it to a wig maker to raise money for her mother's trip to where their father is in a Union Army hospital. It was her one real beauty and a great personal sacrifice to help her family; her sister Meg catches her crying later that night and Jo is embarrassed as she explains it's for her hair (she would cut it again and again if she couñd, but her tears are her last sign of vanity).
  • In the short story The Gift of the Magi, Della has her long, beautiful hair cut and sold to get enough money to buy a Christmas present for her husband, a sign of great love.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a short story called "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" (1920) where the bob (as opposed to traditional long hair) symbolizes superficiality. In the story, the unpopular teenager Bernice pays a visit to her cousin Marjorie who teaches her to dance and flirt; a favorite bit of flirtation is Bernice suggesting the possibility she might get the newly-faddish bobbed hairstyle. But Marjorie becomes jealous of Bernice's new succcess with boys and retaliates by convincing Bernice that actually getting her hair bobbed will be the final step in her social transformation; as Marjorie suspected, the hairstyle is totally unflattering to Bernice and loses her her admirers. Bernice leaves town in humiliation, but not before sneaking into Marjorie's room at night and cutting off her own long hair.
  • In "A Rose for Emily", Emily cuts her hair after her Overprotective Dad, who consigned her to extreme propriety and conservatism, dies.
  • In A Farewell to Arms, Catherine mentions wanting to cut her hair off after her fiance died. She decides to cut her hair shorter later in the book for no particular reason, though This Troper's English teacher suggested that this, taken with the above, was Foreshadowing her Death by Childbirth.
  • In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, part of the tragedy of Aslan's sacrifice was seeing him with his mane cut off. Without it his majesty disappeared and he looked like simply a large cat.
  • In The Horse and His Boy the horses' tails have to be cut, in order to disguise them and get them into Narnia. This is important because it's part of Bree's character development: humbling himself from an arrogant war horse to an ordinary Narnian.
  • Gülten Akın, a female Turkish poet, has a poem titled "Kestim Kara Saçlarımı" (I Cut My Black Hair), published in 1960, where the act of cutting hair is used as a metaphor for a woman's liberation from repressive social expectations.
  • There's a subtle one in Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. After Lymond sells his body to the repulsive Aga Morat to protect Jerott, an oblivious Jerott ribs Lymond about his recent haircut. Though Lymond reveals nothing, an astute reader can extrapolate that the haircut was a reaction to the traumatic experience.
  • Two of the main characters in The Outsiders cut their hair off while on the run from the law. Important as their hair is the most obvious symbol of their Greaser status.
  • After Turtle loses her waist-length braid in The Westing Game, she starts acting more mature and calling herself T.R. instead of Turtle.
  • In the book Adorable Sunday, the title character Sunday cuts off her hair so her mother will let her stop being a child model.
  • In the Dragonriders of Pern novel Nerilka's Story, Nerilka shears off the long hair that was her one vanity before leaving her life as a Lord Holder's daughter to work as an anonymous healer's assistant in the plague tents.
  • A Yellow Raft In Blue Water: In Christine's story, Lee gives Aunt Ida his braided hair to let her know that he had now joined the Army.
  • In The English Patient, Hana cuts her hair after she starts working as an army nurse.
  • In The Baby-Sitters Club series, Mary Anne has one when her father stops being overprotective of her.
  • Happens to a few characters in the Sword of Truth series, where one section of the world puts a lot of stock in the length and style of women's hair. Two examples: In the first book, the hero gives Rachel (previously little more than a slave, with her hair deliberately chopped up) a haircut evening out her locks after she runs to freedom. This is an inversion of the having-one's-hair-cut-off-as-humiliation variant of this trope. In the second book the same variant is played straight: the Mother Confessor (who, as the de facto ruler of the land, has the longest hair around) has her hair chopped off before she's sentenced to be executed.
  • In the Jacqueline Wilson book Double Act Ruby cuts her hair (previously the same as her sister Garnet's) to show that she no longer wants to be a twin.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Jaime Lannister has his characteristic golden hair shaved off and grows an unflattering beard, ending his period of life as a vain and cruel golden boy under the thumb of his sister.
    • The Dothraki tribe don't cut their braids unless they've suffered a defeat in combat. Khal Drogo has very long hair because he has never seen defeat.
    • Arya's hair is cut for her by Yoren to protect her identity, starting her long period as a vagabond.
    • Cersei's head is completely shaven off (along with her body hair) for her walk of shame.
  • In Animorphs, Ax once mentions an Andalite custom where someone who has disgraced himself gets his fur cut short in a particular style. The idea is that one's honor slowly returns as the hair grows back. He gives this kind of haircut to Andalite!Tobias, but this is an aversion—he just doesn't want it to be as obvious that the two of them are identical.
  • In The Girls Series Magda gets her blonde hair cut into an unflattering style and dyed back to its original colour when some boys get the wrong idea about her, which had led to a borderline Attempted Rape. Once she regains her confidence, she has it cut even shorter into a better style and dyed bright red.
  • Subverted in In Enemy Hands. Honor's brutal State Sec captors think giving her a clipper-cut is inflicting yet one more humiliation on a woman condemned to hang. Unfortunately for the 'black-legs', Honor deliberately wore her hair that short throughout most of her earlier career and only grew it out during her time in 'exile' on Grayson; she finds their resulting consternation a little funny, and is actually more worried that they're not feeding her enough.
  • In Ben Elton's novel Dead Famous, Sally, a contestant on a Big Brother-style game show, expresses a desire for an Important Haircut and cuts and dyes her hair while staying in the house. It turns out to be a very important haircut, because the show's producer planned to murder one of the girls to boost ratings, and "pre-recorded" the scene for all five female contestants. Sally was the first target but was not killed because she no longer looked like the fake Sally on the videotape.
  • In Fleur Beale's I Am Not Esther, Kirby cuts off her hair in a protest against the religious cult she is forced to follow. In the sequel, I Am Rebecca, Rebecca asks Kirby to cut her hair near the end, showing her break away from the cult. She later reflects that she sees herself in the mirror rather than her twin sister, Rachel, because she looks more interested in the world.
  • In the Dragonlord series, the Yerrin clan only cut their hair when banished from the clan. A Yerrin without a clan braid is a man (or woman) without honor. Baisha, a villain in Dragon and Phoenix, cuts his own hair after murdering a kinsman and running from home.
  • In the short story that is a prequel to Mercedes Lackey's Vows and Honor duology, Tarma's hair is cut off by her Goddess to show that she has been accepted as Swordsworn.
  • In Nappily Ever After by Trisha Thomas, the African-American heroine cuts off her long, straightened hair (which she previously dyed blonde when her ad campaign at work was rejected in favor of blonde models) at the same time as she breaks up with her commitment-unwilling boyfriend. She then embarks on a year of self-discovery and natural hair and finds success, love, and happiness.
  • In Hiromi Goto's The Kappa Child, the main character gets her hair cut very short and finally begins to mature and take charge of her own life.
  • In Pat Murphy's Adventures in Space and Time with Max Merriwell, Susan's repressive mother always made her keep her hair long. She gets a short haircut and feels much freer and happier.
  • In Holly Black's Valiant Val shaves her head on a train shortly after catching her boyfriend cheating on her with her mom.
  • In The Time Traveler's Wife, Henry has his shoulder-length hair cut off shortly before his wedding, to symbolize leaving behind his immature playboy lifestyle and becoming more like the responsible adult Clare fell in love with in the first place. Conveniently, this also means his future self can convincingly stand in for him at the wedding ceremony itself (since cold feet and nerves in his present self end up triggering his time travel).
  • In Venus and the Comets, nine-year-old Venus's mother has her modeling and acting in commercials, but Venus would rather play soccer. She makes her objection to her mother's plans clear (and expresses her real personality) by cutting off her the luxurious blonde locks that she's supposed to have in her upcoming role as a Cinderella doll at a toy store grand opening.
  • In Kij Johnson's Fudoki, the main character, a Heian court lady, regards it as a liberation from oppressive ceremony when she's finally elderly enough to retire to a monastery. Even though her attendants initially only cut off a symbolic few inches of hair (because it's servants who wear theirs shoulder-length), she feels relieved by the lightening of weight as well as the meaning of the haircut, and intends to chop it all off once she leaves.
  • The first line of Monstrous Regiment is Polly cutting off her hair to join the army, feeling slightly guilty that she doesn't feel guilty about it. She keeps the hair in her pack as a memento, but when it gets stolen realizes she doesn't really need it.
  • In 13 Reasons Why, Hannah cuts her hair shortly before committing suicide, in a desperate bid for positive attention. It fails when it comes to light that a classmate is stealing all of the notes going into her mailbox, including any about her haircut. The haircut itself is lampshaded when her teacher, during a discussion about suicide, brings up sudden changes in appearance as a sign of suicidal ideation.
  • Niall in Wicked Lovely, albeit in the backstory. He cut his hair really short after the whole 'getting raped and tortured by dark court fey' thing, for the three reasons of (according to Word of God): Irial liked his long hair, and Niall blamed Irial for everything to begin with; so as to not hide the scar on his face; and because long hair is a good 'handle' to hold someone down. When he became Dark King he let his hair grown again to signify getting over it.
  • After her Heel–Face Turn in Frostbite, Mia Rinaldi turns up about three books later with a slight tan and much shorter hair. Averted in the movie, where she starts out with a pixie cut whereas in the books she started out with Ojou Ringlets.
  • The Hunger Games: Or rather, important lack of haircut. In Mockingjay, all the rebel soldiers have their hair cut short, except for Katniss because she needs to stay recognizable. And Katniss having her body hair waxed throughout the series. District 12 has no fashion to speak of, and the citizens have a lot more important things to concern themselves with, so Katniss — and by implication, the other women of 12 — don't shave their body hair(legs, underarms) and think nothing of it. Her stylists stripping her bare is just another example of the Capitol changing who she is — to the point where by Catching Fire, she considers her unshaven legs a sign of her freedom, and is more than a bit sore to lose them.
  • Room: Jack has long hair, but gives himself a haircut late in the story. His grandmother simply says she'll make it neater and save his hair since it's his first haircut. Some of it is braided into a bracelet which he later gives to Ma.
  • Damned: 13-year-old Madison's death and arrival in Hell is a paradoxical liberation; she starts by making friends, and one of them gives her the bangs she always wanted, but her mother insisted she was not ready for.
  • In Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray, Tiara freaks out about her life and starts hacking her hair off with an ax. Petra manages to fix it, giving her "warrior princess hair."
  • A young Vlad Dracula cuts off his long mane of hair after escaping life as a child soldier in Count and Countess.
  • A theme throughout the entire novel The Wisdom of Hair: the author, Kim Boykin, explained, "The thing about this story that seems to resonate with women is that we believe if we change or fix our hair, we can change our lives. I noticed this watching women come and go from my mom's beauty salon growing up and believe that will never change."
  • In One Of Us Is Lying, after being exposed and dumped for cheating on her boyfriend, and ostracised by her social group, Addy cuts off her very long, natural blonde hair into a pixie and dyes it purple. This represents finally giving up on getting Jake back and marks the start of her Character Development.


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