Limb loss as dramatic device. Can come about in a variety of ways:
- Self-amputation: The character deliberately removes the limb themselves, under duress or otherwise.
- Accident: The loss is accidental, or occurs during battle.
- Deliberate: Another person/entity deliberately rips, cuts or otherwise separates the limb from the owner. It may happen in battle, but it only counts as deliberate if it's... well, deliberate — the combatant wanted to sever a limb, not just win the battle.
May be the predecessor to Artificial Limbs, Arm Cannon, Hook Hand, or Swiss-Army Appendage. Frequently appears in the backstory of a Handicapped Badass. If played for laughs, it's Amusing Injuries; if there's no lasting damage it's Only a Flesh Wound. If it's a severed hand, expect it to be used in a Dead-Hand Shot. A character with Appendage Assimilation will simply stitch a new appendage on the gaping hole, and a character with a sufficiently powerful Healing Factor will grow the appendage back before long. Expect these characters to be extra-likely to lose their limbs in the first place so their abilities can be shown off.
Interestingly enough, you almost never see a limb actually sewn back to the body of the victim, which is probably the most sensible thing you can do once deprived of it (provided that you're able to retrieve the lost limb in a reasonable amount of time and keep it in sanitary conditions). Although this is actually a well-known, albeit rare, occurrence in surgery with a decent ratio of success in terms of restoring partial or even full limb mobility (at least considering the complexity of the procedure; there is a lot of stuff that needs to be joined back together in your hand, mind you, not to mention the constant time pressure), most people are unaware of it and would probably ridicule the very idea.
Note that this trope only applies when limb loss is deliberately used to advance the plot. It does not apply to pre-existing conditions or incidental carnage amongst background characters. If the incident leading to the loss is featured in a flashback, by all means, include it, but if we only see the character after it happens it doesn't count.
Compare Knee-capping, and Agony of the Feet. Fake Arm Disarm is a bloodless version of this trope, whereas a Literal Disarming is this trope done for the explicit purpose of removing someone's ability to fight or wield weapons. If the injury specifically represents or comments upon some aspect of the character it counts as Symbolic Mutilation.
Arranged by medium as usual, but please note what type it is at the beginning of the entry.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Visual Novels
- Western Animation
- Tobot Galaxy Detectives: In "My Friend RO-B!", at the climax of the episode, Rocket and RO-B are in danger of being sucked into a black hole. Since Rocket is hanging on to RO-B, the latter severs his arm, allowing himself to be sucked into the black hole so Rocket can escape.
- In Biancabella and the Snake, her hands are cut off and her eyes put out so they can be taken back as evidence that she was in fact murdered.
- In The Girl Without Hands, the father cuts off her hands at the Devil's instigation.
- In The One-Handed Girl, the girl's brother cuts her hand off in the process of cutting down her pumpkin vine.
- In Tsarevich Petr and the Wizard, one ferryman demands that you let him cut off your right hand; the next, your left foot.
- In "Barrett's Privateers", a Canadian crew of inept privateers tries to hunt American merchant ships during the American Revolutionary War, and their sole survivor ends up arriving legless at Halifax, damning everyone in the world.
- In the traditional Irish song "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye", which shares a tune with "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and "The Ants Go Marching", the returning soldier the song is about is missing at least one arm and one leg, in addition to having been blinded.
- In Eric Bogle's song "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda", a young Australian soldier loses his legs in World War I:
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity
- In the music video for Fall Out Boy's "The Phoenix", Patrick's left hand is chopped off to separate him from a MacGuffin. The injury remains for the rest of The Youngblood Chronicles, and he wears a Hook Hand for most of the series.
- In Iron Maiden's concert video, Raising Hell, one of the illusions that magician Simon Drake did involved cutting off guitarist Dave Murray's hands.
- Metallica's "One" is about a soldier who was wounded by a land mine but, unfortunately, survived.
Landmine has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell
- "The Face of Victory" by David Rovics is sung form the perspective of returned veteran who lost both legs to an IED in Iraq.
- In "Shia LaBeouf", you lose your lower leg when it's caught in a bear trap and you have to gnaw it off to escape. You limp everywhere afterward, and the blood loss is a liability when you encounter and end up fighting Shia LaBeouf.
- In the song "Fear Garden", Rin cuts off people's arms to use as flowers in her garden.
- In one of the PVsnote for the song "Hello, Planet", Miku's arm falls off due to damage from a rain of debris. However, it is restored when her tear makes a plant grow and it carries her all the way to heaven.
- At the bend of the river Scheldt, legend tells of a giant who demanded toll from everyone who wanted to sail past his fortress. If they couldn't or didn't want to pay the toll, the giant (Sus Antigoon) cut off their hand as punishment. Silvius Brabo, a Roman soldier, sought to bring an end to Antigoon's cruelty and defeated him. After this defeat, Brabo cut off Antigoon's own hand and threw it into the Scheldt. Supposedly, this is where the city of Antwerp, Belgium got its name from. "Hand" and "Werpen" (to throw).
- In the Book of Exodus, a law states that if a woman attempts to rescue her husband from a fight by grabbing his opponent's genitals, her hand is to be chopped off. (That sounds like Disproportionate Retribution to modern readers, but since she'd be jeopardizing that man's estate and his ability to worship in the Temple, the punishment was accordingly harsh.) Presumably, that punishment would have applied to anyone who did that, but that particular passage is likely in reference to a specific Noodle Incident.
- Celtic Mythology:
- The MacAllister family crest includes a severed hand holding a dirk. The story behind it is that one of the MacAllisters was in a boat race out to a sand dune and back, with the first to touch shore winning. Upon realizing that he was not going to beat his opponent, he cut off his hand, put his dirk with the family crest in it for identity, and then threw it onto the beach for the win.
- The Irish god Nuada does something similar to the MacAllister above. The first to touch Irish soil will be the one who rules, so in order to defeat his rival, he cuts off his own hand and throws it onto the beach. (Problem is, a maimed man cannot rule, so he has to wait until another god builds him a silver hand.)
- The warrior king Mesgegra lost a hand in battle. Conall Cernach fights him with one hand tucked into his belt to make it fair. Conall kills him.
- When Cu Chulainn Dies Standing Up, his enemy Lugaid chops off his head, but the sword in Cu Chulainn's hand falls and chops off Lugaid's hand. Out of spite, Lugaid and his men then chop off Cu Chulainn's hand. Conall Cernach pursues Lugaid to avenge Cu Chulainn, and again fights with one hand tucked into his belt to make it fair. Even then, Conall is only able to win when his horse takes a bite out of Lugaid's side.
- In Norse Mythology, the gods want to chain Fenrir up since they fear how strong he's getting, and since it's prophetised that he'll cause them great trouble. Not trusting them, Fenrir only agrees to be chained up if the god Tyr puts his hand in Fenrir's mouth. When Fenrir then finds that he can't break the chain the gods used and they refuse to let him go, he bites off Tyr's hand in retaliation.
- Merle loses his right arm in The Adventure Zone: Balance when a god lies to him and his arm starts to crystalize, leading to Magnus chopping it off to save him. He gets a sweet wooden arm as a replacement.
- Dice Funk: Jayne loves tearing the arms off of her foes and even keeps one in her pack. This is arguably an Establishing Character Moment.
- In SAYER, Jack is forced to remove a pound of his flesh to conceal a stolen device in his pocket from floor scales — and allowed to choose between flaying a section of his torso or amputating his left hand. He chooses the amputation.
- In Trials & Trebuchets, when Neska learns that Mira has had her arm replaced with a magic one as a blessing from Empress Terassis, she quickly bites Mira's arm off and devours it, though, as Mira hadn't specified which arm it was, Neska was unaware that it was actually Mira's left arm that was magical and instead ate her right arm.
- Cyberpunk 2013/2020: Often done voluntarily in order to replace them with metal.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- In both the 3.5 and 4th editions, artificers that become reforged remove one of their limbs and replace it with an artificial one.
- The lich-god Vecna lost an eye and a hand in battle with his traitorous lieutenant Kas. As a god, he's still missing both, and seems completely unable to restore them. The Hand and Eye of Vecna are legendary artifacts that grant incredible power (especially if both are used by the same person), but they come with some vicious drawbacks (not least of which is that, unless you're already missing an eye or your left hand, well...).
- Pathfinder: Followers of the god of torture Zon-Kuthon consider this an honor.
- Shadowrun: In the novel 2XS, protagonist Dirk Montgomery loses his arm when it gets burned by the magic spell of the wasp spirit queen. Luckily for him, he gets a cyber arm installed for free as a reward for taking out the insect spirit hive.
- Warhammer 40,000: Fairly standard practice in the setting; many characters will have their limbs removed and replaced with mechanical devices:
- Adeptus Mechanicus priests require this of themselves. Young adepts will have some augmentation but are still wholly human. Skitarii and regular Adepts will have a good few limbs replaced and augmented with bionics. Senior Adepts will be more machine than man and often have replaced all of their limbs (and parts of their brain in extreme cases).
- The Iron Hands chapter requires the amputation of one of their hands as a rite of initiation, which is replaced with a bionic one. This is to honor their founder, Ferrus Manus, who slew a dragon by drowning it in lava; the lava fused the dragon's metallic skin to Ferrus's hands. And their belief that unaugmented flesh is weak means that it rarely stops there.
- The Iron Hands' Evil Counterpart, the Iron Warriors, differ from most other Chaos Legions in that they don't view mutations as a sign of the gods' twisted favour; instead, they view them as annoying inconveniences, and tend to replace them with cybernetics at the first opportunity. It's not to honour their founder or anything of the sort, because the Iron Warriors are brutal pragmatists of the first order; it's just that if an arm can't be used to kill people effectively, the Iron Warriors don't view that arm as useful.
- In one version of the fluff, whatever happened to end Rogal Dorn's life apparently left his hands behind, the skeletal remains of which have the names of various Imperial Fist champions etched (in minute detail) into them over the millennia.
- Most of the Ork's "medicine" boils down to "find a spare, lob it off, then get sewing". This sometimes extends to their heads as well. They were intentionally created to allow this sort of patchwork surgery to work and to survive the horrible shock of losing multiple limbs without dying. Most notably, the Power Klaws often look like they're not gloves, but bionic replacements for their hands (not that an ork minds it).
- Warhammer Fantasy: Long Drong Slayer's high-risk trade has been taking its toll on him, and he has lost a leg and arm to different sea monsters and eye to a bet. The cost that this is taking on his physical abilities is part of his increasingly morose humor.
- The Witcher Role Playing Game: Deadly Critical Injuries (achieved by beating a target's Defense by 15) have a chance to outright dismember a person, or just kill them outright.
- Parodied in The Merchant of Venice when Bassanio's new wife demands the wedding ring he has been forced to give away:
Bassanio: Why, I were best to cut my left hand off
And swear I lost the ring defending it.
- In Titus Andronicus:
- Lavinia has both her hands cut off — after being brutally raped and having her tongue cut out.
- Titus is forced to cut his own hand off and send it as ransom for his kidnapped sons. They're beheaded anyway. It's a cheery play.
- Mentioned in Twelfth Night as part of the reason Antonio the pirate is wanted in Illyria: he instigated a sea-fight in which the duke's nephew lost a leg.note
- In Episode 5 of Astartes, Sergeant Kohren loses his right hand when he tries freeing himself from the Orb with a point-blank plasma blast that simply explodes the plasma pistol in his hand.
- In the first episode of the original run of Fist Master, Martial Ape, an evil Jerkass sensei in the mold of John Kreese, tries to challenge Panchi, the teacher of main characters Akio and Red. Panchi agrees to accept the challenge if Martial Ape can defeat Red. When the two fight, Red promptly kicks his ass, with Martial Ape only getting in one or two blows while Red leaves him crying for mercy, and she was still warming up and hadn't gotten serious yet. When Red spares him, however, Martial Ape goes to backstab her, only for Panchi to suddenly do a Flash Step, grab ahold of one of his arms, and initiate the following conversation:
Panchi: On a scale of one to ten, how attached are you to this arm?
Martial Ape: Ten! Ten!!!
Panchi: [rips Ape's arm off] Not anymore.
- Happy Tree Friends: Due to the show's nature, characters lose their limbs left and right. However, "I Nub You" is the only example where losing a limb affects the plot, when Petunia loses her hands to a windowsill and falls in love with Handy due to them both being amputees. They later die horribly, of course.
- Cell was known to be able to regenerate lost limbs (and head in one instance) in canon Dragon Ball Z, as well as its abridged series. However, in HFIL, he is also saddled with a ki-inhibiting ankle bracelet that keeps him from terrorizing the netherworld, and smashing it with a rock will not dislodge it, let alone break it. At the very start of the second episode, he decides to take a pair of gardening shears to his ankles, and... ...the shears snap off with no damage to Cell.
Raditz: You think they let us have shears if that was going to work?
- Homestar Runner:
- Characters in Madness Combat normally have Floating Limbs, but Hank eventually gains an arm after resurrecting. It gets torn off by Tricky in Expurgation, but he later gets a new one.
- In The Most Popular Girls in School, the cheerleaders and the Van Burens fight for Deandra The New Girl's loyalty, which results in a tug-of-war that rips off both of Deandra's arms (and the viewers can't even pretend it didn't happen, because the characters like bringing it up in later episodes). This causes Trisha to deliver a hilarious "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Ashley Katchadourian for failing to watch the bathroom door. Later, Deandra has them replaced with one realistic-looking prosthetic and one cyborg arm — she couldn't decide on one set.
- Mystery Skulls Animated:
- Mystery tears off Arthur's possessed arm, but only after ??? uses it and the other bits of Arthur it has gained control of to murder Lewis.
- Lewis burns Shiromori's arm to a crisp, and as it starts crumbling to dust, he rips off the hand that's holding his locket. She regrows it and her head, which Lewis earlier punched off, very quickly, to his surprise.
- On The Edge: In the episode Wanaka is pissed when he finds out that a little girl is smuggling guns..., a pissed off Wanaka sliced Matsuzaki's right arm for talking back to their boss about being told to quit the Yakuza and live a normal life instead of using his daughter to smuggle illegally-modded airsoft guns behind his back. However, the former spared the latter afterward with a warning.
- Piece Of Cake: When Val gets pushed off the cake by Brad, her arm shatters upon hitting the floor. In the end credits, two women who look like Val and Mara come in to purchase them, with Val's human lookalike also missing an arm.
- In the Project Freelancer flashback sequences of Red vs. Blue, there's an Insurrectionist soldier who (somehow) survives a MAC strike with nothing worse than his left arm being blown off, which is later replaced by a cybernetic one. In Season 10, he loses said arm to a knife-throw from Carolina shortly before being blown away by Maine's Brute Shot. A deleted scene reveals that he survived that too, having lost his other arm.
- At the end of Volume 3, Adam vows to Blake that he will destroy everything she cares about. When he sees her horrified reaction upon realising that Yang is trying to find her, Adam decides to start with Yang, cutting off her arm when she rushes in to save Blake. Blake is so guilt-ridden that she goes on the run. In Volume 4, Yang struggles to come to terms with the loss of her arm and suffers PTSD in the form of nightmares and flashbacks to Adam maiming her. When Ironwood, without prompting, commissions a state-of-the-art cybernetic replacement for Yang, Oobleck tells her that there are a lot of people who want her back to "normal", but does not elaborate on who or why. Yang only reluctantly accepts the arm and begins to wear it when she realises that the reason Taiyang isn't searching for Ruby, who has left to hunt the villains with only Jaune's team for company, is because he cannot look after Yang and search for Ruby at the same time.
- After Ruby injures Cinder at the end of Volume 3, Cinder spends the whole of Volume 4 recovering with Salem's help while her left arm is entirely covered by a long sleeve. Salem's "treatments" consists of her teaching Cinder how to control the Grimm limb that has replaced her severed left arm. During the Battle of Haven, Ruby's brief use of her anti-Grimm power causes Cinder to collapse to her knees in pain, clutching her Grimm arm. When she tries to extend the Grimm arm to steal the dying Winter Maiden's power, Winter severs the limb from Cinder's body. Cinder screams in agony from the injury and keeps screaming as the limb painfully regenerates; she then retaliates against Winter so viciously that Winter is almost killed from the onslaught and Cinder loses her opportunity to steal the Winter Maiden's power.
- Sam & Mickey's "Surgery" has Barbie hospitalized after losing her right arm. A fight with the nurse over some booze costs Barbie her left arm as well.
- Voodont: At the beginning, Sam gets ready to cut off Ellie's arm using a Voodoo Doll that she made. By the end of the short, the doll rips its own arm off, and Ellie is heard screaming in the background.
- In C0DA, Jubal-lun-Sul voluntarily has Khajiit surgeons remove his hands. It is implied to be part of his realizing that he is in a work of fiction, and, having achieved CHIM, he uses "ghost hands" to give himself a Story-Breaker Power. It's just that sort of work.
- In Help Not Wanted, Ogrell Syn'Gorrsh gets his arm bitten off by a wyvern in the penultimate chapter.
- Oleander, who technically lost her leg to an accident in that the accident caused her to suffer an injury, warranting an amputation.
- Atlasnaya is mentioned to have lost an arm and leg each to an accident after she was sold to the Bratfa.
- In Chapter 5 of Reasoning, Leon Grimewall gets one of his arms bitten off by the Venator's Belly Mouth.
- Toki lost her right leg in a landmine accident.
- Belkinus Necrohunt:
- One of Enoch's arms has been replaced by a metallic one. When he details his full past to the others, it's revealed to be the result of an overly-harsh punishment for dishonesty as a child, leading to his current hard stance against liars.
- It would later happen to two different people during a boss fight in Session 12: A massive Warforge got its arm ripped off by Alter, and Alter himself gets both of his wings and one of his arms chopped off by Luna.
- Dora the Explorer and the Destiny Medallion: Benny gets his arm cut off after putting the wrong part into a childishly easy puzzle. While he manages to survive this, later his other arm is also cut off, then he's left to die as the tomb collapses.
- Half-Life but the AI is Self-Aware: Gordon Freeman gets a part of his right arm cut off in Act 3.
- Hero House has Vegeta blowing off his own hand in Season 2.
- To The Death is a project by Corridor Digital to present realistic and entertaining lightsaber fights. Naturally it includes a couple of instances of someone losing a hand.
- There's a psychological condition (curiously found nearly entirely in men) where the sufferer feels that the only way for them to be comfortable with their own body is to have a limb removed. Standard hospital practice is to transfer anyone who requests a healthy limb be removed into psychotherapy. Unfortunately, some such people have died of complications after having a Back-Alley Doctor take their limbs off. Research into ways to help people cope with amputation trauma has raised the possibility that some cases of body integrity disorder may be caused by a lack of mirror neurons in the brain. In those cases, psychological assistance won't do any good.
- Aron Ralston is a well-known real life type 1 example; his arm became trapped under a boulder while hiking, and he wound up cutting it off when it became clear that his choice was between self-amputation and death by dehydration. The film 127 Hours was made about his trial.
- Surfer Bethany Hamilton lost one of her arms in a shark attack. She too had a movie made about her life, Soul Surfer.
- Ancient Celtiberians and Lusitanians cut off hands of war prisoners as an offer to their various gods of war. Sources are ambiguous on whether the prisoners were expected to live after this, though.
- The Islamic Hudud punishment for theft and highway robbery (without homicide) is to amputate the person's hands.
- A good percentage of sportsmen and women who partake in the Paralympic Games, as it's one of the physical impairments that allow them to partake in the games. Of particular note is Oscar Pistorius, who was also the first double leg amputee to take part in the Olympic Games. His amputations later became a key point when he was accused of murder — it was asked whether he'd been wearing his prosthetic legs or not.
- Spanish navy officer Blas de Lezo, one of the most famous and successful in their history (in particular for his participation in the War of Jenkins' Ear), lost a leg in the Battle of Málaga in 1704, where it had to be amputated in real time without anesthesia. He then went to lose an arm during the Siege of Barcelona, although contrary to popular belief, he only lost usage of the limb this time, not the entire body part.
- In the Battle of Trafalgar, Spanish commander and Badass Bookworm Cosme Damian Churruca got both of his legs ripped off via a very well-placed English cannon shot. He still did what he could to give instructions until he bled to death.
- Speaking of the Battle of Trafalgar, Horatio Nelson had only one arm, the other having been amputated some years earlier.
- During the Battle of Waterloo, Lord Uxbridge lost his leg due to French cannon fire. Being a typical Englishman, he supposedly quipped "Good God sir, I've lost my leg!" While the ruined remains of his leg were being amputated in a nearby field hospital, he remained composed enough to smile during the operation and made only one statement: "The knife appears somewhat blunt." Different breed of men back then.
- Mapuche chieftain Galvarino was subjected to this by the Spaniards. He later had blades attached to his stumps and returned to fight with his people.
- In 1194, Duke Leopold V of Austria had his foot crushed when his horse fell on him at a tournament in Graz. While advised by his surgeons to have the foot amputated, none declared competence to do so; he ordered his servants to chop it off with an ax, after three swings succeeding. Nonetheless, he succumbed to gangrene and died.
- Retired Staff Sergeant Travis Mills, who lost parts of all four limbs in Afghanistan.
- The Belgian Congo's Force Publique were responsible for a disturbingly high number of cut hands, given that mutilation was the punishment for enslaved natives that didn't fit their work quotas, and the soldiers had to bring back the hands of the people they shot as proof that the bullets were not spent hunting. And at times, the troops would exploit a Loophole Abuse, cutting the limbs off random people. Usually women or the elderly, in a disturbing example of Pragmatic Villainy: They wouldn't have been harvesting rubber in the first place, and obviously, a slave without hands can't harvest the rubber. Fingore was also a "standard" punishment for slaves of all kinds. Double if they were former prisoners of war.
- The combination of powerful bullets and primitive medical technology made the loss of limbs very common as a result of wounds in The American Civil War. Probably the most notable example was Confederate General John Bell Hood, who lost the use of his left arm at Gettysburg and later lost his right leg at Chickamauga. Amazingly, this did not derail his military career, as he went on to become commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee.
- Former IndyCar and Formula One driver Alex Zanardi lost both his legs in a crash in the 2001 American Memorial at the Euro-Speedway Lausitz in Klettwitz, Germany (held 4 days after 9/11), when he lost control of his car coming off pit road and was t-boned by Alex Tagliani at over 200 miles per hour. Prompt medical attention and high quality care ensured that, in the long term, that was all he lost. Of course, this did not stop him from competing in motorsports, as he would later join the Touring Car scene, winning his home Touring Championship: the Campionato Italiano Superturismo. He would also win 4 gold metals, and 2 silver metals during the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games.
- US soldier and senator Daniel Inouye, who lost his right arm in a grenade explosion during World War II.
- Many types of wasp hunt spiders, paralyze them with their sting, then lay an egg where the larva will hatch and devour it. Auplopus wasps tend to bite off all the spider's limbs after catching them, both to make them easier to carry and to make sure that even if the paralysis wears off, the spider will not be able to escape.