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Death Wail

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"Every firstborn son will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be a loud wailing throughout Egypt — worse than has ever been or ever will be again."
Moses, Exodus 11:5-6

The "Death Wail". For when words just don't cut it. It's that inarticulate scream of rage and grief when a beloved ally has just become an ex-beloved-ally. It is a sister trope of the Big "NO!", and if done poorly has an extremely good chance of becoming Narm. For the animal variant, see Howl of Sorrow.

See Also:

Being a death trope, this one's naturally spoiler-heavy, so proceed with caution.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch vi Britannia tries his best to save his friend (and one of his love interests), Shirley Fenette, after she has been fatally shot. But his attempts at using his Geass to will her into surviving fail, and she dies declaring her love for him. When the finality of Shirley's death finally sinks in for him, he lets out one of the most anguished screams in anime history as he falls into the Despair Event Horizon.
    • Mrs. Fenette is beside herself with grief as well the next episode, during her daughter's funeral. Noticeably, while everyone else is rather silent, she is bawling her eyes out. A year ago, she lost her husband, and now her daughter is also dead.
    • In the final episode, Nunnally, Lelouch's sister, succumbs to grief when Lelouch orchestrates his own assassination after becoming Emperor and posing as a tyrant. After tearfully telling her brother's corpse that the only thing she ever wanted was to be with him, she buries her head in her dead brother's chest and wails profusely. Her screams of grief are drowned out by a celebrating crowd as they cheer Lelouch's murderer: Suzaku, who is dressed as Lelouch's alter-ego, Zero.
  • In Future War 198X when the U.S. President realizes that all of his negotiation efforts with the Soviets were for naught The American Secretary of Defense murders the Soviet Chief Secretary meaning the nukes will go flying.
  • In Dragon Ball: The Path to Power, Goku does this after Eighter is destroyed.
  • In GaoGaiGar, Guy does this after his father Leo is killed.
  • In Death Note, Light fakes one when L dies. Good actor, that one.
  • Tokyo Ghoul:
    • Kaneki does this after seeing a hallucination of Yamori killing Hide.
    • Done again by Juuzuo after Shinohara is severely wounded by the One-Eyed Owl.
  • In Winter Cicada, Kusaka does this when Akizuki commits suicide.
  • In Guilty Crown, Shu does this after Hare dies.
  • In Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran, Meow does this when her childhood friend turned drug dealer Mei dies.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Kamina discovers that the skeleton that he and his partners are burying belonged to his father, who had left him behind in the hopes that one day Kamina would be strong enough to follow him to the surface. Kamina breaks down in tears and bellows: "DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDD!!!"
    • Later on, Simon does an even bigger one, both figuratively and literally, when Thymilph kills Kamina in front of him. Simon starts screaming in grief, the entire valley and the nearby mountains erupt in flame and lava, and every Beastman except for Viral, Thymilph, and the latter's Thunder Guard are killed in his rampage. Kamina has to literally will himself back to life to keep Simon from destroying himself, Dai-Gunzan/Dai-Gurren, and everything else around him. When Kamina dies for good at the end of the episode, it's implied Simon screamed again after seeing his corpse.
  • In s-CRY-ed, Ryuho does this twice, once at the beginning after his family is killed and again when Scheris dies. Hikaru Midorikawa is excellent with such scenes.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura lets out an absolutely heartbreaking strangled wail when she is forced to kill Madoka in one of the previous timelines.
  • In Bleach: Hell Chapter, Ichigo lets out a particularly heartwrenching one after he fails to save Yuzu and his friends from Hell.
  • Kiritsugu of Fate/Zero has one after he forces himself to kill his old mentor and mother figure, Natalia.
  • Gundam:
  • In Psycho-Pass, Akane gives a heartwrenching one as she watched her best friend, Yuki, died in the hands of Shogo Makishima.
  • In One Piece, Luffy gives a heartbreaking one after his adopted brother Ace dies, then suffers a Heroic BSoD. To emphasize the impact, the manga has no speech bubble or dialog to go with it, while the anime extends and intensifies it as he breaks down.
  • In Assassination Classroom, the Class 3-E students finally manage to kill their target and teacher Koro-sensei, fulfilling the goal they had been given. However, by that point, they had grown extremely fond of him, as not only did he help them grow physically, mentally, and emotionally, but he also gave them the love, support, and warmth that the rest of the school and many of their families never gave them. As a result, the entire class breaks down crying, especially Nagisa who did the actual deed.
  • In PandoraHearts, Sharon lets out one of these when Break dies in her and Reim's arms. It's particularly heartbreaking due to the fact that she is usually calm, composed, and ladylike.
    • And Leo does this repeatedly at random intervals while sobbing after Elliot dies.
  • In Akame ga Kill!, the titular assassin, Akame, having kept up a stoic demeanor for so long, even after having lost so many of her friends and comrades during the revolution, is forced to kill her beloved little sister Kurome. It is then that the weight of her countless losses finally catches up, and Akame soon lets all of her pain out in one big, grief-filled wail as she breaks down completely, sobbing in Tatsumi's arms.
  • This happens twice in DEVILMAN crybaby. The first time is when Akira yells an anguished Pre-Mortem One-Liner at the lynch mob after seeing what they did to Miki, and the second time is when Ryo screams Akira's name in sorrow after belatedly realizing that he killed his own friend.
  • Hayate does this in episode 9 of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's after witnessing the death of Vita (after having already found out about the death of the rest of the Wolkenritter), signifying the start of her Traumatic Superpower Awakening.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure's anime adaptation, after Ceaser's death Joseph lets out an anguished cry after seeing his grave.
  • Pikachu does this in three Pokémon movies in response to Ash temporarily dying — Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, Pokémon: I Choose You!, and Mewtwo Strikes Back—Evolution.
  • Happens a few times in Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) to chilling effect, most famously Edward howling in pain and sorrow after the death of Nina and Greed.
  • In Space Runaway Ideon, after witnessing the death of Commander Camyula and defeating the Buff clan forces that ambushed the base, Cosmo yells in anguish and swears to destroy the Buff Clan. Even the mecha Ideon itself lets a heartwrenching but terrifying roar, giving an indication that it can feel Cosmo's pain.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Encanto, a flashback shows a young Abuela Alma doing this as she witnesses her husband being killed by marauders. Even though we don't hear her scream because of the song "Dos Oruguitas" playing in the background, her expression conveys all the suffering and despair she felt in that very moment.
  • In The Book of Life, all Manolo can do when Maria appears to die of a snake bite is throw his head back and howl in anguish.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Amazing Spider-Man: Peter lets one out when Captain George Stacy dies from his injuries after fighting the Lizard.
  • Coach Carter: Upon witnessing his cousin, Renny, was gunned down after a drug deal that goes wrong, Cruz screams in agony while holding the injured Renny.
  • Michael Corleone's scream in The Godfather Part III when Mary is shot was supposedly so primal and intense that the audio had to be cut from the movie, only keeping the tail end of it.
  • Godzilla (2014): Joe Brody impressively lets out such a sound in the film's prologue, not after but directly before pulling a Shoot the Dog once he's learned his wife has received a fatal radiation dose and he has to lock her in to prevent the entire city being exposed to the same lethal dose.
  • Harry Potter
    • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Harry's reaction to Sirius' death was so agonizing that the audio of it was cut from the film.
    • However, they kept the scene of Mr. Diggory's reaction to his son Cedric's death in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a series of painful wails that dissipates into heaving sobs as the crowd around him just watches in silent despair. Also, Fleur is the first in the crowd to notice that Cedric is dead, and accordingly shrieks in horror.
  • In the film version of The Hunger Games, Katniss does this after Rue is killed, which comes out as a series of shrill, panicked shrieks interspersed with hysterical sobbing. Notably, she doesn't slip into this until after she decorates Rue's body.
  • The Lord of the Rings
    • In The Two Towers, Aragorn lets out one when he finds Merry and Pippin's elven belts on the Orc funeral pyre. They're not actually dead though, as he later deduces from his Ranger tracking skills. In Real Life, it was because Viggo Mortensen had just broken his toe on the orc helmet.
    • Also, Treebeard's reaction to the destruction of the woods around Isengard.
    • In the Extended Edition of The Return of the King, there is a Tear Jerker of a scene where Éomer lets out a howl of grief upon seeing Éowyn apparently dead on the Pelennor fields.
  • In A Mighty Heart (an adaptation of the memoirs of Mariane Pearl), there is an incredibly hard-to-watch scene of Mariane (portrayed by Angelina Jolie) howling in grief after she learns of her husband's death.
  • The Mist: In the ending, David is reduced to howling and screaming after shooting his son and the three other survivors with the gun's last bullets once they give up hope. Hard as it is to imagine, he ends up letting out an even more sorrowful scream minutes later, when the military arrive, clearing away the mist, and he realizes they would've been rescued if they'd just waited a few minutes longer.
  • Averted by editing in Rambo: First Blood Part II. After Co is shot and dies in Rambo's arms, Rambo originally lets out a wail. When a test screening was met with laughter, the crew quickly decided to cut the scene.
  • Seven Samurai features one from Katsushiro after the Pyrrhic Victory over the villains.
  • Famously in Superman: The Movie. Happens again in Man of Steel when Superman is forced to kill General Zod.
  • In Thor: The Dark World, Thor lets out one after he arrives only seconds too late to see his mother slain in front of him. There also was a scene where Loki lets out one after being informed of his mother's death. It was cut for some reason.
  • Van Helsing features one from Helsing himself. He accidentally kills Anna when she rushes to him with a syringe of werewolf cure in hand while Helsing was still in werewolf mode, causing him to make a Death Howl that transitions to a Death Wail as he goes back to human form.
  • William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Juliet forgoes her final speech for one of these.

  • In Irish and Scottish folklore, the banshee (or bean-sidhe) is a fairy-woman and often guardian spirit of the old Gaelic families who can foretell death in "her" family; she wails and cries through the night to warn the family that one of them will soon die; if the family hears her crying three nights in a row, they know that they should begin planning a funeral. As she can foretell death in the family that she protects, the banshee is also grieving for the family as well as warning them of impending death.
  • Much of Latin America believes in the legend of La Llorona, the spirit of a woman who died after she drowned her children and cannot enter Heaven until she has found them; she is heard crying "¡Ay, mis hijos!" ("Oh, my children!") as she searches for them. Those who hear her crying supposedly are doomed to die soon.
  • In Classical Mythology, the Gorgon Euryale was said to have cried out in anguish when her sister Medusa was slain by Perseus.


    Live-Action TV 
  • All My Children's Edmund Grey lets out one of these upon being told that his wife Maria is dead (and at the time, the actors were Happily Married in Real Life. It's highly likely he was imagining how he would feel if this really happened).
  • Beverly Hills, 90210: Dylan screams in agony upon watching his long lost father "died" in a car bombingnote . And later he screams in agony again when found out his new wife, Toni, got shot dead by mistake by a hitman (on her own father's order) when said attempted murder was meant for him.
  • Ari's cry for help after finding his deceased mother in El corazón nunca se equivoca is absolutely heartbreaking.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Nyssa screams Adric's name in the final moments of "Earthshock" when it becomes clear that there is no hope of saving him from the doomed freighter.
    • The Tenth Doctor does one after the Master dies in his arms at the end of "The Last of The Time Lords".
    • And the Eleventh Doctor after watching Amy get sent back in time by a Weeping Angel.
  • Inverted in the Dune Film of the Book (2000 version), where Rabban does this when he realizes that he is about to become the metaphorical ex-beloved ally.
    • The sequel plays it straight, as Leto II screams over the corpse of his father, Paul Muad'Dib. It turns into a frightening Moment of Awesome when his scream suddenly morphs into a sandworm's roar.
  • Game of Thrones: Catelyn Stark gives a heartbreaking one after watching Robb get killed in front of her.
    • In Season 4, Ellaria Sand screams in anguish when she watched Oberyn Martell being brutally killed by Sir Gregor Clegane during Tyrion Lannister's trial by combat.
  • Young Bruce Wayne gives a chilling wail after the death of both of his parents by a gunman in an alleyway.
  • Heartwrenching one when Nikki finds ET on Sea Patrol.
  • Seen above in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the standard practice when a Klingon dies in Star Trek is for his/her comrades to hold their eyes open while screaming loudly to the sky to warn those in Sto-Vo-Kor that a great warrior is on his/her way to join them.
    • Worf does one for his mate, K'Ehleyr, in "Reunion", despite her non-warrior status when he and Alexander find her dying. He howls in rage, then he tells his young son to look upon death and always remember, before going off to take bloody vengeance on her murderer.
    • He also does this in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for his wife, Jadzia Dax. In this case, though, his wail is less a cultural practice and more of a genuine cry of despair.
  • Teen Wolf: In 3x23 Insatiable: Lydia's absolutely heartbreaking scream of Allison's name as Allison is killed by an Oni, Even more accurate with this trope, due to Lydia being a banshee and the realization that she left the message she did because she knew Allison - or at least someone- was going to die but was trying to prevent it.
  • Twin Peaks: Sarah Palmer, upon learning of her daughter Laura's death.
  • Claudia does a heartbreaking one in Warehouse 13 when she finds Steve's body.
  • Westworld: In Season 2, Teddy commits suicide by shooting himself on the head which is his final conscious decision after he finds out that Dolores forcibly reprogrammed him. Dolores drops to her knees beside his body and screams in anguish, realizing what she had done.
  • Quantum Leap (2022): Upon seeing Ben apparently die in an explosion, his holographic observer and fiancee Addison stumbles out of the Imaging Chamber and into Ian's arms, and she lets out a haunting wail as she collapses.

  • Andrej Bukas (Андрей Букас) gives a particularly heartbreaking example in Seryoga (Серега).
    По окнам лупят снайпера.
    It was a sniper in the window.
    Ну перестаньте ради Бога!
    Oh for the love of God, stop!
    Там под огнем лежит Серега.
    His fire hits Seryoga.
    Да будь ты проклята, война!
    Stop, you damned war!
  • The Gaels of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man have a currently defunct keening tradition, the practice of ritualized singing and wailing for the dead. "Keening" is derived from the Gaelic verb caoin, meaning "to weep, to mourn/lament" and the verb caoineadh ("weeping") also refers to a musical style, a lament for the dead. A keening-woman would be hired by the family of the deceased to lead the community through their grief, with the keening occurring at the graveyard and the keening-woman (or bean-chaointe in Gaelic) would sing and wail a semi-improvised lament with the rest of the mourners joining at least during the chorus, the whole performance often punctuated with sobs. It was a way of helping the family and the community through their grief as well as a means of ensuring that the soul of the departed with reach Heaven, The Otherworld, or wherever spirits seek to go. the wealthier the family of the deceased, the more keening-women that they would hire. The caoineadh usually consisted of stock elements (the illustrious ancestry of the deceased, their good qualities, and the heavy hearts of their surviving family and friends) and was often half-improvised, complete with beating your hands and tearing at your hair.
    • The keening-woman is the human counterpart of the banshee (or bean-sidhe, if you speak Gaelic). Bean-sidhe (plural, mná-sidhe) means "woman of the fairy folk", a guardian spirit of the ancient Gaelic families. She visits "her" family's home in the evening and wails and sobs through the night to warn the family that one of them will soon die. if the family hears her crying three nights in a row, they know that they should begin planning a funeral. They wail of the banshee might be dreaded, but the banshee herself is only a messenger and she means no harm. If many mná-sidhe could be heard wailing in chorus, it was a warning that somebody of great political or religious importance would soon die.

  • Romeo et Juliette: De La Haine a l'Amour : Romeo goes for one of these after Mercutio's death, and again as he confesses to killing Tybalt to avenge Mercutio.
  • Hamilton: In the live performance, Eliza will let out a loud, heartbreaking shriek after Phillip dies from his gunshot wound.

    Video Games 
  • In Crisis Core, Cloud gives such a scream when Zack dies.
  • In a deleted scene from Meet the Medic the BLU Soldier does this for the BLU Sniper before they all get hit by a train.
  • In Warcraft III, Grom Hellscream is mortally wounded after slaying Mannoroth. As he lies dying, Grom notices that the demonic rage that had been a part of him ever since he and the other orc chieftains drank Mannoroth's blood is finally gone. He smiles at Thrall, satisfied that he was able to free himself before death. Thrall declares that Grom had freed all of the orcs from their demonic curse, and lets out a mighty roar of grief that echoes through the canyon.
  • In Far Cry: New Dawn, Joseph Seed has just watched his illegitimate son Ethan die right in front of him. His response is to let out a Skyward Scream and carry Ethan's body away to mourn.
  • In Jin Kazama's Tekken Tag Tournament 2 ending, after defeating his mother, Unknown/Jun, she fades away to nothingness in his arms. After a few moments of silence, Jin angrily transforms into Devil Jin and flies off screaming in rage.
  • Zero does this in Mega Man X4 when Iris dies.
    What am I...
  • In Honkai Impact 3rd Kiana lets out a shriek when Himeko sacrifices herself to free her from being possessed by her Herrscher's powers.
  • In Dynasty Warriors 7, Liu Bei is quietly mourning Guan Yu's death and is planning to attack Wu until a messenger came and told him that Zhang Fei was betrayed and murdered by his own men. Liu Bei's reaction to the death of his other sworn brother is so heartbreaking that he split his throne in half with a sword, dropped to his knees, and screamed in anguish.
  • Persona 4: Kanji punches the wall and lets out an anguished scream upon Nanako's death.
    • Also happens in its predecessor, where Akihiko lets out a pained yell while visiting Shinjiro's funeral.
  • In Todo Takatora's story mode in Samurai Warriors 4-II, he went inside the burning castle to find his former master, Oichi. But when he reached her, she already committed suicide and her husband Shibata Katsuie gave him her last message which is to live on before killing himself. Then, Takatora cried in anguish as he watched the flames engulfed their bodies.
  • Ghost of Tsushima: Jin has two particular moments of these.
    • The first is when Khotun Khan kills Taka in front of his eyes while stating that he considers Jin for the death. It seemingly takes him a moment to process the events before he lets out a howl of anguish.
    • The second is when he kills Lord Shimura, his uncle, in the second ending of the game.
  • Lost Judgment: Yagami drops to the floor and screams in anguish upon discovering Yoko Sawa's corpse in her apartment, having been murdered by Soma.

    Visual Novels 
  • Steins;Gate: Okabe pulls this off several times.
    • In the Alpha line, he does it occasionally whenever Mayuri dies.
    • In the Beta line, he produces a particularly soul-crushing one when he accidentally kills Kurisu while attempting to protect her from her father. In fact, it's actually integral that he screams so loudly in that instance, as it's what draws his past self up to the room to see her dead body. In the final run when he succeeds in saving her, the scream comes from the extreme pain he experiences forcing open the stab wound in his gut in order to make her appear bathed in blood.

    Western Animation 
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: In "Reunion", Pidge lets out a wail when she believes her brother Matt to be dead when she sees a marker for him at a mass grave.

    Real Life 
  • The Irish and Scottish tradition of keening (singing a lament combined with wailing) over the body during the funeral procession and at the burial site is strikingly similar to the death wail of the Banshee
    • "Keen" comes from the Gaelic verb "caoin", meaning "to cry/weep, to mourn" and its active article "caoineadh" ("weeping", "crying", "wailing") can also be translated as "elegy/lament". The caoineadh itself was often composed and performed in an improvised way, with at least one keening woman (bean chaointe) hired to lead the rest of the mourners, who generally joined with the chorus. The caoineadh generally consisted of stock poetic elements (the genealogy of the deceased, praise for the deceased, emphasis on the sorrow of those left behind, etc.) set to vocal lament. The tradition of keening-women is described here, plus a few surviving recordings.
  • In Ancient Egypt, particularly for important people like pharaohs, professional mourners (usually women) were actually paid to do this during the funeral.
  • In Mayan tradition, when a person dies, their relatives need to do this for the sake of the departed, because it will prevent the Death God Ah Puch from marking the departed soul to be dragged into his Hell to be tortured for eternity.


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The Wolf's Backstory

The Wolf was the sole survivor of a mass poisoning that killed everyone at his wedding, including his bride.

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