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"Selective muteness is something a person may not have control over in the beginning. In the case of Her Majesty, I assume the shock of the battle rendered her unable to process her emotions, leading to her silence unless it dealt with the country as a whole."

Describe Dumb Struck Here





A Heroic BSoD intense enough to crash your language software. Which is to say, a character experiencing trauma or severe emotional stress loses the ability to speak.

How long this lasts varies. Sometimes the moment passes quickly, but other times the character remains silent until their emotional wounds are healed. Character with great suffering in their backstories, e.g. a Broken Bird, may be introduced as speechless and then begin to speak again to show that they are recovering. Epiphany Therapy may be involved.

Contrast with Elective Mute, which is when a character is intentionally quiet. See also Sarcasm Failure and Angrish. Also see Silence of Sadness for when someone can speak while they're sad, but they just choose to speak less. Also, with Silence of Sadness, the reason might not be outright traumatic, but it can be. Also compare Lost Voice Plot for when someone can't speak for a medical or supernatural reason.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the last two episodes of the first season of AKB0048, Nagisa suffers this from the 2nd half of Episode 12 to near the end of the first half of Episode 13.
  • Phoebe and Rita Rossi from Ashita no Nadja.
  • Casca from Berserk suffers the loss of her speech as well as her memory as part of Going Mad from the Revelation after she is raped by Femto during the Eclipse. It takes no fewer than two years, four whole arcs, and twenty real-world years for her to regain her sanity.
  • Young Clare in the Claymore Flashback Arc.
  • Jeremy in A Cruel God Reigns after Greg rapes him and whips him with a belt for the first time. He goes mute for about a day before Ian snaps him out of it by grabbing his arm.
  • In D.Gray-Man, the protagonist, Allen Walker, suffers this after the trauma of bringing back to life and killing his foster father. But when he starts to talk again, the person who took him in charge is shocked to discover Allen now talks exactly like his dead foster father.
  • Death Note: One of the effects of Mello's kidnapping of Light's sister Sayu is leaving her unable to talk. And walk. And do pretty much anything, really. By the end, she's starting to get better.
  • In the very first episode of Fist of the North Star, Lin was like this due to seeing her parents get murdered right in front of her by bandits (most likely Zeed's men). Kenshiro cures her of this using one of the healing techniques of the Hokuto Shinken.
  • Kisa from Fruits Basket goes mute from being bullied at school and ignored by her only friend (and love interest).
  • Halfway through Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Edward reunites with Rose after not having seen her in over 20 episodes. For whatever reason, she can't speak and needs an interpreter. When telling Ed why he can't let the military off easy, Scar tells Ed that Rose was taken by a group of soldiers during the conflict at Liore. What happened was so traumatic that Rose came back unable to speak. Rose eventually recovers from her mutism.
  • In Full Metal Panic!, Sousuke was shown to have temporarily become mute when he was 3-4 years old, during his backstory. This being after he watched his mother (who died protecting him, telling him that he must survive no matter what, and "fight") fall to her death. He does end up being able to talk after he sees Kalinin (who had been constantly visiting him, trying to cheer him up and coax him to talk) slip and fall. Sousuke finally asks him if he's okay, and Kalinin is overjoyed.
  • In Jewelpet Twinkle☆, Dian is mute from the start of the show. It's eventually revealed that he became that way because he saw the Jewelpet Diana being created by a human, was shocked by it and fell unconscious. When he woke up, he was mute and also had forgotten what happened. He recovers midway through the show because he sees Diana again.
  • As part of the epic poker game in Jojos Bizarre Adventure, D'arby tries to call on a hand that he knows he'll win... but nothing comes out. (Jotaro has, through epic bluffing, convinced D'arby that he may well lose... and if he does, he's obliged to reveal the secret of Dio's Stand, for which Dio will certainly kill him.)
  • Chapter 10 of Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force reveals that Lily Strosek used to be able to speak, but the emotional damage from her life as a lab experiment eventually made her unable to project her voice.
  • Misato from Neon Genesis Evangelion, after surviving the Second Impact and seeing her dad getting killed by an Angel as a young teenager, spent at least a couple of years like this. When they're in college years later Ritsuko notices that Misato is quite the Motor Mouth and speculates that she talks so much to make up for lost time.
  • Played for humor in One Piece; when the Strawhat Crew's bounties are updated after Enies Lobby, Sanji is so upset with the picture on his (they couldn't get a photo, so it ends up as a Gonk version of him) that he stops speaking intelligibly for a while.
  • The main character Shion from Shion no Ou was rendered mute after witnessing the murder of her parents prior to the series. She communicates by writing her thoughts on a notepad to show others.
  • Koji Nanjou in Zetsuai 1989 goes mute after he's in a nearly fatal motorcycle accident. He's in a coma for a while and does come out of it, but when he wakes up he can't talk. This is a problem because he's a singer by profession.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Powerpuff Girls story "Sounding Off" (Cartoon Network Block Party #37), Blossom gives Bubbles and Buttercup the silent treatment as a means to make them solve their own problems. But during a battle with a monster, Blossom is suddenly rendered mute when the monster grabs her.
  • Elmira Cassidy from Who Is Donna Troy?. Her first word after many years were "Donna!" when she recognized her former ward.

    Fan Works 
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Denial: Souda Kazuichi goes into a severe downward spiral thanks to the shock of the first murder and trial. While able to mumble out a few things when pressed, speaking proves very difficult for him; his primary means of communication becomes a mechanical doll which he uses as a soundboard.
  • A Diplomatic Visit:
    • In chapter 1 of the sequel Diplomat at Large, Thorax is left speechless when Pharynx points out that his new antlers make him look like a moose. Pharynx is left wishing for a camera to immortalize that expression.
    • Chapter 5 of the second sequel, Diplomacy Through Schooling, set nearly a year after Pharynx left Thorax speechless with a comment, has Thorax do almost the same to Pharynx when he reveals he's finally found a life partner.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: "..." had been used several times within the story to signify an inability to speak.
  • In Her Max, Max is a toddler who stops talking after his parents die.
  • Vegeta's shock at the end of New Look Series: Trunks' New Look messes up his gift of speech badly. He quickly snaps out of it, though.
  • In the Ghostbusters (1984) fanfic Silent Spengler, Egon occasionally suffers bouts of selective mutism, sometimes for no apparent reason.
  • Bill Cipher undergoes this in Chapter Seventeen of A Triangle in the Stars after Steven asks him an Armor-Piercing Question, mostly because he wasn't expecting Steven to stick around long enough to ask. It's temporary, but he describes it as a computer going BSOD.
  • In What Your Muse Brings You, a fanfic of Star Trek: Enterprise, Hoshi (ironic, since she's an Omniglot) is rendered unable to speak after a traumatic injury. She also mentions being unable to make herself speak as a child once in the past after an accident.

    Films — Animated 
  • Billy in Annabelle's Wish seems to be suffering from this due to his parents dying in a fire when he was younger. He speaks at the movie's end when Annabelle asks Santa to give Billy her Christmas voice.
  • A Cat in Paris: Implied for Zoe, whose father was murdered, and who never talks until she cries, "MAMA!" at her mother being kidnapped. Even then, she had a great deal of trouble forcing herself to speak.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the film Amy, a young girl feigns deafness and doesn't speak after her father is killed.
  • The character known as Grace in Dead Again starts the movie only able to talk in her sleep, but not at all while awake. It turns out she's having an issue with Past-Life Memories, and once she starts working through them she regains her speaking ability.
  • A Good Woman Is Hard To Find: Sarah's son Ben hasn’t spoken since witnessing his father's murder. A therapist says that he can speak but that his brain, as a defense mechanism, pushed the memory of that violence into a dark corner, and unfortunately his speech went with it.
  • Halloween (1978). Dr. Loomis said that after stabbing his sister to death and being institutionalized, Michael Myers "hasn't spoken a word in 15 years."
  • Tiffany in Hellbound: Hellraiser II falls under the "psychological trauma" type thanks to witnessing her mother's murder and then being imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital by the killer, who pushed her growing obsession with puzzles into a full-blown compulsion. She does eventually get better.
  • In Jumanji, since Peter and Judy's parents died, the former stopped speaking except when he screamed when the bats chased him down the stairs, but he talks around his sister.
  • Cam from Moving Violation stops talking and becomes almost catatonic after she, Warren, and Eddie are all shot, Warren dies, and she mistakenly thinks Eddie has also died. She starts talking again when she is reunited with Eddie.
  • Nightworld: Lost Souls: Elson Garret went missing eight years ago when two local children were murdered. He showed up a few days later and has been withdrawn and mute since. This leads Victor to think he was the killer. He was traumatized by witnessing the murders. He didn't commit them.
  • In The Others (2001), Lydia is mute. Grace finds out this was caused by Lydia finding out that she and the other servants had died.
  • Karel from The Search is a little boy who was a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps. He was so traumatized that after the war all he can say is "Ich weiss nicht" ("I don't know"), which makes things hard for the UN workers trying to figure out where he comes from and where he belongs.
  • Scrooged. The Tiny Tim stand-in is a little boy who hadn't spoken since he saw his father killed five years earlier. In the Ghost of Christmas Future's flashforward, he's ultimately institutionalized for it. After the Scrooge stand-in's change of heart, the boy ultimately whispers "God bless us, everyone" at the close.
  • In The Shadow of Chikara, Dancer has been unable to speak (and generally 'not right in the head') ever since he was attacked and scarred by a huge eagle.
  • Helen, the unspeaking young woman in The Spiral Staircase, is considered mute but has not spoken since childhood due to early trauma. Her silence is an essential part of the film.
  • In Thor: Ragnarok, after Odin greets Loki as his son despite all their quarrels, Loki does not dare to say a word until his father's death.
  • In Uncle Dad, Debs has not spoken since her mother died.
  • In Yeti Giant Of The20th Century, Herbie hasn't spoken since surviving the plane accident that killed his and his sister Jane's parents.

  • In The Amy Virus, Cyan, who is autistic, loses the ability to speak for several weeks after she falls ill from stress.
  • The Brotherhood of the Conch: In The Conch Bearer, Anand's sister Meera has been mute ever since she witnessed one man deliberately run another over with his car. She doesn't speak again until Abhaydatta deletes her memory of the murder.
  • In the Known Space story The Defenseless Dead, a brother and sister were kidnapped by organleggers. When they were released, the sister couldn't speak because of psychological trauma inflicted by the kidnappers.
  • Dolphin Boy: Kaleb, who works at the aquarium where the dolphin Baby Blue is living, wants to record her voice and play it out into the ocean in the hopes that her mother might hear. But Baby Blue is too sad to talk at first, before her friendship with Dibs helps her feel happy again.
  • In Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, Spartan-III Lucy-B091 was one of two survivors of a 300-soldier mission at age 12. She hasn't spoken a single word in the 7+ years since - "Post-Traumatic Vocal Disarticulation," they called it.
  • In Hannibal Rising, a young Hannibal Lecter is rendered mute after witnessing his beloved little sister Mischa being murdered and cannibalized by starving Nazis during a brutal winter in World War II.
  • In the Mage Winds trilogy of Heralds of Valdemar, a magical tragedy devastates the Tayledras k'Sheyna clan, leading many of the mages involved to change their names. A particularly traumatized woman ceases speaking entirely (except mind-to-mind) and calls herself "Silence." When the damage is repaired, she changes her name to "Snowfire" and starts talking again.
  • Katniss has a short bout of this in Mockingjay after Prim, her sister, dies.
  • In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou goes mute for six years from the guilt she feels about her testimony against her rapist, which led to his murder by her relatives.
  • Lukas from May the Best Man Win sometimes loses the ability to speak when he's emotionally exhausted. When that happens, all he can do is smile politely and nod while he waits for the ability to return.
  • In Mindblind, Nathaniel's normalcy-obsessed dad forces him to go to a Wild Teen Party, where he drinks punch that turns out to be spiked with vodka. The vodka interacts badly with his medications, rendering him almost catatonic for days. Eventually, he recovers enough to communicate by typing on his computer, but it's another few days before he can talk well.
  • Erin from The Nowhere Girls goes nonverbal for two days after she escapes an Attempted Rape by Eric Jordan.
  • Rosilda in Swedish author Maria Gripe's ...och de vita skuggorna i skogen (translated to Spanish, but not English) after her mother commits suicide. Or is believed to have done so.
  • Sanctuary: In moments of stress, Morgan loses speech and types to communicate. After the final battle with the ghost eater, they can't talk for two days.
  • In The Secret Voice Of Gina Zhang, the eponymous protagonist develops a form of selective mutism, where she's able to speak normally in some environments (namely, when she feels safe) but is completely incapable of speech in others, a situation which is further complicated because she's also learning the English language for the first time. Somewhat unusually, she still struggles with this through end of the book, but is able to communicate in writing to start forming connections with her classmates even though she can't speak.
  • The Silence of Murder: When Jeremy was nine, he sang in the car and said that he got the song from God. His mom slapped him and screamed, "God don't sing!" Jeremy hasn't spoken since then. He could still communicate by writing, but since Coach Johnson's murder, he won't even do that.
  • This is the plot of the E. L. Konigsburg book Silent To The Bone. The character who's silenced is accused of dropping his little sister and nearly killing her. However, this seems out of character, and his best friend tries to work with him to make him speak again. In fact, it was a negligent nanny. However, I believe the boy had a crush on her, so he kept silent.
  • Marina in John Marsden's So Much To Tell You, who stopped talking after a disfiguring acid burn. She only speaks at the end when she gives the Title Drop to her father. This is continued in the P.O.V. Sequel Take My Word For It, although she gets more dialogue after the above has occurred.
  • The YA book Speak is about a teenage girl who after being raped has stopped talking almost completely, the main manifestation of her depression.
  • The Living Legend Fela Skydancer of Tailchaser's Song is said to have gone mute after her son Whitewind was killed by his brother.
  • When My Heart Joins the Thousand: Eleven-year-old Alvie was so traumatized by her mother's death that she was catatonic and unresponsive for four weeks. Even after she regained the ability to move voluntarily, she didn't speak for months. The staff at the mental hospital thought she'd regressed and lost all her language ability. She still understood everything, she was just traumatized. Eventually, she recovered enough to ask a nurse for a book on quantum physics, to the nurse's shock.
  • In The Witchlands, Owl doesn't speak, likely because of the trauma of whatever happened to her before Aeduen and Iseult met her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of Barney & Friends, Kathy is afraid of an upcoming doctor visit and has to be cheered up before she can talk.
  • The hybrids which control the Cylon ships in Battlestar Galactica appear to (at least to some extent) show this phenomenon. One of the original Cylon models (Leobin aka 2) theorizes that their seemingly nonsensical rambling is a highly complex and coded prophecy. Later, Baltar and Diana (and later still Baltar and Rosalin) interpret a random statement about 3 seeing 5 as Diana (model 3) seeing the final five. Eventually, this is proven true.
  • When Buffy is brought back from the dead at the beginning of Season 6, her uncanny silence (in a character famous for her Bond One Liners and Deadpan Snarker commentary) shows that she is Not Herself.
  • The Doctor Who story "Earthshock" ends with all three surviving members of the TARDIS crew rendered speechless by Adric's death. Even Tegan, the most vocal of them, can only get two words out:
    Adric? Doctor!
  • The girl in Firefly, in the village that kidnaps Simon and River; River reads her mind, leading to the village wanting to burn her as a witch and the trope-naming Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • In an episode of I Love Lucy, Fred (a notorious penny-pincher) is completely unable to speak after realizing he wasted hundreds of dollars on a lemon.
  • One episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has a victim who is physically unable to speak due to having her throat cut by her attacker. She doesn't yet know how to write, so she communicates with hand motions and pantomime. At the end of the episode, she musters a whisper to relay her friend's last words, who had just committed Suicide by Cop.
  • Legion: Gabrielle is so traumatized from her experience during World War II that she becomes catatonic and has to be institutionalized at a psychiatric hospital.
  • One of a couple of possible explanations for Ike's muteness in The Young Riders.
  • Felipe in the 1990 New World version of Zorro. In Isabel Allende's novel version, Bernardo's fate is similar, but his muteness is a choice rather than an affliction.


    Professional Wrestling 

  • In one stage adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, Flora has stopped speaking after whatever it was that happened with the previous governess (heavily implied in this version to be sexual abuse).

    Video Games 
  • At the beginning of AI: The Somnium Files, Mizuki Okiura becomes mute after discovering her mother's dead body. She gets better after either Agent Date explores her Somnium or she gets comfort from her Cool Teacher.
  • In Assassin's Creed II, Ezio's mother Maria goes mute after witnessing the deaths of her husband and two sons and being abused by the city guards who arrested them, and spends much of the next 20 years praying beside her bed. Should the player gather 100 feathers she begins to speak again, and by the time of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has recovered.
  • In Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates this happens to Chelinka after the twins survive a monster attack that kills their dad. She eventually recovers from it and can speak again.
  • Dagger is like this for a while near the end of Final Fantasy IX. Combined with Fake Difficulty here, as she is your only healer for about two or three somewhat tricky dungeons (your other healer has been kidnapped by the Big Bad) and Dagger being mute means that her magic fails to activate every other turn.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Lulu is so distraught over the theft of the eggs she laid that she is largely unable to speak or sing. Her being the lead singer of the Indigo-Gos required the band to cancel their scheduled performances. Summoning the Turtle with the New Wave Bossa Nova is enough to snap her out of it.
  • Onmyōji (2016): In the first side story, Kurodōji suffers from a case of this after a certain traumatic event, which greatly concerns his friend Shirodōji who tries to help him recover. Kurodōji eventually slowly regains his speech ability again, but only then, it is barely a whisper.
    Kurodōji: Shi… Shiro… dō… ji…
  • Max in Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon loses his voice when Darksol kills Kane, his brother. He remains this way until the very last scene of the game.
  • Pilika in Suikoden II is rendered mute for most of the game due to her parents and village being killed by Luca Blight and nearly suffering the same fate herself. She eventually recovers.
  • Tattered World: We learn in Robin's secret that she was hit with a nasty case of this as a child, when her parents died in a fire. Even after the smoke damage cleared up, she didn't speak, since in her words, it was easier to just hide from the world. This implies that her chatty nature now is to make up for lost time.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the third chapter of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Kiyotaka Ishimaru becomes so distraught by his best friend Mondo's execution that he goes mute. Interacting with him will only provoke Visible Silence and a gloomy, dissociated stare. He recovers from this when Alter Ego pretends to be Mondo to cheer him up, which makes his personality louder than ever.
  • A villainous example in Mystic Messenger. In the Secret Ending, after Saeran fatally shoots V in a fit of hysterics, Rika snaps out of her Dark Messiah mindset and realizes that he's really about to die, and breaks down screaming and crying. After he dies, she loses the ability to speak and is medically diagnosed with aphasia. She only manages to get two words out to anyone, and with great effort, before Zen and Yoosung ship her off to Alaska in secret.

  • The Order of the Stick: Seeing an enormous amount of treasure destroyed left Haley only able to talk in cryptograms, which changed every comic, for quite a long time.
  • Slightly Damned: Kieri stops speaking after being traumatized by the sack of St. Curtis. Eventually she learns to communicate in sign language with her boyfriend Buwaro.
  • At the beginning of SWAP Ensemble, Patrick Tempo drew comparisons between the contest and an object show, and the rest of the group laughed at him. He hasn't spoken a word since.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Bojack Horseman:
    • Towards the end of the first season, Bojack confronts Diane after The book she had written about him portrayed him as a selfish, immature jerk at a public Q&A for writers. He asks if there any hope that he can be better person. Diane is unable to respond to such a desperate, nakedly emotional appeal and just sits there silently.
    • Margo Martindale is revealed to have survived season 3's boat crash and now resides in a monastery. However, she's so traumatized that she's borderline catatonic and unresponsive, much to her nun teacher's frustration.
  • Paramount's 1963 Modern Madcap "Crumley Cogwheel" has the titular character a drone in an office pool who is called into the boss's office because in the twenty years he's worked for the company—Michigan Nuts And Bolts—he has never asked for a raise. His timidness leaves him tongue-tied and incapable of rational speech, so he is given a week to ask for a raise or be fired. Cogwheel apparently finds the courage through liquid courage...he gets drunk during a lunch break, interrupts a board meeting and forcibly demands a raise.
  • In The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode "Luck Amok", Tigger's attempts to rid Piglet of his "bad luck" end with him getting traumatized with a wide-eyed look on his face. He remains that way until the very end.

    Real Life 
  • Maya Angelou, as described in her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, spent five years of her childhood nearly mute, believing that if she spoke, her words would be responsible for someone getting killed. This came about due to a traumatic incident when she was eight, when she was sexually abused and raped by her mother's boyfriend and she confessed what had happened to her brother, who told the rest of her family. The boyfriend spent one day in jail, but was found beaten to death four days after his release, and Angelou came to feel as though she had caused his death by speaking out and became so afraid of the power of her own words that she didn't want to say anything. Angelou credits her teacher Bertha Flowers for helping her to speak again (as well as introducing her to the classics of literature that would later serve as the foundation for her later career as a writer, poet, actress, and civil rights activist).
  • Torey Hayden's biographical book Murphy's Boy (later adapted into the film Trapped in Silence) is based on a real-life case of this.
  • James Corbett encountered someone like this when he was assigned to hunt down a man-eating tiger by The Raj. She was a woman who tried unsuccessfully to save her sister from a tiger, and ended up witnessing her sister's death before being chased by the tiger herself. Her family told Corbett she had not spoken since the attack, which took place a year before Corbett met her. She began speaking again after Corbett killed the tiger and showed her its skin, although Corbett himself was skeptical that this was the only factor in her recovery.
  • This can happen, temporarily or permanently, as a result of brain damage or illness, and is known as aphonia. It can often happen due to stroke, but can also be brought about temporarily by migraines or epilepsy.
  • Autistic individuals sometimes have this happen to them as a reaction to being overwhelmed, experiencing Sensory Overload, or facing extreme stress, as well as other reasons; although in this case it would be called going nonverbal.