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Heart Trauma

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"Someday I'll meet someone
Whose heart joins with mine
Aortas and arteries all intertwined
They'll beat so much stronger
Than they could apart
Eight chambers of muscle to hustle
The love in our heart"

When a character has something physically happen to their heart (often in a way that generally would be impossible without magic being involved), it often affects their personality in drastic ways. Either they lose all of their emotions, or their personality changes—for the worse. Seen most often in fantasy works, particularly those with a symbolic or Fairy Tale theme.

This trope differs from The Heartless in that while those characters are simply composed of negative emotions (which might not actually be related to their hearts), these characters sometimes literally lose their hearts.

Compare Soul Jar, where the thing done to the heart affects their vulnerability, and Literal Change of Heart, which involves replacing a missing or damaged heart. Not to be confused with Attack on the Heart, which is focused on the actual physical damage to the heart.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Discussed in the Battle Royale manga. Shougo insists that the heart is just a muscle. Everything about humanity, whether good, bad, or indifferent, comes from the brain.
  • The Hollows in Bleach, who have developed a big hole in their chest where their heart ought to be, in a not-so-subtle symbol of their heartlessness.
  • Tsubaki Kakyouin from Descendants of Darkness also got a heart transplant due to hers being too weak. It belonged to her best friend Eileen, the local Innocent Flower Girl, who was kidnapped and killed for it. Tsubaki came to learn about it and was so emotionally crushed... that she developed a Split Personality that called herself "Eileen" and started killing the people involved in Eileen's murder.
  • In Gankutsuou, the Count of Monte Cristo underwent a treatment that makes him invulnerable to injury at the same time he devoted himself to vengeance. The point is made that his heart is now both metaphorically and literally cold and hard.
  • In Howl's Moving Castle Howl is literally heartless because of a Deal with the Devil. He gets better eventually.
  • Nagare Hisui, the Green King in K, has a hole where his heart should be, filled with crackling green sparks of power. This happened in the Kagutsu Crater incident when a King's Sword of Damocles fell and caused a massive disaster. Hisui died in that, but the power of the Slates brought him back to life by Awakening him as the Green King.
  • In Naruto, Tobi, who is revealed to be Obito, apparently causes Kakashi to pierce him through the chest, to show him that he no longer has a heart. He claims to have removed it to stop feeling the pain caused by losing Rin, and he plans to fill the hole left behind with a Lotus-Eater Machine where he can pretend Rin is still alive. It turns out to be an illusion, but Kakashi fittingly creates a real hole in his chest.
  • In Princess Tutu, Prince Siegfried uses a "forbidden spell" to shatter his heart, which is then used to seal away the Raven (who is the Big Bad of his fairytale). Without it, he's an Extreme Doormat who does whatever anyone suggests and is unable to express emotions or opinions. The Magical Girl named in the title has the task to restore his heart, one piece at a time.
  • In Towa Kamo Shirenai, Kosumo has a very weak heart, which she describes as "a defective product". She has a near-fatal seizure and must get a transplant... and it happens. Then, the heart that was given to her turned out to belong to a Miko and Magical Girl Warrior...

  • Tony Stark becomes Iron Man after sustaining a nearly fatal chest wound. Tony implants himself with a powerful reactor that prevents deadly shrapnel from reaching his heart; this very reactor later powers his suit. To be fair, the radical change in his outlook on life is primarily due to his newly gained first-hand knowledge of the horrors of war, as opposed to the changes in his cardiovascular system.
  • The Marvel Comics villain Master Pandemonium has a star-shaped hole in his chest where his heart (and supposedly his soul) used to be, after he makes a life-saving Deal with the Devil. Turns out the soul fragments he's been reclaiming aren't actually his, however.
  • In Nightmares & Fairy Tales, one chapter centers around a retelling of the fairy tale of Snow White. In it the Queen has Snow White's heart cut out, then she cuts out her own heart and puts Snow's in her chest. This is done because she is told that outer beauty is reflected by the heart. While it does work and she becomes beautiful, it leaves poor Snow White with no heart, wandering aimlessly through the forest. She temporarily replaces her heart with an apple and later hunts down the Queen, rips out her own heart, and puts it back, leaving Snow healthy and beautiful and the Queen heartless, weak, and hideous.
  • X-Men doesn't usually fail biology forever to quite this extreme, but The Stepford Cuckoos were forced to keep their hearts in diamond form all the time to contain the Phoenix fragment within them, resulting in loss of emotions (instead of the more probable effect of loss of life.)

    Fan Works 
  • Done by the Skull Kid in The Blue Blur of Termina, when he rips out Lady Venus's heart in an attempt to kill her.
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Empath's Wedding", Chlorhydris abducts Smurfette on the day of the wedding and removes her heart so that she wouldn't feel anything for any Smurf, including Empath. Empath decides that he's going to give Smurfette his heart to make her feel love again when Hefty, who originally wanted to marry Smurfette himself, decides to do the honors and give his heart to her. This in turn makes Hefty feel no love for anybody, so Empath gives his heart to Hefty and thus he ends up feeling no love for anybody. Hefty and Smurfette end up bickering with each other over who's going to give their heart to Empath when Johan and Peewit crash the proceedings and force Chlorhydris to restore things to normal, which she does.
  • Played with in Savior of Demons in the Nightmare Sequence visions Frieza has during his FeverDreams. What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?

    Films — Animated 
  • Frozen (2013): Subverted. While being struck in the heart by Elsa's magic makes Anna physically freeze, she keeps her energetic, kind personality, enough to sacrifice herself for the very same person who struck her. This is actually Fridge Brilliance, considering the theme of the movie, "The heart does not so easily change".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Dragonheart, future king Einon is given a piece of the heart of a dragon to save his life. While he'd actually been a bit of a bastard from the start, the invincibility that sharing Draco's life grants him leaves Einon free to act up a lot more than he might've dared, had he remained an ordinary mortal.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Davy Jones is said to have cut out his heart and hid it partially so he could stop the pain he felt from his lover's betrayal.
  • In Oz the Great and Powerful, Theodora eats an apple that withers the heart in her chest, leaving nothing but wickedness.

  • In Lightning Dust, Klaus Melfton normally has a weak heartbeat. After the Freak Lab Accident that turned him into Lightning Dust, his heart beats incredibly fast. This effectively cured his heart problems and Klaus became cocky and feels invincible.
  • In Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tale "The Snow Queen", a boy named Kai has a piece of a mirror that shows a negative view of the world pierce his heart, which causes him to become cold and distant towards his childhood friend Gerda, before he's taken away by the Snow Queen. Gerda goes on a journey to find him and eventually rescues Kai, again through The Power of Love. (It's possible the second-season Princess Tutu example was a reference to this fairytale.)
  • One of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a supplemental book to the Harry Potter series, is "The Warlock's Hairy Heart", where the title warlock removes his own heart in order not to fall prey to the "foolishness" of love, making him aloof and cold. Meanwhile, his heart has not only grown dark hair from being unused but has become animalistic and possessive. When the Warlock's fiancé convinces him to put it back in place, the Warlock becomes mad and cuts out her heart.
  • A rare positive example in Dante's Vita Nuova; a dream where Beatrice eats the poet's heart marks the beginning of his love for her and his quest to capture her beauty in any of the dozens of poems in the collection.
  • The Tin Woodman from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is entirely convinced he falls under this trope. He doesn't — in fact, he at least borders on qualifying as an All-Loving Hero, endeavoring to be kind to all living things so that he doesn't do anything horrible without a heart to guide him.
  • Oddly Enough: In "Homeward Bound", a unicorn's horn must pierce a person's heart to heal them, undoing transformations and restoring memories, and even healing the emptiness and fear inside them.

    Live Action TV 
  • An episode of Angel concerned a vampire that removed his heart surgically so that Angel would be unable to stake him. His heart being removed was symbolic of the fact that Angel was responsible for the death of his lover. His final comment, when he eventually runs out of steam, at least left an impression, since it was directed at Angel, and his well-known curse never to know the greatest joy. "I lived. You just existed."
  • Captain Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame had a Wonderful Plot episode about the incident that resulted in his having to have his original heart replaced with a mechanical one. The episode had Q give Picard the chance to go back to his youth and prevent the fight where he was stabbed through the heart. He avoids the fight and his future is changed. Instead of being Captain, he is just a lowly science officer who never takes any risks, always plays it safe, and leads a boring, mundane life. Realizing that it was his near-death experience that made him appreciate life and taught him to live life to the fullest even if means taking risks, he begs Q to take him back to the fight in his youth again. This time, he goes through with the fight, and as he is laying on the ground with a knife through his heart, he realizes this event is what makes him the man that he is.

  • Prince Trevor Amongst the Elephants has the titular character's heart taken for offending The Three Graces.
  • A possible example in the musical of Wicked: Elphaba's sister Nessarose is in love with a Munchkin named Boq, who in turn is in love with Glinda. In her despair, Nessarose steals the Grimmorie (a book of extremely powerful, irreversible, arcane magic) from Elphaba and tries to cast a spell that will make Boq's heart belong to her. It fails: she ends up destroying his heart. The only thing Elphaba can do to save Boq is to turn him into a tin golem, so that he doesn't need a heart.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Leonardo de Montreal of Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine is heartless in the sense that he rejected friendship in exchange for the power to protect Town. He's also heartless in the sense that he physically tore it from his chest and used it to power the Abhorrent Sun-Sustaining Superconductor, reigniting the Sun and saving everyone. Now, as proven by Billy Sovereign, he can have a railway spike pushed through his chest and find it more annoying than lethal.
  • In the Polish fantasy-steampunk RPG Wolsung, the dwarves value logic over emotions and often implant magitek prosthetics into their bodies. If they overdo with the implants, they turn into uhrwerk - "clockwork dwarves", completely and irreversibly losing their emotions and, to a slightly lesser extent, morality. Heart replacement is the most common reason for becoming uhrwerk.

    Video Games 
  • Video Game/Deltarune The soul is a stand in for the human heart. Kris has three distinct personalities, the one seen for most of the game when the player controls their soul, the one seen when they attempt to remove it, and the one mentioned from the past, when the player had no control over the soul.
  • Although this trope is different from The Heartless, the Nobodies from Kingdom Hearts are still a good example of this trope. They are the shell left behind when a Heartless steals a person's heart. Apparently, losing your heart gives you superpowers and a taste for black robes. They say they can feel no emotion, although there's some debate in the fandom about whether or not that's true. At the very least, they lack empathy.
    • To be even more specific: When one becomes a Nobody, their body changes. The human Nobodies in the Organization are the cream of the crop, people who had such a strong will to live when they lost their heart that their "shell" barely changed appearance, so they look pretty similar to their old selves. Everyone else with a weaker heart deforms into a clothing-like, vaguely humanoid lesser Nobody.
    • It's revealed in 3D that unlike most examples, Nobodies can regain their hearts, or at least develop new ones to fill the void through interaction with other people. Xemnas kept this part secret in order to manipulate the rest of the Organization in a Grand Theft Me's a Crowd scheme.
  • The Shadow Pokémon in Colosseum and XD Gale of Darkness have their hearts sealed off by the bad guys, which prevents them from leveling up, gives them different moves and causes them to go into a periodic self-injurious state similar to Confusion. Forming an emotional bond with the Pokemon is required (but not sufficient) to cure them.

    Visual Novels 
  • Hisao Nakai, the protagonist of the VN Katawa Shoujo, finds out in the very first scene (where he gets a life-threatening heart attack in the middle of being confessed to by his crush, no less) that he suffers from chronic arrhythmia. This results in him being transferred to a school that specializes in accommodating students with various physical disabilities, where the game itself is set. The first Act revolves in large around Hisao's coming to terms with his now suddenly-frighteningly-tangible mortality (represented by his defective heart) and the fact that he must now start thinking of himself as "disabled" and completely change his lifestyle (no more playing soccer, watching his diet, having to take all his medicines every day, etc.), and each of the game's routes continues his internal conflict regarding this in a different fashion (because in each route his personality is slightly changed by falling in love with a very different sort of girl - although in all cases he does eventually learn to accept his short life expectancy one way or another, except for the extremely short "Bad Ending" route, which is achieved by constantly making choices implying Hisao cannot deal with his problem and ends up becoming a lonely, depressed man). Hearts are a constant theme in the game, especially where Hisao is concerned, and in fact, the game's very logo is that of a heart with a band-aid on it.

    Web Original 
  • In Twig, Gordon suffers from a weak heart due to his repeated heart transplants, resulting in him having a dangerous history of heart attacks. He has a helper dog, Hubris, who warns him when his heart acts up so he can get to a doctor in time, but he becomes aware that he's living on borrowed time.

  • In Whither, Nora stole Frost's heart, and it's implied that she actually seduced him to gain an opportunity. This is what set the plot in motion, since his attempts to regain said heart and take his revenge are the very reason for Emelind being who she became. And the heart was needed for securing Finn's world.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series had an episode where Aladdin's head is magically separated from his body. The head and the body both survive as independent beings, but without the influence of his heart, Aladdin's head becomes logical and emotionless. Meanwhile, his body without the head's influence becomes headstrong and impulsive. And clumsy.
  • Mildly subverted, in the first episode of SilverHawks Steelwill's and Steelheart's hearts fail while they're being cyborgized and are replaced with mechanical ones. The doctor then points out the appropriateness of their names. However, they seem unaffected (possibly the only bit of good science in the series).
  • Hefty in The Smurfs goes through some heart trouble when a flea carrying Gargamel's hate juice bites him and causes his heart tattoo to change into a yellow X, also changing Hefty into a hateful abusive Smurf. Near the end of the story, when Hefty sees that Papa Smurf is being threatened by Gargamel, his true-natured self and his heart tattoo return just in time for Hefty to rescue Papa Smurf.