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Howl of Sorrow

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"Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones!
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack!"
King Lear, King Lear

When a character howls or screams in a raw, somewhat primal fashion to express their grief and anguish. Obviously, it's done most often by canines, but not limited to them.

Can overlap with Clifftop Caterwauling, when this is done at the edge of a cliff, as well as Skyward Scream. Similar to Big "NO!" and Death Wail. See also Wolves Always Howl at the Moon and Spooky Animal Sounds, for other howling tropes. Compare Cathartic Scream.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch sorrowfully howls when Shirley dies.
  • In the dub of Digimon Tamers, Guilmon lets one out after Takato leaves him to go to school. Given how much he's treated like a dog in the early episodes, it works.
  • In one chapter of Domina no Do!, Hikari Domina pinches her clitoris with a hair clip after her Fille Fatale little sister Akari mentions that doing so is the female equivalent of all the nut-shots Hikari's been giving to her unwilling fiance Takeshi, being convinced that it can't really be painful, since her mom and dad seem to love it. Her shriek of pain and despair can be heard throughout the mansion. And she never hits Takeshi in the balls again.
  • Erza does this in Fairy Tail after washing ashore when she thought she was finally free from the slave life on an island only to experience that her best friend/love interest turns evil, betrays her, makes all of her other friends slaves again and threatens to kill her and them if she ever tries to rescue them. She even howls to the full moon, cue the chapter title "Howling to the Moon".
  • The dogs of Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin and Ginga Densetsu Weed are known to do this when a fellow soldier dies. It's often a source of Narm, as they often sound more like humans screaming or coyotes barking.
  • Hayate does this in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's during her Traumatic Superpower Awakening.
  • Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion howls in sorrow more than once, specially in the TV series when he discovers that Touji was the pilot of EVA 03 and in End of Evangelion when he sees the remains of EVA 02.
  • S Cryed: After the only person he calls a friend dies to save him, Ryuho tries to keep his cool. Until Kazuma tells him it's not unmanly to cry. At which point Ryuho lets out a wail and collapses, a sobbing wreck.
  • Wolf's Rain:
    • The wolves quite literally howl in sorrow after finding Toboe's dead body.
    • Toboe howls in remorse after accidentally killing a girl's pet hawk.

    Comic Books 
  • In ElfQuest, the Howl is a formal mourning and remembrance ritual among the Wolfriders and their wolves.
  • Tintin's dog Snowy howls if something befalls his master, often saving his life by alerting others to his plight.
  • Wolverine: In Origin, young James Howlett lets out one of these after his claws come out when his father is murdered. A description of the howl is at the beginning of the next chapter:
    Rose: (Opening Monologue) I will remember that sound until the day I die. It was an awful, revolting noise~not a scream, but the birth-cry of a new creature that surely had no place on God's earth. The thing mewled and whimpered in pain, and those of us who could stand in witness were transfixed~both repelled and fascinated by the grotesque spectacle of it.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Monster X lets out a couple of these at dramatic moments during the story. First, overlapping with Death Wail in Monster X's Monstrous Humanoid first form; the Vivienne half of them lets out a particularly loud and painful one when she becomes aware of Serizawa's death. Then towards the end, Monster X in their final form let out a deranged sound between wailing and cackling due to the Heroic Sacrifices incurred by the Berezniki battle against Ghidorah.
  • In The Beast Of Gusu, while stuck as a wolf in Chapter 3 of “Unstoppable”, Wei Wuxian does this a few times. While he doesn't remember his life or his identity, he knows he’s missing something and feels lonely.
  • In The Bug Princess, BJ lets out something like this when a magic ritual goes pear-shaped and banishes his wife to a different plane of reality. The only person to hear it is the person who conducted the ritual.
    In all his life, Hugo had never heard anything like it, and hoped he never would again. It was a cry of pure agony, pure anguish, pure unbridled terror.
  • In The Long Howl, Angel howls upon learning of Buffy's death, causing his vampiric descendants to howl involuntarily as his grief mystically echoes down his bloodline, and inspiring his human friends to join him as a way of expressing their own grief.
  • In Lost Latte, Latte howls in the rain due to missing her friends.
  • In Their Bond, while on a date with Impa, Zelda hears mournful crying in the woods. It turns out to be a wolf's pup who lost his mother.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, it's what the eponymous character does after reading Mina's letter, the sheer anguish reaching levels where Empathic Environment is actually triggered as he howls, "Wiiiinds!".
  • Finch: The dog, Goodyear, does this after Finch finally passes away.
  • Firehouse Dog Rexxx/Dewey lets out one of these after seeing a news broadcast reporting that he has been assumed dead, realizing that his original owners have stopped looking for him.
  • Godzilla:
    • The Return of Godzilla has two given by its titular kaiju in the theatrical release; One occurs when Mount Mihara erupts and the second, which is only present in the theatrical releases, is bellowed when Godzilla himself falls into Mount Mihara. Several cast members are crying by the time Godzilla dissapears into the volcano.
    • Godzilla (2014): Femuto shrieks in unambiguous grief near the film's end at the destruction of her unborn brood.
  • Hereditary: Annie lets out a HUGE howl after she finds Charlie's decapitated body in her car. It's also pleasantly accompanied by a shot of Charlie's head on the side of the road, covered in ants.
  • In John Wick: Chapter 2, John falls into angry, anguished screams after his home is destroyed and he's forced back into The Life.
  • Maleficent has the titular character responds by wailing in anguish after noticing that her wings have been cut off in her sleep.
  • Man of Steel: Superman lets out an agonized scream after killing Zod.
  • Midsommar: Dani wails in anguish after she is told that her sister killed herself and their parents.
  • In The Muppets Take Manhattan, a lonely and overworked Rowlf succumbs to howling.
  • Spice World: After the Spice Girls have stormed off the stage the day before their live concert, their manager Clifford lets out a massive cry of sorrow.
    Geri: I hope you know you what you're doing, because if you're looking for a fight, you're gonna lose. (storms out)
    Clifford: (to Deborah, the Girls personal assistant) So what do you think?
    Deborah: I think you definitely, definitely lost.
    Clifford: I think I may have started the break-up of the Spice Girls.
    (Deborah exits, leaving Clifford to howl in sorrow, and the stage lights to light dramatically)
  • The title dog of Turner and Hooch mournfully howls after his owner, Amos, is murdered.
  • In the Van Helsing movie, the eponymous character howls in pain in werewolf form after having a cure injected into his body at the cost of the Action Girl Love Interest's life. It morphs into a Big "NO!" as he transforms back into a human.
  • The Wild Things say goodbye to Max by howling in the film of Where the Wild Things Are.

  • 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.
  • Japanese folklore had it that if a traveler didn't return home, a Honshū wolf (a coyote sized Japanese subspecies of the gray wolf that was revered at the time before it went extinct) would go to his home and howl mournfully to signify his 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 Beowulf, the monster (or whatever he is) Grendel lets out a truly horrifying scream when he realizes that he is beaten:
    (...) Then an extraordinary
    wail arose, and bewildering fear
    came over the Danes. Everyone felt it
    who heard that cry as it echoed off the wall,
    a God-cursed scream and strain of catastrophe,
    the howl of the loser, the lament of the hell-serf
    keening his wound.
  • Doglands:
    • Furgul has a long howl, half-part in mourning and half-part in rage, after his sister Nessa dies of her gunshot wounds.
    • Dervla lets out a long howl after she's finally free from her torturers. It's mainly in pain for what the men have done to her, but it's also in guilt because she's ashamed about having been kidnapped in the first place.
  • Earth's Children. Wolf howls for the first time towards the end of The Mammoth Hunters when Rydag (the half-Clan boy with whom he formed a special bond as a pup) dies from a congenital heart defect. He also howls following Shevonar's death in The Shelters of Stone even though Shevonar was not among those who were introduced to him.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham. When Giles rides off to slay a dragon, his dog Garm howled all night because he thought Giles would be killed.
  • Near the end of the Discworld novel The Fifth Elephant, Gaspode starts a mourning howl after a noble wolf's death, which is passed on into the night by unseen wolf packs. Angua, in human form at the time, joins in with a throat-rending primal scream of grief.
  • I Am Not a Serial Killer: John tends to descend into inchoate screams when unhappy. Most prominently displayed in I Don't Want To Kill You when he hears that another person has died despite his best efforts. He even punctuates it with a solid, splintery punch to the nearest door.
  • The Last Olympian crosses this with Death Wail when Percy comes down from a Curse-of-Achilles-induced Berserker Rage and realizes one of the Apollo kids who was fighting alongside him is missing. Made even more heartbreaking by the fact that it's ambiguous if one of Kronos' troops killed him or if he drowned when Percy broke the bridge to drive them back.
  • The furcots from Midworld and its sequel use a communal howl to pay homage to dead tribe members, furcot or human. Unusual in that furcots aren't canine in the slightest or, indeed, even animals: they're mobile plants.
  • In A Night in the Lonesome October, Snuff the watchdog overhears a mournful canine howl in the distance, which translates as "Lost!" in the language of dogs and wolves. Later events suggest that the howler is Larry Talbot the werewolf, wracked with remorse over having lost control of his lunar bloodlust and killed someone.
  • Oliver Twisted: Bill Sikes, a werewolf, belts out a mournful howl after fatally injuring Nancy.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire. As they are Bond Creatures, the direwolves howl while Bran Stark lies in a coma. The sound does not improve his mother's grief-induced madness.
  • Being actual dogs, the characters in Survivors are prone to howling when particularly sad.
  • Temeraire: The titular dragon lets loose a griefstricken roar when he believes his beloved Dragon Rider to be killed in Victory of Eagles. Empowered by his Divine Wind, the force of it shatters a nearby cliff face.
  • In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy and Edmund's younger cousin Eustace gets magically transformed into a dragon, and at first, he is excited about being "invincible", but quickly realizes that he doesn't want to be. He then realizes that he's not been as nice as he thought he was, and is now "a monster cut off from the human race". and cries his eyes out under the moon.
    Narrator: "A powerful dragon crying its eyes out under the moon in a deserted valley is a sight and a sound hardly to be imagined."
  • Warrior Cats:
    • In Forest of Secrets, after his mate dies, Graystripe wails aloud in grief. Tigerclaw's reaction is to cuff him behind the ear and order him to "stop that moaning".
    • In Crookedstar's Promise, after Graypool's kits die, in her grief she spends a lot of time wandering and yowling her heartbreak out loud. One character comments that they think Graypool believes that her kits can hear her from StarClan.
  • In White Fang, the canine protagonist howls sorrowfully when his master goes away.

    Live-Action TV 
  • All My Children's Edmund Grey lets out a grieving howl upon being told that his wife Maria has been killed in a plane crash.
  • Beverly Hills, 90210: Dylan howls in grief after his father is killed by a Car Bomb right in front of him.
  • Parodied in an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, where General Melchett literally calls out "Howl, howl, howl!" after Capt. Blackadder informs him that his "fiancee" has been killed by a landmine. He then snaps back to normal, saying "it can't be helped".
  • One episode of The Closer sees Lt. Gabriel let out a howl of grief when he finds the missing child he's been searching for.
  • Doctor Who: In the episode "The Vanquishers", the humanoid dog alien Karvanista lets one out after the Sontarans tell him that they've killed every other member of his race, the Lupari, while hijacking their spaceships, leaving Karvanista as the Last of His Kind.
  • Game of Thrones: Upon realizing Daenerys is dead in the finale, Drogon begins screaming and roaring before torching the Iron Throne.
  • Star Trek Klingons "roar" into the sky as part of their mourning ritual, although according to them it's less about sorrow and more about warning the afterlife, Sto-vo-kor, that a warrior is coming. Worf does this....a fair amount.
  • Ultraman Orb closes the Cold Opening in episode 1 with Gai letting lose a scream of heartbreak after destroying Maga-Zetton when his crush was killed in the crossfire of him fighting Maga-Zetton. Or so he assumed.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Parodied in one Garfield comic, where Garfield and Jon hear Odie howling with sorrow. Jon remarks on how much Odie sounds like his ancestors, the wolves... until Garfield has this to say:
    Garfield: Lost his Internet connection.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, the demons known as tomescu know exactly when they're going to die, and so they howl twice a day, at dawn and dusk. This is how demons tell the time.
  • Some authors/media have the Space Wolves of Warhammer 40,000 do this when a friend or leader is killed in battle, due to their (almost literal) pack mentality and general lupine association. They also tend to express their grief by hacking the killer into pieces so hearing this is a sign it's probably time to be elsewhere.

    Video Games 
  • Berserker and Wrath Asura howl almost constantly in Asura's Wrath also mixed with anger and hatred. His most notable roar, however, is when the small girl died and sent him into his One-Winged Angel form.
  • In Dark Souls, if you do the DLC (which involves travelling back to the past), and rescue Sif as a puppy before fighting him in the main game, a different cutscene will play where Sif recognizes you by your scent as the one who rescued him in the past, and lets out a sorrowful howl because he doesn't want to fight you, but knows that his duty to protect his master's grave demands it.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: Depending on the player's dialogue choices, The Atoner Ifan will let out one of these when confronted with evidence of just how awful the Phlebotinum Bomb he helped deploy was. His soul wolf even manifests to join in.
  • If in the party, your mabari hound from Dragon Age: Origins will let out a mournful howl upon finding the corpse of King Cailan in the Return to Ostagar DLC.
  • Nanaki (also known as Red XIII) howls in grief for his father Seto in Final Fantasy VII.
  • There's a part in the first Modern Warfare where you see a wild dog and are ordered not to shoot it. If you shoot it anyway, it lets out a mournful howl, summoning 13 other dogs to kill you.
  • In Mother 3, Boney does this when he notices a piece of cloth from Hinawa's dress stuck on a branch on top of a cliff.
  • Amaterasu does this at the end of Ōkami after she defeats Yami. Issun pops up on her nose and says to give a triumphant howl like normal. Once she realizes she imagined it, she gives a sorrowful howl, only before getting attacked again. In its sequel for DS, Ōkamiden, Chibiterasu gives a howl of sorrow after Kurow dies.
  • Galfor's dog Poppy from Samurai Shodown howls when he's defeated.
  • Kevin, the hybrid beastman from Trials of Mana, emits a piteous howl after killing his wolf cub pal Kevin by accident. Or so he thinks.

    Visual Novels 

  • One use of werewolf howls in Dominic Deegan is to announce the break-up of a pack. Given what breaks up a pack... this is generally a combination of rage and painfully deep sorrow.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Coyote tells Annie about the time that he helped The Great Spirit put the stars in the sky. After rushing through the job, he realized that he'd forgotten to make a constellation of himself. His frustration over that is why he howls at the sky now.
  • Kevin howls sadly in Kevin & Kell after difficulties with his family, who really don't approve of his marriage to a wolf. Being that he's a rabbit, somewhat understandable.
  • The wolves in Off-White howl sorrowfully after Gebo's old pack is killed.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Invoked in the Adventure Time episode "What Have You Done" when the Ice King accidentally causes a disease that can only be cured by the sound of him howling in pain. Princess Bubblegum captured him to get the howls herself, but Finn and Jake, who didn't know what had happened, free him considering he is innocent, causing Ice King to think of them as friends. Finn eventually plays dead to get a pained howl out of him to cure the disease.
  • Wilford Wolf in Animaniacs, who isolates himself and cry-howls to the sky after Minerva has utterly rejected him. And then the moon comes out and he starts transforming, turning it into a normal howl.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Well, a bat-hybrid (who's just a woman, in reality) has a shriek of sorrow at what she's become. Doesn't make it any less sad (and comforting to know this didn't last long).
  • Bluey: Being dogs they are, some characters will partake on this in especially bad situations.
  • More of a scream than a howl, Courage the Cowardly Dog does this whenever Eustace chopped down the magic tree. He goes up to the cliff and screams so loud that he shatters the freakin' moon to pieces!
  • Bronx from Gargoyles has been known to express his dislike of a situation by howling.
  • In The Little Rascals episode "Cap'n Spanky's Showboat", Pete howls mournfully after Captain Smokey declares that loss of business aboard the Mississippi Queen has left him with no reason to live.
  • Weaponized in The Owl House. King's Super-Scream power is normally accompanied by a silly "Weh" sound, but when he witnesses Luz's death in the Grand Finale he shifts into a more bestial form and his "Weh's" are replaced with a grief fueled snarl as the throws himself at her killer.
  • Snoopy from Peanuts will howl to show his distress, whether it's being lost or just hearing a sad song.
  • Kong unleashes one at the end of the flashback episode of Skull Island, grieving his failure to save the island girl and her village from being killed by the Kraken.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: In "Reunion", Pidge lets out an anguished yell when she believes that her brother Matt is dead.

    Real Life 
  • The legendary wolf Lobo is said to have done this after his mate was killed.
  • One of the supposed reasons why wolves howl is grief.
  • Wolves have been observed to pace in the area where a packmate died and howl for hours. Biologists have also noted that when a pack member dies the howls of the remaining wolves take on a distinct change in pitch.
  • Many dog owners can attest to this trope after a human/other pet has died, though only the dogs know whether this is truly sorrow or simply the dogs looking for their missing packmate.
  • 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.
  • Prince Charles reportedly let out one of these upon being told that his ex-wife Diana had been killed in a car accident.


Video Example(s):


Jane Drops Her Phone

Jane gets some terrible news over the phone. She drops her phone and starts wailing in response.

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