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Innocence Lost

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"None of this was mine any more ... I was followed by a darkness of which this world of home knew nothing. How many secrets I had had, how often I had been afraid — but all of it had been child's play compared with what I brought home with me today. I was haunted by misfortune, it was reaching out toward me so that not even my mother could protect me, since she was not even allowed to know."
Hermann Hesse, Demian
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A plot where an innocent person, usually a kid, is exposed to true evil, or the uglier and darker side of the world, for the first time, usually through being exploited by a criminal or suffering something traumatic like abuse or the loss of someone they love. However the story pans out, the character's innocence is gone forever by the end, with much regret by all involved.

Compare Harmful to Minors, Defiled Forever, and Troubling Unchildlike Behavior. See also Coming-of-Age Story.


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Examples:

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     Anime and Manga 
  • This is an ongoing theme in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and actually invoked by Kyubey. It's hard not to name a major character, all of which are 13-15 year old girls, who hasn't gone through this trope in some way or another, as being a Magical Girl in this setting involves your wish possibly not turning out as planned, losing your humanity by having your soul transformed into your Transformation Trinket, and then eventually becoming one of the monsters you have been fighting once you cross the Despair Event Horizon. According to Kyubey, this is necessary as emotional energy from despair helps stave off entropy.
  • The child protagonists of Bokurano undergo this after Waku dies as a result of piloting Zearth, and they realize that they'll all die soon, but Chizuru "Chizu" Honda has already suffered this as of the start of the series, having been gang raped and impregnated by her teacher and lover's accomplices, and being blackmailed with the video footage, turning the fairly sweet and innocent young girl into a murderous and vengeful Yandere.
  • This happens to *many* characters in the manga and anime, Naruto.
    • In the case of Obito Uchiha, he Used to Be a Sweet Kid who was the very image of what it meant to be a selfless and kind-hearted shinobi in a dark and crooked world. His goofy yet genuine demeanor led to the older villagers liking him, and his selfless heroism led to Kakashi Hatake, one of the lead supporting characters of the series, abandoning his ways of cold indifference and his embracing of heroism and love for his comrades. Unfortunately, the loss of his childhood love interest- which he witnessed himself after a series of tragic events- led to a Broken Pedestal, and the once sweet and good-natured child became one of the ninja world's most violent, apathetic and overall evil individuals of all time.
    • Nagato, who was once a shy albeit good-natured child who had dreams of saving the world from darkness and empowering members of his village to stand up for themselves, fell hard after his best friend and most of his accomplices were coldly killed by the leaders of his village. This loss amidst others activated Nagato's Berserk Button and the child used his Rinnegan- a kekkei genkai that he and his friends swore would save the world- to decimate his opposition in an emotionally intense outburst.
    • Kabuto Yakushi was a sweet orphan child who could have become one of Konoha's shining stars in terms of his proficiency for medical jutsu and natural tendencies toward heroism. Unfortunately, one of the village elders manipulated him into joining his sect of special forces and- after witnessing the death of his foster mother during a covert operation- lost his innocence and began transforming into one of the series' key antagonists.
    • Sasuke was a sweet, happy boy until his older brother Itachi slaughtered his entire clan, leaving seven year old Sasuke and thirteen year old Itachi the sole survivors of the Uchiha (or at least Sasuke thought for several years). This tragedy made Sasuke the repressed, sullen boy he's known as and drove his entire personality. Even as a much happier adult he hasn't fully recovered from his childhood.

     Comic Books  
  • Double Subverted in the Harley Quinn series - the child in question was already pretty jaded, having been hunted by crooks her whole life, but hanging out with Harley she almost got her innocence and faith in the world back from being with her... until Harley's conscience fails and she cashes in the kid anyway. Ironically, after the villains take what they want from her (her eyes), the now blind girl has a feeling of peace for the world and a new lease on life (and nothing but pity for the crooks that used to come after her), while Harley is completely unable to look herself in the mirror.
  • X-23's origin story is even called Innocence Lost, as it depicts in disturbing detail the pain and suffering intentionally inflicted on her by the Facility and the incredibly monstrous Dr. Zander Rice to strip her of her humanity and turn her into an emotionless killing machine. Although they failed, the emotional damage that was done to her was still severe. Laura continually struggles to form relationships with others, and her desire to find a life as something other than a weapon and killer is an ongoing theme for her character.
  • The third tome of Dungeon: The Early Years starts with Hyacinthe killing a man and losing his virginity back to back on top of finding out about venereal disease the next morning. By the end of the story Hyacinthe matures up a bit and the next stories has him as leader of the assassin's guild instead of an idealistic swashbuckling vigilante.

     Fan Works 
  • This is one of the key differences between RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse and the Celestiaverse. Luna, as Princess of the Night, is already mysterious and a bit spooky, so her fall into madness and evil wasn't too surprising. But in the Lunaverse, it was Celestia, the very personification of the life-giving Sun, who fell into evil. Celestia, whose Sun keeps the world from freezing, who gives the light that your crops need to survive, who allows you to even see. If she can turn evil, then anyone could turn evil.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: During the debut of Episode 60 Part 2, Kaiser and Lani explained that they see Gohan's ascension to Super Saiyan 2 as this, since he was forced to grow up at metaphorical gunpoint, abandon his childish ideals, and then lost his father due to his own hubris all in the span of a single day. They cited this as the reason for their soundtrack choices: while the Bruce Faulkoner score presents Gohan's transformation as heroic and epic, "Unmei no Hi" is a sad song about becoming evil in order to fight a greater evil. To hammer it in: a Running Gag is that the disclaimer that precedes each episode is sometimes read by a character who will die that same episode. Despite the fact that Android 16 is destroyed in this episode it's Gohan who reads the disclaimer, because this is the episode his innocence dies.
  • The equivalent of Volume 3 is this in RWBY: Scars, especially so for Ruby and Pyrrha. Both were well-aware of the horrors of the world but they were still optimistic teenagers with heroic drive. Then Beacon fell and a large amount of people were slaughtered, including Ruby's girlfriend Penny (who was accidentally murdered by Pyrrha) and Pyrrha's boyfriend Jaune. Ruby carries on as a Stepford Smiler while Pyrrha snaps and goes straight into "angry Broken Bird" territory.
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     Film - Animation 
  • In The Lion King, Simba crosses the Despair Event Horizon while still a cub when he watches his father Mufasa fall to his death while trying to escape a stampede. It traumatized him to the point where he became an overprotective father towards his own daughter Kiara, not wanting history to repeat.

     Film - Live Action 
  • In L: change the WorLd, Maki watches her father kill himself violently in direct defiance of the threats of the bio-terrorists. This prompts her to want to murder them in revenge.
  • Prime Cut: Poppy spends her childhood in an orphanage, and is sold into prostitution by an abusive madam.
  • Corporal Upham in Saving Private Ryan is a desk clerk who has never fired a weapon in combat and is taken on a dangerous mission to find the titular Private Ryan. Along the way he witnesses comrades die horribly as well as come close to executing a German POW in cold blood. During the climactic battle he becomes too terrified to intervene when one of his comrades is being attacked, and he later shoots another man when the fight is over.
  • Caged is a women's prison film that follows the doe-eyed Marie Allen. She gets sent to prison only because she was unwitting accomplice in her dead husband's crime. She's sent while pregnant with his child, and said child is put up for adoption when her mother refuses to care for it. She's exposed to the harsh realities of the prison environment at the hands of the cruel matron. By the end of the film, she cheers bloodthirstily when another inmate stabs the matron to death, and leaves the prison with debts to the criminals who bailed her out. The warden's final words are "she'll be back" as Marie leaves.
  • Tricky People: Carmen feels this way after being sexually abused by Reginald Charming. While she grieves over the loss of her innocence, we're shown a montage of the actress's actual childhood photos. As she tearfully tells Yello Dyno, "I'm not a little girl anymore."
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Diana's character arc in the film. She starts off believing the best of humanity, but this naive view is soiled by her experiences during World War I.

     Literature  
  • This is referenced in the original Peter Pan; It's noted that every time Peter is exploited (e.g., by Captain Hook) or similar, he reacts with shock and the typical apparent sting of the loss of innocence, but he continues to fall prey to these tactics because he never will actually 'grow up' enough to lose this childish naïveté altogether. He also forgets traumatic events magically, so that he never matures via suffering.
  • An invoked form of this is a major plot point in the Amber trilogy in Dragonlance. To destroy the Beloved of Chemosh, they must be physically touched by an innocent child. The experience is so horrific, said child will lose their innocence, making dealing with them a Sadistic Choice for the good guys.
  • Presumably happened to Ginny in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but it's hard to tell since J. K. Rowling pulls an All Is Well That Ends Well.
  • An important theme in A Song of Ice and Fire, with the whole "Winter is coming" theme. Especially important in the storylines of Arya and Sansa, who both start the series fairly naive but very quickly lose any illusions they might have, in addition to more or less having any part of their old personality beaten out of them. The result is a somewhat manipulative and highly deceptive Sansa and a full-on child soldier Arya.
  • Frodo goes through this in the The Lord of the Rings. The burden of the Ring alone is enough to drive him to despair and make it difficult for him to return to the peace of the Shire. Add the pain of his injuries (the Witch-king's knife, Shelob's sting, and losing his finger) and the suffering he endured on the journey, and it becomes impossible, prompting him to depart into the West to be healed.
  • Lolita. Despite portraying Dolores Haze as a Fille Fatale, Humbert Humbert realises by the end of the book that he has destroyed her childhood.
  • Alice Walker's (very) short story "The Flowers" has this as its central theme. A young African-American girl named Myop goes out to play on a beautiful summer's day; she sings, explores the woods near her home, and gathers flowers. On her way back, though, she (quite literally) stumbles upon the decaying corpse of a black man. As Myop goes to pluck a pink rose near his head, she notices the remains of a noose around his neck, and a similar piece of rope dangling from a tree branch overhead. Realizing that the man was lynched, she lays down her flowers to mourn him. The story then ends on the line "And the summer was over," signifying both the end of the season and Myop's own loss of innocence about the world.
  • Plucky Cheerful Child Pouncequick from Tailchaser's Song decides to tag along with Tailchaser on his dangerous journey. It's relatively easygoing (bar a scare with Pouncequick falling ill and a few other mishaps) until they both get caught by the Nailguard. Tailchaser ends up forced into slavery while Pouncequick is jailed, with his fate uncertain. While kidnapped, Pouncequick ends up meeting the legendary demigod Whitewind who lends him wisdom and visions that will lead him to be a farsenser. When all is done, Pouncequick has lost much of his kittenish charm and is now Wise Beyond Their Years. Tailchaser even comments at the end of the book that he feels Pouncequick has lost his innocence. To go along with this, Pouncequick had his tail torn off in an attack.
  • Warrior Cats: Almost all kits are portrayed as bright-eyed and sweet children. It's only upon becoming adolescent and becoming apprentices that this innocence dwindles.

     Live Action TV  
  • In Kung Fu, Caine remembers a time when he was tricked out of a precious scroll by a con man. Eventually, the con man is caught and the scroll is recovered, but Master Po and Caine have a disappointed conversation that ends with:
    Caine: But Master, the scroll was returned!
    Master Po: But your innocence, how will that be returned?
  • Subverted in Mork & Mindy when Mork is talked into freeing an escaped criminal who claims that he just needs to visit his sick mother and will return to turn himself back in afterward. Sure enough, Mork is arrested for freeing him and Mindy tells him that it is obvious that the crook took advantage of him and won't be back. In a genuinely moving moment, Mork tearfully agrees that he can't trust anyone again, until the crook suddenly returns as promised to turn himself in and get Mork released. With that, Mork's innocence is restored with his naive belief in the goodness of humanity vindicated.
  • On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick responded like this to getting mugged. He had tried to politely explain to the mugger how "this three hundred dollars is mine" and when that didn't work, he ended up losing his faith in humanity for the rest of the episode: "What kind of place is this where you can't wave handfuls of money around in the middle of the night?"
  • The Underground episode "Cradle" has this as a central theme. Boo has recurring flashbacks of her father's getting shot by arrows and dying right in front of her. Ben learns that his mother had a mental breakdown and was institutionalized. James is sent from the big house to pick cotton in the fields. On his first day his hands get horribly bloodied and his older brother opts to take a lashing for him. This causes him to break off his friendship with the master's son, T.R. In a darker example, T.R. gets so angry over James' rejection that he snitches on James' brother for trying to escape, hinting that he may become as callous as his father. And to highlight all the ruined childhoods, the episode cinematography features many close up shots of candy.
  • This is Ursula's backstory in Once Upon a Time. She was an innocent young girl who only wished to use her beautiful singing voice to make people feel at ease. Her father Poseidon forced her to use it to distract sailors to their deaths on the rocks. When Ursula escaped to live on land and made a deal with Hook, her father tried to bribe Hook with a shell that would steal her singing voice to prevent her from leaving. Hook double-crossed both of them, stealing Ursula's voice so that Poseidon could never use it to sink another ship. This betrayal broke Ursula and caused her to transform herself from a mermaid into a tentacled creature, and become the famed sea witch.
  • Angel: Lorne, a peaceful Nice Guy and Actual Pacifist, is instructed by Angel to to assassinate Lindsey in the series finale. Lorne goes through with it, but bows out of Angel Investigations after doing so; his last scene in the episode, and thus the show, is of him dropping the gun he used to kill Lindsey and walking off into the night, disgusted and broken.
    Lorne: Goodnight, folks.

     Theatre 
  • Doubt has an adult character go through this. Sister James is a Wide-Eyed Idealist who unfortunately has her idealism put to the test by the scandal that the school's priest could be molesting a young boy.

     Video Games  
  • The quest that starts the Dark Brotherhood questline in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is actually called "Innocence Lost". The innocent children in question get a double helping of this. Their innocence has already been shot to Oblivion by being orphaned and sent to Riften's Honorhall Orphanage where the very ironically-named Grelod the Kind makes their lives a living hell. Aventus Aretino flees the Orphanage and tries to contact the Dark Brotherhood through the Black Sacrament (using his own dead mother's remains) to kill Grelod. What's left of the orphans' innocence dies a nasty death when you kill Grelod, since you show them that Murder Is the Best Solution. Aventus even tells you that he wants to be an assassin like you when he grows up so he can "help" people too.
  • Pretty much the entire point of Tomb Raider is to show Lara's innocence being forcibly stripped away by her experiences on the island in one long Break the Cutie ordeal. Unlocking the model gallery even calls Lara's pre-shipwreck model "Innocent Lara."
  • Fallout: New Vegas has the Dead Horses and Sorrows tribes. Honest Hearts has you decide whether you should defend Zion Valley following Joshua Graham at the cost of their innocence, or protecting it by following Daniel and helping them escape the valley.
  • This can be seen in The Walking Dead with Clementine, who is only eight when the Zombie Apocalypse begins. She goes from a sweet, kind-hearted Cheerful Child to a hardened survivor as the years go on, having been exposed to the horror and loss of a world After the End. It’s especially evident after the Time Skip between the first and second seasons.

     Web Animation  
  • RWBY: Volume 3 could be called this trope: for Yang Xiao Long, Ruby Rose and Pyrrha Nikos this hits them as Mercury Black plays possum and turns public opinion against Yang and Beacon Academy when they think she broke his leg followed by Pyrrha splitting Penny Polendina in half via her magnetism Semblance and Ruby watching helplessly, unable to stop her from doing so. Pyrrha was hit worse with this, as the Big Goods talk with her and all but pressure her into accepting her newfound destiny as one of four superpowered beings. Things then get worse for her when she accidentally kills another student due to the villains' interference in a tournament match. To complete the Trauma Conga Line, she is murdered by Big Bad Cinder in an incredibly brutal and painful fashion (just after finally getting together with her love interest) while Ruby comes to her rescue just seconds too late and is again forced to watch helplessly as Pyrrha dies.

     Webcomics  

     Western Animation  
  • Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender has gone through it having spent much of his childhood in a peaceful society. However, after spending a whole century frozen in suspended animation, the horrors of war have become real. Everyone he knew, save for one is gone, his people were wiped out by the Fire Nation, and worst of it all, seeing the charred remains of his master and father figure Monk Gyatso. His innocence is very much destroyed once the series begins.
  • The Season 2 finale of Moral Orel is pretty much this, with Animal Motifs to symbolize it thrown in for good measure.
  • Liberty's Kids has the main kid characters, particularly James Hiller, learn that things are actually not so black and white with The American Revolution.
  • Played literally in the Christmas special of The Amazing World of Gumball. When Nicole tells the kids that Santa isn't real, an aura of multicolored light, representing their innocence, escapes their bodies through their mouths.
  • After the Season 1 finale of Steven Universe, Steven starts to understand how serious the missions for finding Corrupted Gems and the Crystal Gems' rebellion against Homeworld really are. Over the course of Season 2, the revelations about the horrific Body Horror they'd done to Gems shattered in the war for Earth to form the Cluster slowly chip away at his enthusiasm, coupled with the near-betrayal by Peridot before she turned on Yellow Diamond. Season 3 really hammers in his Break the Cutie status when he's swarmed with the thousands of fragmented minds crying out in pain, fused together in the Earth's core for the last five thousand years, helping Lapis Lazuli cope with complicated PTSD and a mutually abusive relationship from her fusion with Jasper, entrappment in the mirror and deep self-hatred and depression, Centipeetle's traumatic backstory with the corruption bomb from the Diamonds, the Crystal Gems' various cases of grief and self-worth, his own confidence issues and fears that he can't possibly measure up to Rose Quartz's legacy, being forced to seal away Bismuth after she proved to be too dangerous to keep her conscious form while still raising good points about the brutality of war, and lastly being unable to save Jasper from Corruption, the knowledge that Rose had to shatter Pink Diamond for the greater good and stranding the Rubies in space, calling into question if he'll one day have to compromise his strict non-violence like she had. He's still keeping an upbeat mindset and optimism despite everything, but he's a far cry from the slightly obnoxious kid who was sad that his favorite snack was discontinued in the first episode.
  • While Ezra Bridger from Star Wars Rebels wasn't that innocent to begin with, having spent half his life as a Street Urchin, the Malachor arc destroys whatever what was left. His Honorary Aunt Ahsoka is supposedly killed right in front of him, his master and father figure Kanan is blinded, they barely escape with their lives, and it's all his fault for trusting Maul. In a darker take on the trope, this event also triggers his association with the Dark Side.

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