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Iron Woobie

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"In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed."
William Ernest Henley, Invictus

The Iron Woobie is a character who is not just a Woobie; they are the Woobie. Most Woobies are the victim of external circumstance. That may be how it started out for this little guy/girl, but after having to deal with too much guff, they've lost the ability to feel sorry for themselves, and will continue standing in the path of inevitable misfortune. They will Rage Against the Heavens in anger for the ridiculous extent of their trials and tribulations, but when it comes right down to it, they're not expecting the big guy to start doing them any favors now.


Oftentimes the Iron Woobie is also a Determinator, though this isn't an essential part of the character. The chief difference is that a Determinator usually has a specific reason, where as the Iron Woobie can be anyone who bears up gamely to things that happen to them for no discernable reason. Be that as it may, they stubbornly insist on walking the same misfortune-laden path they were on before, and won't give up their personal ethical code just because things continue to go poorly for them.

Different from the Stoic Woobie in that while this character doesn't complain about their misfortune, they don't have to hide the majority of their feelings. The Iron Woobie still can show many emotions such as happiness or grief. They probably won't even mention how the universe makes them a Cosmic Plaything.


When their sufferings spring from their heroism, see also the Hurting Hero.

Opposite trope to Sympathetic Sue. Contrast Martyr Without a Cause and Angst? What Angst?, and compare the more snarky Knight In Sour Armor. See also Don't You Dare Pity Me! and Stoic Woobie. Most Inspirationally Disadvantaged characters are portrayed this way, often with insufficient justification and/or to the point of it being their entire characterization.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ayashi no Ceres: Aya Mikage. At the age of sixteen, she gets the shock of her life by learning that she is the reincarnation of a powerful but despised ancestor of their bloodline (the eponymous Ceres), and Ceres' powers kill nearly every relative in sight on her sixteenth birthday. And it only gets worse from there. Nearly her entire family wants her dead. Her scheming older cousin wants to use her for his own goals. Her father takes a bullet for her. Her mother, driven insane by grief, is manipulated into thinking that Aya had killed her own father and tries to kill Aya. Her twin brother is separated from her, only to later be revealed as the reincarnation of Ceres' psychotic mortal enemy. Everywhere she goes, she witnesses someone die, including a cousin whose mother Ceres had killed, driving said cousin to commit suicide. She is separated many times from the man she loves, who is eventually killed (but gets better anyway) just when she learns she is pregnant with his child. She loses many friends. Finally, she is forced to watch as Ceres—using her body—kills her brother to finally end the curse on the family. But damn it if Aya ever let any of this bring her down for good.
  • Baccano!: Jacuzzi Splot. Shy. Introverted. Meek. Wimpy. Crybaby. Wiped out seventeen Mafia fronts with a machine gun in retaliation for the deaths of his friends. Almost goes up empty-handed against a guy with a flamethrower, and offers himself as a hostage to a psychopath who catches bullets with a crescent wrench, in order to save friends.
  • Bakuman。: Nobuhiro Mashiro. He set out to become a mangaka to impress Miyuki Haruno, whom he liked and corresponded by letters. By the time he felt secure enough in his career to tell her how he felt, she had already married someone else and stopped writing to him, but he kept at it, believing that he was able to get this far because she was watching him, and (as it turns out, correctly) that she still is. When his contract got canceled after his Superhero Legend series and two other series that got canceled within a year, he told the editor responsible for informing him that this was a chance to start over as a newbie. In the end, he died from overworking himself, and while his nephew Moritaka initially thought his death was proof that few can make it in the manga world, he came to realize that he had tried as hard as he could, and that he should do the same.
  • Berserk: Guts. He never asked for any of the crap that's happened to him, from his horrific childhood to the Eclipse, but he utterly refuses to lay down and die, for anyone, no matter what gets thrown at him.
  • Blame!: Killy. Good Lord, Killy. Let's see here...he has to go through:
    • Travelling a city that can be best described as multiple galaxy sized megastructure that is filled with hostile Cylicon Life and the Safeguards which are always out to hunt him and anyone close to him down in gruesome way.
    • Constantly having stuff blown out of him. Losing an arm? Headshot? Impalement? Decapitation? Being blown to pieces by explosions that rivals a supernova? Regular occurences. By the end of the series, he had suffered too much physical trauma (that would have easily killed entire cast of your average Shonen fighting series multiple times) that he loses an eye and a leg permanently. Doctors? What doctors, just stick a iron rod down your leg stump and keep going.
    • Having no companions, EVER. Sure, he does meet some comrades along the way but they never last long and they never leave him without making him going through some MORE massive physical trauma. In fact, THE heaviest physical torment he ever suffered was inflicted thanks to one of his friends, who died soon after. He has absolutely NOTHING, other than his objectives, to keep him company. Speaking of which...
    • Going through all that for at least three millenia. His journey has been so long that he can't even remember ANYTHING other than his name, how to use some equipments, and his objective. His goal is only thing that pushes him forward through hellish world of suffering. And the worst of all...
    • Massive suffering with absolutely no hope whatsoever. There's no guarantee that he actually CAN achieve his objective or things would be better once he did. Even when he succeeds, he would get no reward whatsoever, not even internally, for it is shown that he doesn't have any ideal or anything. Yet he soldiers on...
  • Rock fits the bill in Black Lagoon. He has been taken hostage, abandoned by his company, captured, shot at by friend and foe alike, berated, beaten, punched and just generally abused. Despite all this, he's managed to destroy a chopper by ramming it in midair with a torpedo, call out Revy when he gets tired of her abuse, and earn the respect of Balalaika. And that's just the first couple of episodes/chapters.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Touma is initially introduced as a very typical Shounen main character, with a good heart and impossibly bad luck (except when it comes to women). But then you learn that before his bad luck would also spread over to the people around him, and that he was often harassed as a child because of it. He was even attacked by a man who blamed his business's failure on Touma. A TV Station then did a "supernatural" special on Touma's arm, the source of his nullification powers and bad luck. They released his name and face without his family's permission. Now despite all of this torment, Touma still came out as a kind, selfless individual who would gladly risk his life for anyone, even people who'd once been trying to murder him in cold blood, so long as it's the right thing to do. Even after he loses his memories at the end of book one, this part of himself still stays in tact. He keep his amnesia a secret for the sake of keeping his friend Index happy.
    • He is usually distracted by someone else's pain or the need to protect. For example, he would have been within his rights to have wigged out in anger or guilt or something in the second part of the Inepril arc when Miss Elizabeth brought up July, but he just smiles a very sad smile and gives her a hug. Because that's what you do when people try to commit domestic terrorism on a horrific scale in order to murder you. You hug them.
  • Code Geass: It's a pretty crapsack world, so most characters with backstory are either this, or normal woobies. Main character Lelouch is on the extreme end of this: Murdered mother, crippled sister, father who invaded a country that was using him as insurance, fleeing in a war zone where the natives hate his race, and the invaders are killing everyone, all long before he hits puberty. It gets worse. Still, he's very rarely shown to feel bad for himself, and goes around standing up for the little guy while trying to get revenge on the people who made his life hard.
  • Delicious in Dungeon has Laios: he loses his sister to the dungeon twice, his best friend tells him that he actually always hated him, his team may be arrested and imprisoned forever if and when they return to the surface and he seems to have a bad relationship with his parents to the extent they haven't spoken in ten years. Does he let it get him down or stop him moving forward? Nope.
  • D.Gray-Man: Allen Walker. Why yes, that wide-eyed smiling boy was abandoned by his parents, raised in an abusive circus, watched the only good foster father he'd had die, was cursed by said father after some asshole in a top hat tricked him into bringing him back and then was forced to kill him personally, was then taken in by Cross, who stuck him with all his debts, has at least once watched close friends die because of aforementioned asshole in a top hat, is constantly stuck with the missions that carry heavy emotional baggage, was betrayed by the organization he works for, and then found out his foster father was crazy and may have never actually loved him, but the soul of the evil 14th Noah that was sealed inside him. Isn't it obvious?
  • Dragon Ball Super has Future Trunks. After saving the world once from the androids who killed off half the planet, his father, his father's friends, and his mentor, you'd think life would give the guy a break. Instead Goku Black shows up and murders his mother in front of him, spends a year routinely beating the shit out of him, massacres almost everyone left on Earth and all of the gods and all life on several other planets, making Earth literally the last line of defense for mortals. The guy never stops fighting, and the only times he allows himself to cry are when it's appropriate and there's nothing productive he could be doing to help. Once he's safe in the past and waiting for repairs on his time machine, he quietly begins using a self-therapy technique to treat his own PTSD.
  • Digimon Adventure 02: Ken, for his persistence in knocking down Dark Towers, even while fully expecting the rest of the team to continue hating him, and his concern for the Dark Seed kids, who followed Oikawa of their own volition.
  • Elfen Lied: Nana. Despite being tortured, losing all of her limbs, and watching the person she loves most slip into insanity (and back out, fortunately), she still keeps on going.
  • Fist of the North Star: Most of the cast (the good guys) would qualify, but the best example for the series is Rei. Got a woman he's in love with? She has hots with your new best friend so you have to settle with Courtly Love. Oh, and he's born under Star of Justice, meaning he dies for others, which came true when after he awakens his true self, he became a Sacrificial Lion, doomed to die an agonizing death by Raoh after failing to take him to the underworld with him. Then he spends his last days saving the woman he's in love with from her bad fate, then dies without ever kissing her and it was after he was really dying that the woman starts returning his feeling. Rei, you poor poor guy.
    • Even worse, the Hokuto Musou Dream Mode reveals that if Rei did several things, he would've avoided said death by Raoh and after much hijinx which had him Forced into Evil into the Nanto Army's Token Good Teammate, he would reunite with his lover, stay true to his self and live Happily Ever After. Rei's reaction after he wakes up from the dream? Go die his fated death by Raoh. Because he doesn't want to burden and trouble his friends by not helping for that time. *sniff* There goes your chance to be happy, Rei...
    • Also, said potential lover of Rei, Mamiya, whose parents were killed when she was 20 years old, and then she was kidnapped and taken to a harem. Then her only family left, her brother, dies as well. After this, she falls for a man who is already fated to die for her.
    • Kenshiro. Sweet mother and second cousin of Woobification, Kenshiro. Why do tears pour with such ease from this man? In spite (or because) of his kind and soft heart, he resolved to bear the sadness of the entire world, torn by nuclear fire, on his broad shoulders alone so nobody else has to cry ever again. The big guy himself puts it best:
    "I refuse to build my own future on the blood and tears of others!!"
  • Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail. Her childhood was a terrible one. When she was a kid, she was a slave for a cult trying to make the Tower of Heaven. She led a revolt but lost some of her friends and was betrayed by the very person she was trying to save. But she remains a strong, brave girl who fights for those she cares for.
  • Saki Watanabe from the anime From the New World. Cutie breakage always abounded Saki during the story's run, but instead of moping and feeling sorry for herself constantly, she instead uses these experiences to grow into a strong young woman capable of handling problems when others could not. This attribute of hers is precisely the reason why Tomiko chose Saki as her successor in leading the Ethics Committee.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: This is the defining trope of the series. Every good character in this manga had their woobie moment, like Alex Armstrong who goes through a rather messy breakdown when he sees atrocities done by his troops in Ishbal, Roy Mustang, who starts as idealistic soldier, but is then faced with harsh reality on Ishbal, Riza Hawkeye, who joins army for the same reasons as Mustang, and finds, to her horror, that killing people is not as easy as just pulling the trigger, and many more. The good part, though, is that they're all so badass that they just decide to live with it and continue forward.
    • Alphonse is a literal Iron Woobie. He lost his original human body when he and Ed were trying to revive their dead mother, and now his soul resides in an armor that used to be in their home. He rarely complains and is the sensitive guy to Ed's manly man.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler: Hayate. Despite surviving terrible neglect and danger and loneliness as a child, he retains a noble and compassionate demeanor as well as an unbreakable determination. Small wonder everyone loves and admires him.
  • Kiznaiver: Nico, the Genki Girl and The Heart of the group ends up suffering a lot trying to keep the group together, not to mention her extreme fear of being outcast for being from a rich family. Throughout the series, her constant attempts at making friends with Maki end up with her getting shoved off or even insulted, her first love is in love with another girl, and much more interested in helping her Unrequited Love than even grant Nico her desire of being properly dumped. Nonetheless, she never gives up and is the one to give What the Hell, Hero? all around when the group forgets about the bonds they made. She never stopped trying to make the group become True Companions, even though it mostly ends up in her suffering, by the end, she succeeded.
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam:
    • Domon Kasshu eveolves from Jerkass Woobie to this. Has his master betray him, his own government screws him over, he's forced to fight his brother and was convinced for a long time his own father was a viciously evil bastard, even has his eventual girlfriend eaten by a monster. Somehow, he manages to deal with all of it by beating the crap out of the causes of all the above and a lot of Hot-Blooded screaming.
    • Rain, as well. She's always calm and kind, offering support to everyone as the good Team Mom that she is and serving as Domon's support. She only fully breaks down when she think she's failed in her mission and to Domon and when she finds out the role that her dad had in a certain conspiration... But once this is over, she helps Domon to use the Power of Love and destroy the Devil Gundam for good.
  • Athrun Zala from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED can be considered this. Lost his mother in a nuclear strike, has to fight his long lost best friend, watches two of his closest friends and allies die due to his hesitation to fight Kira, has a horrible father, and is too socially awkward to emote or channel any of this grief until it boils over the top and he breaks down. Yet, he still manages to be possibly the best pilot in the series.
  • To add to it, in Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny he finds himself useless, finds his father's sadistic ways are still cursing the universe, loses his fiance twice, first due to an arranged marriage and second through differing ideals, sees a girl almost damn herself to help him, and can only watch as another dies to protect Lacus.
    • Kira Yamato from the same two series might be sensitive but he gets over it in two minutes. Go ahead. Torture him. Insult his will to fight? Check. Kill people he is trying to protect? Check. Kill a friend? Check. Nearly kill him? Check. Reveal to him he is an experiment to manipulate mankind? Check. Kill first love? Check. Attempt against him? Check. Call him out several times? Check.
  • Monster: Half the appeal of Dr. Kenzo Tenma isn't that his universe seems completely dedicated to eviscerating his spirit — it's that his universe seems completely dedicated to eviscerating his spirit, and yet he still won't break.
  • Nagasarete Airantou: Ikuto. Before coming to the island he was drifting on a life preserver for seven days without food or water. He spends the first episode/book futilely throwing himself against the same few whirlpools until it's absurd but only until he points out that he did that to learn their flow and sneak between them (there's an even larger one beyond it, sadly). His grandfather puts him through Training from Hell and its given him a fear of heights. In a free-for-all game of tag for marriage the day after he arrives, he gets dropped from a tremendous height and thrown an incredible distance, and loses only by an involuntary gesture of bravery on his part. And the hits keep coming. On the other hand, with renewed training, he becomes a Badass Normal who manages to outwit or fairly beat four of the island's most powerful champions in a span of two days.
  • My Hero Academia: Midoriya Izuku, the main character, at the very start of the series. At the age of 4 he has to deal with the fact that he is quirkless, and such, can never become a hero, something that is hammered at him by his mother(who does not believe he can make it), his classmates(who actively bully him and laugh at him), his childhood friend(who grew to hate him), his teachers(who laugh at him at the mere premise) and his idol(who tells him to try a career as a policeman), nonetheless, none of these things actually stop him from trying and he ends up succeeding anyway. It's that very determination to help people in spite of being powerless that inspires his idol to make Izuku his successor.
  • Naruto:
    • The title character himself is this, where he is the pariah of a village that hates and ignores him for something he had no control over, the Nine-Tailed Fox sealed in him after it attacked his home. The only reason he didn't turn out like his first foil Gaara is because of the Third Hokage and Iruka Umino being there for him when he was alone.
    • Kakashi is also a prime example. His father committed suicide when he was pretty young. His teammate and friend, Obito, died saving him which led him to live a guilt-ridden life with chronic guilt-ridden grave visits. Then we find out that Obito is actually Tobi He promised his dying friend to protect Rin, their other teammate. Only to have this happen [1]
  • Sound of the Sky: Filicia Heidemann. She is a Shell-Shocked Veteran who maintains a cheerful facade and keeps her Bad Dreams at bay by focusing on making sure no one else goes through what she had to experience.
  • Minako Aino / Sailor V / Sailor Venus in the Sailor Moon manga goes from a carefree 13-year-old girl who dreamed big and unabashedly enjoyed her life, to a young girl that had been nearly killed in action and had been forced to kill her true love for her mission's sake. She'd regained the memories of the Moon Kingdom's fall, and the death of all the Senshi long before the other Senshi regained their memories of the past life. She had to bear the burden all alone for a year, learning that she'd have to sacrifice her happiness, morals, and life whenever Princess Serenity, a girl she hadn't met in that lifetime, needed her to. She also learned that she was to lead a group of strangers into taking down a force that was plaguing the world. And yet, not only does she go on to be the best fighter of the Inner Senshi with absolute authority over them, she does it all with a smile, burying down a year of immense burden and hardship under a cheery facade. The only time her pain and fear is shown in the Sailor Moon manga is when she is unable to transform, causing her to fall into an identity crisis, since she felt that being Sailor Venus is the only thing she gets to do with her life.
  • Hishigi in Samurai Deeper Kyo. He has watched countless friends die over the years while he was helpless to save them. He has contracted the same disease and was forced to implant Devil Eyes in the left side of his body. The eyes stop the spread of the disease, but they are eating him alive, leaving him in constant and excruciating pain. But he is never shown to feel sorry for himself, and he keeps fighting until the end trying to save his best friend.
  • Trigun: Vash. Yeah, he does break down eventually—but he gets up again, and when you consider how many years he's been doing this already, and just how bad it's gotten, it's frankly terrifying that he hasn't given in yet.
    • He complains all the time about little things, which seems to be either a coping behavior or Obfuscating Stupidity, but when real suffering hits him he just takes it, and takes it, and takes it...and eventually folds, but he does get up again, so it doesn't count.
    • Also, the situation that causes him to fold is a Sadistic Choice where he's not allowed to take his standard third option, which is to throw himself in harm's way.
  • Variable Geo: As a child, Reimi was beaten by her mother, who relentlessly pushed her towards perfectionism both in martial prowess and analytical ability. Then subjected her to nightmarish experiments to further augment Reimi, while also having a seed surgically implanted in her body. Fast forward to the present day, where Reimi is now the CEO of The Jahana Corporation and two-time defending champion of the VG Tournament, who's favored to win it for a third year in a row. But she hasn't forgotten the hell her mother put her through. Problem is, Miranda wasn't done yet.
  • Attack on Titan: Armin may be the most emotionally sensitive of the 104th cadets and exposed to challenges and grief nearly on par with Eren and Mikasa, but he never appears fazed too long at a time and continues to impress people with his intelligence and maturity.
  • Subaru from Re:Zero. Throughout the story he dies in a myriad of ways, everything from getting disemboweled by a bloodthirsty assassin to getting cursed to being torn apart by a supposed friend, but despite being mentally and emotionally broken time and time again because of this, he always gets back up in order to save those he cares about.
  • Infinite Stratos: You gotta hand it to Ichika. He's thrown into a situation he is woefully unprepared for, his Battle Harem won't take "no" for an answer, a terrorist organization that wants to kill him and take his IS core and the guy still manages to remain cheerful and optimistic.
  • Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle: Lux's life can and has broken people far older, wiser, and stronger than he. To wit, as a small child, his mother, his sister and himself were thrown out of the imperial court because his grandfather justifiably criticized the empire's policies. On the journey, their carriage crashes, impaling his mother, and when he runs for aid, people ignore him, or throw rocks, and profane curses, at a small child simply because they don't like the way The Emperor does things, leaving him to see his mother die from her injuries because he had neither the knowledge nor the tools to do anything about it, and does he ever resent it. He might well have died himself except that Philuffy of a powerful merchant house took him and his sister in, out of pity. He spends several years learning how to operate a Drag Ride, becoming the youngest Drag Knight ever, purely for the sake of gaining an audience with the Emperor, his own father, to warn him as to the deep hatred his people have for him and his policies, only to be thrown out on his ear, his warning and accomplishment ignored. To add injury to insult, The Emperor, at best, ignores the actions of his cabinet who take Philuffy, the girl to whom Lux owes his life, by force, from her home to experiment on. Experiments known to be highly cruel, and often fatal, and summarily ignores the pleas of a very powerful merchant house to have her freed. Lux, having no other option than launching a coup and taking the Emperor's army down by force, in order to rescue her finds himself betrayed by his own older brother, Fugil, who organized the coup, and then used it to kill the entire imperial court, including their father, despite Lux's insistence on trying them lawfully. Meanwhile, Lux is unable to stop him because he has to evacuate his sister, who was taken hostage earlier to be used against him. Once he gets back to the palace, Fugil tries to push the responsibility of becoming the emperor on him, despite how Lux isn't the least bit mentally prepared. Worse yet, Fugil's betrayal hit him so hard that he becomes selectively Oblivious to Love, believing that he can never truly be cared for. After losing to Fugil, Lux has his memories altered or wiped, resulting in him constantly suffering from flashbacks of how much worse the coup actually was for him. On top of all that, he is left alone, and unconscious in the blood soaked court to be found and arrested, slapped with a debt equal to 1/5 the national budget, and Fugil is supporting the Lord branch family that wants to destroy whatever little peace he earned for their own cruel ambitions. As if all that wasn't bad enough, he then has memories surface, thanks to Hayes, one of his main reasons for the coup is shot to hell anyways as the horrific experiments were already carried out, resulting in Philuffy being kept alive by a piece of a Ragnarok and vulnerable to being controlled by the enemy. Then Sacred Eclipse reveals that he has lingering guilt over supposedly killing Lisha, resulting in a lot of Mind Screw. To make the coup even more of a Pyrrhic Victory, the ruler of the New Kingdom is siding with Fugil in order to brainwash the masses, meaning Lux's efforts replaced one dictator with another. And yet... he takes it all in stride. Why? Because he wants to make a difference.
  • Date A Live: Shido Itsuka puts himself in danger to protect the Spirits, either from their own unstable powers or people who wish to take advantage of them; but that never stops him from enjoying life with the Spirits at his side.
  • Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku o!: Kazuma Sato is resurrected into a world he barely understands, he has to defeat a villain that has terrorized the world for centuries and no other adventurer has no intention of doing the job. Kazuma isn't an idiot, he knows he is only a hero because he is the only one that actually cares about actually trying to make things better. He also has to put up with a party of eccentric individuals who seem to be more trouble than they're worth and his attempts to do the right thing either backfire or go unnoticed. Still, that never stops Kazuma from treasuring the simple joys in life with his new friends and every once in a while, something will go right for him, no strings attached.
  • Pokémon: Ash Ketchum never wins any regional tournament, is constantly chased by Team Rocket for his Pokémon, has to see friends go in separate ways to achieve their own dreams and has even died temporarily. But that never stops him from taking joy in his adventures and forming meaningful relationships with the people he knows, not to mention he saves the world on a yearly basis through The Power of Friendship and Heroic Resolve. It takes a lot to make Ash depressed, but when that happens, he always finds the strength to soldier on. Respect.
  • The Asterisk War: Kirin Toudou manages to retain a positive attitude and gain the friendships of good people even when faced with a Well-Intentioned Extremist uncle who only uses her as a pawn to increase his political influence.

    Comic Books 
  • Empowered's titular character. After the events in volume one alone, most people would have given up on superheroing for good. Emp's six volumes in and counting. Pain, humiliation, mortal terror, repeated failure, and the constant verbal abuse of her teammates do not stop her. It's either noble dedication or the worst case of Chronic Hero Syndrome ever. She could walk away at any time. No one would blame her. She doesn't. She never will. She's the poster girl for this trope, and anyone who says otherwise hasn't read the comic.
  • Spider-Man takes more crap, deals with more tragedy, blames himself for his shortcomings, and gets less credit than almost any other A-list superhero, all while constantly taking immense beatings by going up against threats way beyond his power level, but he never lets it break his spirit.
  • Colossus from the X-Men is a very literal example. He's seen his brother "die", come back after many years, and exile himself from this realm. He's seen his sister die from the Legacy virus. He then sacrificed his own life to find a cure for said virus. An alien resurrected and imprisoned him, tortured him for two years, and shortly after he was freed, his girlfriend disappeared in space. She came back recently... only to discover that she was trapped in her intangible form, and unable to interact with the rest of the world, including Colossus. And he's still one of the noblest of the X-Men.
    • Recently Colossus' sister also came back. She may or may not be a soulless abomination. Regardless, she acts more emotionless and detached than before, and endangered the entire world for her own vendetta. Colossus still stands by her.
    • More recently he took the mantle of the Juggernaut, which makes him even more mentally unstable.
  • Mother of Champions from The DCU's Great Ten. Essentially being prostituted by her country to strange men so that her special gift can be exploited is bad enough, but the children that result from these unions have a lifespan of roughly one week. She had never given birth before she had her first 25 boys, and eight days later they were all dead. The fact that she remains the picture of motherly dignity and poise is a testament to her emotional strength.
    • The "strange men" part is occasionally changed; she's slept with most of the male members of her team, though her heart belongs to Socialist Red Guardsman alone.
  • Wolverine has over a century of bad memories starting with his father's murder, and after House of M he remembers all of them. His present and — judging by the various bad futures so prevalent in X-Men — his future aren't exactly a romp in the daisies either. He copes with all of this by being an active member of several superteams, fixing past mistakes, sleeping with every hooker in Bangkok, and playing pool.
    • His clone/daughter, Laura Kinney AKA X-23, as well. Bred and raised to be an assassin-for-hire under incredibly abusive and brutal conditions, (she was exposed to lethal doses of radiation at age seven to forcibly activate her Healing Factor, and having her claws surgically removed to be coated in adamantium in the most painful process possible) forced to kill her mother through her conditioning to enter an Unstoppable Rage when exposed to a trigger scent, giving up the only family she's ever known to protect them from her abusive handler—who periodically catches up to her just to make her life a living hell—all the while struggling to control her berserker rage and come to terms with all the death on her hands. She doesn't even have the benefit of Logan's swiss cheese memory to ease the trauma, and remembers all of it. Laura wants to be normal, but she will keep fighting because, as she once told Daken, she's fighting for something bigger than herself.
  • Batman is the definition of the Iron Woobie. His parents were cruelly gunned down by a mugger when he was eight years old, and that's just the beginning. He's had one of his allies crippled by the Joker, then lost his adopted son to the very same man in the course of a year. To make matters even worse he had his spine broken once and then had aforementioned adopted son return to life, now permanently blaming him for his first death. Yet despite this he has NEVER broken his moral code and has never used a gun. (However, he made a "once-in-a-lifetime exception" in Final Crisis when he shot Darkseid with a bullet made of Radion (the kryptonite equivalent of the New Gods and ironically, the same one Darkseid used to kill Orion). He did this to poison him and give time for Superman to finish the job. By that point though, everything was going to hell as Darkseid was wrecking the ''Multiverse'' so things have gotten ''that'' bad. His refusal to break it, even in the face of the Joker (who Batman would like to kill but won't), is the reason he remains a highly prominent A-List superhero and the world's best detective.
    • Dick Grayson is quite the Iron Woobie too, for many of the same reasons.
    • Kate Kane started out similar to Batman: she, along with her mother and twin sister, were kidnapped, and she was left the only survivor of the operation sent to rescue them. Years later, she finds out her twin is not only alive, but has returned as a psychopathic cult leader. Her sister eventually jumps from a plane before her eyes. After this Kate gets mind-raped by a supernatural being and almost drowns, her cousin is almost killed while out crimefighting, she's blackmailed into working for a shady government organization in order to protect her father, she finds out her sister is still alive, she gets dosed with a hallucinogen and beaten up by a relatively sub-par villain, she breaks up with her girlfriend as a way to get her girlfriend's ex-husband to drop his custody battle for their daughter, and gets hypnotized by a vampire and becomes her sex slave. While she has a naturally stoic personality, she does exhibit anger and sadness from all this. However, even at her lowest point she never considers abandoning her role as a vigilante, and actually makes some progress through her issues after seeing a psychiatrist, becoming stronger for it.
  • Martian Manhunter has one of, if not the most tragic backstory of the heroes of the DCU, and that's saying a lot. J'onn watched his entire species (including his wife and daughter) die a fiery death at the hands of his brother, only survived by cutting himself off from his species, wandered alone over the barren world of Mars for an untold amount of years and was abruptly transported to an alien world. Despite all this, J'onn retained his sanity and remains a noble, wise hero.
  • Bruce Banner. Abused as a child, turned into a green monster, endured the death of three wives, chased around the world by the Army, shot into space, enslaved by an alien empire, loses the empire once he conquers it, has his Roaring Rampage of Revenge crushed by a Heel Realization, and fails to save one of his troubled sons. Man it SUCKS to be a big green badass.
    • And, oddly enough, the Hulk himself, as depicted in "The End".
      Hulk: For years... forever... Hulk has listened to Banner, and Banner's friends, talking about how Hulk ruined Banner's life! Hulk made Banner's life! Banner was nothing before Hulk... nothing!...Hulk doesn't want friends, because friends will hurt him. Everyone hurts him. Everyone hurts Hulk.
  • Some incarnations of Tony Stark qualify especially if he's being The Determinator and disregards his health.
  • Daredevil. Where to begin? His mother leaves when he is a baby, his father constantly pushes him to succeed so he can have a better life, he is blinded by chemicals and his father is murdered by the mob. Oh and the super senses? Matt can't turn them off and They make life nearly unbearable. In Born Again, his ex-girlfriend sells his identity to the mob, he loses his legal license, he has all his money taken away and is reduced to living on the streets. Then in Shadowland, he is demonically possessed and forced to do horrible things. Lets just say life sucks for Matt Murdock. And yet he never gives up and becomes a stronger person for it.
  • Paperinik New Adventures: when the alien Evronians invaded Xadhoom's planet, she lost her boyfriend, and entire race. she resolved to exterminate them for it. The real kicker? She accidentally caused that invasion.
  • Johnny Alpha of Strontium Dog: Born mutated, to a father running for high public office on an anti-mutant platform. Abused constantly throughout his childhood. Ran away and became a child soldier at age 12. General Armz second-in-command at 17. Watched the deaths of hundreds of his comrades-in-arms in the assault on Westminster. Lived the rest of his life as a bounty hunter. Estranged from his sister, who considered Johnny a threat to her family (not without reason). Watched several friends die. Killed his father and brother. Was cheated out of countless bounties. Faced constant anti-mutant discrimination. And soldiered on. If you don't want to buy the man a beer and give him a hug, you have no heart.
  • Mockingbird, AKA Bobbi Morse. In chronological order, she's been framed, shot, caught in an explosion, beaten, raped, killed said rapist, saw her marriage break down, was abducted by aliens and forced to fight for survival, killed a Skrull that took the form of the man she loved, eventually returned but was then haunted by the ghost of her rapist, had her relationship with Hawkeye break down once more, her mother was shot and her brother disowned her, got shot again and turned into an immortal super soldier, then got left behind enemy lines with no memory, had serious Mind Rape that revealed she had a second personality, left with broken memories and shot at, then finally killed the man responsible for the mind rape before being lost, now missing with no one knowing where she is. All that, you'd think she'd give up, right? Well, she doesn't. She just faces down the problem with a smirk and a sarcastic one-liner.
  • Superman himself. He lost his homeworld, in all continuities, one or both of the Kents die, and he has to live with the knowledge that he is different from the humans he protects and will never truly belong. His New 52 adaptation is even a Hero with Bad Publicity at the start of his career. And yet he never stops being an Ideal Hero. Upbringing Makes the Hero indeed.
    • Supergirl. Compared to Kara, Kal's woobieness is miniscule. He may have lost his planet, but was a baby when it happened and was raised by the loving Kents, while Kara (especially in New Earth) remembers her planet pre-destruction and her parents being vaporized and planet being destroyed were the last thing she saw before the suspended animation of her ship kicked in. She has to deal with having the memory of what she's truly lost - family and friends alike, and has survivor's guilt because of it, but still tries to live up to the responsibilities of the S. Batman has told her that, unlike Clark, Kara knows what it's like to be like him because she knew what it was like to see your parents die in front of your eyes and be helpless to stop it.

    Comic Strips 
  • Charlie Brown from Peanuts stopped being too bothered by things that don't turn out well for him as he's come to expect it. It doesn't stop him from continuing to run his baseball team or participating in competitions of all sorts, however, in hopes that he will one day get his big break.

    Fan Works 
  • Takato Matsuki from the Tamers Forever Series could be the poster boy for this trope, the amount of physical and mental torment he suffers through over the course of the series must be seen to be believed, but he take it all on with a smile on his face. Seriously, the kid is a walking talking Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Akiko Yamaguchi/Star Reverie from Magical Girl Mega Crossover the Battle Fantasia Project. The Call came to her at eight years old against The Church of The Eclipse for about a year, then for the next two there was the Carnival of Blood, an evil carnival made of warped versions of the usual fare that warps people into the horrors the longer they stay there, assuming they don't get killed, who killed her Familiar part-way through that little adventure, and now for the past four years she's been fighting the Nightmare Factory, which spawns Monsters Of The Week that are both spawned from and create nightmares, as well as play with Akiko's mind, and they may or may not be grooming the girl into something else. By the time we meet her, she's been disowned by her parents due to her maintaining The Masquerade, she's on her own, and has had seven years of rapidly escalating psychological torment heaped on her. So it's no surprise that we first meet her right as she's attempting suicide on live national Japanese news, calling for someone to save her for a change. However, in doing so she reveals the existence of Magical Girls, and starts off the series of events that leads to the formation of the Magical Girl Alliance.
    • That's what makes her a Woobie. The Iron part comes from how she still wants to be a Magical Girl after she's recovered, been depowered, and the Big Bad of the First Arc has been defeated. And from the consensus on the thread, she gains a new powerset, and becomes a Bad Ass Teacher.
  • From the war-torn future of Warhammer 40,000 comes an Ogryn named Gav from the fanfic The Ballad of Gav and Bob. Ogryn are a naturally loyal race of huge, violent manchildren fanatically devoted to the Emperor, and Gav is no different. He remains steadfastly loyal even after losing his Commissar and his best Ogryn friend Bob; seeing his new best friend Tarla gored by the tail of a Greater Daemon of Slaanesh and losing his left arm to said Daemon; living to see Tarla turned into a mind-wiped servitor because of her repeated exposure to Chaos. Gav is so loyal that he ends up on the retinue of a Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor, Traela.
  • Shinji Ikari in The Second Try invoked it willingly. After 3rd Impact and losing his (and Asuka's) child because they traveled back time to do the whole damn story again, he keeps on keeping on so he can prevent 3rd Impact and create a better future. Since Asuka is slowly giving into depression (and Character Development during 3rd Impact) he is the only thing keeping them both on track.
  • Elissa, in the Dragon Age: Origins story Shadow And Rose, is very much this. Her entire family is murdered, then she's one of only two Grey Wardens to survive a massacre of a battle. She and her fellow Warden are then blamed for all the deaths in that battle and hunted relentlessly while they try to rally forces to help them save the country. All the while, she picks up new friends who each have their own personal demons that she must help them overcome. She can't give up or her country is doomed, so all she can do is continue to fight - and occasionally find a reason to smile.
  • In Gensokyo 20XX, we have Reimu and she is more than willing to put everything aside and endure hell, even going to hell and back, just to look forward even if she was facing the prospect of dying.
    • What really sells this is what she says, post age-regression in chapter 101 of Gensokyo 20XXV:
    Reimu: "[...] I don't want to be sick anymore and all I've done is to cause trouble, just a burden, and you complain! If you despise what is your existence, then end it. If you blame me for your misery, then, fine, end it, end it where it is! Do it! You have nothing left to lose from putting an end to a little girl. You complain of how miserable your life is, when no one wants to be someone else's burden or to be sick or different. I'M DYING, don't you understand that?! Aren't I dying? Aren't I? Nothing can be done about that and I don't complain. I should be complaining but complaining won't do a thing and neither will it make the sickness go away. You complain and bitch, when those that have the right don't!"
  • Harry Potter is generally a pervert and smartass with no respect for authority in I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. But from time to time, something causes his facade to slip for a moment and reveal how soul-crushingly lonely he is, being completely alone in the universe. Not only is he in another galaxy far, far away, but back on Earth, everyone he knew has been dead for centuries. At the start of the story, the only people he could claim as friends are Dobby, his droid he modeled after Minerva McGonagall, and a bartender he flirts with but doesn't even know the name of.
  • Leon Hardrada/Azrael in Aesir: Cross Wars. All at the ripe old age of 14, Leon gets beaten up and robbed by his friends, whom he trusted. He is heavily implied to be an orphan. Later on that day, his brother got murdered. The next day, he received an invitation to go to the City of Light, only for the event to get hijacked by resident God of Evil Loki. He locks him in Helheim with 10 other children, but half of them die right in front of him. In particular, Aria Lockhart,a girl he had a crush on, had one of the most brutal deaths in the story (Impaled on spears multiple times, then has her soul ripped out of her body.). When the survivors escaped, Leon goes home, only to find his parents have been slaughtered by Loki. After he meets up with the other 5 survivors, they are being confronted by Loki, who wants to sacrifice one of them, and then Leon volunteers to die to keep the others alive. If not for the other gods taking action by reincarnating him as the Angel Azrael, he'd be too dead to make this trope. Despite all this, he is a Nice Guy who always gives second chances, and strongly believes Rousseau Was Right.. In fact, now that he can fight, he never kills if it can be avoided. He is a happy, kind boy who was even willing to forgive and reform Loki's fanatical priests and followers.
  • Sweetie Belle from the Recursive Fanfiction The Sweetie Chronicles: Fragments; the fic starts with her mentor Twilight Sparkle getting crystallized and blown up in a magic accident, with Sweetie stuck hopping across The Multiverse trying to put her back together. From there she's been attacked by werewolves, Fallout ghouls, psychopaths, and other monsters, killed several times by an insane shard of Twilight, watched an alternate universe Rarity cut down one of her best friends in cold blood, been physically and psychologically tortured by The Fair Folk until she became a living statue, got roped into a war between ponies and Changelings despite her calls for peace, and she gets the occasional vision of how her absence has emotionally destroyed her universe's Rarity. Yet she keeps moving on, in the hope that her journey will end and she and Twilight can go home.

    Films — Animation 
  • Po in the Kung Fu Panda series. In the first film, Po has to get over both the taunts of his teammates and his own crippling self-esteem issues in order to become the Dragon Warrior. In the second, he learns about how his people were massacred by Lord Shen, including his mother. However, to Shen's astonishment, Po manages to come to terms with his past to achieve an inner peace that enables him to defeat a warfleet armed with cannons by himself.
  • A literal example is WALL•E. That little guy's spirit is amazing.
  • Coco takes this trope beyond eleven. We have Héctor, the estranged music man who went on a music tour and was never heard from by his family again, who was murdered by his best friend for wanting to return home and spent 96 years trying to see his daughter Coco before he was completely forgotten. Not only did his family refuse to remember him, when his wife Imelda died, she refused to listen to his desperate attempts at apologizing, and it was only through Miguel mistakenly believing his best friend to be his great-great-grandfather that he learned the truth of how he died, got his chance to reunite with his family, and finally see Coco without being forgotten.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Barney Coopersmith from My Blue Heaven. Despite the fact that his wife left him for another man, Barney is an FBI agent, and although he seems geeky (he was portrayed by Rick Moranis), Barney seems quite badass with a gun.
  • In To Hell And Back Audie Murphy plays himself as one. And given how little credit he was willing to take for his real life heroic actions it would appear that he might be a Real Life example as well.
  • Tom Bardo from Stuck. The man loses his job, his home, gets hit by a car and spends most of the film in complete agony. But he still manages to be astonishingly resourceful and determined for a man in his situation. Iron indeed.
  • Ben Kingsley's portrayal of Gandhi comes off as this, especially right at first. Watch him in the scene where he's burning the passes.
  • You could say Maggie Gyllenhaal has been type cast in this part. She's definitely capable of withstanding the slings and arrows, but you still want to give her a hug for being forced to endure them. And when she does start crying, if you don't start also, you have ice-water running through your veins.
  • Word of God states that Selena from 28 Days Later is this as a backstory for the character states that she had to kill her whole family in one afternoon including her baby brother.
  • Sarah Connor of the Terminator movies bears traces of this. In The Terminator, she loses her roommate and best friend, her mother and the love of her life. By Terminator 2: Judgment Day, she has been committed to an asylum, and has not seen her son in years. Despite all this, she never loses sight of her responsibilities, and remains determined to mold John into the leader humanity needs him to be.
  • Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption. Despite being falsely accused and sent to a hell hole prison for a crime he didn't commit, he fights to survive and maintains his optimistic hope. It pays off when he escapes in the end.
  • Lawrence Talbot, Universal Studios' The Wolf Man (1941), is depicted as this in his later appearances, once he resigns himself to never finding a cure and starts making the best of it by becoming The Atoner, siccing his monstrous side on other monsters. Given that he can't ever keep himself dead when he attempts suicide, becoming an Iron Woobie is really his only alternative.
  • Knives Chau in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Though an Action Girl in both the comic book and the film, the film incarnation truly makes the transition to Iron Woobie and is a deciding factor in Scott's final victory against the Big Bad. In the comics, Knives instead sheds much of her woobie status by realizing that Scott is something of a Jerk Ass where relationships are concerned, and actively decides to move on for her own good.
  • Bethany Hamilton in Soul Surfer. The real-life Bethany noted that she was actually more cheerful in the hospital than the film shows!
  • Fantastic Four's Ben Grimm, when he became "The Thing" his life started falling apart, including his girlfriend leaving him.
  • Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise. In the first film, she's the sole survivor against a creature which killed her shipmates. In the second film, she gets demoted for destroying her ship in her attempt to destroy the creature, and in the extended cut, we learn her daughter grew up and died during her overextended time in cryo-sleep. When's she's called back by her company to investigate the colony on the planet from the first film, she finds another Iron Woobie in Rebecca "Newt" Jorden, the sole child survivor of the colony's infestation.
  • Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi. His master gets killed before his eyes while he is powerless to prevent it, he becomes a master long before he is ready, he winds up fighting in a war that goes against all he believes in, his Heterosexual Life-Partner turns to the Dark Side and massacres the only family Obi-Wan has, he's forced to fight said former friend to the death, he lives in exile for nineteen years and then is killed by the same old friend he couldn't bring himself to kill years before. And that's not even mentioning the Expanded Universe. But he'll never compromise his principles, retaining his status as The Paragon through all the hardship. At the most, he'll snark about things, and it takes a heck of a lot to get him to show any negative emotion.
    • Leia, so so much. Biological mother dead in childbirth, and her twin brother taken away for decades. Tortured by her biological father after he'd massacred her ship's crew. Saw her homeworld blown up along with her foster parents by a smirking Imperial. Harried across much of the galaxy, with trusted Rebel allies dying all the while. Watched the guy she's falling for get frozen alive, not knowing if he'll live through it. Captured and dressed up like a sex slave by a revolting slug gangster. Found out her friend is her long-lost brother just in time to watch him go off and potentially get killed. Had to accept that her torturer was her biological dad. Gave birth to a son who turned to the Dark Side, causing her husband and brother to leave in grief and/or shame. Kicked out of politics when her status as Darth Vader's daughter got leaked to the public. Saw the star system where nearly all of her allies lived blown up. Force-felt her son murder her husband. Lost virtually every surviving ally to yet another harrying enemy force, while narrowly escaping dying in the vacuum of space. Finally gave up hope that her son could ever be redeemed. Force-felt a loved one's death again when her long-lost brother expired from exertion. How is this woman even sane?!
  • Lorraine McFly, Marty's mother in the alternate 1985 in Back to the Future Part II. She's an alcoholic like in the very first timeline, and has been in an abusive marriage to Biff Tannen after he'd murdered George, staying with him only because he threatens to financially cut off herself and her children if she tries to leave. Thankfully, Marty fixes the timeline so that she doesn't suffer this fate.
  • Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle: Tauriq Jackson has been harassed his whole life- Harold finds him in jail accused of robbery- but has learned a long time ago not to get riled up (and to be happy about his large penis). It pays off when he sues the department and has the racist cops thrown in the can.

  • While Miles Vorkosigan in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga already takes this to extreme levels (born with abnormally brittle bones and needing multiple surgeries and painful physical therapy just to walk, and that was just the first six years of his life; it got worse), his brother Mark has it even worse. Created in a laboratory by absurdly insane and delusional terrorists to kill and impersonate his brother long enough to murder their father, raised by clone traders who sell their services to rich old people willing to murder their own cloned children and transplant their brains into the young bodies, every one of his childhood friends is dead by the time he starts trying to stop the clone trade. But after being physically, sexually, and psychologically tortured by someone vile by everyone else's standards (Mark makes millions from the assassination and ends up rescuing dozens of innocent lives), a beautiful female soldier touches his wrist and offers her pity for what he'd suffered. Mark's response: grab her wrist in a death grip and snarl viciously, "don't you DARE feel pity for me. I WON!"
  • Danny Saunders from The Chosen. He was a Hassidic Rebbe's son and an incredibly gifted young scholar. His father actually shunned him as a form of Training from Hell (his father did not like doing it, which gives him as well some qualifications as a Well-Intentioned Extremist Iron Woobie once one gets past Values Dissonance).
  • Jean Paget in A Town Like Alice. Even when being marched by the Japanese with a party of women through the jungles of Malaya she always kept her spirits up.
  • Harry Dresden. The entire universe hates him, but he still keeps saving it, usually making bad jokes at the same time. Listing why would result in a Wall of Text, so just go to the Dresden Files Woobie page to save space.
    • Thomas Raith, so much so it's difficult to say whether he or Harry is more of an Iron Woobie. The universe really hates their family.
  • In Wen Spencer's Endless Blue, Mikhail suffers, and long has, from depression. He nevertheless plays The Stoic until those rare conditions that manage to break him. When his foster brother Turk apparently dies, he conscientiously locks away his gun and gives away his vodkha, to prevent Drowning My Sorrows and Driven to Suicide — at least until he gets his crew to safety.
  • Lloyd Henried from The Stand remains determined to stick with his evil ways, even if Randal Flagg scares him.
  • Huck from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He is utterly penniless, gets kidnapped by his abusive and alcoholic father, is nearly stabbed by said father, almost gets shot during a feud, has a run in with a homicidal gang of robbers and falls into the company of con men, among other things. Throughout all of this, he's infectiously cheerful, playful and heartbreakingly unaware of the Crapsack World surrounding him.
    • Jim is a pretty decent candidate for this trope as well. Despite being a runaway slave, he risks capture several times to protect Huck.
  • Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo. Starts out an all-around nice guy, is imprisoned after being falsely accused and having his life and fiancee ripped away from him, escapes, plans an elaborate vengeance against his accusers spanning several years and then, despite those years of planning, spares the life of one of his enemies because he would have to take the life of his innocent and honorable son in addition.
    • Abbe Faria, as well. Despite being innocent, he spends approximately a decade longer in prison than he has to because his most viable escape plan might involve killing a guard who's just doing his job.
  • X-Wing Series: Tycho Celchu is a Woobie in universe. He was an Alderaanian flying for the Empire who had been placing a call to his family there on his birthday when Alderaan was destroyed. He fought for the Rebel Alliance and was kidnapped and tortured by Isard, but never broke. When he was released the Alliance was suspicious of him, thinking that he'd turned into one of Isard's Manchurian Agents, and he was put under all kinds of restrictions. His old CO Wedge Antilles still trusted him absolutely and relied on him, even giving him roles in secret plans. Then someone who was suspicious of him died in suspicious circumstances, and he was put on trial with a mountain of evidence set against him. Everyone but Wedge, or nearly everyone, thought he was a traitor, wittingly or not, and Wedge had a moment of doubt. So how did Tycho bear up with this? Stoically, and with an endless reserve of patience. Before Isard got him he was a hothead and impulsive - after that, he was subdued, haunted, and his nobility was laid bare.
    "I put up with it because I must. Enduring it is the only way I can be allowed to fight back against the Empire. If I were to walk away from the Rebellion, if I were to sit the war out, I would have surrendered to the fear of what Ysanne Isard might, might, have done to me. Without firing a shot she would have made me as dead as Alderaan, and I won't allow that. There's nothing in what I have to live with on a daily basis that isn't a thousand times easier than what I survived at the hands of the Empire. Until the Empire is dead, I can never truly be free because I'll always be under suspicion. Living with minor restrictions now means someday no one has to fear me."
  • The title character of The Windrose Chronicles, by Barbara Hambly, winds up going through fifteen kinds of hell at the hands of the good guys as well as the bad guys. He's been traumatized enough to go completely insane - and his insanity gives him the ability to sustain hope even when such is unrealistic - leading to such Awesome Moments as gaining secret control of the prison where he is being tortured, not that that makes the torture hurt any less, and dealing with everyone throughout courteously and cheerfully...
  • Niall from Wicked Lovely, oh so much so. He gave himself to the Dark Court, and we all know what that meant, to save a few mortals (who died anyway.) He managed to escape from them, becoming one of the Summer Court's most trusted advisors. Oh, but then, well, Shit happened. He would have every reason in the world to be all angsty and depressed, but he very rarely does, or at least not visibly. He's a "survivor", as Leslie put it.
  • With all the crap that the Baudelaire siblings endure in A Series of Unfortunate Events one would think they'd be broken about ten times over by now. While they may come close they always manage to continue on and survive in some epic way by sticking together through the hard times.
  • Marshal-General Atkins, from John C. Wright's The Golden Oecumene is the only warrior in a society that has forgotten the meaning of war or violence. He is regarded as an anachronism at best, a needless expense at worst. The only inkling the reader gets of his woobie nature is a brief Not So Stoic outburst after a dose of Amnesiac Dissonance.
  • Despite having endured events that would have broken lesser peoples the princesses of The Princess Series refuse to give in to despair or anger(mostly). They have even managed to find some happiness and sense of family with each other.
  • Robin Hobb loves a good Iron Woobie.
    • Realm of the Elderlings: FitzChivalry Farseer. A bastard whose unveiling causes his heir-to-the-throne father to go into seclusion, mercilessly trained as an assassin, executed for possessing forbidden magic (he got better), sent on a mission to save a kingdom that hates him, forced to give up his youth and vitality, leaving him broken for many years, only to return to find out his lover and his foster father have gone off to raise his child together and no one wants him around anymore. Then, umpteen years later when his kingdom needs him, he still goes off to save the day.
    • Nevare Burvelle of The Soldier Son suffers in much the same manner as Fitz, though Hobb has only tortured him for three books thus far.
  • My Happy Life is made of this. The nameless narrator describes being a beaten, neglected, friendless woman, with a mental deficiency who was abandoned, raised in a Dickinsonian orphanage, left homeless, kidnapped, abused, and eventually locked in an abandoned insane asylum to die in relentlessly cheerful terms. The reader may assume part of her insanity was an inability to feel unhappiness, but that's not explicitly stated.
  • Georgie in The Fledgling. She seems like your ordinary introverted, outcast child, until a Canada goose befriends her and teaches her to fly, and it seems all the other characters are bent on stopping her. In the end, the goose, the only true friend she's had not only dies, but dies because Georgie calls him to her. And despite that, Georgie still never complains.
  • Harry Potter. Parents are dead murdered trying to save him, betrayed by their best friend. His only living relatives hate him because he was born with magic and physically and emotionally abuse him, starving him and until the age of 12 make him live in a cupboard under the stairs. His life and those of everyone he cares about is constantly being threatened by the most dangerous and evil wizard in history all because of prophecy made before he was born, to the point that every year he is put in mortal danger far beyond the abilities of the normal wizard let alone a child. He has a teacher that makes it his life's mission to make Harry unhappy and his mentor keeps him in the dark about nearly everything. The media spends half the time villifying him for telling the truth and powerful politicians either coddle him or try to discredit him. All of his protectors and father figures are horribly murdered and to cap it all he is forced to walk slowly to his death and isn't allowed to defend himself or run away (the fact that he doesn't actually end up dead isn't even that helpful because coming back he still has to fight the Big Bad again)
    • "Loony" Luna Lovegood has some of this as well. The first years of her life were... okay, one can presume. Okay, though friendless. She had loving parents and her mother, in particular, was rumored to have been an extraordinary witch. Keywords: Have been. When Luna was 9 years old she became an eye witness when one of her mother's experimental spells backfired. Her father, Xenophilius, is implied to have had a Sanity Slippage by the gruesome circumstances of her death and, all in all, life got tough for Luna. Things didn't get better when she went to Hogwarts. No, due to being the victim of a serious deconstruction of the Cloud Cuckoolander trope, she was teased and ostracized by the other students due to her easy-to-spot quirkiness, with Ginny Weasley being the only one to approach her. It's not until her 4th year in Hogwarts that she finally finds some true company together with the Main Trio, Ginny and Neville Longbottom, and she only says one year later that she liked being together with them because it "was like having friends."
  • Lissla Lissar from Robin McKinley's Deerskin. Just follow the link to that page. Lissar is the embodiment of the tragic backstory. The poor girl goes through utter hell, in one form or another, for seventeen years. And yet she survives it all—with the help of a being called the Moonwoman, who changes Lissar's appearance and conceals her memories until she might be ready to deal with them—becoming the most compassionate and courageous person imaginable.
  • Ruth Mallory of Someone Else's War: A fourteen-year-old comfort slave, mother to two dead children, lost her home, her innocence, her peace of mind, she has no friends, she's specifically antagonized by the men because she's ugly—but she never bemoans her fate. She never pities herself, instead doing what she can to save others from a similar life.
  • Matt from The Power of Five, once he learns that his destiny is to be tortured by the Old Ones and given a Mercy Kill by Richard and still manages to keep going.
  • Alinadar from The Red Vixen Adventures started her woobiness by having her family murdered by Space Pirates, being made their slave and forced to be a Child Soldier hunting down other children hiding on ships the pirates attacked. Escaping that and settling down to be a noblewoman's bodyguard, she's finally found by her long lost brother a Stellar Patroller after he searched for her for twenty years, only to be arrested by him the day he finds her when she admits to being a former pirate. And all the while she complains people are being too sympathetic to her compared to her victims.
  • The Bible seems to portray God (of all people) this way occasionally. A lot of His big speeches in the Old Testament boil down to "Everyone keeps ignoring me and doing evil stuff that I told you not to do, and I feel really hurt by that, but I guess I'm not gonna give up you anyway" - it kinda reads like they want you to feel sorry for the Big Guy. Jesus certainly counts in the New Testament, though - He has one Rage Against the Heavens moment in the Garden of Gethsemane, but He pretty quickly comes to the conclusion that He's going to go through with the whole crucifixion thing because He's convinced there's no better way. He remains pretty impressively composed throughout the actual process of dying, too.
    • Possibly the Ur-Example would be Job. Here's a guy who's incredibly wealthy, and one day while he's sitting down to dinner finds out that all of his livestock, servants, and children have just been killed or captured. When that's not enough to break him, he then loses even his health, with painful sores all over his body. His friends turn on him, assuming that he must have done something incredibly awful to deserve such a punishment. His wife, who should be comforting him in this crisis, instead tells him to just curse God and die. But through it all, he never loses his faith, at one point even calling God out to explain why he's had to suffer so. It pays off in the end; God is so impressed with his perseverance that everything he had lost was restored to him doubly.
  • Dwight in the Origami Yoda series. Harvey constantly makes fun of him and his puppet Origami Yoda out of jealousy, but he's usually pretty happy.
  • Jane Eyre most DEFINITELY qualifies for this trope! Suffering through an abusive childhood, an abusive adolescence, and on top of all this, to have the man she comes to love keep critical secrets from her would drive anyone to despair. But not Jane. She, despite the occasional moments of "Why me?" keeps soldiering on through life, and making the best of whatever comes along.
  • Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars is this from the start of the novel. Despite having a prosthetic leg, he takes everything in stride and tries to make the best out of his situation. He begins to crack by the end.
  • The Spirit Thief got itself two.
    • Nico is a demonseed, meaning that every day of her life, a demon by the name of Master is trying to possess her, which would turn her into an unstoppable engine of destruction. To this end, he torments her with voices, pushes her deeper into Heroic Self-Deprecation and takes away her powers before mocking her when she can't help her friends. Despite that, not only does she resist him, she's one of the most skilled, selfless and helpful people in the story. When she finally confronts the Master and tells him to shove it, you can't help but cheer for her.
    • From what little we see of the Hunter, he's a ridiculously badass version of this trope. He's had to fight hundreds upon hundreds of demons, all alone, for over five thousand years, only getting an hour's rest every century. He fights for a world he doesn't even get to live in, for spirits and humans he never sees, slowly realizing his enemies will never die and his Creator is not coming back to save them. And then his beloved sister, the one who comforts him during his brief rest and one of only two beings who fully understands what he goes through... betrays him and literally stabs him In the Back.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jack Bauer from 24. If he weren't such a Badass he would've killed himself by now.
    • He would need to invent a successful method of killing Jack Bauer first. Considering how many had tried and failed, it stands to reason that it simply cannot be done.
  • Sam Tyler from Life on Mars (2006). There's his Fish out of Temporal Water predicament, the ensuing angst and Sanity Slippage, and all the abuse he has to put up with. Yet he's still a capable police officer and unwavering in his principles.
  • Michael Westen from Burn Notice. Raised by an abusive, alcoholic father who died mysteriously, he joined the military where he worked with sociopaths on a constant basis, only to lose his job and find himself stuck in a city he's out of place in and constantly targeted by a mysterious evil organization. Every time it seems like he might get his old job back, he is violently reminded why the show has the title it does. Even despite all this, he takes most things in stride and has a fairly optimistic view of the world.
  • Mr. Spock from Star Trek. He is perfectly willing to sacrifice himself for others. He will also stand by his principles even when he expects that Kirk, McCoy, or his parents will hate him for it.
    • Picard picks up the role in The Next Generation. Assimilated by the Borg, living a whole lifetime's worth of experiences in a few moments, which effectively gives him the last memory of a dead civilization, suffers through centuries' worth of rage and heartbreak for Sarek, and was tortured for weeks by Gul Madred. He feels responsible for what he did as Locutus for years afterwards, as indicated by his interactions with Sisko in the Deep Space 9 pilot and in First Contact. Even after all that, Picard sticks to his beliefs and keeps going.
    • Also Data from TNG. He's constantly the victim of Fantastic Racism due to being an android, his "brother" turns out to be an Evil Twin, his "daughter" died and his body's been hijacked more than once. The fact that he can't feel emotion just seems to make it worse somehow.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The title character. Life screws her over royally time and again. Even when demonic forces aren't actively threatening everything she holds dear, she is still risking her life on a nightly basis and constantly alone, but she just keeps going. In fact, most Buffyverse characters are this trope. Joss Whedon is just mean to his characters.
    • Xander Harris. He's been the most unfortunate of all of the main characters (except the titular character herself). Bad things happen to him for nearly no reason other than to provide comedy and/or angst for the main character, to the point that at one point he declares himself the butt-monkey of the BTVS universe. Furthermore, despite a highly impressive track record, his achievements, loyalty, and bravery are always downplayed/dismissed by his friends until such a time that he becomes useful for them. He is an Iron Woobie because despite this treatment, he never turns on his friends or the fight against evil, and you have to admire him for that determination. Xander addresses this in the episode "Potential". After Dawn acknowledges that she is not the new potential slayer the scoobies were looking for, Xander tells her that the others will never know what it's like to be normal when all of your friends have ridiculous amounts of power that keep growing, but that he knows how much strength it took for Dawn to not let everyone continue to think that she was the potential. It's actually a pretty touching scene.
  • Heroes: Edgar, a new Season 4 character, is an interesting case—he kills people with his super-speed/weapon accuracy abilities, but he has said that he does not actually want to do it—and then Samuel started to Force-choke him. He has emotions, remorse, and feelings for people, but still does bad things rather coldly.
    • Claire has been one throughout. An alternate universe showed what would happen if she did break and it was frightening (but also awesome)
  • Supernatural:
    • Any hunter on the show would qualify, since hunters are usually created when their normal lives are ripped apart by some supernatural monster. Rather than drown in despair and alcohol, they pack up their lives, hit the road and chase those monsters.
    • A case could be made for Crowley. Sure, he's a bad guy, but he also spent most of Season 5 alienated from his own kind and with a death sentence on his head that could just as easily have been delivered by the Winchesters as by the demons he betrayed. Yet he snarks on.
    • Castiel, especially in Season 5 when he's falling. But even after he's re-angelfied and accepted into Heaven, he finds that he has to become the figurehead for an incredibly personal civil war between his brothers, and he's more or less had to go it alone.
  • Baldrick, Edmund Blackadder's hapless manservant in the British comedy series Blackadder. Not very bright, but always cheerful, no matter how much his sarcastic master abused him.
  • The title character of Veronica Mars. No person should go through as much crap as she does, and the majority of people would have some kind of breakdown - but no. She'll move on with a plan and a quip, and try and help people.
  • Jonathan Kent of Smallville is one of the best examples here. The guy basically spent his entire adult life working to protect Clark's secret, and (along with Martha) dealing with Clark's developing powers. Then, he makes an unfortunate deal with the Jor-El AI that leads to his developing a heart condition that eventually kills him, all for the sake of saving Clark. Along the way, poor Jonathan had to deal with the stresses of running a barely-profitable farm that was constantly beset with financial difficulties. And how does Jonathan react to all of this? By NOT taking refuge in Wangst. Instead, he tells Clark and Martha not to worry about him, and focuses on getting the job done. In Season 10, when we see Clark talking to Jonathan in the afterlife, Jonathan reminisces on his own life, and still refuses to dwell in self-pity. Now THAT'S an honorable character.
    • Hell, even before Clark came on the scene, Jonathan had more than his fair share of trouble in life. Martha says that Jonathan and his father never really got along, and Jonathan regrets never being able to patch things up between them. He met Martha while taking some classes at college (probably to manage the farm better), and she was way out of his league: daughter of a high-powered Metropolis attorney, and her father no love for the yokel Martha was falling for. In the end, Clark's grandfather was invited out of the family, and never really reconciled with his daughter, son-in-law, or grandson. Jonathan and Martha were also unable to have children of their own, despite numerous attempts. And through it all, Jonathan had to keep a rather powerful rage in check to be the good man he always wanted to be.
  • Fran from Power Rangers Jungle Fury. Poor, poor Fran. As the only employee to not be a Ranger, she is consistently the only one left to deal with the mass lunch rush. While she occasionally confronts Theo and Lily about always being gone, once to the point of quitting, she just as easily sets it aside. And this isn't even covering her crush on Dom...
  • Torchwood:
    • Ianto Jones, who's been through just about everything. One of only 27 employees of Torchwood One to survive Canary Wharf, he saw his girlfriend turned into a killer cyborg that eventually had to be shot in front of him, he was half beaten to death by cannibals, and mind raped by an alien into thinking he's a murderer. And he does most of it with the wry efficiency of someone who was effectively hired to clean up after the team.
    • Jack is probaly the biggest Iron Woobie of the series. Dear god, he's been buried alive, had all the life sucked out of him, was buried in concrete, and in Torchwood: Miracle Day was murdered over and over again in a butcher shop. He's also died over two thousand times and spent a year being tortured to death over and over. Oh, and he was also forced to kill his own grandson in order to save the rest of Earth's children the day after his boyfriend died. How Jack isn't a babbling mess by now is kind of a mystery.
    • Then there's Tosh. She was forced to commit treason because her mother was being held hostage. Then, instead of getting rescued, UNIT sentences her to isolation until Jack shows up and recruits her for Torchwood. The man she has a crush on is a jerk who won't give her the time of day, but at least she has regular contact with him. Another interest was a soldier suffering from PSTD who had to go back to a time that didn't understand the disorder. Then there was her other love interest Mary who was revealed to have been using her the entire time. When Tosh finally does tell Owen she loves him, she's dying from a gunshot wound and it turns out he didn't even hear it. That poor woman never got a break.
  • Doctor Who
    • Rory, particularly the resurrected Auton Rory. To make up for a moment of weakness where his Auton programming overrode his mind, he spends two thousand years guarding a box holding the body of his girlfriend. Two thousand years with nobody to talk to, no way to heal injuries, and nothing to think of but his love, his guilt, and his worry. And despite having no way to heal injuries, two thousand years later, he hasn't a scratch. His Iron Woobie status got another major upgrade in the series 6 finale, when a device he was wearing would cause him agony or even death if he kept it on. But since he needed the device to save the others, he refused to take it off:
    Amy: You have to take your eye drive off.
    Rory: Can't do that, ma'am. Can't forget what's coming.
    Amy: But it could activate any second.
    Rory (with clenched, trembling fists): It has activated, ma'am.
    • The Doctor himself. We don't know exactly how old he is (and neither does he) but for somewhere over a thousand years now he's been coming up against the worst monsters the universe has to offer, day after day, and although he always tries to save everyone, he very, very rarely succeeds. He's been forced to commit an act of absolute genocide against his own species although due to Timey Wimey Ball reasons, it turns out he hasn't. He's watched friends and family die - sometimes because he wasn't fast enough or clever enough or because they gave their lives to save him. It's pretty clear by now that, underneath the manic enthusiasm and bad sense of humour (which may or may not be more than just a coping mechanism), the Doctor has the worst case of Survivor Guilt in the history of time itself. But he rarely if ever lets himself angst about it - there's adventuring to be done, after all.
      • And he tells it all to a parasite god that feeds off emotions and experiences.
    Matt Smith: That’s what interests me about The Doctor because, actually, look at the blood on the man’s hands. 900 years, countless very selfish choices, and he’s literally blown planets up. His own race, you know, that’s all on his hands. Which is why I think he has to make silly jokes and wear a fez. Because if he didn't, he'd hang himself.
  • From NUMB3RS: Josephine Kirtland, the victim in the Season 3 episode "Nine Wives". She grew up in a polygamist cult. She was forced to marry its leader, Prophet Stone, who subsequently raped her. Instead of giving up, she escapes from a desert hideout and treks through the wilderness at night. Later, she faces two awful truths: her mother betrayed her to Stone, and she is the product of Parental Incest (she and her mother have the same father). Despite all of this, she's a mostly stable individual by the end of the episode. Oh, and did I mention that she's only sixteen?
  • Aaron Hotchner from Criminal Minds is possibly the best example of an Iron Woobie on TV today. Hotch is trying to raise his son after his ex-wife - his high school sweetheart - was murdered by the Reaper, who made him listen over the phone while she died. Hotch was so grief-stricken that he beat the Reaper to death with his bare hands. Oh, and this was after he got stabbed by the Reaper, and had his son taken into protective custody. And after that time he nearly got blown up by a suicide bomber, lost an old flame in the same attack, and had painful hearing problems for some time afterward as a result of it shattering his eardrums.
  • Bree Van De Kamp, from Desperate Housewives. Let's get this straight: She lost 3 husbands and 2 boyfriends, her son hated her with passion for several seasons, her daughter does not like her very much either, and she succumbed to alcoholism. Despite all of this, she managed to get back on her feet each time, despite the odds, the people and the universe working against her. That is, until season 8, where she finally snaps, and is on the verge of committing suicide herself like Mary Alice by the end of the 9th episode.
  • The title character of Merlin (2008). Just look at the last half of Series 2. Forced to tell your best friend that magic is evil in order to spare a man who would have you slaughtered? Check. Your best friend kills your girlfriend? Check. Forced to poison one of your friends for the greater good? Check. Finally meet your father only for him to die saving you two days later? Check. And while this is a compilation of the worst things to happen to him, they certainly aren't limited to just lining up in a row and hitting him. Only one person has learned his secret, accepted it, and lived. Everyone else is dead.
    • Oh, and did we mention that these are just specific events? His normal life is being called an idiot and distrusted despite always being right, getting abused and belittled by Arthur despite constantly saving his life, and if he's ever discovered saving all of Camelot, he will be killed. Why? Because he was born magical and thus must be evil. And it would most likely be Arthur who gives out the order.
    • He has never gone into Heroic B.S.O.D., rampaged, broken down, or sunk into depression. He cries, sure, but he'll get back on his feet and keep trying with the same episode. Even on the one occasion when he truly felt his cause was hopeless after accidentally killing Uther and possibly turning Arthur against magic forever, he stuck around because Arthur needed his emotional support. He's not even that emotional towards Gaius, the one person who he can rant to. He's had one rant (early series two, before all the above happened), and the rest of the time he just takes comfort in the fact that there is one person who knows how much he's done for Camelot. Forget iron, this guy is an Adamantium Woobie.
    • Oh and his final fate? To Walk the Earth, immortal, until he's needed again. As most fans have noted, this is a curse to see everyone he cares about die, but he's still waiting for Arthur.
  • Al Calavicci from Quantum Leap. In order: his mother ran out on her family; he bounced in and out of orphanages because his father was working overseas; his little sister died in a mental hospital; his father died from cancer (thus causing his falling out with religion); his father figure, a black man, was arrested for playing pool in a whites-only pool hall (this being the 1940s); he was a POW in Vietnam, during which time his first wife, the "only woman [I] ever really loved," left him; four more failed marriages; and he was a raging alcoholic, to the degree that he was in danger of getting fired from his job running a government project. Rock bottom was implied to be when Sam Beckett found him piss drunk and beating a vending machine with a hammer. Despite all of the crap that Al's been through, he's a pretty laid-back guy and rarely mentions any of these things unless it's relevant (all of these were learned when he used them to put a leap into context for Sam).
  • Alex Cabot from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was shot by a hitman and forced to go into Witness Protection Program. Most of her friends think she is dead, she wasn't allowed to attend her mothers own funeral because she is placed under another identity, and the man she was in a relationship with thought of her as a woman with another name. She arrives back for one episode to testify against the man who shot her and when she lets her walls over around Olivia, it really hits home. And when she arrives back as ADA permanently again in season 10, her infamous cool-headed personality remains and rarely lets up.
  • House of Anubis- Patricia seems to be a downplayed one. She's gone through a lot of struggle and genuine pain since the first series, including betrayal, kidnapping, heartbreak, jealousy issues, and even getting her soul stolen. Despite this, she is the show's biggest Determinator, and she has a tendency to bounce back after getting hurt, no matter how badly.
  • Babylon 5 has G'Kar, who develops into this over the series.
  • Hook in Once Upon a Time while being tortured in Season 5. His suffering is visible on his face, but he tries to not scream out when his tormentor, Hades, is in the room and instead Hook threatens to destroy him, something he helps his friends achieve later. However, he does let on a little when Emma comes to his rescue.
  • Theo in The Haunting of Hill House. She's described by her siblings as a "clenched fist" and dealt with the trauma from Hill House by becoming an ice queen. The only time she's truly warm is when she's at work, treating children as a child psychologist.
    • She can sense hidden truths by touching people, allowing her to see her patients' traumas and help diagnose them. One of them is being molested by her foster father, which Theo psychically experiences while investigating. Imagine experiencing not just your own traumas but the traumas of every person you've ever touched.

  • The narrator of Labi Siffre's classic Something Inside So Strong.
  • The main character of the video of P!nk's "F***ing Perfect".
  • The main character of Joshua Radin's "Brand New Day" video. Heartbreaking that through it all, he keeps singing. Especially so since it's such a happy, upbeat song.
  • The hospital worker of The Antlers' album, Hospice.

  • Lucretia of The Adventure Zone: Balance definitely qualifies. Lost her home plane to an all consuming Eldritch Abomination, was chased through the multiverse by said abomination for an entire century, had to erase her dear friends' memories in a bid to protect them, treating Barry as an enemy and her captain as her ward, lost the majority of her youth and almost her life in Wonderland, and saw her friends return to danger without their memories of her... all for the Hunger to find them anyways.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ilmater, the God of Suffering, from the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting Forgotten Realms and his followers.
  • So many in Warhammer 40,000. So many.
    • Humanity as a whole. When you check the fluff you discover how badly they get screwed every time they try to make things somehow better; some of the rulebooks go as far as having a planet which managed to get rid of all disease invaded by the Chaos God of Desperation and Plague because it took offense at such achievement, while in another rulebook the Imperium manages to get some technological relic which may allow to cure all diseases only to get it stolen by the Dark Eldar, just because one of their leaders wanted to show they could harm humanity as a whole, and then there's the whole Horus Heresy with half of the Space Marines turning renegades. Yet, in a one on one none of these or any other major factions can truly match mankind's military capability whenever the Imperium gets enough time to mobilize their armies and specialists or just pulls some ruthless scorched sector tactic.
    • You have Commisar Yarrick, who is a simple old man... that has been involved in the defense of Armageddon from two Ork WAAAGH!s (read: global invasion). He has seen and sent thousands of men to their deaths, and he's been in charge of the war effort for a long time. He gets ambushed by Orks, and yet manages to stay alive and somehow make the Orks, who are all large aliens that live for the thrill of war afraid of him. He does all of this by himself. There is also a short story published by Black Library titled "Survivor" which is connected to his past.
    • And then there's Kaldor Draigo. He's hated by a lot of players because of his lore - he's a member of the Grey Knights, who are already badass compared to the other badasses of the 40K universe. They face the greatest horrors of the Warp, fighting daemons and spawns of Chaos, which would normally leave a normal person insane. He gets the even shorter end of the stick - he gets sucked into the Warp itself, and he's mostly trapped in it. He, however, refuses to surrender; even if all the victories he manages to win inside the Warp are fleeting since the daemons just reform elsewhere, he keeps on fighting alone, walking the Warp.
  • Adamant caste Alchemical Exalted. Their duty is to keep the Eight Nations safe without the Octet ever finding out they exist. They spend most of their time in the dark, alone except for a tide of horrible monsters. They wait, and they watch, but if they do break protocol and reveal themselves to a small group of mortals or an assembly of Alchemicals, thanks to their anima effect it's likely their contacts will never remember who they are. Yet most of them keep carrying the torch of Autochthon's will into the darkness and use it to burn gremlins for people who will never know what they go through.
  • In Rocket Age the Iotes have this as their hat. Bombed back into the stone age in aeons past, the Iotes have degenerated from being beautiful and graceful creatures to hideous and disease ridden. Living on a irradiated rock with limited resources and constant warfare, they have been forced to have an amazing level of emotional resistance and tend to accept even the worst turns of events as a natural part of life.

  • Horton the Elephant from Seussical. Everyone he knows thinks he's crazy for taking care of a speck of dust, he's been chased all over the jungle, he's left with Mayzie's egg for months and months and in the process is captured by hunters and sold to a circus, but he never once gives up. Never.
  • Viola from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. After escaping from a shipwreck that her twin brother may have perished in, she takes a deep breath in lieu of mourning and dresses as a man to serve as the page of Duke Orsino. She goes on to fall in love with him and suffer in silence as he loudly pines over the woman he wants instead of her.
  • Elphaba from Wicked, the theater version. Not only is she green-skinned and thus shunned, her father has always blamed her (and thus she blames herself) for her mother's death and sister's paraplegia. Then the Wizard, whom she looked up to and was sure would help stop the Animals from being silenced turns out to be the *cause* of it, and he not only disappoints her but calls for her death. Then her sister dies and she cannot even have the only thing that remains of her, Nessa's magical slippers. Finally, just after reconciling with her best friend, she will never see her because she either dies or fakes her death.
    • On the upside, if you assume she lives, she did finally get to be with her lover, Fiyero.
    • And the book version's even worse - her mother doesn't die after Nessarose is born (and she's born without arms in the book instead of paraplegic) but dies after giving birth to a completely normal (Jerkass) of a son, Shell. After going through a childhood of being used as a pointer in her fathers' missionary work - 'Look what the Unnamed God did to *me*, a priest!' - she goes to Shiz, finally away from her needy sister and holier-than-thou father, and has her eyes opened to the systematic dismantling of Animal rights. She's one of the only people in the book to realize Doctor Dillamond was *murdered*. And all of *that's* just when she's at Shiz! Though she keeps on trucking, things just get worse...

    Video Games 
  • Aribeth de Tylmarande from Neverwinter Nights, whose entire life story is a Trauma Conga Line of epic proportions best summed up as the tale of a woman who tried very hard in the face of a universe that hated her and ended up failing anyway, fighting tooth and nail to get an Esoteric Happy Ending at the end of the last expansion pack. She somehow puts on a calm public face through a series of tragedies that would make strong men weep in spite of all this.
  • Several characters from the Mass Effect series could qualify. The most extreme of these cases is Jack from the second game. She was kidnapped as an infant from Cerberus, forced into an experiment that was pure horror day in, day out, for the sake of finding out if trauma increases biotic power. When she escaped, she flew with pirates, was used as a sex object repeatedly, dropped a moon onto a colony...
    Jack: ...and that's the boring shit.
    • The amount of suffering that Commander Shepard can be put through (losing the entire family to Batarian slavers/growing up an Earthbound orphan, losing a squad on Akuze, facing routine accusations of being crazy by the very people he/she's trying to protect, losing a love interest in either game, dying in the beginning of the second, being forced to work with the people responsible for Akuze, facing the consequences of The Arrival, and possibly dying for real during the Suicide Mission) is almost comical, yet none of this will stop him/her from shrugging it all off and saving the galaxy.
    • Shepard's status as this is multiplied by a thousand times in Mass Effect 3. S/he experiences an enormous amount of losses, experiences serious Survivor Guilt and is forced to carry the fate of the entire galaxy on his/her shoulders. Joker notes at one point that while resting s/he's under more stress now than s/he was in his/her background (which involves either holding a platoon by him/herself, watching his/her squad get devoured by Sand Worms, or leading a suicidal assault against an enemy fort). By the end, s/he's so exhausted that s/he can barely keep his/her eyes open, has suffered third-degree burns, is bleeding to death from a stomach wound, and got caught in a blast from HARBINGER, but when Admiral Hackett calls him/her, s/he immediately gets back up and responds.
    Shepard: [through labored, steadying breaths] W...what do you need me to do?
    • Javik, the downloadable Prothean survivor squadmate, never seems to be anything less than calm and in control. However, talking to him reveals a lot of suffering in his past. Not only is he the last of his species, but if you tell him to use the Echo Stone, he shares with you the fact that he was the commander of a ship like the Normandy... except that, when the Reapers had it attacked and the crew carried off, they got everyone except for Javik himself. He singlehandedly stormed a Reaper fortress, desperately trying to save his people... but they were already indoctrinated by then, and he was forced to Mercy Kill them all to escape.
  • Max Payne talks a lot about how bad his life is, yet he manages to keep his emotions in check through and through. And kill lots of people. Gulping pain killers like Pez helps a lot.
  • Valkyria Chronicles:
    • Selvaria Bles. It's hard not to feel sorry at the way she willingly put herself through hell (and later sacrifices herself) for a man who doesn't care about her - and she probably knows it. The way she faces her fate with pride and keeps leading her soldiers to the bitter end makes her very admirable. Even in her final defeat, all she asks of the Fat Bastard who came to take her as a prize and steal Squad 7's merits is that he spares her men...
    • Imca from Valkyria Chronicles III. Suffered from Doomed Hometown, is put into a penal legion, endures the standard crap Darcssens live with, and is driven by a singular purpose: KILL SELVARIA. That she knows is waaay out of her league.
      Imca: I ain't need no help from anyone.
  • Gorath from Betrayal at Krondor. Most of his suffering is the result of his own difficult decisions, which he keeps making afterwards without complaint.
  • Take Marona from Phantom Brave. Now take all the hate, and loathing directed at her; and take Ash away. That's Carona. Willing to be considered a villain, willing to save the world anyway. Willing to train the people she's being forced to bring into a trap so that they're strong enough to break out of it. Willing to go back to her world even though Marona and Ash would have welcomed her in theirs and she refused to take Ash with her when Marona offered.
  • ''Final Fantasy':
    • Ramza from Final Fantasy Tactics. Sure, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. So get the whips and chains ready, because he's going to do good anyway.
    • Zack Fair Crisis Core From the start to end nothing get's better for this poor dude but he always has a grin on his face and refuses to give up fighting no matter if he's fighting his best friend, mentor, or an entire freaking army.
    • Final Fantasy X:
    • Final Fantasy XIII: Fang. She became Ragnarok to crack Cocoon's shell to complete hers and Vanille's focus. She mentions on several occasions that Pulse has a fear of Cocoon just like Cocoon has a fear of Pulse. Forgetting everything about her time as Ragnarok, she's tortured in front of Vanille by Orphan, watches helplessly as her friends are transformed into Cie'th and decides to go through with becoming Ragnarok to save Cocoon at the end of the game, becoming a crystal again. This woman has had it rough.
  • Timothy Pike from Dark Fall: The Journal is level-headed, affable, and helpful despite his unpleasant past and horrifying present.
  • Poor, poor Isaac Clarke of Dead Space is just an engineer who was sent on a clean-up job in space. What he finds is a ship simply filled bow-to-stern with Nightmare Fuel. Yet, in spite of it all, he goes through Hell and back to not only complete his repairs, but also save his girlfriend, Nicole, who, it turns out, has been Dead All Along. After the spoiler makes him undergo a Heroic B.S.O.D. (that lasts for about five seconds), he sucks it up, moves forward, destroys an Eldritch Abomination, and escapes, unfortunately haunted by hallucinations of Nicole. He is confined to a mental institute, where the government keeps him in and out of stasis for three years, using his madness to construct another Artifact of Doom. Another Necromorph outbreak later, Isaac not only has to worry about the space zombies, government agents out to kill him, and the Church of Happyology trying to kidnap him, but also the hallucination of his girlfriend trying to drive him to suicide.
  • The main character of Dragon Quest V. No other character in the entire series compares to him. Where to even begin. His father is murdered right in front of him as a child. He lives as a slave for the next ten years constructing an icon of blasphemy. He and his wife are turned to stone for another seven years, mere days after his twin children are born. They get seperated during this, and she does not get unpetrified until well after he is. And as probably the biggest Player Punch in the entire series, his mother, who he and his father had been searching for the entire game, is murdered right in front of him just minutes after he'd finally found her. And yet despite all this, he NEVER breaks down. If that's not an Iron Woobie, what is?
  • Ayane from Dead or Alive qualifies. She was born from her biological father, Raidou, raping her mother to get back at one of his enemies, and was hated and mistreated by her village of origin as a result, with the only two that ever treated her well being her friends Hayate and Kasumi, and her adoptive father Genra. Though she and Kasumi are friends and she's crushing on Hayate, the rest of the village tries to keep her away from them due to associating her with Raidou. Then she finds out from her mother that Kasumi and Hayate are her half siblings, and that while they're treated like ninja royalty, she's outcast because her mother didn't claim her due to the trauma of her birth circumstances. Then Raidou comes back to the village seeking a technique they guarded, and while she's beaten aside easily, Hayate is crippled when she fails to protect him. Kasumi then leaves the village to seek revenge, and Ayane is assigned to kill her for breaking the code of secrecy surrounding the village. And this is all before leaving the backstory! She proceeds to have to face off with both her best friend andher amnesiac love interest when Hayate is brought back by DOATEC as Ein as part of Project Epsilon. Then in the third tournament, she finds out that her adoptive father has been kidnapped by DOATEC and turned into the monstrous bioweapon known as Omega, forcing her to enter the tournament, whereupon she defeats and kills him to set him free of DOATEC's slavery. And past that, with Hayate back as of the fourth game, Kasumi is still marked for death due to Honor Before Reason, and Ayane is still loyally serving her clan to take her down. And through all of this, the only hint of the pain we ever see going through her is a single tear when she's cremating Genra's body after he dies. One really wonders how Tecmo could hurt her worse if the series had gone on.
  • If you are not feeling rather sarcastic due to the recent events, then BlazBlue's answer for Iron Woobie would be Dr. Litchi Faye-Ling. She is a kind doctor who knew she's slowly being corrupted by the Boundary in exchange of a great power that she uses for fighting and trying to discover a cure for her lover turned Eldritch Abomination. And for that, she even left her previous job as scientist and endangers herself with a court-martial. Interaction with the townspeople where she resided, townspeople that looked up to her, would make you think that they'll make good moral support for her quest, but she never tells them her situation, which means she's carrying her burden alone. Then, when she sought help from her superior and got refused, the corruption is catching up to her limit, her only option to continue was to join the rival organization, which stores one person that she knew to be a Devil in Plain Sight, and she did so anyway, knowing that her previous organization would do even worse than court-martial from that point on if they ever catch her. And while at first she thought the organization was just 'normal' or better than her previous one, she starts seeing that it is rather... shady and questionable, but she decided to bear all that. In her own words... "I can't go back. Even if I have to sacrifice some of my humanity."
    • One of the main characters, Ragna the Bloodedge is no slouch, either. He was a young man who lived happily with his brother Jin and his sister Saya. Then a psychotic hipster named Yuuki Terumi burned down his home, killed his adoptive guardian, brainwashes Jin to have him chop his arm off and stab him through the chest, and kidnaps Saya for good measure. He gets a new arm called the Azure Grimoire from a girl who rescues him, which grants him awesome power but will probably one day kill him horribly. He also has many people out to capture him either for his arm or the enormously huge bounty on him for going against the NOL and a psychotic Yandere clone of his sister (roll with it) whose method of showing affection toward him is to repeatedly stab him with the hundreds of blades she has on her disposal. Yet, despite these horrible events, he still goes on to keep kicking ass (preferably Terumi's).
  • Axl Low from Guilty Gear is a nice English guy who has been ripped from his girlfriend Megumi and his home to be thrown through time by the machinations of beings who just want a pawn in their schemes. Axl himself wants none of it and is just looking for someone who might know how he can get home. In Xrd: Revelator, he finds someone who knows what's wrong with him and can send him home: It's I-no, who tells him that he's actually a magical Reality Warper who can erase and rewrite timelines at will, just like her... and he can never go home because he may have already erased his own timeline and everyone in it. This news makes Axl fall into a deep depression, and when he's given a chance to go to his home time later, it comes with the Sadistic Choice that he'll erase his friends in the future, as the two worlds are mutually exclusive. He decides to save his friends.
  • Klonoa exists simply for multiple realities to screw him over. And he will bear on to do the right thing without hesitating. The first game is one giant Break the Cutie aimed squarely at Klonoa's head.
  • Metroid's own Samus Aran. The toughest warrior in the galaxy, destroyer of worlds... and everyone she knows and/or cared about dies in front of her. She has been forced by circumstance to wipe out entire species of super-predator (the sole survivor of one died saving her life), and spends most of her time on-screen either wandering the crumbling ruins of the civilization she was raised in and its allies, or hunting down the ones responsible.
  • Reisen Udongein Inaba of the Touhou series. Despite being abused by her masters and her subordinate (And anyone she comes in contact with), she is STILL willing to protect them at all costs.
  • Craig Boone of Fallout: New Vegas. You poor man. Take off your stoic sunglasses and let us see your pain. He was present at the Bitter Springs Massacre and suffers immense survivors guilt and PTSD as a result. He meets a girl who accepts him and becomes his wife but she doesn't get on with Boone's only friend causing tension between them. His wife, pregnant with his child, is sold into slavery by someone in their town. Boone tracks down the legion slavers to one of their biggest outposts where they are planning to sell her and faced with no other option kills his wife and flees (being outnumbered several hundred to one). When he gets back to Novac he an't trust anyone because any of them might have been the one to sell his wife and he can't fix his relationship with his friend. In various dialogue with him he outright states that he's stopped expecting a break and thinks the universe is just waiting for him to let his guard down so it can screw him over again.
  • Cubone is more of a straight-up woobie, having lost its mother and filling her empty skull with tears. However, the evolved form Marowak is pure Iron Woobie material: a badass club-wielding warrior who's gotten over mama's death and uses past anguish as fuel for its ferocious battling.
  • The protagonist of Zettai Hero Project, a Heroic Mime who appears to be nothing but an O.C. Stand-in and over-the-top example of This Loser Is You, especially as a superhero. In Chapter 9, it's revealed that he actually has a backstory, and the countless Hopeless Boss Fights of the game are a reflection of his primary character trait. Eight years ago, he and his sister were captured by a serial kidnapper/cannibal, and he protected her by getting the crap kicked out of him repeatedly until the police and Unlosing Ranger arrived. But she was so traumatized that all she remembers is him getting beaten up and crying, causing the whole family to blame what happened on his weakness, and completely tearing them apart. As in, his parents are getting divorced over who raised him to be such a wimp and his sister wants him to just die. After becoming humanity's Butt-Monkey, he continues to protect everyone in the only way he knows how, even if they all mock him for it.
  • Mickey Mouse from Kingdom Hearts. Everyone he knows either dies, disappears, goes into a coma, or falls to darkness, he's an utter failure at protecting the worlds and his friends and loved ones from the encroaching darkness, and his life is best described as "hell". He is also frequently compared to prequel trilogy era Yoda in combat prowess, and despite over 12 years of constant defeat and failure, refuses to give up, and stays pretty optimistic.'
  • Also Beast. Living in a cold and dark castle in the middle of nowhere with a curse that had made him into a vicious-looking monster for several years can be depressing, no less with the fact that the curse can only be broken if a woman loves him for who he is. Depressed and angry for many years, a woman finally comes to his castle and after some hard time they learn to get along and Beast finally finds some happiness in his life. And then the castle gets destroyed and the woman kidnapped by The Heartless, and Beast ends up in nowhere of the universe. Does he cry or angsts about the sistuation as he used to? No, through sheer force of will alone he ends up in Hollow Bastion and with all his strength fights through the forces of darkness to save his beloved without complaning or whining.
  • Sora definitely winds up here a few games in; memory tampering, a year in a coma, forced into fighting across most of Disney's canon, multiple friends corrupted, finding out he's The Unchosen One after all of this? The more the multiverse kicks him in the face, the more hell-bent he is on arguing back with Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!.
  • Scorpion from Mortal Kombat is this. First his entire clan is killed, then after being brought back as a spectre he's forced by Shang Tsung to work alongside the guy who killed his family. In life and in death his story is an endless stream of tragedy, his game endings are usually bad, right down to becoming the vessel of Dark Kahn's rebirth in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (luckily, the game is non-canon). Yet he still continues on.
    • Even worse, the Elder Gods are dicks to him. In Mortal Kombat: Deception, they make Scorpion their Champion to deal with the threat of Onaga. He agrees on the terms that his family and clansmen be revived by the Elder Gods. When he delivers, the Elder Gods uphold their end of the bargain... by reviving the Shirai Ryu as undead abominations in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. No wonder he goes all Rage Against the Heavens afterwards.
    • Kitana even moreso. Not only is her father is killed by Shao Kahn during his bloody takeover of Edenia, but her mother Sindel commits suicide out of grief for her departed husband. Shao Kahn then manipulates the poor girl into serving as one of his assassins and makes her falsely believe that he is her birth father. He also creates a disfigured clone of her to act as her "sister" and ultimately off her should Kitana prove to be unreliable. Who knows how long this lasted for, seeing as Kitana is over 10,000-years-old. When she finally breaks free, Kahn then revives her mother and brainwashes her as a tool for his invasion of Earthrealm. Eventually, all of this is sorted out. Then comes Shinnok. And after that is resolved, Kitana proposes to her love interest Liu Kang, only for him to reluctantly decline due to his status as Earthrealm's Champion. Then Quan Chi and Shang Tsung get the jump on him before Deadly Alliance and kill him. And then she dies in battle with Quan Chi and Shang Tsung, and is later revived by Onaga and—you guessed it—brainwashed to serve him. The one time she breaks down (her Unchained ending) is justified, as her premonitions about the end of the world are coming true (as seen in Armageddon). The girl's got it rough. It gets more devastating in the 2011 reboot when she finds her "sister" and hears from her so called father that he killed her real father and nearly gets executed. Then her mother gets brainwashed and unlike last time in the original timeline, she gets killed by her brainwashed mother who doesn't realize what she has done and is an undead warrior who is brainwashed.
  • Leon from F-Zero X onward. The kid was no more than four when invaders ransacked and virtually razed his homeplanet of Zou. Leon lost both his parents and his left eye that day. Eleven years later, the F-Zero GP races are gearing up for a revival and the people of Zou choose him to be their representative. All he has is a second-hand machine created by a guilt-wracked rebel soldier from the big war years ago. His chances of winning are slim and Leon wants to make the children of his planet happy again. Yet, he never complains about the hardships he's had to endure even once and instead stays optimistic and cheery, standing head-and-shoulders above the rest of the cast as the most selfless character of the series.
  • So many characters in the Metal Gear franchise. Solid Snake, Big Boss, The Boss, Ocelot, etc. Snake is a notable example with all the shit you see him go through during the entire series especially in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
  • Recette, the protagonist of Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale [not only was she abandoned by her dad in all but name & her mom might be dead, she also lived alone for 3 months, might've been starving by the time the game's events roll around, and has to perform child labor in order to pay off the enormous debt her dad left her (and she loses her house, & has to live in a box, if she fails)]. It's amazing she's able to put up such a friendly smile each day.
  • Many of the characters in Left 4 Dead, but Zoey most of all. Much of the supplemental material shows she's on the verge of breaking down, yet she keeps on fighting her way through waist-deep hordes of zombies.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: Lost your parents in the war? Surrounded by the hostile thoughts, words, and deeds of paranoid warmongers on all sides? Forced into destroying the country and endangering the world? Brother commits a Heroic Sacrifice to prevent you and a friend from doing the same? Saddled with responsibility for an entire nation without the understanding to help them? Welcome to another day in the life of Sveta Czamaral.
  • Nautilus from League of Legends. Oh boy. He was a sailor who was left to die by his fellow seamen after he dived into an unidentified, pitch-black section of the ocean and was grabbed by something and dragged down. When he awoke after who knows how long, his heavy diving suit had been fused with his skin, and he was lost in complete darkness. With nothing else left to do, he walked. Too heavy to swim and weighted down by the suit, he walked along the ocean floor until he eventually hit the shores. However, he found that there was nothing left for him on the surface. No home, no family, no friend, nothing. The only reason he joined the eponymous League of Legends is that someone might be able to help him discover something about himself.
  • Becoming one of these is the entire journey of Lucas, the hero from MOTHER 3. The game begins with his life utterly falling to pieces after his mother is killed brutally by a Mechanized Drago, his twin brother disappears while trying to avenge her and is assumed to be dead, his father is driven partially mad from the resulting grief and gets thrown into prison after a rampage, the wildlife around him are all transformed into horrifying Cyborgs that are violent, and everybody in the village he lives in slowly begin turning into self-seeking, cold-shouldered hedonists after the bad guys who are responsible for all this start planting Artifacts of Doom in their houses. All in the span of two days. Before all of this happened, he was already very sensitive and timid, but now he's an absolute wreck. Three years later, one things leads to another, and his adventure begins. During his quest, he faces countless more dangers and traumatic events, including discovering his mother's ghost but finding himself unable to touch or even talk to her, but with the help of his strange but loyal and true new friends, he holds up his head and presses on. And, by the end, how much has he grown? Well, he eventually finds out that his brother isn't dead and finally finds him. However, he's been turned into a Cyborg as well and has been completely stripped of his memories , being sent by the Big Bad to kill Lucas. After one of the most heartbreaking I Know You're In There Somewhere Fights in the history of fiction, his brother realizes who he is and, unable to break the control on himself any other way, commits suicide and dies in Lucas's arms. And, after all this, does Lucas still have it in him to pull the final needle and save the world? Well, you might not, but he sure does.
  • Clive Barker's Undying: Patrick Galloway has been through a LOT that we know of and even more that we don't, most of which is all but stated to have scarred him in various fashions. Not that you would know it from how he acts.
  • Ryu of Street Fighter fame becomes this in the Street Fighter IV Theties That Bind anime OAV, the prequel to the Street Fighter IV game. He has been dealing for years already with a horrifyingly strong Superpowered Evil Side known as the Satsui no Hado, said Superpowered Evil Side has begun to become stronger, he gets involved in a massive conspiracy due to such a side, almost loses himself to it when one of his friends is beaten within an inch of her life and is terribly shaken when that happens and it turns out he could've severely beaten his Hero-Worshipper while under the SES's influence... but ultimately he refuses to fall in despair and anger, and with his friends's help he comes out stronger than he was before.
  • All the Future Children from Fire Emblem Awakening count in, in one way or another. All of them come from a HORRIBLE Crapsack World that is actually their home's Bad Future, are terribly traumatised by what they've witnessed and many have added trauma for what came before that... and yet all of them, even the weaker ones like Brady, Noire or Yarne, are determined to fix what's wrong in the past and save their parents from dying before it's time. And nothing will deter them from such a decision.
  • Fire Emblem Fates is full, FULL of woobies of this kind:
    • The Avatar definitely experiences their fair share of trauma, but they never let that deter them from the path they choose.
    • The Power Trio of Laslow, Odin, and Selena are revealed to be this, since they are Inigo, Owain, and Severa from Fire Emblem Awakening. (Or at very least, one of the Ylissean worlds there.) This means these three have led incredibly hard lives: they saw their original world die, time traveled with their True Companions to go Screw Destiny, were contacted by Anankos' Good Side and followed him to his world, landed in Nohr and rebuilt their lives there as much as they could... while being perfectly aware that one day, they'll have to decide whether to stay or not, which could destroy these new lives and identities. And yet neither of them whines, cries, or wangsts, and keep doing as well as they can. In fact, when Laslow/Inigo finds out through supports that his partner Peri also lost her mother in a horrible way, he's the one comforting her!
    • Mozu as well. Having lost everyone she loved and cared about in the village destroyed by the Faceless (and having to watch her mother die right in front of her), one really has to feel sorry for her. And despite all of this, she's a competent Magikarp Power Plucky Girl. Not to mention that while she does occasionally cry about it in her supports, Mozu always ends up becoming even more useful to the army.
    • Princess Elise has had a very hard life, barely knowing her father Garon before he underwent Sanity Slippage, having a mother who never loved her and drifting apart from Xander, her Big Brother Mentor with a side of Promotionto Parent, due to his duties. And if playing Birthright, things get even worse for her, ending with her being accidentally killed by said brother. Despite all this, she still manages to be one of the kindest and most optimistic characters in the game and the only sibling who never fights the Avatar under any circumstance, fully believing in peace between both kingdoms until the end. This shows even in her Famous Last Words in Birthright: she dies believing that the worlds need less war and more kindness.
    • Princess Sakura was traumatized by her father's death and the Avatar's kidnapping, especially because she later learned about some rumors that say SHE was supposed to be kidnapped by Nohr, not him/her. She has almost crippling anxiety and insecurities. She loves her siblings a lot, but is emotionally distanced from Hinoka (and it takes Hinoka a while to realize it) and, in Conquest and to lesser degree towards the end of Birthright, she can't do lots to help the very troubled Takumi. And yet she learns to become a White Mage and miko (which, according to Azama, is rare among Hoshidan nobles), refuses to just give up even if the Avatar doesn't choose Hoshido, takes up arms in Conquest despite hating warfare, is the first of all the siblings to join the Avatar in Revelation, gains the love of several of her love interests for her Silk Hiding Steel traits rather than her cuteness (including even the Nohr Princes in Revelation) and remains sweet, helpful, kind and loving no matter what.
    • Queen Mikoto has not had a very good life. First, she was the lover of Anankos' good side and had his child, but Anankos eventually left her and their child for their safety and she went on to marry King Sumeragi. Then her husband was killed and her child was taken from her. Shortly after being reunited with said child, she dies protecting them. The assailant? The reanimated corpse of her husband Sumeragi, being controlled by her former lover Anankos. But this woman never really lost her gentle smile, ruled wisely over Hoshido itself, raised the Hoshidan siblings plus her protegée Azura lovingly as if they were her birth children, was among the few who accepted Orochi the way she was despite her family's bad fame, and even as she died, she did so calmly and telling the Avatar that she was relieved they were safe.
    • Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia has the Deliverance's Supporting Leader, Clive. He watched as the kingdom he had dedicated his life to serving fell into chaos thanks to the King's incompetent rule, and then after that as Desaix took the throne. He formed the Deliverance to fight back along with his lover, his sister, his subordinate/friends and his best friend, but it was clear from the start that it was a losing battle. Ultimately, he loses Zofia castle, seemingly rendering everything the Deliverance had done up to that point moot, and what is left of his ragged forces are forced to take refuge in Terror infested catacombs. Sometime after that, his girlfriend Mathilda was captured by Desaix and held hostage; he refused to surrender but was also too afraid to make any sort of move, leaving the Deliverance in a stalemate. It's little wonder that multiple characters note that the war and leading the Deliverance is taking a toll on him. He eventually tried to pass his role as leader off to Mycen and then Alm, but even that didn't fix everything: Fernand, his friend from childhood (and who has his own issues), betrays him and calls him a mockery of his former self. He can potentially lose the love of his life and his beloved sister over the course of the game, and no matter what Fernand will die in his arms with Clive powerless to save him. Yet in spite of all of this, he always acts kind and understanding towards all his troops, and only ever shows outward distress in the direst of situations.
  • BJ Blazkowicz in Wolfenstein: The New Order qualifies, and it's best summed up in one line early in the game.
    BJ: And they grieve their dead. Such raw sorrow. Can't partake. Mine would flood oceans. It would drown me if I let it out.
  • The Wayne brothers from Battle Garegga: two Gadgeteer Geniuses who produce advanced machines for the government in exchange for riches, only to discover said government using what they created for malicious conquest and aggression. Nonetheless, they take off in their Super Prototype Cool Planes and destroy their own war machines in order to stop the government, by themselves. The most emotion they show is some stoic pondering in their endings in Armed Police Batrider.
  • Asriel Dreemurr from Undertale. He loses both his SOUL and his best friend, causing his existence to be one of indescribable loneliness. And while he doesn't exactly take it in stride as Flowey the flower, upon being briefly restored to his true form and getting his compassion back, he seems happy to let you and your friends go, even though this means he will have to go back to living this way.
    • It runs in the family. His father Asgore made a promise in the heat of the moment that has the biggest contribution to the basic plot of the game. It's a promise he can't take back, since it revived the hopes of his people who were once again on the brink of despair after what happened to Asriel, but it means he has to kill seven innocent humans and harvest their SOULs, of which YOU are the latest, and the last. And yet, despite this, he can put a genuine smile on his face, acknowledge a good day, and is all around the big loveable goat-dad that Papyrus and Undyne say he is.
  • Aya Brea. At a young age, her mother and sister died in a car crash. Many years later, her spontaneous urge to see a play lead her to be the sole survivor of Eve's initial massacre. Throughout the game she consistently arrives just too late to save anyone from Eve, at best being able to comfort some of the victims in their last moments. On top of this she's saddled with the enormous responsibility of being the only one who can fight Eve. Despite all this she carries on, not only saving New York from Eve but also returning for two sequels.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link. Even when he earns his happy ending, the nature of the cycle he's trapped in means he'll be back for another round with the forces of Evil.
  • Overwatch: Oh baby, let me tell you about Mei-Ling Zhou. She's an Overwatch scientist at a research point in Antarctica that goes into cryogenic sleep with her friends because an ice storm makes a resupply impossible. So she goes to sleep, wakes up, everything seems relatively normal...and then everything goes horribly wrong. First, Mei learns she's been asleep for 9 years, way beyond any reasonable expectation of rescue. Why? On to number two: Overwatch was disbanded while she'd been asleep, so never mind being out of a job, nobody even knows Mei and her friends are still there. And then, the ultimate cherry on top: she realizes she's all alone in the station, and that's because all of her friends' cryochambers suffered a malfunction and they all died a horrible frozen death. So Mei's the lone survivor on the South Pole in a research station with barely any power, supplies, no means of communication with the rest of the world, no way to get out as all the vehicles are frozen, and only her robot companion Snowball to keep her company. Despite all this, not only does she vow to take the years worth of climate data to the world in the name of her dead friends, she actively creates her endothermic blaster Tony Stark-style with odds and ends around the station and sets off on foot to rejoin and save the world.
  • Axl Low from Guilty Gear is a funny, friendly British Nice Guy who was torn away from his friends and his girlfriend Megumi to be a pawn in the conflicts of cosmic beings from another timeline. He doesn't care about any of their shit and just wants to go home, so he reluctantly follows along while looking for anyone who can get him out of his predicament. He finally does meet this person, for them to tell him he's not even human, but a sentient bundle of time magic, and his girlfriend, if she ever existed, has probably been wiped from existence along with his original timeline because of his own actions. To twist the knife further, he even eventually gets a chance to go home to his time, but he can't bring himself to leave his new friends and their timeline to their fate. So he instead uses his power to help Sol Badguy seal the deal in his fight to save the timeline.
  • In Octopath Traveler, Primrose Azelhart best embodies the trope out of the eight heroes. When she was a young girl, she watched the father she dearly loved get murdered by three men. She spent the following years alone and destitute with no clues about the killers' identities and nothing but the possibility of revenge to keep her going. Eventually she heard a rumor that one of the killers would occasionally patronize a certain tavern, so she got a job as a dancer there, enduring the owner's perverted advances and the scorn of her fellow dancers for a few years more. And this is before the game's story properly begins. When she finally gets a proper lead on one of the killers, the tavern's owner punishes her for going off behind his back by murdering the only friend she had there before Primrose kills him. She hunts down her father's killers one by one until she reaches the mastermind, her childhood crush who turns out to be a sadistic sociopath. The whole time she's fighting him, she endures psychological attacks while a play he wrote recounting all of the worst moments of her life goes on in the background. In the end, despite having gotten her vengeance, Primrose doesn't feel happier. Nevertheless, she decides to keep soldiering on until she finds something to live for.

    Visual Novels 
  • Poor Simon Blackquill in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies. The series has no end of woobies, but Simon is definitely of the iron variety. He apparently walked in on a very young Athena with her dead mother Metis, covered in blood, and saying she was taking her mom apart to fix her. Harrowing enough, but then Simon confesses to the killing of Athena's mother to protect the poor little girl from having her whole life even more broken, gets sentenced to death, serves 7 years of hard time for it (while Athena is working hard to become a lawyer and save him), and comes within a day of his execution before the entire mess is solved once and for all, thanks to Athena and her friends's efforts. Yet he still seems pretty normal, if a little surly and fond of dark humour...
  • Shirou and Archer in Fate/stay night. Archer may be a Badass Longcoat and memetic badass number one, but who would actually want to be him? Even Shirou pities him.
    • Also, Saber. She doesn't just get over the terrible, heartbreaking events of her life; they're actually her bizarre form of motivation.
  • Ryuuguu Rena in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni evolves into this in several paths, to the point that in one of them, she laughs and mocks the Big Bad right before being shot to death.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Battler Ushiromiya endures Trauma Conga Line after Trauma Conga Line. Will it stop him from trying to find the truth? No.
  • Makoto Naegi in Danganronpa. The poor kid was literally Born Unlucky. He has the worst day ever before he receives an invitation to attend Hope's Peak Academy, which sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime...only to then be thrust into a killing game with 14 other students. The girl he has a crush on dies after attempting to frame him for murder, the other students almost get him wrongfully executed, and to top it all off, when he and the five survivors finally escape, the outside world is revealed to be a hellhole of despair. Yet in spite of it all, Makoto remains a forgiving Nice Guy, still believes the best in people, and encourages his friends not to lose hope. He's such a believer that Rousseau Was Right that when given the chance to kill the fanatical followers of the person who put him and his friends through hell, he instead decides to give them all a second chance through rehabilitation in the Neo World Program. It's no wonder he earns the title of Ultimate Hope.
  • Shall We Date?: NinjaShadow has its Player Character, Saori Shishido. She's a Plucky Girl Action Survivor who not only loses her beloved brother at the start of the game, but must carry on with his mission on top of hiding her true self (and not just because of the Sweet Polly Oliver disguise she has to take on). And yet she's kind to a fault and never gives up on her goals.

    Web Comics 
  • Susan of El Goonish Shive. She was introduced as warlike Straw Feminist, but turned out mostly harmless, except for those who deserved to taste a Hyperspace Mallet. Then we find out that not only this quirk has a Freudian Excuse, the same compulsive memory warps her whole life and doesn't let her to be happy. And she manages to set aside even this to help a friend.
    • The school uniforms plotline shows this too. She challenges the school administration over the new uniforms, which she finds sexist. The student body, who all HATE the uniforms, hate HER even more because she isn't challenging them enough. "Nothing that makes me happy ever lasts." Eventually, the uniforms are removed not by Susan's constant activism, but complaints from parents about laundry.
    • Later a flashback shows us how, while on a class trip to France, she was attacked by an Aberration, recruited/tricked by Immortals to help Nanase hunt it down and kill it, and ended up killing it herself. Immediately afterward, her expression shifts from happy to jaded, and stays there for years.
    • Surprisingly enough, Adrian Raven also counts, as was hinted before. When one feels kinship with an enchanted boar because the critter also doesn't belong anywhere, well...
  • Nodwick has died 538 times, usually because his employers are too lazy to pick up a 10-foot pole. Many of these deaths have been slow and painful. He hardly complains, and when the forces of goodness offer to remove him from all this he turns them down (after seeing what this does to his companions or replacement). He still saves the world every other plotline.
  • Punch, AKA Adam, a Frankenstein's Monster from Girl Genius, is stated in the shows about the Heterodyne Boys to be mute, because after all the shit 'n' abuse he goes through, "He's always with the dignity". The real reason is that he's a construct who wasn't well-made though Gilgamesh is shown to have given him the ability to speak after rebuilding him, and his wife, Judy/Lilith, has mismatched eyes for the same reason.
  • Mecha Maid aka Marilyn Seong from Spinnerette has this in spades. She has, at most, three years to live thanks to ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). She can barely speak without technological assistance and is only mobile in a wheelchair or her battlesuit. Yet she gets into the Mecha Maid suit and goes out to punch supervillains anyway. (Admittedly, part of this may be that the armour's systems allow her to actually walk.)
  • O-Chul of The Order of the Stick is an example Made of Iron. Blasted through the air from the losing end of a brutal battle, captured and tortured by Team Evil, given half a chance to escape he takes the opportunity to strike out at Xykon and Redcloak, no matter how many times he's humiliatingly beaten down for the effort. O-Chul maintains his code of honor without complaint, and can even show consideration for others through the worst of his torments. His resilience and compassion throughout his imprisonment may also have laid the groundwork for a Heel–Face Turn on the part of Xykon's most powerful minion (which could very well save the world at some crucial point down the line).
  • All of the Exiles on post-apocalyptic Earth in Homestuck, to varying degrees. In particular, WV, who was a simple farmer who rose up and led a rebellion against the Black King, then had to watch helplessly as his entire army was slaughtered by Jack Noir.
    • PM maybe even more so. She was originally just a mail carrier, and was tasked with delivering a package to John. After a whole lot of things go wrong, she winds up appointed queen of the Exiles, only to see all of her friends/subjects murdered when Jack Noir comes out of nowhere, destroying what little they had managed to rebuild. He only didn't kill her because he didn't think she posed a threat. But then she finds the White Queen's Ring that WV had been carrying, and follows Jack to kick his ass as Prospitian Monarch. The look on Jack's face when he realizes how badly he underestimated her is glorious.
    • Almost everyone in Homestuck can be seen as an Iron Woobie of some sort. They're all 13-year old kids (well, except for the Alpha-verse kids), who have all lost their parents/parent figures, been thrown into a crazy situation to try and save the world, all died several times, learned that their whole universe was made by some trolls, and are fighting SEVERAL god-like beings by this point. All the while, they keep going on and cracking jokes.
    • Sollux Captor, and every Gemini troll incarnation, get a particularly massive dose of Iron Woobie treatment. The Psiioniic is enslaved as a living ship for far past his natural lifespan, and finally dies overexerting his powers in a last-ditch attempt to prevent his race from being destroyed. Sollux: dies - well, sort of - twice, both times bleeding out every orifice, both times while saving his friends. One of these is also caused by power overexertion. Mituna: burns out his psionic powers and ends up with permanent brain damage in a sacrifice to save his friends. Are we seeing a theme here? Knowing that they're all heroes of Doom might help.
  • Critical Miss strip "Full Metal Genesis" uses this trope as a Take That! contrast between Alphonse Elric and Shinji Ikari.
  • Yuri Hasagashi, aka "Iron Violet The Shy Titan" is a very shy and insecure girl. Abusive Parents has been implied to be the source of this. Despite this past trauma (and other referenced moments of bullying), Yuri is a sweet, caring girl who uses the vast superhuman strength she developed to protect others instead of lashing out with them. It's a wonder how she would have turned out if not for the kindness and care of her loving best friend and caring father figure...
  • Bubbles in Questionable Content is an unusually literal example: a retired combat droid, implied to be the only survivor of her human squad, who was censured by the other robots for getting involved in human conflict; an Extreme Doormat to a boss who cheerfully tells her that humans will never accept her; and a shut-in with No Social Skills who avoids being seen by humans. While she's usually quite stoic about it, when she's rattled, it shows.

    Web Original 
  • The Nostalgia Critic. For a hammy internet reviewer, he's gone through a lot of shit (granted, some of it is his own fault), but he'll have a cry or a rage and then come back fighting.
    Critic: "I may be pathetic, but I'm proud."
  • Tex of Red vs. Blue - She was literally designed to fail at everything she does.
    • The show also features Wash and Church, who despite all the terrible things they've gone through (psychological torture, losing the love of his life multiple times, having an AI whose mind is connected to his own go crazy and commit suicide, dying, going to prison, being shot in the back more than once...) still keep putting themselves in harm's way for what they think is important, even when they know it's not going to be easy.
  • BillyMC is generally seen as this in that despite the woobie-ish elements of his life, he ultimately perseveres in his Lets Plays and will beat whatever Nintendo Hard game he's playing.
  • Gino Gambino, especially in Gaia Online's earlier storylines. Subjected to malnutrition, immoral experimentation, fatherly disapproval, vampire kidnappings, Easy Amnesia, and yet when his dad's been sniped off the top of a skyscraper, Gino jumps after him, because he cares about him that damn much. Sadly this has faded in some of the more recent storylines, where he's more of a whiny Butt-Monkey.
  • In the best-known Let's Play for the So Bad, It's Good Pokémon romhack Pokémon Quartz, a young girl named Foxy contends with a land filled with rapists, idiots who mangle the English language, a villainous band with the stupidest goal in the history of the Pokemon world, a creepy molesting stalker, Groudon and Kyogre's deformed cousins, a Pokemon family based on the idea of Memetic Molesters (one of which she catches and trains), a Pokemon professor who's a huge creep and a Marty Stu Author Avatar, an over-abundance of flying-types, and gym leaders who have an infinite supply of full restores. She also wins, and pulls a katana on her stalker-rival.
  • To a certain degree, Chuggaaconroy. His deleted 50 facts video revealed that he had four siblings that died in miscarriages, he nearly died from an allergic reaction as a kid, and he was bullied in school. He's also admitted that he was only pretending to be enthusiastic in his Super Mario Sunshine LP since he had been worrying about health problems during it. However, he doesn't talk about it or let it stop him from being the goofy, nerdy gamer we all know and love.
  • Clel from Mario Party TV can rarely catch a break and he's the least salty of the guys despite how often he loses.
  • Chiaroscuro Themyst from Sinai Muck is a cute mongoose character who got trapped in another world, has to deal with a constant buzzing noise in his head, originally speaks in broken English and gets mistreated because he's often mistaken as a kavi yet he seems to function rather well. He crosses the line from Iron Woobie to pure Woobie in this log though.
  • Vladimir Lenin comes off this way in Epic Rap Battles of History, having watched his top disciple dismantle everything he ever built, yet remaining completely badass.
  • In Dave Madson's Looney Tunes Intro Bloopers, Radar Overseer Scotty is a definite example of this, especially with him having to deal with Sam's abuse, and Sam firing him almost every single episode.
  • Ruby Rose by the end of RWBY's third volume: thanks to the actions of Cinder Fall, Beacon Academy is destroyed, the headmaster who put her there is MIA, she watched the death of two of her dearest friends - Penny and Pyrrha - and was unable to save them, had her Cool Big Sis Yang mauled and driven into a Heroic B.S.O.D., Blake disappeared for places unknown without saying goodbye or saying why, Weiss was dragged back to Atlas and she's come to find out that she's a special breed of person, one who lives for battle and has special powers. Despite all of this, Ruby ended up picking herself back up and allied with the remains of Team JNPR to find Cinder Fall and pay her back for the harm she caused, her desire to be The Hero never wavering.
  • Katy Towell's Childrin R Skary has a few examples, most notably the titular Ida from "Ida's Luck", who is tormented and finally almost killed but who still manages to muster the energy to fend off monsters. The protagonist of "The Mockingbird Song" also fits this trope by the end.
  • Ashe from Thrilling Intent has it pretty rough, what with her powers slowly carving away at her, but she never seems to indulge in self-pity over it.
  • Camp Camp: David is always beaten up, mauled, insulted, and humiliated by everyone and everything at Camp Campbell. Yet even with all the abuse he takes in life, he always stays positive and cares about making sure everyone at camp at least has fun.

    Western Animation 
  • The final lines in La Resistance from South Park Bigger Longer Uncut advise the reistance members that, if their dicks are cut in half, they should laugh it off and go out with as much defiance as possible. If that's not being an Iron Woobie, what is?
    "And that's the way it goes, in war you're shat upon . . ."
    • Kenny is revealed to be this when it turns out that, in addition to having a crappy home life, he remembers every time he died, but nobody else does.
    • Kyle has become this starting with Season 12's "Tonsil Trouble" (where Cartman gives him friggin' AIDS, to which he responds by breaking everything Cartman owns—including his favorite stuffed animal—in retaliation), and has been in situations of increasing frequency ever since.
  • The titular Samurai Jack went through hell in his quest to return to his native time, and never even achieved his final goal. 50 years later and despite a significant uptick in cynicism and ennui, Jack is still surviving. He almost dies several times and is almost Driven to Suicide, but he keeps going out of sheer stubbornness and finally makes it back to the past to kill Aku once and for all.
  • Eddy from Ed, Edd n Eddy. It is revealed in the movie that he was only pretending to be a jerk as a desperate cry for friendship after years of abuse from his older brother. It is especially hard to stomach considering all the times Eddy is beaten, humiliated and punished throughout the series.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Prince Zuko is one. All his childhood he's been shunned and treated horribly by his own father and his sister for not being a prodigy in firebending. His mother who loves him left one night for mysterious reasons. When Zuko was 13, his father challenged him to a cruel duel because "he shamed his father" by speaking up in a war meeting. When Zuko refused to fight, his father burned his face in public, banished him and sent him to hunt the Avatar who has been gone for a hundred years to regain his honor. Then he lost his men, his small ship, and all his possessions and became a wanted fugitive of the Fire Nation along with his uncle. He experienced hunger and watched his uncle beg for money and finally he was forced to do dishonorable things such as stealing to survive. When he was welcomed back to the Fire Nation he realized he wasn't happy being on the bad side so he betrayed his family, left his girlfriend and sacrificed his status as a prince to help the Avatar. Summed up as this way: "I don't need luck, though. I don't want it. I've always had to struggle and fight and that's made me strong. It's made me who I am."
    • Aang also qualifies: he had his entire culture wiped out, slept through a war which has hurt millions which he could have done something about, and has found that of everyone he ever knew and loved, only one boyhood friend and his beloved pet have survived. Despite this, he never breaks.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Asami Sato from The Legend of Korra. It's just sad to watch her. To sum it up, and most of this happens within a few weeks time, her mother was killed by a Firebender when she was six, she discovered her father was an Equalist after spending a whole day defending him, has to turn on her father because she wanted to do the right thing and has to leave the comfortable life she has always known, she finds out that Korra has a crush on her boyfriend and he might reciprocate, she gets arrested because of her father, then has to see her boyfriend go crazy trying to find Korra and neglect her, and when she chooses to confront Mako, since he's horribly Not Good with People he reacts badly and things go worse. And yet she refuses to break for a long time, until The Sting" when Future Industries goes bankrupt after a robbery. She also witnesses the near death of Korra, her close friend, and for three years, was the only one to know how much Korra was suffering while recovering far away from her, since Korra only wrote letters to her. During the final fight with Kuvira, she watches her father perform a Heroic Sacrifice for her. And her company is destroyed in that fight again. And then, she does her best to bring herself back together.
    • Korra herself, especially by Book 4. She's been cut off from the avatar cycle, poisoned, nearly paralyzed due to severe injuries (and spends two years in a wheelchair, relearning how to walk), and nearly killed. The very skill she enjoyed using the most, fighting, deteriorated to the point that even after somewhat physically recovering, can't even stop a common thief. But with years spent hard at work recovering (and help from loved ones, previous friends of the last Avatar, and the very person who caused her that trauma), she becomes the incredibly powerful Avatar she used to be, and saves Republic City from Kuvira's Fantastic Nuke by relating to her pain and fear.
  • The Huckleberry Hound Show: Huckleberry Hound spends the majority of his appearances playing Extreme Doormat and taking slapstick abuse from the universe around him, however his mellow, easy going nature rarely fades, even when he's indented into a nearby wall.
  • Transformers Prime:
    • Dreadwing would most definitely qualify.
    • Arcee as well. Her past involves her witnessing the death of her first partner, then things get progressively worse from there.
    • The biggest example is Optimus Prime himself. Despite seeing so much war and destruction in his lifetime, he maintains his optimistic hope for a better future for his people and allies.
  • Batman himself in Batman: The Brave and the Bold's Lighter and Softer Animated Adaptation of Emperor Joker. He is tackled by The Joker, and it goes From Bad to Worse when Bat-Mite accidentally gives the Joker his powers, turning him into a God-Emperor who uses them to twist the world in his own way. From that time on, the Dark Knight is forced into a Death Montage as he gets killed and then brought back repeatedly, with poor powerless Bat-Mite being Forced to Watch the carnage. It is not until he is revived from the last Death Trap of the electric chair that he uses Reverse Psychology to beg the Joker not to take away his sanity. And through it all, he defends himself and his own mind from the Joker, telling him that they both need each other to survive. The Dark Knight truly needs a hug after all that.
  • Kaeloo: Stumpy. He has constant bad luck for no apparent reason, but he is able to survive being struck by lightning, getting hit by a flying car and being left on an exploding planet which gets hit by a meteor.