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The Soulless

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"I need a soul, Ralph. Any soul. Yours!"
Bart Simpson, The Simpsons "Bart Sells His Soul"

When people use the phrase "soulless monster", they usually mean the person they're referring to isn't acting like a (decent) human being, not that they actually lack a soul and are a monster.note  In fiction, some characters really are soulless, and often act like monsters because of it.

When a character loses their soul, they normally become a listless Empty Shell, transform into The Heartless or simply die. The Soulless, however, are active, rational, and still recognizably human in almost every sense — they just lack a soul. The Soulless are often motivated by one thing only: getting a soul. Any old soul will do, but frequently they want their own soul back for sentimental reasons. Much like the 'Damaged Soul' variety of Came Back Wrong, problems arise because the character is no longer bound by ethical (and sometimes natural) laws and demonstrates a disturbing Lack of Empathy (and sometimes a lack of survival instincts). A Nice Guy will break fingers, The Cutie will just break, and even the Friend to All Living Things will rampage through a petting zoo if it brings them closer to their goal. While a soulless character doesn't necessarily become a soulless killing machine, sanity and morality don't fare very well without one. Even if both of these traits are independent of the soul and don't suffer in its absence, most Soulless characters have a change in worldview that does erode their good nature.

If they do get it back, expect a reaction along the lines of "My God, What Have I Done?" as the backlogged guilt catches up with them. At least, if they can get better.

Things can always go From Bad to Worse, of course. For some people, the loss of a soul enables them to freely jump headfirst down the slip and slide of The Dark Side, or simply smile and carry on as if nothing happened... and kill anyone who disagrees. Like an appendix, it was just a useless organ weighing them down. If the world is lucky, its absence will be felt before long. Their love interest leaves them because they aren't treated the same (and their kisses no longer bring joy), they don't feel happy at a friend's birthday, or sad at their father's funeral. What they do feel is a keen emptiness that gnaws on their conscious mind like an ever-growing black hole slowly syphoning a star's outer layers. With any luck, they'll try to get their soul back using mostly moral means.

In short, this can be summed up as The Sociopath + Empty Shell.

May overlap with Satanic Archetype, an evil character based on Satan.


  • The Disembodied: a.k.a. "The Bodiless".
  • Soul Jar: Someone may appear to lack a soul, but it's because their soul is stored somewhere else.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Butler: The Bizarre Dolls from the Ship Voyage Arc. For a human not under Faustian Contract to truly die, a Shinigami must collect their soul and cut their Cinematic Record. The Undertaker, however, discovered that by attaching an endless continuation to the Cinematic Record, the body is tricked into thinking itself to be still alive, thus becoming animated again.
  • Played with in Dragon Ball: The killing machines #19 and #16 were 100% mechanical and literal androids, yet they were shown to have human emotions. #19 was deeply afraid of death, and #16 was a pacifist and a Friend to All Living Things. But due to their nature, they lack souls and cannot go to the after life or be revived by the Dragon Balls, making their deaths permanent.
    • In Dragon Ball GT, #19 was one of the many enemies that came back to the world of the living when they escaped from Hell. This being Dragon Ball GT, it's just another continuity error.
  • The Homunculi in Fullmetal Alchemist.
    • Subverted in the end.
  • SSSS.GRIDMAN: Alexis Kerib is, by his own admission, so hollowed out from untold eons of life via his Complete Immortality that he no longer has any creative spark or ability to feel anything beyond schadenfreude. He needs Akane as his partner not because her clay statues are actually required for him to create Kaiju, which they're not; he needs her because he doesn't have any ideas of his own and needs someone else to show him what a new monster should look like.
  • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- has an instance of something that is not technically alive (a clone of the protagonist... magical clones do not count as "alive" in this series) gaining a soul anyway. Without said soul (or a fragment of someone else's soul), that being was devoid of any personality or morals, and single-mindedly pursued its main objective in a manner not unlike the Terminator.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, according to Beatrice, furniture is like this, including Shannon, Kanon, and Genji. Presumably not Kumasawa though. While this isn't exactly true, there's a reason why Beatrice has this view.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering features a zombie literally called the "Soulless One".
    Soulless One: Surrender your soul to me!

    Comic Books 
  • Stalker, a short lived Sword and Sorcery title from DC Comics, was about a warrior that sold his soul for immortality. In order to get his soul back, he had to abolish all war in his homeworld and slay the supreme deity.
  • Also from DC Comics is Sebastian Faust, the son of sorcerous bad guy Felix Faust. His dad bartered away his own soul for power, but when he needed more and the demon wouldn't renegotiate the first deal, he sold Sebastian's soul. He seems to get along fine without it, though he did feel relieved to get it back during a Crisis Crossover — only to have to lose it in order to set things right.
    • The (kind of) silver lining for Sebastian is that the demon Nebiros screwed over Felix by granting Sebastian the power instead. As his Meaningful Name would suggest, Felix has a bad habit of making Deals With the Devil that leave him worse off in the long run.
  • In Blackest Night, it turns out that Nekron doesn't have a soul, which makes him conveniently immune to the Spectre's power.
  • In the short lived Warlock And The Infinity Watch Marvel series, villain Count Abyss sold his soul for power and set in motion a complicated scheme to steal Adam Warlock's soul gem. It works until he is forcibly given the soul of a good and just person.
  • In Secret Six, Ragdoll was born without a soul, something highly valued in Hell; only a handful of beings since the beginning of time have been born like that. Like Sebastian Faust, being soulless doesn't seem to have had any impact - Ragdoll is the comparative 'white sheep' of a family of utter monsters.
  • Layla Miller of X-Factor has recently demonstrated the ability to bring people back to life, in addition to Knowing Stuff . The only problem is they come back sans their soul, resulting in them feeling next to no joy from anything, and being a little bitter. This was first used on Trevor Fitzroy, causing his Face–Heel Turn, and then on formerly Fun Personified Guido. The worry she had done this to Jamie after he "died" and woke up nearly caused Monet to kill her/leave the team.
  • Green Arrow was resurrected without a soul, as well as any memories of his past during his Darker and Edgier years. He seemed to get along fine without it (the lack of memories made him cheerier, if anything), but his lack of a soul made him very vulnerable to Demonic Possession, which would be a very bad thing for the whole world. He eventually convinced his soul (still in Heaven at the time) to come back to his body.
  • Mephisto's son Blackheart was created without a soul, a trait carried over into the movie.
  • In The Killing Dream, the first arc of X-23's solo series, a demon possessing the body of Wolverine attempts to convince Laura that as a clone (and especially because of all the horrific things she's done in her life) she has no soul in an effort to convince her to serve him. During her resulting Battle in the Center of the Mind, Laura is approached by a vision of herself, who shows her that Laura wasn't created as an emotionless killing machine, but that it was the conscious effort of Zander Rice, Kimura, and the rest of the project that broke her. Her other self reveals she is the remnant of Laura's humanity that survived the process, which gives her the power to defeat the demon, freeing herself and saving Hellion's life. Despite this, Laura is left in doubt over how much of what the demon said was true and whether or not she possess a soul. When Miss Sinister attempts to steal her body, Laura openly questions her on this point, though Sinister is unable to offer an answer and instead admits she has given the idea of whether or not clones have a soul little thought. Laura later asks Blackheart, another demon, whether or not she has a soul, figuring that someone who tortured souls as a hobby would be able to tell. Blackheart mockingly assures her that she has a soul since he wouldn't be able to make her suffer if she didn't have one.
  • Raleigh from Lost at Sea thinks she is this. She isn't.
  • In Infinity, Inc., Hector Hall was born without a soul. This did not prevent him from being a dedicated hero and loving husband, but eventually enabled an evil entity to possess his body. Since he existed as a spirit for a while and was eventually reincarnated, it's not actually clear what being "born without a soul" even means in this case.
  • After Morbius is killed by Blade, he is accidentally resurrected as an undead, soulless being. He is later brought back to proper life, but is never shown to actually get back his soul. Subverted in that it doesn't really seem to change him at all; he mentions his emotions are numbed somewhat but he is portrayed the way he always was: as a deeply flawed but fundamentally good person and caring doctor. The fact that he's soulless hasn't been mentioned in years and most writers even seem to have forgotten entirely.
  • Caballistics, Inc.: Solomon Ravne doesn't possess a soul, as he's not human but a homunculus created by a Fallen Angel. This makes it possible for him to sneak up on Michael Magister, whose psychic sensors only work on beings with souls.

    Comic Strips 
  • We've yet to see a soulless individual on-panel in Candorville, but apparently it's common practice for at least one secret faction to feed children's souls to monsters — the resultant shells are still capable of following orders, and can easily be trained as assassins.
  • In Dilbert, managers are frequently depicted as having no soul, and Alice ends up temporarily losing hers during a story arc where she gets promoted. Instead of becoming an Empty Shell, characters without a soul generally behave normally, except they become sociopathic. Another arc has Asok join the marketing department after losing his soul; he eventually gets it back after learning that souls are totally fungible, and using a Sham-Wow to suck out someone else's.
    Asok: Why does this suddenly feel so wrong?

    Eastern Animation 
  • Detective Shadow from a Korean animated movie named Yobi, the Five-Tailed Fox used to be human, but he lost a soul — presumably to someone of Yobi's kind. Now all he cares about is stealing a soul from any human available, which turns out to be his sole motivation.

    Fan Works 
  • In Pony POV Series:
    • Shadows of Existence are technically half a pony's soul, the part that represents their lives and physical existence. When a pony is erased, this is what remains behind, and can continue to think and acts, but lacks the ability to feel anything, as they no longer have the original soul or Light of Existence (which returns to Fauna Luster to reincarnate). They basically act like crueler, heartless versions of their original selves, able to imitate emotions but not feel them. They're very desperate to get a new Light, which they can only obtain by performing a Fusion Dance with a pony who already exists...or ripping one out.
    • The Shadow of Chernobull/Makarov lacks a Light to begin with, as his creator was the Draconequus of Imagination Pandora. While able to create more than her siblings, the power to create is not something they can do. As a result, when accidentally released into the mortal world, he tries to remedy this by consuming the Lights of others.
  • The Second Try: In chapter 9 Rei explains that her clones are mere vessels to hold her soul, and since they have no soul, they feel the world around them but they are not aware of it and they can not comprehend it. They do not live; they merely exist.
    Rei:These are not human beings. Their official purpose is to serve as core for the Dummy Plug system, but even that is only secondary. As Dr Akagi explained, they are mere vessels to hold my soul. That was the only reason they were created for, just like the body I possess now and the ones before. Without a soul, they can not become aware of their feelings. They notice the feel of the warm LCL around them, of this glass holding them; they can see us, the world outside of theirs. But... it does not matter to them. All they are doing is existing, blissfully unaware of everything. They cannot understand the difference between pain and joy. They do not know the vast variety of human emotions. They do not feel hope or fear for the future. I always wondered whether to pity or to envy them.
  • With This Ring has this premise with main character Paul/Orange Lantern. Because he originated from our universe, i.e. a universe without an arcane foundation for life, he didn't originally have a soul. This was a big problem, as aside from granting people access to an afterlife, the soul is what provides resistance against magic spells. This meant that not only was Paul extremely vulnerable to even basic spells, he had no way of healing damage afterwards. Constructing a soul for himself became a long-term project midway through the series. He eventually gains a soul after fusing with the Ophidian
  • Deconstructed with the Creatures of Grimm in Remnant Inferis: DOOM. As they lack souls, it makes them easy for the Slaves of Doom to possess, as a person's soul can let them resist possession to varying degrees. This natural aspect of Grimm turns them from feared animalistic abominations to just being power boosters for demonkind.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Fabrication Machine in 9 was, according to its creator, flawed because it didn't have a soul. When it's reactivated, it promptly tries to fix itself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The premise of Cold Souls is that people can put their souls into storage to be freed from the burden of having a soul, or can even get a soul transplant. When Paul Giamatti first has his soul stored, he feels light and happy but turns into an insouciant Jerkass who can no longer act.
  • The horror movie Chiller was about a man who is reawakened from cold suspended animation, but Came Back Wrong, and started engaging in evil behavior, including rape. A priest states that this is because he's technically "dead" and his soul is now gone.
  • In Mortal Kombat: The Movie, the soul-stealing Shang Tsung is described as such.
    Liu Kang: All those souls and you still don't have one of your own. I pity you, sorcerer.
  • In Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack!, the Big G comes back as an undead white-eyed monster possessed by evil spirits of dead World War II soldiers. Kananko explicitly said in interviews that the pure white eyes mean either Godzilla had his soul exorcised by the evil spirits or he never had one to begin with.
  • In Ghost Rider (2007), Blackheart is immune to the Penance Stare because he has "no soul to burn". When he enacts the Contract of San Venganza, he absorbs over a thousand damned souls, making him unbelievably strong. Johnny quickly realizes that, using the Stare, a thousand damned souls burn like kindling.
  • In I, Frankenstein, Adam, Frankenstein's monster, is literally soulless but is a decent person in spite of it. While detached from humanity, this is to be expected of an outcast, and he does get better as he interacts with humans. Near the end of the movie, the Demonic Possession ritual cast on him quickly failed, as he was revealed to have gained a soul.
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction: Galvatron, being a knock-off of Cybertronian tech, lacks a Spark, the Transformers equivalent of a soul, meaning by their standards he isn't technically "alive". Optimus even points it out when they fight. Then again, Megatron's down with that as long as it's his mind controlling it.
    Optimus Prime: You have no soul!
    Galvatron: That is why I have no fear!

  • In one science-fiction story an entire alien race is revealed to be soulless after making first contact with humanity, but it's not natural but the result of the ubiquitous teleportation technology that they use as a single pass through will permanently separate one from their soul. This doesn't make them evil but as the soul provides among other things the spark of creativity it means their entire race is creatively sterile, incapable of making new discoveries and innovations (something the reporter protagonist of the story laments as he was one of the humans who got to be part of the group of humans to try the technology out, as he can no longer be creative). Basically it leaves a living being as simply an organic robot running through the patterns it had already learned but unable to develop new ones. The sympathetic alien who accepts the truth arranges the destruction of his ship and elimination of all records of humanity before it can be updated to the alien race's datanet to give humanity more time to develop in hopes that they might save his own race someday.
  • 7th Son: Father Thomas is afraid that he is this trope as part of his Cloning Blues.
  • The Adversary Cycle: Jim Stevens in Reborn is a very nice guy. However, he is a clone and doesn't have a real soul. This allows Otherness to use him in Rasalom's reincarnation.
  • It is repeatedly reiterated in Arcia Chronicles that Orcs don't have a soul, although what exactly that means is unclear. In fact, their apparent soullessness results in them being much more noble and goodhearted than humans and Elves, since they "only have one life."
  • Mr Sorry in Armadillo Fists recalls his mother claiming that he had no soul. While it's not explored further, it's true that he seems to lack any emotion and also has unexplained Super Speed powers, hinting that he might be something like a demon in human form.
  • In The Camp Half-Blood Series, humans have souls but mythical creatures of all descriptions lack them. This means they don't move on to any afterlife, per se; upon being mortally wounded, they dissolve and their essence returns to Tartarus, until they eventually reincarnate, often in forms suitable to the new time period (the Furies become math teachers, apparently). As Long as There Is Evil, they don't die completely, and if the Big Bad starts messing with Tartarus, they don't stay gone long. note 
  • In The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, exposure to arcane contamination can cause infants to be born without a soul. The condition is called "apsychia", and is considered a birth defect; it's suggested that this alternate Earth's counterpart to Hitler was apsychic, and therefore felt free to commit genocide because he'd never have to pay for it in Hell.
  • In Conan and the Sorcerer, Conan ran afoul of a wizard named Hissar Zul and had his soul imprisoned in a mirror, until it could be broken by a crowned noble. The only effect seemed to be that Zul could compel Conan to do his bidding by threatening his soul. Conan got his soul back in the sequel novel, Conan the Mercenary.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Most intelligent beings do not have souls. This includes both the Red and Black Court vampires, as well as the Fae. This doesn't automatically make them evil...but it does make then inhuman and apparently coincides with a lack of true free will. In this setting, faeries can be compelled more easily than humans and it's not illegal to do so, and they are more bound by their nature than humans (creatures of habit, in other words) and unable to change it the way humans can reinvent themselves. The White Court "vampires", on the other hand, appear to be basically a kind of human being, and they most certainly do have souls, and apparently free will (though this is somewhat limited by the fact that they share said soul with an unintelligent but very hungry demon). Angels (Fallen or otherwise), invert this trope- they're all soul, with bodies being temporary and incidental to their being (though Fallen sometimes possess humans).
    • The series also ties the concept of souls and names together very tightly. A human, having free will and the ability to craft his own soul, has the magical nature of their name _change_ over time, explaining why Wizards are sometimes willing to give out parts of their name to supernatural creatures... in a few decades, it will have lost the ability to influence them unless they give it away again. Fae and many other supernatural creatures aren't so much soulless as that they have fixed souls, so once one knows their true name you have incredible power over them. Fallen and other angels are creatures whose entire soul is crafted as an instrument of divine authority, so their names can draw their attention and give them power over the speaker. And the big bads of the series... don't have names at all, and are thus soulless in the actual sense of the meme and not just the in-world theology. For reference, the nameless literally want to eat the world, and giving them a name neuters them.
  • Subverted in "The Fisherman and his Soul" by Oscar Wilde, in which a young fisherman is magically separated from his soul, which takes on human guise and travels around without him — and the fisherman is largely unaffected, while the soul becomes a typical "soulless" monster-in-human-form. It's explained that this is because the fisherman still has a loving heart, while the soul is both literally and metaphorically heartless.
  • Fengshen Yanyi: Li Nezha killed himself to sate the wrath of the Dragon Kings he challenged, but since the Will of Heaven still needed him to fight for the Zhou Dynasty, his master has his soul worshiped to gain strength and then revive him with a body made of lotus leaves and roots. As a result, Nezha doesn't have a proper soul in his body, but rather than being cruel or anomalous this is played as an advantage. All mystical techniques based on souls or used to make people faint (in Chinese culture, the Yang part of the soul, the Hun, controls consciousness) don't work against Nezha, who can No-Sell most sorceries aimed at him.
  • Harry Potter:
    • This is the fate of anyone who suffers the "Dementor's kiss" - their soul is physically sucked out through their mouth. We never see the results firsthand, but it's considered a Fate Worse than Death as the victim is left with no memory or sense of identity.
    • Lord Voldemort is a lesser example. Because of all the Horcruxes he made, very little of his actual soul remains inside his body, which seems to have been largely responsible for the sociopathic but self-controlled Tom Riddle's degeneration into the Ax-Crazy Voldemort. The actual remnant of Voldemort's soul is portrayed as a stunted, dwarfish being trapped in Limbo.
  • Her Crown Of Fire: Halvers, or half souls; mages who have lost their soul mates. Halvers lose the ability to feel pain and slowly succumb to madness. Most eventually die from exposure, infection, or because they forget to eat or drink.
  • I Am Mordred: After giving up his soul, Mordred no longer feels anything matters. He also lacks any inhibition toward turning against Arthur. The dogs also fear him after this.
  • In Arthur Machen's novella "The Inmost Light", a man removes the soul of his wife, who takes to acting inhumanly. It is implied that something else has taken the soul's place.
  • Into the Heartless Wood: The tree sirens were born with a heart, but not a soul, a source of angst for Seren. The Gwydden herself used to have a soul before it was taken by Elynion.
  • Johannes Cabal the Necromancer: Johannes spends the book trying to regain his soul from a Deal with the Devil, succeeding in the end. He was already cold and calculating before he sold it eight years previously, so it makes little difference on the moral front; to his much greater frustration, soullessness seriously interferes with his Necromancy experiments, hence why he wants it back.
  • Mermaid (2011) is a retelling of The Little Mermaid, with the same soulless merfolk. Most merfolk consider themselves better off than humans because they live longer and don't leave a rotting corpse, but Lenia wants a human soul in order to avoid Cessation of Existence.
  • In the original version of The Little Mermaid, it's explained that Mermaids live about three times as long as humans, but do not have souls, and simply dissolve into seafoam as they die. While they can't gain a soul while alive through normal means, it's revealed in the ending that when a mermaid grows to desire an eternal soul like a human, upon death they become ethereal spirits and are given the chance to earn a soul through 300 years of good deeds.
  • The Merman's Children: Merfolk, like all Faerie creatures, have no souls. They're psychologically similar to humans, with the ability to feel love and other emotions and behave according to their moral rules, but when they die, they just disappear instead of going to Heaven or Hell. Most of them consider living a life of freedom as The Ageless to be worth it. However, by the end of the book, the merfolk have realized that The Magic Goes Away and have mostly converted to Christianity, gaining mortal souls in the process.
  • The Parasol Protectorate: The protagonist was born without a soul, but she does not find her condition troublesome. She studies philosophy to compensate for her natural lack of morals, and uses reason instead of spirituality to be a good person. Souls in this universe are a quantifiable possession — those who have large amounts, such as artists and musicians, are more likely to survive the transition into werewolf or vampire, while those who have none at all, such as the protagonist, can actually neutralize others' powers when in physical contact with them.
  • Played straight in The Picture of Dorian Gray. The titular character loses his soul in a Deal with the Devil which allows his portrait to age and take the physical effects of his sins instead of him. This lack of consequences leads him to live a life of sin.
  • In Alastair Reynolds Poseidons Children trilogy, this is discussed in the context of artificial life. The Gatekeepers, massive and enigmatic spaceborne robots, at one point possessed "souls"; that is, the ability to introspect. However, the software for this kind of thought is mathematically inefficient, so they slowly essentially programmed themselves out of having a soul by switching to a more basic but much faster feed-forward neural network; one day they had souls, the next they had become philosophical zombies. Their absence of a soul means they are blown to pieces when approaching a precursor Big Dumb Object, forcing them to rely on human intermediaries for exploration.
  • In one of the short story sketches in Jostein Gaarder's The Ringmasters Daughter, there are exactly 12 billion souls in the world and they are recycled. Going over this number results in people being born with a "Lack of Soul Disease", which they never recover from. This gets the Catholic Church to start promoting the idea of birth control.
  • Individuals in Scorpion Shards whose souls have been eaten function as p-zombies. They act exactly like ensouled people, and many of them aren't even aware they're soulless (insofar as the term "aware" can be applied to a creature defined by its lack of awareness.) They're harmless, but the main characters usually kill them as a form of Due to the Dead.
  • In The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign, Aoi is an Artificial Human who explicitly lacks a soul. This doesn't seem to affect her sense of morality in any way. It has the benefit of allowing her to remain conscious after losing a summoning battle (whereas normal humans would be incapacitated for 24 hours in the same situation).
  • Explored in Warbreaker because of how the magic system, Awakening, is powered by Breaths, a form of mystical energy everyone possesses and is considered analogous to the soul in-universe (though per Word of God, a Breath seems more like part of a soul). Everyone is born with one breath, but they can be given away- someone who holds a lot has various innate supernatural abilities, and using Awakening requires a pretty large supply. To the Austrian religion, a Drab (someone with no Breaths) is considered to have suffered a Fate Worse than Death, while to the state religion of Hallandren, it's seen as no big deal. Word of God puts it somewhere in between- a Drab's humanity is still intact in all meaningful ways he or she retains identity, memory, personality, and such, but they are more irritable, more prone to sickness, and have duller senses.
  • Watchers of the Throne: While the precise status of blanks' souls in Warhammer 40K is unclear, Aleya believes that she and her fellow Sisters of Silence lack souls. Unfortunately, the Corrupt Church believes the same, and as such thinks that blanks are abominations, as their souls cannot be saved by the God-Emperor's light. It's implied that this is the reason the original Silent Sisterhood was massacred.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Gray Men are also known as this. They give up their souls to the Dark One, serving as his assassins. They are completely visible but people's eyes will slide past the Gray Man like they aren't even there.
    • This even applies to the reader in a sort of literary equivalent to a Freeze-Frame Bonus. There will often be an off-hand reference to a man slipping into a room or through a crowd that never gets followed up on, shortly before a Gray Man suddenly attacks a page or two later.
  • The demons in Terry Brooks' The Word and the Void trilogy, are former humans who sold, lost, or otherwise gave up their souls to The Void. They're Chaotic Evil sociopaths prone to casual murder and Mind Screw, and who exist only to destroy all of creation. Since they were once human, they blend in easily among their former compatriots, and depending on how long they've been without a soul, and just what sort of other deals they've made with The Void, they may also manifest other powers, ranging from spellcasting to Shapeshifting to mind control.
  • Xanth:
    • In the novels, typically only human or human-descended creatures have souls (though that covers a lot of ground). Souls can also be traded, both in their entirety and in fractions. They also regenerate over time - sell half your soul to a Night-Mare for a ride, and it will eventually grow back for you, though the Night-Mare's half will not. There's also nothing preventing a Soulless character from being an overall decent person, though acquiring a soul will likely cause them to develop more empathy.
    • At one point in the first novel, a Manticore is introduced serving the Good Magician for a year in return for having his question answered: Do I have a soul? He is told that only a being with a soul would worry about having one. The Manticore finds this answer very satisfactory, as it makes the existence of his soul self-evident.
    • Demons (with a lower-case "d") in Xanth are an unusual case, because they don't so much lack a soul as lack a body. Having a soul for a body gives them the ability to shapeshift and become intangible at will, but it also means that, like Xanth's other intelligent but soulless creatures, they don't get the benefits of having a mortal soul unless they get part of one from someone else.
  • Worlds of Shadow: Shadow posits that fetches and revenants are "off" because of this. People on Faerie believe that their Goddess places a spirit in them, and thus these may be lacking it, which Shadow admits.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Fiona Goode in American Horror Story: Coven tries to sell her soul to the devil. Turns out, she HAS no soul to sell, therefore, nothing he wants, so she is incapable of ever making a demonic deal. Good if you're good. Bad if you're as evil as she is.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Vampires have no souls. Instead a demon takes up residence in the body, having all the original person's memories and seemingly believing themselves to be that person. Essentially a human soul is replaced with a demonic one, but retains the same mind. The comic series eventually delved into this further and revealed that vampires are actually a kind of fusion between the original soul and a demon. After Buffy destroyed the Seed of Magic in Season 8, all new vampires are mindless animals because without magic, the transformation cannot complete.
    • Angel himself can become one of these if the conditions of his curse are met (Perfect Happiness). When his human soul departs, the demon is able to take over again and really enjoys being let off the chain. As the series progressed, he actually fit this trope less well because they started playing up the duality of Angel and Angelus as separate consciousnesses (with Angelus trapped within Angel as long as a soul was in place).
    • Also, the Angel episode "I've Got You Under My Skin" reveals what happens when a human is born without a soul. The boy ended up being possessed by a body snatching demon. He responded by imprisoning it within him and tried to burn his family alive. When it was exorcised the demon let itself be killed, more afraid of the void inside the child than death.
      • More like the boy was a complete sociopath, and the demon explained this condition in terms of him not having a soul. Possibly soullessness is either the cause or a side effect of all sociopathy in this Verse.
    • In Season 9, Angel uses the Crown of Coils on a human skeleton. The body heals completely but, as Angel explains, without a soul the man will just die again.
  • House of Anubis has the Sinners in season 3, who are created when their souls are removed from their bodies after committing sins (or just happening to be around when Frobisher is using his soul-stealing book.)
  • The Magicians (2016): The shade is the part of a person's soul that allows them to feel pain and fear—but also guilt, remorse, and love. People with their shades removed are friendly, happy, and shockingly selfish. They are perfectly willing to commit murder and genocide for even short-term gains, and will do so with a smile and a song.
  • Supernatural:
    • In Season 6, it's revealed that people who have lost their souls no longer need to sleep, are resistant to some magical effects, and lose all empathy. Their normal goals seem to remain intact. Sam becomes much more callous and disinhibited when he temporarily loses his, whereas Donatello keeps himself chipper and grounded by continually asking himself "What would Mr. Rogers do?"
    • Angels don't have souls, although they do possess something similar called "grace", which is the source of their celestial power. As a side effect, this means that angels can't make a Deal with the Devil, since they have no soul to bargain with.
    • Neither do demons, though technically demons are souls, after they've been tortured enough in Hell. Effectively, this makes demons a different type of ghost. The demon Crowley once offered his soul in a bidding war, but the pagan god running the auction scoffed at the suggestion, pointing out that he doesn't have one.
    • Leviathans are also soulless, due to being far older than the soul.
    • In Season 14, Jack, the son of a human and an Archangel, develops an incurable and terminal illness as a result of losing his grace in the Season 13 finale. He dies, but is brought back and given access to a forbidden form of magic that burns off bits of his soul if he uses it, but as long as he only uses it to keep himself alive, it would be harmless. Despite being warned about the consequences, however, he starts to use the magic to protect Sam, Dean and Castiel from danger. Eventually, after using it to defeat Michael and absorbing the latter's grace, his soul is gone and he loses most of his emotions and morals as a result. This causes him to eventually lose his way and become dangerous.
  • Tales from the Crypt: In the episode "Doctor of Horror", an amoral scientist extracts the soul from the body of his morally conscious assistant and places it in a jar. The body comes back a soulless monster bent on revenge. He proceeds to torture the scientist with his own implements since there was no soul to hold him back.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) In the episode "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville", an elderly and cruel business man meets the Devil. The Devil says that she will grant him for one wish in exchange for something. He assumes it's his soul but she informs him that he lost it a long time ago.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Promethean: The Created: The titular Prometheans lack a soul, instead having Azoth which fulfills many of its functions and grants them access to powers called Transmutations. Said Azoth causes Disquiet and Wastelands, complicating their Pilgrimage to become human, but (barring the Centimani) they aren't evil per se.
    • This has some interesting theological implications. One of the books in the line states that some Ulgans are rather enthusiastic about creating new Prometheans — after all, every time a Promethean completes the Pilgrimage, it brings a new soul into the world. (Most, however, note the rate of attrition and keep their expectations minimal.)
  • Also from the New World of Darkness, all Fetches and True Fae in Changeling: The Lost lack a soul, and the vast majority are none the nicer because of it.
    • Most of the fetches are none the worse either, making this an intriguing example. Fetches are composed of a shred of the Changeling's shadow and whatever happens to be lying around; the shadow-shred is described as being, in-universe, a metaphor for a little wad of the Changeling's soul- Fae being what they are, metaphors work just as well as the real thing. One Fetch Echo (power) is the ability to rip the shadow (and thus, the soul) from someone else and eat it to restore lost health. The victim gets better after a scene.
    • Changelings themselves aren't too sure if they have souls - when one is dragged into Arcadia, it feels a lot like something gets torn out of you, and no one is sure if they ever get it back. Those changelings who completely lose it and turn into homicidal maniacs are called "the soulless" for a reason - the opinion of the rest is that they didn't find their souls on the way home.
      • This is not an illogical thing to worry about in context of the other splats, either — exposure to the hedge can turn a werewolf into just the monster with no balancing man-half, and a Mage dragged through the hedge without proper protections can lose his ability to cast magic, which is something they do with said souls.
    • The page picture is of a Fetch Spawn, the child of a fetch, born without even the shadow fragment of a Changeling's soul that the Fetch parent has. They are scary.
      • And as part of White Wolf being Magnificent Bastards, you can't just kill a baby you know is a Fetch's and avoid the whole thing — it's just as likely, if not more so, that they actually were born with a soul, leading to a spooky but otherwise normal Fetch Child...who are spooky because they see through Glamour, and open gates to the Hedge by just existing. Oh yeah, and they're inherent weapons against the True Fae, so if you meet a Fetch's son that seems to have a conscience/inkling that other people exist, by God's sake keep him alive!
      • If you can even detect or hurt the bugger. Fetch-Spawn are insanely hard to see unless they want to be (which, given that they're unemotional murderers, is not often), and are not only immune to magic, but can drain it with a touch.
  • Yet again from the nWOD, the Illuminated from Genius: The Transgression are described as having had their souls burnt away to nothing by the light of Inspiration within them. Some of them act like you expect, others act even MORE strangely.
  • And again from the nWOD - in lines like Mage: The Awakening, it's possible for a person to have their soul stolen by a powerful mage. If this happens, their Morality (or equivalent thereof) goes down at a rate of once per week, and they likely have to roll a Derangement check as part of the process. And once they hit Morality 0, they start losing Willpower next, until they end up near-catatonic wretches... or possessed by something willing to use them as a hand puppet. If the soul can be restored or replaced, however, their Morality and Willpower slowly refill.
  • The Necrons of Warhammer 40,000 are this trope. And the worst part is, they are not even treated as the worst faction in the universe (although one of the strongest contenders for the position). The forces of chaos are the complete opposite and still manage to be at an at least equal level to the Necrons in nastiness. This being Warhammer 40000, however, raping, killing, murdering, maiming and burning your enemies does not even begin to describe the situation. Chaos actually fear the necrons somewhat due to their soulless nature.
    • Pariahs and blanks, humans who don't register to psykers (and in fact disrupt psychic powers), are generally considered to be humans born without souls. Or having negative amount of it. The Necrons can turn pariahs into more of their own, which does lend some credence to the theory.
    • The Necrons technically still have souls — souls trapped in their undying metal shells. It's just that after millions of years of dormancy and poor maintenance in mechanical bodies the Necrons are little more than automated killing machines. The souls are still there but they about as important to the Necrons as a human appendix.
      • According to the latest 40k edition, it's not their souls so much as a computer recording of them. Which is part of why they're so craaaazy, since their programming/memories/'souls' have decayed due to all the rezzing.
      • As a whole, the Necrons qualify more for status as empty shells than anything else. They are not crazy in any sense of the word, rather ruthless, cold and calculating.
      • Except the Flayed Ones. Even other Necrons consider them crazy because they cover themselves in the flesh and skin of their slain enemies.
    • Normal Eldar fear for their soul and use soul stones that will capture their souls at the moment of death so that Slaanesh can't devour them. The Solitaires of the Harlequins willingly give their souls to Slaanesh, but still live among the Eldar and fight Chaos. This is why only the Solitaire can play the role of Slaanesh in the Harlequin performance that dramatizes the Fall of the Eldar — others who attempt it go mad due to getting too absorbed in the role of Slaanesh.
  • Dead Inside: The player characters all start out having lost their souls through various means (or never having had a proper soul in the first place). All Dead Inside are impaired when it comes to social behavior, because their lack of soul makes it harder for them to feel emotions, but they're not stunted to the point they're completely amoral (well, not all of them). The setting and rules explicitly maintain that acting in a moral, positive manner can encourage the regrowth of a soul, while amoral bastardry will destroy what little you have left, though if you're lucky and clever you can trade or steal soul from others and keep doing whatever you feel like doing.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In Curse of Strahd, roughly 90% of native Barovians are empty shells, created either by Strahd's subconcious or whatever dark power created him and locked Barovia away into an isolated demiplane. These people appear to be normal humans, but can neither laugh nor cry. If the party defeats Strahd, these soulless Barovians continue existing as long as they stay in Barovia. Any of them who try to leave fade into nothingness as soon as they cross the border.

    Video Games 
  • Four certain someones in Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn lack souls at one point, and feel "empty."
    • Also, one gains something similar to Unstoppable Rage due to losing it (and... other factors).
  • Nobodies, including Organization XIII, in Kingdom Hearts II technically do have souls. What they lack is a heart, and in the world of Kingdom Hearts, the heart provides the functions that the soul would in most other works.note  The more powerful ones remember what it was like to have a heart, and are understandably put out about the loss. Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] reveals that this is actually a lie by the Big Bad — anything that thinks of itself as a person will grow a heart in time, even if it lacks one now.
  • Happens to Colette for a short time in Tales of Symphonia. She lacks emotions entirely. She follows the group because they seem willing to defend her. She reacts violently to aggression, to the point that the very heavily-armed and futuristic army won't dare touch her. And to top it all off, she literally kicks a dog.
  • The Darkspawn of Dragon Age are soulless monsters in every way. They are literally soulless making them convenient vessels for an Archdemon to possess if it's slain. They also happen to be savage, vicious, and rape-happy.
  • The Soulless Gods in Lusternia. The only tangible difference between they and The Elder Gods is that by the time the Elders were made, the Anthropomorphic Personification of Creation had figured out the knack of creating souls. The net result? The Soulless are Omnicidal Maniacs who relentlessly devour the souls of all other living things in an attempt to feel less empty.
  • The Collectors of Mass Effect 2. In the words of Mordin: "No glands, replaced by tech. No digestive system, replaced by tech. No soul. Replaced by tech."
  • In the first Baten Kaitos, one fortune teller notes she can't sense Kalas's inner magnus. Latter conversations reveal that it's just a very different soul (The fortune teller is noted as looking for red blood and not noticing blue blood) caused by his Artificial Human status.
  • Dark Souls: This is called "going Hollow" in the game's vernacular. There are plenty of Undead around, but they're pretty much just regular people: it's the Hollows who are truly dangerous, as they are Undead who have completely lost their minds and feel nothing but a deep, deep hunger for other people's Humanity note  in a vain effort to save themselves. Much like a zombie, Hollows will not suddenly revert to a sane Undead no matter how much humanity they gorge on. There are lots and lots of entities who gorge on Humanity and if they don't have any, will go to great lengths to obtain some. Be they Undead like the Darkwraiths who drain it from unwilling victims, or the now Hollow people of Oolacile siphoning it out of “dead” gods to disastrous effects. This includes every player character ever.
  • In Dark Souls II, the latest patch Scholar of the First Sin introduces the first truly soulless being in the verse: Lord Aldia. His experiments to free himself from the Curse and the cycle of Light and Dark actually succeeded. Unfortunately for him, the Curse is inextricably linked to the soul. Aldia had to remove his own soul to "free" himself, and became an immortal twisted thing made out of burning tree roots. Upon defeat, he gives no souls nor does he drop his own soul like every other boss in the game, and he can still speak to you as a disembodied voice as if destroying his body was just a minor inconvenience for him, if that. For Aldia there is no escape from the mockery of life his experiments made him: not death, nor even the mindlessness of being a Hollow.
  • The Falmer (pale, blind, degenerate underground-dwelling humanoids) from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim technically still have souls... Only these are the lesser, "White" kind of souls meaning that they are neither sentient nor free-willed anymore. The only thing they still feel is hatred of surface-dwelling, really sentient races. As an Elven-derived race, they originally had real, "Black" souls.
  • In Fallen London, approximately 10% of the population of London are soulless, generally having either sold it — not necessarily for a good price or in a fair deal - or had it stolen by a spirifer (a sort of soul-poacher). Your player character can sell their soul as well. The effects of not having a soul seem to be different for different people, but a certain deadening of emotion and empathy and/or lapsing into various levels of depression are common. The possibility of Creative Sterility is brought up, but being soulless never hinders you in the storylines where your character creates a work of art. It also has no effect on your ability to return from the dead. It's not particularly clear in-universe or out of it what purpose the soul serves for its owner; it's possible that any effects are simply placebo. Devils value them, though. Possibly as a foodstuff.
  • The third Infinity Blade game introduces the Soulless. These are clones of the Deathless that possess the memories of the originals but lack their Quantum Identity Patterns (ie souls). Without a true QIP of their own, the Soulless cannot resurrect in the same way the Deathless can. A Soulless copy of the fallen God-King Raidriar is fought in the main storyline. In the expansion "Ausar Rising", Siris and Isa face a Soulless copy of Ausar the Vile aka Siris prior to his memory loss created by a cult of Ausar's former worshipers.
  • Undertale:
    • Flowey the Flower. A golden flower grown from the remains of the late Asriel Dreemurr, Flowey came to be when Alphys injected the flower with Determination, the power that allows human souls to persist, and allows them to save the game. The resulting creature, unable to feel positive emotions due to its soullessness, became a wretched, smiling vestige that terrorizes the protagonist from the shadows.
    • One of the endings allows the player (not the Player Character) to sell the Player Character's soul in exchange for reseting the game, and thus bringing back the destroyed world. This has no apparent effect until you go for the Golden Ending afterward, where the one you sold the soul to usurps your control of the Player Character and turns it into a Sudden Downer Ending.
  • In Pillars of Eternity, this is what defines the Hollowborn. In recent years an increasing number of children in Dyrwood have been born without a soul which makes them catatonic. Attempts to remedy this have had disastrous results like trying to give them an animal soul, which seemed to work, until the children hit puberty and became feral and violent, turning into what are now called wichts.
  • Idunn of Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade and The Blazing Blade has no soul, although she didn't give it up willingly: Her soul was destroyed by her fellow dragons to extinguish her free will and emotions so that she could be used as a living weapon.
  • This can happen to you in Sunless Sea, although it doesn't actually affect anything.
    "If you'd never had it, you'd never miss it."
  • Narration in Metroid Fusion indicates that the X Parasites may be able to absorb and mimic the bodies, abilities, and memories of its prey, but they can't mimic the soul. Indeed, the SA-X looks exactly like Samus except for its Blank White Eyes, and it is driven by the same bestial instincts as the other X.
  • Theodore Wicker of The Secret World gave up his soul in order to fully transform himself into a Demon of Human Origin and make his way into Hell. As a result, his emotions seem dulled and vestigial, except under very notable circumstances; Wicker himself claims that he's now incapable of the crimes he committed as a human, as "psychopathy is a quite human trait."
  • The Nameless One in Planescape: Torment isn't missing his entire soul, but is missing the portion of it that's his mortality. It's explained to him that each time he dies, he comes back slightly more wrong and eventually he'll be reduced to nothing but an empty husk if he doesn't fix the problem.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite: As Ultron and Sigma are machines, they don't have souls. This means they cannot wield the Soul Stone. Then again, X (who is a reploid just like Sigma) can use the Soul Stone just fine with a little help from Iron Man's Infinity Buster, so it may have more to do with having no conscience.
  • Mortal Kombat X: When facing Guest Fighter the Alien, Ermac says the Alien has no soul.
  • Death Stranding: Just Before the End, science discovered proof of souls and the afterlife and began conducting experiments to determine the nature of them. One of these experiments involved using advanced gene therapy technology to grow an Artificial Human known as "Deadman" out of stem cells, to see if he would have a soul. He did not, but unlike most examples of this trope, he's still a friendly and well-adjusted individual — his lack of a soul simply confuses and saddens him.
  • KAIMA has a heroic example in Searina, whose soul is taken away by the world-eating monsters at the start of the game. On the one hand, she cannot feel joy or compassion and has all but forgotten about her moral code. On the other hand, she also cannot feel fear or remorse, meaning she has no qualms about marching into the Big Bad's lair and giving them what for. This becomes a problem in the game's bad endings, where she either continues leading an empty life, or kills her friend and joins the Big Bad.
  • Spiritualist Empires in Stellaris abhor sentient machines, seeing them as soulless abominations. While these sentient machines are treated just as any other population or empire with morality all across the scale, Spiritualist Empires may have a point on the soulless bit. Machines cannot develop Psionic powers, and a Psionic Empire can easily detect any machine infiltrator as they lack a psychic presence.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Every living creature has a soul that can manifest a force known as Aura. Once unlocked, an Aura can provide healing, defensive and offensive capabilities. Even animals can produce an Aura from their souls. The Creatures of Grimm are mostly mindless monsters that are attracted to negative emotions, becoming stronger and more intelligent with age. However, even ancient, powerful Grimm do not possess Aura, which is seen as evidence that the Grimm do not have souls.

  • Akuma's Comics: The Undertaker lacks a soul, making Akuma unable to hit him with his own soul-tracking attacks. While a villain the lack of a soul doesn't seem to affect his personality in any way.
  • Combined with Beast Man this is what the humanoid fae in Drowtales sees the goblin races as due to not having an aura. In practice they are more like muggles without any technical advantages.
  • The word "soul" is never used in Homestuck, but Aradia fits this trope in every way but name when she first appears. Stops once she gets some semblance of a body back, but her reaction isn't so much My God, What Have I Done? as a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, the Fae are one of the most powerful races in the setting. Their one major limitation is that their race has a set number of souls — for a new Fae to be born, another has to die. They have no way to actually increase their population. They've tried to get around this in the past by having children with other races. Sadly, the resulting hybrids are no exception to the rule and are thus born soulless. They linger in a catatonic state and always die young.
  • In The Order of the Stick, this trope is played with with the Elemental races, who are made up of the element they represent, Air, Fire, Earth and Water. As such, they do not technically have souls, and simply merge back into their Elemental Plane upon death, but as Lampshaded in the comic itself, since it's an RPG Mechanics Universe, the rules keep changing.
  • In Zebra Girl, losing your soul will kill most people outright; those who survive will invariably become Ax-Crazy Sociopaths, as seen with early arc Big Bad Tool and some of Harold Duvase's victims later on; or at least, their bodies will, as the soul itself retains the person's personality in full.

    Web Original 
  • A Cracked article portrayed Mario Lopez as this, while a drugged and drunk Cracked reporter followed him around after asking him to drop the act and just "be himself". It started with absolutely all expression leaving his face, and culminated with him breaking into an old children's hospital so he could eat feathers from the beds on which children had died.
  • A rare heroic example: Gireon Arkiof from Chaos Fighters: Chemical Warriors-RAKSA. He doesn't even want his soul back. This is lampshaded when Mifrent lamented why people with souls mostly fight against themselves and with a chapter titled Soulless Hero VS Soulful villain.

    Web Serial 
  • According to Word of God by "Worm" creator Wildbow, the people of Earth Bet do not have souls. This might explain the way The Trio treated Taylor. It is unknown if the people of Earth Aleph have souls, or not.

    Western Animation 
  • Aku from Samurai Jack. As a demonic being and an absolute monster who's Made of Evil, he doesn't have a soul and that's one of the main reasons why the only way to end him is to cease him from existence forever.
  • The Simpsons: Bart sold his soul—or at least a piece of church stationary with the words "Barts Soul" on it—to Milhouse for $5. His breath didn't fog glass, automatic doors didn't open for him, dogs growled when he passed. It didn't really make him evil, but he did get desperate enough to try and take Ralph Wiggum's soul. When Chief Wiggum interrupted him, Bart hisses at him and his eyes briefly turn into slits. He returns to normal after Lisa buys back the paper for him and Bart eats it.
  • Solomon Grundy from Justice League started off as a villainous, gray HULK MASH!-Up. Then in the episode "The Terror Beyond", Grundy learned his own backstory—that he was a zombie and had no soul (He was originally a criminal named Cyrus Gold who pissed off the wrong Haitian mobsters who turned out to be voodoo magicians). Once he realized this, regaining his soul suddenly became Grundy's first priority. It's ambiguous if he ever succeeded, but he dies happy after sacrificing himself while fighting an Eldritch Abomination. He eventually returns in a later episode, resurrected by a bunch of teenagers playing around with Chaos Magic, but he's completely mindless, and it's implied that the real Grundy/Gold has gone to wherever his soul was, and this was just his body.
  • In Beast Machines, Rhinox, the Genius Bruiser and Reluctant Warrior in Beast Wars, undergoes a Face–Heel Turn and loses his spark. When Rattrap inadvertently discovers that Rhinox's spark has been removed and reprogrammed into evil general Tankor, he makes a plan to simply reprogram the Tankor out of him, reverting him to the happy good guy that was a shining example of all the Maximals represented. Optimus Primal decides that because Rhinox says he actually prefers being the evil thing he has become, it would would make the Maximals just like Megatron to to force him to change back.
    • Later episodes saw Tankor revert to Rhinox's persona after his death, and express regret for what he'd done. Incidents with fellow Vehicons Jetstorm and Thrust suggest that lack of a spark wasn't a problem; rather, it was the fact that the spark was trapped in a Megatron-programmed, inorganic body.
    • Noble, Nightscream's purely organic companion, eventually turned out to be Megatron's spark in a new organic body. When Megatron was removed, Noble somehow lived on without a spark of his own. In a subversion, the soulless Noble was loyal to Nightscream and a decent, if animalistic being. He died shortly afterwards at the hands of his former "soul".
  • Xiaolin Showdown - One of the big bads, Chase Young, turned to the Heylin (evil) side after Hannibal Roy Bean convinced him to drink the Lao-Mang Soup, which not only made him immortal and very powerful but drained him of his soul.
  • In South Park, Cartman once spread the idea that gingers have no souls. Kyle said that Cartman was just being an asshole, but then the town's gingers started acting very creepy and abducting other children under Cartman's orders.
  • In Trollhunters, Angor Rot asks Argante for power in exchange for a piece of his flesh, Argante then turns the piece of flesh into the Inferna Copula, which is then used to house Angor's soul. For centuries, the ring acts as a leash, whoever wearing it being able to control him. Jim Lake manages to retrieve the cursed ring and after trying to steal the Killing Stone, a fight ensues that ends with Angor accidentally destroying the ring and his soul along with it.