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Unrequited Tragic Maiden

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The Unrequited Tragic Maiden is (usually) a female character that seems to have all the perfect characteristics to make her the ideal romantic interest or even The Ingenue of the story, but alas, for some reason the object of her affections does not view her as such. And in order to compound the sadness of her pining away with a sad smile, she then meets a tragic fate. Often this means she is killed (e.g. Spurned into Suicide, Death by Despair, sacrificing herself to ensure her beloved's happiness, dying a lonely death without even getting to confess her love), but other piteous fates apply as well.

An archetype with strong basis in myths and fairy tales, dating back to at least Classical Mythology, this trope's appeal is seeing a young, beautiful, and docile lady succumb to despair and tragedy. In this regard it is similar to The Ophelia, though with the Unrequited Tragic Maiden it is usually the purity of her feelings that are romanticized postmortem. She may wind up becoming The Lost Lenore after death if the person they loved grieves for them, blames themselves for her death or else only discovers that he loved her when it was too late.

Note that this is not about any woman who experiences an unrequited love — without the tragic ending, you are looking at an example of Hopeless Suitor, Did Not Get The Guy, Romantic Runner-Up, Love Hurts, or Love Martyr. Contrast to Green-Eyed Monster, Clingy Jealous Girl, and Yandere, in which the woman is more prone to sabotage and a devious nature unlike the docile nature of the Unrequited Tragic Maiden. If it's a requited romance that's doomed anyway, check out Starcrossed Lovers. See also Unrequited Love Lasts Forever.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Played with in Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. Menma suffers a tragic death right after hearing Jintan deny having a crush on her. In reality, he returned her feelings while she was alive, and still liked her even when she was a ghost.
  • Code Geass:
    • Shirley Fenette. At first Played for Laughs, then for intense drama with a side dish of Break the Cutie. And right when it looks like she may have the chance to get Lelouch's love... BAM! Fatal injury to the gut, pool of her own blood, death in front of Lelouch.
    • This happens differently in the movies. Even though she stays safe this time, her and Lelouch's roles are basically swapped because his death still happens.
  • Cyberpunk: Edgerunners: Rebecca is smitten with David and openly flirts with him to get him through his depression, but by the time she meets him David's already head over heels for Lucy. Despite David and Lucy's relationship only holding on by a thread, Becca laments to Kiwi that David never notices her. Even knowing she has no chance, Becca's ride or die commitment to David leads to her sudden and tragic death at the hands of Adam Smasher once David storms the Arasaka building in a fit of cyberpsychosis.
  • Surprisingly, once his actual motivations are explored, Juzo "Ultimate Boxer" Sakakura from Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School ends up fitting in this trope. He loves Kyosuke Munakata deeply but knows he can't have his romantic affection, would rather step aside and give Chisa Yukizome the chance to love him and being loved back, suffers enormously for such feelings (even if he shows it in very different ways than the standard trope), and ends up dying in a terribly tragic manner to, among other things, protect Munakata with his life. His last words are about how much he wants Munakata to live no matter what.
  • Subverted in Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden. Firuka sincerely believed that her feelings for Urumiya Hagas were unreciprocated... but in reality, Hagas loved her dearly. He couldn't ever show it to her, however, since he was ailing, his days were numbered, and he was planning a Self-Sacrifice Scheme; Firuka only learned that his other wish was for her to be happy and loved when he was already dead, and the one who told her was his surviving twin brother Tegu aka the one Hagas pulled his Self-Sacrifice Scheme for, and who'd eventually become Firuka's Second Love.
  • Inuyasha: At some point, this is discussed... and ultimately defied: The Baby deals several and extremely cruel Breaking Lectures to Kagome, telling her that she's pretty much condemned to be this to Inu-Yasha himself, due to his feelings for his ex-girlfriend (and Kagome's past self) Kikyou. Kagome is this close to giving in and having a Face–Heel Turn, which is the Baby's purpose... but then she snaps back at him via first admitting that yes, she is often jealous of Kikyou, but then adding that these feelings are proper of human beings, and finally stating that she does love Inu-Yasha anyway. Such emotional honesty, and especially coming from a Tsundere and self-admitted Clingy Jealous Girl, is VERY welcome and refreshing. And even more so when it keeps her from going the "Love Makes You Evil" way.
  • Michiyo Akaishi's stories have two of these:
    • There's one in Ten Yori Mo, Hoshi Yori Mo... But it's not Mio Mizumori, who actually has her feelings for Shou requited very soon. It's Miyabi Fujiwara, the local Ojou, who falls for Shou at first, then is manipulated by Tadaomi due to her feelings... and ends up dying in a plane crash caused by Tadaomi in an attempt to kill Shou.
    • Akaishi also provides the very Rare Male Example: Naozumi "Kotaka" Yatsuka from Amakusa 1637, who's painfully and deeply in love with Natsuki and that really doesn't help him when he's stuck in the past and ends up Going Mad From The Isolation.
  • Played with in Monster Musume, with Mero. She wants to be the Unrequited Tragic Maiden to the man she harbors affection for, eagerly stepping on the sidelines and only wanting to be a tangential part of the protagonist's harem. Later on, after she has a brush with an actual tragedy, she decides that maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be.
  • Natsu e no Tobira has a Pretty Boy protagonist named Marion Fiesse. The person with unrequired feelings for him is actually a Rare Male Example: Claude, one of Marion's school friends. Claude claimed to have feelings for Ledania but in reality, his love is all for Marion, and for worse, he's strongly implied to be drug-addicted. When he gives Marion a disastrous Anguished Declaration of Love with a side-dish of Attempted Rape, a terrified Marion hits him, and Claude is found dead in the river the day after; Marion is devastated and heavily blames himself.
  • Parasyte: Kana believes herself to be Shinichi's soulmate due to her unexplained psychic connection to him, but as he explains, she's linked to people like him, and the others are all the villains of The Masquerade. She takes to seing him as her Knight in Shining Armor, but borders on Stalker with a Crush while he sees them as Just Friends. The last time she sees him with his girlfriend, she pines for him, thinking "Why don't you notice me? Look over here! Feel me. Please...", as she turns away her own unrequited love interest. Shinichi is somewhat aware of her interest, but sends mixed messages, including skipping a date to meet with her. But on that night, as she resolves to rush to him to proclaim her love, she runs into one of the monsters, who gives her a fatal wound as Shinichi arrives seconds too late, leaving her to die in his arms, still close to him, but not reciprocated.
  • Played With in Princess Tutu: The Heroine Duck/Tutu and Anti-Villainess Rue/Kraehe are positioned as Swan Lake-like love rivals over the handsome Prince Charming Mytho. The defiance of established narratives is a major theme, though...
    • Duck has an unrequited crush on Mytho and tries to help him as her Magical Girl alter ego Princess Tutu, but soon learns that she'll die if she ever confesses her love to him. Mytho is in love with Tutu but only sees Duck as a friend. Eventually Duck realizes that she was Loving a Shadow and thus refuses to give up hope like the author intended her to; she then falls in love with Fakir.
    • Rue is the seductive villainess corrupting the heroic Prince, an archetype doomed to lose out to the pure heroine. However, she is eventually revealed to have a tragic backstory, and contaminates Mytho to the point that he abuses her. After she finally manages to express her love for him, however, Mytho realizes that he truly loves her, rescues her from the death she was resigned to after her Heroic Sacrifice, and takes her as his princess in the end.
  • In Project ARMS, Yugo is clearly in love with Ryo, but knows he loves Katsumi and thus does everything in her power to help rescue her. She eventually dies saving him and everyone else from the Jabberwocky.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Sayaka yearns for Kyousuke's love, but he shows no romantic interest in her and after Sayaka doesn't confess her love for him in time, he hooks up with Hitomi, who does come forward when she had the chance). Sayaka makes her Magical Girl wish for him against Mami's warnings, since she sincerely believes it would still be worth it; only then Sayaka learns that being a Magical Girl is NOT as sparkly and beautiful as she thinks it is, which clashes with her black and white view of the world and her emotional conflicts. She then falls from grace and witches out.

  • John William Waterhouse:
    • The Lady of Shalott (Waterhouse), loosely based on the Elaine of Arthuriana who pined after Lancelot to no avail, depicts the moment when the Lady loosens the chain of her boat to drift away down the river. Waterhouse also painted two other depictions of the same character.
    • Echo and Narcissus, based on the myth, shows a lovely young nymph despairing that Narcissus is too preoccupied with himself to love her back. As the story goes, she would eventually waste away.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Emily from Tim Burton's Corpse Bride could qualify as one of these. A beautiful young woman murdered on the night of her elopement by who she THOUGHT was her true love, she who spent her afterlife heartbroken and longing to experience real true love. When she found it in Victor, he was already betrothed to a woman named Victoria, with whom he sincerely was in love. Although Emily initially insisted that Victor keep a promise to marry and spend eternity with her that he made unwittingly, in the end she was willing to let him go and spend his life with his own true love, rather than keeping him to herself and causing Victoria a pain that wasn't much different from the one she felt. Once this was said and done, Emily finally released herself from her pain and was able to ascend to Heaven, her undead body turning into butterflies that peacefully flew away.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In A Room in Town, Violette is perfectly nice and sincerely loves Francois, but Francois doesn't return her feelings and falls in love with Edith instead, leaving Violette alone with her mother, miserable, and with his child.

  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath has two Gender Inverted examples:
    • Dally to Jame. He's her first friend in Tai-tastigon and as good a friend as you can imagine, trusting and honest. He loves Jame, so he just keeps being a really good friend, hoping she'll start liking him too. But unfortunately for him, she's never shown any interest like that in non-Kencyr. In the end, Dally gets killed.
    • Tirandys to Jamethiel Dream-weaver. When their lord made a Deal with the Devil, Tirandys followed him, knowingly and willingly damning himself — partly due to My Master, Right or Wrong, and partly because he loved Jamethiel. She was already the above-mentioned lord's consort, though, and Tirandys didn't get her. But oh, he loved her, and even 3,000 years of unrequited love later, he said:
      Tirandys: She was only his tool and may yet save her compromised honor by choosing to disobey him. I would gladly give what remains of both my honor and soul to see that.
  • The Dresden Files has Molly, whose painful path through adulthood is all the sadder because she had everything going for her — courage, good looks, a loving family, and significant magical talent — before she tried to pursue a man who categorically refuses to have any romantic feelings for her. Which would have been fine if she had accepted his rejection, but she kept false hope that she could somehow change his mind over the years, and became deeper and deeper entrenched in her angst. Then he went the way of all mentors, and it shattered her, more than it would have if she only saw him as a teacher. Naturally, she becomes a Lady of Winter, a fae Court that empowers its leaders to fight great battles and survive impossible odds... if they can first defy its temptation to care only about what they want.
  • The Lady of Shalott from Alfred, Lord Tennyson is based on the Arthurian Legend character Elaine of Astolat, who pined after Lancelot (who, of course, only had eyes for Guinevere) and eventually died of a broken heart.
  • The Legend of the Condor Heroes: Han Xiaoying (Jade Han in the English translation), the only woman of the Seven Freaks of the South, never realized how she felt about Zhang A'sheng (one of the other Seven Freaks) until he was mortally wounded and unburdened himself of his feelings right before he died. She accepts his feelings, returns them, and considers herself a widow forever after. In the end, the loss of most of her martial siblings is too much and she commits suicide to join them in death.
  • In the original story of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, The Little Mermaid, the mermaid rescues and falls in love with a prince. He marries a different girl whom he believes had rescued him, and who actually did help in his rescue (and in some versions, she was actually his betrothed from before the mermaid incident happened). Because she was unsuccessful in making the prince fall in love with her, the mermaid turns to sea foam, choosing his happiness over her own life. In some versions, she is rewarded for her sacrifice with a new life as an air sprite, during which time she will earn a soul (mermaids don't naturally have them) and go to Heaven.
  • Played with in The Lord of the Rings with Éowyn. She is beautiful, she is of noble birth, she falls in love with Aragorn... who is already engaged to Arwen and has been in love with her for a long time. She even actively works towards a tragic death, which doesn't work. And not only she's saved by Aragorn, but he had recognized her feelings and specifically tells Éowyn's older brother Éomer that she's more in love with the idea of him rather than with him, in what's quite the direct potshot to the trope itself. Once Éowyn calms down and starts recovering, she bonds with the Warrior Prince Faramir, and they develop feelings for one another; the next time Aragorn speaks to them, he notes how she's much happier than before.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Invoked. Ashara was a great beauty from a noble family whose dramatic suicide got the rumormongers going, and one of the more long-lived in-universe theories is that she killed herself after a ill-fated dalliance with a Stark brother. Said rumors even got to Catelyn, Ned Stark's eventual wife, who was so hurt by them that after she confronted Ned about it, Ned forbade mention of Ashara within Winterfell.
    Arya: Why did she jump in the sea, though?
    Edric: Her heart was broken.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Supernatural
    • Jo Harvelle, who spends most of Season 2 with an unrequited crush on Dean Winchester, something which the Demon Meg uses to torment her when Meg is possessing Sam Winchester and spends an episode menacing Jo. In Season 5, Jo returns more confident and a skilled hunter in her own right. She even turns down a night with Dean, who offers her last night on Earth sex before they confront Lucifer. The next day, she makes a Heroic Sacrifice and dies along with her mother, but not before Dean gives her a somewhat chaste but still romantic goodbye kiss.
    • Played With with the Demon Meg and Castiel, given that she's not exactly a maiden and Castiel is attracted to her. However, it's also very clear that her feelings for him are much stronger than his are for her especially when it's revealed he's been in love with Dean the whole time. When she's rescued from Crowley in Season 8, she's clearly hurt that Castiel and the Winchesters never bothered looking for her before that, but she and Castiel agree to have sex if they manage to escape the week's danger. She doesn't, making a Heroic Sacrifice for her unicorn, Castiel. In Season 9, he uses the nickname she gives him, Clarence, as an alias, indicating that he does still think about her.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Classical Mythology has quite a few tragic and beautiful nymphs:
    • Clytie, a water nymph, loved the sun god Helios and sabotaged his relationship with a princess, but when this failed to return Helios to her, she eventually resorted to watching his path and turning into the heliotrope flower.
    • The mountain nymph Echo had been cursed only to repeat what was said back to her. She fell in love with Narcissus, who was too in love with himself to pay her any mind; unable to tell him of her feelings, she eventually wasted away. Her voice is how echoes formed.
    • Oenone, the first wife of the Trojan prince Paris, was spurned in favor of Helen of Troy; she spurned Paris in turn when he returned to her in near death after the war but then killed herself after he died out of grief.
    • Inverted with Daphne, who did not return the feelings of the god Apollo. In an attempt to flee him, she beseeched her river god father, who turned her into the laurel tree.

  • Giselle: In some versions, Giselle falls in love with Albretch, but Albretch is engaged to Bathilde. After dying of a broken heart (perhaps literally), Giselle becomes The Lost Lenore.
  • Ophelia from Hamlet might be seen as one. Against the warning of her father, she's fallen in love with the Prince, and as soon as Hamlet begins to feign madness, the first thing he does is try to break off his relationship with Ophelia. She doesn't take it well, and then things go From Bad to Worse. At her funeral, Hamlet sobs profusely for his love for her.
  • Eponine from Les Misérables is in love with Marius and does everything she can to help him, even though he is in love with Cosette and only views Eponine as a friend. She then goes to the barricade and dies in his arms, accepting her tragic fate with the song "A Little Fall of Rain". This portrayal contrasts with the one she has in the original book, where she's more of a Stalker with a Crush.
  • Liu the slave girl from Puccini's Turandot. She continues to follow and care for Timur only because his son, Calaf smiled at her. Once. But Calaf is in love with the Princess Turandot and doesn't realize Liu's devotion to him until she dies rather than reveal vital information.
  • Viola describes herself like this (although she claims to be talking about her sister) in the middle of Twelfth Night, trying to explain to Orsino that sometimes you don't end up with the person you want and there's nothing you can do about it. She does get the guy at the end of the play, though.
    Viola: My father had a daughter loved a man, as it might be, perhaps, were I a woman, I should your lordship.
    Orsino: And what's her history?
    Viola: A blank, my lord. She never told her love, but let concealment, like a worm i' the bud, feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought, and with a green and yellow melancholy she sat like patience on a monument, smiling at grief.

    Video Games 
  • Drakengard: Furiae is a Barrier Maiden preventing the coming of the Apocalypse by a number of seals that are successively broken by the Empire, causing her ever-greater pain, in addition to the fact that the man she loves is unaware of her feelings for him (and when he finds out, rejects her), causing her death in all story branches (and rebirth into... something... in one). All in all, it's a shame that man was her own brother Caim.
  • Final Fantasy XV: It's possible to make Lunafreya one if the player has Noctis respond indifferently to her messages, suggesting he cares little for her. Regardless of the player's decisions, Luna meets a tragic fate both in the game (even in the otherwise Golden Ending) and in the Dawn of the Future novel.
  • Fire Emblem has a few of these due to most characters being given multiple romantic partners.
  • In Fire Emblem Fates, Felicia's older sister and fellow Ninja Maid Flora is strongly implied to have a crush on the Avatar's Battle Butler Jakob, and even tries to give him a Love Confession in-story but he interrupts her. What happens to her is different, according to what path is chosen... In the Birthright path, she commits suicide after a huge Break the Cutie process completely shatters her. In the Conquest path she can be recruited towards the end and potentially be romanced by a male Avatar. In the Revelation path, she must run away with the survivors of her tribe but can potentially be recruited later too and have the Male Avatar as a Second Love.
  • Naminé from Kingdom Hearts is drawn to Sora and wishes she were Kairi (which, in a way, she is). In the end, she wants Sora and Kairi to be happy and merges with Kairi thus destroying her own identity and existence in some ways. Though enough of her is still around to ultimately allow her to come back physically at the end of III

    Visual Novels 
  • Played with in regards to Sakura Matou from Fate/stay night. Because of her past, she believes that she doesn't deserve Shirou's affections and thinks this is how she'll eventually end up. And while we don't know her fate in the first two routes (which, considering that Zouken Matou, the one behind her suffering, is still alive by BOTH route's ends...) in the third she is driven mad by a combination of jealousy and being possessed by an evil spirit, but is saved and redeemed by Shirou and her sister, Rin.
  • You Tsukuba from Saya no Uta, in Unrequited Love with Fuminori and totally outclassed by Saya. It ultimately ends with her being transformed into one of Saya's species, partly out of spite for her being romantic competition, so she can be a Sex Slave for Fuminori, and this turns her into a Death Seeker who is thankful when she is killed by Koji.

  • Whale Star: The Gyeongseong Mermaid is a retelling of The Little Mermaid. In the version of the tale told in the comic, the Little Mermaid can't bear to kill her prince and turns into sea foam. Su-a, the story's kind and cute "Little Mermaid", realizes that Uihyeon loves her, but he will always love their country of Joseon more, so she undertakes a Suicide Mission in his place so he can live.