Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


Tear Jerker / Hollow Knight

Go To

Beware, unmarked spoilers ahead. You Have Been Warned!

"No cost too great..."

For a game overflowing with Nightmare Fuel, there are more than a few moments that tug on the heartstrings.

  • Dirtmouth, when you first arrive. The town is described as fading, and only one being resides there, the Elderbug. Over time, the town starts to fill up with other bugs, but depending on what the Knight does, several will leave again (or die), such as Bretta if the player defeats Zote's dream form enough times, having grown disillusioned with Zote and having had her perception of the Knight shattered.
  • Advertisement:
  • The White Lady, completely blind to the world (literally), simply sitting and waiting within her home for so long, the Great Knight defending her has perished. And what's more, you are her creation, but she does not speak affectionately to you, as you are merely an empty shell filled with the Void, created to combat the Infection.
  • Bugs who travel westward from the Howling Cliffs are stated to lose their memories (possibly even their sentience). For bugs of Hallownest, this means their only options are to stay in a kingdom that is rapidly falling to ruin, exposing oneself to the Infection and possibly being corrupted by it, or leaving and losing all of one's memories.
  • The fate of the first Hollow Knight. It succeeds in absorbing the Infection, but it is unable to contain it, and it starts to leak into Hallownest, corrupting everything around it, turning everyone into mindless zombified Husks, including a friendly bug you meet early in the game. As you grow closer to defeating it, it starts to stab itself with its own nail: the reason why it even does so is unclear, which somehow makes it worse.
    • The fight itself is this. At first, it's a classic final boss fight with Ominous Pipe Organ music. The Hollow Knight rapidly leaps around the arena and skillfully wields its nail. As the phases go on, the music turns into a funeral dirge and the Knight is barely even able to lift its nail. It keeps collapsing to the ground and its only attack just involves being blindly flung around by the infection. By the end, it feels less like a boss fight and more like euthanasia.
    • Advertisement:
    • The reason the Hollow Knight was infected. Objectively it should have succeeded at containing the Infection indefinitely, but it had "an idea instilled" by the Pale King as he raised it to adulthood: a bond with its father. And that "impurity" was all the Radiance needed to sink its hooks into it and corrupt the Vessel when the time came to seal it away. In other words, the Hollow Knight failed because it dared to feel emotion for another being. As if that's not bad enough, the Hollow Knight has cut Dream Nail dialogue. Most of it is the voice of the Radiance whispering of its return or to "kill the usurper" through its puppet, but there is one painful exception.
  • When the Knight ends Herrah the Beast's dream curse, Hornet can be found kneeling at the base of her plinth, in mourning. The Knight just killed her mother. Hornet recognizes that it was necessary, which softens the blow.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Seer is the last living moth: all the others have died by the time the game begins. While that is sad enough, her situation gets worse. Thanks to a combination of how they contributed to Hallownest's fall (due to their worship of the Radiance) and the moths's guilt towards turning against their original god, she's given up on the moths's legacy. When the Seer is done giving the Knight the tools to solve the problem she believes her people are responsible for creating, she openly asks the Knight, and the player, to forget that they existed, thus killing the moths forever.
    Seer: Don't remember us, Wielder. Don't honour us. We do not deserve it... Aahh... I'm sorry... Light... Radiance... I... remember you.
  • Cloth is a large, hammy cicada who you meet multiple times over the course of the game, with her demeanor growing increasingly somber as the game goes on and she finds more and more dangerous, horrible beasts and recognizes her own fear of them. Eventually, she can be inspired to bravery and will help you fight the Traitor Lord...only to kill him and be killed by him. Talking to her Ghost reveals that she seems to recognize that her work is done, and disappears even if you don't Dream Nail her.
    • The other outcome is even worse. If you miss her at any one spot before slaying the Traitor Lord, she'll show up in Dirtmouth and vow to leave Hallownest (itself almost a death sentence). Dream Nailing her here will reveal that she's actually a Death Seeker trying to "reunite" with a possibly dead loved one, and is traveling Hallownest trying to find ways to be killed in combat, but wasn't brave enough to go through with it. This makes her one of the only ghosts to recognize that she's actually dead.
  • Several bugs had close friends who perished in the ensuing century after the Pale King's disappearance.
    • The Grey Mourner's lover was killed an unknown number of years ago, and her final act is to entrust the Knight with a delicate flower to place at her grave. When done, the Mourner is finally able to pass away.
    • Quirrel was once a student of Monomon the Teacher, but after she sealed herself in a dream state, he wandered away from Hallownest, losing all of his memories, until he wandered back in by chance, and spends most of the game slowly regaining them. Then finally, once he aids the Knight in defeating Uumuu and allowing it to put an end to Monomon's dream, he disappears entirely, either having left Hallownest once again, or having perished.
  • While the Mistakes and Follies in the Soul Sanctum were mass murderers, it cannot be denied that they were originally Well Intentioned Extremists who were harvesting SOUL to escape the Infection. They suffered an unquestionably tragic fate: degenerating into blob-like creatures that constantly hungered for SOUL. Their Dream Nail dialogue is equally pitiable, particularly the quote below concerning their plan.
    Mistake/Folly: ...Did it work?...
  • Everything about the original Hollow Knight / Vessel. It was chosen to contain the plague and in doing so save Hallownest from certain doom. As noted by the Pale King in the cutscene in the Void, the vessel supposedly has no mind to think with and no own will that can be broken. It is an empty being with no other purpose than to seal away the plague. When you meet your predecessor in the temple for a final fight, it is evident this did not fully go according to plan. Barely functioning due to the plague leaking out from its body, the vessel does attempt to fight you, but eventually starts turning its blade on itself, implying it's very much aware of its miserable situation and wants to help you end it.
    • The soundtrack that plays during the fight, "Sealed Vessel", is a tearjerker in itself. It starts as a fairly bombastic orchestral piece as you'd expect from an end-game boss fight, but right when the Hollow Knight starts screaming and stabbing itself the music grows somber and quieter, directing your attention to the miserable situation the vessel has been in.
    • Completing the notoriously difficult and aptly named optional Path of Pain in the White Palace treats you to a small scene of the Pale King sitting alongside a young version of the vessel. The painful implications are that though the King created the vessel with no other intention than to use it to contain the plague, he nevertheless came to treat it as his son and had it by his side for a good while. The King may well be responsible for causing the vessel to develop a mind and will of its own.
    • The above has even worse implications. After the Radiance was sealed away, its only way to assert its influence was via lingering memories, typically through dreams. You eventually encounter and confront it in the dreamworld of the vessel. How did the vessel, which was supposed to be an empty tool to contain the plague, come to dream? Because the Pale King treated it as if it was his own son for a while (and technically it is), causing it to start dreaming about a life it was never destined to have. This gave the Radiance a foothold within the very tool supposed to contain it, causing the vessel to fail in sealing the plague, slowly succumbing to it and with it, all of Hallownest.
    • The fight with the Pure Vessel in the Godmaster DLC, essentially the Hollow Knight in its prime. The Pure Vessel's boss theme (a soft, holy choir rendition of Sealed Vessel) and its attacks (especially the nails erupting from the ground, which the Hollow Knight's corrupted tendril attacks echo) show either how far the Hollow Knight fell from grace after containing the Radiance, or what it could have been should the Infection not have claimed it.
  • All of the Dream Warriors (except for Gorb) had horrible, tragic things happen to them.
    • No Eyes was so scared of being Infected that she mutilated and blinded herself to escape it, but went crazy anyway, regressing to a childlike state.
    • Galien had a Tragic Dream of becoming a Knight, and trained in Deepnest, but was eventually slaughtered by its creatures. His final words are a request for you to tell the Pale King about his valour and strength, before he leaves to join his brothers.
    • Xero was inspired by his dreams (and therefore, the Radiance) to turn against the Pale King. His rebellion failed, he was executed, and he was used an example to rebels against the King. His ghost even says that those who hope are already doomed.
    • Marmu is stuck waiting for the White Lady to come and teach her to fly (Marmu is a caterpillar). Taking this into account, Marmu was most likely a Child Soldier who died fighting the Mantis Traitors.
    • Elder Hu wandered Hallownest, attempting to give comfort to those afflicted with the Infection. He stumbled across the Mantis Village, and made the mistake of deeming them Infected beasts. He attacked them, and the Mantis Lords killed him.
    • Markoth was a warrior of the Moth tribe, but it's implied that he died in Kingdom's Edge, and his tribe Never Found the Body, leading to his name being forgotten.
  • The endings. ALL of them.
    • Ending 1 (The Hollow Knight): The Knight strikes down the first Hollow Knight, and then absorbs The Infection into himself. Then chains start to fly down, before the Black Egg seals shut, thus renewing the cycle.
    • Ending 2 (Sealed Siblings): Hornet is there with you, unconscious as you absorb the Infection. The temple still seals itself shut, and her mask appears on the front as one of the binds, signifying that she, like her mother, has become a Dreamer, and due to her being trapped inside, this means that the Infection will never be truly destroyed because no one can break the seal to end the Knight.
    • Ending 3 (Dream No More): The Knight sacrifices its life to put an end to the Radiance. Hallownest is free of the Infection, but the Knight is gone, having returned to the Void it came from, leaving Hornet behind to mourn it.
  • The Godmaster update adds two more tragic endings.
    • Ending 4 (Embrace the Void): Despite all the overtures of having Grew Beyond Their Programming and Video Game Caring Potential, the Knight allows itself to be consumed by the void to kill Absolute Radiance. Depending on interpretation it either is subsumed by or directly becomes a monstrous personification of the abyss out to snuff out the Light and consume the world. There's a very strong possibility that all the good the Vessel had done ends with it becoming a Fallen Hero and Eldritch Abomination.
    • Ending 5 (Delicate Flower): The Eldritch Abomination from the "Embrace the Void" ending takes form, but a drop of Void lands on the Delicate Flower that was given to the Godseeker. The abomination attempts to escape, but both it and the Godseeker are completely annihilated in a burst of white light, only leaving the flower behind.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: