Ten Fictional Deaths That Broke Our Hearts

It’s a seamy truth we sometimes sulk over, obsess over, write fanfiction over (I can neither confirm nor deny this) and even cry over: our attachments to fictional characters. In the degenerative process of falling in love with a plotline where we become inseparable from our laptops or start humming Hulu ad music, something about the characters we connect with can trigger a spectrum of emotions. Their triumphs and pitfalls become our shared concerns and happiness, and when their fictional lives are cut short by terminated contracts or scheduling conflicts, we experience the cycle of grief in miniature.

Although we might find our attachment pathetic, honoring the fictional dead is nothing short of cathartic.

Sit back, grab a box of Kleenex and let the Wheel walk you through the most shocking fictional deaths that led us to sob hysterically, throw our laptops against the wall or violently hug the nearest furry animal:


Charlotte (the literate arachnid)
E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.

SHE LITERALLY JUST BIRTHED A SPIDER BROOD! WHY! Cruel! Intolerable world! Forget about Wilbur’s poorly veneered literacy. Her death was shockingly mature for a children’s book. To make matters worse, Wilbur showed his real pigheadedness by trying to prevent Charlotte’s foundlings from spinning parachutes from their abdomens (still an odd moment) and letting fate direct the wind. Although on some level, I can’t blame him. To be bereft of any vestiges of friendship is quite a sad and adult thing for an 8-year-old to read.


Mufasa (the wise lion with the Pantene-worthy mane)
“The Lion King

Dear Mufasa, so wise to the blabbering Zazu, affectionate to tiny Simba and most of all envy-inspiring with that mane … his death was one of the most depressing Disney moments. From the dramatic “Long live the king” that Scar whispers as he lets him fall off the click, to Simba’s pitiful nudging of the same mane, Mufasa’s death was probably the worst way to segue into a coming-of-age tale.


Fred Weasley
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

In a recent interview, J.K. Rowling defended her decision of killing off Fred by explaining that she already compromised with fans by sparing Arthur Weasley when Nagini attacked him in the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. But the twins were collectively one of the best supporting character duos of the series. From their awesome joke shop to their mastery of the Marauder’s Map, Fred’s death tainted the otherwise happy conclusion of the tale.


Eddard Stark (aka Boromir)
“Game of Thrones”

I hate Joffrey. From his man baby face to sadistic sexual tendencies, his irrational penalty to upright Eddard Stark was a jaw-dropping moment for the season finale. While his stoicism and sometimes annoying moral rigidity would make us roll our eyes or stamp our feet, the loss of his character leaves the series vulnerable to a loss of stability and sanity.


Matthew Crawley (his husky blue eyes haunt my dreams)
“Downton Abbey”

After holding his son and sharing one last beautiful moment with Mary, we see Matthew speeding down the roadway, his head held exuberantly high. Then the scene cuts to the serene Dowager Countess Grantham who ominously utters that there are always unforeseen things just around the corner. At that terrible moment, we see another vehicle in front of Matthew and then a thick dribble of blood crossing his cheek. The beautiful Matthew Crawley never gets his fairy tale ending with Mary after all … the pain is too fresh.


Sybil (hottest of the Crawley sisters)
“Downton Abbey”

While maternal morbidity rates are still a threat, they seem far removed from the world we know. Thus, it was an unexpected end for Lady Sybil when, just hours after delivering a baby girl, she succumbs to the effects of untreated eclampsia. American audiences were so devastated that CNN Medical News published a story based off of Sybil’s eclamptic pregnancy to warn readers that the threat is very real.



Although Ianto and Jack Harkness became the unlikely romantic couple we championed throughout the show, Ianto’s death was an uncalled for cruelty to the series. Plagued by an unshakeable immortality, poor Jack dies beside his lover, only to resurrect himself once more and see the lifeless Ianto beside him.


Dr. Malcolm Crowe
“The Sixth Sense”

Even though we may have had a sneaking suspicion that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time, it didn’t change the shock of the ending. Add to the fact that this was the best of M. Night Shyamalan’s “one trick pony” moves and the movie still runs chills up our spines.



Poor Appollonia! In Mario Puzo’s original conception, Appollonia was the one true love of the damned Michael Corleone. Although Diane Keaton stole our sympathies in the films, Appollonia’s death in a violent car bombing assassination marked the birth of Michael as head of the family’s crime network.


Gwen Stacy
“Spiderman” comics

Despite Emma Stone’s quirky and adorable performance alongside Andrew Garfield as Spiderman, their love is already doomed thanks to her untimely ending in the comics. In fact, Gwen Stacy’s death marked the end of the Silver Age of comics because it was the first time a hero failed so catastrophically in saving the woman he loved.


— By Roshani Chokshi


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