Top 10 Fictional Characters with Tragic Backstories

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Bring on the tissue boxes, because you’re going to need them after reading this heartbreaking list.

(FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T SEEN THESE MOVIES/TV SHOWS YET, SPOILERS WILL BE ON THIS LISTICLE SO READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!)

  1. Angel/Sarah – (Redeeming Love)

Where to begin with this character? Well, she was a child born out of prostitution; Her birth father never wanted her; Her mother went back to prostitution to provide for the both of them and later died, and finally she became a victim of human sex trafficking and was forced into a life of prositution like her mother. Renamed “Angel” by the head of the prostitution ring, The Duke, her life as prostitute was a living nightmare, especially the hold Duke had on her after she escaped him. The neglect from her father, her mother’s death, and her time with Duke and then later Duchess, a Madam (a woman who runs a brothel), made Sarah’s view of God, people, and the world distorted, thus unable to trust anyone and nearly pushed her to the point of suicide. Though she finally found peace in the end, her backstory will always be a heavy reminder of the reality we’re living where anyone can be lied to, taken, and robbed of their innocence. More importantly, her story helps us to be motivated to help those in need so that NO ONE would have to experience what Sarah went through. For those that did, her story will also help motivate the survivors that there is hope outside of the pain.

  1. Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlet Witch – (Marvel Universe)

Tragedy and death followed Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlet Witch like a shadow. She lost her parents by a Stark tech weapon. She and her brother spent most of their lives as lab rats for HYDRA. Her brother was shot down to death by an Ultron robot. She lost Vision, the love of her life, twice, once by Thanos and twice by her own hand when she laid the veil down in Westview. To top it all off, she lost the children she never had, and went as far as to attempting to murder an innocent girl in order to take another version of her kids from another version of herself. Wanda’s story has been a long string of sadness and loss, so hopefully if Marvel Studios decides to bring back a new version of Wanda, then she’ll have a clean slate. Make no mistake however, whether they decide to or not, the OG Wanda’s backstory will always be memorable to Marvel fans.

  1. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore – (Harry Potter)

“Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” Words that this wise old wizard lived by in his youth. Before he was headmaster of Hogwarts, Dumbledore was an ambitious young wizard living his best life at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, his home life with his family was quite the opposite as their troubles began when his sister Ariana was attacked by muggle boys who witnessed her doing magic. The aftermath of the attack forever scarred her. This angered Albus’s father, thus resulting in him to retaliate and his actions sent him to Azkaban prison, where he later died. The tragedy train continued when Albus was just about to go on a tour of the world after his graduation, his mother was accidentally killed by his sister. After his mother’s death, Albus canceled his plans and was put in the position as guardian to his siblings, which led him to be resentful and bitter for the whole situation. Lost in his own misery, Albus found comfort in a friend who’d eventually caused him more pain for him and his family, Gellert Grindlewald. Albus’s time with Grindelwald made him neglect his siblings and pulled him further into darkness, but after finally seeing the light it was too late. The outcome of Dumbledore’s brother’s confrontation with Grindelwald was the final nail in the coffin of the Dumbledore clan as their sister died by getting caught in their crossfire. The family was forever shattered and Albus was a changed man.

  1. Jessie – (Pixar/Toy Story Franchise)

This cowgirl is known for her energetic and friendly personality, but deep within her smile is a sad girl touched by darkness and abandonment. Like many toys, Jessie had a happy life with her owner, Emily. They played together, did everything together, and loved each other, but like a lot of children, Emily grew older and outgrew the stuff from her childhood, including Jessie. Jessie had spent most of her life watching her friend grow up without her, and was later discarded by the same person who loved and played with her in a confined box like she was nothing. Though Jessie is naturally friendly and open, her time spent alone in a box combined with Emily’s neglect had resulted in her fear of confinement and abandonment. Jessie’s backstory is a sad reminder for anyone who’s ever been abandoned by someone they loved so dearly. I still get teary eyed listening to Sarah McLachlan’s “When She Loved Me,” playing through Jessie’s backstory.

  1. Regina Mills/The Evil Queen – (Once Upon a Time)

“Evil Isn’t Born, It’s Made,” as the show continuously states for our heroes and villains in the series. No other character has proven that statement to be true than Regina Mills. Before she was the mayor of Storybrooke, before she was the Evil Queen, Regina was a simple girl living a simple life. Sadly, her simple life isn’t without pain as she was raised by a loving, but docile father who’s under the influence of her controlling ruthless mother who’s willing to do anything to gain power, even by using her own daughter to do it. The only good thing Regina had in her life was her true love, Daniel. Unfortunately, their love was not meant to be as Regina’s mother learned of their relationship from a young and impressionable Snow White and ripped his heart out and crushed it right in front of Regina. Snow White’s betrayal, her mother’s constant abuse, and Daniel’s death set Regina’s course to becoming the Evil Queen.

  1. Dr. Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze – (DC Universe)

Get the violins ready, because this villain’s backstory is a sad symphony. All the good doctor wanted was to create a cure for his beloved wife, Nora. Unfortunately, fate wasn’t kind to Dr. Fries as the cryogenic chamber he experimented for Nora went sideways. The accident had changed his entire body heat that can only survive at sub-zero temperatures, and to make matters worse his wife’s health issues were getting more serious. With a cold mind, and even colder heart, Dr. Fries turned to a life of crime christening himself as Mr. Freeze. Unlike the other stereotypical villains who desire for world domination, Freeze’s one goal is to get the money he needs to fund his experiments to save Nora. This ice-cold mad scientist will stop at nothing to save the love of his life, even if it means to kill anyone who stands in his way, such as the caped crusader himself, Batman. Though we  don’t condone his actions, his motivation is universally relatable for anyone who has or had a loved one caught seriously ill. 

  1. Jane Ives/Eleven – (Stranger Things)

From the moment fans first saw Eleven with her shaved head and muddy hospital gown, there’s bound to be a tragic backstory. On season 2 of Stranger Things, fans discovered the heart wrenching truth of how Eleven ended up with Dr. Brenner (aka Papa) and his house of horrors. Turns out, Eleven was born Jane Ives, whose mother, Terry Ives, was part of Dr. Brenner’s Project MKUltra, an operation runned by the CIA with the goal to develop mind-control techniques on people that can be used to fight their enemies during the Cold War. Like Eleven/Jane, Terry was subjected to various experimental drugs and would later become pregnant. When Terry got into early labor, she was told she lost Eleven/Jane by miscarriage, but it was all a cover up by Dr. Brenner who abducted her daughter to continue his project. Afterwards, Terry’s efforts to rescue Eleven/Jane were futile as Dr. Brenner forcibly uses electric shock therapy on her to the point of vegetation. Both mother and daughter were torn apart by experimentation and a corrupted government official, thus robbing them the life they could have had. Though Eleven/Jane has found a new family, the memories of her time in Hawkins Lab and the knowledge of her mother’s condition will forever follow her.

  1. Tobias “Four” Eaton – (Divergent)

Four was known amongst his Dauntless brethren as a legend for having little to no fear and incredible fighting capability. However, behind the courageous man was a scared and scarred boy. Before Dauntless, Four was Tobias Eaton, son of the respected leader of Abnegation, Marcus Eaton. Tobias’s family may seem perfect and dignified, but behind closed doors tells a darker story. Tobias is actually a victim of abuse by his father, and constantly tormented his son physically and verbally up till the Choosing Ceremony. Though Tobias was able to escape his father by joining Dauntless, he could never escape the pain that was inflicted on him, and because of that it made him assume the worst in people. That sense of distrust went further when he later learned that his mother, whom he thought dead, was actually alive and wanted to use his Dauntless status to take down her enemies. Though Tobias would eventually find peace in the end, the memories and damage his parents caused would forever mark him. 

  1. Inej Ghafa – (Grishaverse)

Inej once lived a happy life, traveling around the world with her acrobatic family. Sadly, that happiness was short-lived when strangers stole her from her family and was sold in a brothel in Ketterdam forced to work as a prostitute. Though she would later find freedom with Kaz Brekker and his band of crows, the time Inej spent at the brothel forever scarred her emotionally, mentally, and physically up to the point where she cringes at someone’s touch. Inej’s backstory is a dark reminder of the ongoing struggle with human trafficking and prostitution today, and she’s not the only character on this list who’s suffered this horrific ordeal.

  1. Nick Wilde – (Disney)

When we first meet Nick, he’s a sly laidback fox who goes on with his life as a hustler. At first glance you think nothing gets to him, but those who’ve first seen Zootopia were gravely mistaken. Turns out when he was a boy all he wanted was to be a part of a troop, Nick was so happy and hopeful when he got invited to his first meeting but little did Nick know that his first meeting would be his last. When he arrived, the boys in his group asked him to pledge their troop’s oath, but by the time Nick finished he was ambushed by his fellow members and forced a muzzle on him. The cruel truth was that they never intended to make Nick their member, it was all one sick joke to prove a point that foxes are shifty and untrustworthy and deserved to be caged. Nick’s backstory was heartbreaking because he was a victim of racism which unfortunately heavily reflects our world’s issues. I don’t know which was harder to watch, the boys’ cruel prank or the look on Nick’s face after that? Answer, it’s both.



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