The Power of a Tragic Ending

A tragic story will often pull us in like no other story can. Strangely, tragedy in fiction leaves a far more powerful impression than a happy or thrilling moment. Whether a book or  a movie, we gravitate toward these stories because they remind us of how precious the moments in our lives are.

Such a story is well illustrated in one of my favorite books and also in one of my favorite films.

The book is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. Arguably this is one of the best pieces of Young Adult writing that has been published. The writing is amazing, and the story is incredible. The tragedy is two-fold: 1) in the sacrifices of Harry’s friends, sometimes their lives, and 2) in Snape’s revelation. Villain is revealed to be hero, and the main character is forever changed as a result.

The movie is Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. The story follows a slight re-imagining of the Batman character known in the original animated series. He is heroic and steadfast, never seeming to waver in the purity of his heart. During the course of the film, Bruce Wayne’s passionate love for Andrea Beaumont is revealed when she returns unexpectedly to Gotham. The movie shifts seamlessly between the present troubles and Batman’s flashbacks. The script for this is amazing. It grabs from the get go and there is no happy ending to the tale. And yet, it has become a cult classic, and I understand why.

This has made me sit back and re-evaluate the contemporary stories playing out on screen and in books. Most stories, especially the superhero type, have happy endings and there are few permanent losses that the heroes and heroines must endure. Are many storytellers forgetting the power of a sad ending? Let’s tip our hats to the stories of yesteryears, and the tragedies that hooked us and stayed in our memories.

What books and movies have had this effect on you?


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Most obvious thing about me is how much I love reading and writing. This is truly my passion and has been for almost as long as I can remember. I know that sounds cliche, but it is true. Growing up in a conservative Christian home I learned to value God, intelligence, and life. I am always learning. I am a husband and a father of three young children. I love my family and my life. God is good and I attribute my success to His provision.

Great fantasy stories are a lot of fun. I write the stories that I want to read and am fortunate enough to have several published novels under my belt as well as more in the pipeline.

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2 thoughts on “The Power of a Tragic Ending

  1. It really is tragedy that sticks with us. Tonight, I’ve been walking down memory lane so the first thing I thought of when I read this was a Star Wars book I read in elementary school. I couldn’t tell you much about the Star Wars I read when I was 10, but I remember this story because it was so tragic.

    Secrets of the Jedi was about the love lives, I suppose you can call them that, of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. At the end, both of their “girlf-friends” die. But, unlike I think a lot of independent reader stories, the book made readers observe the Jedi grieving and dealing with those deaths over an extended period of time. It was very traumatic for me. I swore I’d never look at a copy of that book again haha. Every time I see it in a bookstore, I hide it. But, hey….that’s the sign of a good story, right?

    • The Star Wars books did have some good tragedies! I did not read Secrets of the Jedi, however one of my favorites is Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly. I love how the author builds the connection between Luke and the jedi who sacrificed herself, yet in such a way that it feels a bit sad.