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File:Title broken angel pix.jpg

How do you put divinity back together?

"And what would you wish of me, mortal? Speak your mind and leave me to my memories of paradise."

Many fantasy creatures are, well, fantastic. Whether a sphinx, dragon, or steam powered robot beetle; whether practically human, incomprehensible or pure evil, these creatures can elicit a sense of wonder and terror in any observer.

Now imagine someone took a sledgehammer to that marvel and left it bleeding and broken on the floor.

That is the Broken Angel, a fantastic creature that has been crippled in their fantastic. This can take many forms: the eponymous angel with broken wings, broken horned unicorns, newly mortal elves (or any other immortal being), magicless wizards, robots whose body is centimeters from going offline, etc. When played for drama, this is usually used to evoke deep sadness. This is a unique, beautiful creature that has been cruelly torn asunder. Not even killed, but left alive to suffer being flawed after having been perfect or at least "the way I was meant to be." As you can imagine, a lot of Fallen Heroes have this as a backstory.

When one is killed you can expect the killers (even if they're heroes) to lament destroying something that is one of a kind. If it was the Last of His Kind, this serves a double whammy by signaling the End of an Age: there will be no more like it, ever. If a villain is the one doing the killing or crippling, they haven't just Kicked The Unicorn, they broke off the horn and stabbed it to death with it. May make its home in a Fantastic Nature Reserve.

On the positive side, they may be able to heal naturally, get repaired, seek redemption or Find the Cure. However the story presents a way to make the "fantastic" be restorable, finding the cure will be a quest in and of itself. If the Broken Angel is found by a Good Samaritan, they'll get some help to this end by being hidden and nursed back to health. Of course, there will be danger from those who did the breaking coming, or from locals with Torches and Pitchforks out to finish breaking the angel.

On the other hand, this can be used as a Karmic Transformation[1] to punish rebellious members of this species. Whether for good or bad behavior depends. If it was due to evil, you can expect these Fallen Angels to wear their broken wings with defiant Pride. Even more rarely, rather than grieve over the loss after being Brought Down to Normal or De Powered this way, they might like the change.

Contrast But Your Wings Are Beautiful. No real overlap with One-Winged Angel, unless the being still has enough juice to enter a Super Mode which prominently features their one good wing. Not to be confused with but similar to Broken Bird.

Examples of Broken Angel include:

Anime & Manga

  • There is a broken angel housed in the NERV basement in Neon Genesis Evangelion, it's the one nailed to a cross. Also, Rei might possibly count... From a Certain Point of View.
    • For that matter, so could Kaworu and all the EVAs depending on which interpretation you take.
    • So does the literal "broken Angel" from the second Rebuild of Evangelion movie which was captured and experimented with until its bones were stripped bare of flesh.
  • Quite similarily to the examples above, the Organization is Claymore was recently reveal to have two captured dragon people in their basement, which they all but harvested. The sight of those undoubtedly mayestic beings who look like some steamlined science-fiction monsters being chained, hooked up to tubes with half their bodies missing is certainly a textbook example, expecially considering how they were being kept just barely alive so their flesh remains fresh for the various uses they have for it...Fortunately Miria grants them a Mercy Kill.
  • From the fourth arc of Umineko no Naku Koro ni on, a huge theme of the series is whether or not the magic that Beatrice weaves is truly bad or not. Serving to personify this conflict is Beatrice herself, having been turned into an Empty Shell by Battler, who grieves over her until deciding to resurrect her.
  • Durarara has Celty, a dullahan who's lost her disembodied head (along with all the memories in it) some twenty years ago and still feels incomplete without it.
  • In the first Ghost in the Shell movie, Motoko takes on an enemy one number too big for her and ends up ruining her mechanic body by overexerting herself, leaving her limbs shattered. Helpless, half-naked and unable to move, she makes for quite a sad sight.
  • While the renegade Shadow Angel Apollonius in Genesis of Aquarion is generally portrayed with his wings spread, one flashback to twelve thousand years ago had him rip his own wings off while escaping from crucifixion to protect Celiane, the love of his life.
  • Hayao Miyazaki made a music video set to On Your Mark about two police officers who find a winged girl held (and mistreated) by a cult; and then mistreated by the government scientists.

Comic Books

  • Angel from X-Men has had this happen to him various times in various continuities.
    • In the original comics, he has his wings cut off by a villain, leading to a period of depression. Apocalypse convinces him to do a Face Heel Turn by promising to "give them back"... by upgrading him into the angel of death with metal wings. And eventually he manages to heal and regrow his wings naturally.
    • In the film, a young Warren tried to cut his wings off to avoid being rejected by his father.
  • This was done to Dawnstar during the Darker and Edgier Giffen run of the Legion of Super-Heroes. She seemed to be getting over it, until the entire universe was rebooted in Zero Hour.
  • In the more traditional terms of this trope, we have the Acanti, a race of Space Whale that have been enslaved by the Brood for generations. At least one arc of Uncanny X-Men in the '80s revolved around saving them.
  • Black Bolt in Earth X has a bit of a costume makeover which gives him huge wings made of silver blades. When he goes up against the planet eating Celestials and loses he's left in his broken armor and exposed face on the moon. Luckily, his Distress Call was answered by Galactus.
  • In The Sandman, Lucifer asks Dream to cut off his wings for him since this is the last thing that needs to be done before Lucifer can quit being the ruler of Hell.
    • He was also Broken already. Probably as a side effect of either rebelling or living in Hell his beautiful white feathered wings had become blackened bat wings.
  • The Filth gives us Secret Original, a Golden Age superhero who came into reality, and now is a wheelchair-bound cripple.

Fan Fic

  • There are a lot of Good Omens fanfics in which Hell/Heaven catch up with Crowley/Aziraphale and tick them off for the whole averting-the-Apocalypse debacle. In most cases, it's fairly brutal. It often seems to involve their wings, in a hideously painful way.
    • For some reason, this trope is common in Fan Fiction of Works that include angels/angel-like characters.
  • At least one of the Alternate Endings to the infamous Cupcakes has this happen to Rainbow Dash. She's saved, but her wings are not.
    • "Rainbow Dash loses/hurts her wings" is one of the single most common MLP:FiM fanfic plotlines, right up there with "Twilight messes up a spell".
  • The Legend of Spyro a New Dawn ends with Cyros, a dragon who was one of the main antagonists and the first to make a Heel Face Turn, has her wings horrifically mangled taking an attack meant for Spyro and Cynder. The next chapter reveals they couldn't be saved and have to be cut off. The Spin-Off story detailing her recovery is titled "Broken Wings".


  • In Barbarella, the angel Pygar is blind.
  • Near the end of Constantine the angelic halfbreed Gabriel has his wings blasted off by God. However, since s/he was The Man Behind the Man he really had it coming.
    • The Hellblazer comic that inspired this event took this even further: after falling from grace and losing most of his wings, Gabriel ends up having the tattered remains chainsawed off by Constantine. And then he's left to make the most of his newfound mortality as a homeless man.
  • The Angels in Dogma have to lose their wings in order to become mortal.
  • The destruction of the Plant Elemental in Hellboy II: The Golden Army is treated this way.
  • Lucifer, the Trope Codifier. As he said in The Prophecy (1995): "I was the first angel, loved once above all others... (sings) But like all true love... one day it withered on the vine..."
  • The de-horned unicorn in Legend is central to the plot.
  • Skellig is implied to be an angel exiled to earth, hopeless and miserable but unable to die. In the beginning he is living off insects in an abandoned shed, covered in filth and in such bad shape that he can't fly or even walk.
    • Perhaps a subversion in that his condition (and personality) illicit revulsion rather sadness and sympathy.
  • The angel in Date With An Angel gets winged in a collision with a communications satellite.
  • The felling of the Home Tree in Avatar has a dreadful sense of finality in it and prompts several characters who were hedging their bets to complete their Heel Face Turns.
  • The dead body of the Kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean is a surefire sign that Beckett is an existential threat to the age of pirates. Also, Calypso's depowering turned out to be a huge mistake, because her absence drove Davy Jones to his Despair Event Horizon and the calmer seas allowed people like Beckett to prosper. She got better.
  • Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon suffers permanent damage to his tail that hinders his flight capability early in the movie. Hiccup builds a tail attachment to help Toothless fly again, but the dragon still needs a rider to help him fly at his best.


  • Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn which features the eponymous unicorn being turned into a human girl to save her life. Shmendrick the magician is very happy he managed to do this because his magic worked and he saved her life. Molly, who is a bit more Genre Savvy in terms of unicorns, is horrified:

  "What have you done? What have you done?! You've trapped her in a human body! She'll go mad!"

    • And from the Unicorn herself after she wakes up,

 "What have you done to me? I'm a unicorn...I'm a unicorn!"

"But I'm afraid of this human body. More than I was of the red bull...afraid. "

  • Un Senor muy viejo con unas alas enormes (A very very old man with enormous wings) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is about a strange, injured "angel" who is nursed back to health (kind of, it's a strange short story) and exploited as a freakshow by a small town. He has bug infested wings, sounds senile, and is generally decrepit. However, there's no indication that he used to be beautiful. It's just the contrast between what he is and what an angel should be that's sad.
  • Uncle Einar Has Big Green Wings by Ray Bradbury is a similar story. Einar Elliott normally flies at night so he won't attract attention, but after running into electrical wires, his night vision/radar is damaged, perhaps permanently. His kids come up with an ingenious solution.
  • In the Magic: The Gathering novels, the angels of Ravnica are the highest authority in the Boros Legion (the law enforcement guild). Then there's the angel Feather, who committed some unspecified crime and got demoted to wojek (essentially, street cop). Notably, she didn't actually have her wings broken off, just bound by enchanted shackles.
  • In Perdido Street Station, a crippled member of the Winged Humanoid race of garuda comes to New Crobuzon in hopes of regaining the power of flight, before being grounded drives him wholly to despair. Subverted in that, unlike more Woobie-ish examples of this trope, it turns out that his wings were amputated as a just punishment for rape under the laws of his people.
  • Lampshaded in the Shadowrun novel Lone Wolf, when the protagonist spots a wretched homeless elf dozing in an alley, and wonders what it is about elves that makes such a scene feel far more tragic than seeing a human in similar squalid conditions.
  • Haunted of Kelley Armstrong's The Otherworld series has Janah, an angel who was driven insane by the Nix.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, the Fair Folk have scars on their back where their wings were amputated after they were shut out of Heaven as fallen angels.
  • Brom, the aged Dragon Rider from Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, lost nearly all of his power when his Dragon, Saphira, was killed.
    • Oromis, also from the Inheritance Cycle, lost nearly all of his physical and magical prowess due to an unknown injury. He is nicknamed "The Cripple Who is Whole," in Broken Angel fashion.
  • In Skellig, the eponymous character is a weak, arthritic Winged Humanoid found in the back of the protagonist's garage and is heavily implied to be a real angel.
  • Ray Cummings' Tama Of The Light Country (written in 1930) is about a young Mercutian woman leading a revolt against a hideous law laid down by the wingless males who run the government. Women on Mercury are born with wings—but when they marry, the wings have to come off. As in hacked off without anesthesia. There are several moving descriptions of the victims.

Live Action TV

  • From Supernatural, in a future timeline, the angel Castiel has lost his angelic powers, and now operates drugged 24/7 as a cheesy sex guru.
    • He also breaks in the main timeline in season 5, slowly losing his 'angelic mojo' to the point where he can't heal people, and time travel leaves him seriously ill. He also later reveals that he cannot return to Heaven. He does still maintain his wings, though, and his ability to fly/teleport.
      • Even though he's been losing his powers, Castiel still held faith in his Father until late in season 5 when Joshua, the one angel who does talk to God, reveals that God doesn't care about the apocalypse and has no intentions of stopping it or helping anyone at which point Cas snaps completely.
        • However, at the end of Swan Song, Cas's angel mojo has been restored as has his faith in God. In fact, he's received additional powers from God.
    • Gabriel also has some aspects of this, namely how jaded he is, and how sick of his family fighting he is. He ran away, only to end up tangled up in the mess all over again, partially thanks to the Winchesters. Being killed by Lucifer probably didn't help.
  • In Angel, Illyria finds that her time has passed and her armies are dead. She comments bitterly that in her new body she'd be seen as nothing but food to the rest of her kind.
    • The Ethros demon from first season also ends up as this - having corrupted and consumed human souls for millennia it begs for death after trying to possess a child who turned out to be Eviler Than Thou.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Beast Below", the Star Whale.
    • Heck, many episodes show the Doctor as a broken veteran of the Time War, and the last of his race. In the "The Girl in the Fireplace", Reinette calls him her Lonely Angel.
  • Torchwood has a hurt formless whale-like creature in the episode "Meat".
  • In the "Cigarette Burns" episode of Masters of Horror, the main character encounters a pale, gaunt, vaguely male figure with healed stumps at its shoulder blades. It is strongly implied that this was the angel that was mutilated in La fin absolue du monde, the short film that the protagonist seeks.



 "Here she comes down, as her wings get nailed to the ground, a Polaroid of shame/ The last angel's pathetic fame..."


Tabletop Games

  • This image from the Magic: The Gathering card Cruel Ultimatum.
    • Funny thing, though, is it's a demon, rather than anything divine, as is standard for this trope.
    • Interestingly, though there are quite a few black angels in Magic which flavor wise are all Fallen Angels, they all have fully functional wings. Only the eponymous Fallen Angel is depicted with broken or amputated wings depending on the artwork.
    • Then there are the Phyrexian angels, the results of surgically ripping Mirran angels apart and putting them back together with Phyrexian oil. They are still powerful and dangerous, but not what they used to be.
  • Werewolf: The Forsaken has a functional equivalent. Spirits known as Lunes are the servitors of Luna, patron goddess of the Forsaken, and provide them with aid and renown. The Bale Hounds, however, have access to arts that allow them to bind a Lune after flaying most of its Corpus away, gaining power from the broken but still "living" wreckage left behind.
  • Demon: The Fallen claims that the entire freaking Creation has gotten this treatment from God during the War of Wrath. The modern World of Darkness has very little to do with the wonders of the young Creation before the Fall, because in Her fury at the rebellious angels, God smashed the world they created under Her supervision and its current state is a long-term result of the damage sustained back then.
  • In Shadowrun, adding cybernetics or modified organs to your body reduces your "Essence" by an amount based on how invasive or alien the part is, and losing essence also causes characters with Magical abilities to decrease their Magic by the same amount (or more, if they only lose part of a point). A magician whose Magic drops to zero due to this becomes "burnt out" - they no longer have access to magical abilities, any magic skills they have become strictly academic knowledge, and they can never regain them aside from extremely rare plot devices or getting a bug spirit shoved into their body (which is at least as bad as it sounds and might well destroy them utterly). The same happens to Technomancers whose Resonance drops to zero.
  • In Burning Empires, Psychologists have their talents destroyed when a Vaylen infests their brain, though that's arguably the least of their worries...
  • Exalted has The Demon Realm of Malfeas. Its creation is what happens when you do this to a couple dozen world making titans, turn them inside out, and stuff them inside of one another in a recursive nightmare. Each defeated Primordial was ritually mutilated by having its primary, definitive soul destroyed. Many demons (who are their remaining component souls) also have a distinct impression of this trope.


  • Used as metaphor in The Glass Menagerie, with Laura's unicorn figure falling and breaking off its horn.

 I'll just imagine he had an operation. The horn was removed to make him feel less - freakish! Now he will feel more at home with the other horses, the ones that don't have horns.


Video Games

  • Ico's horns breaking at the end of Ico probably falls under this, though It's open to interpretation. Depending on how you interpret the ending of the prequel, Shadow of the Colossus, the horns could be viewed as the mark of a curse, so Ico's horns breaking could symbolize redemption and the breaking of the curse.
  • The cursed unicorn at the pool in Daventry in King's Quest: Mask of Eternity.
  • Ein from Riviera the Promised Land is a literal example, in that he had to lose his angel wings in order to get his weapon. This might be a subversion, though, in that he honestly doesn't care about the fact that he has no wings.
    • He is rather sensitive about it at the beginning of the game, though, and gets upset when Rose and Marietta point it out.
    • From the same series, we also have Nessiah from the Yggdra Union games. Because worse things were done to him than his wings and power being taken away, and he's made similar sacrifices voluntarily, not much attention is paid to his physical disfigurements in comparison. He does still seem to be self-conscious about it, though.
  • Dragon Quest IX's Prologue ends with your hero becoming a Broken Angel, stranded in the mortal realm without their wings and halo and only retaining some of their Celestrial powers. This pales in comparison with some of the other broken angels you meet later.
    • The hero becomes even more broken near the end of the game when he has to use a Fygg to become a mortal in order to defeat the Big Bad. Fortunately, the post-game gives the hero a chance to regain some of his abilities (ie being able to see Stella and Sterling again) using another Fygg.
  • After A Taste of Power in the prologue, the Horseman of War in Darksiders is stripped of nearly all of his powers by his superiors after being accused of prematurely triggering the Apocalypse. The rest of the game is spent finding out who is really responsible while rebuilding War's power (and then some since he gets new weapons too). War never regains the ability to maintain Chaos Form indefinitely though.
  • Aerie in Baldur's Gate II, a Winged Humanoid whose wings were hacked off and burned.
    • The Big Bad Jon Irenicus and his sister Bodhi were elves that were stripped of their immortality and exiled. Unfortunately for everyone else Irenicus still retained his considerable magical powers.
  • The titular character in Planetarian, near the end of the game.
  • Final Fantasy X had Kimahri. Hornless.
  • The elves in the Dragon Age universe were once immortal beings of great magical power, before the humans showed up, caused them to loose their immortality, and demolished their civilization. The elves ran off and made a new home for themselves, and the humans came and destroyed that one too. Today the elves are either enslaved or forced to remain on the run, their civilization regressed to its most primitive, gradually loosing their magic, and have lost all knowledge of their history and language.
  • Both the night elves and blood elves in World of Warcraft have to deal with losing their immortality, because of losing their power sources.
    • Blood elves never had immortality, the sunwell was a way to curb their mana addictions, but the explosion of the sunwell, dissapearance of their prince and subsequent near-genocide of their race did leave them a shadow of their former power.
  • Trias from Planescape: Torment is an angel whose wings have been reduced to a skeletal husk during his long imprisonment, giving him a somewhat sinister appearance. As it transpired, his wings burned off from his fall. Trias only notes that all the fury of the abyss pales in comparison to the force that did that to him.
  • In the ending of Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters, Pit's wings fall/rip off in front of a overly happy looking sun, presumably leaving Pit to plummet to his death. No wonder it's called Kid Icarus.
    • In Kid Icarus Uprising, Pit's wings get burned up when he insists on flying past the five-minute time limit to save Dark Pit's life. He gets better, though.
  • Nie R has this as one of the major themes, some examples include:
    • The Shades in general, previously humans who have been reduced to their current shadowy forms, most 'relapse' losing their minds and eventually die.
    • Halua having been turned into a human weapon, and then later her brother Emil.
    • P-33 is a broken death-machine he makes friends with the child Shade Kalil who teaches him to feel and care, until the player kills both of them...
    • Gretel whose armour/body is mangled by the player and who's companion, Hansel, is killed.
  • Legacy of Kain: Janus Audron, the Last of His Kind Winged Humanoid, who had his heart ripped out by Raziel's past self. Raziel's attempt to revive him is a major plot point.
  • In Diablo III, Tyrael is a self-inflicted case. He tore off his own wings to become a mortal when he could no longer tolerate his fellow angels' refusal to protect Sanctuary from the demons.


  • This page of The Devil And The Monk.
  • In Drowtales, Discodia, Ariel. However technically these are shapeshifters so such injuries do not require epic quests.
  • The muses from Girl Genius, the delicate creations of the greatest spark of the time. Most of them are destroyed or damaged while sparks tried to reverse engineer them. Known examples are Tinka, studied by Tarvek, and Otilia, found beneath Castle Heterodyne. She manages to cause some trouble in her "broken" state though.
    • Also Castle Heterodyne, an intelligent (and evil, but loyal to the Heterodynes) castle damaged in the Other's attack.
  • The Severed from Inverloch: Elves who have lost their immortality and ability to use magic. It's revealed at the end that the condition is reversible.
  • Farrago in Jack spends quite some time as one.

Web Original

  • One of the more depressing files in the SCP Foundation is of a Pegasus whose wings have been removed and refuses to eat as a result.
  • The last episode of There Will Be Brawl has Pit having his wings telekinetically ripped off.
  • Neopets has the Grey Farie. A farie who's wings have been ruined and has lost her powers. Nothing has been done with her aside from her back story sadly.
    • Though once on their short stories section in their "newspaper", someone wrote a story (maybe it was part of a short series?) that gave her a backstory. Well worth a read if they still do the news paper.
  • Tan, a character in the RP group Heaven Hell Academy, is a former guardian angel who sacrificed his wings, voice, and eyesight to save the girl he was supposed to be protecting.
  • Equestria Chronicles has pegasi with torn wings and unicorns with broken horns... who actually seem not to care too much. They'll express their dislike of the situation, but they won't actually act as if they are doomed.

Western Animation

  • In one episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, Gogo Dodo asks Buster, Babs, and Plucky rescue his friends from a Circus of Fear. Said friends include a Dragon, a Pegasus, and a Sphynx. The poor creatures are being magically tortured to perform and there's a risk they will disappear forever if they don't return to Wackyland in time.
  • In The Last Unicorn Amalthea becomes one after being transformed into a human. Rather than being pleased that her life is no longer in danger (as the antagonist is seeking a unicorn, not a human girl), she's tormented by the feeling that her mortal body is dying around her, cell by cell, and begs to be changed back.
  1. (Well, more like "Karmic Crippling" in a few instances)