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"Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."

A character is introduced as an insufferable jerk; arrogant because of some amazing talent or high station in life. Everyone hopes, as soon as he's introduced, that he's going to eventually get what's coming to him...

...and then he does. Immediately. Right at the start of the story. The character is overthrown and knocked out of that high station; or has his marvelous talents somehow taken from him, and spends the rest of the story learning to cope, with varying levels of success.

That's right, this trope begins with his fall from a position of power or influence to learn An Aesop, rather than giving him his due late in the story. Alternatively, we may meet the character just after his fall from power, and learn about his stuck-up, careless past and subsequent karmic punishment via Flash Back. The story spends just enough time showing the audience (or, if the writers are in a hurry, telling us) that he's an arrogant bastard to convince us, before knocking him off his high horse.

The major conflict of the story usually involves the character learning to be humble. Or at the very least, learning not to indignantly ask everyone he runs into "Do you KNOW who I AM?!" as he is often, despite being hit over the head with the humility stick, still very interested in continuing his thoughtless ways.

The story arc completes with character accepting the Aesop. The Aesop can vary, but a typical lesson would be how dependent on other people he is, and how other people need to depend on him. With this change of character, the arc may continue to his return to a power as a juster, kinder soul.

Compare: The Atoner (who is necessarily repentant by definition), A Taste of Power (for when this happens in video games), or Break the Haughty for a slower descent. It also may overlap with Fallen Princess and Tragic Hero.

If you're looking for pride before a literal fall, see Disney Villain Death. On a cultural or setting level see Look on My Works Ye Mighty and Despair, Soiled City on a Hill, and And Man Grew Proud.

Examples of Pride Before a Fall include:

Anime & Manga

  • Aisha Clan Clan from Outlaw Star gets demoted in her introductory episode for letting the heroes get away, and is promptly dropped into the position of Butt Monkey for the next ten episodes as she has to hitchhike her way across the galaxy to track them down. She does, however, manage to upgrade herself to The Big Guy of the show's Five-Man Band when she sneaks on their ship and proves herself in battle.
  • In The Prince of Tennis, Hyoutei's Shishido is introduced as a cocky, conceited, over-confident jerk who makes snide comments about a player underestimating his opponent... only to get his ass handed to him in his next match against Fudoumine's captain, Tachibana Kippei. Since at the time Hyoutei regulars were not allowed to lose, he is immediately off the team. However, Shishido learns from the experience and after Training From Hell and an Important Haircut he earns back his spot on the team.
    • Also, Ryoma in the anime goes through another of these. He behaves uninterested and apathetic towards Kevin Smith until he sees him play, then pretty much demands to be included in the line-up of the Senbatsu team. Tezuka does NOT take this kindly and promptly b*tchslaps Ryoma in front of others, since his selfishness sounded extremely out of place for someone supposed to become a future leader in Seigaku. Ryoma has to go into a Pose of Supplication to regain Tezuka's favor and be even considered as a reserve player. Due to Values Dissonance (teamwork v/s stardom, Japanese mentality v/s Western views), the episode is often derided by fans.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, the homunculus Pride is reduced to a lilliputian-size infant, right after a Curb Stomp Battle and a panicked attempt at Grand Theft Me of the main character. Kimblee even lampshades that Pride has essentially cast aside his own pride as a homunculus.
  • In Naruto, Pain has Naruto pinned down and impaled with six chakra draining rods to prevent movement. Instead of simply capturing him right then and there, he stabs Hinata in a way that would make her bleed out quickly without immediate medical attention. Turns out those chakra draining rods are no match for six tails of the Kyuubi's power, and his trump card is no match for eight tails. Pain snatches defeat, but also some redemption, from the jaws of victory because of nothing but his ego.
  • Reoccuring theme used in Pokémon. If a main character is being excessively prideful or vain, 9 times out of 10 they're going to suffer a Worf Effect to the trainer of the day. Now, if only Paul would actuallly heed this lesson, he might stall or reverse the growth of his hatedom. Especially given he got wasted by the Frontier Brain Ash actually defeated...
  • In Mai-Otome, newly crowned Queen Mashiro is more concerned about her birthday celebration and rebuilding her castle than about the lives of the commoners. This changes when Nagi's plan results in him controlling Windbloom and forcing her into exile with the poor people of her country, where she hears of their suffering and watches as they corner her maid Aoi and cause her to fall off a cliff when she refuses to tell them where Mashiro is, mainly because of her having served the Queen.
  • Frieza's entire downfall in Dragon Ball is a result of this. Frieza spent the entire fight screwing around with his opponents, and by the time he finally decides to go to his final form when overpowered, it turns out it was ineffective anyway because he drew the fight out too long.

Comic Books

  • Marvel's Thor, at least a few times.
  • Doctor Strange's backstory. He was an insufferable but talented young neurosurgeon with everything he could ever want, until he lost the ability to operate thanks to a car accident which damaged his hands. Cue the plummet to rock bottom, which ended only when he started to care about people other than himself.


  • At the beginning of the movie Bella, we see the main character as a famous up-and-coming soccer player driving with his manager a few years ago. He is then shown in the present day working as a chef at his brother's restaurant. Through flashbacks throughout the movie, we find out that when he was driving, he accidentally hit and killed a small girl, causing him to stop playing soccer.
  • Stephen Chow's character in God of Cookery. When he starts to regain his former glory halfway through the film, he begins to revert to his haughty attitude, until tragedy forces him to reevaluate his priorities.
  • Vizzini, in The Princess Bride. When he meets Westley, he says, "Have you ever heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates? Morons." Within five minutes, he has been outwitted to the point of death.


  • Kennedy in Bubba-Ho-Tep.
  • The appropriately nicknamed Prince Brat in the children's book The Whipping Boy.
  • The classic children's historical novel Johnny Tremain. The main character is more skilled and harder-working than his fellow apprentices Dove and Dusty, and doesn't hesitate to remind them of that, and their master, Mr. Lapham, has Johnny read the part about pride coming before a fall. While rushing to finish an order, Johnny gets a cracked crucible from Dove, resulting in molten silver spilling onto his hand, which fuses his thumb to his hand and ends his career as a smith.
  • A subtler version--or at least, one that would have been, had it not been for the journal entry that hammered the reader of the head with An Aesop--was when Drizzt left his friends to go dissuade the drow from invading Mithral Hall. Why? Because he didn't want to put them in danger, and only trusted in his own abilities to...scare off an entire city of his kinsmen, many of whom were more powerful than him? He is promptly captured (and not even by drow!).
  • Prince Roger in March Upcountry doesn't get knocked down quite in the first few pages, but pretty quickly nonetheless.

Live Action TV

  • My Name Is Earl. A petty criminal with no respect for authority has a $100,000 lottery ticket. He loses his ticket and undertakes to reform himself. When he does, the ticket returns to him.
  • Dominar Rygel XVI of Farscape definitely qualifies as a slow learner - despite having been deposed and imprisoned some 130 "cycles" before the events of the series, he's still an arrogant bastard when Crichton arrives. It takes most of the show's run for him to work his way to something more tolerable.
  • In The Daleks' Master Plan, a council of galactic leaders delude themselves into thinking the Daleks will give them power. This is most pronounced with Guardian Mavic Chen of the Solar System, who actually orders the Daleks around. Those others on the council who survive are able to warn their galaxies when the Daleks turn on them, but Chen is exterminated, his Last Words being "You cannot kill me!".
  • UK soap Eastenders does this all the time. Every single time anybody is the least bit proud of anything, the fall is just around the corner. Sure as eggs is eggs.
  • This is the Backstory of Humans in Babylon 5. After winning a war, they essentially started a war with Minbari out of pride and arrogance and got their ass kicked.
    • Uh . . . no, not exactly. It's made clear in the show and explicitly shown in the movie "In The Beginning" that the war between the humans and the Minbari was the result of Poor Communication Kills more than anything, with exactly the wrong human captain making first contact and drastically misreading the Minbari traditional gesture of greeting (approaching with gun ports open) as a threat. If anything, most of the failing of pride falls on the Minbari-Dukat, their leader, had literally only MINUTES before informed only one person (Delenn) of the Vorlons and how important the humans would be. Then, Dukat is killed in the first encounter and Delenn, in her grief, casts the tiebreaker vote to "kill them all!" With technology differentials, the war is basically a Curb Stomp Battle in favor of the Minbari. They later refuse to reveal why they surrender long past the point it would be helpful to know and both the religious and warrior castes frequently make decisions based on face-saving. In Babylon 5 pride is definitely the Minbari, not the human, hat.
      • Londo did mention that "Pride was not limited to humans", but humans had their share, too: They didn't stop the mission after being told that Minbary were dangerous, and sent a commander known to handle aggressively, because they were sure that they could handle whatever the enemy could throw at them if only they got to shoot first. Such attitude is always prone to make enemies.

  "We took care of the Dilgar. We can take care of the Minbary."

      • The fate of the Centauri Republic (actually an empire) all happens due to Ambassador Londo's pride... and given how most of the other emperors had behaved (save for the sweet dying Emperor Turhan Bey and future Emperor Vir ), it's a given that most of the Centauri upper class have the same failing.
  • The short-lived drama Citizen Baines qualifies as this, as Baines is a senator-soon-turned-former senator suddenly having to raise his kids.


  • Of course, the archetypal example is Satan, dating back at least to Paradise Lost. He has respectively been portrayed as too proud to take second place to man, or too proud to take second place to God, both of which result in him leading a rebellion against God, leading to him and his fellow rebel angels getting booted out of heaven.
    • It may go back to The Bible with Isaiah 14, but interpretations differ.[1]
    • The titular character of DC Comics' Lucifer was a portrayal of the second type. He actually ends up making his own Creation outside of the first one, just to show the old man up. It gets complicated from there.
    • Horus, son of the Emperor of Mankind in the Warhammer 40K universe, parallels Lucifer's Fall so closely that it cannot possibly have been an accident.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition core setting, Asmodeus is a Satan analogue who served a god known only as He Who Was, who was implied to be the creator of humanity and the strongest of the gods, and their leader during the war with the primordials. Asmodeus used increasingly violent tactics in the war, often slaughtering innocent mortals in the crossfire. He Who Was ordered Asmodeus to stop, and in his pride, Asmodeus refused, and He Who Was cast Asmodeus and his army down as punishment. Pretty standard so far. Until Asmodeus rose up and slew He Who Was at the most oppertune moment. While the other gods publicly cursed Asmodeus, privately they thanked him; he had slain a weak willed general who in his pride had cast down their strongest warrior and greatest army, hoping to teach them a lesson in humility, even at the cost of the war.

Video Games

  • The first quarter of the Tales of the Abyss. The main character finds out the hard way that being rich does not make you right all the time — it's only when he stops relying on his family's reputation that he becomes useful.
    • Of course, it doesn't help that he's mentally a fiveseven year old and the story is really weird for expecting him to not be childish just because he's physically older.
  • Subverted hard in God of War 2. In the first level, Kratos is in his full God of War glory, but it ends with him drained of his godly power and killed by Zeus, almost immediately after screaming at the gods, daring them to fight him. This turn of events does absolutely nothing to change Kratos' mindset, and only gives him the motivation to go about the deicidal rebellion Zeus killed him to prevent in the first place.
  • King Trode in Dragon Quest VIII. He's an annoying, overproud king who's awfully fond of the line, "Do you know who I AM?" Just before the beginning of the game, he is transformed into a toad-like creature, and his kingdom is laid in ruins, leaving him to wander a world where most humans fear or despise him as a monster. Depressingly, he never seems to learn humility.
    • Then again, he was transformed and his kingdom was devastated because of an Omnicidal Maniac, not because of him. So why would he need to?
      • Considering said maniac was really using Trode's court jester as a temporary vessel on a mission of revenge against those who had belittled him, there probably should have been a lesson in there somewhere.
      • He does eventually come to understand that simply being a king doesn't entitle him to order everyone around. Sure, he does it anyway, but later in the game, there's a distinct shift from "Do it because I tell you" to "Please help me do this".
  • Marietta in Knights in The Nightmare, at least in Maria's route; happily enough, Maria is mortified at what Marietta's pride led to, and the other half of Marietta's soul, Melissa, is more worried about finding Ancardia than her dignity. We're introduced to Marietta's usual nasty attitude in Yggdra Union and Riviera the Promised Land, along with Meria's route. (And for all her flaws, Meria's own pride doesn't stop her from being a loyal and caring individual. Marietta's still does.)
  • Clearly "inspired" by The Emperor's New Groove, Dragon Prince Ao-Jun of Tradewinds Caravans is turned into a lowly talking camel as punishment for a life of debauchery and caravan-eating, and must do one truly selfless deed to regain his true form. It goes about as well as you might think, and he briefly becomes an invisible lowly talking camel after denouncing his faith (of which he is a deity) to tithe a ridiculous sum of someone else's money to heathens because it was just the easiest thing he could think of.

Web Original

  • Trevor James Goodkind of the Whateley Universe, brilliant son of the richest man on Earth, second in line to take over his father's company, and heir to the Goodkind tradition of 'recognizing the mutant threat', i.e. hating those evil mutants. In the first chapter of his first story, he manifests as a mutant freak. He is immediately disinherited, experimented on and tortured by a Mad Scientist, humiliated, abandoned by his family, not to mention becoming intersexed due to his mutation ... Within a week he's living in a basement with nowhere else to go.

Western Animation

  • Emperor Kuzco of The Emperor's New Groove. We're made aware that he's a careless, self-absorbed emperor, and then the story begins as he's overthrown by Yzma and turned into a llama.
  • The Disney version of Beauty And The Beast. A prince refuses to provide shelter for an old woman. She turns out to be a powerful enchantress who curses him (and everybody in his castle, including a kid) for his judging her by her appearance. To be restored, the beast must learn to love another and receive love in return.
  • Stitch in Lilo and Stitch. He goes from being a Badass mutant escapee to a little girl's "dog". He learns an Aesop about the value of family and his gleeful feral edge is ... softened.
  • Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender has been banished on a Snipe Hunt for three years when the story begins. As he continues to fail to learn the lesson life has set out for him, he falls several more times in several different ways, before he finally sorts everything out.
    • Not that Zuko was ever portrayed as arrogant or prodigiously talented before his banishment. In flashbacks we see he was considered worthless by most of his family, and was insecure about his own abilities. It's hardly a karmic punishment; he was banished because he tried to do the right thing i.e. protesting against using new recruits as cannon fodder.
  • Tanho in The Legend of Korra is introduced as a cocky pro-bender who belittles the title character and her teammates. He ends up being forcibly de-powered by the Big Bad.
  • One episode of Sushi Pack featured four superhero Reality TV contestants who spent all their scenes bragging about their deeds of derring-do, and even their weaknesses. Unfortunately for them, this information is used by the show's host, an alien in disguise, to incapacitate them while he sends for the rest of his invading fleet. The Sushi Pack, snubbed by the Supers, save the day by using the alien's own bragging against him.
  • In Transformers Animated, Sentinel Prime is introduced as an arrogant Jerkass who constantly belittles Optimus and his team and makes aside insults about the "Organics" during a public appearance. Then came The Headmaster... It isn't until season 3 though that he starts to get along with Optimus again, but sadly he's become an even bigger ass than ever. Especially after being promoted to Magnus.
  1. The "Lucifer" of Isaiah may refer instead to the king of Babylon, the oppressor of Israel. Before this, all references in the Hebrew Bible to "Satan" are used either to describe obstacles or opponents, or to refer to an "Accuser," an un-fallen member of the heavenly host whose duty it is to bring humanity's sins before God (the Book of Job).