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Old 12-27-2012, 02:00 PM
Skald the Rhymer is offline
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I'm looking for stories in which the hero consciously decides to kill an innocent.


The subject line seems clear enough, but I'll add a few things if y'all don't mind.
  • I'm only interested in literature. Film, television, & comic books can go elsewhere.*
  • I'm also only interested in stories with heroic protagonists--characters who are fundamentally on the side of truth & justice. No villain protagonists need apply, nor villains-turned-heroes in their pre-reform days.†
  • Lastly I'm looking for deliberate decisions to kill the innocent, not sacrifices forced on the hero by his inability to be in two places at once.. That is, cases in which the hero has to allow one person to die because he's busy saving a million are not what I'm looking for; rather, I'm hoping y'all will post instances in which a hero solves a cold equation by deliberately and personally pulling the trigger or swinging the sword on somebody who probably doesn't deserve death.‡

Thoughts, anyone?


* Assuming the thread gets any legs at all, I fully expect this qualification to be ignored by post 15 but I'm including it anyway so I can get the feckless bitching out of the way now.
† This will likely be ignored by post 18.
‡ I just like foototes.
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  #2  
Old 12-27-2012, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Skald the Rhymer View Post
...a hero solves a cold equation by deliberately and personally pulling the trigger or swinging the sword on somebody who probably doesn't deserve death.
You do know about "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin, right?

Another one would be Changes by Jim Butcher, book 12 of The Dresden Files.

Last edited by Reno Nevada; 12-27-2012 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 12-27-2012, 02:36 PM
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You do know about "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin, right?
Of course not. My use of the phrase was just a bizarre coincidence. Any statements to the contrary are bald-faced calumnies put about by my enemies and should be ignored.

Quote:
Another one would be Changes by Jim Butcher, book 12 of The Dresden Files.
Can I trouble you for some details?
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Old 12-27-2012, 02:49 PM
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Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, depending on how "heroic" one regards Raskolnikov.
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Old 12-27-2012, 02:55 PM
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In the Belisarius alt-history series, at one point when in the Malwa Empire Belsarius is presented with the rebellious lord of Ranapur and his family, and told to demonstrate "how Romans deal with enemies". He knows he can't just let them go and protesting would just get him and his allies killed gruesomely, so instead of giving the Malwa a torture-show like they want & expect he just says "Valentinian", and Valentinian promptly cuts off all their heads. And Belisarius announces that "this is the Roman way with enemies", a rather pointed comment given that he considers the Malwa enemies although they don't know it yet...
  #6  
Old 12-27-2012, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Skald the Rhymer View Post
The subject line seems clear enough, but I'll add a few things if y'all don't mind.
  • I'm only interested in literature. Film, television, & comic books can go elsewhere.*
  • I'm also only interested in stories with heroic protagonists--characters who are fundamentally on the side of truth & justice. No villain protagonists need apply, nor villains-turned-heroes in their pre-reform days.†
  • Lastly I'm looking for deliberate decisions to kill the innocent, not sacrifices forced on the hero by his inability to be in two places at once.. That is, cases in which the hero has to allow one person to die because he's busy saving a million are not what I'm looking for; rather, I'm hoping y'all will post instances in which a hero solves a cold equation by deliberately and personally pulling the trigger or swinging the sword on somebody who probably doesn't deserve death.‡

Thoughts, anyone?


* Assuming the thread gets any legs at all, I fully expect this qualification to be ignored by post 15 but I'm including it anyway so I can get the feckless bitching out of the way now.
† This will likely be ignored by post 18.
‡ I just like foototes.

You had a similar thread back in the day, so I'll post the same answer as earlier. in "Curse of Chalion"
SPOILER:
Ista and her husband drowned their dear friend, in an failed attempt to remove the curse from their family.

Last edited by Andy L; 12-27-2012 at 03:00 PM.
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Old 12-27-2012, 03:01 PM
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Several example spring to mind. Louis Wu purpously kills a Pak Protector and then kills millions of people on the Ringworld. Star tells a group of bickering diplomats that the problem would be solved if they just killed one stubborn dude, then orders the guards to take him out back and shoot him. They do, in Glory Road.
  #8  
Old 12-27-2012, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Kizarvexius View Post
Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, depending on how "heroic" one regards Raskolnikov.
Boy ain't a hero whatsodamnever. He's hardly on the side of truth and justice. The old moneylender may have been a bitch, but that doesn't matter. He wants to take her cash, not to help anybody else, and only chooses the old woman because he figures nobody will miss her.

I'm not looking simply for protagonists who commit an evil act. I'm looking for heroes who do so.
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Old 12-27-2012, 03:06 PM
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In Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies, Thomas Cromwell engineers the evidence that gets Anne Boleyn executed, even though he doesn't seem to believe that she is really guilty of the things she's charged with. He has a vendetta against all the people she is accused of adultery and treason with, though. I don't know if Cromwell counts as a hero, but we are supposed to feel some connection to him.

Last edited by cher3; 12-27-2012 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 12-27-2012, 03:10 PM
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How about Of Mice and Men? George might not be what you have in mind as a hero exactly, although he is on the side of decency and kindness as I recall (Jeez, has it really been over 20 years since I read that book?!) Spoilering in an abundance of caution:

SPOILER:
He kills Lennie to spare Lennie the lynching that's headed his way. He retells Lennie the beloved story about the farm, giving him one last happy memory, before shooting him in the back of the head. There are probably lots of other mercy killings like this in literature.
  #11  
Old 12-27-2012, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Skald the Rhymer View Post

Can I trouble you for some details?
SPOILERS for Changes by Jim Butcher

SPOILER:
OK, so this is the twelfth book in the series, so the backstory is more than somewhat ponderous, but the hero, Dresden, is fighting a nation of vampires, who have kidnapped his daughter. The girl's mother has been partially turned into a vampire. The vampires have started up a ritual that will culminate in a human sacrifice; the ritual will kill anyone related to the sacrificee. The hero's daughter is the designated sacrifice.

Dresden winds up sacrificing the girl's mother, his long-time lover, in the place of the daughter; due to the semi-vampiric nature of the mother, her relatives are the vampires instead of her human kin (including the daughter, I guess). Dresden's actions result in the near-total elimination of the vampire nation. Since there is a 13th and 14th book, this causes other complications.

I don't know that this will help you. The series is well-worth reading, though.
  #12  
Old 12-27-2012, 03:32 PM
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Another mercy killing: In Last of the Mohicans, Hawkeye shoots a friend in the head to save him from being burned alive.
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Old 12-27-2012, 03:45 PM
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Another mercy killing: In Last of the Mohicans, Hawkeye shoots a friend in the head to save him from being burned alive.
I don't recall that. Is that in the book?

This is really lame, and again questions what a hero is, but in Harry Potter
SPOILER:
Snape kills Dumbledore to maintain his cover as a Voldemort loyalist. No, I don't know why I spoilered it

Last edited by bup; 12-27-2012 at 03:46 PM.
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Reno Nevada View Post
You do know about "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin, right?

.


Hero? Hah. The pilot and his organization/company have been clearly running a trap to lure in the unwary so that they could off them in cold blood.

They KNOW that stowaways are fairly common, so much so that every pilot has a blaster to kill them. But they don’t bother with a armed guard, or a lock on the door, or a more explicit sign, a warning light or even a pre-flight check-in- something that has been standard since Orville told Wilbur “All Clear”.

Nope. The pilot and his org wanted hapless dudes to wander in so as to kill them. Just that they were hoping for another scruffy homeless guy or “low-life” ...not a cute teen.

Hero? Hardly. Cold blooded murderers.
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Old 12-27-2012, 05:01 PM
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Hero? Hah. The pilot and his organization/company have been clearly running a trap to lure in the unwary so that they could off them in cold blood.

They KNOW that stowaways are fairly common, so much so that every pilot has a blaster to kill them. But they don’t bother with a armed guard, or a lock on the door, or a more explicit sign, a warning light or even a pre-flight check-in- something that has been standard since Orville told Wilbur “All Clear”.

Nope. The pilot and his org wanted hapless dudes to wander in so as to kill them. Just that they were hoping for another scruffy homeless guy or “low-life” ...not a cute teen.

Hero? Hardly. Cold blooded murderers.
Note, insolence, file, blah blah blah.

Pretending that you're not merely trying to wind people up for yuks (something I would never do, any more than I would pretend not to have read this story earlier in the thread ) ) your assertion is not supported by the text. "The Cold Equations" is told entirely from the pilot's point of view; we are privy to his thoughts from the first moment he is aware of Marilyn's (the stowaway) presence until the end of the tale. He clearly is not motivated by any sort of villainous, evil, selfish desire. Marilyn's death was a result of bad management systems and the overall callousness of the universe, not human malice.

You may of course be referring to a televised version of the story; I am told that at least two were made under the Twilight Zone's aegis. But I haven't seen them and thus by Rhymer Rules they do not exist, very much like Star Trek V: My God, Why Couldn't Shatner Have Just Taken Hookers?
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Old 12-27-2012, 05:44 PM
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Fail Safe. It was a book first. The president, portrayed as a good man, orders the nuking of New York to keep the USSR from attacking after the accidental destruction of Moscow. There had to be some innocent people in New York.
  #17  
Old 12-27-2012, 07:10 PM
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Two, one classic, one not.

Not: Harry Turtledoves Colonization series.

SPOILER:
Sam Yeager discovers that the United States secretly attacked starships of The Race while under peace. He reveals it and President Earl Warren agrees to allow The Race to nuke Indianapolis as recompense. Either Warren or Yeager should be considered as characters who cause innocents to die in cold blooded calculation.


From Hamlet (no spoilers for God's sake): What the hell did Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do to earn THAT, anyway? Hamlet was a bastard.
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Old 12-27-2012, 08:00 PM
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Of Mice and Men

Ursual K. LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" doesn't quite kill an innocent, but they deliberately torture one, and the torture goes on indefinitely.

Sophie's Choice, though it's not really Sophie's choice to do it.
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Old 12-27-2012, 09:49 PM
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In Frederick Forsythe's Icon, IIRC, a possible claimant to the Russian throne is deemed expendable by a group seeking to restore the monarchy (the good guys) and assassinated so that their man can become tsar.
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Old 12-28-2012, 08:54 AM
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The first Gunslinger book.
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Old 12-28-2012, 10:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reno Nevada View Post
SPOILERS for Changes by Jim Butcher

SPOILER:
OK, so this is the twelfth book in the series, so the backstory is more than somewhat ponderous, but the hero, Dresden, is fighting a nation of vampires, who have kidnapped his daughter. The girl's mother has been partially turned into a vampire. The vampires have started up a ritual that will culminate in a human sacrifice; the ritual will kill anyone related to the sacrificee. The hero's daughter is the designated sacrifice.

Dresden winds up sacrificing the girl's mother, his long-time lover, in the place of the daughter; due to the semi-vampiric nature of the mother, her relatives are the vampires instead of her human kin (including the daughter, I guess). Dresden's actions result in the near-total elimination of the vampire nation. Since there is a 13th and 14th book, this causes other complications.

I don't know that this will help you. The series is well-worth reading, though.
There's arguably another instance of this in Changes. I can't do spoiler tags on my phone, so I'll be elliptical: the last character to die is an innocent, whose death is arranged for (though not carried out by) the hero.
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Old 12-28-2012, 10:37 AM
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The Bible had Abraham about to kill his only child. He didn't, but he did intend to, and this intention was what caused God to stay Abraham's hand.

Also in the Bible, while it wasn't a *killing* of the innocents, Lot did offer his two teenage virgin daughters up to be gang-raped by the whole village of Sodom, merely to protect two travelers.

Last edited by JohnT; 12-28-2012 at 10:37 AM.
  #23  
Old 12-28-2012, 11:19 AM
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I don't think "Of Mice and Men" counts. I mean, Lenny isn't innocent. He may not have malice of intent, but he is guilty. The killing is a mercy killing, but that's not the same thing as killing someone to advance some other need.
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Old 12-28-2012, 11:28 AM
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In the novel Challengers Hope, by David Feintuch, Captain Nicholas Seafort's spaceship is left adrift after being attacked by an alien that has evolved to live in hyperspace. While his civilian passengers engage in hopeless attempts to repair the ship's engines, they come under more and more alien attacks, until Seafort realizes that the aliens are drawn to the "noise" their engine makes every time they try to restart it. The civilians refuse to stop tying to fix the engine, and barricade themselves in the engine room. Seafort gets them to unseal the door by promising, under his oath before God (Seafort is well known at this point for never, ever breaking his oath) not to harm them or prevent them from trying to fix the engine. As soon as the civilian ringleader unseals the door, he shoots her in the head and has his crew take over the engine room and confine the civilians to quarters.

In Lois Bujold's Shards of Honor, Admiral Aral Vorkosigan agrees, at the urging of his emperor, to participate in a plot to assassinate the emperor's only son and heir. While the prince is a psychopath and sexual sadist, the plot to kill him involves staging an invasion of a neighboring planet that the emperor (and Aral) know though secret intelligence to be futile. The plan works, and the prince is killed, but thousands of innocent men and women on both sides of the conflict are sacrificed in the process.

Last edited by Miller; 12-28-2012 at 11:29 AM.
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Old 12-28-2012, 11:36 AM
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Another mercy killing: In Last of the Mohicans, Hawkeye shoots a friend in the head to save him from being burned alive.
Then we should include The Sand Pebbles as well (yes it was a book before it was a movie)
  #26  
Old 12-28-2012, 12:13 PM
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In 24, Jack Bauer intentionally kills an innocent CTU officer to comply with terrorist demands, in order to buy more time. The person being killed was basically OK with it, in the end [well, sorta]. In retrospect, this was probably the most interesting moral dilemma in the entire series.
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Old 12-28-2012, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Skald the Rhymer View Post
The subject line seems clear enough, but I'll add a few things if y'all don't mind.
[*]I'm only interested in literature. Film, television, & comic books can go elsewhere.*



* Assuming the thread gets any legs at all, I fully expect this qualification to be ignored by post 15 but I'm including it anyway so I can get the feckless bitching out of the way now.
† This will likely be ignored by post 18.
‡ I just like foototes.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shooby View Post
In 24, Jack Bauer intentionally kills an innocent CTU officer to comply with terrorist demands, in order to buy more time. The person being killed was basically OK with it, in the end [well, sorta]. In retrospect, this was probably the most interesting moral dilemma in the entire series.

Off by six, Skald
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Old 12-28-2012, 12:54 PM
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As a broad generalization, any war novel where the good guys carpet bomb cities.

How about reality? General Sherman ordered a prisoner shot as a warning and threat to Confederates not to mine the roads in front of his troops during the March to the Sea. I believe the poor bastard was picked by lot, and while it's arguable how innocent a soldier is, he had nothing to do with the "crime" he was punished for, and everyone knew it.
  #29  
Old 12-28-2012, 12:59 PM
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In his Safehold series David Weber has some of the Good Guys fall into the hands of The Inquisition, who use typical Inquisition tactics to torture 'confessions' out of them. In one scene, the captain, who has been tortured himself has his midshipman thrown into the cell with him as a psychological ploy. The midshipman has been turned into a complete wreck, with the usual indignities visited upon him, and is trying to apologize to his captain for breaking under the strain. The captain, tells him he has nothing to apologize for and deliberately kills the boy by breaking his neck.

I'm not sure if that qualifies, since the captain had the intent to spare his subordinate any more agony, but he definitely is presented as a hero, and he definitely makes a conscious decision to kill the midshipman.

(Also, I'm aware that Weber may or may not be considered good literature, but I enjoy his work, even if he does tend to belabor some points. And belabor them again. And again. And...well, you get the idea.)
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Old 12-28-2012, 01:08 PM
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Can anyone corroborate Chronos' example of Last of the Mohicans? I read the book just a couple of years ago, and don't remember anything like that. I also skimmed the Gutenberg text (looking for every instance of the word 'burn' - admittedly, not foolproof), and read through the wikipedia plot summary, and there's nothing close to that.

Interesting topic, btw, Skald.

Of course, there are instances of heroes killing themselves in the service of a greater good - that is killing someone, but not what you meant.
  #31  
Old 12-28-2012, 01:19 PM
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Can anyone corroborate Chronos' example of Last of the Mohicans? I read the book just a couple of years ago, and don't remember anything like that. I also skimmed the Gutenberg text (looking for every instance of the word 'burn' - admittedly, not foolproof), and read through the wikipedia plot summary, and there's nothing close to that.
You've never seen the movie?
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Old 12-28-2012, 01:21 PM
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You've never seen the movie?
No.
  #33  
Old 12-28-2012, 01:28 PM
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It might not qualify as heroes and innocents but there's The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg. The plot of the novel is there's a magic ritual that grants immortality. The ritual requires four people to join - two of them become immortal, one of them must commit suicide, and one of them must be murdered by the two survivors.
  #34  
Old 12-28-2012, 02:12 PM
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Lucky Number Slevin

While Slevin is not heroic, he is the guy we root for in this tale of revenge.

SPOILER:
Mr Goodkat kills Nick in the opening scene, only because "you can't have a Kansas City Shuffle without a body". Nick was killed so that Slevin could be mistaken for Nick in order to close to the Boss and the Rabbi
  #35  
Old 12-28-2012, 04:58 PM
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From Hamlet (no spoilers for God's sake): What the hell did Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do to earn THAT, anyway? Hamlet was a bastard.
I'm sure there are other examples in Shakespeare, but Romeo and Juliet also comes to mind. Romeo kills Paris near the end of the play, when Paris interrupts him at Juliet's tomb. Paris believes that Juliet died of grief over the death of her cousin Tybalt at Romeo's hands, and that Romeo has come to "do some villainous shame to the dead bodies". He attempts to apprehend Romeo and is killed in the ensuing fight.

Romeo does attempt to warn Paris away first and clearly would have preferred to avoid the fight, but Paris is innocent and (even setting aside the misunderstanding about Romeo's reasons for coming to the tomb) is acting lawfully when he attempts to capture Romeo. The Prince sent Romeo into exile after he killed Tybalt, and said that he would be executed if he ever returned to Verona. Since Romeo has come to Juliet's tomb to commit suicide, his fight with Paris isn't even a fight to save his own life. It's only a fight to ensure that Romeo has the freedom to die in his preferred manner.
  #36  
Old 12-28-2012, 05:54 PM
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Another one would be Changes by Jim Butcher, book 12 of The Dresden Files.
Um, I just read Turncoat (book 11) today. Should I stop now?
  #37  
Old 12-28-2012, 06:01 PM
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In World War Z, the "South African Plan," while not perpetrated by a real "hero" of the book, is nonetheless considered to have saved millions. It involves sacrificing thousands of innocents to keep the undead occupied. The man who came up with the plan went mad afterward, presumably due to the monstrous nature of it.
  #38  
Old 12-28-2012, 09:00 PM
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Sophie's Choice, though it's not really Sophie's choice to do it.
Likewise, wasn't Odysseus the original Between-Scylla-And-Charybdis guy, sacrificing some of the men under his command to avoid losing all? (Not to mention reluctantly but lethally silencing panicky Anticlus before he could give away their position inside the Trojan Horse.) Plus, consider the fate of Palamedes.
  #39  
Old 12-28-2012, 09:46 PM
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In Frederick Forsythe's Icon, IIRC, a possible claimant to the Russian throne is deemed expendable by a group seeking to restore the monarchy (the good guys) and assassinated so that their man can become tsar.
Ah, but said claimant was by no means an innocent. Sir Nigel Irvine was a man of honor who would never have set an innocent man up to be assassinated. Only after it was learned that Prince Semyon was known to....gasp....cheat at backgammon was he deemed expendable....obviously a blackguard & scoundrel who probably deserved to be shot anyway.

These subtle little bits of dark humor are one reason I enjoy Forsythe's stories so much.
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Old 12-28-2012, 10:41 PM
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Taking the thread title literally, if a conscious decision is what matters then in the David Weber short story The Service of the Sword, Sergeant Gutierrez fully intended to kill Midshipwoman Abigail Hearns when the pirates they were fighting overran them, to ensure they didn't have a live prisoner to brutalize and kill themselves.
  #41  
Old 12-28-2012, 11:37 PM
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Spoilers for Looper....

SPOILER:
...but I think Old Joe probably fits, when he decided to go all "are you Sarah Connor?" on three young children. You could argue that by killing Cid would have saved millions, but the other two were targeted for being born in the wrong hospital
  #42  
Old 12-28-2012, 11:54 PM
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Spoilers for Looper....

SPOILER:
...but I think Old Joe probably fits, when he decided to go all "are you Sarah Connor?" on three young children. You could argue that by killing Cid would have saved millions, but the other two were targeted for being born in the wrong hospital
Just noticed the literature only caveat in the OP. I meant Looper : the novelisation, obviously
  #43  
Old 12-29-2012, 12:06 PM
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This happens in Toni Morrison's novel, Beloved.

Sorry, but I'm apparently not doing the spoiler setting correctly, so I can't be more specific than that.

Last edited by Dendarii Dame; 12-29-2012 at 12:08 PM.
  #44  
Old 12-29-2012, 12:49 PM
Manda JO is online now
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Old Yeller.
  #45  
Old 12-29-2012, 01:23 PM
Ferret Herder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dendarii Dame View Post
This happens in Toni Morrison's novel, Beloved.

Sorry, but I'm apparently not doing the spoiler setting correctly, so I can't be more specific than that.
You can type [ spoiler ] Text here [/ spoiler ] (minus the extra spaces) around the text to be hidden. I'll add it here:

Spoiler for Beloved:
SPOILER:
One of the main characters of the book reveals the reason for the haunting of her home and why she is an outcast in that town. She had escaped from slavery with her children, and when her old master found her and wanted to take them back, she tried to kill her children to save them from slavery, managing to kill one daughter. The ghost that haunts the home is believed to be her daughter's spirit.

Last edited by Ferret Herder; 12-29-2012 at 01:24 PM.
  #46  
Old 12-29-2012, 02:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnT View Post
The Bible had Abraham about to kill his only child. He didn't, but he did intend to, and this intention was what caused God to stay Abraham's hand.

Also in the Bible, while it wasn't a *killing* of the innocents, Lot did offer his two teenage virgin daughters up to be gang-raped by the whole village of Sodom, merely to protect two travelers.
You've answered this in the spirit of the thread, I think. Sadly my comment about Lot is NOT in the spirit of the thread.
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Old 12-29-2012, 02:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyo Jim View Post
How about reality?
Reality's just a crutch for peoplewho cannot handle smack.
  #48  
Old 12-29-2012, 03:48 PM
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I don't know if Cromwell counts as a hero, but we are supposed to feel some connection to him.
Hell no.
  #49  
Old 12-29-2012, 04:43 PM
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Phil Rickman's novel The Man in the Moss.

An ancient bog body has to be replaced in its marsh to avert disaster. Failing that:
SPOILER:
Somebody else has to be sacrificed by the Celtic triple death and put in the mud.
.
  #50  
Old 12-29-2012, 05:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skald the Rhymer View Post
You've answered this in the spirit of the thread, I think. Sadly my comment about Lot is NOT in the spirit of the thread.
The Lot story is one of the most fucked-up in all literature, no doubt.
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