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Not all heroes die as they lived. Elvis Presley checked out while sitting on a toilet. Sir Francis Bacon died from playing with very cold chicken. The point is, there's no controlling how you die. Unless you happen to be a fictional character, in which case your creator can choose to send you to oblivion with dignity and purpose in a way that satisfies audiences the world over.

But sometimes, these famous heroes and villains get shortchanged by their creators and suffer demises that are every bit as glorious as choking to death on a Chicken McNugget. It's just that it often happens in little-known works that you probably missed. Only true fans know that ...

5
Saruman, Mighty Wizard, Gets Unceremoniously Stabbed

New Line Cinema

As far as evil wizards go, Saruman The White ranks ahead of Voldemort and just behind Gargamel. The Lord Of The Rings villain builds an army of orcs, tries to cheat Sauron out of the ring, and beats Gandalf himself in a wizard-shoving contest. So it's a little anticlimactic to find out that, in versions of the story you probably haven't seen, his demise involves getting shanked by his greasy personal assistant.

New Line Cinema
Bringing the total number of deaths caused by Aragorn's stupidity to 12,393,687.

First of all, don't get enraged at us, book readers -- statistically, most people alive today know the story from the films. And Saruman's sad fate is so insignificant that it was omitted from the third film completely -- only those of you with the extended editions of the DVDs saw the deleted scene, and even that's only if you were able to take two consecutive weeks off work to watch them. He's the primary villain of the story (outside of Sauron himself, who never actually appears), and his death is handled like he decided he didn't want to come back for the third movie and the producers had to write him out (the truth is the opposite, but we'll get to that).

In the novel, after surviving wizards, cavalry, and tree monsters, Saruman is reduced to hustling with Hobbits in the Shire to survive. He is exiled by Frodo and then, out of nowhere, Saruman's abused henchman, Grima Wormtongue, finally snaps and just kills him in the middle of the street. No epic wizard battle, no dragon, no trembling of the Middle-earth as a great evil is purged. It isn't even this big fist-pumping moment of redemption for Wormtongue -- it's described like this: "With a snarl like a dog he sprang on Saruman's back, jerked his head back, cut his throat, and with a yell ran off down the lane." That's it! Basically, Saruman gets put on ice by his evil intern, who then sprints away hooting like a madman.

New Line Cinema
"You told me this would lead to a salaried position!"

Tolkien handles it almost like an afterthought, coming just short of saying, "Oh yeah, Saruman died earlier. His carriage tipped over a few chapters ago and he smashed his head on a tree root or something."

In the deleted scene from Return Of The King, Peter Jackson at least tries to sex it up a bit -- Saruman gets stabbed atop his tower and then dramatically tumbles down 50 floors, only to be impaled on a spike. But in the editing room Jackson presumably grimaced and said, "Eh, nobody's going to give a shit about this. And besides, we're running long, and above all my films are concise."

New Line Cinema
"A special edition with 17 hours of bonus footage is the soul of wit."

You know who did give a shit? Christopher Lee, who played Saruman and refused to go to the premiere after being "shocked" to hear he'd been cut from the third film entirely. Sorry, man, but most of the audience assumes you just got slapped to death by a gang of trees.

4
Tinker Bell Dies Off-Screen, Of Old Age

Walt Disney

Tinker Bell is the spunky fairy who follows Peter Pan around and occasionally tries to murder Wendy, a child. Apart from her homicidal jealousy, Tinker Bell is a charming, memorable character filled with magical dust that Peter spanks out of her in a scene that is in no way intended for children.

Walt Disney
There's a lot of very ... specific imagery associated with Tinker Bell in this film.

So what happens to good ol' Tink after Peter and the Lost Boys finally defeat Captain Hook? Well, according to Peter Pan's author, J.M. Barrie, Peter just sort of forgets about Tinker Bell and she drifts off and dies of old age.

Wait, old age? This is Neverland, a fantasy world in which the defining characteristic is that no one ever ages. Tinker Bell has so much magic that it's literally coming out of her ass, and she freaking dies of old age?

Walt Disney
Though it's certainly more peaceful that the way most Neverland citizens go,
being eaten by crocs and drowned by mermaids.

Yep! In Chapter 17 of the book, long after the events depicted in the various movies, Peter Pan and Wendy are reminiscing about their past adventures. Wendy asks about Tink, and Peter reveals that he doesn't even remember who she's talking about, as if Tinker Bell were some girl he met one time at a party and not a feisty magical being who helped him overcome his greatest adversary. Then, when he finally does remember who the hell Wendy is talking about, he explains that he doesn't know what happened to Tinker Bell, saying, "There are such a lot of [fairies]. ... I expect she is no more." You may recognize this as being the children's literature equivalent of saying, "Eh, who knows? She's probably fucking dead somewhere." Peter Pan has spanked so many fairies to death he can't be bothered to remember their names.

To make matters worse, the story clearly establishes that bringing a fairy back to life just requires the reader to believe in them and clap. Tinker Bell could have been resurrected right then and there if Wendy just started clapping her fussy hands, but instead, J.M. Barrie has the characters in the book discuss the lifespan of stupid, insignificant fairies for another page, then go about their business. It's almost defensive, as if it's really important to J.M. Barrie that the reader understands how little he cares about fairies.

Herbert Rose Barraud
"I mean, I'm not some kind of sissy. Now, back to my story about a magical flying boy."

On a similar note ...

Continue Reading Below

3
Jiminy Cricket Is Murdered Within Seconds Of Meeting Pinocchio

Walt Disney

Prior to being dipped in Disney sugar and rewritten so that it could be a movie that human beings actually enjoy, the original story of Pinocchio contained the traditional macabre hallmarks of European children's storytelling, like a Richard Scarry book covered in blood stains. In the book by Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio is hung and left for dead, bites the paw off of a cat, and witnesses shrieking blocks of sentient wood as they're agonizingly carved into puppets. But nothing is darker than the demise of Jiminy Cricket.

Walt Disney
"When you wish upon a st-"

In the Disney movie, Jiminy is Pinocchio's stalwart companion, doing his best to remain cheerful while remaining forever at the wooden boy's side, dispensing advice and acting as Pinocchio's conscience. In Collodi's story, however, Jiminy barely has time to interact with Pinocchio before the titular puppet murders him with a hammer, because nobody tells Pinocchio what to do:

At these last words, Pinocchio jumped up in a fury, took a hammer from the bench, and threw it with all his strength at the talking Cricket.
Perhaps he did not think he would strike it. But, sad to relate, my dear children, he did hit the Cricket, straight on its head.
With a last weak "cri-cri-cri" the poor Cricket fell from the wall, dead!

Walt Disney
"Let this be a lesson. Don't fuck me, Figaro. Don't you ever try to fuck me."

It is so unwarranted and gruesome that Collodi actually apologized to the children reading his terrible story. Jiminy doesn't even get any dignified last words, just some monosyllabic vocal spasms while his crushed brain fires meaningless synapse impulses as it dies.

Jiminy later comes back from the grave to help Pinocchio out as a ghost cricket, because every story written for children before the 1980s was fucking insane. So, basically, rather than a jauntily whistling optimist tasked with helping Pinocchio make responsible decisions, Jiminy Cricket is more of an enslaved murder victim, forever bound to the arcane wooden child who extinguished his light from the universe.

2
David Bowie's Major Tom Floats Around Space For Eternity As A Skeleton

NASA

"Space Oddity" was David Bowie's first hit single, and it remains one of his best-loved and most well-known songs. It introduces the character of Major Tom, a lonely astronaut floating through space whose story continues in several other songs, some of which weren't even written by David Bowie. In the official Bowie canon, most people assume Major Tom dies in "Space Oddity," since he seems to be pretty screwed -- "Ground Control to Major Tom, your circuit's dead, there's something wrong; can you hear me, Major Tom?" isn't the kind of message you send to a solitary astronaut if everything is going smoothly.

NASA
The astronaut being weirdly preoccupied about their ability to control Earth's color
doesn't inspire confidence either.

However, the character reappears in "Ashes To Ashes," in which Bowie sings "We know Major Tom's a junkie, strung out in heaven's high, hitting an all-time low" and "My mother said to get things done, you better not mess with Major Tom," which seems to indicate that Major Tom is getting high as shit in space and seriously disturbing his ground control crew with dispatches of drug-fueled gibberish.

Whether he is killed by an overdose or the cold vacuum of space, Major Tom is a revered tragic character in pop culture. So it's more than a little disheartening to learn that the universe, in all its mystery, is content to pile a series of indignities on the Major after he dies, including dressing him up like One-Eyed Willy from The Goonies.

Columbia Records
Did ... did someone bedazzle his corpse?

In what turned out to be his final music video before his death, David Bowie's "Blackstar" shows us that Major Tom, now a skeleton, has been bouncing aimlessly around on a planet for the past few decades. Then a black hole opens up and swallows his ultra-dead body, which is then used in some kind of alien monster-summoning ritual. This is the equivalent of learning that Elton John's Rocket Man met his end in the orgy scene from Event Horizon.

Space death is one of those things that becomes less dignified the more you think about it. For instance, when George Clooney floats nobly away into oblivion in Gravity, you probably didn't imagine his frozen corpse bouncing around the universe like a Taco Bell cup on the side of the highway for all eternity. But that's exactly what would happen, and, according to David Bowie, that's exactly what does happen to Major Tom. That is, until his bones are gathered up by aliens and turned into an arts-and-crafts project.

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1
Robin Hood, Legendary Outlaw, Is Killed During A Medical Checkup

Warner Bros.

Robin Hood, the legendary robber of the rich and giver-to of the poor, has been the star of so many books and movies that he's essentially his own genre. After all of his adventures, you'd probably expect Robin Hood to gently die in his sleep, in bed next to an elderly Maid Marian, having finally stolen everything there is to steal from the wealthy and paradoxically turning them into the poor (thus starting the whole cycle anew). Or, if a happy ending is simply out of the question, at the very least you'd think he'd be killed by the Sheriff of Nottingham or some other adversary who finally tracks him down and gets the best of him. As it turns out, neither of those things are correct. Robin Hood is killed by a nun during a routine medical checkup.

Walter Crane via Classics Illustrated
"Doctor, nun -- close enough."

In the story, Robin Hood is going in to get himself bled, a medical procedure wherein ancient people cured themselves of various ailments by having their blood drained from their bodies. It's fallen out of use since doctors realized it's fucking crazy, but at the time it was roughly the same as getting a flu shot. Anyway, Robin visits a local prioress to get his bleeding done, but the prioress is secretly evil (either that or she recently watched Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe and took it upon herself to destroy any future Robin Hood "reimaginings" before they could happen). She intentionally cuts Robin too deep, then slaps a shitty bandage on him and locks him in a room to bleed to death, which he does.

That's an anticlimactic way to die if you're a bike messenger, so for a legendary hero like Robin Hood, it's impossibly sad and pointless. The story must have seemed a little lame even centuries ago, so another writer came in and tried to fix it by adding a passage in which a dying Robin Hood fires an arrow into the sky, instructing his friends to bury him wherever it lands. However, rather than adding a romantic epilogue to the life of a famous hero, all this means is that on top of getting bled to death by an evil nurse, Robin Hood is presumably buried in some random guy's backyard.

Thales Fielding
"Hey Rob, you sure you don't want us to just put some pressure on the wound?"

Markos does a lot of things. Here's one bit of it: @FactBuffet

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It turns out more fictional characters have bit the bullet than you realize. For proof, just check out 6 Movie Characters You Didn't Know Died Horrible Deaths. And then check out how some characters probably bit the dust in The Off-Screen Deaths Of 26 Famous Fictional Characters.

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