War Is Glorious

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"It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it."

General Robert E. Lee
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War is exciting. War makes you a stronger, better person. War breeds Badasses. War is finer than Spring. The sacrifices may be extreme, but are extremely noble, maybe even saintly. In many ways the opposite of War Is Hell. Some people deeply enjoy waging war, rather than just endure it.

Common features:

A War Is Glorious work may shade into war propaganda: dehumanisation/demonisation of the enemy, censorship of the motivations for war, and sanitising maiming/death.

This is not to say all War Is Glorious works are propaganda.

War Is Glorious has a natural association with the justification of wars. For example, the cost of avoiding a war can be shown as greater than the cost of fighting it. Many serious justification of wars lie outside this trope, being no more pro-war than a surgeon is pro open-heart surgery.

When war is part of the Backstory, former soldiers may invoke this trope by remembering the camaraderie, excitement, and purpose of their Glory Days, the war, as opposed to the Greed and selfishness of subsequent civilian life, which leave them Desperately Looking for a Purpose In Life.

War Is Glorious and War Is Hell are not exclusive categories. And it is perfectly possible to aim for one trope exclusively yet be received as the other.

It should be noted that sometimes this is not the work's theme, but the mentality of the General Ripper inside the work, serving as the Foil to the heroes' belief that War Is Hell.

See also: Proud Warrior Race, War Is Hell.

Examples of War Is Glorious include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • 300
  • Private Siegfried Von Nibelungen from Sturmtruppen is a clear parody of this trope: all he want is an heroic death on a battlefield facing the sun and giving his life for the home country. He ends up exploding on a friendly mine and being horribly mutilated.
  • Ares from Marvel believes he should have a better reputation among mortals because of the positive things war brings with it.

Film

  • Starship Troopers. The subtext theoretically is otherwise but the text shouts of glorious war. See the article for the tangled reception this film received.
  • 300, in all its sadomasochistic oily pec-ed glory.
  • The Green Berets, Sergent York, Glory, Patton, Sands of Iwo Jima: Many World War II movies, especially older ones.
  • The film adaptations of Henry V (see Theater below) can't help but use this trope to some extent, Laurence Olivier's more enthusiastically than Kenneth Branagh's.
  • The Longest Day, though, according to producer Zanuck, unintentionally.
  • Apocalypse Now: Colonel Kilgore wholeheartedly enjoys the war: he does not flinch at bombs and bullets, and is shown heading a helicopter attack to the Ride of the Valkyries. The film itself though, is anti-war.
  • Inglourious Basterds [1]
  • Black Hawk Down: Generally discussed as a anti-war film, there is a strong positive side. Both the book and film depict the horror of the mission but also the extraordinary success and tenacity of the Americans in completing the raid: less than two hundred men engage in a firefight with several thousand Somalis kill 1,000 of them, even with serious problems in command and control hindering the raid.
  • The Star Wars films. It's right there in the title. The enemies are dehumanized (faceless stormtroopers or mindless droids) and portrayed as evil.[2] The Rebels are ragtag bunch of heroes and the Empire as an evil oppressive regime. In any case, all battle scenes in the series are played for action and excitement.
  • The infamous Mortal Kombat: Annihilation has Shao Khan saying, "Earth is under attack, and It! Is! GLORIOUS!" This is also the sequel that amped up the Fan Service to the detriment of the plot or good film-making.
  • Discussed in Buffalo Soldiers, war my be hell, but waiting around as a US soldier on a military base in East Germany with nothing to do is nearly as bad. When one of the soldiers is beaten up for walking on the wrong part of the base he points out how his fathers war friends are the best of friends, how they still meet up every year, even 45 years later (the films is incidentally set against the fall of the wall).
  • Casablanca: Being on the run from Nazis with your home conquered and a price on your head sounds like a a non-stop party.
    • Victor Lazlo looks ridiculously handsome-after escaping a concentration camp. Sure he had time to clean up but some things don't look so good in real life.
  • We Were Soldiers is a weird one, being about the Vietnam War, which few movie-makers think was glorious. It was gruesome and the battlefield violence was not toned down, nor was the effect on soldiers' loved ones. But it was battlefield violence. It was about manly men blowing each other up in an honourable way rather than corruption, atrocity, or terrorism.

Literature

  • The Belisarius Series: Zig-zagged. The main protagonists are Romans and thus pragmatic about the whole thing. And the wars they fight are as dirty as one might expect with atrocity and starvation accompanying it even though the hero naturally keeps his men under control, if necessary by sheer terror. However there are larger then life characters and cinematic scenes and a villain so conveniently evil as to make almost anything better then losing.
    • One of the best scenes, the single combat between Valentinian and Rana Sanga really is glorious in away because two strong men have an honorable fight both of which-somehow-survive, as a break from the normal aspect of war which is so often taking turns bullying helpless people for having been subjects of the rival state.
  • Tennyson's "The Charge Of The Light Brigade". Like many works it's not a simple glorification of war. Tennyson notes horrible and worthless war can be, while simultaneously praising the soldiers. He certainly draws attention to the casualties suffered. Compared to his The Charge Of The Heavy Brigade (about another action in the same battle), Light Brigade is downright bitter. Nevertheless Kipling was moved to deconstruct the work in his sequel, The Last of the Light Brigade.
  • Lays Of Ancient Rome By Sir Thomas Macaulay. For instance:
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Thine Roman is the Pilum
Roman the sword is thine
The even trench, the bristling mound
The legion's ordered line

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  • This is a very common trope in older American war stories. It lasted about through 1900 and The Four Feathers, before The Red Badge of Courage became the Trope Codifier for War Is Hell.
  • German philosopher Oswald Spengler claimed this in his (non-fiction) book The Decline of the West.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche Inverted, subverted, deconstructed, and then played this trope straight. He was critical of war in one sense, and especially for how it was used and abused by the state for petty reasons, but he regards conflict (in a general sense) as the great mover of history and ideas, and the fount of creativity. He also saw war as a way that a broken society might find renewed purpose, though he notes that a healthy society has no need for war. He admires numerous men who were soldiers and conquerors like Julius Caesar, Caesre Borgia, Napoleon Bonaparte and Alexander the Great, and frequently invoked war imagery in his writings especially when he was attacking someone (ie. more often than not). He is strongly opposed to pacifism and in Thus Spoke Zarathustra seemed to change his mind about war and praise it, or at least praise warriors. In his insane period he declared that Germany would fall shortly due to its war-making; he was dead on right. In other words- inconclusive.
  • Parodied in the third chapter of Voltaire's Candide:
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Nothing could have been more splendid, brilliant, smart or orderly than the two armies. The trumpets, fifes, oboes, drums and cannons produced a harmony whose equal was never heard in hell. First the cannons laid low about six thousand men on each side, then rifle fire removed from the best of worlds about nine or ten thousand scoundrels who had been infesting its surface. The bayonet was also the sufficient reason for the death of several thousand men. The total may well have risen to thirty thousand souls. Candide, trembling like a philosopher, hid himself as best he could during this heroic carnage.

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  • Starship Troopers, as written by Heinlein. Unlike in the film version, Heinlein's pro-military message isn't undercut with any RoboCop-style over-the-top TV commercials.
  • Honor Harrington. War is also hell a lot of times. But come on hundreds ofgiant starships firing tons of missiles at each other. How cool can that be?

Live Action Television

  • Pretty much every one-off bad guy ever ( and most of the recurring ones) on Xena: Warrior Princess, and Xena herself before her redemption.
  • The Shadows from Babylon 5 believe this is true as part of their philosophy that growth is driven by conflict. They use agents like Morden to tempt people into making deals after asking them "What do you want?" that ultimately lead to war.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Family of Blood", one of the Family mocks the headmaster for instilling patriotic fervor in his students, knowing that a terrible war will occur in the near future. He asks the headmaster whether his students will be grateful to him for teaching them that War Is Glorious while they are dying in the mud. The headmaster angrily retorts that he knows War Is Hell, being a veteran himself, but he's still willing to fight for King and Country.

Music

  • Every other song by Manowar (just look at the band's name). Look at "Call to Arms":
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Fight for the kingdom bound for glory
Armed with a heart of steel
I swear by the brothers who stand before me
To no man shall I kneel
Their blood is upon my steel

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  • Every other song by Bal-Sagoth. Look at "The Splendour of a Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath the Blazon of the Hyperborean Empire":
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Hearken, the clarion is upon the winds,
now the call to arms is upon us all.
The glory of battle is nigh at last.
Our banner shall fly this day in victory!
My warriors, a legacy shall this day be wrought by our blades.
Decreed by the gods, blessed by the blood of vanquished foes.
Our destiny beckons...

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  • Many songs by Rhapsody.
  • "The March of Cambeadth" by Heather Alexander is probably one of the most jovial sounding. (On the album, it's bracketed by a sad ballad about leaving your sweetheart for battle and a lament of Pyrrhic Victory, but as "Cambreadth" is by far Alexander's most famous work, this escapes most people's notice.)
  • Satirically invoked and played for all the laughs the trope is worth by Tom Lehrer whenever deemed in/appropriate.
  • Nightwish plays it straight...
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Warrior with power along the path
A hammerheart, his gallantry to last
Rhythm of sirens, enemies take heed
For in this war, laws are in silent sleep[3]

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Death is the winner in any war
Nothing noble in dying for your religion
For your country
For ideology, for faith
For another man?
Yes.
...
I see all those empty cradles
and wonder if mankind will ever change.[4]

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We can't afford to be innocent
Stand up and face the enemy
It's a do or die situation
We will be invincible

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  • "Indestructible" by the band Disturbed from the album of the same name.
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Every broken enemy will know
That their opponent had to be invincible
Take a last look around while you're alive
I'm an indestructible master of war

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  • The controversial "Smoke On The Water" by country pioneer Red Foley, at the top of the folk record charts for 13 weeks in 1944 with a very cheerful tune about turning Japan into a graveyard.
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There'll be smoke on the water
On the land and the sea
When our army and navy overtakes the enemy

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  • The Civil War song "Battle Cry of Freedom" was created to unite the two anti-Confederate factions. Freedom (and in this context, abolition) is a theme, but there are also lines that say secession, regardless of the motive, is not permissible (The Union Forever, Down with the Traitor and Up with the Star!). Regardless of why you were pro-union, you could enthusiastically sing this song.

Mythology

Theater

  • William Shakespeare's Henry V is this trope in its purest form.
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We few, we happy few, we Band of Brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

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  • In Pippin, the number "Glory" is entirely about glorifying war. The aftermath proves a bit sobering, however.

Video Games

  • Many games, especially those in the First-Person Shooter genre, are included in this trope.
  • The Metal Gear series is notable in that while its creators clearly do not have this outlook, many of its characters do.
  • The Mandalorians in Star Wars view wars this way. The rest of the galaxy would disagree. Ironic, since they were the ones who lost the Mandalorian Wars.
  • The Shadow-Mirrors in Super Robot Wars Advance and Original Generation held this philosophy proudly, as in their world, the lack of war causes humans to become lazy and non-progressive thus they decided to have as much war as possible, because therein lies human evolution and progress.
  • The Thraddash in Star Control II are a parody of this trope (among other things ), what with them considering never-ending fighting a viable social scheme and seeing no problem with their species having blasted themselves back to Stone Age several times over.
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"This doesn't really count as news, Teacher but War is truly magnificent, isn't it? The gut wrenching sight of molten warships! The boiling blood of depressurized soldiers! I just love it!... Don't you?

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  • The traditionalist krogan in Mass Effect hold this belief, though there are plenty of krogan either disillusioned or at least far-sighted enough to know that war is idiotic while still limited by the genophage. Some Krogan did feel that the Genophage had reduced some Krogans to Death Seeker types.
  • In Dragon Age most sensible characters view war very negatively, however King Cailan is eager to fight the Darkspawn because he's heard all the stories of the Grey Wardens' glorious victories... he dies fairly ignobly in the first few hours of the game, himself and his entire army betrayed by his own general Loghain.

Real Life

  • The entire nation of North Korea has been so focused preparing for an invasion against South Korea that it's hard to imagine if the nation can survive peacefully.
  • The general consensus among most veterans is that war is simultaneously Glorious and Hell in varying proportions.
  • The dominating belief in Europe throughout the Middle Ages, probably because war was a near-constant occurrence. If a warrior ever found himself in a time of peace it was common for them to still fight in tournaments, which were often as bloody as a real battle, just to give them the illusion of fighting a war.
    • Most surviving records aren't those of the experience of your average soldier (whom couldn't read and write), but of the likes of noblemen, which enjoyed significantly improved battlefield conditions. In addition, once you got back home, its a lot more fun and respectable to start bragging then it is to admit that you were cold, wet, miserable, scared half to death and suffering from digestive difficulties the entire time. In short, a historian's view can easily get distorted.
      • Not to mention that hacking about with a sword does sound rather more fun then receiving artillery fire without being able to fire back.
      • Though fighting is only part of war. Much of it even in the Middle Ages was marching about with lots of stinky people, bad food, and no women except camp followers who probably hate your guts while they pretend to like you. Tourneys are a nice way to get out for a day and if they are dangerous they are no more so then any extreme sport and you have more armor then you take on campaign.
      • Plunder however is unquestionably glorious-for the plunderer. And war was one of the better paying jobs of the time if you don't count that lords tended to scam their men. But at least war was better then being a peasant. At least if you were not a peasant enduring the stuff that happened when armies passed by.
    • Also routinely subverted. Most if not all historians of the age are monks who like to condemn war every now and then and especially take note (and condemn) particular bloody battles. Even more so when its nobility who does a lot of the dying like Agincourt or the Battle of Worringen, where the male line of the Duchy of Luxembourg was nearly extinct.
  • Some may argue that the purpose of physical sports (Gladiator fights, races, jousts, football, you name it) is to simulate the glory of war without all the horror.
  • This was one of the key tenets of the Futurist Movement of the early 20th century. World War I cured most of them of that notion.
    • For a good number of them, it cured them of the notion in much the same way that a guillotine cures a sinus infection.
  • During the World War II, Winston Churchill attempted to stir a similar sentiment with his speeches, particularly before and during the Battle of Britain when the United Kingdom stood well and truly alone against Hitler's Nazi Germany. He was well aware that War Is Hell, but war was the only way to bring on a glorious dawn and awaken the world from the Axis nightmare.
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Churchill: Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

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  • One of the greatest causes of this is the psychological need to be part of something bigger then oneself and to befriend others with the same purpose. War is a superficial short cut to being able to do this as normal society is designed to(and supposed to be designed to) weed out problems on the scale that such desperate and intoxicating effort is required for. While one would hope creating things should give enough of a satisfaction and humans spend enough time creating to say that it is really peace that is glorious, the temptation to use violence as a shortcut is still there.
  • Then too, it cannot be denied that it really is true that Humans Are Warriors. The desire for contest is inherent in humanity, though focused more in some then in others. It comes at least in part of our need to hunt, defend against predators, and more to the point compete for territory, status, and mates. Even modern war with it's impersonality has attracted colorful people that we remember as skilled warriors that would grace Valhalla quite well.
  1. like Starship Troopers it is also seen as a War Is Hell movie, given the brutal actions of the protagonists.
  2. though with the prequels it's not as clear what makes the Separatists the bad guys
  3. "Nightquest"
  4. "Song of Myself"