Greater Scope Villain / Literature

  • The man with a beard but no hair, and the woman with hair but no beard for Daniel Handler's A Series of Unfortunate Events.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte for two Paul Féval novels John Devil (1862) and ''The Mysteries of London'' (1843-44) adapted for the stage as Gentlemen of the Night. The Big Bad of each claims to have met Napoleon on St. Helena in about 1815-1816. Both have their own reasons for the Wars against England however, and Henri Belcamp in John Devil could have actually benefited Napoleon (Since the other's main narrative is set after he died), and Henri even more so is really about his own Ambition, he really wants to be the next Napoleon, freeing the first is merely for a Passing the Torch moment. O'Brean in Gentlemen of the Night is motivated by liberating and avenging Ireland. Both are made in continuity with each other via The Black Coats.
  • Another Féval story, The Vampire Countess, uses Napoleon as the Big Good. The Greater Scope Villain of that story is Count Szandor who the title character is in love with.
  • The unseen Evil priest in Vampire City.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • Morgoth was always the ultimate evil presence in Middle-Earth, but after his defeat and imprisonment at the end of The Silmarillion, Sauron took over the role of the active Big Bad, overlapping with Dragon Ascendant. Morgoth was not destroyed, however, and Tolkien's writings indicate he will free himself in time to command the forces of darkness once again at the Last Battle.
    • Sauron himself as the Necromancer during The Hobbit - he definitely exists and will later be revealed as the canonical ultimate evil, but has no direct role in the story's plot, except as a device to give Gandalf a reason to leave the group for chapters at a time to go get information on him.
  • In the Chronicles of the Kencyrath, the ultimate enemy is Perimal Darkling (think The Corruption on a cosmic scale), which appears to be largely mindless and is in no sense a "person", nor does it seem to have desires beyond consuming the whole universe. Master Gerridon, nominally The Dragon, generally serves as the primary antagonist.
  • The Lords of Norsunder are the ultimate malevolent force in the Inda books, but during the timeline of the series are largely uninterested in human affairs. Erkric, the Big Bad, came up with his schemes on his own but bargained with one of them for his powers, but when he failed to live up to his end she killed him and then departed.
  • Several of Tad Williams' works feature an entity called Unbeing or Old Night, which is the representation of entropy and ultimate decay. It's never any of the Big Bads, but is portrayed as being tied to their actions, and at least one (Hellebore of The War of the Flowers) planned to deliberately unleash it.
  • In The Belgariad and The Malloreon, the King of Hell is mentioned several times as a demon god Sealed Evil in a Can who controls the single nastiest faction in existence, but because he isn't part of the conflict between the Light and Dark Prophecies, he to all practical intents and purposes sits the series out. A couple of his top minions do show up in supporting villain roles, but were likely acting independently.
  • Animorphs:
    • The Council of Thirteen are the political heads of the Yeerk Empire, but only appear in one book, a Villain Episode where they're more focused on judging Vissers One and Three than the conquest of Earth per se. Visser Three is the commander of operations on Earth and consequently functions as the Big Bad. The main plotline ends with his defeat.
    • Crayak is a Sufficiently Advanced Alien who plays The Chessmaster throughout the galaxy to encourage mass genocides of entire species for no reason; in a series full of shades of grey he's one of only a handful of characters who qualify as pure evil. However, he only becomes directly involved in the story a handful of times and isn't terribly invested in it. The implication is that he and his Good Counterpart, the Ellimist will continue their long "game" millennia after the Animorphs' series has ended.
  • The Black Thing in A Wrinkle in Time. IT is the Big Bad, and the Man with the Red Eyes may be ITs Dragon, while the Black Thing is more a manifestation of Evil as a concept. On the other hand The Movie states that the Black Thing was created by IT, making IT the biggest villain of that adaptation.
  • Azathoth in the whole of Cthulhu Mythos, a manifestation of perfect amoral chaos who creates and destroys, kept asleep by the Lesser Outer Gods with 'pipes and drums' so his awakening doesn't destroy the universe, but never does anything except listening to music. Most of the other powerful Eldritch Abominations (Shub-Niggurath, Yog-Sothoth) also take a very distant role in most of Lovecraft's stories, a notable exception being "The Call of Cthulhu". Nyarlathotep is a bit more hands-on, and August Derleth's Mythos stories frequently feature the likes of Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth about to personally emerge everywhere before being halted by a Deus ex Machina or explosives.
  • The Crimson King was presented as the central evil in Stephen King's metaverse; however, in an example of The Devil Is a Loser, when he's finally confronted in the Grand Finale of The Dark Tower series he's revealed to be nothing more than an insane old man armed with nothing except suspiciously familiar flying grenades, who is promptly defeated in one of the most ignoble manners possible. It's later revealed he had relied on ancient technology to give him most of his seemingly multiverse-spanning omnipotent powers, and when he lost that through the efforts of various heroes on various realities he was reduced to the pathetic wretch confronted by Roland.
  • The Rift War Cycle: Nalar, Raymond E. Feist's God of Evil, is slowly revealed to fill this role, and being imprisoned in another dimension, can do little more than be the influence for the various Big Bads in his books and the true Big Bad, the Dread, has nothing to do with him. Leso Varen, his minion, fills this role as well (making Nalar a Greater-Scope Villain).
  • Ian Fleming's James Bond novels often have the Soviet Union sponsoring some or all the activities of a novel's main villain. Notably, From Russia with Love reveals that SMERSH was behind the events of Casino Royale, Live and Let Die and Moonraker.
  • In Gone, Caine is the Big Bad, the counterpart to the hero, and the one who usually drives the plot. The Gaiaphage is an Eldritch Abomination that arrived via meteorite, crashed into a nuclear power plant, Mind Rapes several main characters including Caine, and looks at the whole situation as a game, but rarely shows up and is usually just a vague threat in the background.
  • The Chronicles of Prydain:
    • Arawn Death-Lord who played the role of the Big Bad for The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron, is this for The Castle of Llyr and Taran Wanderer. By The High King, he's the Big Bad again.
    • There's also Gwyn the Hunter's unnamed lord. Even Gwydion doesn't know his name or identity, but believes that he's greater in power than Arawn - although not necessarily evil, since Gwyn's function (basically a Grim Reaper figure) is a necessary one.
  • In The Last Battle, Tash, the chief Calormene god, is revealed to have been this all along throughout The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • In Dragonlance, the evil deities frequently play this role in the novels, such as Hiddukel in the Taladas Trilogy, or Takhisis in Chronicles. There is also Morgion in the Minotaur Wars Trilogy.
  • The Void of The Word and the Void is the Greater Scope Villain to each of the trilogy's respective villains. Due to its status as an All-Powerful Bystander it never intervenes in the plot, and as such, has little impact beyond merely existing. Canon Welding by the author makes the Void the Greater Scope Villain of the long running Shannara series as well, where it has less of a direct role.
  • The Warren of Chaos in Malazan Book of the Fallen, chiefly opposed by Anomander Rake and the Warren of Darkness. The actual Big Bad, or the closest thing to one, is the Crippled God.
  • Set, in Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian and Kull stories.
  • The Bellon-Tockland Institute in Dean Koontz's False Memory, a semi-fascistic psychology think tank. The main villain of the book, Mark Ahriman, is a psychologist who develops a form of mind control and employs it both on behalf of the Institute and for his own deviant amusement; the trouble he causes for the main characters stems from his grudge against the stepfather of two of them, another academic who spammed Amazon with with negative reviews of Ahriman's work, as well as a previous affair with the wife/mother which ended badly. Although we do see Ahriman manipulate a patient into biting off the nose of the U.S. President as a "message", and the Institute's connections are used in the Back Story to explain how he has escaped any accountability for his murderous pastime, the Institute's plans have no direct bearing on the novel's events and they are ultimately cleared of any connection to Ahriman after the protagonists break his control on them and another one of his unstable pawns randomly kills him.
  • The Otherness from the Repairman Jack series, a vast, impersonal cosmic force locked in an endless war to conquer the multiverse. In our world, its goals are carried out by the immortal Rasalom and his disciples.
  • Quinn Dexter is the Big Bad of The Night's Dawn Trilogy; behind him and threatening the entire universe is the Dark Continuum.
  • Florence de Peyser in Peter Straub's Ghost Story.
  • The Shard Odium is shaping up to be the most powerful evil in Brandon Sanderson's universe The Cosmere, though some Word of God indicates that something more subtle but even more dangerous may be out there. Odium takes the role of Big Bad proper in The Stormlight Archive.
  • Edgedancer (a novella of The Stormlight Archive): Nale is the main antagonist, as he doesn't believe the Desolation is coming and is trying to stop the people who have the means to stop it, but the novella reveals that he's been set on this path by another Herald, Ishar, who convinced him that the signs of the upcoming Desolation are anything but. Whether the latter is treacherous or merely insane, he's certainly a bigger problem going forward.
  • In Warrior Cats, the Dark Forest serve this role during the Power of Three arc. They are recruiting an army to destroy the Clans, and are made up of the most powerful villains the heroes have ever faced. However, this is mostly going on in the background, as the main driving point of the arc is uncovering the secrets of the past and defeating the villain Sol, who is trying to make the Clans destroy each other.
  • Big Brother from Nineteen Eighty Four...maybe. He never actually enters the story, and the major Party officials (like O'Brien) do most of the villainy. Orwell intentionally leaves lots of questions about Big Brother unanswered. For example, how powerful is he, really? And is he a single person, a Legacy Character, or just the Party's fictional mascot?
  • The Nameless in the Coldfire Trilogy. He/she/it/they (it's complicated) is far and away the most powerful evil in the series, but while it features prominently in the backstory of Gerald Tarrant, the bad guy actually responsible for the conflict is Calesta. The Nameless's only real role in the present-day story is to punish Tarrant for apparently backing out on the Deal with the Devil they made.
  • A Tale of Two Cities gives us the first Marquis de Saint-Evremonde. By the time the story begins, he's already dead, but it's revealed in a flashback that he was the linchpin for everything bad that happened when he raped Madame Defarge's sister, causing the good Madame to swear revenge and mark the Marquis' entire family and anyone who would help them for death. Unfortunately, this includes the completely innocent main characters.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • The first six books of the Galaxy of Fear series have Borborygmus Gog as the Big Bad. He's got a very long leash and a lot of discretion, but ultimately is employed by The Emperor. Palpatine only appears once, in a call to the scientist.
    He [Gog] could order the deaths of hundreds if he wished. With his terrible knowledge he could engineer nightmares. But as powerful as the scientist was, the Emperor could snuff him out with little more than a thought.
  • In the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, the Unseelie King is the ultimate evil force but makes no obvious appearance until the end of book five where he saves the day. Seemingly still evil since he is still technically the originator of all the evil things going on because he created all the Unseelie..
  • The planet Mesa and Manpower Inc. was eventually revealed in the Honor Harrington series to be ultimately responsible for the long and bloody war between Manticore and Haven. When their role was revealed, then it was discovered they were merely a front for the secretive Mesan Alignment organization. Manticore and Haven were.... less than impressed to find out just who was responsible for their long, bloody conflict. So they decided to do something about it.
  • The Skulduggery Pleasant:
  • The Brethren, by John Grisham, makes reference early on to one Natli Chenkov, a Russian politician and Communist hardliner who is suspected of planning to stage a coup and start a war the director of the CIA doubts America can win. The main action of the book involves three former judges (the titular Brethren) who run a blackmail scheme from prison and unwittingly hook the congressman whom said CIA director hopes to install as President to beef up the military and block Chenkov's ambitions, bringing down the CIA's wrath on them. Whether this makes Teddy Maynard (the CIA director) the Big Bad (albeit a Well-Intentioned Extremist) or the Brethren Villain Protagonists (albeit sympathetic ones) is arguable, but Chenkov is hardly mentioned after the initial explanation.
  • Similar to King's The Dark Tower, all the horror novelist Brian Keene's works are connected by the Labyrinth, in which dwell the Thirteen, Eldritch Abominations that existed in the Primordial Chaos before the birth of the universe. Among them, the Thirteenth is the most powerful and feared.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: Kthonia is the most powerful villain in this story but she is neither involved, aware of, or inclinded to assist with Jihadain's Evil Plan. When Kalak kills Jihadain, however, she becomes the True Final Boss.
  • In The Chathrand Voyages, it's established early on that Arunis (most dangerous individual member of The Big Bad Shuffle the series has going on) worships entities called the Night Gods. These gods later turn out to be very real, and Arunis doesn't just worship them, he wants to be one. They've set him a task to complete before they'll accept him into their ranks- namely, scouring Alifros, the world where the books are set, of life- but otherwise take no direct part and Arunis (and the other villains) stand and fall by their own merits.
  • In Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East, the eponymous evil empire is ruled by mortal men, particularly by Emperor John Ominor, the Big Bad. It was founded, however, by Orcus, the king of all demons, whom Ominor overthrew in a coup and imprisoned. It will probably not surprise anyone to learn that Orcus eventually escapes.
  • Dale Brown's books have portrayed the Chinese presidents and high commands that tacitly condone the generals' and admirals' actions as this, in contrast to the Russian presidents who have directly been Big Bads.
  • The Ix from The Last Dragon Chronicles. They trump Gwilanna hands down.
  • Charles "Trout" Walker in Holes, the even worse deceased grandfather to the Big Bad. The entire plot ultimately stems from his racially-motivated murder of Sam the Onion Man, which caused Green Lake to dry up and Sam's lover Kate Barlow to cross the Despair Event Horizon and become an outlaw, ultimately burying treasure in the desolate lakebed. Trout became obsessed with finding the treasure, even forcing his granddaughter to help him dig, which is why she forces other children to dig in the present.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has a Big Bad Ensemble with Littlefinger, the Lannisters, the Boltons and Freys (although they're working, sort of, for the Lannisters), and Well Intentioned Extremists Varys and Melisandre. Overshadowing them all by many degrees, however, are the Others. Not to mention the generalized threat of "myth" and magic coming back in other dangerous, if somewhat less maliciously deadly, shapes to complicate everything they also represent.
  • Eighth Doctor Adventures "Alien Bodies" has the Enemy and the Celestis in this role. The Doctor does encounter them, though in his future.
  • The Maze Runner Trilogy:
    • Chancellor Paige, the head of all the mess that is WICKED. Eventually, though, the cruelty of that position gets to her and she decides to cut their losses and stop torturing people for a cure that might never come. Notable in that she is never seen in the series, barring The Film of the Book.
    • Then there's Katie McVoy, a bit character who is only mentioned in two short letters published in The Maze Runner Files whose not-so-small role involves suggesting the method to kill half of the world population using the V C321xb 47 virus AKA the Flare virus, which mutated unpredictably, as in, setting off all this mess in the first place. By the events of The Maze Runner, however, she is already long dead due to catching the virus and committing suicide to prevent it spreading over as her last act of redemption.
  • In "Prisoner of the Daleks" Dalek X (the Dalek Inquisitor-General) serves as the main villain. However it is mentioned he answers to the Supreme Dalek.
  • In the Nightrunner series, the God of Evil Seriamaius seems to encourage his followers, especially necromancers, (and others) in villainous actions, but never appears as an actual character except in prophetic dreams. Granted, none of the more benign gods put in personal appearances either.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • In the first book, Katniss is only interested in surviving the Hunger Games and not in taking down the government, so the main antagonists are the other Tributes. However, the other tributes are also just trying to survive; President Snow is the only truly evil character. He is downgraded to Big Bad in later books.
    • Snow implies that District 13 caused the Dark Days in an attempt to rise to power, only to back down when the Capitol defeated them and the rebelling Districts, causing the rise of the Hunger Games. He says this when he realizes that Alma Coin was playing this trope from the beginning for that exact same reason. Thankfully, Katniss decides to bump her down to the Big Bad and off her afterwards.
  • Since the first three Age of Fire novels all take place at roughly the same time, the Wrymmaster — the Big Bad of the first book — is this for the latter two. It's his minions and allies that set the events of the series in motion, scattering the three sibling protagonists and sending them all on their own individual storylines. And while he only shows up in the first book, his presence is still felt in the other two to varying degrees.
  • In The Mortal Instruments, Asmodeus is too busy overseeing the destruction of entire worlds to get involved in day-to-day evildoing. Until his son Magnus summons him in City of Heavenly Fire, at which point he briefly appears in humanoid form and acts as a Deus ex Machina before returning to his more cosmic interests. This is standard for all of the Princes of Hell, most especially Lucifer. While they can be summoned (or at least avatars of them can) they do not dirty their hands with normal villainy, instead focusing on warfare against God across The Multiverse.
  • Derek Leech, who appears in the background of various stories by Kim Newman, is a monstrous hybrid of Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch, and also The Antichrist. He is clearly plotting some kind of evil Tory apocalypse, but has been known to help sympathetic characters fight other evil types whose preferred apocalypses would clash with his own.
  • In Alex Rider, Zeljan Kurst is the leader of SCORPIA, and the one who orders the BigBads of Snakehead and Scorpia Rising to carry out their plots, though he never comes face to face with Alex.
  • The Zombie Knight has Dozer and Morgunov, the Big Bad Duumvirate of Abolish. They are the co-leaders of a group that controls at least a third of the known world and whose ultimate goal is the extinction of humanity, and even their Dragons are strong enough to take on entire countries if they can be spared to do so.
  • The Widow (a.k.a. Indira Gandhi) in Midnight's Children. The fate that Saleem suffers in the climax is performed at her orders, but Saleem never encounters her directly, only her subordinates.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Big Bad of the first two books is Luke Castellan, and the third has Atlas. However, both are only servants of the Kronos, who steps down to Big Bad for the last two books in the series after being freed from Tartarus.
  • The Heroes of Olympus:
  • The Trials of Apollo reveals that the mortal threats Luke and Octavian were themselves being helped by a greater scope villain - The Triumvirate. They turn out to be the villains in this series.
  • The Kane Chronicles:
    • Set is the Big Bad of the first novel, but at the end, it is revealed that he is ultimately manipulated by Apophis, the Serpent of Evil who seeks to annihilate Ma'at, the essence of order. He takes up the Big Bad spot in the next two books.
    • Again, like the Chaos example above, The Kane Chronicles also has its own nitpicky example: the Sea of Chaos (named Nu in the real-life mythology), located deep below Duat. It is the ultimate origin of everything in the universe. The sea attracts everyone who comes closer and would dissolve them if they touch it.
  • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: Like the real-life mythology, Loki is presumably set up as the Big Bad of the series, but the first book focuses more on his son, Fenris Wolf, and the fire giant Surt, while he is relegated to appearing in Magnus' dreams.He steps down to Big Bad after being freed from his chains in the second book.
  • Throughout the first few volumes of The Dresden Files, Harry fights standalone monsters of the book, but eventually begins to suspect that there may have been a single guiding hand behind all of them. His suspicions are partly confirmed in Proven Guilty, when his mentor Ebenezar McCoy agrees that the circumstances are too much to be just a coincidence, and the two of them dub this hypothetical group "Black Council". Later, in Cold Days, Harry arrives at a conclusion that the Ancient Conspiracy he envisioned may not be what he thinks it is, but rather something right out of the Cosmic Horror Genre, and he dubs it "Nemesis". That said, even the most knowledgeable beings in the series so far only theorize about what the Nemesis is, as its influence is only ever felt indirectly, through its many, many (often unwitting) agents.
  • From The NeverEnding Story we have the mysterious beings who created the Nothing and sent G'Mork to kill Arteyu. They are mentioned once by G'Mork and never play any role in the story after the Nothing is defeated. If they're even sentient creatures is up for debate.
  • Allegiant:
    • It's revealed that Jeanine Matthews, the Big Bad of the first two books, obtained the serums used for execution and mind controlling Dauntless members from the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, the mastermind behind the experiment in Chicago and several other metropolitan cities for more than eight generations.
    • It's also revealed that the experiment was done to produce genetically pure children from the genetically damaged, who were the subjects of an earlier experiment to "correct" human genes of their "imperfections". So, ultimately, whoever had the insane idea to do the "correction" in the first place is this.
  • Salocin, the evil entity from Spectral Shadows, is basically responsible for all the evils in Ra's Universe. If there's something evil or something corrupt, chances are it can be traced back to him in some fashion.
  • In The Girl From The Miracles District, the true villains are Ernest and Irena. They're both responsible for Ture's and Nikita's psychological instability - and, by extension, Ture's actions in the story - and Irena has been manipulating Nikita from the start to be her perfect little weapon.
  • In The Death Gate Cycle, the Serpents are led by the Royal One, but though he appears in the fourth and fifth books, afterwards he plays no direct role in the story, leaving the jobs of The Heavy of the series and The Face of Serpents as a faction to his minion Sang-drax. Haplo also speculates that the Serpents as a whole are merely the minions of some even greater evil power, but if this is true, such a power never makes itself known directly.
  • Laird Barron's works (specifically the stories "The Broadsword," "The Men from Porlock," "Mysterium Tremendum," and the novel The Croning) feature a race of Puppeteer Parasites with insidious intentions for humanity, who are the spawn of an interplanetary entity only known as Old Leech.
  • The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate: Father Earth himself, causing massive disasters and toppling civilizations because Orogenes cost him his only child; the Moon.

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