"All my life I've played second fiddle to that weakling—why? Because his mother was a princess and mine was not. I'm the eldest son, but he was the Crown Prince, he lived in the royal palace, he dined with kings. Well, today the table is set for Rudolf — but it's Michael who's going to the feast."
— Black Michaelnote Strictly speaking, Michael is not a bastard, but the child of a morganatic union, The Prisoner of Zenda
He's the son of the ruler of the land. Therefore, he's the Prince, next in the line of succession, and a privileged member of his society, yes?
No. Royal Blood aside, he's a nobody. He's a literal bastard, and the reason for the negative connotation of the word.
Born with the shame of unmarried parents, he is marginalized at best, reviled and banished at worst (not to mention unable to inherit), but unlike his more sympathetic counterpart, the Heroic Bastard, the Bastard Bastard is not trying to rise above society's expectations. Instead, his Parental Abandonment has created the ultimate Freudian Excuse. He's the Jerkass Woobie who's got it in for his father, his siblings, or maybe even the world. His issues have driven him to seek revenge, or made him vulnerable to manipulation by the forces of Evil. Generally male, although female examples are becoming more common.
This trope can be found in any society where rank or wealth can be inherited, if it also has a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate offspring—making it Older Than Dirt.
While not exactly a Discredited Trope, the subversion is more common today. Modern audiences have a less stringent view toward children and wedlock and tend to be more accepting of a literal bastard character. While modern settings don't really make use of this trope as plenty of modern fiction deals with settings that draw inspiration from the middle ages (particularly high fantasy but plenty of other genres too) it'll continue to be relevant for as long as people want to write about aristocracies and so forth.
Stands a good chance of being a Manipulative Bastard. While it's possible, he is unlikely to be a Magnificent Bastard. There's nothing magnificent about this quivering pile of daddy-issues. Don't you dare compare him to his legitimate brother The Evil Prince. Subversions belong to Heroic Bastard.
A subtrope of The Resenter.
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Anime and Manga
Reimei No Arcana - Cain, the blond older brother of Caesar, because apparently black hair is very important in the royal country. He's got quite a grudge for it.
Gremy Toto from Mobile Suit Gundam ZZmiiiiiiight be this. He certainly is a bastard, but the "miiiiiiight" part comes from how it's speculated that while he claims to be a clone of Gihren Zabi, he may actually be his bastard son.
Towards the end of Ayashi no Ceres, we learn that Kagami is this. His mother was the second wife of his step father and he was her bastard child, meaning that he actually has no blood ties to the Mikage.
Fantastic Children Has Dumas. A melodramatic and arguably Sissy Villian born out of wedlock and to the king's brother to boot. Subverted in that he doesn't actually want the throne. He just wants his sister to go back to Greecia so they can be together. It's his father, A LiteralBig Bad, who wants the throne.
This trope could just as easily be called The Loki. Son of a powerful ruler? Check. More popular, heroic, half-brother who is heir to the kingdom? Check. Freudian Excuses out the wa-zoo? You betcha!
Though Loki is actually the adopted son of Odin.
In Manhunter, it's eventually revealed that Kate's birth father Walter Pratt is one of these, since he's the child of Iron Munro and Sandra Knight, the original Phantom Lady and was given up for adoption after birth. The reason he hasn't been around? He's been in prison for killing Kate's mother in front of her when she was a baby, and when he shows up in the story it's because he's been diagnosed with blood cancer and needs Kate's blood, so he kidnaps his grandson and tortures Kate's ex-husband. Real stand up guy.
In Usagi Yojimbo: Tomoe's evil, bloodthirsty cousin Noriko is actually her half-sister due to Tomoe's father being in love with Noriko's mother, who happened to be Tomoe's mother's sister. When she confronted Tomoe's father he rejected her so she killed him, and poisoned her "step" father for being a weakling for good measure.
Hivefled: Gamzee was found by his bloodlink (trolls don't raise their own young so he had to be tracked down in later life} and horrifically abused, then found out he was produced when said bloodlink mated with his moirail, which is strictly forbidden on penalty of death and from Gamzee's point of view akin to finding that one's parents were siblings. Gamzee is now convinced that both his genetic line and his psyche are tainted forever, and is only resisting his Ax-Crazy urges for the sake of his own moirail.
Played with by Lord Henry Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes, who was conceived out of wedlock during a magical ritual. His mother dies during childbirth, he goes on to murder several people (including his father), and tries to sieze control of the British Empire by making the world fear him. However, Holmes mentions that he's a former member of the House of Lords, so he may not have suffered some of the prejudices normally associated with bastards.
His parentage was kept secret. Holmes only figured it out by comparing his facial features to that of the Lord Chief Justice and noticed a family resemblance.
Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street isn't called "the bastard son of a 100 maniacs" for nothing. He was conceived when dozens of insane inmates in a mental asylum raped his mother Amanda, a nun who was working there. Freddy was a child murderer in real life, and became a spectral nightmare killer after his death.
Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series. The House of Festil had several of these, notably King Imre's son Marek (by his sister Ariella). King Donal Haldane has several, and Prince Conall Haldane has one born posthumously.
A Song of Ice and Fire's Loads and Loads of Characters has many bastards, and about a dozen last names reserved solely for the use of natural children. Jon Snow, a main protagonist, is of the heroic variety, but there are Bastard Bastards out and about as well, such as Ramsay Snow Bolton. And also Joffrey Baratheon, although it wasn't known for a long time, and his siblings, also bastards, seem pretty decent. Bastard Walder, the eldest bastard of Walder Frey, is a tough soldier and a bit of a bastard (the two are pretty entwined in that world), but compared to some of his relatives, particularly Black Walder, he is positively noble.
Jon Snow pretends to be this when convincing Mance Rayder that he has actually turned his back on the Night's Watch.
Jon Snow "And did you see where they put the bastard?" (referring to how he was seated away from his trueborn siblings when feasting the royal family)
Quite generally, while a few Bastards in ASOIAF are clearly Bastard Bastards and a few are clearly Heroic Bastards, many are just in the background trying to make the best of their ambiguous social position - or seriously a mix of both. Ramsay Bolton engages in evil deeds, but since his father also is evil, they may arguably be what his father approved and wanted.
Also while Bastard Bastard is listed as an "Always Male" Trope, female bastards are common in ASOIAF. One, at Shield Islands, is employed by her father as a servant to her legitimate half-sisters - and when the Ironmen conquer her home and take them captive, sides with the conquerors and enjoys exchanging clothes with her sisters and forcing them to serve her. Though considering how cruelly they were described as treating her, it may be a case of just desserts.
And the Sand Snakes, Oberyn Martell's eight bastard daughters. They're not as bad as most of the other examples (and some of them are little girls with not a lot of time given to them) but they're still not very nice and share most of their father's bad traits.
Ramsay Snow is, next to Joffrey, probably the best example ASOIAF offers. Especially notable because his father openly blames this on his 'tainted blood.' It's clear that, though Roose Bolton is cruel and vicious, he's pragmatic about it and doesn't let it affect his plans. Ramsay, however, is just a Serial Killer with a noble title and is threatening his father's own power with his wanton cruelty.
Eric, bastard son of Oberon and Faiella of Karm in The Chronicles of Amber locks his brother Corwin up and burns his eyes out with a red hot iron. Though among Oberon's sons, legitimate or otherwise, the ones who aren't scheming SOBs stick out. Corwin eventually realizes his rivalry with Eric comes from having a lot in common.
Due to a complicated morass of relationships, there are at least three living princes who can semi-legitimately claim that they are the true and proper heir to the throne of, essentially, all of creation:
Benedict is the oldest living child of Oberon and was born fully legitimate. Then Oberon had that marriage nullified in such a way that legally it never existed. Is he now retroactively a bastard? If so, then the heir becomes ...
Eric, who was born to Oberon and Faiella (wife #2, but before she became wife #2) and was never officially recognized by Oberon as his child (Oberon did officially recognize a later bastard as his child), making him a questionable heir, in which case it devolves to ...
Corwin, who is Eric's full brother, born after his mother was married to Oberon. Since she died before Oberon could get around to divorcing her, Corwin is the first in the line whose claim to the throne is absolutely unimpeachable (at least as far as legitimacy goes). He personally seems to think Benedict has the best claim should he choose to press it, but Benedict doesn't seem terribly interested, and Corwin definitely doesn't want Eric (who is a bastard in more ways than one) to have it.
Sort of Black Michael in The Prisoner of Zenda. He's a usurper and one of the villains of the novel, but he's more of an Anti-Villain, and atypically, he's the popular one; it's his brother, the King who is an insecure incompetent.
(Judges 8:30 ESV) Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. 31And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. 32And Gideon the son of Joash died...
(9:5) And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone.
(9:22) Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. 23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech.
Then, after a months-long conquering spree:
(9:53) And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, "Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, 'A woman killed him.'" And his young man thrust him through, and he died. 55And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home. 56 Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers.
Cesare Borgia, the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI, who crops up a lot in Machiavelli's The Prince, although a lot of what Machiavelli attributes to him was actually the work of his father...
Female version: Senna Wales, from Everworld, who is the daughter of a human man and the witch who apparently seduced him. Definitely illegitimate, and definitelyabastard.
Brokenstar of Warrior Cats. Since his mother, Yellowfang, is a medicine cat who is not allowed to have kits, he is considered illegitimate. His father, Raggedstar, who is also the leader of ShadowClan and his mother have to pretend that he is an orphaned kit, so as not to arouse suspicion. He murders his father to become leader.
Hadz in White as Snow is the bastard son of the king, and he somehow not only becomes something of an underground crime lord, he has probably murdered several people and regularly rapes his own half-sister.
The killer in Tamora Pierce's Shatterglass uses this as his excuse to murder the yaskedasi.
Rhys ap Llewellynne ap Owain in Fiona Patton's The Granite Shield. Zigzagged by the tug of war between two opposing religions; one considers him a royal bastard, unable to take the throne, while the other sees his birth as immaterial and considers him the legitimate heir.
Brother Cadfael The novel Monk's Hood uses this trope interestingly: the bastard son is not on the list of suspects for a squire's murder, as, because he lives with his father but will inherit nothing, he has only to loose by his father's death... until Cadfael realises the bulk of the victim's property is in Wales, which has a totally different law, whereby bastards inherit the same as any other son, so it was worth poisoning his father before he could sign over his property to the church.
Played with in Doctrine of Labyrinths, where most people suspect late, treasonous consort Gloria Aestia's possibly-bastard son Shannon of monstrous intentions. In reality, while he's far too spoiled, sullen, and shallow (at least in the first two books) to qualify as a Heroic Bastard, his real ambitions are mainly limited to sniping at his ex-lover and attending every play performed in Melusine.
Hoby, one of Arcamand's slaves in Powers. He's the son of the family patriarch and a Sex Slave, making him automatically a slave. He's mean, violent, resentful, brutally bullies Gav. Then he participates in the rape and drowning of Gav's sister, Sallo. Then, late in the book, Gav finds out that Hoby is chasing him as a runaway.
In the Blackadder episode "Born to be King", Prince Edmund is revealed to have been born on the wrong side of the blanket. His identical descendent Lord Edmund Blackadder is also canonically a bastard. Both men repeatedly and underhandedly scheme to take the throne of England.
The series Merlin has Morgana as a female partial subversion. The King has treated her as his daughter her entire life but has not told her that she actually is. When she discovers the truth it leads to a rather jarring bit of artistic license when she attempts to assassinate her father and half-brother so she can claim the throne.
Well, both times she does claim the throne, she crowns herself and the people refuse to accept her. So while she thinks she should have a legitimate claim to the throne (and it's strongly hinted that, to her sister, this is just a bonus and they'd have seized the throne anyway), no one else does.
On How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson, Corrupt Corporate Executive and unscrupulous pick-up artist extraordinaire, believes himself to be the illegitimate son of game show host Bob Barker. Barney eventually admits this isn't true. Later, Barney and his brother meet their respective fathers and Barney seems better off for it.
In Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, a flashback episode for Jafar reveals he was a bastard son of the sultan and was abandoned and kept as a servant to a cruel blacksmith. He goes to learn dark magic to get revenge on the Sultan and probably on everyone else.
On Once Upon a Time, Zelena is revealed to be Cora's illegitimate daughter and Regina's half-sister. She is extremely envious of her royal relatives and her main goal is to steal back the life that she believes should have been hers.
Elias on Person of Interest is this as his father is a Mafia Don that left him. He gets his revenge.
My mother was the Queen, my father never seen, I was never meant to be
Now I spend my time looking all around for a man who's nowhere to be found
Mordred was the illegitimate son of King Arthur and his half-sister, and plotted against his father. Virtually every modern adaptation of the legend has this, though usually in different ways. Special mention goes to the 1998 Merlin series, wherein Mordred's bastardry was taken Up to Eleven. However, in the earliest references to "Medraut" very little is known about him, including his relationship with Arthur and whether he was friend or foe. The earliest myths to assign him a relationship to Arthur place him as a nephew but still don't assign him a Bastard Bastard role. That came much later.
While Mallory makes Mordred's mother Arthur's less evil half-sister Margause and the conception an accident (because Arthur didn't know who his birth-mother was at the time), other versions have the conception being done deliberately by his Dark Magical Girl sister Morgan le Fay in disguise.
Aigisthos, son of Pelopia, who was raised by Pelopia's uncle Atreus as his own son. He was actually the result of Pelopia being raped by her father Thyestes and went on to murder his adoptive father Atreus and later also his adoptive brother Agamemnon, after seducing his wife Clytaimnestra. Later killed by Agamemnon's son Orestes.
This might be a case of Values Dissonance, because Aigisthos did these things to avenge his father's suffering and his brothers' deaths at the hands of Atreus.
Hagen (in Scandinavian versions: Högni), the illegitimate (usually half-elven or half-dwarven) half-brother of Gunther/Gunnar started out as one of the protagonists of the story of the downfall of the Burgundians, but gradually evolved into the major heavy of later retellings as in the context of the Nibelungenlied, where he no longer is Gunther's kinsman. But even in early versions such as the saga of Atli (Attila), Högni does become responsible for Gunnar's death when he tells Atli that he and Gunnar are bound by oath not to reveal where the Burgundian hoard is hidden so long as both of them are alive. Atli then has Gunnar killed only to have Högni tell him that he is not going to tell him anyway. So Högni ends up dead too, but the secret dies with him.
He doesn't seem that villainous within context, considering in the Volsung Saga Gunther has him killed the same way. Character Exaggeration in "Gotterdammerung" turned him into the villain.
In Big Finish Doctor Who, the first episode of I, Davros reveals Davros' mother Calcula's husband was sterile when he was conceived and his real father was Counciller Quested. And Davros is about as evil as they come, having created the Daleks and wiped out his own race to do so.
Forgotten Realms has a lot, especially Cormyr-related: Obarskyrs tend to be rather passionate in general, but due to the attitude and habits of Azoun IV an absurd amount of Cormyrean young nobles (and not only them) look embarrassingly alike. Some joined one of the coups, some are loyal to the official Obarskyr line's rule. Champions of Valor even had it as one of alternative backgrounds, whereby "Bastard of Azoun" comes across as comparable in spread with "Bardic tutelage" or "Monastery Orphan" and the man himself is monumentalized in his Memetic Sex God status.
Similarly, this is the basic plot of the Baldur's Gate series, with Bhaal fathering thousands of bastards and the main character having to be one or be a Heroic Bastard to complete the game.
A Champions module features a team of supervillains called the Zodiac. Aquarius falls under this trope, being the son of King Henry VI and an unnamed peasant woman (who was later burned as a witch). His goal within the team is, naturally, to become king of England.
Edmund from King Lear. He gets a lengthy soliloquy on why his bastard status causes him to be treated as a lesser man than his brother Edgar. Unlike most examples, his noble father the Earl of Gloucester acknowledges and loves Edmund, but that's not good enough—he wants to be the heir, and he'll do what it takes to make it happen.
Though Gloucester can come across as unfeeling sometimes. He calls Edmund whoreson and talks about how he was conceived like it is a joke. It seems that Gloucester is not being mean, he just doesn't understand the hurt he is causing to Edmund. Yet the play is Fair for Its Day in Edmund reasoning his actions and showing some good as he dies.
Don John from Much Ado About Nothing is also a bastard and a villain, but since he's in a comedy instead of a tragedy, he's less effective — albeit narrowly. If Hero had actually killed herself, he could have been as vile and magnificently bastardish as Iago from Othello.
Hagen in Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung - the son of Alberich and queen Grimhild, the mother of king Gunther. The mastermind behind everything in the last day of the tetralogy, who also does not mind murdering Siegfried and Gunther himself to lay his hands on the Ring his father made.
Prince Weiss from Arc Rise Fantasia has shades of this as well as shades of Heroic Bastard. His Jerk Ass attitude led to quite a few people who believe that he shouldn't be on the throne because he's a concubine's son and acts war-hungry throughout the game, not hesitating to invade another country without any formal declarationsnote killing countless civilians in the process, his response to them is "Up yours". On the other hand, he was very protective and caring towards L'Arc, and he also knowingly got himself cursed trying to save his and L'Arc's mother. Then there's the fact that all of his actions, as horrible as they may be, is ultimately meant to free humanity from the clutches of religion, a goal the the heroes soon pick up after his death.
In the Crusader Kings series, bastards can be quite problematic, although any of your children or relatives can end up rebelling against you if you do something that makes them angry (including fully legitimate heirs trying to unseat kings in their 70s, apparently out of impatience); bastards just have less reason to like you
Marcello of Dragon Quest VIII straddles the line between this and Heroic Bastard. Born to a philandering rich guy who almost made him his heir, only to ditch him and his mother after his wife gave him a son, Marcello does work tirelessly to claw his way above the stigmata of his social station, and does manage to make a name for himself. ...Unfortunately, he does so by playing into the corrupt factions of theChurch of the Goddess. Eventually, he goes sailing over the Moral Event Horizon with eyes wide open by assassinating the Pope and stealing his station, robbing him of any sympathy... for most people.
In Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth is debatably one of these. His father Hojo, a bastard and Mad Scientist in his own right, takes advantage of Lucrecia in a emotional state (she's guilty about her involvement in her current boyfriend's father's death) and knocks her up. The first thing Hojo does is start experimenting on his unborn son. Sephiroth is gifted with superhuman abilities and raised by the Shinra Electric Power Company to be the perfect soldier. When he uncovers a partial version of his true origins (that he was the product of an experiment to produce Super Soldiers) he snaps and takes up a Kill Them All policy towards, well, everyone.
Sephiroth is not technically a bastard. Hojo and Lucrecia, Sephiroth's biological parents, were married
In Shadow Hearts: Covenant, Nicolai Conrad, who first appears as a Vatican exorcist. It turns out that he's the illegitimate son of Russia's Tsar Nicolas, using the resources of a secret society to plot the overthrow of his father. It gets worse when he makes a contract with one of the universe's three strongest demons.
In Drowtales, the Nidraa'chal were a group of demonic summoners who called themselves "The Bastard Daughters of Sharess" and while drow don't have an equivalent of human marriage and in fact inherit through the mother it seems to carry the connotation of "unrecognized" and "unable to inherit" that it's had historically. And one of their leaders, Kalki, is specifically referred to as Snadhya'rune's illegitimate daughter, which seems to refer to the fact that she's apparently not legally recognized as a member of both mother's family.
Vin Vulpen in Kevin & Kell. There are other literal bastards in the comic, but only he was a product of infidelity, and the archnemesis of his half-brother Rudy (years before they found they were related).