Crusading Widower

"My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."
Maximus, Gladiator

What a glorious day! Officer Bob has just retired, and can spend time with his happy and completely innocent family! Just in time too, his job was driving a wedge between him and his family. Yep, nothing could possibly go wrong!

In what is possibly the mother of Dark And Troubled Pasts, this guynote  will have his spouse and children die. This may be because the author wants to go for broke in creating a hero with "nothing and no one to live for". After all, the lack of emotional attachments holding him back and the burning drive for revenge makes for a singularly terrifying protagonist. Sometimes the kids do survive, and need to be protected while not necessarily stopping their parent from making a whole mess of people into a holey mess. Or better yet, the child is someone the parent can mold into a weapon of vengeance. Of course, he might abandon the child to be raised by someone else, or do the revenging in secret. In a variation of this trope, the character might have no kids at all and not even be married, but the death of their girlfriend/boyfriend or fiance(e) will nevertheless motivate them to seek justice.

The causes behind the death vary: the character's loved ones may be murdered by an enemy while he was Forced to Watch, die because of a mistake he made, or through some random act of human violence. In rare cases, they die in a horrible but (mostly) blameless accident. The "mostly" comes from the fact that he will somehow find a way to blame himself for their death in a form of Survivor's Guilt, or better yet, blame God.

On the upside, this senseless and painful tragedy is a great personal motivator. The Crusading Widower will earn the "crusading" part of his name by hunting down and killing (at best apprehending) those responsible, however tangentially. Or he will try to drown his sorrows, only to be "rescued" by a friend who will motivate him with an offer to somehow atone or catch the culprits. If it's a fantasy or sci-fi setting, a third goal may present itself: bringing them back to life. This is rarely a good thing. His loved ones will probably beg him not to, or he will choose not to resurrect them as part of a Friend or Idol Decision.

For obvious reasons, this character is usually on the low end of the Idealism/Cynicism scale, tending towards Anti-Hero, Anti-Villain, or outright Villain. Very, very rarely will the Crusading Widower be a straight up Hero.

No Zero-Context Examples, please.

Can sometimes take the form of Take Up My Sword. Compare They Were Holding You Back. See also Disposable Woman.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Berserk: Guts, whose True Companions were slaughtered by demons and his Love Interest sent insane during the Eclipse.
  • Heito in Daimons Hate. Poor guy had all of his former "friends" turn on him and kill his wife and daughter because he wouldn't join the plot to use the nanotechnology they developped for warring purposes. After barely surviving the Cold-Blooded Torture that cost him his two arms, he suggested himself to Training from Hell under a Mad Scientist, developped Psychic Powers with the Power Of Hate, and learned to control mechanical arms through it. Before going on a crusade to murder all of his former "friends".
  • Heroic example in Tiger & Bunny, in that widower Kotetsu is inspired by his late wife to continue his work as a superhero, because he promised her that he would. This choice causes serious conflict with his daughter Kaede - who doesn't know what her father does - and later in the series when Kotetsu's promise makes it even harder for him to face the prospect of giving up his heroics as 'Wild Tiger' due to the gradual loss of his powers.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Tsutomu Tanaka is hell-bent on revenge against Isshinsai Ogata for murdering both his father-in-law martial arts master and his pregnant wife.
  • Van from GUN×SWORD. His wife-to-be was killed by a man with a claw for a right hand, and the entire show is basically him searching for this man so he can kill him in return.
    • Ray had his wife killed by the same man, though he serves as a darker example than Van, as his hunt for revenge causes him to commit more morally dubious acts and push everyone away, including his own brother before it finally costs him his life.
  • Yuuichirou Minamoto was about to become this in Private Actress, as his girlfriend Misaki was cruelly Drivento Suicide. But Misaki's killer, Satoka, turned out to be very Genre Savvy... and Yuuichirou ends dying instead.
  • Kureo Mado from Tokyo Ghoul. His wife was one of the many victims of the One-Eyed Owl, and he has devoted the last decade of his life to massing an armory of Quinque weapons. Though a devoted single-father, he does encourage Akira to follow in his footsteps and become a Ghoul Investigator. After his death, she considers continuing both his Quinque Research and quest for revenge against the Owl important.

    Comic Books 
  • Big Daddy from Kick-Ass:
    • The film version trains his daughter to get revenge on the drug lord who sent him to prison and left his depressed wife to OD on drugs.
    • The comic version trains his daughter to get revenge on the drug lord who murdered his wife. It's a lie: she's really alive and he made the whole thing up to brainwash his daughter into becoming a vengeful superhero out of boredom with his pathetic life.
  • The Punisher, where the protagonist seeks vengeance then effects genocide on the American criminal element for the murder of his family during a botched mob hit.
    • Garth Ennis took this concept in an interesting direction during the miniseries: "Widowmaker" for the Marvel MAX imprint of the character. In that arc several wives of high-level mafioso Frank Castle had brutally murdered come together to take vengeance on Frank. Unfortunately before Frank can come up against the potentially morally interesting decision of how to deal with them, they are interrupted by another Mafia widow. This widow is thankful to Frank for killing her husband, who she regarded as a diabolically vile monster, and has nothing but contempt for the other widows who cruelly abused her. Thus this apparently exonerates Frank of any blame or responsibility.
  • Captain Marvel foe Black Adam. He's an interesting variation, because he was originally (in ancient Egypt) a hero, but then the power went to his head and he had a Face-Heel Turn. After several thousand years of being a villain, he had a Heel-Face Turn... sorta, several thousand years of being a villain apparently twists your understanding of "heroism" a bit. Still, he was at least trying, a lot of which was for the sake of his new wife, whom he'd shared his powers with and who was genuinely a good person. And then she got killed. Adam didn't take it well.
  • Preacher has The Saint of Killers while he was alive. He finally gets his vengeance in the final book, two hundred-odd years after the fact.
  • Kal-El in Superman & Batman: Generations, after his first wife Lois Lane was killed by the Ultra-Humanite posing as Lex Luthor. He also loses his daughter Kara to his son Joel, who dies shortly afterward on the same day.
  • In the second Atari Force series, Martin Champion becomes a widower when his wife Lydia died giving birth to their son Christopher, and spends much of that series going after her real killer, the Dark Destroyer.
  • In Jon Sable, Freelance, Jon's transformation to soldier-of-fortune happens when his wife and children are murdered by Evil Poachers. His first act is go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the poachers, although he does not catch up to their real boss until years later.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures: The last regular story arc introduced a wolf-man called Mokoshan, and one of the major characters, Ninjara, left the cast to join him and his tribe. Eventually the latter received her own, short-lived spin-off (unfinished due to the real life issues of the artist at time). It started with Mokoshan getting murdered, prompting Ninjara to seek revenge against the killers while also trying to take care of her and Mokoshan's daughter.
  • We Stand on Guard: Dunn, a member of the Two-Fours freedom fighter group, lost his husband in the Battle of Brunswick.
  • Elscol of the X-Wing Series saw her mother, sister, and husband all killed by the Empire, and she sets up La Résistance to fight back. She insists that the man responsible goes to the courts instead of letting her companion kill him, but this doesn't put her at peace. When she leaves her world and joins Rogue Squadron, taking a suboordinate role chafes at her, and she tends to be reckless and disregard orders. Her commander soon sees this isn't working and lets her leave the squadron to form and lead resistance cells again.
  • In Femforce, Colt became a superheroine after her husband (a spy) was murdered and she felt the organisation she and he worked for did not do enough to catch the killer. She quit and used her skills to become a vigilante.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • Mr. Incredible in The Incredibles develops this, despite it not actually being the case. Regardless, he still believes that his family is dead and for a little while, he definitely becomes the angry, vengeful, miserable Crusading Widower.
  • Manfred ("Manny") the mammoth from Ice Age. The death of his mate and child at the hands of human hunters leaves him grumpy and miserable at the beginning of the film, and it's possible that he was heading north to commit suicide since life wasn't worth living without them. The tragic nature of his backstory is finally revealed when the ragtag misfit "herd" that he's found stumble across a series of cave paintings that bring it to light. Notably, the Villain Protagonist, Diego, is highly moved by seeing this, especially since this moment causes him to forgive his murders because of the baby he is protecting - from Diego himself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Damon / Big Daddy in Kick-Ass. He actually trains his daughter to help him seek revenge.
  • Star Trek: Generations. Dr. Tolian Soran's family was killed during the Borg assimilation of El-Auria. He spends the movie trying to get into the Nexus so he can be with them again, even though doing so requires destroying a star and killing hundreds of millions of sentient aliens.
  • The 2009 Star Trek had Nero, who lost his family and planet in the old timeline, and is out for revenge in the new/different/whatever one.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Khan blamed Kirk for the death of his wife while his people were marooned. He expressed his bitterness enough to make it an overshadowing motivation. Despite his loathing for Kirk and all of Starfleet, he wears a Starfleet badge around his neck - because Marla McGivers was a former Starfleet officer.
  • This is the basis of Kill Bill, demonstrating that women get a shot at nihilistic murderous despair at least once in a while.
  • In the film Patriot Games, while they're not killed, the near-fatal attack on his wife and daughter spurs Jack Ryan to rejoin the CIA in order to find the people responsible.
  • Jodie Foster's character from The Brave One becomes a vigilante after her fiance is killed.
  • In Harry Brown, the title character is specifically avenging the death of his friend, but the death of his sick wife early in the film frees him up to act, as he has nothing left to lose.
  • Subverted in Rolling Thunder. While Major Ranes' wife and son are both murdered by the gang, he says to his friend Johnny he found the men who killed his son. While he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, Rane's wife started a relationship with another man, and he seems to feel she's already dead to him prior to her actual death.
  • The Mariachi becomes this in Once upon a Time in Mexico following the murder of Carolina and their daughter by Marquez.
  • Riggs in Lethal Weapon is reasonably heroic, but he's also suicidal and is considered crazy by everyone who knows him. He slowly becomes less unhinged as he opens up to his partner Murtagh.
  • Drax the Destroyer from Guardians of the Galaxy plots revenge against Ronan for killing his wife and daughter. After Drax helps the other Guardians defeat Ronan, he declares Thanos his next target, since Thanos assigned Ronan with killing Drax's family.
  • In Batman Begins, Henri Ducard claims the death of his wife is part of what led him to want to punish criminals with death and vengeance.
  • In The Dark Knight, Rachel Dawes's death serves as the catalyst for Harvey Dent to snap and get revenge on the Gotham police who didn't manage to save her, turning him into the villain Two-Face.
  • In Final Girl the untimely death of his wife at the hands of a serial killer is what drives William to turn a young girl into a weapon against all of them.

  • Michael Edwards in Red Storm Rising intervenes to stop the rape of Vigdis Augustdotir in part because of the brutal murder of his fiancee when he was attending the US Air Force Academy.
  • Lucas Trask in H. Beam Piper's Space Viking. He pays for his crusade by a) nuking and looting cities, and b) offering cities the chance to pay him not to nuke them, and sometimes to nuke and loot someone else. As he begins to recover from the trauma, he begins working on c) trade and d) lighting the blue touch paper on what might become a new Federation.
  • Canoc Caspro barely averts this in Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin. It's only his responsibilities as brantor that keep him from riding up to Drummant alone to avenge his wife's murder.
  • Neshi, the Tech Detective and lead character of The Wandering, becomes this after the death of his wife Etarina, made all the more heartbreaking when he found out that she was pregnant.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, Piotr Pierre Vorkosigan becomes this following the assassination of his wife, eldest son and youngest daughter by Mad Emperor Yuri, with only his second son surviving. Piotr then kicks off a two-year civil war to depose Yuri, and replace him with his old friend and protege; he succeeds, and the war ends with Piotr helping to dismember Yuri.
  • Older Than Print: Kriemhild in the Nibelungenlied becomes a Crusading Widow after Hagen murders her husband Siegfried. To get her revenge, she marries Etzel and lurse the Burgundians to his court. The situation is not improved when Hagen also murders Kriemhild's and Etzel's son.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Hell on Wheels has
    • Bohannon, for the first season at least, who opens up the show with tracking down the Union soldiers who killed his wife and son
    • Lily Bell as a Crusading Widow who following her husbands murder (right in front of her - she avoided the same fate by killing his murderer minutes after) makes it her mission to see that the railroad he died making plans for is completed.
  • Spartacus in the Starz series of the same name. So much so that he is offered the life of the wife responsible for his wife's slavery in order to stop his crusade and "balance the scales".
  • Sam Winchester's fiancee-to-be's murder in the pilot episode of Supernatural makes him obsess over hunting her killer. Twenty-two years earlier, the boys' father, John Winchester became a widower when his wife died in the same way. And he spent the rest of his life hunting down her killer, including training his sons into the human weapons that make such fascinating television. He died first, but his spirit helped his eldest son off the bastard a season later.
  • Wyatt Cain in Tin Man. All he wants once he's been freed is to kill Zero, avenge his family, and die in a blaze of glory. Fortunately for him, his former boss forces him into a promise to guard DG "at all costs."
  • The Criminal Minds episode "Roadkill" features an unsub who targets people who drive red coupes, out of revenge for his wife's death. The red coupe driver who caused the accident was him. He was so twisted with guilt that it warped his memory.
  • 24:
    • Jack Bauer, who found his wife dead at the end of the first season, murdered by his mistress.
    • For much darker examples, there's Tony Almeida when he looks to avenge the murder of his wife and unborn son in season seven and Jack when he becomes one again in the final season after his current love interest is killed.
  • Leo Dalton in Silent Witness, after a car crashed into a restaurant and killed his wife and daughter.
  • Horatio Caine, from CSI: Miami, who had his wife shot and dying in his arms.
  • Two examples from CSI NY: Mac Taylor (who lost his wife on 9/11) and Don Flack (girlfriend killed in a robbery).
  • Jack Halford in New Tricks whose wife was killed in a hit and run prompting his retirement. When he comes out of his Heroic BSOD he uses his new job at UCOS to help him track down her killer.
  • Adrian Monk. His wife's murder is both the reason for the way he is, and his motivation for his work. He finally solves her murder in the Series Finale.
  • Homeland Security agent Mark Fallon, who appeared on two episodes of Castle. His wife was killed on 9/11.
  • Merlin:
    • Queen Annis, who seeks revenge for the death of her husband at King Arthur's hands.
    • Also Uther and his anti-magic crusade brought on by Ygraine's death.
  • Noah Bennet's backstory on Heroes reveals that his first wife was killed in a botched home invasion by a special who had telekinetically flung her into a glass table. This sets him off on a quest to kill that special and others like him, which brought him on the radar of the Company. In the years since, he's cooled down a bit, but still harbors suspicious feelings about specials.
  • William Boone in the first season of Earth: Final Conflict. He figures out pretty quickly that the Taelons had his wife killed in order to "free" him to work for them (he previously refused because he wanted to spend more time with his wife). He seems to have settled down after Sandoval admits that he was the one who ordered her death to "spare" her. The second season opener reveals that Da'an was the one who ordered Sandoval to do that.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Commander Benjamin Sisko's wife was killed by the Borg at Wolf 359, and he channeled his anger into designing a new breed of warship, the Defiant. Unfortunately, with no further contact with the Borg for the next few years, Starfleet shelved the Defiant-class project, which sent Sisko into a bit of a tailspin until he was reassigned to command Deep Space 9 at the start of the series.
    • Justified in "Image in the Sand". With Jadzia having been murdered in the previous season finale, Worf fears that she won't be allowed into Klingon Heaven unless he wins a great victory in her name.
  • In the first episode of Alias, the death of Sydney Bristow's fiance initially just causes her to take a lot of time off work. Unfortunately, her shady employers eventually decide she's becoming a liability and attempt to have her killed. This prompts her father to save her from a Professional Killer and explain that her employers are actually the bad guys. She spends the next few seasons nursing a virulent loathing for Arvin Sloane, her boss, and entire seasons later, she makes it clear that she will never forgive him for having her fiance killed.
  • Gibbs from NCIS. His first wife and daughter were murdered by a drug dealer, and he got his revenge.

    Video Games 
  • Gabriel Belmont from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow fits this trope to a cut and dried tee, and a latent prospect of reviving his childhood sweetheart, Marie, by reassembling a Dismantled MacGuffin is his original – and afterwards, only – motivation throughout the entirety of the story. He jumps off the slippery slope as a result.
  • Kivan from the first Baldur's Gate is an impassive and ruthless archer who had launched a campaign against the local brigands after their leader, Tazok, murdered his wife, Deherianna. According to the man himself, his need for revenge is what is giving him the strength to go on.
  • Kratos from God of War kills his own family and spends the rest of the series haunted by the memory and seeking revenge on the Gods for making him do so and for otherwise being colossal jerkasses.
  • Max Payne spends the first game on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the big conspiracy that killed his wife and newborn girl. It takes a while for him to get started (primarily due to spending most of the game trying to find out who murdered his partner and set him up to take the fall for it), but when he does...
  • Carth Onasi in Knights of the Old Republic. His primary motive is killing his treasonous commanding officer who announced his defection to the Sith by bombing Carth's homeworld, and among the casualties...
  • Mass Effect 2: Thane's work as an assassin led to his wife being killed. He was pretty changed by it.
    • Notable that even if she wasn't romanced in the first game, Liara still has a subtle vibe of this during the second. After Shepard's death, she handed his/her remains over to Cerberus in order to bring them back, then went and waged war for two years against The Shadow Broker for trying to sell Shepard's corpse to the Collectors. Keep in mind, before this, she was a shy and mild-mannered archaeologist.
  • Boone from Fallout: New Vegas. Interesting in that while he is motivated by his wife's death, it's not the strongest guiding force in his life or even the reason he feels that fate's only keeping him alive to toy with him.
  • Varian Wrynn in World of Warcraft, though he's fortunate enough to keep his son as a Protectorate (if often enough a reluctant one). He still blames himself for not being able to save her, though a bit less so as of the novel Wolfheart, and holds a very long and violent grudge against the Defias for their part in his wife's death. While, granted, he does tend to have pretty terrible luck with loved ones in general, Tiffin's death much more than others really threw him into gritty Anti-Hero territory... at least once he finally snapped out of his depression from it.
  • Cyan Garamonde in Final Fantasy VI goes berserk when his wife and son are killed, followed by a long period of soul-agonizing Corner of Woe. But he eventually gets better, regaining his sense of purpose and becoming a formidable warrior. note  The game's story plays this straight, but in game battles he can seldom outperform most of his comrades in special skills, except maybe as Psycho Cyan.
  • James Sunderland of Silent Hill 2 is a particularly dark example; after his wife Mary dies ( supposedly) of terminal illness, James is driven deeply enough into desperation to believe she's still alive, and seeks her in the monster-infested hellhole that is Silent Hill. Of course, the intensity of his Survivor Guilt makes more sense when the player realizes he killed Mary himself.
    • It gets even darker. Though it varies depending on the player's actions, most Fanon agrees that this crusade ends in James's suicide.
  • Possible deconstruction: the Tharja from the Bad Future in Fire Emblem Awakening, who never was the most stable person but went completely over the edge upon being widowed.
  • Fiora's death in Xenoblade is what inspires Shulk to want to hunt down Metal Face, and by extension, the Mechon.
  • Arcania starts off with the player character's love interest being killed at the end of the tutorial, when the troops of Rhobar III invade his home island. Her death becomes his motivation to travel to the main island of Southern Islands and seek revenge on Rhobar III.
  • Justified with Ch'gren, the Klingon Defense Force player character's free engineering bridge officer, in Star Trek Online. His wife Doran was the first officer on your ship during the tutorial, and being backstabbed by Captain Jurlek when she tried to do a Klingon Promotion meant her soul went to Gre'thor (i.e. Fire and Brimstone Hell). He wants to win a great victory in her name so that she can enter Sto'vo'kor (Klingon Valhalla).

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Vitaly Kaloyev, a Russian architect who lost his wife and children in a flight accident in 2002. The accident was caused by a flight controller error, and the flight controller (a Danish man named Peter Nielsen) had been working for 16 hours continuously due to being an outsourced employee. Kaloyev tracked Nielsen to his house and stabbed him to death in front of his wife and children in 2004.

Alternative Title(s):

Widower Hero, Crusading Widow