"Why is it no one ever trusts the eunuch?"
So you've got a villain and you've got to give him a Red Right Hand
, and your protagonist is the manliest of men. So, why not make your villain a Foil
and remove his male organ? Especially prevalent in fantasy, the Evil Eunuch is simultaneously creepy and effeminate, which makes him an obvious villain. Eunuchs are also more snakelike
. A subtrope of Sissy Villain
. Eunuchs tend to be Evil Chancellor
types. Comes out of Confucian historians' bias against Eunuchs in Chinese Culture. If a villain like this has supernatural powers, it could technically be considered a male, villainous case of Virgin Power
, although very few eunuchs are chaste by choice.
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Anime & Manga
- The High Eunuchs from Code Geass, Evil Chancellors who betray the Chinese Federation for personal gain.
- In Anatolia Story, it's revealed that Urhi was forcibly made a eunuch when he was a child, because he was the last surviving member of the royal family of a kingdom that was conquered, and the conquerors didn't want to risk him having heirs. He only reveals that he's a eunuch when it's necessary to clear up rumors that he's secretly Juda's father.
- Donnie Yen plays one in Dragon Inn.
- Evil Eunuchs are a Hong Kong cinematic tradition. If the movie has a fantasy bent, expect the eunuch to be some flavor of Evil Sorcerer.
- Amber Sweet's psychologically-neutered valets from Repo. They've still got their... ahem... parts, and are traditionally masculine-looking beefcakes, but have had their sex drives obliterated to the point of incapability.
- Heroic Trio plays on the Chinese myth of eunuchs being evil, mystical beings.
- Jonah King from Drive Angry was literally emasculated before the film begins, and he heads a Satanic cult. The heroes spend the whole movie calling him "Dickless."
- The villain in Orgazmo is blasted with the orgazmo ray so many times in the "climax" of the film that he returns in the epilogue for a Sequel Hook, proclaiming himself to be eunuch, and thus immune to Orgazmo's weapon (just like the villainious character they created in the movie-within-a-movie to bump off Orgazmo's character).
- Possibly averted in Curse of the Golden Flower, where the court eunuchs and servants side with the Empress and the coup against the Big Bad.
- 14 Blades features a particularly powerful Court Eunuch, Jia, as one half of a Big Bad Duumvirate. Until the other half decides he has outlived his usefulness, that is.
- In The Lone Ranger, Latham Cole is hinted to have become a eunuch during the Civil War.
- Varys, the eunuch spymaster from A Song of Ice and Fire, has traits of this, but it's unclear if he's really evil. While he'll gladly stab anyone in the back, he tells Ned that he'll do anything to keep the realm relatively stable, as the last thing he wants is a repeat of the last war and all its casualties.
- Possibly inverted by Theon Greyjoy who is a jerk with his manhood intact, but manages to become more sympathetic after a Trauma Conga Line which involves it, among various other extremities, being cut off.
- In The Belgariad, the kingdom of Nyissa seems to have a lot of evil eunuchs. However, in the sequel, The Mallorean, one such eunuch is a good guy anti-hero who joins the protagonists.
- While perhaps not fitting the spirit of the trope, The Elenium contains perhaps the ultimate literal example: the Elder God Azash, a eunuch who is essentially the personification of evil. Azash was evil before the other gods made him a eunuch, which they did to reduce his power.
- Not quite a eunuch, but Darken Rahl from The Sword of Truth series is implied to have a serious scarred, nearly burnt-off penis. But it's damn close.
- Considering the amount of lovers he took, the damage was largely cosmetical.
- In the first chapter of The Years of Rice and Salt, a character is made a eunuch and eventually becomes one of the high ranking ones in ancient China. He wasn't out-and-out evil, but pretty close.
- Evil Eunuchs have been a staple villain in China for centuries—the trouble started in the Latter Han period, where the Emperor would end up in a power struggle between his relatives and the imperial court, and the eunuchs who served him would be trusted with state secrets. (Romance of the Three Kingdoms chronicles such a power struggle that sees Dong Zhuo rise to power.)
- Inversion. In The Emperor's Winding Sheet by Jill Paton Walsh the most admirable character was a Byzantine Eunuch.
- Another inversion. In The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin(and sequels), The Hero is a nineteenth century Ottoman Eunuch who solves crimes.
- This is a given in the world of the Judge Dee novels; 'The necessary but horribly dangerous source of evil in every palace!' And yet he clearly feels a certain respect for the Chief Eunuch in Necklace and Calabash. It's mutual.
- The Alexandrian palace cabal in the Masters of Rome series.
- Biblical Inversion; the first Christian convert from Ethiopia was a Eunuch.
- Narses is an antivillain in the Belisarius Series. While a traitor and an assassin he is not particularly sadistic and has some claims to being an Only Sane Man. Interestingly he is not shown as effeminate; he is certainly more traditionally manly then the Vile One except in the strictly biological sense that the later has slave-girls as his favorite entertainment, while residing in his mobile palace so far to the rear of the battlefield as not to be in any danger. An entertainment which Narses is incapable of should he have been inclined to stoop to it.
- Narses is a good-guy and the protagonist's mentor in Gillian Bradshaw's The Bearkeeper's Daughter. He himself says, 'When men curse eunuchs they make an exception for me.'
- Mary Renault's The Persian Boy is a definite subversion. The narrator and protagonist is Bagoas, who was forcibly castrated at a young age and became the lover of both King Darius of III of Persia and, later, Alexander the Great. From the outside he might seem like a scheming eunuch, but because we see everything from his perspective and are privy to his train of thought, he becomes a very sympathetic character.
- Renault took his story right out of the history books. To complicate matters, King Darius had had a Grand Vizier also called Bagoas, who was this trope to the hilt.
- So very very inverted with Sazed in the Mistborn series, who is probably the nicest character among all the main characters of the series, and then he becomes the new god of the setting and saves it from total annihilation.
- Played with in Everworld; Hel's harem-city is guarded by eunuchs, but one of them purposefully slips Jalil a hint that Galahad's sword could hurt her, which helps them escape.
- Somewhat subverted by Count Hasimir Fenring in Dune, he's a scheming member of the imperial court who may have poisoned Emperor Shaddam's father. But when ordered to kill Paul he refuses ( Turns out, he's a failed attempt at a Kwisatz Haderach due to a genetic defect that made him sterile.)
- Shukeli from The Scarlet Citadel was stated to have lost all normal desires, and only have cruelty in their place.
- In The Emperor's Tomb by Steve Berry, there is a conspiracy of eunuchs to manipulate the course of Chinese history.
- Played straight in Gore Vidal's Julian, set at the court of Julian the Apostate.
Live Action TV
- The 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons: Oriental Adventures book had a Prestige Class based entirely around this trope called the Eunuch Warlock. Being evil is a requirement.
- The Eaters of the Lotus from Feng Shui, an entire cabal of evil eunuch sorcerers.
- Evil eunuchs (sorcerous and otherwise) also show up with some frequency in Martial Arts adventures in Hong Kong Action Theatre.
- While it's nearly impossible to figure out what they're really thinking, Koby and Loby probably count as this in The Visit, since it was those two who decided it would be hilarious to set a vicious panther on the town of Guellen.
- Near the Thief's ending of Quest for Glory II, the hero must sneak past several eunuchs to get into the palace at Raseir - while not explicitly stated to be evil, they're Mooks of the very evil dictator who you're trying to overthrow, and if they see you it's game over. In the Mage's or Fighter's ending, there is one eunuch that can spot you, and you need to take him out before reinforcements arrive.
- Suwonkas from Utawarerumono not only a VERY creepy Sissy Villain of the highest order, he also thanks the amazon to whom he was all Yandere for chopping his balls off, because they freed him from "the curse of masculinity." However, Fridge Logic sets in when you realize that even though he isn't a man anymore, he still wants to make said amazon his woman.
Strangely, even given the above, he gets an in-universe Alas, Poor Villain from the woman that he went Yandere level Love Makes You Crazy for, as she says, despite what she did to him in the above spoiler "she never really hated him."
- Salazar from Resident Evil 4.
- The MMORPG Age Of Wushu has recently announced a faction of these called "The Rootless Clan". There's also The Sunflower Manual, a Harder Than Hard Prestige Class based on this archetype, which requires an absolutely absurd number of player kills to level up. In-universe the former were inspired by the latter.
- Real Eunuchs were as good and evil as any other courtiers and no more inclined to plot than anyone else in a Deadly Decadent Court. Some were trusted and loyal servants. Byzantine Eunuchs were not slaves, but were often commoners who had been given The Procedure at their parents' request in the hope that they would have a good career. The Real Life Narses (not the fictional one) was a Four-Star Badass who conquered large parts of Italy for the Emperor Justinian.
- The fact that (obviously) eunuchs couldn't have sons meant that they were trusted to take powerful positions on merit and not found a dynasty of their own.
- On the other hand, Poul Anderson lists a Byzantine saying in one of his historical novels about Harald Hardrada to the effect of, "If you own a eunuch, kill him; if not, buy one, and then kill him." Though another character immediately responds that, were such a thing done to him, "I might make of my life one long revenge."
- The Ottoman Turkish sultans frequently used eunuchs as assassins and executioners. Likewise, the harem women often plotted with eunuchs to kill the rival harem women's sons in order to enhance their own sons' chances on becoming the next Sultan. Unfortunately, those women themselves very often ended up stuffed in a bag and thrown in the Strait of Bosphorus by those same eunuchs...
- The usual method of execution in Ottoman Turkey was strangling the convict by a bowstring.
- While eunuchs are generally associated with Eastern courts they were known in Europe as well under the term castrati. They originated in the Vatican but quickly became the rock stars of the eighteenth century aristocracy. While Farinelli, the most famous of all castrati, was noted for his kindness and humility, most were said to be vain, arrogant, and all-around divalicious. From The Other Wiki:
Caffarelli was notorious for his unpredictability and displays of temperament, both on and off stage. On stage he is reputed to have sung his own preferred versions irrespective of what his colleagues were doing, mimicking them while they sang their solos and sometimes conversing with members of the public in their boxes during the same. Off stage his pugnacity and fierce demeanour led to his willingness to fight duels under little provocation. Such behaviour led to spells of house arrest and imprisonment for assault and for misconduct during performances. Most infamously he completely humiliated of a prima donna during a performance of Hasse's Antigono in 1745. On the other hand, with Handel, also a famously fiery character, he seems to have been able to coexist on a peaceable basis, perhaps due to the fantastic sums of money the composer paid him for his work.
- Castrato voices are often described in contemporary accounts as eerie, unreal, bizarre, but beautiful. They had Michael Jackson-like fandoms. A choir of them were part of the orchestra at Napoleon's coronation: their voices were so powerful as to drown out a nearby harp orchestra and three-hundred member choir of "normal" voices.
- There were also lurid rumours about the affairs between castrato singers (Farinelli and Caffarelli particularly) and members of the upper classes of both sexes. However, these are probably more evidence of prejudice against them and their fandoms than backed up by reality (seeing as they would almost inevitably have a low to non-existent sex drive and micropenis.) Whether they worked on people's infatuations with them for patronage would be another matter.
- China had its share of evil eunuchs, and the Ming Dynasty is practically full of these. This was because the system gave the emperor dictatorial powers, but the later emperors may not have been competent enough to use these powers himself and often used eunuchs as their proxy. Wei Zhongxian, the most infamous of them all, even tried to deify himself.
- One may wonder if it wasn't a case of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Even if their existence was vital for Imperial Court, eunuchs were considered an inferior species by definition. There was a common consensus that since they had lost their manhood they would never ever reincarnate as a proper men. The only way to avoid this fate was getting money and position to buy them back from the person who preformed the operation and emulate a normal men lifestyle like getting married and adopting children. Since only those of the highest rank could afford such expensive action, being a eunuch meant constant struggle to grain the emperor's favor and wealth. No holds barred.
- Ming Dynasty subversion: Admiral Zheng He, loyalist, explorer, and commander of a gigantic treasure fleet.
- Pothinus, at least in Roman recordings that are the ones that have survived, is portrayed as a power-hungry Smug Snake that used the child king Ptolemy XIII of Egypt to seize power for himself, drew him off Cleopatra causing a civil war and beheaded Pompey the Great when he came to Egypt seeking asylum to top it off.