This character is the leader or even "king" of all the homeless, indigent, and castoffs in a city. Either by dint of age, respect, or obstinate madness he has authority over the homeless. The king may be a crime boss type, a mayor who keeps their society running, The Fagin
leading a group of street urchins, or an actual king who holds court. Regardless of how much wealth he has, he always stays purposefully poor and in a homeless lifestyle.
More often than not, Muggles
in the know will respect him and even ask him for help or Wisdom from the Gutter
, assuming he doesn't have a higher education equivalent knowledge. Usually these guys are also suffering a mental illness that makes them a Cloud Cuckoo Lander
. However, an especially beloved king (it helps if they aren't violent) may have their delusion humored by a whole city.
See also/compare The Fagin
and Wasteland Elder
. For a normal king who is now homeless, see Fallen Princess
. This trope is almost Always Male
, hence the use of masculine pronouns.
Anime and Manga
- In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Chief Aramaki's missing brother turns out to be one in an episode near the end of the first season. He's arrested on trumped up charges to get at his brother. In the second season he has a cameo in order to give Kuze somebody to explain his plan to.
- The Jim Starlin Batman miniseries The Cult features Deacon Blackfire's evil cult of homeless people.
- During the Frank Miller run of Daredevil the title character encountered "the King," who ruled the homeless in the New York sewer system in analogy to the Kingpin ruling the New York mobs.
- One Hellraiser comic has a literal King of the Homeless, holding court in the sewers.
- One story in The Goon has the term "hobo jungle" taken literally, with the hoboes looking like Amazonian natives. Their king is a long-haired guitar player.
- In DC Comics's brief Magog series there was a villain named Miasma who was basically Bernie Madoff turned into this trope.
- Soviet propaganda film Strike has such a character, who is actually referred to as the "King". ("My kingdom is limitless.") He mobilizes his army of vagrants to infiltrate the striking workers and cause a disturbance, so the authorities will have an excuse to break the strike with force.
- Newsies has the newsboys of New York who live together and buy the newspapers to sell them to the people. When their prices are raised, Jack Kelly bands them together to go on strike, but they need every borough of New York, especially Brooklyn which is the territory of Spot Conlon. He's the key... the most respected and... famous... newsie in New York...
- Silent Movie has a gag where Mel Funn—having just fallen off the wagon, hard—buys an absolutely massive wine bottle and stumbles into a back alley. All the homeless in the alley gather around Mel and hail him as "the king of the winos".
- Played for laughs in The Muppets, with hoboes carrying off a tied-up Jack Black while declaring him their King. (It actually does make sense in context. Sort of.)
- King Of Beggars, a Wu Xia movie starring Stephen Chow, deals with a main character who eventually becomes a Beggar King.
- Thieves' World series. Moruth the Beggar King was the leader of the beggars in the Downwind section of Sanctuary.
- Discworld has Queen Molly, head of the Beggar's Guild. This is Played for Laughs; the King or Queen of the Beggars has to be aware of their station, so in Guards! Guards!, Molly's predecessor asks people if they could spare 300 dollars for a civic banquet, or could put him up in a sixteen-bedroom mansion for the night.
- Neverwhere has a whole feudal system among the denizens of London Below, but there doesn't seem to be any particular overlord. The highest-ranking single person seems to be the Earl of Earl's Court.
- The Outcaste in the Spaceforce novels are people who have been convicted of serious crimes by the Taysan Empire, and stripped of their caste - which means they have no way of earning a living and typically starve to death. In the second book, Deadline, we meet a former royal bodyguard, Calia, who was punished for the heinous offence of marrying a servant, and has organised the rest of the Outcaste into a secret community.
- The novel The King of Schnorrers involves a character who is the leader of professional beggars in London.
- Bloodsucking Fiends has a Homeless King inSan Francisco, very clearly modeled on Emperor Norton of the same city.
- Koba is the leader of Echo's homeless in Labyrinths of Echo.
- In Reliquary, Mephisto is the leader of a large community of homeless living in the tunnels under Manhattan. Pendergast and D'Agosta seek his help in navigating the tunnels and finding the den of the Wrinklers.
- There's the Beggar King of Nadsokor from the The Elric Saga. A whole city where everyone has the kind of defects that characterize the worst of the lumpenproletariat beggars, and the story is about their king stealing Elric's imperial jewels.
- Clopin in The Hunchback of Notre Dame is something along the lines of a beggar king.
- The Areas of My Expertise discusses the Hobo Kings in some depth. Among other distinctive features, they apparently reincarnate rather like the Dalai Lama.
- The Beggar Sect is a faction that shows up often in many Wu Xia works, and the leader is called the King of Beggars, who usually masters two distinctive styles, the 18 Dragon Subduing Palms and The Dog Beating Stick, each legendary styles of combat. Needless to say, this character is usually a Bad Ass.
- In the Jedi Academy Trilogy Jacen and Jaina got lost in Coruscant's underworld and stumbled into Dakyim's Kingdom, a community of refugees. Their leader was King Onibald Daykim, a former low-level banker who led his fellow bureaucrats into hiding when they earned the Emperor's ire. After learning the Emperor was dead and the Empire largely collapse, Onibald decided to remain a king than return to banking.
- Babylon 5: Byron, leader of the rogue telepaths on the eponymous space station.
- The Doctor Who two-parter "Daleks In Manhattan"/Evolution of the Daleks" features a Depression-era Hooverville in New York City, where the de facto leader of the homeless is a wise man named Solomon.
- Aibou: There's a whole homeless republic/hippie commune in a section of one of the cities, and its self-appointed President becomes the victim of a crime.
- In The Threepenny Opera, Peachum is the head of London's Beggar's Guild and is referred to at least once as the Beggar King/King of the Beggars.
- Flavor text from Geist The Sin Eaters informs us of Dregs, a homeless Sin-Eater who died in New York City. Returning from the dead actually cleared up most of his mental difficulties, and he's now the unofficial chief of an alliance of homeless Sin-Eaters throughout NYC, protecting the indigent from supernatural predators and acting as information brokers.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has Archibald, the King of the Hobos, who wears half of a Campbell's Soup can as a crown. He may have actually done some ruling as a hobo king, but that was before he went on adventures, befriended a mummy, became immortal, and took over as mayor of Cumberland.
- Johnny Saturn features a literally underground society that functions surprisingly well, and while they have some main members, John Underhall is pretty much their king.
- Fallen London has the Topsy King, additionally a Talkative Loon.
Who is the Topsy King?
In his own words: 'A goden most capering! Hines the walkskies, chanter the powb raggedy men. Dab with viddlo, too, goden!' So there we have it.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had The Garbageman, a hideous and ruthless villain who dreams of ruling a garbage kingdom with the homeless as his slaves. After he was defeated The Professor (so named because he used to be a university professor) became a good and wise leader to the homeless and gave a valuable Aesop on recycling.
- Batman: The Animated Series introduced the Sewer King, who fits the Fagin archetype of this trope.
- The Santa Claus Brothers had one who also thought he was the King of France.
- Bruce Lee (not that one) is a drug dealer and former street fighter who acts as the self-appointed leader and protector of the huge population of homeless, addicts, street kids and other social rejects in Romania's captial city Bucharest. He even leads a community in the underground heating tunnels beneath the city.