The Dreaded

The Heavy: I fear no man!...but, that scares me.
The Scout: No, I—I ain't talkin' about that freak, alright?... he's not here, is she!? How do I get [microphone muffled]ing thing off!?
The Spy: One shudders to imagine what inhuman thoughts lie behind that mask. What dreams of chronic and sustained cruelty.
A description of The Pyro by its own teammates, Team Fortress 2, "Meet The Pyro"

A villain or Anti-Hero whose primary characteristic is the fear the other side has of them.

To be the Dreaded, a character has to be far and away the most feared person in the story. These are people who make you quail not because of anything they are doing at that moment, but simply because you know who they are and what they've done before... and sometimes the latter part is optional. Maybe this character has a reputation as a Hero Killer; a person who kills the other side's strongest and noblest supporters. Maybe they use fear as a magical effect which triggers panic in others. Maybe they've done so many horrible things that nobody ever wants to speak of them again. Maybe they are simply so mind-breakingly horrible even the strongest of hearts falter. But the defining trait of the Dreaded is that they are feared. Probably has a scary name, unless they use a really scary alias instead. If their ability in combat lives up to their reputation, then the only choice one has when facing them may be to Run or Die. When/if the Dreaded character dies, his/her/its death will almost certainly be followed by much rejoicing.

Although there are exceptions, (particularly on the other side of the fence) a key characteristic of this trope tends to be invisibility. In general, characters—villains, in particular—who conform to this trope will not be seen directly the first few times they are mentioned. The show will tend to work on building up their perceived threat in the minds of the audience: a dark, shadowy something that's out there somewhere, but you don't know where, who or what they are, or even whether or not they can be killed, at least at first. It is possible for them to remain this trope after they come out of the shadows, but if they do not then beware Villain Decay.

Additionally there is a heroic equivalent called the Terror Hero, when there is a hero so renowned that the enemy would rather flee than possibly encounter them. They tend to be anti-heroes of some kind though (ranging from grades 2-4), due to audiences seldom associating dread as an emotion a pure hero inspires. Some criminals also tend to go for this in order to prevent anyone from informing on them.

Note that it isn't the audience's reaction to the Dreaded that matters, but the other characters' reactions to the Dreaded. Other characters think this person is pure Nightmare Fuel, whether they deserve this reputation or not.

See also Mook Horror Show; when The Hero is the dreaded to his enemies, this is a common way of demonstrating it. Not to be confused with characters who are merely dreaded, although both tropes may apply to the same character.

Examples subpages:

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    Audio Play 
  • Zagreus in Big Finish Doctor Who. Even Death herself is frightened when she's suddenly humming his song, without any idea where it came from.
    Zagreus sits inside your head,
    Zagreus lives among the dead,
    Zagreus sees you in your bed,
    And eats you when you're sleeping.
    • The Dalek Time Controller is treated like this by the 8th Doctor, who considers them the most dangerous Dalek of all.
    • Then there are the Eminence, a Super Smoke from the end of time who use the Breath of Forever to turn people into Zombies. They are so dangerous 8 is willing to work with the Dalek Time Controller against them, despite the Time Lords trying to use them against the Daleks.
  • Played for laughs in Thrilling Adventure Hour; Frank and Sadie Doyle fear only one thing, and that is the bumblebee that got into their apartment through an open window. Whenever it is spoken of or remembered it is with horror and terror.

  • Rattlesnake Jake from Rango. Even the Big Bad's minions are deadly afraid when told to contact him.
  • Monstro from Pinocchio is known throughout the village and is famous for swallowing whole ships; even the mere mention of his name is enough to send other sea creatures fleeing.
  • Shere Khan from The Jungle Book. Nearly everyone is scared of him, and the rest are Too Dumb to Live. He's stripped of this status in the sequel, what with his humiliation at the hands of Mowgli, and goes full-blown Knight of Cerebus trying to get it back.
  • Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda, a rogue kung fu master so scary that an entire prison was built specifically to hold him. When he escapes from said prison, everyone in the Valley is afraid of him, including his former master and The Chosen One.
  • Played completely straight with Chakal from The Book of Life, but also parodied with a Running Gag where the same child announces that him and/or his bandits are coming to others, usually by bursting through a door and yelling.

  • A typical feature of the main characters of Memetic Badass sites.
    • The most famous one: Bogeymen scare their children with stories about Chuck Norris.
    • The only reason Chuck Norris is afraid of death is because he knows Bruce Lee will be waiting for him.
    • Neville Longbottom is the only thing that Dumbledore ever feared.
    • "Death had to take him sleeping, for if Theodore Roosevelt had been awake, there would have been a fight." This was actually said about his death by Woodrow Wilson's vice-president, Thomas Marshall.

  • Classical Mythology
    • Typhon likely doubles as the original Hero Killer, storming Olympus by himself and driving the gods into hiding. When he first showed up to fight Zeus, all of the other Olympians except Athena and Enyo immediately fled in terror.
    • Hades was this to the Greeks themselves; he's the yardstick by which terrifying creatures in myth (like Typhon) are compared to. Typhon is so bad that he was not only scarier than Hades, he frightened him.
    • Zombies are always depicted as this. A walking, living, brain-eating corpse any normal/sane person would definitely fear these creatures. And to make things worse, think of how many people die, since the creations of graves...yes consider us humans screwed.
  • Norse Mythology
    • Jörmungandr and Fenrir. When there's prophecies running around about how you're going to end the world you tend to get this.
    • Odin the Allfather himself. He has over 200 recorded names and titles and half of them are about what a scary guy he is.
  • Egyptian Mythology: Apep/ Apophis. He was so terrifying, the Egyptians built temples to prevent him from coming to them.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Grisaia No Rakuen, during the climax, Yuuji invades the floating fortress of Heath Oslo. Heavily outnumbered and arriving almost unarmed, he goes out of his way to fight in as terrifying a way as possible in order to sow confusion. He baits people and then destroys them, completely crushing the morale of his opponents.

  • The Irregulars from Tower of God. Normally, people who climb the Tower to get their deepest desire fulfilled have to be Chosen and are invited as Regulars. Not these guys. They came and kicked the metaphysical doors open by themselves and every time that happened, the Tower underwent drastic changes. Five Irregulars are known. One was a man-made god who defeated the entire ruling structure of the Tower and then simply disappeared. Before him came a person who slew a Physical God and could create life. The third followed the former into the Tower, climbed it ten times faster than anyone elsenote  and built a N.G.O. Superpower that rivals the government. The fourth one was almost completely immune to magic and could copy any spell on sight. And the last one was an incredibly normal girl who stabbed her best friend in the back. People are not very fond of Irregulars. They are afraid of them.
  • Kore in Goblins has a tendency to induce Oh, Crap moments in those he meets, or even those who hear stories of him, particularly since he has utterly no qualms about killing anyone if he perceives them as evil, and is said to have fought entire armies and won. Even a fellow dwarf paladin refers to him as "the Cursed Scourge of the Realm". And then there's how he Would Hurt a Child...
  • Homestuck.
    • Jack Noir is a fairly light hearted take on this. Due to some alternate timeline stuff, not always so lighthearted.
    • Doc Scratch, who is feared by anybody knowing him (including Jack). He has nothing on his boss Lord English, though; even Hussie (the author of the comic) is afraid of him.
  • Para Ventura from Schlock Mercenary is a hilarious variant. That's how she got enlisted—Captain Tagon knows the cost of a good reputation (just for comparison, that was the incident which didn't impress the dock bot).
  • In Our Little Adventure, Angelo invoked this feeling when he confronted Randi and Peganone during their quest to capture Umbria. He probably would have for Eva as well, but she retained her resolve due to her Paladin's fear immunity. What happened to Eva due to her not backing down and running away was accordingly horrifying.
  • In The Mansion of E, Uncle Frederick's bed-mate is called variously the Woman of Mystery or the Scary Lady.
  • Karin-dou 4koma: Seren is infamous as a brutal Person of Mass Destruction, with nicknames such as "The Human Solar Cannon" and "The Bomb Princess". Before Meguru actually met Seren, her mental image of Seren featured a Slasher Smile, glowing eyes, and claw-like fingernails. She's really not a bad person. She is still a Person of Mass Destruction, however.
  • Slade from Heart Core, The Dragon of Royce Lashiec. Not only does he love to cause even MORE pain than his master does, not only does Ame, the third strongest living demon so far, fear the mere thought of being in his precense, bu not even his own allies can be with him without fearing for their lives, knowing how he can at any point kill them just out of curiosity and boredom.
  • In "Axe Cop: The Moon Warriors", the Moon Warriors can't fight the Vampire Man Baby Kid on their own because he's too powerful and "scary". When Axe Cop sees him, even he says he's scary. Then they kind of forget about that and try to decapitate him in different ways.
  • In Rusty and Co., one very well-organized gang of villains had detailed dossiers on Rusty's crew and all the people who are likely to help them. When Princess shows up and they open her file, the mugshot shows her snarling at the camera from behind her oncoming fist and the notes "DO NOT ENGAGE. EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. RUN."
  • The Old Heterodynes in Girl Genius were this. In a world filled with depraved Mad Scientist warlords, the Old Heterodynes were a particularly egregious example... Until the Heterodyne Boys, Bill and Barry, redeemed the family. The current scion, the titular heroine Agatha, has proven to have the capacity for good like her father Bill... and the capacity for brutality of her forefathers.
    • Apparently Agatha's uncle Barry did something to make the Big Bad fret at the mere offhand-dismissive mention of him, fearful that it might invoke another encounter with him.

    Web Original 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • Mr. Popo, who the rest of the cast are quietly terrified of (and in Goku's case, loudly terrified). The only ones who aren't scared of him and Kami and Piccolo.
    • The Ginyu Force and Freeza both scare Vegeta, who has spent most of his life living under Freeza's rule. When Vegeta realizes that Freeza has summoned the Ginyu Force to Namek, he panics. And when Freeza himself shows up during one of Vegeta's angry rants, he stops mid-sentence out of sheer terror. Though he manages to overcome his fear of both the Ginyus and Freeza and fight them.
  • Kirby from There Will Be Brawl, or as he is known in the series, "The Cannibal". Suffice to say Mario is rather reluctant to let Peach visit him when she looks for information about The Butcher.
  • The Meta from Red vs. Blue. Given its utterly ruthless demeanour in battle, the massive gun it carries, and the the variety of additional abilities it can avail of from the AIs that it captured, it's understandable why the first instinct that many of the main characters who come across it is to run for the hills. It even manages to go toe-to-toe with Tex, who's renowned in the series as being a One Woman Army.
  • Near the end of Ruby Quest, one of the most dangerous and insane mutants is found crying in a corner because Ace is coming.
  • BKCRMWDJVG of the Whateley Universe. When even a small part of it is let onto Earth, it causes insanity and terror and Mind Rape just by revealing its true appearance.
  • That Guy with the Glasses:
    • Atop the Fourth Wall: Lord Vyce. Interestingly, virtually no one except Vyce himself has heard of the far more dangerous Entity he was battling.
    • Less eldritch-y, but Todd in the Shadows visibly sinks lower every time The Nostalgia Chick tries to get him to spend time with her. Considering some of the things she's done, his fear is very justified.
    • Linkara himself, at least according to The Nostalgia Critic.
      "Keep your voice down, Sci-Fi Guy! He can smell geek!"
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-173 is a living sculpture that kills its victims when they break eye contact with it. What puts it firmly in this category, however, is that 682, the regenerating lizard that just doesn't die and hates all life on earth, only yelped in what appeared to be terror and stared at it for hours when put in the same room, growing new eyes when they were shot out so 173 could do its thing. When you scare the crap out of this thing, you know you're feared. From Dr. Clef's 001 Proposal, this is a creature so powerful that Able refuses to go anywhere near it.
    • One SCP isn't an artifact but a location, an ancient prison somewhere in the desert that used to hold something horrible and only referred to as "bastard son of Apep" (see the Mythology folder). Used to.
  • Endbringers and Class S supervillains in Worm have this status: Nilbog and the members of the Slaughterhouse Nine. Of the latter, Jack Slash's superpower (being able to extend the cutting edges of his knives to a near-unlimited range) is not nearly as frightening as his ability to pull together a team of the most murderous sociopaths in the world and terrorize entire cities with them.
    • Among the Slaughterhouse Nine, there is one who inspires more dread than any other, even within their ranks: Gray Boy. When Jack decided to have all the past members cloned by a factor of nine each, Gray Boy was the sole exception. Bonesaw guesses that one Gray Boy is all Jack could hope to control.
    • When he was running the Nine, King held this position. Lasted even after Jack Slash and Harbinger killed him, apparently, considering that Jack didn't have Bonesaw clone him at all. Or maybe Jack just didn't want a power struggle.
    • Skitter is also starting to be added to the list by some circles, due to her creative use of her power and propensity for winning fights that are way out of her league.
    • The most feared of all is the Sleeper. When he portals to another world and "subsumes" it, everyone simply writes it off as a lost cause. Khepri, having gathered every cape she can find in every universe and the Endbringers to her service, sees him sitting peacefully on a lawn chair and decides to leave him alone.
  • Mario Brothers has King Koopa, who is portrayed as a terrifying, nigh-unstoppable villain.
  • The Slender Man is a walking Brown Note, a living Meaningful Background Event and the single most terrifying Invincible Villain of all time. He also looks creepy as hell. Understandably, no one goes near him willingly. Maybe.
  • In the Noob webseries and comic, Dark Avenger is heavily implied to have been the most feared Player Killer of the game before he got in his Mistaken for Badass situation with Sparadrap. The Game Master seen in the comic shows his Wanted Poster among two others, the two other being Tenshirock and Ash.