"I'm the bloody Kingslayer, remember? When I say you have honour, that's like a whore vouchsafing your maidenhood."
In fiction, oaths are powerful things. They bind demons. They bind honour. They create pacts that grant great power. They are things to be respected, feared, and fulfilled.
And then there is the Oath Breaker.
This is the character that has broken a oath of some sort be it magical
or mundane and now is forever branded by his misdeed. Sometimes they see this as almost a trophy. Sometimes this is seen as a mark of shame. It almost always brands the character as a pariah until they manage to restore their lost honour.
This is not just a character that has broken a social taboo. They need to have broken something that they have personally sworn. May be the result of a Frequently-Broken Unbreakable Vow
Some characters will feel this even after Releasing from the Promise
or the oath's becoming impossible to fulfill.
It is not unknown for a character to beg another to allow something that would technically
fulfill the vow to avoid this.
Often follows from someone saying I Gave My Word
, Blood Oath
, or Heroic Vow
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- In Planet Hulk, Hiroim the Shamed is a member of the Hulk's Warbound, sworn allies for life. Hiroim, however, was ostracized from his people for breaking a previous Warbound pact, and accordingly given the appellation of "the Shamed" to forever mark his treachery.
- In Sandman by Neil Gaiman: "As this blood is shed, so spills your blood, Ruthven Sykes, adept of the 33rd, whose secret name is Ararita... Traitor and Oath-Breaker." Cue skull implosion.
- While Cyclops of the X-Men has numerous other issues, one thing that people throw in his face every now and then is how he married Madelyne Pryor, fathered a child with her, and then ditched them the minute Jean Grey came back from the dead. (During Inferno, Mr. Sinister claims to have psychically manipulated Cyclops into that betrayal, but even Chris Claremont, the guy who wrote that story, considers it a blemish on Cyclops' character.)
- In An Alternate Keitaro Urashima, Granny Hina tries to guilt-trip Keitaro into taking over the Hinata Inn by talking about how disappointed she is that he's forgotten all about his Childhood Marriage Promise. Keitaro retorts that he made that back when he was five. When she keeps pressing the issue, he reveals that she previously promised the Inn to his aunt Marumi, a more serious vow that she's since broken.
- Queen Of All Oni: This is how Karasu refers to Drago, as the latter swore an oath of loyalty to the Matriarch (Jade's future self) after she freed him from Verde's control, only to eventually betray her.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who: The Doctor considered his past self, the War Doctor, to be his own oath-breaker:
The Doctor: My name, my real name, that is not the point. The name I chose is the Doctor. The name you choose, it's like, it's like a promise you make. He's the one who broke the promise. Clara? Clara! He is my secret.
The War Doctor: What I did, I did without choice.
The Doctor: I know.
The War Doctor: In the name of peace and sanity.
The Doctor: But not in the name of the Doctor.
Table Top Games
- In Deadlands: Hell on Earth, Oathbreaker is specific disadvantage sykers can take. It means that they have broken 'the Oath of Unity', a promise to never attack a brother syker (generally interpreted as a syker from the same unit or one of its allied units).
- Changeling The Dreaming featured Oaths quite heavily. Characters who made oaths gained sizable bonuses, but those who broke their oaths lost far more. An oathbreaker was also heavily ostracized, and an entire noble house of The Fair Folk were treated as pariahs because they had broken a forgotten oath in ages past.
- Changeling: The Lost also puts heavy weight on oaths, but for different reasons. Breaking an oath earns you a measure of disrespect in changeling society, likely has tertiary consequences if you swore it on something important (e.g., your faith or your fortune), is a sin against Clarity... oh, yeah, and your Keeper is perfectly aware that you did it, and may likely be hobbled by the conditions of the broken pledge.
Mythology and Religion
- As The Other Wiki says, the most commonly accepted etymology derives the word "warlock" from the Old English waerloga meaning "oathbreaker" (from waer "promise, agreement" and loga "deceiver").
- Ironically, Oathbreaker is one of the names of Odin, head of the Norse gods. Given that intangible things like vows are supposed to be impossible for gods and the like to break (the god wolf Fenrir was bound by a ribbon made from such ingredients as the root of a mountain and the beard of a woman), the fact that Odin can do that is rather frightening, especially when he can extract vows from everything else in the world and expect them to be kept (like when he made all the things in the world, save one, give an oath to never hurt his son Balder).
- Samson fell after breaking his Nazarite vows.
- During the witch trial era, some pagans who gave their oath to secrecy broke that oath. Anyone who does so, male or female is known as a warlock. This literally means "oath breaker." So, calling your male Wiccan friend a warlock is highly offensive. Both male and female practitioners are called Witches (unlike in Harry Potter, which — in case you missed it — is not intended to be a guide to real-life practitioners of anything remotely occult).
- Cassiopeia of League of Legends was once a beautiful human woman who served as a spy for Noxus by seducing foreign diplomats. However, upon breaking an oath of secrecy to a certain Freljord noble, she was cursed and transformed into her current snake-like form.
- The premise of God of War: Ascension, which takes place before the first game, is that Kratos betrayed his blood oath to Ares when he left Ares' service after the god of war tricked him into killing his wife and child. The Furies who punish oathbreakers and are complicit with Ares' plan to conquer Olympus with Kratos' aid hunt Kratos and torment him with illusions trying to force him to return to Ares' service.
- Illidan Stormrage of World of Warcraft has not only turned his back on the kaldorei- his native people- but has also spurned the aid of Sargeras and Kil'jaeden, the highest commanders of the Burning Legion. He has thus been branded as "The Betrayer" and is loathed by both mortals and demons.
- In Girl Genius, Captain Vole is the only person who underwent the transformation into a Jagermonster who has broken his oath of Undying Loyalty to the Heterodynes. As a result, he is no longer considered a Jager by the others. Nor by himself, as he calls the other Jagers weak and takes pride in no longer being one of them.
- Eugene Greenhilt from The Order of the Stick went through his life leaving everything he ever started only half finished. The Blood Oath of Vengeance he took as an (ex-)apprentice is the first commitment of his to catch up to him. Leaving the oath unfulfilled by the time of his (permanent) death resulted in him being stuck on the wrong side of the heavenly gates in his afterlife. He spends most of his time in the series harassing his eldest child Roy to complete the oath for him by proxy. When Roy dies, he gets let into the Seven Heavens because he actually tried to fulfill that oath... which pisses off Eugene to no end.
- In Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger, a Confidantine skirts the edge of her vow in which she reveals to Quentyn, and they pounce on this clue. The crime they are trying to identify must have been terrible or she would never have gone so far. A Confidatine who breaks their oath is disconnected from their collective regressing them to infancy which is considered a Fate Worse than Death.