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Bandit Clan

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The family that slays together stays together.

"The last of our steers on the board has been spread,
And the last flask of wine in our goblet is red
Up up, my brave kinsmen! belt swords and begone,
There are dangers to dare, and there's spoil to be won."

Sometimes crime is a family business even when the family doesn't live in an urban environment. This clan or extended family lives in a rural or wilderness area, away from civil authorities, and makes a living by either robbing passers-by or traveling to raid farms, manors, and villages. This can extend to 'protection' schemes similar to those used by urban criminal organizations, but otherwise there is little overlap in their activities. Like The Mafia, these groups tend to be strong practitioners of blood feud, and unwilling to involve outside authorities in their disputes.

These groups are rare nowadays, as there are very few areas left sufficiently lawless to sustain them, but they can appear in historical fiction, fantasy, and any type of science fiction that involves the Final Frontier. They tend to have a warrior culture that honors strength, cunning, and ruthlessness, and tend to be big fans of cattle theft, as well as a good old fashioned Rape, Pillage, and Burn. While the family business isn't usually murder specifically, they aren't shy about killing anyone who stands in their way (or annoys them, or looks at them funny...), so many will have elements of an extended multi-generational Family That Slays Together. They may well be a Badass Family as well, when the outright criminality of the lifestyle is downplayed or because Evil is Cool. They are usually land-based, but seagoing and spacefaring pirate clans also fall under this trope.

Subtrope to The Clan. Compare The Mafia, Barbarian Tribe, Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!, Generic Ethnic Crime Gang, Wretched Hive (where these clans often reside). Particularly depraved and horrific examples may overlap with Cannibal Clan.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The main antagonist of Ichi the Killer is the leader of a bandit clan who descend down from the nearby caverns to bully around the villagers who run the local Inn.
  • Inuyasha: Inuyasha and Kagome's adventures through feudal Japan had them encountering numerous bandit clans, some of which were being led by a demon in disguise. For the first bandit clan that Kagome and Inuyasha encounter, a Shikon Jewel shard was reanimating the corpse of their dead leader, and it was Kagome who noticed he was dead to begin with. When she started loudly ordering everyone to be careful of the now rampaging corpse, all the bandits declared her to be their new leader. She loudly objects to that as well.
  • Bandits have appeared in the background of One Piece, mostly in Luffy's home village. They're presented as sort of the Foil for pirates, sticking to one region instead of setting out on long journeys (and, perhaps consequently, we haven't seen a bandit strong enough to pose a threat to the main cast). None of the bandit tribes are ever confirmed to be family units, the tribe we see the most of calls itself one and acts like one.

    Comic Books 
  • The Beagle Boys from the Disney Ducks Comic Universe are a family of hundreds of criminal brothers led by their mother, Ma Beagle. Every one of the Beagle Boys wears a domino mask and is known only by his prisoner ID number.
  • The Judge Dredd universe has the Angel family, a clan of disfigured misfits who live in the Cursed Earth, preying on the occasional traveler. They are also cannibals (in the 1995 movie) and sometimes, their nefarious plots lead them into Mega City One.
  • Lucky Luke features chronic adversaries The Dalton Brothers, as well as their cousins who appeared at first, and their mother, who appears in one album as well.

    Fan Works 
  • Linked in Life and Love: As in canon, Raven and Qrow hail from a bandit clan in Mistral. However, Raven is a much better person here, who only returned to the clan when she had no choice but to leave her family. She started suggesting things like "mercy" and "not killing everyone they come across," which brushed the leader the wrong way, so he challenged her to a duel to put her in her place. She easily trounced him, making her the boss, and immediately started making changes. While she had some trouble at the start, by the time of the story the Branwen Private Defense is a respected mercenary company.
  • War of Remnant: A RWBY Anthology: Qrow and Raven come from the Branwen tribe, like in canon. Their parents lead the tribe before them, sneaking them to Beacon to prepare for them to take over, but both didn't return after becoming better people at Beacon. Unlike in canon, Raven returned to the tribe for much more sympathetic reasons than in canon.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, Sun Yee apparently defeated one of these that was threatening her village using the red panda transformation.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Hills Have Eyes (1977): The Clan famously murder and eat travelers, but they also rob them, stealing food, equipment, and trinkets to barter to Grandpa Fred.
  • "The Rivers" segment of How the West Was Won features Walter Brennan as "Alabama Colonel" Hawkins, the leader of a clan of river bandits who prey on unsuspecting settlers moving westward into the Illinois Country.
  • I Shot Jesse James: The film focuses on the real-life James clan, led by Jesse James and his brother Frank. The Ford brothers Robert and Charles make up the rest of the group, and it's Robert's machinations that lead to the clan's destruction.

  • The Sawney Bean family is the crossover between this and Cannibal Clan. This legendary family supposedly lived in a sea cave and attacked and ate travelers.

  • The Candlemass Road, by George Macdonald Fraser, is a novel set on the border, following a young noblewoman who inherits an estate hard by the Border. Her father kept the Reivers off, but he is dead and his men dispersed.
    • The Reavers is a remake of The Candlemass Road, featuring substantially the same setting and cast of characters, but a more comedic tone and storyline.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo more or less presents Italy as entirely comprised of these, but in particular, the Count's valet, Bertuccio, is a former bandit and comes from a family of bandits.
  • The General Series:
    • The Skinners live in clan grouping and survive mostly by hunting the native sauroids, but their primary interaction with other cultures is to Rape, Pillage, and Burn. Not necessarily in that order.
    • Antin M'Lewis is described as a hereditary livestock thief, having learned the trade from his father and uncles.
  • Tariff ibn Hassan is the patriarch of a notorious bandit clan in The Lions of Al-Rassan.
  • In the historical novel Lorna Doone, the Doone clan are a family of aristocratic background who having fallen on hard times, become bandits who terrorize Exmoor, the novel's setting.
  • In S. M. Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers, the Pashtun clan that Ibrahim comes from appears to make their living in this way. The clan of air pirates which attacks the zeppelin towards the end of the book are also examples.
  • The Shipping News: Quoyle, a mild-mannered Extreme Doormat, is surprised to find out that his Newfoundland ancestors were Salvage Pirates that used lights to lure ships onto rocks, where they would crash, allowing the Quoyles to harvest the wrecks for goods.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Vale mountain clans (not to be confused with the Northern mountain clans, who are peaceful and law-abiding) are a loosely-affiliated group of clans who live in the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon, and appear to make a living at least partially through banditry, preying on travelers to and from the Vale of Arryn. In the first novel, Tyrion recruits several clans (among them the Black Ears, Burned Men, Milk Snakes, Moon Brothers, and Stone Crows) to the Lannister cause by promising them arms and armor with which to conquer the Vale.
    • And the wildlings have their own version of the Sawney Bean myth, the Cannibal Clan of Gendel. They probably don't exist, but then, neither do the Others, probably.
  • The Steel Bonnets, by George Macdonald Fraser is a history of the Scottish Reiver clans, and the lawless border
  • Susan Price's novel The Sterkarm Handshake is about time travelers from the 21st century dealing with the Sterkarm clan of Border Reivers. The Sterkarms are left-handed, and the titular handshake is when they shake with their right while getting ready to stab you with their left.
  • In SA Swann's Terran Confederacy universe pirate clans haunted space near wormhole exits. Tjaele Mosasa was a member of such a clan.
  • The Pack, violent outlaw bikers from the Ukiah Oregon series, form a peculiar example. They're not related in the ordinary sense, but under the skin they're all the same creature.
  • The titular Doones of Lorna Doone are an aristocratic family turned to banditry in the wilds of Exmoor following a family feud which resulted in their patriarch disowned and outlawed. They generally run wild among the locals due to a mixture of fear, local corruption, and lingering respect for their aristocratic heritage. Part of the conflict is that Lorna herself, a generally sweet and innocent sort of person, falls in love with a local farmer whose father was murdered by the clan.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a longform sketch on The Benny Hill Show filmed in and for Australia, Hill plays "Benny Kelly, son of Ned Kelly," and the Kelly gang is presented as an extended family.
  • Game of Thrones: The clansmen Tyrion recruits in the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon make a living raiding and preying on travelers along the road to the Vale.
  • Justified:
    • The Crowder family are a bandit clan in the process of transitioning into a more modern organized crime family. Under the leadership of family patriarch, Bo, the Crowders started out as thieves and hijackers of drug shipments, before extending their activities to include running a protection racket that encompassed every other criminal enterprise in Harlan County. Following Bo's release from prison, the clan assumed direct control of the Harlan County meth trade, while still running their protections schemes; with his death, his son, former Right Wing Militia Nut Boyd, moved the surviving family members into more typical organized crime activities, controlling heroin distribution and prostitution—though he's not above the occasional bank robbery or act of domestic terrorism.
    • The Bennett family were a rural clan of moonshiners and marijuana dealers who utterly dominated the township that bears their name, with Evil Matriarch Mags Bennett acting as the uncrowned ruler of the town, while her sons, Doyle, Dickie, and Coover controlled the police and local criminal underworld. Under their rule, Bennett township is closed to outsiders, with the townsfolk utterly refusing to cooperate with the Kentucky State Police and US Marshals' Service for fear of retaliation from Mags or her boys.
    • The Crowes are an extended family of smugglers, poachers, and hijackers with branches in both rural Kentucky and the Florida Everglades. A gang of Opportunistic Bastards at heart, the Crowes hire themselves out to other criminal groups like the Machado family and Boyd Crowder's gang as muscle, before betraying their employers and taking control of whatever enterprises they might have been involved in. Over the course of Season 5, family patriarch Daryl Crowe Jr and his brothers involved themselves in smuggling sugar from Cuba, poaching alligators, prostitution, transporting Mexican heroin, and multiple counts of murder for hire all in the name of Daryl's obsession with keeping the family together.

  • There is a category of Scottish folk music called "Border Ballads", which are often about the Reiver Clans. These songs include:
    • "The Ballad of Little Jock Elliot", a brag song about a leader of the Elliots, one of the most powerful Reiver clans.
    • "Lock the Door Larriston", which is about a feud between two such clans
    • "The Moss-Trooper's Lament'", composed after the unification of the thrones of England and Scotland and the consequent elimination of the lawless border. The song complains that the former reiver lifestyle must be abandoned for a boring farmer's life.

  • Cactus Canyon has the Bart Brothers (Big Bart, Bandelero, and Bubba), three Wild West bandits that must be defeated as part of the game.

  • "The Ballad of East and West" deals with the leader of such a clan who steals a British officer's horse. The officer's son rides after him to retrieve it, and after impressing the bandit with his courage and manliness does so.

  • Chief Petty Officer Pertwee of The Navy Lark represents an unusual example: He has sold out of Navy Stores everything from blankets to battleships, and the Pertwee Clan has been selling Naval stores ever since the Battle of Trafalgar. It's a tradition.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Hunter: The Vigil: The Slasher book brings us Freaks and Mutants, deformed killers who often pull together in inbred familial groups, and who survive, usually in rural areas, but sometimes in no-go areas of cities, via robbery and murder, with more extreme versions becoming full-on Cannibal Clans.

    Video Games 
  • The Borderlands series: Bandit clans serve as the primary source of Mooks, where the game's primary setting: Pandora is rife with them; they're all descended from the original inhabitants of the Dahl Corporation's penal colonies that were abandoned when said corporation lost interest/control of the planet, and later bolstered in numbers by ex-Crimson Lancemen after the original Atlas Corporation fell apart during the events of the first game, Borderlands. They can stray into Gang of Hats territory (bikers, pirates, rednecks, Irish, etc.) but are usually filled with the same unstable, psychotic bandits out for blood, loot, and the shiniest meat bicycle.
    • Subverted in Borderlands 3 where the bandit clans have put aside their differences and merged into a singular Cult called the Children of the Vault dedicated to and under the leadership of the game's antagonists: the Calypso Twins. Although becoming a cult has done little to curb their ubiquitously psychotic temperament.
  • In Darkest Dungeon, one of the recurring enemies are the Brigands. They were originally mercenaries hired by the Ancestor to put down peasant uprisings. After the Ancestor's suicide and the loss of their payroll, they've formed a bandit clan to plunder the land. They manage to be a threat that rivals the more supernatural foes in the game thanks in large part to being one of the only foes that make use of gunpowder. One of the bosses in the game is their trump card: a massive cannon capable of wiping out entire parties of your heroes if you let it get a shot off.
  • The first recurring enemies in several Fire Emblem games have the player characters facing off against local bandit clans. This is a decent way to ease into the series as the hero usually has swords, which have the advantage over the axes that bandits prefer. Later in the game, you typically fight the evil Empire whose soldiers favor lances and swords to outdo or match your main character.
  • Genshin Impact has the Treasure Hoarders, a gang of bandits that are present all over Teyvat and serve as go-to generic mooks for low-scale conflicts.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY, Qrow and Raven Branwen were raised by such a clan early in life.  They left long enough to attend Beacon Academy, but Raven returned and eventually became the leader.  Raven is mad at Qrow for not coming back with her, while Qrow is mad at Raven for leaving all their friends behind, not to mention Raven's own daughter, Yang.

    Real Life 
  • The Border Reivers, as mentioned above, haunted the Anglo-Scottish border from the 13th to the 17th centuries, during which time England and Scotland both claimed the land, and thus neither could station troops or sheriffs there. Thus, English and Scottish law alike allowed for the summary execution without trial by anyone who could for those caught 'red handed' (i.e., bloody from violence) in the commission of such a raid.
  • Historically, many residents of the Hindu Kush and Afghanistan have made a living in this way, as in The Peshawar Lancers. These were a constant threat along The Silk Road.
  • Many of the Somali pirate crews operating today are composed of extended families. Somali culture features a clan structure, so often all or many men in a clan are involved with piracy. At times, foreigners have gotten hostages they took released through negotiating with or bribing elders in the clan.
  • In medieval western Europe, the line between this trope and the actual aristocracy was quite blurry, as local nobles would often flout the authority of the monarch and charge an exorbitant toll for passage through their land, then intimidate travellers into relinquishing their possessions when they couldn't pay. The 19th century neologism "robber baron" was originally coined to describe this phenomenon.