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Bastard Bastard

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"All my life I've played second fiddle to that weakling — why? Because his mother was a princess and mine was not. I'm the eldest son, but he was the Crown Prince, he lived in the royal palace, he dined with kings. Well, today the table is set for Rudolf — but it's Michael who's going to the feast."
Black Michael, The Prisoner of Zenda

Born with the shame of unmarried parents, the Bastard Bastard is marginalized at best, reviled and banished at worst (not to mention unable to inherit) — but unlike the Heroic Bastard, the Bastard Bastard is also a bastard in the other sense and the reason for the negative connotation of the word. His Parental Abandonment has created the ultimate Freudian Excuse. He's the Jerkass Woobie who's got it in for his father, his siblings, or maybe even the world. His issues have driven him to seek revenge or made him vulnerable to manipulation by the forces of Evil. Generally male, although female examples are becoming more common.

In older works, this can be seen as a Space Whale Aesop: Don't have sex outside marriage and have bastard children, because they will be evil. In these cases, the bastard's evilness can be a sort of Moral Lamarckism — that the moral failings of your forebears express themselves in a taint on your own soul or karmic bank balance.

This trope can be found in any society where rank or wealth can be inherited if it also has a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate offspring — making it Older Than Dirt.

While not exactly a Discredited Trope, the subversion is more common today. Modern audiences have a less stringent view toward children and wedlock and tend to be more accepting of a literal bastard character. While modern settings don't really make use of this trope, as plenty of modern fiction deals with settings that draw inspiration from the middle ages—particularly high fantasy, but plenty of other genres too — it'll continue to be relevant for as long as people want to write about aristocracies and so forth.

Stands a good chance of being a Manipulative Bastard. While it's possible, he is unlikely to be a Magnificent Bastard. There's nothing magnificent about this quivering pile of parental issues. Don't you dare compare him to his legitimate brother. Inversions belong to Heroic Bastard.

A subtrope of The Resenter.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dawn of the Arcana: Cain, the blond older brother of Caesar, because apparently, black hair is very important in the royal country. He's got quite a grudge for it.
  • Romeo × Juliet has Lord Montague himself, who is also responsible for the series' other bastard-born character.
  • PandoraHearts has Jack.
  • The Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin version of Char Aznable/Casval Rem Deikun is technically illegitimate, as his mother is The Mistress rather than his father's wife. "Technically" because his family wasn't hiding their relation and Char originally used his father's surname. Either way, Char grew up to be one of the prime examples of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder in anime, eventually culminating in Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack when he attempts a Colony Drop with the intention of destroying the Earth. His sister Sayla/Artesia took the opposite path as a Heroic Bastard despite having the same background.
  • Gremy Toto from Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ is a murderous schemer who claims some blood relation to the Zabi family, but definitely isn't a legitimate child. Although the show itself doesn't specify how, the writers stated in a guidebook he was intended as the genetic son of Gihren Zabi, but not his bastard in the conventional sense—rather, he was conceived in-vitro as part of a eugenics program.
  • Towards the end of Ceres, Celestial Legend, we learn that Kagami is this. His mother was the second wife of his stepfather and he was her bastard child, meaning that he actually has no blood ties to the Mikage.
  • In Hellsing, Enrico Maxwell, as a child, was ridiculed for being the son of a mistress and abandoned to the church. When he grew up, he became a religious extremist and a genocidal sociopath.
  • Fantastic Children has Dumas, a melodramatic and arguably Sissy Villain born out of wedlock and to the king's brother to boot. Subverted in that he doesn't actually want the throne. He just wants his sister to go back to Greecia so they can be together. It's his father, a literal Big Bad, who wants the throne.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
  • Prince Dimiksy in Heavy Object is knee-deep in corruption and nepotism, including being connected to the assassination of other claimants to the throne of Volga. The suspected reason is that claims of his birth mother being a "surrogate" are a lie covering up the King's indiscretion. As Volga is a matrilineal country this would leave him with no right to the crown unless he can wipe out all the legitimate heirs and make himself the only option for a continuous line. After his death, his co-conspirators admit they were hiding DNA tests proving his illegitimacy.
  • Tokyo Ghoul:
    • The One-Eyed Owl aka Eto Yoshimura, as her parents were never officially married, although by all indications they loved her very much. Given how she spent her formative years living in the most dangerous ward in Tokyo, with understandable hatred towards her father for leaving her since she was an infant while he led a happier life with others such as the staff of Anteiku, and questioning her mother's intentions of uncovering The Conspiracy, she's too much broken to even see that her parents genuinely love her despite their misguided intentions, even referring herself as a surplus between her parents.
    • Furuta Nimura aka Kichimura Washuu, the illegitimate child of the CCG's chairman from Tokyo Ghoul:re. Although at first they appear to be a decent person, it's later revealed that this is a facade, and once their true nature and parentage is revealed, they become the main antagonist of the story.
  • Tweeny Witches: Lennon's parents lived together as a couple but were forbidden to marry because his mother passed the witch evaluation and his father was an ordinary human. The stigma of his mixed — and thus illegitimate — parentage is exactly why he's a villain.
  • Fena: Pirate Princess has Abel Bluefield, illegitimate son of the king of England. His obsession with Helena des Armoises leads him to use, abuse, and abandon people around him with a second thought if it brings him closer to his goal of being with her again. His half-sister, Fena, is the polar opposite.
  • Henkyou no Roukishi Bard Loen: Owald, the adopted son of Rintz's earl Simon Epibalez, decides to sell him and his guests out to Gyenzera Pain and Kaldus Coendera to secure his own position.
  • Adolphe Thiers was born out of wedlock. In Isabelle of Paris, he's the Big Bad.
  • Voltes V: Emperor Zambajil is the Greater-Scope Villain of the series. He is the son of the 123rd Emperor of Boazania and his favourite courtesan. Wanting to usurp the throne from Gohl (who was of legitimate blood), Zambajil had his cronies find dirt on him and expose his dark secret to the public. When Prince Heinel was born, Zambajil wanted to kill him, but the power of Oral prevented him from doing so. In the Grand Finale, he shows his true colours as a Dirty Coward and tries to flee the vengeance of the innocents he's hurt.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: One version of Scarecrow's backstory has him born out of wedlock to a teen mother, whose own mother threw her out afterwards, then *her* mother, Great-Grandmother Mary Keeny, raised him alone. The stigma of being a bastard gave her an excuse to torment and terrify him, often locking him in an old church to set the crows on him if he stepped a toe out of line. As Jonathan Crane was born in a small town in rural Georgia, it's implied other kids bullied him for his bastard status as well as being small and easily intimidated. That he grew up to be a fear-obsessed supervillain who turns his pain on others speaks volumes.
  • The Books of Magic: Timothy Hunter's stepbrother Cyril Ransome is indicated to be born out of wedlock and also happens to be an extremely selfish prick with an obnoxious sense of entitlement.
  • Catwoman: Subverted; Some incarnations of Catwoman are the illegitimate daughter of Gotham-based mafia don Carmine Falcone and his mistress. Selina Kyle grows up with no knowledge of her parentage since Falcone cut ties with her mother before she was born, condemning them to live in poverty. Catwoman, even at her worst, has stronger morals than the most honorable version of her possible father.
  • Dynamo5
    • Cynthia. Out of all of Captain Dynamo/William Warner's illegitimate children, she was the one most interested in using her powers for her own gain rather than helping Tower City. It is implied that she and her mother were taking advantage of Captain Dynamo/William Warner's death to impersonate him to increase their power base.
    • Father Gideon/Michael. The son of Maddie and her former fiance Tom, from when their relationship fell apart and Maddie left Tom two weeks before their wedding. While Maddie wanted to be in Michael's life, Tom sued for full custody, and after an ugly custody battle, Maddie backed off. According to Maddie, Michael was a troubled child in boarding school who did horrible things to the other children. He was angry at Maddie for abandoning him and blamed her for his father's death because Tom became an alcoholic and his liver gave out. He takes the alias Father Gideon to get close to Cynthia, restore her memories, seduce her to get her to work together with him to kill Dynamo 5 and his mother while promising to help free Cynthia's mother, which he does not plan to do.
  • Manhunter: It's eventually revealed that Kate's birth father Walter Pratt is one of these since he's the child of Iron Munro and Sandra Knight, the original Phantom Lady and was given up for adoption after birth. The reason he hasn't been around? He's been in prison for killing Kate's mother in front of her when she was a baby, and when he shows up in the story it's because he's been diagnosed with blood cancer and needs Kate's blood, so he kidnaps his grandson and tortures Kate's ex-husband. Real stand-up guy.
  • Tom Strong: Tom has an Antagonistic Off Spring, but it wasn't his fault. His Abhorrent Admirer, Nazi superwoman Ingrid Weiss, potentially raped him while he was unconscious to steal his semen. Years later, she used that sample to have his son, Albrecht. By the time the two met, Albrecht was a young boy and already indoctrinated into his mother's creed, hating his father and wanting to destroy everything he loved for rejecting his mother. By the time he's an adult, he's a would-be world conqueror that Tom routinely defeats.
  • The Ultimates: The Red Skull is the illegitimate child of Captain America — and every bit as horrible as his mainstream counterpart, as among his deeds are being the In-Universe answer to "Who Shot JFK?" and telling the woman who'd become the Red Wasp that he'd spare her child if she killed her husband—only to go back on his word and kill the child, anyway, then have his men gangrape her.
  • Usagi Yojimbo: Tomoe's evil, bloodthirsty cousin Noriko is actually her half-sister due to Tomoe's father being in love with Noriko's mother, who happened to be Tomoe's mother's sister. When she confronted Tomoe's father he rejected her so she killed him, and poisoned her "step" father for being a weakling for good measure.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Oneiroi Series, Deirdre because she was an accident and her parents were on opposite sides of a conflict. (They were Redcloak and Vaarsuvius from The Order of the Stick.)
  • Hivefled: Gamzee was found by his bloodlink (trolls don't raise their own young so he had to be tracked down in later life) and horrifically abused, then found out he was produced when said bloodlink mated with his moirail, which is strictly forbidden on penalty of death and from Gamzee's point of view akin to finding that one's parents were siblings. Gamzee is now convinced that both his genetic line and his psyche are tainted forever, and is only resisting his Ax-Crazy urges for the sake of his own moirail.
  • One Less Lonely Gurl has C'ren, a bastard child who was abused by her father's wife.
  • Forum of Thrones:
    • Downplayed with Harris Flowers, being the Anti-Villain castellan of Raylansfair.
    • Played absolutely straight with Rodrik Stone, who is a kinslayer and rapist on top of being a major Jerkass.
  • In the Frozen fic The Queen of Hearts, it turns out Hans' oldest brothers hated him because he was illegitimate yet being raised as a prince. Hans himself doesn't know this. Hans is Elsa and Anna's older half-brother from when Queen Matilda was imprisoned during a war.
  • Zira in The Future of Our Past is Scar's illegitimate daughter. She isn't allowed to become his heir because she was born out of wedlock, which only makes her angrier and more aggressive.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Big Game: Hazar is allegedly the illegitimate son of an oil tycoon, and a certified Grade A psychopath. It's ambiguous how true this is, since Hazar is in actuality a loyal CIA operative, and the one who gave this background information on Hazar was actually his secret superior.
  • Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street isn't called "the bastard son of a 100 maniacs" for nothing. He was conceived when dozens of insane inmates in a mental asylum raped his mother Amanda, a nun who was working there. Freddy became a child-killer known as the "Springwood Slasher", and after his death at the hands of vigilante parents, he would rise again as the demonic dreamstalker that we all know and fear.
  • Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype: When Heckyl becomes handsome, he becomes evil. Also, the bald kinda homely Dr. Hoo becomes evil when he becomes the attractive Miss Finebum clone.
  • Fjölnir from The Northman is the bastard brother of Aurvandill and a murderous usurper.
  • Will of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is Robin's illegitimate half-brother, who blames Robin for their father abandoning him and his mother.
  • The Sabata Trilogy: Hero or not, Sabata is generally ruthless and self-centered, and the third film reveals he's the Son of a Whore. The same is true of opportunistic quasi-ally Clyde in the same film.
  • Played with by Lord Henry Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes (2009) who was conceived out of wedlock during a magical ritual. His mother dies during childbirth, he goes on to murder several people (including his father) and tries to seize control of the British Empire by making the world fear him. While Holmes mentions that he's a former member of the House of Lords, it's because his parentage was kept secret. Holmes only figured it out by comparing his facial features to that of the Lord Chief Justice and noticed a family resemblance.
  • General Hux from Star Wars is the illegitimate son of an Imperial commandant and a kitchen staff member. He's also an arrogant, overwhelmingly fascist Jerkass who thinks he's more important than he is (though compared to his comrades like Kylo Ren or Captain Phasma, he's also practically the First Order's Only Sane Man). Poe Dameron uses Hux's birth as the punchline of his Holding the Floor prank call, informing the General that he has an urgent message from Leia Organa... about his mother. An enraged Hux orders his men to open fire.
  • Tales of an Ancient Empire: Kara, who after learning she was born from a tryst between a human and a vampire, embraces her vampiric heritage, joining her mother.

  • Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series. The House of Festil had several of these, notably King Imre's son Marek (by his sister Ariella). King Donal Haldane has several, and Prince Conall Haldane has one born posthumously.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: The cast has many bastard children who come in many different varieties — some are Heroic Bastards while some are Bastard Bastards. Nine surnames are reserved solely for the use of natural children born of noble families while natural children of smallfolk are not granted a last name. These surnames differ, depending on the area of Westeros from which the illegitimate child with noble blood is from. While there are good-hearted and loyal illegitimate kids, such as one of the main protagonists Jon Snow who is of the heroic variety, there are Bastard Bastards out and about as well — such as Ramsay Snow Bolton and Joffrey Baratheon. Joffrey's bastardy isn't common knowledge, but his siblings (also bastard children) are genuinely decent and kind kids. Generally, while there are Heroic Bastards and Bastard Bastards, many others are just in the background trying to live life the best they can and are decent ordinary people, such as Mya Stone and Edric Storm.
    • Walder Rivers. He is known as "Bastard Walder", the eldest bastard of Walder Frey, and is a tough soldier and a bit of a jerk. But compared to some of his relatives — particularly Black Walder — he's positively noble, considering he comes from one of the nastiest Houses in Westeros. It is mentioned that he hates being a bastard and hates anyone who isn't. Jaime Lannister considers him more dangerous than his trueborn brothers.
    • Craster, a wildling North of the wall and uncertain ally of the Night's Watch, is the bastard of a Night's Watch ranger and wildling woman from Whitetree. He is called a "kinslayer, liar, raper, and craven". Craster is notorious for marrying his daughters — and don't get started on what he does to his sons. However, calling him a bastard is a Berserk Button for him.
    • Also, while Bastard Bastard is listed as an "Always Male" Trope, female versions occur in A Song of Ice and Fire. At Shield Islands, Lord Humfrey Hewett makes his illegitimate daughter Falia Flowers become a servant to her legitimate half-sisters and Falia is treated like absolute crap by her trueborn family due to her illegitimate status. When the Ironmen conquer her home and take them captive, Falia sides with the conquerors and enjoys exchanging clothes with her sisters and forcing them to serve her, even having an affair with the Ironmen's King Euron Greyjoy. Though considering how cruelly they were described as treating Falia, it may be a case of just desserts for the adults. However, it becomes too harsh since some of her sisters are just children and some of them are raped while their father is Forced to Watch. Falia's own fate is cruel as well and wins her some sympathy — after she becomes pregnant by Euron, he cuts her tongue out and ties her to his ship's prow.
    • The Sand Snakes, Oberyn Martell's eight bastard daughters. They're not as bad as most of the other examples (and some of them are little girls with not a lot of time given to them) but they're still not very nice and share most of their father's bad traits. However, it's easy to root for them since their new mission is to infiltrate the other realms in order to bring down the Lannisters, who are planning to kill their cousin and could be considered the primary villains of the series.
    • Aurane Waters, the Bastard of Driftmark (his family the Velaryons rule Driftmark). Cersei appoints him to the Small Council as Grand Admiral (Master of Ships), partially as he reminds her of Rhaegar Targaryen (the Targaryens and Velaryons are distantly related and both have Valyrian blood). However, when Cersei is imprisoned, Aurane flees King's Landing with the new dromonds and uses them to become a pirate. There are fandom theories that say he has other motives but, for the time being, he just looks like a greedy opportunist.
    • The Sadistic Ramsay Snow is, next to Joffrey, probably the best example A Song of Ice and Fire offers. Especially notable because his father Roose openly blames this on his "tainted blood." While Roose himself is evil, he largely engages in Pragmatic Villainy and is careful not to let his evil actions disrupt his plans, while Ramsay is a sadistic Serial Killer with a noble title and is threatening his father's own power with his wanton cruelty, to the point of possibly poisoning Roose's legitimate son Domeric so he could become heir. Ramsay hates being referred to as a bastard and murders people who say he is. He is considered by many people to be the evilest character in the series, which is a legitimately impressive feat considering the level of competition.
    • The "Great Bastards" of Aegon IV "The Unworthy", who legitimized them all on his deathbed out of spite at his only legitimate son, Daeron II "The Good". Daemon Blackfyre, bastard of Aegon and one of his Targaryen cousins, tried to overthrow Daeron and may have been persuaded into this by another of Aegon's bastards, Aegor Rivers "Bittersteel", who had a feud with his half-brother Brynden Rivers "Bloodraven" (their mothers were from Feuding Families Bracken and Blackwood). After Daemon was killed in battle by Brynden, Aegor continued trying to seat Daemon's descendants on the Iron Throne for the rest of his life. Even a century after his death, and over a generation after the extinction of the Blackfyres (at least in the male line) Daemon is still looked upon as an archetypal treacherous bastard by Westeros. Bloodraven plays with this, being a sinister figure who used ruthless methods to oppose the Blackfyres, the descendants of Daemon, even killing Daemon and two of his sons in battle, executing another of Daemon's sons despite an offer of safe conduct, and turning the Seven Kingdoms into a Police State with his spying methods when he was Hand of the King to Daeron's son and successor Aerys I. He was unpopular among the people and believed to be a sorcerer which seems to have been true, but seems to be one of the most morally ambiguous characters in a world full of such figures. The Reveal he is the Three-Eyed Crow adds to this.
    • Cotter Pyke, a bastard Ironman and Commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea at the Wall comes across as a bit of a jerk but is still obedient to the Night's Watch.
    • Historically there is Ronard Storm, bastard brother of Morden II Durrandon, who usurped his brother and imprisoned them, ruling the Stormlands.
    • Hugh Hammer and Ulf the White (or Ulf the Sot) were "dragonseeds" (illegitimate descendants of those of Valyrian blood) which helped them in claiming dragons. They were recruited by Princess Rhaenyra to fight for her claim. However, they ended up betraying her, joining the forces of her half-brother Aegon II, and sacked the town of Tumbleton, performing a mass of atrocities. The stigma against illegitimate children is shown when Rhaenyra declared all "dragonseeds" traitors and ordered their execution, despite others of illegitimate birth having shown themselves completely loyal. Addam Velaryon subverts this, despite Rhaenyra trying to have him arrested, and he ends up dying fighting for her cause at Tumbleton. Hugh and Ulf establish themselves as two of the nastiest characters in the Dance of the Dragons narrative, being selfish, hedonistic war criminals who take over Tumbleton as tyrants. They even try and usurp the crown themselves. As a result, they end up being killed by their own men.
  • The Chronicles of Amber:
    • Eric, bastard son of Oberon and Faiella of Karm locks his brother Corwin up and burns his eyes out with a red hot iron. Though among Oberon's sons, legitimate or otherwise, the ones who aren't scheming SOBs stick out. Corwin eventually realizes his rivalry with Eric comes from having a lot in common.
    • Due to a complicated morass of relationships, there are at least three living princes who can semi-legitimately claim that they are the true and proper heir to the throne of, essentially, all of creation:
      • Benedict is the oldest living child of Oberon and was born fully legitimate. Then Oberon had that marriage nullified in such a way that legally it never existed. Is he now retroactively a bastard? If so, then the heir becomes…
      • Eric, who was born to Oberon and Faiella (wife #2, but before she became wife #2) and was never officially recognized by Oberon as his child (Oberon did officially recognize a later bastard as his child), making him a questionable heir, in which case it devolves to…
      • Corwin, who is Eric's full brother, born after his mother was married to Oberon. Since she died before Oberon could get around to divorcing her, Corwin is the first in the line whose claim to the throne is absolutely unimpeachable (at least as far as legitimacy goes). He personally seems to think Benedict has the best claim should he choose to press it, but Benedict doesn't seem terribly interested, and Corwin definitely doesn't want Eric (who is a bastard in more ways than one) to have it.
  • Sort of Black Michael in The Prisoner of Zenda. He's a usurper and one of the villains of the novel, but he's more of an Anti-Villain, and atypically, he's the popular one; it's his brother, the King who is an insecure incompetent.
  • Abimelech, son of Gideon in the Book of Judges 8:29-9:56 is the Trope Maker. The good parts:
    (Judges 8:30 ESV) Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. And Gideon the son of Joash died...
    (9:5) And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone.
    (9:22) Abimelech ruled over Israel for three years. And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech.
    • Then, after a months-long conquering spree:
    (9:53) And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, "Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, 'A woman killed him.'" And his young man thrust him through, and he died. 55 And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home. 56 Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers.
  • Cesare Borgia, the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI, who crops up a lot in Machiavelli's The Prince, although a lot of what Machiavelli attributes to him was actually the work of his father…
  • Don't Look Back: This is a critical revelation to the mystery of protagonist Sam's amnesia and struggles to remember what happened the night that her best friend, Cassie Winchester, died. It turns out that the reason Cassie acted like a cruel, self-absorbed bully and turned Sam into an Alpha Bitch like her was out of her insecurity and desperation to be acknowledged by her and Sam's father, Steven, who fathered her out of wedlock with a mistress. She was envious of Sam for being his legitimate daughter, and acted as toxic as she did because she wanted what she had.
  • Female version: Senna Wales, from Everworld, who is the daughter of a human man and the witch who apparently seduced him. Definitely illegitimate, and definitely a bastard.
  • Downplayed in Maiden Crown. Tove is the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman who neglected her from birth, and although she isn't evil, she has a catty, spiteful streak out of possessiveness of her lover, King Valdemar, and her desire to keep him from abandoning her to fend for herself. This leads her to spread false rumors about his wife, Queen Sophie, having an affair.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Brokenstar. Since his mother, Yellowfang, is a medicine cat who is not allowed to have kits, he is considered illegitimate. His father, Raggedstar, who is also the leader of ShadowClan and his mother have to pretend that he is an orphaned kit, so as not to arouse suspicion. He murders his father to become leader.
    • Hawkfrost too. He's the son of Tigerstar and Sasha and is also a huge Jerkass- pinning down Sorreltail, getting Stormfur and Brook exiled, and kicking Beetlewhisker's corpse come to mind. It's quite obvious his father doesn't give a damn about him, but we're never told to feel sorry for him.
  • Implied with Vlad Tepes in Count and Countess.
  • Hadz in White as Snow is the bastard son of the king and he somehow not only becomes something of an underground crime lord, he has probably murdered several people and regularly rapes his own half-sister.
  • Laverham, a crime lord from Patricia Wrede's Mairelon the Magician, was the bastard son of a minor lord.
  • The killer in Tamora Pierce's Shatterglass uses this as his excuse to murder the yaskedasi.
  • Rhys ap Llewellynne ap Owain in Fiona Patton's The Granite Shield. Zigzagged by the tug of war between two opposing religions; one considers him a royal bastard, unable to take the throne, while the other sees his birth as immaterial and considers him the legitimate heir.
  • Brother Cadfael The novel Monk's Hood uses this trope interestingly: the bastard son is not on the list of suspects for a squire's murder, as, because he lives with his father but will inherit nothing, he has only to lose by his father's death... until Cadfael realises the bulk of the victim's property is in Wales, which has a totally different law, whereby bastards inherit the same as any other son, so it was worth poisoning his father before he could sign over his property to the church.
  • Played with in Doctrine of Labyrinths, where most people suspect late, treasonous consort Gloria Aestia's possibly-bastard son Shannon of monstrous intentions. In reality, while he's far too spoiled, sullen, and shallow (at least in the first two books) to qualify as a Heroic Bastard, his real ambitions are mainly limited to sniping at his ex-lover and attending every play performed in Melusine.
  • Achlesydd in The Realm of Albion is based on Edmund in King Lear, one of the ur-examples. So, of course, he fits the trope too.
  • Hoby, one of Arcamand's slaves in Powers. He's the son of the family patriarch and a Sex Slave, making him automatically a slave. He's mean, violent, resentful, and brutally bullies Gav. Then he participates in the rape and drowning of Gav's sister, Sallo. Then, late in the book, Gav finds out that Hoby is chasing him as a runaway.
  • The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy is an illegitimate child and a Serial Killer.
  • Malediction Trilogy: Lessa, daughter of king Thibault and a mixed-blood servant. Even though there is little human blood in her veins (she looks like a troll and is very powerful), legally she is still mixed-blood, which means a life of servitude in another troll household. No wonder she hates her father and would stop at nothing to gain what she perceives as her rightful position. At one point she even proposes a political alliance and marriage to her younger half-brother Tristan - who is already married - and when turned down, tries to kill him.
  • The Dark Wizard Of Donkerk: Rowan is a bastard, and one descended of the Queen, not the King. Therefore, he is not in the line of succession. However, it is debatable as to whether this actually drives him from evil. He notices that his father does not actually teach him the things he needs to do to rule, and therefore he assumes he is just The Un Favourite.
  • The Sherlock Holmes short story "The Priory School" has James Wilder, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Holdernesse. Resentful of the primogeniture laws in England, he schemes to have his younger legitimate brother kidnapped and held hostage to force the Duke to change his will and leave everything to him.
  • Captive Prince: Kastor, the illegitimate son of the King of Akielos, poisons his father and usurps the throne from his legitimate half-brother Damen. He has a Freudian Excuse in that he spent his first nine years expecting to become king, then lost his birthright when Damen was born.
  • Captain Blackheart in Shadow of the Conqueror, who is both an illegitimate son and a viciously cruel pirate.
  • Smerdyakov in The Brothers Karamazov, presumed to be the "other" brother, is quite the murderous schemer.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude: Arcadio is born of an affair between José Arcadio and Pilar Ternera, and grows up to be a murderous and tyrannical ruler of Macondo during the war.
  • In Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi, resentment fuels The Dark Arts, providing a path to power for the enterprising Bastard Bastard. For example, in the beginning, Mo Xuanyu, bastard son of Jin Guangshan, uses demonic cultivation to summon an evil spirit to destroy his aunt, uncle, and cousin and ends up bringing the protagonist Wei Wuxian back to life. The Big Bad turns out to be Jin Guangyao, fellow bastard son of Jin Guangshan.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder: In "Born to be King", Prince Edmund is revealed to have been born on the wrong side of the blanket. His identical descendant Lord Edmund Blackadder is also canonically a bastard. Both men repeatedly and underhandedly scheme to take the throne of England. In fact, given the endings of the four seasons, it's basically impossible for any of the Blackadders to be the descendant of the previous one without at least one intervening generation being illegitimate (1's wife was only just barely old enough to be capable of having children at the time of his death, 2 and 4 died bachelors, 3 - under a different name - did have a legitimate child, who died childless).
  • CSI: NY: A Spree Killer in "Manhattan Manhunt" is revealed to be the illegitimate son of a multi-millionaire. He commits murders out of resentment towards his father and half-sisters.
  • Game of Thrones: In Westerosi society, bastard children are often mistrusted as they are thought to be born of lust and deceit and believed to have a vested interest in their trueborn siblings' demise. Although Heroic Bastards Jon Snow and Gendry subvert this, Joffrey Baratheon, Ramsay Snow, and the three Sand Snakes play it straight. It's revealed that Joffrey is not Robert's son, but the product of Jaime and Cersei's Twincest. In the second season, he learns of it through Stannis' pronouncement and asks his mother about the terrible rumor he's heard about her and "Uncle Jaime". He orders the murder of Robert's illegitimate children as a form of insurance for his title as king. Ramsay is a modern Trope Codifier — not that his dad's a great guy, either. Much like Ellaria, the Sand Snakes don't really do much to disprove the negative views Westeros has of illegitimate children. As of Season 6, they've killed the legitimate heirs of their household to seize power for themselves. Lord Walder Frey's bastard son Black Walder Rivers is a downplayed case since while he's a bastard in both senses of the word, being illegitimate has little to do with morality with the Freys since his legitimate brother Lothar stabs a pregnant woman to death during the Red Wedding.
  • On Green Wing, Dr. Guy Secretan, an arrogant jerk and bully, is the illegitimate son of a Swiss ski instructor. Guy's parentage is revealed to the audience just before he becomes a literal and figurative motherfucker as well.
  • House: Dr. Gregory House's parents were married... just not to one another.
  • On How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson, Corrupt Corporate Executive and unscrupulous pick-up artist extraordinaire, believes himself to be the illegitimate son of game show host Bob Barker. Barney eventually admits this isn't true. Later, Barney and his brother meet their respective fathers and Barney seems better off for it.
  • The series Merlin (2008) has Morgana as a female partial subversion. The King has treated her as his daughter her entire life but has not told her that she actually is his daughter. When she discovers the truth, it leads to a rather jarring bit of artistic license when she attempts to assassinate her father and half-brother so she can claim the throne. When Morgana does claim the throne and crowns herself, the people refuse to accept her. So, while she thinks she should have a legitimate claim to the throne (and it's strongly hinted that, to her sister, this is just a bonus and they'd have seized the throne anyway), no one else does.
  • NCIS: Ari Haswari is the illegitimate son of Mossad Director Eli David and a Palestinian woman, born specifically to be The Mole in Hamas. After his mother is killed, he turns on his father and Israel.
  • On Once Upon a Time, Zelena is revealed to be Cora's illegitimate daughter and Regina's half-sister. She is extremely envious of her royal relatives and her main goal is to steal back the life that she believes should have been hers. This changes at the end of season five when it is discovered Zelena and Regina were once close as sisters but their mother Cora erased their memories of this period in their lives. Zelena and Regina regain these memories and their relationship is, for the most part, restored and Zelena is able to mostly let go of her envy.
  • In Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, a flashback episode for Jafar reveals he was a bastard son of the sultan, was abandoned, and kept as a servant to a cruel blacksmith. He goes to learn dark magic to get revenge on the Sultan and probably on everyone else.
  • The Palace: Subverted with Prince George. When his brother King Richard's legitimacy is in doubt, all four royal siblings take a DNA test just to be sure. Thinking he might turn out to be the rightful heir to the throne, George asks palace staffers for reigning advice with undisguised enthusiasm. The show really makes it seem like he will turn out to be illegitimate, so it's surprising when it doesn't happen.
  • Person of Interest: Elias. As an adult, he's a cunning and slippery mob boss. As a child, he saw his mother shot to death and ended up in foster care. He got his Start of Darkness when he tracked down his Mafia don father, hoping to become part of the family or at least part of the organisation, only to learn that his father was the one who ordered his mother's death—and he learns it from the assassins sent to kill him too. Decades later, he gets his revenge.
  • Red Dwarf: Rimmer is revealed in "The Beginning" to be the byproduct of an affair between his mother and the family gardener. He has also been shown to be a cowardly, sniveling Jerkass.
  • Sadakatsiz: Selçuk is the product of Haluk cheating on his then fiancé with a prostitute called Hicran. Selçuk is initially introduced as Nil's abusive boyfriend, who has stalker tendencies and hits her due to his anger issues. He even becomes one of Volkan's goons for a while, doing his dirty work—mostly, scaring Asya into leaving Tekirdağ— in exchange for money and as revenge for Asya helping Nil break up with him.
  • Scream: The TV Series: Piper Shaw, the season one killer, turns out to be the illegitimate child of Brandon James, motivated by parental abandonment, as she was born to Brandon and Maggie Duval (who was still named Maggie Anderson at the time of the conception) when they were teens. Having been born out of wedlock, Piper holds a lot of resentment for her mother, and her half-sister, and as such terrorizes them.
  • Smallville: Tess Mercer is The Baroness. She's a cold-blooded Broken Ace Corrupt Corporate Executive and Manipulative Bastard, and a Well-Intentioned Extremist who takes no crap from anyone, even after the reveal that she is Lionel Luthor's bastard daughter. Her Earth-2 counterpart, on the other hand, was raised by her father in the shadow of his legitimate children, is a whiny mess of Parental Issues who can't decide if she wants to be Daddy's Little Villain or stab him in the back, and is in an incestuous relationship with her adopted brother Clark. Jeez. What a difference an upbringing makes.
  • Star Trek:
  • In the Supernatural episode "The Things We Left Behind", Crowley the King of Hell asks his estranged mother who his father was. Since Crowley was conceived during an orgy long before the invention of the paternity test, she doesn't know.

  • Invoked in Goddess Creation System. Mingluan is not a bad guy relative to the rest of his family, but he gets passed over for an important position despite being more qualified and wanting it more because A. he's a bastard and B. he behaves too wildly. He gets stressed out from trying to act like his brother and then tends to act out, so he decides he needs to behave more maturely and do what he actually likes, which helps his reputation improve over time.

  • "Wrathchild", by Iron Maiden.
    My mother was the Queen, my father never seen, I was never meant to be
    Now I spend my time looking all around for a man who's nowhere to be found
  • "Your Lucky Day In Hell" by Eels from their album Beautiful Freak.
    Mama gripped on to the milkman's hand
    And then she finally gave birth
  • The World War II propaganda song "Schickelgruber" portrays Adolf Hitler as this:
    Schickelgruber! Schickelgruber!
    You were born a child of shame.
    You have always been a bastard,
    Even though you changed your name.

  • Mordred was the illegitimate son of King Arthur and his half-sister, and plotted against his father. Virtually every modern adaptation of Arthurian Legend has this, though usually in different ways. Special mention goes to the Merlin series, wherein Mordred's bastardry was ramped up. However, in the earliest references to "Medraut" very little is known about him, including his relationship with Arthur and whether he was friend or foe. The earliest myths to assign him a relationship to Arthur place him as a nephew but still don't assign him a Bastard Bastard role. That came much later.
    • Which half-sister it was varies from version to version. It's Morgause, and by mutual accident, in Le Morte d'Arthur; in T.H. White's The Once and Future King it's Morgause again, but by deliberate rape (and concealment of their relationship) on her part (considering she's a sociopathic sorceress in that version). Some versions lump her together with her more famous Hot Witch sister Morgan Le Fay and make her the mother (by rape or otherwise); others have Morgan as an aloof advisor to Arthur who's repulsed by the idea of sleeping with her brother and holds Morgause in extreme contempt for it.
    • Ironically enough, in Hector Boethius' Scotorum Historia, Arthur is portrayed as this himself, Boethius treating Arthur as Uther's illegitimate son and claiming Mordred, as the son of Uther's sister, was the legitimate heir. Arthur makes peace by making Mordred and their children his heir... then later makes someone else his heir, leading to the war that kills him and Mordred.
    • Inverted in La Légende du Roi Arthur, a French musical theater adaptation of the myths. Arthur, The Hero, is a Heroic Bastard, while his elder sister Morganne has all the hallmarks of this trope (scheming, duplicity, daddy issues, an obsessive focus on her unhappy childhood, resentment of Arthur's throne and inheritance, a tendency to dress in all black vs Arthur's heroic red and gold)- but she's the legitimate sibling. Arthur just also happened to be The Chosen One, so he still got everything Morganne thought should have come to her instead. The Takarazuka Revue production of the show has Morganne drop a hint that she's pregnant after tricking Arthur into sleeping with her in the guise of his wife, so presumably Mordred himself is still on the horizon.
  • Aigisthos, son of Pelopia, was raised by Pelopia's uncle Atreus as his own son. He was actually the result of Pelopia being raped by her father Thyestes and went on to murder his adoptive father Atreus and later also his adoptive brother Agamemnon, after seducing his wife Clytaimnestra. Later killed by Agamemnon's son Orestes.
    • This might be a case of Values Dissonance because Aigisthos did these things to avenge his father's suffering and his brothers' deaths at the hands of Atreus.
  • Hagen (in Scandinavian versions: Högni), the illegitimate (usually half-elven or half-dwarven) half-brother of Gunther/Gunnar started out as one of the protagonists of the story of the downfall of the Burgundians, but gradually evolved into the major heavy of later retellings as in the context of the Nibelungenlied, where he no longer is Gunther's kinsman. But even in early versions such as the saga of Atli (Attila), Högni does become responsible for Gunnar's death when he tells Atli that he and Gunnar are bound by oath not to reveal where the Burgundian hoard is hidden so long as both of them are alive. Atli then has Gunnar killed only to have Högni tell him that he is not going to tell him anyway. So Högni ends up dead too, but the secret dies with him.
    • He doesn't seem that villainous within context, considering in the Volsung Saga Gunther has him killed the same way. Character Exaggeration in "Gotterdammerung" turned him into the villain.
  • Mauregatus according to the Battle of Clavijo legend. He was the illegitimate son of the Asturian king Afonso I and his Moorish concubine (Mauregatus' name is derived from "moor") and he usurped his brother Afonso II, the rightful heir of the throne, with the help of the emir of Córdoba in exchange of sending him 100 maidens for his harem. As a result of instituting such a humiliating price, Mauregatus was assassinated by his own nobles. While this monarch is very obscure in Spanish history and the tribute is considered fabrication, his tomb bears an inscription in Latin "Hic iacet in Pravia qui pravus fuit" (Here in Pravia lies he who was depraved).

    Professional Wrestling 
  • What happens when Paul Bearer has an affair with the mother of The Undertaker? You get Kane!
  • British wrestler PAC is known to be quite a mean fellow when he's a heel, and in his own words, his parents hadn't yet been married when he was born, making him a bastard in the literal sense.

  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • One of the rituals in The Holy Terror is that the Queen always has two sons: one legitimate, one a deformed and evil bastard who will conspire to overthrow the heir.
    • The first episode of I, Davros reveals Davros' mother Calcula's husband was sterile when he was conceived and his real father was Counciller Quested. And Davros is about as evil as they come, having created the Daleks and wiped out his own race to do so.

  • Daigo from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues is the result of a one-night stand between his celebrity father and a low-class Japanese woman. His illegitimate status caused his father to abuse him, which in turn caused him to embrace his 'wickedness' and become a villain.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Forgotten Realms:
    • The series has a lot, especially Cormyr-related: Obarskyrs tend to be rather passionate in general, but due to the attitude and habits of Azoun IV an absurd amount of Cormyrean young nobles (and not only them) look embarrassingly alike. Some joined one of the coups, some are loyal to the official Obarskyr line's rule. Champions of Valor even had it as one of the alternative backgrounds, whereby "Bastard of Azoun" comes across as comparable in spread with "Bardic tutelage" or "Monastery Orphan". Although given that the background was printed in a book dedicated to rules for heroic characters, the subversion is probably far more common.
    • Similarly, this is the basic plot of the Baldur's Gate series, with Bhaal fathering thousands of bastards and the main character having to be one or be a Heroic Bastard to complete the game.
  • A Champions module features a team of supervillains called the Zodiac. Aquarius falls under this trope, being the son of King Henry VI and an unnamed peasant woman (who was later burned as a witch). His goal within the team is, naturally, to become king of England.

  • Edmund from King Lear. He gets a lengthy soliloquy on why his bastard status causes him to be treated as a lesser man than his brother Edgar. Unlike most examples, his noble father the Earl of Gloucester acknowledges and loves Edmund, but that's not good enough—he wants to be the heir, and he'll do what it takes to make it happen.
  • Don John from Much Ado About Nothing is also a bastard and a villain, but since he's in a comedy instead of a tragedy, he's less effective—albeit narrowly. If Hero had actually killed herself, he could have been as vile as Iago from Othello.
  • Depending on how you read Prospero's line "unnatural though thou art," his brother Antonio from The Tempest could be construed as this.
  • Hagen in Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung—the son of Alberich and queen Grimhild, the mother of king Gunther. The mastermind behind everything in the last day of the tetralogy, who also does not mind murdering Siegfried and Gunther himself to lay his hands on the Ring his father made.
  • Margin for Error invokes this trope with regard to Adolf Hitler, or "Mr. Schicklegruber," as Denny likes to call him:
    "Schicklegruber, that's Adolf's real name. His mother's name. His father never gave him one, as everyone realizes intuitively."

    Video Games 
  • Prince Weiss from Arc Rise Fantasia has shades of this as well as shades of Heroic Bastard. His Jerkass attitude led to quite a few people who believe that he shouldn't be on the throne because he's a concubine's son and acts war-hungry throughout the game, not hesitating to invade another country without any formal declarationsnote , his response to them is "Up yours". On the other hand, he was very protective and caring towards L'Arc, and he also knowingly got himself cursed trying to save his and L'Arc's mother. Then there's the fact that all of his actions, as horrible as they may be, is ultimately meant to free humanity from the clutches of religion, a goal the heroes soon pick up after his death.
  • In the Crusader Kings series, bastards can be quite problematic, although any of your children or relatives can end up rebelling against you if you do something that makes them angry (including fully legitimate heirs trying to unseat kings in their 70s, apparently out of impatience); bastards just have less reason to like you.
  • Marcello of Dragon Quest VIII straddles the line between this and Heroic Bastard. Born to a philandering rich guy who almost made him his heir, only to ditch him and his mother after his wife gave him a son, Marcello does work tirelessly to claw his way above the stigma of his social station, and does manage to make a name for himself… unfortunately, he does so by playing into the corrupt factions of the Church of the Goddess. Eventually, he goes sailing over the Moral Event Horizon with eyes wide open by publically refusing the position of Pope, rejecting his own religion as a farce, and threatening to kill anyone who doesn't accept his new dictatorship, robbing him of any sympathy... for most people.
  • Ethan Seed of Far Cry: New Dawn. Born of an affair between "Father" Joseph Seed and a woman called Megan before the events of Far Cry 5, Ethan wanted above all else to be allowed the power granted by the Fruit of Eden belonging to his father, and to be the heir to Joseph's new Cult, New Eden. Feeling slighted when Joseph names the Captain his heir instead, Ethan sells New Eden out to the Highwaymen, allowing them to burn New Eden to the ground, but leave the Tree of Eden standing. And then he turns into a monster, and ends up the True Final Boss of the game.
  • In Shadow Hearts: Covenant, Nicolai Conrad, who first appears as a Vatican exorcist. It turns out that he's the illegitimate son of Russia's Tsar Nicolas, using the resources of a secret society to plot the overthrow of his father. It gets worse when he makes a contract with one of the universe's three strongest demons.
  • Kratos from the God of War series is born out of one of Zeus' many affairs, and both father and son are bastards in their own rights.
  • Caius d'al Cazarosta, of Sabres of Infinity saw his own aristocratic mother executed before him as a boy because of his country's laws against banebloods note  and baneless note  reproducing with each other. As a result of this, he's spent his entire life being a social pariah who is willing to do anything to get a job done. And isn't afraid to destroy anyone who becomes "an obstacle".
  • "Black Mask", The Heavy in Persona 5 responsible for all the death and destruction committed by The Conspiracy throughout the story, is eventually revealed to be the illegitimate child of a politician, Masayoshi Shido. Also lampshaded, as he explains being treated like an unwanted child all his life is precisely why he thinks so little of humanity.
  • Crow Harbor from Sunrider was one of the Ryuvian Infinite Emperor’s three sons, and the only bastard among them. When the Emperor and the crown prince were assassinated (which may or may not have been his doing), Crow went to war against his surviving brother, plunging the entire galaxy into a devastating civil war in order to put himself on the throne. Also, he traveled to the future to conquer it and became the Greater-Scope Villain who’s very presence is causing a paradox that the direct villains are trying to solve.
  • In Criminal Case: Pacific Bay, the Arc Villain of the Inner City region is the son of the two leaders of the warring Chinese and Russian factions (they were Star-Crossed Lovers in the past, and they had to give up their newborn child for adoption, under peer pressure). He hired an unscrupulous Back-Alley Doctor to steal organs from various murder victims throughout the district, then killed his own father, the Russian leader in a bid to unite the two factions with him as leader.
  • Delilah Copperspoon of Dishonored 2, the illegitimate daughter of the late Emperor Euhorn, usurps her niece Emily's throne by framing her for the deaths of her political opponents and planned to reshape reality itself to fit her own desires.
    • She was even this back in the original Dishonored DLCs when her lineage wasn't confirmed, attempting to commit a Body Surf on her aforementioned niece who at the time was a child.
    • Emily Kaldwin has also become an example of this trope by the final mission of a High Chaos playthrough, though High Chaos is not canon.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Exaggerated with Tenebrae/Vitiate. He is the illegitimate son of the planet's ruler and a farmer woman, and really gives Palpatine a run for his money for the title of "Most evil villain in the entire franchise."
  • Iron Man 3: The Official Game: Ezekiel Stane is the illegitimate son of Obadiah Stane after he had an affair with one of his mistresses. To keep their relationship a secret, Obadiah paid off Ezekiel's mother and played no part in his son's life. This caused him to grow up with an immense entitlement complex and led to Ezekiel joining forces with A.I.M. so he could ruin Tony's reputation and take over Stark Industries for himself.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon has its chief antagonist, governor Ryo Aoki, born Masato Arakawa. As the apparant son of infamous yakuza patriarch Masumi Arakawa, who was unwed and a lifelong bachelor after losing the love of his life shortly after his birth, he had to live with the ostracization that came with being a mob boss's son in Japan, coupled with a lifetime of illness that left him frail and wheelchair-bound. While raised as Masumi's flesh-and-blood, he is actually the bastard son of Arakawa's right-hand man Jo Sawashiro, who was a small-time crook at the time of his birth who tried to abandon him in a coin locker, until Masato Arakawa rescued him (while mistaking him for his real son, who would grow up to become Heroic Bastard Ichiban Kasuga). Eventually, he would strike out on his own, undergoing experimental medical treatments overseas to leave behind his wheelchair, and getting a new identity to pursue a career in politics, becoming a Villain with Good Publicity who targeted not only the yakuza, but marginalized peoples who may or may not be connected to the yakuza, such as the homeless, illegal immigrants, and sex workers. Beneath his carefully curated public facade, he is a Control Freak who is obsessed with taking back control over his life after a lifetime of being shackled to his illness and yakuza roots.

  • In Drowtales, the Nidraa'chal were a group of demonic summoners who called themselves "The Bastard Daughters of Sharess" and while drow don't have an equivalent of human marriage and in fact inherit through the mother it seems to carry the connotation of "unrecognized" and "unable to inherit" that it's had historically. And one of their leaders, Kalki, is specifically referred to as Snadhya'rune's illegitimate daughter, which seems to refer to the fact that she's apparently not legally recognized as a member of both mother's family.
  • Girl Genius history offers a nearly endless potential supply:
    Zola: …and I'm allied with the Storm King. A direct descendant of Andronicus Valois!
    Gil: Zola, if the stories are true, half of Europa
  • Vin Vulpen in Kevin & Kell. There are other literal bastards in the comic, but only he was a product of infidelity, and the archnemesis of his half-brother Rudy (years before they found they were related).

    Web Original 
  • The bastard twin sisters of the Baron Richmond, in Twig, are kept from even the Baron's tiny scrap of power by virtue of their illegitimacy. They channel it into creative sadism and madness instead.
  • Rich Jacobs from Girls on Film, who is the son of Wallace Hargrove after he raped and impregnated a Hispanic mistress.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Bastards Are Bastards, Literal And Figurative Bastard, Villainous Royal Bastard