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Betrayal by Offspring

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"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child."
King Lear, King Lear

The inverse of Parental Betrayal, Betrayal by Offspring is when a parent or parents is betrayed by one or more offspring. Similar to Et Tu, Brute? except that the act of betrayal is done by a son or daughter rather than a close friend thereby making it even more painful. Can overlap with instances of Antagonistic Offspring but can also arise in cases where the child and parent had a good relationship before the act of betrayal.

Exactly what type of action constitutes a child's act of betrayal varies. In more overt instances, it can be part of an intrafamily power struggle over control of a kingdom or empire. Here, Betrayal by Offspring is a supertrope of Evil Prince and can result in a Self-Made Orphan if the act involves Patricide and/or Matricide. If this doesn't happen, Offing the Offspring can be the reaction of the betrayed parent. In less violent situations, the intrafamily power struggle and the act of betrayal can be over business and/or financial matters. These usually have fewer bloody outcomes but the emotional wreckage is still high.

On the other hand, the child's act of betrayal does not always have to be unambiguous and outright. In fact, the child even could be trying to do something he or she thinks is the right thing but the parent considers it an act of betrayal because it conflicts with his or her religious beliefs, moral convictions, political ideology, cultural values, or family traditions. This, in turn, often leads to a scene where the parent proclaims, "I Have No Son! (or Daughter)!" Sometimes, however, it is just because the child Hates Their Parent, and wants to see them fail. In examples where this trope is Played for Laughs, it also can be over something that's ridiculously minor but the parent reacts as if the child has stabbed him or her in the heart.

The instances of Betrayal by Offspring where the child informs on or turns a parent over to the authorities can be another case of a child following his or her moral conscience. However, it also can be because the child stands to personally gain from the action.

Can come into play with Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter if the daughter undermines her parent's Evil Plan by either her own will or after persuasion from the good guys.

As this is a Betrayal Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • Flashbacks in Attack on Titan reveal that Zeke Yaeger, the Beast Titan and Eren's half-brother, sold out his own parents to the military as a kid, which ultimately resulted in Grisha, his and Eren's father, being sent to Paradis Island and escaping death only by the help of military official Kruger, who gave him the powers of the Attack Titan (which Eren currently possesses), while Zeke's mother was turned into the Titan who later ate Eren's mother and fuelled Eren's desire to wipe out the Titans and join the Survey Corps. His motive was that he found out the revolution movement they belonged to was about to be discovered anyway, so this way at least he would be spared, and even earn the trust from the higher-ups. The fact he was tired of being subjected to the indoctrination from his Eldian-pride fanatic parents, which caused him to latch on to a more grounded father-figure in Les Collaborateurs, made things easier for him.
  • Code Geass: This is one of the purposes of Lelouch's rebellion against his father, Emperor Charles, who abandoned him and his sister in Japan. Then it turns out that his mother, who is actually alive, is in league with his father and they both want to create a world without lies by destroying God and try to convince their son to join them. Lelouch rejects them both by using the Geass on God, which not only thwarts their plans but also causes them to disappear into oblivion.
  • The plot of Cross Ange is kicked off when Ange's brother reveals that not only is his sister a Norma but that his parents knew about this and hid it for years. He then usurps the throne, orders his sister arrested and exiled, has his mother killed when she attempts to protect Ange, and later has his father executed.
  • Kill la Kill: At the end of episode 17, Satsuki Kiryuin backstabs Ragyo (quite literally) before crucifying her, claiming that she spent making Honnouji Academy to destroy her, rather than work for her. This is prompted by Ragyo killing her father and almost killing her baby sister when she was one year old, then molesting and grooming her to be a minion for her Take Over the World plot. After Ryuko is revealed to be Ragyo's other daughter, Ryuko betrays her too. To put it quite bluntly, Ragyo absolutely deserves it.
  • Done near the end of Mobile Suit Gundam where Gihren Zabi kills his own father with a Wave-Motion Gun when he tries to negotiate peace with the leaders of the Federation. Gihren's victory doesn't last long when his sister Kycilia arrives and kills him for what he did.
  • One Piece:
    • It's not an open betrayal, but 2 of Big Mom's daughters chose to rebel against her in the event of their sister (Pudding)'s wedding. Chiffon supports her husband Bege (one of Big Mom's subordinates)'s plan of assassinating her mom, while Praline follows her own husband Aladdin of the Sun Pirates on leaving the island while their leader, Jimbei, assists Bege and Straw Hat Pirates on the plan.
    • He's an adopted rather than biological son, but Teach's betrayal towards the Whitebeard Pirates (where the crew refers to Whitebeard as their "father") by killing his crewmate Thatch is treated like a son betraying his father, and thus Ace (one of Whitebeard's strongest crew members) takes it upon himself to hunt and punish Teach. Later on, in the Battle of Marineford, Teach - now Blackbeard - assaults the place and kills Whitebeard.

    Comic Books 
  • Green Manor: One lord with a gambling problem was murdered by his own son, afraid the family fortune would dwindle away to nothing before he could spend it.
  • Judge Dredd: The boy who would one day become Judge Death was inducted into the Justice Academy after he reported his father to the authorities for several murders they had both committed. He even pulled the lever at his dad's execution.
  • Superboy provides the page example, but in classic Silver Age roundabout nonsense, it is not actually an example of the trope.note 
  • Wonder Woman (1987): While Ares is usually quite ok with his children being opposed to him when he discovers that Eris and Phobos are in the midst of a plot designed to look like they're trying to restore him to his old power and position (by going against his wishes) with the actual end goal being his death at Eris' hands he consigns them both to endless torture in hades.
  • Seen in various Young Justice stories:
    • In Justice League: World Without Grown-Ups, the Origins Issue of Young Justice, there's Matthew Stuart, a 13-year-old boy who hates his parents and in general all adult authority. For his birthday, his archeologist father gave him an Atlantean relic from an excavation. Being upset with him and all the adults, he broke up the relic, releasing a power that granted his wish of no more adults as well as great power as a Reality Warper, later known as Bedlam.
    • William Hayes, an Evil Orphan adopted by a good family, is one of those cases in which being evil was in the blood. He almost killed his adoptive father once and threatened him and his adoptive mother. By sacrificing his adopted sister (later revealed to be Secret, a Young Justice member) to the demon Fuzz, William gained powers and converted into the young supervillain Harm, the Arch-Enemy of Young Justice. After the group saved the day, Harm is killed by his own father, but eventually he'll come back.

    Fan Works 
  • In Eight Count, Damian Wayne spars with Harley Quinn during her training camp for her boxing match against Damian's mother, Talia al Ghul. Talia is not happy about this when she finds out.
  • Empath: The Luckiest Smurf: In the Alternate Timeline Papa Smurf & Mama Smurfette, Papa Smurf feels this way after Empath leads The Mutiny against him, resulting in Papa, Smurfette and the rest of his family sans Empath being exiled from the village. Note that Papa had previously performed an inversion of Shotgun Wedding where he had threatened to exile any of his little smurfs who didn't help the marriage go through.
  • Hakumei: Mikoto feels this way about Sasuke after he chooses Hakumei over Konoha. She tells Hiashi that he should feel the same way about Hinata; however, Hiashi is more loyal to his family than he is to his village, and recognizes how the latter has gone downhill after Danzo took over.
  • Naive Melody: All for One has his daughter Inko meet up with Toshinori with the intent of her eventually bearing the hero's child, so that he can raise said child as a Tyke Bomb. He then winds up on the receiving end of this trope when Inko decides to escape his clutches, using her unborn son as leverage.
  • Seventh Endmost Vision: Lucrecia fears that Aerith might be planning this.
  • Starfleet: Magic is Believing: 10,000 years before the story began, The Great Offscreen War was kicked off by Horus betraying his father, the Grand Ruler.

    Films — Animation 
  • In How to Train Your Dragon (2010), Stoick sees his son Hiccup's befriending a dragon as a betrayal, as the Vikings and dragons have always been fighting each other.

    Films — Live Action 
  • In Duel in the Sun, Jesse McCanles, the eldest son of Senator Jackson McCanles, supports the railroad in a land dispute involving his father. The Senator sees this as an act of personal betrayal and disowns him.
  • In The Force Awakens, we learn that Kylo Ren is actually the son of Leia and Han Solo, but he betrayed them and turned to the dark side of the Force. Later in the movie, when Han Solo tries to convince Kylo to turn back, he pretends to agree before suddenly killing Han.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Ego sees Peter's shooting him after The Reveal that it was Ego who gave Peter's mother a brain tumor as this, apparently thinking his Blue-and-Orange Morality applied to his son as well. Since We Can Rule Together is off the table, he resolves to use Peter as a living battery.
  • In Akira Kurosawa's Ran, aging warlord Hidetora's power is undermined by his treacherous sons Taro and Jiro in a Gender Flipped adaptation of King Lear set during the Warring States period in Japan.
  • Played for Laughs in Yellowbeard where it's a family tradition.
    Yellowbeard: You're either born a pirate or not! It's in the blood Dan, and it's not in your blood or you'd have betrayed me long ago!

  • The Beginning After the End:
    • Shortly before the end of Volume 7, Agrona reveals to Alduin and Merial Eralith that he has control over their daughter Tessia's life thanks to her beast will, and that he will let her waste away and die if they do not let in his forces into the Council Castle to kill the supreme commander of the Dicathians (and Alduin's father) Virion. Given this Sadistic Choice, they end up choosing Tessia's life over Virion's. While Virion ends up surviving the attack, he has no choice but to disown his son and daughter-and-law for their actions. To add nsult to injury, Agrona has Alduin and Merial executed to mark the end of his conquest.
    • After her resurrection at the end of Volume 10, Sylvie has turned against her own grandfather Kezess due to having learned of the atrocities he has committed, on top of seeing Arthur and Tessia as her true parental figures. Kezess does not know that his only living descendant has turned against him, not helped by the fact Sylvie is willing to use her blood ties with him to aid her adoptive father in dealing with and manipulating the Asuras whom Kezess has sent down to occupy Dicathen.
  • Children in Nineteen Eighty-Four are encouraged to turn their parents in to the Thought Police for subversive behavior. Parsons is arrested after his daughter (allegedly) hears him whispering "Down with Big Brother" in his sleep. He says he's proud of her for doing so, convinced he must have been harboring subconscious subversive thoughts he wasn't even aware of.
  • In the Confessions, Monica spends her every waking moment trying to help Augustine get away from his cycle of miseries and evil, a love that her son repays by lying to his fearful mother and stowing away on a ship to Rome without saying good-bye to that widowed saint who prayed for him without ceasing.
  • Ferals Series: Selina turns on her mother, Cynthia Davenport (the Mother of Flies), when she learns of her mother's true nature.
  • Legacy of the Force has Jacen Solo, aka Darth Caedus, betraying his parents, not unlike his film counterpart. He even has them fired on and arrested at one point for what he views as being traitors.
  • Cynthia Twite from the Mortal Engines series, who became so enthralled with the military dictatorship of the Green Storm and sick of her parent's peacenik attitude that she reported them to the secret police as potential Tractionist sympathisers.
  • In the first A Song of Ice and Fire novel, A Game of Thrones, Sansa is convinced by Cersei to rat out her father's plans, which leads to his capture and execution.
  • In Taras Bulba, the youngest son of a Cossack leader falls in love with a Polish noblewoman and ends up betraying both his family and his people to the Poles. This leads to his death at his father's hands.

    Live-Action Television 
  • In Game of Thrones Season 6, Roose Bolton reveals to his household that his wife bore him a son. Ramsay, Roose's bastard son who is recently legitimized by the Iron Throne, doesn't take the news very well. So when he congratulates his father, he fatally stabs him in the gut.
    • In House of the Dragon, Larys Strong arranges the murder of both his father Lyonel and brother Harwin in order to curry favor with the Hightowers and presumably, to bump himself up as the new head of House Strong.
  • Ghoul: Nida reported her own father to the authorities for his subversive activities, which she feels a great deal of guilt about. She later learns that he used to be imprisoned in the interrogation facility she has joined and was also executed there.
  • On Justified, Bo Crowder, his son Boyd and his nephew Johnny are career criminals. After being shot, Boyd has a Heel–Faith Turn where he becomes convinced that he is on a mission from God to stop his father's drug dealing business. Boyd tricks Johnny into helping him destroy a truck full of drug-making supplies, which puts Bo into serious debt to The Cartel. Bo is furious and he gives Boyd a vicious beating, shoots Johnny, and murders all of Boyd's followers. Boyd's betrayal forces Bo into desperate action to appease his cartel partners and ultimately gets him killed.
  • The plot of The Pinkertons episode "Double Shot" combines this trope with Frame-Up. The villain is a rich kid who really wants to get the family inheritance a little early. He kills his own father, then frames the prostitute his father was seeing. When the Pinkertons realize she's innocent, he kills her to keep her quiet, then frames his own mother.
  • Planet Earth: Dynasties: Tait is an aging painted wolf whose daughter Blacktip leads a nearby territory. Blacktip's pack is over 20 strong so she needs a larger territory. Blacktip invades Tait's territory and steals it for her own.
  • Entirely justified in the made-for-TV movie Small Sacrifices, a dramatization of the 1983 attempted triple homicide of Diane Downs' children. At first, the Oregon police sought a vengeful carjacker as the culprit behind three children with gunshot wounds. However, detectives soon pieced together that their mother attempted to eliminate them as obstacles to her seduction of a married man. Karennote  Downs, recovering speech after a stroke caused by the shooting, gave a chilling pantomime in court of a heartless Diane systematically shooting her three children on a lonely farm road, then wounding herself in a Wounded Gazelle Gambit. Guilty on all counts, three life sentences without parole.

  • Occurs with depressing frequency in Classical Mythology, not always by accident.
    • One king was fated to be immortal as long as he had a purple lock of hair on his head, which caused the besieging army no end of problems. The king's daughter fell in love with the enemy general and cut off the lock of hair before sneaking out of the castle and presenting it to him. The latter was so horrified at the betrayal that he lifted the siege.
    • When escaping by sea alongside Jason, Medea took her younger brother with them. When her father chased after them, she killed her brother and dismembered him, forcing her father's ship to waste time by fishing up the grisly remains for burial.
  • In some versions of Arthurian Legend, Mordred is Arthur's son and nephew (just nephew in older versions), betraying him to usurp his throne.

  • In The Bible, King David's son, Absalom, turns against his father, seizes Jerusalem, and drives David beyond the Jordan River. After ruling for years as a regent and as a self-declared king, Absalom is slain by his father's Number Two, Joab, in the Battle of Ephraim Wood. David, despite everything Absalom did to him, weeps for his death afterward.
  • Mark 13:12 considers a child's betrayal of a parent a sign of the end of the world. ("[A]nd children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.")

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Horus Heresy was caused by half of the Emperor's genetically modified sons falling to Chaos, with Horus and the Emperor duking it out on Horus' flagship. The Emperor held back for a time, but the one act that caused him to realize his son was irredeemable was seeing him mentally flay a non-enhanced soldier standing between the two (in other editions, the soldier was another Space Marine, or a Terminator-armored elite, or even an immortal human posing as a soldier and now revered as the patron saint of Guardsmen). While he struck Horus dead, the Emperor's wounds were too severe, and his quasi-corpse has been on the Golden Throne of Terra ever since.

  • In Fiddler on the Roof, the devoutly Jewish protagonist Tevye considers his beloved daughter Chava's converting from her faith in order to marry a Christian man to be an act of personal betrayal. Of course, it makes sense in the historical context of pre-revolutionary Russia, given the tension in that time and place between Jewish and Christian communities who often violently harassed Jews and eventually forced them out of their homes (which happens in the musical).
  • This trope is a major part of the plot of Shakespeare's King Lear with Lear's daughters, Goneril and Regan, turning against him after unctuously declaring their love at the play's beginning.
    • It is also a part of a subplot where the Earl of Gloucester's scheming illegitimate son, Edmund, betrays his father to the Duke of Cornwall by falsely accusing him of treason.
  • The Lion in Winter: Henry II has to fend off plots against his rule by his sons Richard, Geoffrey, and John.

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy XII, as part of his ambitions, Vayne Solidor assassinates his father and pins the deed on the Imperial Senate in order to seize control of the Archadian Empire for himself while removing the greatest political obstacle to his family.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon: Lusamine declares herself betrayed and disowns her children when they refuse to go along with her plans and even take measures to stop her from putting them into action.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, at the end of chapter 1 of Knights of the Fallen Empire, Arcann either (depending on player choice) frees the player character and gives them the opportunity to kill his father Valkorion, or kills Valkorion himself.
  • Starcraft II: In the first game, Arcturus Mengsk's son Valerian takes half the Dominion fleet with him to what is by all accounts a suicidal mission on Char, but succeeds in de-Zerging Kerrigan. In the second game, Mengsk does not hesitate to have his ships open fire on his son's because Kerrigan is onboard. Valerian later admits that he realizes his father is beyond redemption (having sacrificed a world to the Zerg to become emperor), and is determined to be a better man and ruler, openly siding with Kerrigan.
  • Warcraft III: After falling completely under the Lich King's control, Arthas returns to Lordaeron and murders his father, unleashing the Scourge on the kingdom.
  • The Quarter Knights from Wild ARMs betray Mother by being strangely absent from the Photosphere when the heroes come to take her down. Zeikfried goes the next step by guiding them through the Photosphere to reach the Tear Drop (albeit disguised). Given she's an Omnicidal Maniac who intends to destroy her children along with Filgaia, you can hardly blame them.

    Visual Novels 

  • Unsounded: Matty leaves his father to his probable death, taking their construct and possessions with him, when he's told his father sold his mother out to the Window. It doesn't help that the person doing the telling makes it seem like Mathis intended Vienne's death, instead of being terrified into turning her in and thinking it was a chance for her to possibly survive even if horribly injured since the Window already knew she was doing illegal subversive work and Mathis was one of them and terrified of his superiors.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Public opinion in the Fire Nation sees Prince Zuko as this for siding with the Avatar he was supposed to hunt down. Even his scar is proof of his disobedience, given to him by Ozai when Zuko spoke against him. At least, Zuko knows he will end up on the right side of history when it’s all over.
  • In the DC Animated Universe, both of Darkseid's children, Orion (his trueborn child) and Scott Free (his adopted child), turn against him (the former was raised by Highfather, Darkseid's greatest enemy, and the latter was tortured by Granny Goodness in an attempt to make him loyal to Darkseid).
    • In Batman Beyond, Corrupt Corporate Executive and Walking Wasteland Derek Powers is betrayed by his son Paxton, who gets back at dad for years of abuse by setting up an Engineered Public Confession, siccing Batman on Derek, and then attempting to kill off his dad for good.
      • In "Golem", Willie Watt turns against his abusive father and attempts to kill him using the titular robot.
      • Inque's daughter Deanna betrays her in "Inqueling", in order to gain access to her mother's loaded bank accounts. Of course, the circumstances in this case are downplayed by the fact that, from Deanna's perspective, her mother was never actually there for her, since Inque, always on the run from the law, had given Deanna up for adoption, and only left her with a sizeable trust fund.
        Inque: Why?! Why would you do this to me?!
        Deanna: For the money. I have your accounts, and you're right: it is more money than I could ever imagine.
        (Inque lashes out at Deanna; Batman intervenes)
        Inque: After all I gave you...! How could you have turned out like this?
        Deanna: You never gave me anything except money, Mother. How did you expect me to turn out?
    • In the Justice League Unlimited episode "Kid Stuff", Mordred betrays his mother Morgaine le Fay by taking the Amulet of First Magic for himself instead of giving it to her.
  • On Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Ludo locks his entire family out of their ancestral castle while they were on vacation. Seeing as he was neglected by his parents for being the runt in a large family, his betrayal is somewhat justified.

    Real Life 
  • The example from Nineteen Eighty-Four about children being encouraged by the government to turn in their parents for subversive behavior is what actually happened in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
    • Actually as far as the USSR is concerned, this is propaganda; what really happened was, after a case where a child who told his teacher that his father and uncle were sexually abusing him was told to stop telling lies and was subsequently murdered by his abusers, Stalin issued a decree that any child that made allegations of abuse was at least to be given the benefit of the doubt and the allegations fully investigated; this was given an unfavourable spin by anti-Soviet propagandists in the West.
    • If you are referring to Pavlik Morozov, the case has been obscured by propaganda so much that it's impossible to discover the real facts.
  • Child Soldiers are usually trained to be human weapons from an early age to fight in a war or for being someone's personal army. In various cases around the world, one of the most known "baptisms of fire" is to shoot and kill their own parents without hesitation nor remorse.
  • The Chinese warlord An Lushan was assassinated on the orders of his own son An Qingxu, who feared that Lushan was planning to name his half-brother An Qing'en as heir to the throne instead of him.
  • Benjamin Franklin saw his son's support of the British during The American Revolution as such, publicly disowning him.


Video Example(s):


Kill la Kill

Satsuki Kiryuin backstabs Ragyo, her mother, revealing that Honnouji Academy was always made to stop Ragyo's plans of conquest. This is because of Ragyo killing Satsuki's father a long time ago, as well as her abusive tendancies. Needless to say, Ragyo absolutely deserves all of it.

How well does it match the trope?

4.93 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / BetrayalByOffspring

Media sources: