Follow TV Tropes


King of the Homeless

Go To
You will address him as "Your Homelessness".

"All hail the Hobo King."

This character is the leader or even "king" of all the homeless, indigent, and castoffs in a city. Either by dint of age, respect, or obstinate madness he has authority over the homeless. The king may be a crime boss type, a mayor who keeps their society running, The Fagin leading a group of street urchins, or an actual king who holds court. Regardless of how much wealth he has, he always stays purposefully poor and in a homeless lifestyle.

More often than not, Muggles in the know will respect him and even ask him for help or Wisdom from the Gutter, assuming he doesn't have a higher education equivalent knowledge. Usually these guys are also suffering a mental illness that makes them a Cloud Cuckoo Lander. However, an especially beloved king (it helps if they aren't violent) may have their delusion humored by a whole city.

See also/compare The Fagin and Wasteland Elder. For a normal king who is now homeless, see Fallen Princess. This trope is almost Always Male, hence the use of masculine pronouns.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Chief Aramaki's missing brother turns out to be one in an episode near the end of the first season. He's arrested on trumped up charges to get at his brother. In the second season he has a cameo in order to give Kuze somebody to explain his plan to.

    Comic Books 
  • The Jim Starlin Batman miniseries The Cult features Deacon Blackfire's evil cult of homeless people.
  • During the Frank Miller run of Daredevil the title character encountered "the King," who ruled the homeless in the New York sewer system in analogy to the Kingpin ruling the New York mobs. He even has his own pet Sewer Gator that he feeds with those who displease him.
  • Marvel also has an evil example, the Tatterdemalion. Originally a member of high society from a rich family, he was swindled out of everything he owned by Las Vegas mobsters, and because a destitute. After being recruited by the Committee to foster an environment of fear in Los Angeles, he committed random crimes against the wealthy, destroying their material possessions, motivated purely out of envy and hatred towards the system. He has fought heroes like Spider-Man, the Werewolf by Night, and Ghost Rider.
  • Calisto (and later Storm), leader of the Morlocks, outcast mutants who live in the sewers of New York.
  • One Hellraiser comic has a literal King of the Homeless, holding court in the sewers.
  • One story in The Goon has the term "hobo jungle" taken literally, with the hoboes looking like Amazonian natives. Their king is a long-haired guitar player.
  • In DC Comics's brief Magog series there was a villain named Miasma who was basically Bernie Madoff turned into this trope.
  • In the pages of the Justice Society of America, the Golden Age supervillain Ragdoll eventually becomes one of these, forming a cult around himself that he uses to terrorize Star City and his old nemesis Starman.
  • In Runaways, The Swell thinks that he's a King of the Homeless because he leads the Street Arabs gang. In reality, he's a Smug Snake who's only survived as long as he has because the larger gangs didn't see any point in killing him. This changes after he tries to sell the Runaways to the leaders of the Sinners — who just happen to be Dale and Stacey Yorkes, two of the Runaways' enemies. After learning that their future selves were killed by the Runaways, the Yorkes decide to liquidate the Street Arabs, destroying The Swell's tiny "kingdom".
  • In Seven Soldiers, the Manhattan Guardian spends the first half of his miniseries dealing with a war between two kings, No-Beard and All-Beard, whose pirate gangs are in a race to find a treasure hidden in the subway system.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Chairman in Baśń O Ludziach Stąd is a crime boss type. Getting rid of him (kinda...) causes much rejoicing.
  • C.H.U.D.: A.J. runs a homeless shelter, seems to live out of it himself, and refers to the other homeless people as his family or his flock.
  • John Wick: Chapter 2 has the Bowery King, who runs a network of homeless or otherwise downtrodden people throughout New York City.
  • King of Beggars, a Wuxia movie starring Stephen Chow, deals with a main character who quests to become one.
  • Midaq Alley: Grimy old Zacarias is referred to as "the beggar king". Sure enough, he's later revealed to command an army of beggars and street performers, all of whom give him payoffs mob boss style.
  • Played for laughs in The Muppets (2011), with hobos carrying off a tied-up Jack Black while declaring him their King. (It actually does make sense in context. Sort of.)
  • Newsies has the newsboys of New York who live together in boarding houses and live day-to-day by buying the newspapers to sell them to the people. When their prices are raised, Jack Kelly bands them together to go on strike, but to be effective they need every borough of New York, especially Brooklyn which is the territory of Spot Conlon. As the most respected and feared newsie in New York, Jack knows Spot holds the most leverage.
  • Wilco from Parasites, a film about a lost motorist being chased through an Urban Hellscape by a horde of homeless people that he and his friends had managed to piss off.
  • Silent Movie has a gag where Mel Funn — having just fallen off the wagon, hard — buys an absolutely massive wine bottle and stumbles into a back alley. All the homeless in the alley gather around Mel and hail him as "the king of the winos".
  • Soviet propaganda film Strike has such a character, who is actually referred to as the "King". ("My kingdom is limitless.") He mobilizes his army of vagrants to infiltrate the striking workers and cause a disturbance, so the authorities will have an excuse to break the strike with force.
  • Tampopo has the Old Master, a former doctor and expert on ramen who now leads a band of homeless gourmands who dig through the dustbins behind four-star restaurants.
  • Under the Silver Lake has the Hobo King as one of the many weird characters whom the protagonist meets during his investigation.

  • Accidental Detectives: Mean Gene Delaney, the Big Bad of Lost Beneath Manhattan has a lot of phony panhandling operations, at least seven other beggars as henchmen, and a reputation for cowing various people, and forcing them away from his turf. He and his men also aren't above kidnapping young children to make their begging performances look more convincing, which brings them into conflict with Ricky and the others.
  • The Areas of My Expertise discusses the Hobo Kings in some depth. Among other distinctive features, they apparently reincarnate rather like the Dalai Lama.
  • Bloodsucking Fiends has a Homeless King in San Francisco, very clearly modeled on Emperor Norton of the same city.
  • Mack is the ringleader of Doc's bum friends in John Steinbeck's Cannery Row. He was memorably played by M. Emmet Walsh in The Film of the Book.
  • Discworld has Queen Molly, head of the Beggar's Guild. This is Played for Laughs; the King or Queen of the Beggars has to be aware of their station, so in Guards! Guards!, Molly's predecessor asks people if they could spare 300 dollars for a civic banquet, or could put him up in a sixteen-bedroom mansion for the night.
  • There's the Beggar King of Nadsokor from the The Elric Saga. A whole city where everyone has the kind of defects that characterize the worst of the lumpenproletariat beggars, and the story is about their king stealing Elric's imperial jewels.
  • Rafi, from James Elroy Flecker's Hassan (1923), is probably the earliest straight example of this trope happening on a large scale: He's rich and conspiring against the Sultan — this, of course, makes this one Older Than Television.
  • Clopin in The Hunchback of Notre Dame is something along the lines of a beggar king. He is a beggar, conman, and pickpocket, whose skill has earned him the leadership position among the Romani, and lower class citizens. He decides judgement of Trespassers in the Court of Miracles. Clopin's main redeeming factor is his genuine concern for all his "subjects", and willingness to put his life on the line to help them.
  • The novel The King of Schnorrers involves a character who is the leader of professional beggars in London.
  • Koba is the leader of Echo's homeless in Labyrinths of Echo.
  • Nikos Kazantzakis portrayed Jesus in this fashion in his novel The Last Temptation of Christ, which also carried over to Martin Scorsese's film adaptation—not without controversy, of course.
  • The Matthew Swift series has the Beggar King, a character who is the embodiment of this trope — literally, as in-universe, Archetypal Characters abound if their trope is famous enough.
  • Neverwhere has a whole feudal system among the denizens of London Below, but there doesn't seem to be any particular overlord. The highest-ranking single person seems to be the Earl of Earl's Court.
  • In Reliquary, Mephisto is the leader of a large community of homeless living in the tunnels under Manhattan. Pendergast and D'Agosta seek his help in navigating the tunnels and finding the den of the Wrinklers.
  • The Outcaste in the Spaceforce (2012) novels are people who have been convicted of serious crimes by the Taysan Empire, and stripped of their caste — which means they have no way of earning a living and typically starve to death. In the second book, Deadline, we meet a former royal bodyguard, Calia, who was punished for the heinous offence of marrying a servant, and has organised the rest of the Outcaste into a secret community.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In the Jedi Academy Trilogy Jacen and Jaina Solo got lost in Coruscant's underworld and stumbled into Dakyim's Kingdom, a community of refugees. Their leader was King Onibald Daykim, a former low-level banker who led his fellow bureaucrats into hiding when they earned the Emperor's ire (All There in the Manual sources say he went on the run to avoid execution after making a typo that put Palpatine's name on a public list of loan defaulters). After learning the Emperor was dead and the Empire largely collapsed, Onibald decided to remain a king rather than return to banking. He is nice to Jacen and Jaina and returns them to their mother without any trouble.
  • The Thief Lord: Title character Scipio, "the thief lord", is the ringleader of a band of runaways and child thieves.
  • Thieves' World: Moruth the Beggar King was the leader of the beggars in the Downwind section of Sanctuary.
  • In Terra Ignota, Mycroft doesn't hold any official title, but the other Servicers (people sentenced to slavery as penance for extreme crimes and forbidden from owning property) follow his instructions anyway. Mycroft has protected and fed them and campaigned for more little luxuries for them, so they deeply respect him in spite of his reputation as the most infamous serial killer in living memory (now reformed).
  • They show up quite a bit in the Wuxia genre as leaders of the Beggars' Sect (sometimes also known as the "Beggars' Guild" or the "Hobo Gang"). This being Wuxia, they are known believers of Asskicking Leads to Leadership in that their leaders are always one of the best martial artists in the setting. The leader of the gang wields a signature weapon known as the "Dog-Beating Staff", and must be well-versed in the techniques to use it, and the "Eighteen Dragon-Subduing Palms" to be eligible to become the boss. Notable examples include:
    • Qiao Feng is their leader in Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils and is one of the youngest and strongest leaders of the Beggars' Sect in his forties. He plays a prominent role as one of the main characters, and there is quite a bit of controversy with his Khitan heritage.
    • Cheng Pa, the leader of the Beggar's Guild in some of the Judge Dee stories. Despite his laid-back personality, he's just as capable a fighter as the judge's henchmen (one scene has him settle a dispute between two beggars by picking them both up and knocking their skulls together). He's also a civil force to be reckoned with: anybody who pisses him off can look forward to an army of filthy hoboes parked on their business' doorstep, driving customers away without any violence or effort on their part. He also has a major crush (hinted to be reciprocated) on a Mongolian wrestling champion, but can't make an official proposal due to his position, while she won't respond to anything but an official proposal.
    • In The Legend of the Condor Heroes, the Beggars' Sect are led by Hong Qigong, an old glutton who is also one of the top martial artists in the wulin. It takes quite a few delicious dishes made by Huang Rong (Lotus Huang in the English translation) to teach both her and Guo Jing the special moves of the gang.
  • Our Dumb Century has a small article in 1932 about Herbert Hoover signing an accord with King Gus II, sovereign of all hobos. Also in attendance were the Duke and Duchess of Junkland, Emperor Lazlo of Trashville, and the ambassador to the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
  • Worm: Kevin Norton, a British hobo, likes to refer to himself as the "Most Powerful Man In The World," a title which absolutely no one besides himself and his dog recognizes. Except of course, Scion, the actual most powerful being in the world.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Aibou: There's a whole homeless republic/hippie commune in a section of one of the cities, and its self-appointed President becomes the victim of a crime.
  • Babylon 5: Byron, leader of the rogue telepaths on the eponymous space station.
  • An early episode of Bones has a murder occur in the flood run-off tunnels underneath Washington, D.C. The primary witness/suspect is a homeless man who lives in the tunnels, and has a clear position of leadership and respect among the homeless community down there. Brennan has to remind Booth that the homeless man does have authority in the tunnels, so Booth can't just rough up or intimidate the guy like he would normally do.
  • "The Doctor" from the Criminal Minds episode "Persuader", a vindictive former Stage Magician who led a community of homeless pickpockets living in an Absurdly-Spacious Sewer. He attracts the BAU's attention when he begins having followers who tried to leave him killed.
  • Doctor Who: "Daleks In Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks" features the Hooverville of Depression-era Central Park, where the de facto leader of the homeless is a wise man named Solomon.
  • Flash Gordon has Terek, who leads the mutant Deviates, exiled by Ming from the city. Unbeknownst to Ming and Aura, he's Ming's son and Aura's brother. He and Aura eventually lead a takeover of the city and try to have their father executed.
  • Erg, leader of the Morlocks on The Gifted (2017).
  • NewsRadio: Jimmy James's nemesis Johnny Johnson, having been ruined in a previous episode, showed up later as "King of the Winos".

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Geist: The Sin-Eaters we meet Dregs, who died in New York City. Returning from the dead actually cleared up most of his mental difficulties, and he's now the unofficial chief of an krewe of homeless Sin-Eaters protecting the indigent from supernatural predators, and acting as information brokers to other krewes.
  • The Beggar King, leader of the Beggar Fraternity in Legends of the Wulin. This being a Wuxia game, he's obviously a badass Kung Fu master, and in fact winning a martial arts tournament in which everyone is open to participate is one of the requirements for being the King's successor.
  • The Warhammer 40,000 Gaiden Game Necromunda has the special character Redwart the Magnificent, the self-proclaimed King of the mutant and destitute Scavvies who are forced to live in the most polluted and dilapidated areas of the Underhive.
  • Beggar King is the final tier of Beggar in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay's fourth edition, and requires the character to own a begging lair and an army of lesser beggars to do their bidding.
  • Arguably 'king Derywinki III' in the D&d Module 'Horror on the Hill'. He wears a tattered purple cloak and makeshift crown, claims to be king over a dungeon level that consists of caves with unintelligent monsters and leads a small band of insane berserkers to 'put down rebellions' amid them.

  • In The Threepenny Opera, Peachum is the head of London's Beggar's Guild and is referred to at least once as the Beggar King/King of the Beggars.

    Video Games 
  • One of the Templar targets that Arno pursues in Assassin's Creed: Unity is le Roi des Thunes, translated as "The King of Beggars". After Arno assassinates him, he's replaced by the Marquis de Sade. Yes, that de Sade. Fortunately, he's an ally to Arno and the Assassins.
  • Fallen London has the Topsy King, additionally a Talkative Loon.
    Who is the Topsy King?
    In his own words: "A goden most capering! Hines the walkskies, chanter the powb raggedy men. Dab with viddlo, too, goden!" So there we have it.
  • inFAMOUS has Alden Tate of the Dustmen, who are sort of... super-powered homeless that can make junk mecha and trash spiders.
  • Kingdom of Loathing: Hodgman the Hoboverlord (named after John Hodgman, author of The Areas of My Expertise) is the ruler of Hobopolis, a giant underground city populated by hoboes of all kinds.
  • Spinoff game Shadows Over Loathing features Johnny the Hobo King. He eventually reveals that he plans to found a city for hobos called...Hobopolis. Johnny and Hodgman are one and the same.
  • Portal 2: In an Alternate Universe, Cave Johnson became the Hobo King, ruling over the derelict remains of Aperture.
    Cave: So grab yourself a bowl of slumgallion and a glass of sternly and let me introduce myself. I'm Michigan Slim Cave Johnson. (harmonica riff) I'm the hobo king!
  • Scotchmo from Wasteland 2 will, during the epilogue, be elected king of the hobos of Arizona and California if he joined the Rangers and survived the endgame.
  • Francis Bedlam, one of Novigrad´s Undeground Bosses from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt rules over the city's beggars, thieves and street urchins from his hideout at Putrid Grove.
  • Yuri in the Fire Emblem: Three Houses DLC is house leader of the Ashen Wolves and the de facto chief of the various outcasts who make up the population of the Abyss.

  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has Archibald, the King of the Hobos, who wears half of a Campbell's Soup can as a crown. He may have actually done some ruling as a hobo king, but that was before he went on adventures, befriended a mummy, became immortal, and took over as mayor of Cumberland.
  • Johnny Saturn features a literally underground society that functions surprisingly well, and while they have some main members, John Underhall is pretty much their king.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series introduced the Sewer King, who fits the Fagin archetype of this trope.
  • The Santa Claus Brothers had one who also thought he was the King of France.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) has the Garbageman, a hideous and ruthless villain who dreams of ruling a garbage kingdom with the homeless as his slaves. After he's defeated, the Professor (so named because he used to be a university professor) becomes a good and wise leader to the homeless and gives a valuable aesop on recycling.
  • Wrecks serves as this to the slumdwellers of Old Gobotron on Challenge of the GoBots.
  • Man-E-Faces in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2021) was the one-man acting troupe for the Eternos royal court. He was eventually cast out by King Randor's father (who never liked the theater much) and eventually became "King of the Lower Wards", providing shelter, stolen supplies and entertainment to the poor and neglected of Eternos. After meeting him in person and seeing how much good he was doing for those he neglected, King Randor gives Man-E-Faces true legal authority to continue his good work, naming himself "King of the Above" and Man-E "King of the Below".

    Real Life 
  • Bruce Lee (not that one) is a drug dealer and former street fighter who acts as the self-appointed leader and protector of the huge population of homeless, addicts, street kids and other social rejects in Romania's capital city Bucharest. He even rules a community in the underground heating tunnels beneath the city.
  • The United States has a National Hobo Convention, which elects a king. Steam Train Maury, who died in 2006, was for much of his life the King of the Hobos.
  • Joshua Abraham Norton was not only king of the homeless in San Francisco, but declared himself Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico after losing all his money in a bad rice deal. He seemed to exist on the cusp of homelessness, sometimes living in a boarding house and tolerated by amused high-class citizens who saw him as a source of entertainment for patrons of their establishments.
  • The Skid Row neighborhood in Los Angeles—often called the homeless capital of the USA—has artist and community organizer General Dogon of the Los Angeles Community Action Network. He's famous for his custom low-rider bicycles and for rejecting an award from Mayor Eric Garcetti and telling him off for doing the bare minimum. To his face.