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Kinslaying Is a Special Kind of Evil

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O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't, a brother's murder.
Claudius, Hamlet

Want to show how evil your villain is? Have them kill members of their own family! Even Evil Has Loved Ones after all, so killing those loved ones would be considered a special kind of evil. The motive can vary from trying to benefit from it, some sort of grievance with the relative, envy or simply for its own sake, but the point is that it's meant to be a Moral Event Horizon for the character, instead of simply stating the fact that a killing of kin has taken place (that is what Murder in the Family, Offing the Offspring, Self-Made Orphan, and related tropes are for). Often part of a villain backstory if used.

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A sub-trope of Murder in the Family. Matricide and Offing the Offspring are the most likely familicide types to use this trope because of how love for one's mother is often used as a redeeming trait for a bad guy, and the fact that killing children is seen as especially heinous, though some examples manage to avoid this trope by giving the killer a justified reason for it.

Often overlaps with Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil, as people are traditionally expected to be loyal to one's family.


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Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Berserk: As people become Apostles by sacrificing someone they care about, occasionally one will become an Apostle by sacrificing someone in their family. Emperor Ganishka, one of the vilest Apostles in the series, became an Apostle by sacrificing his own son.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam, Prince Gihren Zabi vaporizes his own father with a Wave Motion Gun after being disappointed in his attempts to establish peace talks with the Federation. His sister, Kycilia, is not pleased with this and shoots him in the head. But again, Kycilia is already a villain and almost gets away until Char sends her a rocket to the head.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, when Marik is first taken over by his own dark side, the first person he kills is his own father (granted, the man was an Asshole Victim). Dark Marik also openly wants to murder his adoptive brother Rishid and sister Ishizu(though the former is normal Marik's Morality Chain).
  • Naruto: Itachi is one of the earliest villains introduced and is a major threat throughout most of the manga. He's Sasuke's older brother who, at only age thirteen, massacred the entire Uchiha clan except for Sasuke. Subverted with The Reveal that Itachi was Good All Along and the massacre was assigned to him by the village in order to avoid a war.

    Comic Books 
  • Blackest Night: To establish his position as The Dragon and herald to Nekron, Black Hand kills his brothers and parents, before committing suicide so he can rise as the Black Lantern's champion.
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Death is already established as a nightmarish Omnicidal Maniac in his debut appearance, so when his backstory is later revealed in "Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend", it's no surprise that his first victims turn out to be his own relatives. Even the family dog got an early ticket to the grave!
  • The Punisher MAX: Nicky Cavella is established as a particularly depraved mafioso in "Up is Down And Black is White", where he guns down his sister, mother and father as a child, as part of a coup with his aunt. He later smothers his aunt after being molested by her.
  • In The Sandman, the Furies are feared by everyone from supernatural beings to gods to The Endless themselves. Once loosed on a target, the Furies will hound them and destroy everything they care about until either they kill their target at the end of their rampage or their target hits the Despair Event Horizon and kills themselves. However, the Furies only hunt those who committed an act of kinslaying. Unfortunately for Dream, even a Mercy Kill can be used to invoke them.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW): When Old Hob attempts to hold Agent Bishop's dementia-addled father hostage at gunpoint, Bishop directly orders a Brainwashed and Crazy Slash to kill him, declaring his father is merely a shell of the person he was and whatever Wayne had been lived on in him. Hob, a major Jerkass who hates humans with a passion, is shocked and horrified that Bishop would murder his own father in cold blood.
  • Young Justice has Harm/ William Hayes, who, as part of a Deal with the Devil, gains power by killing his adopted sister Greta, whose spirit would become the heroine Secret and join the protagonist team.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Lion King: Scar had always been seen as a dark part of the community but his point of no return was when he sent his brother, Mufasa, hurtling to his death and instructed the hyenas to murder his nephew in order to allow Scar to ascend to the throne. When the truth is eventually revealed, the pack turns on Scar and he is exiled under threat of death.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Aaron Davis moonlights as The Prowler, a ruthless mercenary who always gets his mark. When Kingpin sends him to hunt down the new Spider-man, he is relentless in his pursuit. However, Aaron is beyond horrified when Spider-Man is revealed to be his fourteen-year-old nephew, Miles Morales, with whom Davis has an extremely close relationship. Although the Prowler has undoubtedly killed many other people without remorse and played a role in the death of the original Spider-man Peter Parker, he is visibly and vocally upset that he nearly killed his nephew without realizing it.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aquaman (2018): Both Orvax and Orm are characterized as villains by their willingness to murder their kin, Orvax in sending his wife Atlanna to the Trench to be killed and Orm repeatedly trying to kill off his brother Arthur in order to protect his throne. Nereus, who has sided with Orm, is redeemed by his refusal to allow his daughter Mera to come to any harm even as she is acting against the will of the reigning king of Atlantis.
  • Black Panther (2018):
    • Although King T'Chaka was greatly beloved throughout his life, his legacy is tarnished when it is posthumously revealed that he murdered his own brother for what he thought was the greater good and abandoned his nephew to grow up in poverty, never knowing his royal Wakandan heritage. T'Challa is completely shaken to learn the truth about his father and gives T'Chaka one hell of a "The Reason You Suck" Speech when he confronts him on the ancestral plane for the second time.
    • It is cemented that Killmonger is a hateful character by how gleeful he is at the opportunity to kill T'Challa, his cousin who has personally never done anything wrong to Erik. Whenever T'Challa engages in ritual combat, he always gives his opponents, including Killmonger, multiple opportunities to yield rather than be killed. Killmonger takes obvious pleasure in throwing T'Challa off the mountain to his apparent death.
    • Averted in T'Challa and Killmonger's final fight. The juxtaposition between the two characters is shown when T'Challa offers to get Killmonger the medical care needed to save his life when Killmonger is mortally wounded in their fight.
  • King Arthur: Legend of the Sword: One of the ways we know that Vortigern is evil and will never be the rightful king is his willingness to kill his family to gain power and prestige. The only Pendragon he doesn't manage to murder is Arthur himself. Not even Vortigern's wife and daughter were safe from his insatiable hunger for power.
  • Star Wars occasionally uses killing family members to signify one has fallen to the dark side.
  • The Usual Suspects: According to Verbal Kint, this was the event that solidified Keyser Soze as The Dreaded years ago. Soze, merely a petty drug dealer at the time, came home one night to find his family being held hostage by Hungarian gangsters, who had already raped his wife and killed one of his sons. His solution is to kill his family, followed by all but one of the mobsters, whom he allowed to escape in order to spread the story.

    Literature 
  • The Bible:
    • Cain is known as the father of murder after he kills his younger brother Abel. God marked him so anyone who encountered him would know that Cain is to be shunned and that murdering him will encounter punishment from God, as Cain is intended to live a long life of shame as punishment for his crime.
    • Subverted with Abraham and Isaac. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son, knowing that in addition to the grand taboo around kinslaying, Abraham and Sarah prayed for decades for a son and considered Isaac their miracle baby. The sacrifice is a test of Abraham’s faith and love for God. When Abraham moves to do as asked, God stopped Abraham and sent a ram to be slaughtered instead.
  • Darth Plagueis: A young Palpatine ends up killing his entire family to ensure he can train under and eventually usurp Darth Plagueis. It's also stated that Palpatine has wanted to kill his father as long as he could remember, in order to establish that he was born evil.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Near the end of Goblet of Fire, Barty Crouch Jr. admits under a Truth Potion that he killed his own father, Transfigured his remains into a bone, and buried it in the Forbidden Forest.
    • In order to make his first Horcrux, Voldemort murdered his own father and grandparents. While they were rich snobs, it's clear they didn't deserve Voldemort killing them.
  • Judge Dee: "The Chinese Maze Murders" has the judge in full Tranquil Fury mode when speaking to an (attempted) patricide, a young man who tried to poison his father and frame another man for it because he was having an affair with one of his father's concubines (to Tang dynasty values, this is basically Parental Incest despite them being the same age and unrelated by blood). Even the fact that the father was an Asshole Victim (a general who'd deliberately sent his troops to be massacred as part of a deal with the enemy) and killed by someone else (a court official who'd learned of the crime and presented the general with a spring-loaded poison dart pen to kill him once the official was dead) is not enough to get the son off the hook. The son takes the hint and commits suicide shortly after, along with the concubine.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Kinslaying is seen as one of the two worst crimes someone in Westeros can commit, the other being violating guest right. Even Roose Bolton, who participates in the Red Wedding , refuses to kill off his psychopath of a son despite the trouble his open sadism causes because of this taboo.
    • Both Randyll Tarly and Tywin Lannister have tried to get around the taboo so they can get rid of the son they hate the most, Samwell Tarly and Tyrion Lannister respectively. Randyll threatens Samwell by saying he'll be involved in a Hunting "Accident", while Tywin hopes Tyrion will get himself killed in battle. Tywin's hatred of Tyrion stems from considering him a kinslayer as his mother died giving birth to him. Eventually, he fingers Tyrion for King Joffrey's murder in hopes he'll get executed, leading to Tyrion becoming an actual kinslayer by shooting him with a crossbow in retribution.
    • In addition to his brutal actions during war and Serial Killer nature, Gregor Clegane is established as a horrible person early on when Littlefinger reveals his brother Sandor's face is burned because Gregor tried to kill him by holding him in a fireplace for playing with his toy. It's also heavily implied he murdered his sister and his father for the inheritance.
    • Euron Greyjoy has contempt for the Ironborn traditions, including this trope. He killed his half-brothers Harlon and Robin, is heavily implied (and later outright confirmed) to be behind his full brother's death and wants to kill his brother Victarion. He uses the fact that the gods have yet to punish him for it as proof the taboo against kinslaying doesn't mean anything. His disregard for traditions and kinslaying are the main reasons the rest of his siblings despise him.
    • Played with concerning Stannis Baratheon. He kills his brother Renly Baratheon through dark magic. However, Renly was the younger brother who was trying to usurp the throne himself basically through having a bigger army than anyone else and clearly intended to kill Stannis for not submitting to him, showing no remorse at this. By contrast, Stannis after his brother's death is distraught.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • In The Silmarillion Fëanor and his sons perform the First Kinslaying. And the Second and Third, too, while trying to reclaim the Silmarils. Due to these deeds (among others), they lose the right to ever reclaim the Silmarils successfully.
    • Any instance of Elf fighting against Elf falls under this trope. For example, Maeglin's betrayal of Gondolin — including his uncle, Turgon — is widely considered one of the greatest evils perpetrated in Middle-earth.
    • There's also Sméagol, who strangled his cousin Déagol to steal the ring from him, and then fled into a cave and slowly turned into Gollum.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow:
    • In an attempt to stop Adrian Chase's deadly crusade to destroy Oliver's life, Adrian's wife, Doris Chase is brought in hoping she could be a Morality Pet. Adrian is furious at his wife becoming involved and visibly saddened, but to prove his dedication to his revenge over his loved one, he stabs Doris while hugging her and effectively cut off his one final tie to humanity.
    • In season 6, Oliver uses this as a barb when he and Diggle get into an argument about who should be the Green Arrow. Diggle accuses Oliver of being blindly destructive, pointing out how many people Oliver had killed as collateral damage in his mission to protect Star City, destroying families. Oliver reminds Diggle that Diggle has destroyed families as well. This cruel reminder shifts the fight from verbal to physical.
    Oliver: "He pulled a gun on me! Do you think he gave me a choice?!"
    Diggle: "I think that you leave a trail of bodies every damn place that you go! Sure you've changed, but what comfort is that to William (Oliver's son) whose mother is dead because of the bad decisions that you've made?"
    (Oliver pauses, visibly shaken): "My trail of bodies doesn't include my own brother."
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Oberyn Martell's bastard daughters, the Sand Snakes, are disappointed with their uncle and cousin's lack of support for their revenge plan against the Lannisters for the deaths of their relatives, including their father. Though their father's lover, Ellaria, was the one who murdered their uncle so that they could take over Dorne, the eldest daughter, Obara, kills her cousin by stabbing him in the back of the head with a spear. This is against what Oberyn intended because while he also wanted revenge on the Lannisters for the brutal deaths of his sister, niece, and nephew, he abhorred killing children, making it tragic that his own daughter murdered his nephew in the name of "revenge".
    • Ramsay Bolton hits the point of no return when he kills his father, stepmother, and newborn brother in order to take control of his house.
    • In the Season 6 finale, Cersei Lannister herself not only kills her enemies, the Faith Militant and the Tyrells but also her uncle Kevan and her cousin Lancel with wildfire at the Sept of Baelor. She has no concern about who dies but in her mind, all of those who opposed her in King's Landing are dead.
  • Justified:
    • In season 5, the Crowe family is introduced as the season-long antagonistic force. Although the siblings repeatedly talk about the sanctity and importance of family above all else, the true darkness of eldest Daryl is revealed when he orders Danny to kill Dilly who has accidentally attracted federal attention. Despite verbally asserting his deep care for his family, Daryl shows a willingness to manipulate and sacrifice any member if it will protect Daryl himself. The season-long arc concludes when sister Wendy finds out the truth about Dilly's death and shoots and kills Daryl in what could be argued self-defense in order to save Kendall, the youngest Crowe who Daryl has set up to take the fall for Daryl's attempted murder of a federal officer. Despite their constant talk of family, nearly the entire clan dies primarily at the hands of other family members.
    • Although his gambits are never successful, Arlo's attempts on his son Raylan's life, once via attempting to walk him into an ambush and later by shooting and killing someone he believed to be Raylan, show how despicable, dangerous, and irredeemable Arlo truly is.
  • Sons of Anarchy:
    • In the penultimate episode, Jax discovers that his mother Gemma is actually the one that killed Tara, Jax's wife. This meant that every murder he'd committed based on the cover story she gave him was unjustified and his friends who died as a result died in vain. Jax is hell-bent on finding Gemma. Nero, seeing that Jax is hurt and angry, warns him that murdering his own mother is something Jax can never recover from. Sure enough, after murdering Gemma, Jax goes on a suicide run, unable to live with the weight of what he's done in the name of vengeance.
    • Along those lines, Gemma murdering her daughter-in-law Tara based on a misunderstanding moved her from overbearing but well-meaning to a poison that needed to be rooted out. This is emphasized over the next season as she watches her son, who generally operates an anti-hero, devolve into a murder machine after she lies and tells him a rival gang killed Tara. It makes her eventual murder at Jax's hands feel more justified particularly when you remember that all series long, Jax has suspected Gemma of being a part of the suspicious accident that killed JT, Gemma's husband and Jax's father.

    Mythology And Religion 
  • Classical Mythology: Greco-Roman myth considers the slaying of one's offspring or that of one's parents to be a Moral Event Horizon alongside cannibalism and violating Sacred Hospitality.
    • Theogony: Cronus, King of the Titans, ends up consuming his children out of fear that they would overthrow him as he and his siblings did to their own father. This ends up being a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy when the youngest child, Zeus, manages to escape and free his siblings from their father's belly. Cronus ends up torn into pieces and unceremoniously scattered throughout Tartarus.
    • Ixion, a king of the Lapith people, became the first kinslayer after murdering his father-in-law and was consigned to eternal torment in Tartarus for that and certain other blasphemies.
    • Tantalus, in an effort to prove the gods are fools due to his hubris, murders and cooks his son Pelops and serves him to them, showing they aren't even wise enough to know what they're having for dinner. The gods' reaction is to resurrect his son and banish Tantalus to Tartarus where he'll be eternally thirsty and hungry, out of disgust for his indulging in kinslaying, cannibalism and betraying his guests.
    • Other examples include Lycaon (the first werewolf, punished for making a stew of an infant who may have been his own grandson depending on the version), several instances of the House of Atreus (descendants of Tantalus above), Medea and the story of Philomela and Procne (the two women served up the son of Procne to the boy's father and Procne's husband because the husband raped Philomela, Procne's sister, then tore out her tongue so she won't be able to tell. When he found out and tried to kill them, they all got turned into birds).
    • The hero Orestes becomes a matricide when he slays his mother Clytemnestra; although he did this in revenge for Clytemnestra slaying his father and on the direct instructions of the god Apollo, his act of kinslaying still drove the Furies, supernatural spirits of vengeance and pursuers of criminals, to hound and torment him for many years as punishment for his deed. He was only able to get the Furies off his back after defending himself in a trial presided over by Athena and with Apollo as his defense attorney, which also more or less redefined the universal laws governing vengeance, justice, and retribution as it did so.
    • This trope is also the reason why many children (either unwanted or prophecized to be the downfalls of their families/fathers/grandfathers) are left exposed in the wilderness - the justification being that even a baby may be saved from being exposed if it is found by a human or animals, whereas kinslaying is a big taboo, and indeed all exposed children do survive these myths in various ways.
  • In Buddhism, a person murdering one's father and/or mother will earn themselves a stay in Avīci, the lowest level of Naraka.

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • Crusader Kings II: Executing or being caught murdering one of your relatives or dynasty members causes your character to get the trait "Kinslayer" (subdivided in the 2.8 update into degrees of severity depending on how closely related you were). This inflicts significant penalties to the Diplomacy stat and other characters' opinions of you, and getting rid of the trait is very difficult. There are exceptions, though:
    • Muslims are exempted because succession and decadence mechanics often require kinslaying. This is a loose adaption of Ottoman history: historically the sultanate went to whichever prince could get back to the capital first, meaning fratricide was somewhat common.
    • Using a close relative as a Human Sacrifice in pagan rituals (e.g. Norse blots) doesn't count as kinslaying, nor does simply locking them up in a dungeon until they die of natural causes.
  • Darksiders has the story of the Nephilim, warriors of angel and demon blood, who waged a war on reality itself for not being given a realm of their own. Four of them grew dissatisfied with the bloodshed and sided with the Charred Council, who gave them incredible power and made them the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Their first task was to correct the senseless violence of the Nephilim by killing every last one of them. Death became infamous for his role in the genocide of their brothers, personally slaying Absalom, the first of their kind, and imprisoned their souls in an amulet. One of his many titles is “Kinslayer” as a result, and despite his claims to the contrary, he’s the only one of the four to hold regrets over his actions.
  • Subverted in God of War (PS4). Atreus expresses shock and disgust when they encounter a ghost of a man who was killed by his son. The idea of a son killing his father clearly is unfathomable to Atreus. Several times he questions out loud to Kratos what would lead someone to do such a thing. Players who know Kratos' back story know that Kratos himself killed his father, Zeus, so he defers from answering. Later, when they find the murdered body of the son, Atreus says that the son got what he deserved. However, when Kratos' patricide is revealed to Atreus, the boy is more distressed by the idea that as a god, he may be destined to end up killing Kratos. When Kratos assures him that this doesn't have to be their fate, Atreus accepts his word and their relationship resumes as normal.
    • Baldur, who across the game is more of a thorn-in-the-side Iron Woobie, becomes an outright villain when he goes crazy and attempts to murder his mother.
  • Infamous Second Son: Delsin Rowe spends the entire game looking for a cure to the malady that plagues his tribal reservation. If you play Delsin as a paragon, his tribe welcomes him back as a hero and a savior. However, if you play Delsin as a renegade, he is shunned for the campaign of destruction he waged on innocent citizens. In response to this rejection, Delsin's last act in the game is to use his powers to nuke his entire tribe, leaving no survivors, a stark contrast from Paragon Delsin who is completely distraught when his older brother Reggie dies to save Delsin (Reggie is the only tribe member to die in the Paragon run).
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Lady Tremaine and her daughters snap from anger and jealousy and try to murder Cinderella, the daughter of Tremaine's last husband, after keeping her imprisoned as a scullery maid for about 13 years. Aqua considers an evil stepfamily killing an orphaned, defenseless girl for petty reasons the most heinous crime imaginable, and shows relief when the Cursed Coach drops a bomb on them, killing them or turning them into Heartless.
  • In King of Dragon Pass, kinslaying is considered to be one member of a clan killing another member (with slaves being exempt) and is an extreme crime, which is why those guilty of other crimes are typically outlawed so they are no longer part of your clan and can be killed freely. There's a reason for this: kinslaying invites the forces of Chaos and curses the clan wherein it happens for years on end. One event chain in the game involves a drunken brawl ending in a kinslaying, and your entire clan ends up greatly disheartened and you have a much higher chance of suffering negative events for the next few years before the curse passes. Another event chain involves your clan accepting an outlawed warrior only to later find he is guilty of kinslaying and his former clan is seeking revenge.
  • Fire Emblem Warriors: During the game's climax, Darios ends up sacrificing his father to resurrect Velezark. Even though Oskar waged war against Aytolis for the purpose of reviving Velezark to gain his power, was planning to sacrifice Queen Yelena, Rowan and Lianna's mother, to that end, and was perfectly willing to kill his own son for the sake of his goals, the heroes are all absolutely shocked and horrified that Dario would kill his own father in cold blood.

    Web Original 
  • AsteroidQuest: It's mentioned a few times that the mafia don, Father Zozu, doesn't kill his sons. And since it's the mafia, it's all a big family, right? In the facts, he's still heavily biased towards his biological sons like Maklata, but when the latter's multiple murders of family members catch up with him, Father Zozu makes a point of disowning him before having him shot to death.
    Father Zozu: I do not kill my sons. But in light of your recent actions, you are no longer any son of mine.
  • Tribe Twelve: The big thing that marked Mary Asher as "The Selfish" was her lack of concern for her family. Not only did she kill her most recent husband during the course of the story, but her son Milo's journals feature her not only lying to, brainwashing and using him, but also claim she not only tried to kill Milo's father, but also attempted to burn down her sister's, brother-in-law's, and young nephew's house to kill them as well.

    Webcomics 
  • In Girl Genius, Aaronev's attempt to destroy his daughter's mind in order to get his old lover back, which ultimately kills her, is another thing that casts him as more evil than the rest of the mad scientists around him.

    Western Animation 
  • Dragons: Riders of Berk: Dagur the Deranged is introduced having replaced his father Oswald the Agreeable as chief of the Berserker Tribe with it heavily implied that he killed Oswald. Subverted when it's later revealed that Oswald disappeared and Dagur just let everybody think he killed Oswald to look strong.
    • Hiccup convinces Heather to spare Dagur citing this trope after revealing that they are siblings.
  • DuckTales (2017): Magica de Spell routinely abuses her niece while showing little concern for her, and ultimately kills her personally for her Heel–Face Turn.
  • Young Justice: Similarly to the comics version, Harm gains his power by killing his sister Greta. This version does this to become "pure evil" so he could wield the mystic sword of Beowulf. Seeing the ghost of his sister removes the "purity" from his heart, rendering him unable to wield the sword.


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