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"Through your eyes, brothers, I finally see the world for what it really is. This city is infested. Eight million parasites, scrambling around in their pointless lives, spreading disease, forcing us to live in the shadows, like vermin. No more. They are the true plague. Together, we shall rid this city of humanity, and reclaim it for ourselves. And no one, not even those vile turtles, shall stand in our way."
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Because rats are social, have long tails, and happily live in dirty environments, they occasionally get stuck together. In particular, their tails can become tangled, and they're unable to separate themselves once this happens—though they usually groom themselves well enough to keep this from happening in the first place, making the phenomenon thankfully rare. As rare as it may be, though, it's spectacular enough that humans—long-time unwilling companions of ratkind—have noticed these unfortunate entities and ascribed them with special properties. Details vary by region, but generally they're held to be omens of plague and other rat-based calamities.

Rat kings in fiction tend to have greater than typical intelligence, even on par with a human being, and the right to command other rats, be it through some conferred rat respect or overt psychic control, potentially turning a dissociated nuisance into a swarming wave of diseased, omnivorous devastation. They may be viewed as the manifestation of a rat Hive Mind, the rodent equivalent of a Hive Queen. Storytellers who either haven't done the research or don't like the "several rats conjoined by their tails" image may instead depict Rat Kings as royalty of some sort, typically Rodents of Unusual Size or anthropomorphic Rat Men imbued with greater intelligence and rule over other rats.

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Note that some Pest Controllers control rats. In order to count as Rat Kings, they must be rats themselves, or at least very rat-like. Wearing a rat costume doesn't count.

Not to be confused with the book by James Clavell or the one by China Miéville.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • The Ballad of Halo Jones has the heroine sign up in the Army to fight a deadly war on an alien planet. She discovers the heart of the supercomputer directing Earth's war effort is a malevolent and superintelligent Rat King plugged into the network as its CPU.
  • Beasts of Burden: A Rat King is the Big Bad of "Something Whiskered This Way Comes", leading a massive colony of rats in the sewers beneath the town. and plotting to overthrow mankind with the help of a powerful supernatural entity.

    Literature 
  • The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents has one as its ultimate villain. Spider, so-called because it's made from eight young rats (eight being a number of great occult significance on the Discworld), has psychic powers so potent it can not only control rats and see anything they can see, but also influence human behavior. It can even strip away the magical awareness given to the protagonist rats and cat, making them ordinary creatures. Horribly, making a Rat King is part of the qualification for mastery in the Ratcatchers Guild, suggesting that there are many of these things across the Disc. It's specifically noted that the notion of Rat Kings being formed naturally is complete bullshit, as baby rats have very short tails and the mothers will keep their nests as clean as possible, and the myth that they get tangled together in filth is something invented to hide the fact that it's humans tying them together.
  • Animorphs: Invoked by David. When he reappears twenty-odd books after being trapped as a rat and left on an island, he claims that rats see him as a natural leader and obey him, and that he has armies billions strong. Rachel is skeptical and soon says that that's not possible, rats are not like that and he can't communicate with them that way and something else is going on. She's right.
  • Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles: The idea of a rat king is discussed when the protagonists find three salamander-like baby dragons with their tails fused together. It's later discovered that the dragons are merging together into a massive Wyrm King, i.e., a hydra.
  • Left Hand Magic: A supernatural conglomeration of twelve New York street rats tries to eat the heroine's puppy. Luckily, her witchy boyfriend's familiar instead ends up eating the rat king.
  • Neverwhere: The nations of London Below include a highly regarded class of humans called Rat Speakers, who carry out the orders of the rats, who themselves are ruled with absolute authority by an entity described only as "the Golden".
  • The Nutcracker" The Mouse King has seven heads, which suggests that it might have been inspired by stories of Rat Kings. He's changed to the Rat King in many adaptations, since rats are seen as more villainous than mice.
  • The Rats: The alpha of the killer rats stalking London is a white, hairless and obese rat with two heads.
  • Rats and Gargoyles: The eponymous Rats are ruled by groups of nine of their number with their tails deliberately fused together.
  • Triss features a variant using vipers instead of rats. A trio of newborn adders got their tails ensnared in the chain of a flail used by an enemy who'd killed their mother and, having no hands, couldn't untangle themselves.
  • The War For The Lot: The primary antagonist(s) is/are a blind, psychic Hive Mind rat-king.
  • Warrior Cats: In Firestar's Quest, SkyClan is threatened to be wiped out by a swarm of rats. Firestar realizes that the rats have a leader, which is more intelligent than the others: it is able to speak Cat, and give commands to all the other rats. Once he kills the leader, the rest of the rats have nothing to command them, and they scatter.
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    Live-Action TV 
  • QI: Discussed alongside the concept of Squirrel Kings. Jeremy Clarkson finds the idea hysterical, in light of the damage grey squirrels have done to British woodlands, although he admits it's a bit sad that it usually happens to baby squirrels.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In Planescape, cranium rats function similarly to rat kings in that they become more intelligent and capable at higher population densities. Enough cranium rats crammed into a small space can rival the most intelligent beings in the multiverse, command other cranium rats to do their bidding, and host a variety of dangerous psychic powers.
  • Exalted has emperor rats, also known as "rat-hydras". They come to be when multiple giant rats are fused into one creature by Wyld energies.
  • Pathfinder: The fourth Bestiary contains statistics for these, in the traditional "entangled tails" form. They're smarter than normal rats (although still quite dim by human standards) and can communicate with them. They also carry disease, and make the diseases carried by other rats harder to resist.
  • Malifaux features Rat Kings as part of Hamelin the piper's crew. A large mass of rats (who aren't physically connected to each other) bound in what looks like it was once a sack. The mass combined with the bag ends up looking like a humanoid figure in a hooded robe and can even pass for a human in the right shadow and from a distance.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: Skreech Verminking, a Verminlord — a powerful Daemon of the Great Horned Rat, sent to act as a divine ruler for the Skaven Rat Men — was created when the god took the members of the Council of Thirteen who rule over the Skaven and fused and molded them into a single powerful being.
  • Warpath, among their rat-like Veer-Myn, have the Tangle. A mass of undersized Veer-Myn infants born with their tails bound together, who are revered by their species and typically possess powerful psychic abilities. Though they're feared by the Veer-Myn as much as they are revered because they can just as likely bring and end to their nest.

    Video Games 
  • Armory & Machine's boss of the second area is the Rat King. He sports Royal Decree, an extremely powerful attack among other weaker ones. Similar to the rat mooks in the area, their deadly attack must be interrupted or the fight will almost certainly end in your defeat.
  • Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead has Rat Kings as enemies in caves. They can inflict the player with a disease called "Ratting" which reduces stats, can cause vomiting, or, in especially bad cases, cause the player to mutate slowly into a rat.
  • Dark Souls II: A large hyper-intelligent rat actually goes by "the Rat King" moniker, commanding all other rats in the game. You can actually join the Rat King's Covenant — while he bemoans your un-rat-ness, he magnanimously allows you to serve him for some nifty multiplayer perks.
  • Deltarune has the Mauswheel, three Maice (computer mouse-like enemies) bound by their tails into not just a clump, but a super-speedy wheel. It serves as a Mini-Boss in Queen's mansion, with Kris and co. having to dispose of it because it's scaring the Swatchlings running the kitchen.
  • Diablo III goes for a very unusual take: Rat Kings are large, bipedal rodent-like monsters that carry their young within the swollen flesh on their backs, and can summon said young to attack the player.
  • Little King's Story: The Rat King leads a group consisting of himself and three other rats. It and its followers symbolize the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, with the Rat King symbolizing Death.
  • Lunacid: These are one of the enemies encountered in the Fetid Mire's sewers, though they're just mundane rats stuck together. There are also Rat Queens, dog-sized rats with multiple smaller rats seemingly growing out of their bodies.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon: Going by the description of Alolan Rattata, it seems as though Alolan Raticate are this. Alolan Raticate also serves as a Totem Pokémon boss in Pokémon Moon and summons Alolan Rattata to assist it in battle.
  • Shadowrun Returns: In the Hong Kong campaign, Gobbet's (a shaman with a rat totem) loyalty mission involves returning to collective she used to live in, in order to confront an old friend (another rat shaman) who's gone toxic and started ruling with an iron fist after acquiring a fetish (no, not that sort).
  • Shovel Knight: King of Cards, which has kinghood as a recurring motif, features an enemy called the Rat King, appearing as a Propeller Rat with a bunch of other rats clustered around it. Every time you attack it, a rat will fall off. Attack enough times, and it will revert to an ordinary Propeller Rat.
  • TinkerQuarry: The rats in the Dollhouse are ruled by the Rat King, a massive, three-headed, albino rat that serves as one of the last few bosses of the game.

    Webcomics 
  • Snarlbear: The rat queen is a huge rat joined to many smaller rats.
  • Tales of the Questor: A mad biomancer created a rat king that could create wights, living shadows that feed on magic, which were shaped like rats.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: The Rat King in "Little Brother" is the king of all rats, being a normal-sized rat with a crown and a cape hiding a legion of rats making him look taller.
  • Batman Beyond has Patrick Poundstone aka Ratboy from "Rats", who can control the giant rats that live below Gotham. He is a Stalker with a Crush to Dana Tan, Terry's Love Interest and kidnaps her. When she rebuffs him, he orders his rats to kill her but Batman manages to save her. Other people were not so lucky.
  • Family Guy: An "undulating" rat king is listed among the reasons the Quahog Board of Health shut down a Medieval Times-esque restaurant.
  • Hilda: The Rat King is a swarm of rats that move in a hulking mass and speak in unison. They know all secrets overheard by the rats of Trollberg and will happily trade them for more.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: There is a recurring antagonist named "the Rat King". He is a gigantic, muscle-bound rat in command of a gang of sewer rats.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Rat King tends to be depicted as having control over rats in some adaptations. In the first cartoon, he is initially capable of doing so via a flute ala The Pied Piper of Hamelin, and in later episodes he can do it psychically. In the 2003 and the 2012 cartoons, he is able to do so mentally from the start.

 
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King Colby-Jack II

One of the characters in Jeff's show is the noble mouse King Colby-Jack II, a Rat Folk alien king who helps Steve get an oil change in return for a review of Black Brigade.

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