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The Bard

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"The bards were feared. They were respected, but more than that they were feared. ...If you'd pissed off some witch, then what's she gonna do, she's gonna put a curse on you... no big deal. You piss off a bard, and forget about putting a curse on you, he might put a satire on you."
"And if he was a skillful bard, he puts a satire on you, and it destroys you in the eyes of your community...and if it's a particularly good bard, and he's written a particularly good satire, then three hundred years after you're dead, people are still gonna be laughing, at what a twat you were."

Older Than Feudalism, the bard is a typically a character within a medieval or Renaissance-era story who acts as a poet, Wandering Minstrel, performer, and storyteller, for the people around them. The bard helps to spread news around the country, gets people to laugh or cry with their songs and stories, and boosts peoples' morale, all in return for a few coins and a place to stay.

While a king's royal bard gets respect as a member of the court, a traveling bard is seen as disreputable, as they live in grungy inns, drink copious amounts of ale, and travel the roads.note  They have a reputation as a Horny Bard, as they tend to get romantic with every fair maiden or prostitute they meet during their travels on the roads. The bard may supplement their singing income by doing light thievery and other chicanery. As well, being a traveling bard is good cover for being a spy.

In game cultures such as Dungeons & Dragons, the Bard is a versatile character able to both fight strategically and cast magic through the power of their songs, suggesting them to be magicians who use the power of emotion and creativity to conjure miracles into the world. Might have the reputation of a Horny Bard if they use their charisma to seduce nearly everybody in sight.

In medieval Gaelic and Brythonic culture (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Brittany and Cornwall) a bard was a professional poet, employed by a patron, such as a monarch or nobleman, to commemorate the patron's ancestors and to praise the patron's own accomplishments. The word itself is loaned from Scottish Gaelic, deriving from the Proto-Celtic bardos, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European, which roughly translates as "to raise the voice; praise." Similar societal roles could be observed throughout numerous Indo-European cultures, with the Norse Skalds and Indian Bhāts as prime examples.

"The Bard" is also commonly used to refer to Robert Burns in Scotland, and to William Shakespeare throughout the broader Anglosphere.

The Storyteller is a supertrope. See also Wandering Minstrel. The modern equivalent is Street Performer or Street Musician.


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    Comic Books 
  • Cacofonix of Asterix fame is the village's resident bard. However, he's universally considered to be a horrible singer and musician by the other Gauls of his village, so he's also the resident Butt-Monkey.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Despite being a Durlan and on the side of a group that could use her shapeshifting to infiltrate their opponents Nol Lapp instead focuses on creating poetry about rising up against the Sangtee Empire, poetry which helps other slaves revolt and gains the revolution support in the Empire.

    Fan Works 
  • In Ghosts of the Past, sequel to Child of the Storm, Taliesin a.k.a. Doctor Strange is revealed to have been the part-time Court Bard for Camelot. Yes, that Camelot. He was also the Court Physician and an exceptionally powerful wizard (by his own account, he was second only to Merlin and Morgana), having mastered Magic Music, and after he'd trained up a couple of successors, went wandering, to learn more magic. When he came back, he found that Arthur had died at Camlann, Merlin had vanished, and Camelot was collapsing around his ears, something he still blames himself for. He later uses his musical skills and pointed sense of humour to disrupt both Nimue's magic, and her concentration. It's also worth noting that the narrative directly compares his music to Da Vinci's art, among other things, because really is that good. As he puts it...
    "'... well I'll take your bet, you're gonna regret, 'cos I'm the best there's ever been.'"
  • Kyoshi Rising has Sun, a Wandering Minstrel from a long line of Wandering Minstrels. He meets Kyoshi early in her journey and does his best to help her achieve her potential.
  • Hurdy in The Tainted Grimoire is such. He tells stories and is capable of using his music to various effect in combat or support roles.
  • Bumblebee and Jazz share this role in the Transformers Fan Fic Things We Don't Tell Humans.

    Film — Live-Action 

  • Mercedes Lackey has an entire series, Bardic Voices, set around the conflict between the Free Bards and the Bardic Guild. Several have Magic Music.
  • A couple of these in the Deryni works:
    • Kinkellyan, chief bard to the court of Transha, plays a part in the diplomatic welcome Kelson receives in The Bishop's Heir. Kelson's response (joining in a traditional dance) to what Kinkellyan and Dhugal begin seals the deal.
    • Gwydion ap Plenneth, troubadour attached to Duke Alaric Morgan's court, featured in Deryni Checkmate. Aside from providing entertainment, he's quite useful in providing Morgan with public opinion feedback.
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, Rob makes living this way whenever he's not "officially" hired as Dinosaur Master. He even composes some songs, and they seem to be somewhat popular with people.
  • The Hands of the Emperor has Fitzroy Angursell: wandering singer, poet and musician, lover of the moon, mage and adventurer as part of the legendary Red Company. His grand opus, the ballad Aurora, was banned for political reasons and he was declared a criminal, but his music is still popular in the right circles.
  • In the Harry Potter series, Beedle the Bard was known for his collection of magical fables.
  • Bards feature in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series, though much less prominently than the Heralds.
  • The Edema Ruh from The Kingkiller Chronicle seem to be a society of travelling entertainers including many bards.
  • It can be argued that Tom Bombadil from The Lord of the Rings is indeed a bard, the figure known for singing songs that hold power over not only people, but the more ancient denizens of Middle Earth.
  • Hraik from Loyal Enemies is a half-elf bard in one of the pubs in the city of Displacing. He's also a badass and fiendishly intelligent, being the only person who worked out that Shelena is a werewolf with no explicit clues.
  • A bard shows up in The Odyssey. He might even be Homer's Author Avatar.
  • A Practical Guide to Evil has Almorava of Symra, The Wandering Bard. An Ashuran hero who joins The Lone Swordsman's party before the rebellion begins in southern Callow. Ridiculously dressed, constantly throwing back enough alcohol to kill a herd of livestock and a less-than-competent musician and singer, The Bard at first appears to be little more than comic relief. The jury's still out on how much of her silliness is an act, but there's certainly more to Almorava of Symra than meets the eye. She has the Genre Savvy that is the hallmark of her profession, with an understanding of the workings of fate rivaled only by the Black Knight. She has a tendency to appear (literally) whenever anything particularly plot-relevant is going on; no matter how much violence is directed her way she always manages to escape just in time; she seems to know intimate details of events she should be far too young to have witnessed and if nothing else, her liver must be superhuman. The epilogue of Book 2 reveals that The Wandering Bard is actually some kind of body-hopping immortal entity that has lived since long before elves arrived on Calernia. The precise nature of this entity is still mysterious but it seems to always exist as a storytelling-based Name and although it switches bodies and identities it retains all of its memories. It's also apparently scary enough to bully the Forever King. At the conclusion of Book 2 Almorava of Symra dies (apparently of alcohol poisoning) and the name passes on to a new host named Aoede of Nicae.
  • Quarters: The bards of Shkoder are a group with the power to do magic through song, calling on elemental beings called the kigh for many different purposes, divided into four "quarters"-fire, water, earth and air. They are also capable of commanding people by speaking with a certain tone, used for trials to insure defendants and witnesses give truthful testimony.
  • In The Riddle Master Trilogy, Deth serves this function as the High One's harpist. Yrth seems to have as well, given that he was known as the Harpist of Lungold. It really shouldn't come as a surprise that they're the same person, but, well. There are mentions of other harpists as well, such as Tirundeth, from whom Deth got his name, but they aren't as relevant.
  • So This is Ever After: Bethany is the bard in Arek's party, with her music being magical. She's also got a strong power of persuasion which works on muggles in most cases.
  • Norna-Gest, the protagonist of Tale of Norna-Gest, is an accomplished harp-player and singer who knows many ancient songs.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: Bards are generally traveling musicians who are practitioners of magic music. They are often in groups now. As part of their skills, bards memorize all songs and story lore, which is quite useful during a Quest. Their magic is even powerful enough to bind demons and open portals, so it's speculated the greatest wizards may be former bards.
  • Villains by Necessity: All of them were killed off in the backstory, as many allied with the druids rather than serve the forces of Light, and shared too many characteristics with thieves. It appears they had magical singing ability as well, and by the end Robin seems on the path to become one.
  • The Wheel of Time has both Bards, who are the traditional court performers, and Gleemen, who are Wandering Minstrel types.
  • Dandelion from The Witcher series is a bard famous for his songs and storytelling ability, and a close friend of Geralt of Rivia.
  • Gotrek & Felix: Felix is a poet who drunkenly agreed to become Gotrek's rememberer, a person to accompany a Slayer to his doom and record it. Trouble is, Gotrek just will not die, and Felix has become quite the swordsman following him around for years.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Very much Lorne from Angel, who sings a lot, acts as a moral compass, knows all the important people and tries to help in fights, but is mostly just there as moral support.
  • Blackadder II has the recurring, unnamed Balladeer who appears in the end credits summarising the events of the episode in song and generally annoying Lord Blackadder as much as possible. He makes a single appearance in "Money" where he's an annoying distraction during an important conversation. Edmund ends up pushing him into an open grave for being so irritating.
  • Tales of the Tinkerdee: Kermit the Frog takes on this role, and is never seen without his lute. His narration is full of bad jokes and shoehorned rhymes.
  • Jaskier in The Witcher (2019) acts as a bard, singing songs about Geralt's heroic deeds. His song "Toss A Coin To Your Witcher" became very popular in 2019 and 2020.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: For a while Gabrielle wanted to be a traveling bard. She also met Homer, who it turns out is called "blind" because he closes his eyes when he recites.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Dreaming makes Bard a court position. There are no classes in Changeling, so it's not a class, though some kiths are more likely to fit the role.
  • Cyberpunk has the Rockerboy class, who are essentially postmodern Bards that use The Power of Rock to inspire and lead their allies.
  • The Bard is one of the main playable classes in Dungeons & Dragons.
    • The Bard is joined by the very similar Skald in Pathfinder, though the Skald is more combative and their songs cause berserk rage rather than the bonuses a bard provides.
    • Several different variations of skald (see the real-life entry) as a class or variant have cropped up over the editions of Dungeons & Dragons. Usually they are better at a stand-up fight than an ordinary bard but lose out on the broad skillbase, magic or both.
  • Princess: The Hopeful: The Troubador Calling fits neatly into this trope. They are artists and performers whose Duty as a Princess is to inspire and uplift others.
  • In Res Arcana, the Bard is a mage with the special ability of letting you discard a creature, dragon or demon card to gain 2 Gold presumably the bard tells a story about the creature/dragon/demon in question and is paid for it.
  • The Fianna tribe in Werewolf: The Apocalypse are often the bards of their race, as are werewolves born under the "galliard auspice," meaning under a gibbous moon.
  • The Bard is a creature class introduced to Magic: The Gathering in the Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set. They are largely associated with Green, and secondarily with Red.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • In Assassin's Creed II and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, bards are more annoyances than anything else by standing in Ezio's way or running at him. Punching them is quite popular, for obvious reasons.
    • In Assassin's Creed: Revelations, while there's no Italian bard to be seen in the streets of Constantinople, there's a Call-Back to them nevertheless, in the form of a group of them who are invited to perform at a party of Prince Ahmet. Ezio and fellow assassins bound and gag them then impersonate them, and once he's infiltrated the party Ezio demonstrates his... "talents" (or lack thereof) at improvising by humorously singing a few songs about villains he defeated.
  • One party member in Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, Voghiln the Vast, is a "skald from the north who inspires his allies with epic tales".
  • The Bard's Tale Trilogy has a few with the Magic Music power.
  • While Bravely Default calls the Job "Performer" (or Superstar if you perfer the original translation), the idea of a party member who buffs and debuffs through singing is still a major part of it. Amusingly, the male costume is an Elvis Impersonator outfit, and the female costume is a Playboy Bunny uniform.
  • The Jester from Darkest Dungeon fulfills this role in the Fantasy Character Classes line-up, being a Magic Music user who buffs and stress heals his allies with his lute. While he isn't a storyteller or very poetic, he also stress heals his teammates with a few good jokes and laughs. Unless he crossed the Despair Event Horizon, of course.
  • Leliana from the Dragon Age series used to be a traveling Bard (or rather, a spy/assassin who disguised herself as a traveling Bard -Apparently that's pretty common in Orlais). She comes with the Bard specialization and will teach it to other Rogues if her approval rating is high enough. Additionally, much of her dialogue includes stories and songs she learned during her time as a Bard. The Inquisitor can ask, and Leliana will offer, to give training on being a bard: it basically amounts to Do Not Attempt because of how dirty and conniving bard work is.
    • Varric serves this role in the second and third games, with his storytelling serving as the framing device for the second and his book sales being a recurring topic in the third.
  • Dwarf Fortress: Bards can visit your fortress, play music (and create their own songs), dance (and choreograph their own dance forms), tell poems (and write new ones), and you can even play as one in Adventure Mode (and do everything the fort mode bards can do). In DF there is also a different skill for every style of song, every single style of dancing, every single type of poem, and every single instrument, and every single style of music as well.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In the first four games in the series (Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, and Oblivion), Bard is one of the default classes available. Falling under the "Stealth" specialization, Bards combine skills from all three of the Fighter, Mage, Thief trio in roughly equal portions.
    • Skyrim does away with classes, but includes a joinable Bard's College. While you can join it and train your speechcraft, you unfortunately cannot learn how to play musical instruments whatsoever. The game also includes NPC bards, frequently found in taverns and at the aforementioned Bard's College, who will sing and play instruments as ambient actions.
  • Long before Bravely Default, the Bard (or Songstress in some games) is a recurring job in Final Fantasy's vast Job System. Various characters in the universe have this job, and are often very useful as a Support Party Member.
  • League of Legends has an unconventional, but spiritually appropriate take on the archetype through a character named Bard, titled "The Wandering Caretaker." Bard is a celestial being who observes the universe as a series of cosmic noises, so he roams its entirety in search of material to compose with and make into masterful songs. He finds fascination with Runeterra since it's home to some of the most interesting and chaotic sounds, and he functions as a quirky in-game champion who incorporates cosmic music into his support-based gameplay.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has Kass, a Rito who wanders the world with his accordion and will recite poems to Link, which are hints on how to reveal hidden shrines in the area. His reason for doing so was due to his teacher's final request, who wanted to aid Link in the future when he woke up from his resurrection years later.
  • The Bard from Shovel Knight will play any song from the game's soundtrack for you if you get him the music sheets. He'll also pay you 500 gold for each music sheet you bring him, which is another incentive to collect them.
  • Jimmy from South Park: The Stick of Truth is a bard who uses Magic Music.
  • Sunset Overdrive has them as part of one of the quests. Yeah you heard right, quest, as in LARP.
  • Tangledeep has a version of this inspired by, of all things, claymore-wielding Highlanders. The Edge Thane is a woad-painted, cloaked, BFS wielding warrior woman who fights by hitting things with two-handed weapons while singing at the top of her lungs about how great she is. The fact that one of the Job's passives is called Glorious Battler really emphasizes the upfront melee nature of this particular take on the Bard archetype.
  • The protagonist of Wandersong is a bard, who's Magic Music is required to solve puzzles and get through various areas of the game.
  • Dandelion from The Witcher series is a bard famous for his songs and storytelling ability, and a close friend of Geralt of Rivia. In the second and third games he serves as the narrator, and the character entries in Geralt's journal were written by him.

    Web Animation 
  • In Lackadaisy, Rocky is Lackadaisy Speakeasy's house band violinist turned booze runner, prone to bouts of string-accompanied expository poetry. He blithely avoids the hard labor done by his younger New Meat assistants via invoking his "spaghetti arms" and insisting he "provide[s] the ambience." When push comes to shove, however, he's disturbingly good at managing and directing his Caper Crew's "performances" on the fly, from Hired Gun Freckle's marksmanship and Getaway Driver Ivy's maneuvering in a Car Chase Shootout to his own showstopping Construction Vehicle Rampage to rescue them both from rival gangmembers, flinging dynamite from atop the bucket of a steam shovel while maniacally howling rhyming couplets.

  • Girl Genius: The storyteller is a traveling bard who is both part of the framing story (he's telling the tale) and has multiple random encounters with the protagonists throughout their journey. He's one of Ognian's descendants and has memorized a great number of tales in addition to spinning his own.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Susan plays a game that includes a NPC bard that looks like Ellen.
  • In Far Out, Chapter 1 ends with one singing about the events in it.
  • In Fey Winds, when Prince Sidney Theodorus Cassian Merriweather Findain VIII... Just call him Sid, reveals to the main characters whose group he just joined that he's trained as a bard, they smash his lute and shove a sword into his hands.
  • MS Paint Adventures:
    • Bard Quest: The main character is a minstrel that managed to impress the king enough to become the head dragon slayer.
    • In Homestuck, Sburb/Sgrub has 12 different classes for players that set their character arc, one of them being the Bard, a counterpart to the prince class that serves to passively destroy or corrupt, while a prince actively destroys. What a bard destroys depends on its aspect, such as Gamzee Makara, a Bard of Rage.
  • Elan from The Order of the Stick, as seen in this scene from early in the comic.
  • In Stand Still, Stay Silent, the job of skald had been revived and is considered an academic job, which consists of being a keeper of knowledge alongside being a keeper of stories. In the Keuruu military base in Finland, the desk jobs are shown to be held by skalds, while Torbjörn Västerström's job as one consisted of copying old books.
  • Oi! Tales of Bardic Fury: The protagonist Bryan is a bard who has recently graduated from the Academy of Tara and has been sent to the sleepy village of Oi to finish his training— although his personality and mannerisms are more like a modern rock star than anything.

    Web Video 
  • Critical Role: A number of player characters are bards, by the rules of Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Critical Role: Campaign One: Scanlan Shorthalt is a typical horny gnome bard who narrates the tales of Vox Machina. He plays multiple instruments. His unknown daughter, Kaylie, took after him in this regard.
    • Critical Role: Exandria Unlimited:
      • In the main mini-series, Dorian Storm is an Air Genasi bard who left his well-off, secluded home to travel, joining up with the Crowns Keepers and later Bells' Hells in Critical Role: Campaign Three. He plays a lute.
      • In Calamity, Loquatius Seelie and Nydas Okiro are both dual-class bards (Loquatius is a Changeling Warlock/Bard while Nydas is a Human Sorcerer/Bard). Loquatius uses this talent as a broadcaster in ancient Avalir while Nydas, who is College of Swords, leans more on his battle skills.
    • In The Darrington Brigade one shot, Hazel Copperpot is a One-Man Band dwarf bard seeking to create Exandria's first audiobooks of Taryon's adventures.
    • In Liam's Quest: Full Circle, a de-aged player character version of Matthew Mercer (usually the Dungeon Master) is given bard abilities, able to mock villains, inspire his friends, and cast Healing Word and Thunder Wave at 1st level. DM Liam implies these powers come from the purity of Matt's soul.
  • Headless: A Sleepy Hollow Story: Diedrich Knickerbocker appears as the All-Knowing Singing Narrator, but also as a troubadour in town following main character Ichabod Crane around.

    Real Life 
  • Numerous Greek and Roman poets and writers were portrayed this way, especially as they were romanticized in the early modern era. True to the page quote, the tales they told fed into later high culture, art, music, occultism, pop culture, fantasy, and sci-fi, coloring the opinion of later peoples because of how the something was portrayed by classic writers. For a (simplified) example, Ba'al and Beelzebub started as terms for a Punic deity, but Rome won the war and now Ba'al almost certainly represents something wicked when used in fiction.
  • Homer of The Iliad and The Odyssey has been portrayed as a blind bard. The classical era certainly had an extensive oral poetic tradition.
  • Skalds were poetic members of a group associated with Viking tradition, and were highly revered for their stories, since individual vikings desired their glory to be remembered through tale and song.
    • Griots provided a similar role in western Africa, with the Epic of Sundiata being one story preserved virtually entirely by oral tradition.
  • Historically, William Shakespeare was known for his title as "The Bard of Avon".