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The Rat

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What's lower than a rat? A weevil!

There's a new syndicate in town, and they've kidnapped hostages. The heroes have been given twenty-four hours by Da Chief to bust them - but they don't have any leads.

Better go see The Rat.

The Rat is an informant who always has the information, and he's willing to give it to the heroes, for a price - whether it's money, the expectation of future favours, or even just the heroes' blind eye to his shady dealings. In the criminal underbelly, he's usually a low-level bottom-feeder at best, and is often a bit of a slimy, whiny creep, but he has his finger on the pulse and every scrap of information about what's going down comes through him, and he saves it for exactly when it'll come in useful for him. He's often a pawnbroker (read: fence for stolen goods) or a bartender in a dive bar, or some other such profession which often features some kind of contact with criminals. In older works, he may be a Street Urchin of some kind. Usually lives in The City Narrows.

He usually likes to treat the heroes' search for information as a bit of a game; a request whether he knows what's going on will be met with a faux-innocent "I know lots of things," until someone ponies up the motivation to get him to talk. If the heroes are in the mood to play along, then this will be a wad of currency; if not, they may just decide to bounce him off the walls until he squeals.

As such, he can be a bit of a punching bag for the heroes, but beware - he can only be pushed so far. Whilst he's usually a coward who wouldn't dare try anything with the heroes when they're on top, his loyalties are slippery, and if the villain gives him enough motivation he'll just as easily switch allegiance and sell out the heroes, thus prompting a possible The Dog Bites Back moment if the heroes push him too far. However, if and when the heroes get themselves back on top of the situation, The Rat will find himself with a lot of explaining - not to mention desperate pleading - to do.

The chances of The Rat betraying the heroes if someone makes him a better offer is near-certain, however, and all but the most genre blind of heroes know this - nevertheless, they still persist in keeping him around. In-universe, this may be explained by the fact that he's just so useful as a source of information. Outside of the fiction, however, it's probably because he's a fan-favourite character.

A variation that sometimes appears (particularly in Cyberpunk style stories) is the 'information broker' variety - a character who deals in trafficking information, usually of a sensitive or not-entirely-legal in a computerised format. Unlike the standard crime-novel Rat, the Information Broker may not be a criminal and may have a respectable above-board persona requiring that they conceal their more illicit activities. This type of character frequently appears as a protagonist.

Compare with the Mysterious Informant (an anonymous Deep Throat-like source who appears to give the protagonists some cryptic, fragmentary information before disappearing) and the Knowledge Broker (a source with a network of further information sources supplying all the information needed). Not to be confused with an actual rat, though of course in anthropomorphic settings of all kinds it's entirely possible for the two to overlap. Also not to be confused with The Lab Rat, which is someone else differently.

If the rat spills their info to the police instead of the heroes, then they're The Stool Pigeon.


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    Comic Books 
  • In some variations of the Batman franchise, The Penguin has come to fill this role after going semi-legitimate with his owning a nightclub.
  • Sin City has Weevil, mine of information and perennial Butt-Monkey.
  • Nervous Rex fills this role in Sinister Dexter, right down to the massive coward bit. He is also, however, a good friend of the protagonists, to the extent of getting free (or heavily discounted) protection from them.

    Fan Works 
  • Pokémon: The Lost Child: Greninja somehow managed to learn the location of Zoroark and tells Aegislash about it, which kicks off the events of Chapter 17. Aegislash is also suspicious of why they would give that info away for free.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In The Car: Road to Revenge, Rainer and Daria visit an information broker to gain info on The Night. However, just as the broker starts to talk, he is shot by Talen's gang.
  • The Rat in The Core is actually called 'Rat' and is an "information wants to be free" type. Which he uses as a Take That! against the government in the final shots of the movie.
  • Leo Getz in the Lethal Weapon series of movies is an unusually sympathetic version of this character; described by Riggs and Murtaugh as "an annoying asshole with a lot of connections," he's a bit annoying but essentially a decent guy who actually seems to look up to Riggs and Murtaugh a bit, however badly they treat him. In the later movies, the three become friends, something of a Power Trio, and Leo ends up acting as Murtaugh's estate agent in Lethal Weapon 3.
  • A rare Sci Fi version in Men in Black and Men in Black II. Jack Jeebs is an alien who sells stolen fake rolexes and some powerful alien tech who Jay and Kay harass and threaten to get info and tech.
  • In Osmosis Jones, a Flu Shot virus serves this role.

  • One of Robert Asprin's novels (possibly Cold Cash Wars) featured a character like this.
  • The Harry Potter series of books has Mundungus Fletcher, a selfish thief and con artist who is sometimes antagonistic towards Harry and his friends. Despite being a total crook he remains loyal to Dumbledore and is thus useful to the protagonists due to his knowledge of the criminal world.
  • Discworld: In Night Watch, a young Nobby Nobbs is a Street Urchin who serves as an informant for Vimes/Keel while he's stranded in the past.
  • The Finn in William Gibson's Neuromancer is compared to a rat by the main characters, and more or less fits the job description.
  • Bobby Lacey in Katharine Kerr's Polar City Blues is the information broker type - her only other criminal activity is water hoarding to support her garden, which gives her fresh greens and apple cider to trade for more information.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Rogues in the House", the priest of Anu who betrayed Conan at the beginning of the story.
  • Hiro Protagonist and Y. T. in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, who make their living trading "intel" (usually stolen computer code).
  • Sword Art Online has "Argo the Rat", who sells information to other players during the Aincrad arc (while a relatively minor character in the main story, she's fleshed out a bit more in the Progressive novels). Argo even paints whiskers on her face to more resemble a rat - she claims that this started back in the beta when she got stuck on a quest that marks the player's face until completed, but she liked the impact it made on customers and now uses it as her calling card.
  • Nick the Nose, an informant in the Two-Minute Mysteries stories starring Dr. Haledjian. In the stories, he always lies about knowing things in order to get a reward.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Willy the Snitch from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    • Angel also had a sewer-dwelling demon on whom Angel frequently used to pound in order to get information.
  • Fosnight from The Flash (1990) TV series, who was a a con artist and secretly a police informant
  • Hill Street Blues had Sid the Snitch, whose many minor scams were overlooked by Detective Buntz. On the other hand, Sid was such a braggart that many of the things he described may just have been his own fantasies.
  • Bobby Bigmouth in Lois & Clark was the reporters' main source on what was happening on the streets. A Big Eater, he would tell them pretty much anything in return for food.
  • Parodied in Police Squad!—Johnny the shoeshine guy acts in this role to Frank Drebin. However, as soon as Drebin's gone, someone from another profession entirely - a surgeon, a priest, Dick Clark - will show up, asking for information - and Johnny will go through the same act again, eventually giving them what they want as well.
    • Similarly, in The Naked Gun, Johnny answers some questions after Frank Drebin greases his palm... then Johnny asks why the information is so important, and Drebin doesn't answer until Johnny pays him. Drebin ends up leaving with the information he needed and an extra twenty bucks.
  • Piggy from Power Rangers S.P.D.: an occasional alien double agent, giving information to both the S.P.D. Rangers and Emperor Gruumm.
  • Carl the Gnome from Special Unit 2. Carl is he unit's liaison with the Link community, and is a verbally aggressive gnome known for kleptomania and armed robbery, who is mutually antagonistic towards Nick.
  • All of Carmen Sandiego's Bumbling Sidekicks in Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego. As soon as they are jailed, they lose no time in squealing on Carmen to the winning Gumshoe. Bonus points for one of them (Wonder Rat) being a man who actually dresses like a rat.

    Video Games 
  • Birdie from Hitman: Absolution. He is Agent 47's informant during 2013 and was hired by 47 himself in finding out more about the people after Victoria.
  • Ugarte from Quest for Glory II and V.
  • Peg-leg Pete, the bartender at Ye Bitten Dog tavern, plays this role in Return to Krondor and its novelization Krondor: Tear of the Gods.
  • Hammer the Supplier from Xenogears is literally a rat and fits this trope to a T. Complete with a Face–Heel Turn because he's tired of being cowardly and powerless and jealous of the main characters' strength.

    Western Animation 
  • Argit from the various Ben 10 series. He used to run with Kevin in between the end of the original series and Alien Force (during which Kevin became a Lovable Rogue). Also looks like a literal anthropomorphic rat, due to him being an alien.
  • Big Daddy Brotherson from Kim Possible, of the 'information brooker' type.
  • Jimmy the Rat in Krypto the Superdog is Ace the Bathound's snitch, although one they're introduced, Krypto sometimes uses him as well. He's also, of course, a literal rat.
  • Rattletrap from Transformers: Animated, despite being an Autobot, is a little shady (even willing to sell an ID pass to a Decepticon). He's based on Rattrap from Beast Wars, making him a literal rat as well. As Captain Fanzone put it: "There's one in every town."