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Revenge By Proxy / Literature

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Instances of people attempting to take Revenge by Proxy in Literature.


  • Animorphs:
    • See Pay Evil unto Evil. Jake is pretty pissed that Visser One has gleefully slaughtered the Auxiliary Animorphs, so he's willing to massacre seventeen thousand Yeerks, who just happened to be completely defenseless and harmless.
    • Also, after they learn the kids' true identities, the Yeerks attack their houses, managing to enslave Jake's parents.
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  • In Tolkien's The Children of Húrin, Morgoth punished Hurin for defying him by cursing his children and forcing him to watch as their lives are slowly destroyed.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", when Cold-Blooded Torture no longer hurts Taramis, Salome brings her the head of her faithful councilor, Krallides.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo: The Count has no problem with goading his archenemy Morcerf's son Albert into a duel he knows he'll win. Only Mercedes' intervention saves him, having figured out what he's up to, and though the Count goes to the duel perfectly ready to die, Mercedes explained the situation to Albert, who calls off the duel and apologizes.
  • The Dragon Rises by Adrienne Martine-Barnes has this codified as law: "we are a culture with strong bonds of family. We now hold that the suffering of the guilty party's family is a deterrent to crime. Few persons are so dead to family feeling that they would wish to endanger their innocent wives or husbands or children. This, at least, is the theory."
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files:
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    • Grave Peril: the Big Bad goes after Charity, Michael's wife, and their unborn child in revenge. This allows Michael and Harry to make some deductions about who it is. Mostly because the apparent villain is, while intelligent, lacks an understanding of humans and how revenge by proxy is just as harmful to have done that.
    • Summer Knight: Mab comes to Harry with a deal that will free him of faerie influence, in exchange for him doing three favors for Mab. Dresden quickly adds on some more conditions, which include "Not hurting Harry because he refused to do a favor," and "no telling someone else to hurt Harry." This doesn't work; she then hurts him simply out of spite, which was not covered by the terms.
    • Dead Beat: Mavra the vampire threatens Murphy to get Harry to do what she wanted him to. Harry does it, then informs her that if she ever threatens Murphy or his friends again, he would, "kill you so hard your last ten victims would make miraculous recoveries." The villain hasn't come back since.
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    • In Changes, the Red Court Vampire Ariana kidnaps Maggie Dresden, Harry's daughter he didn't even know existed to get at Harry for all the harm he's done to the Reds in the War. Somewhat subverted when it's revealed that Maggie is the focus of a bloodline curse that actually will kill Harry (Harry's pain over what's happening to his daughter was just a bonus), and further subverted when it turns out Harry isn't the direct focus of the revenge, he's another bonus. Ariana's true target is Harry's grandfather Ebenezer McCoy, who was Harry's mentor and never told him the truth of their relationship. McCoy killed Duke Ortega, Ariana's husband, a few years back by a Colony Drop.
    • It seems The Fair Folk will do this through several layers; it's mentioned in Cold Days by Sarissa (a human woman living under Mab's protection in the Winter Court) that she is very careful not to draw attention to any mortal friends or family she might have because killing the loved ones of "Mab's pet mortal" would be a sufficiently indirect insult (not to Sarissa, but to Mab), as to leave the Faerie Queen unable to easily retaliate.
    • Nicodemus Archleone, a roughly 2,000-year-old villain who has had a Fallen Angel inside his head working to do many great and evil things, loves this concept at times. As one who leads a cadre of Fallen Angels trapped in simple silver coins and any who is unlucky enough to touch their bare skin to the metal can be possessed by the Fallen who will work them over until the person gives in, he has aimed to taint the children of his enemies. The action can be as simple as throwing a coin near a toddler hoping the child would take up the coin and force the parent to become the enemy of the child. He has also killed whole families of the Knights of the Cross but left one corpse outside the burned ruins of the home making it clear this one was forced to watch as the others died.
  • Frankenstein: The Doctor's monster decides to get revenge for his mistreatment and wretched existence by making Frankenstein suffer. The monster kills Frankenstein's youngest brother, followed by his greatest friend, and then on Frankenstein's wedding day, the monster strangles his bride.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Gods of Mars, John Carter is particularly horrified to learn that Issus has Dejah Thoris prisoner and knows that she is the wife of John Carter and the mother of Carthoris — the two men who dared raise their hands against her.
  • Harry Potter has Severus Snape who bullies Harry due to the fact that his father, James Potter, relentlessly abused Snape while he was in school and ultimately got together with Lily, Snape's childhood best friend and the love of his life.
  • In Lloyd Alexander's The High King, when Eilonwy is captured by a bandit and he realizes her connection to Taran, he tells her that he has a grudge with Taran, and he will get his revenge now. He is interrupted by a wolf.
  • In the Honor Harrington novels, the People's Republic of Haven practiced this as policy for officers who failed the people, shooting whole families for it. Also, Lord Pavel Young kills Honor's beloved Paul Tankersley, with a professional duelist, in order to hurt her. It works, but he soon sees what a bad idea it was.
  • The Hunger Games: In Mockingjay, President Snow tortures and hijacks Peeta Mellark in order to hurt Katniss. At one point, one of the other characters outright states that Snow will do to his victim whatever it takes to break her. Made even worse when you realize that when Snow wanted Katniss to convince him she loves Peeta in Catching Fire, it's not in order to preserve peace in Panem, as Katniss believes at the time, but because the stronger Katniss feels for Peeta, the more effective it will be for Snow to torture him.
  • Journey to Chaos: In the second book Annala finds herself in the crosshairs of someone with a grudge against her mother and Honorary Aunt, Hasina. Nulso Xialin seeks to enslave her because he can't attack his true targets directly.
  • In the Magic: The Gathering short story "The Theft of Bayende, Heart and Soul" featured in the Tapestries anthology, both of the protagonists do this. The wizard Noranda-Zang has spent ten years searching for Thane, the man who killed him in battle (He Got Better obviously). When he finally reaches Thane's home, he discovers Thane's pregnant wife Bayende. He and his pet shade then brutally murder her and leave the ruined corpses of Bayende and her unborn child for Thane to find. Thane then spends twenty years searching for Zang. When he finally reaches Zang's home, he discovers Zang's son. Thane drains the life from the young man and leaves his body for Zang to find. Zang does so just as Thane is leaving the scene, and his anguished screams fill the air. The ending makes it clear that resolved nothing, and that both of them would continue to fight each other for the rest of their lives even though both of them had lost what they cherished most.
  • In Simon Spurrier's Night Lords novel Lord of the Night, the priest kills Cog, a Gentle Giant utterly loyal to Mira, who is unconscious, before he turns on Mira. This is a mistake.
  • In Pan Tadeusz, ever since Jacek Soplica has killed his beloved master and run for the border, Gerwazy hunts and duels (or kills) people named Soplica.
  • In John Milton's Paradise Lost, the point of tempting Adam and Eve to sin is that it hurts God.
  • This is a major reason why monsters constantly attack demigods in Percy Jackson and the Olympians. They often want to get revenge on some god, but that god is too powerful to attack directly, so they attack their children instead. In The Demigod Diaries, it is revealed that all demigods have a certain scent that allures monsters. The scent was crafted by Lamia, whose children were killed by Hera because she formed a relationship with Zeus. Lamia obviously couldn't exact vengeance on Hera directly, nor she could to Hera's demigod children (since she never had any), but she could condemn the demigods of other gods to live a life of suffering, just as she had to suffer the deaths of her children.
  • In the Agatha Christie novel Pocket Full of Rye, this was Ruby MacKenzie's original plan. Because Rex Fortescue left her father to die of a fever on an expedition to Africa, when Rex's son Percival comes down with pneumonia, she gets herself assigned as Percival's nurse, intending to let him die of neglect. She couldn't go through with it, however, and chooses a different revenge: she marries Percival so that in time she will inherit the money Rex Fortescue scammed out of her father.
  • Quiller:
    • In "The Ninth Directive", a female agent shows Quiller the gun she intends to use to avenge her dead lover, a fellow agent. She doesn't know who his killers were or even what side they were on, so kills a mook who's about to kill Quiller as an acceptable substitute, throwing the gun away afterwards.
    • In "The Sinkiang Executive", Quiller gets in a lot of trouble for the public killing of an enemy agent doing a routine tail of him. He admits it was to avenge the death of a girl who died as a result of his actions (he was supposed to give himself up in exchange, but refused to honor his part of the deal). The tail was just a minor Opposition agent that he recognised from the incident that may well have had nothing to do with her death.
  • The demon in Running with the Demon was attracted to a young Evelyn Freemark because of her magic and wild nature. They ran together for a while, but when she discovered his true nature, she rejected him. The demon waited until Evelyn had grown up, married, and had children before putting his plan into motion. Seducing Evelyn's emotionally fragile daughter, Catelyn, he impregnated her, then revealed the truth to her and her mother, driving Catelyn to suicide shortly after giving birth. Fourteen years later, he came back for the last time, seeking to both collect his daughter and kill Evelyn in the process. Bastard.
  • The Saga of Arrow-Odd: When Odd's arch-enemy Ogmund realizes he cannot bring Odd down, he murders Odd's blood brother Thord Prow-Gleam only to punish Odd.
  • The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal: Ottar of Grimstunga is angered by Ingolf Thorsteinsson carrying on an overly intimate relationship with Ottar's daughter Valgerd. When Ingolf refuses to stop his visits to Valgerd, Ottar twice hires an outlaw to kill Ingolf; when the assassins find Ingolf is too much on his guard, they go for his brother Gudbrand instead. The second time, the plot is successful.
  • In Andre Norton's Scarface, at the end, Captain Cheap reveals that Justin Blade is the son of his old enemy Sir Robert Scarlett, and now he has his Revenge, having assured that the boy would hang as a Pirate. At which point it is revealed that Justin had already had his case remanded on new evidence, and won't be executed.

  • Scavenge the Stars: Boon teaches Amaya to seek out and take revenge on the children of the man whose wronged her as a way to truly make him suffer. She ends up refusing, so Boon decides to do it himself.
  • Happens now and again in the Star Wars Legends continuity.
    • In the Hand of Thrawn duology, a corrupted copy of the Caamasi Document surfaces. The document details Palpatine's successful plan to raze the planet of a species of Actual Pacifists who were almost universally opposed to him, and as it turns out, he used Bothan agents to lower the planet's shields. The document doesn't actually say specifically who these Bothans were, Bothan authorities deny any knowledge, and the issue acts as a Conflict Ball between peoples who want the names coughed up or, failing that, want revenge on the Bothan people, and peoples who think that revenge on the Bothan people is a terrible idea. In many cases, the Bothan issue is no more than an excuse for rivals to war over.
      • There's a smaller example when a station containing twenty-two Bothans is shot down because of one particular species who believe that the punishment for a murder calls for either the death of the murderer or ten innocents related to the murderer for each person killed - two of those people had been killed in a skirmish earlier. Rogue Squadron is furious at this concept of justice, but those people also sabotaged their X-Wings so that they can't interfere.
    • In Shadows of the Empire, Prince Xizor wants to shame Vader and kill his son for two reasons. One, because that would leave him that much closer to the Emperor. Two, because the Empire set up a biological weapons lab on his homeworld and when some particularly nasty disease escaped, Vader ordered that the region around the lab, for about a hundred kilometers or so, be bombarded from orbit to sterilize it, and Xizor's family was in that region.
  • In Sir Apropos of Nothing, after Apropos's mother is killed, he vows to get revenge on her killer. Not by killing him (by all accounts, the guy who did it is a giant of a man who'd tear Apropos apart like tinfoil), but by killing his mother. Our protagonist, everybody.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: In Home Free, Owen Orzell reveals to the Vigilantes that he had worked with CIA director Calvin Span and Big Bad Henry "Hank" Jellicoe. Jellicoe has already been captured and is currently rotting away in a federal prison. Span is dead because sometime after he was forced to resign from his job as CIA director by President Martine Connor, he was shoveling snow off his driveway and died of a heart attack. Orzell points out that Span knew better than to do that because he had heart surgery a few years ago, and that he had clearly become a Death Seeker. Orzell asks if they're going to punish him in Span's place, and the Vigilantes say yes. Now this example is treated sympathetically, because the president had essentially enlisted the Vigilantes to take down Orzell, and Orzell's hands are just as dirty as Span's and Jellicoe's.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The death of Lady, Sansa Stark's direwolf, is because of this. The one who attacked Joffrey Baratheon was actually Nymeria, the direwolf of Sansa's sister, Arya, but Arya sent Nymeria away precisely so she would not be killed. Joffrey's mother, Cersei, demands that another direwolf should be executed in her place.
    • Robert Baratheon hates the Targaryens with a passion and sends an assassin to kill Daenerys Targaryen, even though he had killed the real target of his vendetta, Daenerys' brother Rhaegar, who kidnapped his bethroted, Lyanna Stark, years ago. He comes to his senses on his deathbed, but by then it's too late to call off the assassin, indirectly setting off Daenerys' journey to become a Young Conqueror.
    • Mirri Maz Duur screws Daenerys by cursing her unborn child, Rhaego, in exchange for "saving" her mortally injured husband, Drogo. Mirri's entire village was sacked and destroyed by Drogo's khalasar, and Mirri wanted to take revenge against the next best targets: Drogo's loved ones.
    • Joffrey humiliates Sansa in public after her brother Robb wins victory after victory over the Lannisters.
    • Misdirected revenge was what really set off the Dance of the Dragons. Lucerys Velaryon, Rhaenyra Targaryen's second son, was ambushed and killed by forces led by Aemond Targaryen when he attempted to form an alliance with Borros Baratheon, even though he came in peace with only a dragon for company. In response, Luke's stepfather, Daemon, sent a pair of assassins to kill Aemond's nephew and Aegon II's firstborn, Jaehaerys, by ambushing him while he was about to bid his grandmother Alicent Hightower good night. By this point, there was no stopping of the Dance.
  • The John Sanford novel Sudden Prey features a criminal named Dick LeBeau whose wife and sister were killed in a shootout with the police. LeBeau decides to get his revenge by killing the families of the cops involved.
  • In Death: Eve Dallas works hard to take down Ava Anders in Strangers In Death. When Roarke asks her why she's treating this one like a competition, Eve admits that Ava reminds her of Magdelana from Innocent In Death. Ava and Magdelana have Bitch in Sheep's Clothing in common. Roarke says "Revenge By Proxy", because Eve wanted to take down Magdelana in her own way, and she didn't get it. She figures that taking down Ava will have to do. This example is treated a lot more sympathetically than a number of other examples in this article.
  • In Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Madame DeFarge is out for revenge on not only the innocent son of a man who had wronged her family, not only his innocent wife, but also on their little girl.
  • In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, after Atticus Finch defends a black man whom Bob Ewell's daughter accused of raping her, Ewell is infuriated and attempts to punish Atticus by attempting to murder the latter's children. This revenge makes even less sense than the trope usually would since the man in question was innocent — Bob Ewell himself was the one who beat up his daughter — and Atticus actually lost the case due to a racist jury.
    • The case still exposed Ewell as the scum of the earth, and he probably wanted revenge for humiliation. He likely didn't go after Atticus himself only because Atticus is a Badass Bookworm, and his kids were an easier target.
  • In Twilight series book New Moon, Victoria chases after Bella because Edward and his family had killed her mate in the previous book. This continues into Eclipse as well with an epic battle. It ends when the Cullens team up with the werewolves to kill Victoria and her band of infant vampires.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold Vorkosigan Saga examples:
    • Shards of Honor: Vorrutyer gloats over what he can do to Aral Vorkosigan (his ex) by torturing Cordelia (Aral's new love interest).
    • The Warrior's Apprentice: Count Vorhalas threatens to let Miles swing for treason because Aral did the same thing to Vorhalas's sons. Vorhalas eventually backs down, though, when threatened with Miles's mother. This case is especially interesting as Barrayar shows that one of Vorhalas's sons was executed because of an accidental example. After Aral let one brother be executed, the other attempted to assassinate Aral in revenge. A pregnant Cordelia was caught in the attack, which led to Miles being born disfigured.
    • In the short story, "The Mountains of Mourning", someone tries to slit the throat of Miles' horse, because they couldn't get at him, in what Miles calls an "attempted retroactive infanticide by proxy."
  • Warrior Cats:
    • In Moth Flight's Vision, Willow Tail blames Red Claw for the accidental death of their fellow rogues, and the only way she can think to get revenge at this point is to cause a war against his current Clan and have him see his beloved Clanmates hurt.
    • In Mapleshade's Vengeance, Mapleshade first intends to get revenge against her ex-mate by killing his new mate. When he takes the fatal hit meant for her, Mapleshade vows that she will get revenge against the pair of them by haunting their bloodline; in Crookedstar's Promise we see her following through with this by tormenting their great-grandson Crookedstar throughout his life.
    • In River of Fire, Sleekwhisker blames Rowanclaw for the death of some of her Clanmates because he didn't deal with Darktail, and she plans to kill his mate Tawnypelt in revenge.
  • In Andy Hoare's White Scars novel Hunt for Voldorius, Nullus reports that killing a thousand people for each revolt is stopping the resistance. Later, he uses the threat on Malya to get her to serve as Voldorius's equerry.
  • In Wolf Hall, Cromwell warns his son Gregory about this trope while he's in the process of putting Anne Boleyn and five rather popular gentlemen through a Kangaroo Court that will end in execution—people who know Gregory for Cromwell's son might try to get retribution on his father by attacking him.
  • In A World Less Visible, to get back at Adam, Sima manipulates Wren into forcing Adam to kill his best friend.


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