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Smug Snake / Literature

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  • Airframe: Bob Richman, who comes from the family that founded the aircraft company the book centers around. Despite that, he holds no loyalty to it, or them, and turns out to be in on a plan to allow John Marcer to cut a deal that will put him in charge of the entire company by arranging for Casey Singleton to take the fall.
  • Tom in K.A Applegate's Animorphs, or rather the second Yeerk that controls him. Marco can approach being a heroic version at times and David spends the third arc of his trilogy as one.
  • Vidal Vordarian from Lois McMaster Bujold's novel Barrayar. He wants to run Barrayar but is effortlessly and unintentionally defeated in his attempt to do it legitimately by Aral Vorkosigan. So he tries a coup but fails to capture the true heir or assassinate the Regent. He gets the ruling council to go along, but only at obvious gunpoint. And then he loses his head to Vorkosigan's wife. His "greatest" achievement is his implied rape of the dowager Empress, who he marries (again, obviously by force). Smug Snake indeed.
    • He doesn't actually marry her. He just announces their engagement.
  • Simon Lovelace from The Bartimaeus Trilogy is a perfect example, though he was smarter than the average Snake.
    • John Mandrake also counts. Actually, most of the wizards do.
      • As does Bartimaeus himself. Sure, he is not stupid or inept, but no amount of intelligence or power can match the size of his ego!
  • In The Caine Mutiny, Lt Thomas Keefer definitely qualifies, as does attorney Barney Greenwald to some extent.
  • There's a lot of Chessmasters and Magnificent Bastards in Codex Alera, so there's also a good few people who only think they're such. There's Sarl, who tried to ally with a Horde of Alien Locusts to take over his homeland (his next appearance sees him running away with a refugee fleet), Senator Arnos, who while tactically decent has failed to realize that his patron Invidia sees him as a pawn who's useful at the moment, and Kalerus Brencis Minorus, who while very powerful is also basically a schoolyard bully who has a "Well Done, Son!" Guy complex to his Ax-Crazy father.
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  • The title character of A Coffin for Dimitrios is a good fit, being a clever schemer, but such an unpleasant treacherous thug that he's completely unlikable. Also notable is that he ends up addicted to the same drugs he sells, something which would never happen to a Magnificent Bastard. Interestingly, the character might have been an inspiration for Keyser Soze of The Usual Suspects, who by contrast is definitely a Magnificent Bastard.
  • Two villains from the Forgotten Realms trilogy Counselors and Kings stand out. Lord Procopio Septus is a canny and ambitious politician, but he's shortsighted and very proud, which make it possible for him to be Out-Gambitted comparatively easily if you know what you're doing. Dhamari Exchelsor, though he puts on a friendly facade, is a treacherous and venal little man often compared to a weasel or ferret both in terms of appearance and demeanor. He's sneaky, but he's too petty to have a real Magnificent Bastard's grasp of the big picture.
    • Ironically Dhamari did at one point artificially turn himself into something approaching a Magnificent Bastard- upon capturing an amulet enspelled to protect its wearer from him, he wore it himself and was protected from himself, causing him to become much more cunning, manipulative, and successful. Once he lost it, though, it was a quick trip back to Smug Snake-hood.
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  • Uriah Heep in Dickens' David Copperfield is one of literature's most notable smug villains; he has the ability to make the term of address "Master Copperfield" seem insincere, and is always wittering on about how "humble" he is. Naturally, he's planning to swindle everything away from the other characters.
  • In Death: Some of the murderers are definitely this. A notable example is Dr. Waverly in Conspiracy In Death. He is so arrogant and has such a God complex that he simply assumes one of his security droids will handle Roarke easily. He clearly doesn't know Roarke at all. He happily gives the names of the people he's been working with to Eve while he's got a hostage. He had been conducting experiments on regenerating human organs, using sidewalk sleepers and poor people as guinea pigs, and the experimentation resulted in their deaths. He flies into a pompous speech about how his serum can be used on any organ and eventually will be used on bone, muscle, and tissue, which will eventually result in perfect human beings. Oh, and he'll get to decide who will be part of the survival of the fittest, and he boasts that the world will be a better place without the dregs that weigh it down. However, when Eve turns the tables on him, he gets scared and begs for his life. Yep, he thought he was so great and smart...but he wasn't.
    • In general, as soon as a bad guy says something about how they're going to take down or hurt Roarke easily, you know s/he will be put in this category. The Dirty Cop Jerry Vernon from Judgment In Death is a good example. He gets in Eve's face about the fact that she is looking for dirt on him, and he brags about how he is going to sue her and bleed that rich husband of hers. No one bleeds Roarke. If s/he tried, he would squish that person like the bug s/he is.
  • Discworld:
    • Cosmo Lavish from the novel Making Money is an obsessed fan-boy of Vetinari, who is an actual Magnificent Bastard. He tries extremely hard to be just like Vetinari, trying to get his old clothes and practising his eyebrow-raising. He eventually goes crazy, thinking he really is Vetinari, and gets committed to an insane asylum, which apparently has a whole ward dedicated to people who think they're Vetinari. His sister, Pucci Lavish, isn't much better.
    • Lord Hong from Interesting Times is another, though less funny and less pitiful, example. He is, admittedly, Awesome by Analysis and the Big Bad of the novel, so not a pure specimen. He does, however, exhibit the trademark snarky attitude, overconfidence, and pre-failure breakdown.
    • There's also the Supreme Grand Master, a.k.a. Lupine Wonse from Guards! Guards!!, who vastly overestimates his own power in summoning and controlling the dragon which terrorizes Ankh-Morpork, in that he can summon it but has no means to control it.
    • Dragon King of Arms from Feet of Clay, the mastermind behind the plot to poison Vetinari and replace him with a puppet ruler. His plan falls apart because he arrogantly underestimates Vimes and the rest of the City Watch.
  • In Doctrine of Labyrinths, Robert of Hermione isn't the most formidable villain the series has to offer, but he's arguably the most obnoxious. He's a scheming, pompous aristocrat with all the ambition and malevolence of a Big Bad, but he's hampered by his lack of foresight and a tendency to vastly over-estimate his own cunning and importance.
  • In the Dragonlance novels, Quarath, the Evil Chancellor to the leader of the Corrupt Church fits this model. His own ambitions for power and wealth are compared to the epic confrontation between actual Magnificent Bastards Raistlin and Fistandantilus of which Quarath is completely unaware. Ended up being squashed by a pillar as his temple collapsed when his master pisses off the gods that Quarath had stopped believing in by this point.
    • In the later War of Souls trilogy we get Morham Targonee, Lord of the Night, who despite his impressively evil-sounding title is a scheming accountant who happened to be in the right place at the right time to seize power. When the local Dark Messiah shows up and steals his job, she punishes him in what is perhaps the worst way a Smug Snake can experience- by forcing him to realize his own cosmic insignificance before killing him.
  • Madrigal Raith from The Dresden Files is nowhere near the Magnificent Bastard he thinks he is. He persists in thinking of Harry as Dumb Muscle, and torpedoes his own plan by trying to pull off an Xanatos Gambit via sending Harry after his competitor, which results in Harry digging deep enough to discover Madrigal too.
    • The Dresden Files has a lot of these, but bonus points go to Quintus "Snakeboy" Cassius, a Denarian who is not only a clear-cut example of the trope but a literal example as well.
  • Dr Bill Tanner from Snakehead is a disgusting scumbag who tries to sell Alex's organs on the black market. He's so smug he brags about how Alex can't escape, which helps him break out. He's so unlikeable when he kills himself, the audience feels no sympathy.
  • Cugel the Clever, of Jack Vance's Dying Earth books, while he lives on the border between this and being an actual Magnificent Bastard, usually leans towards the Smug Snake side, being a complete sociopath, and nowhere near as clever as he imagines himself. And he's the protagonist, folks.
  • Duke Telrii from Elantris is an example of the "thinks he's a Magnificent Bastard" type, though he winds up little more than a pawn of the book's real Magnificent Bastard, Hrathen. King Iadon from the same book is also an example- he turns out to be a lot smarter than Telrii (and a lot smarter than he lets on), but his vision is simply too narrow to let him accomplish anything of real significance, and his misogyny stops him from realizing Sarene is a threat to him until too late.
  • The Elder Empire: Naberius Clayborn has managed to put himself in a position where he'll be the next Emperor of the world and is very smug about it. However, as the book wears on, the "smug" part fades in favor of the "snake" part, as he starts betraying people left and right. Nakothi's heart corrupting him certainly didn't help, but nobody really liked him even before that.
  • Primate Annias in The Elenium definitely qualifies. One of the most spectacular examples of this was an attempt to frame the protagonist's fellow knights for a blasphemous massacre. Unfortunately for the plan, the Pandion Knights found out about the impending massacre first and warned the prospective victims, even turning the massacre back on the would-be murderers. And unfortunately for Annias, he was relying on the massacre to take place and giving fake evidence of the Pandions' involvement before the Pandions could respond to the event. This doesn't work well for him, as it becomes very obvious to everyone involved that the crime never took place when the 'murdered' duke comes forward to give evidence of what really happened.
    • This event, however, becomes evidence that, at least for this situation, Annias's Smug Snake qualities were slightly subverted. Sparhawk notices that, while Annias can be clumsy, he wouldn't have been that clumsy, revealing that he was Not Himself, but acting more like how a Styric would act if they were trying to deceive someone, tipping the Pandions off to Annias's associates.
  • Depending on who you ask, Senna of Everworld is either one of these or a Magnificent Bastard. Her mother is a straight example.
  • Prince Regal in Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy. A spoiled, petty, selfish youngest prince, he is obsessed with ruling and having power while being completely incompetent as a ruler. Like the example of Cersei above, he is much less clever than he thinks he is.
  • In Forever and a Death Richard Curtis is a very self-satisfied man, and he does have a grand, ruthless plan and vast business empire, but the worst Bond villain, on his worst day, would still be a bigger threat than him, given his tendency for stupid decisions.
  • Zil Sperry from Gone, a Hitler expy whose plans are mostly either nuisances, with their only major negative effects being unintentional, or things he's tricked into doing by Caine, yet he thinks he's leading a major, important movement.
  • Harry Potter
    • Dolores Jane Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a purposeful Smug Snake. A sugary sweet Stepford Smiler who is biased against non- and half-humans and uses laws and technicalities to get her way, Umbridge is one COLOSSAL bitch, who tortures children during detention.
    • Draco Malfoy. He gets better, but not before being completely broken.
    • Draco's dad Lucius is one too (apparently being a Smug Snake runs in the family). He's very smart and has the polish of a Magnificent Bastard, but his arrogance and certainty that he can get away with anything lead to some sloppy mistakes. By the end of the series, both Malfoys turn out weirdly pathetic after they are forcibly shown that an Evil Overlord does not a good houseguest make.
    • Voldemort himself, with an emphasis on the "Snake" part of Smug Snake. Voldemort has all the resources a Magnificent Bastard could ever want, but his gigantic ego, which even influences his choices of the Horcruxes containers and hideout leads him to making big mistakes.
      • The young Tom Riddle is shown to have been a much more smooth and successful schemer, largely because he knew how to keep a cool head and didn't yet look like a monstrous snake-human hybrid. At any rate, whenever anyone talks about any version of Voldemort's genius, they're generally referring to his magical genius, which is unquestionable, rather than his tactical genius, which as has been mentioned above is a wee bit lacking.
    • James Potter was supposedly this as a teenager. Problem was that he was genuinely talented and intelligent and actually pretty good (if not bigheaded at times. He grew out of it (even becoming Head Boy of Hogwarts in his final year).
    • Severus Snape plays this straighter though was more subtle about it. This was occasionally seen in adulthood albeit more through his attitude on others.
      • Considering he and his enemy James were both very talented young wizards, this probably crossed over into Smug Super.
  • Lieutenant Thomas Keefer in Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny.
  • The Hunger Games: Word of God states Seneca Crane really has no idea what the true purpose of the games are or the ramifications of what occurs in them. He's just in it for the show biz.
  • The Idiot features Ferdyshchenko, who establishes himself as a thoroughly smug snake in one scene and doesn't do much else for the rest of the novel. At a party, Ferdyshchenko proposes a bizarre parlor game where all the participants confess the worst misdeed they ever committed. His confession was a story about stealing 25 rubles (for no reason whatsoever) from a house he was a guest at, then allowing a maid to take the blame for the theft, ultimately resulting in said maid being fired. From the way he tells his story, it's clear that he expects his listeners to be impressed with him—upon realizing that his story had exactly the opposite effect, he gets pissy and stays that way for most of the evening.
  • It: The eponymous monster is firmly convinced of its own superiority and views humans as nothing but mere toys and a food source. However, every time the Losers manage to get the upper hand against them, It flees. During the final showdown, in which It is grievously wounded and the Losers are bearing down on It, It considers the possibility that It is Not So Invincible After All.
  • Steggles from the Jeeves and Wooster series.
  • Majority of the villains in John Carter of Mars (those who aren't are Worthy Opponents that sooner or later befriend the heroes), but the Holy Therns and the First-Born are whole races of Smug Snakes. They consider themselves divine and superior to everybody else in Barsoom, either because they were descendants to the Precursors or are closer to the local deity (The First-Born are particularly bad about it due to latter case). In reality, neither race is any more advanced than the supposedly savage Red Martians (the most civilized people on the planet), and are in fact, extremely dependent on Red slaves for nearly everything to maintain their society. When the main protagonist leads a massive assault against their strongholds, they fall extremely easily.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen: Clip doesn't treat anyone with respect, be it the brother of his supposed god or said god himself. He also seems unable to say anything without a superior smirk. He thinks his plan to take revenge upon his god by using said god's offspring is pure genius, never even considering that they may not be what they seem to his disdainful glance — especially not his Unwitting Pawns. Ultimately, he fashions himself a Magnificent Bastard but ends up being a case of Small Name, Big Ego.
  • Fulbert from the French novel Malevil. He's an evil priest with a tiny, weak Corrupt Church and a 0% Approval Rating. The only reason he isn't overthrown is that he tricked everyone into giving him the food and weapons, he sits in his fortified manor where nobody can touch him.
  • Mr Antler from the Mediochre Q Seth Series is an example. He's almost unbearably smug, even though he actually gets successfully duped or manipulated not only by the heroes but by most of the other villains. Including Maelstrom.
  • Several characters in The Mental State are fairly self-confident, but the one that really stands out is the Big Bad, Saif Dhu Hadin. He is so full of himself; he even has a nametag that reads ‘K. Söze’. Being a psychopath, his inflated ego comes equipped with a talent for manipulation and a devious mind. He also has an IQ of over 140 and is particularly good at assuming complete control over other people's lives. Fortunately, Zack is better.
    • Commissioner Viceman is also fairly smug about his position and abilities. He enjoys having the moral high-ground and believes his ultra-conservative views to be infallible. He even recruits an undercover officer to infiltrate a prison and spy on the inmates. This ultimately proves to be his undoing when Zack finds out and blackmails him.
  • The Millennium Trilogy has loads of people who fit this, though each book has a standout:
    • From The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Nils Bjurman thinks he's being extremely clever by using his control over a mentally incompetent girl's money to coerce her into submitting to his fondness for sadistic rape and torture, especially since he thinks it unlikely her word would be believed over his if she tried to report him. However, the book explicitly makes it clear that he makes no effort to cover the physical evidence he leaves on and in her, and that if she did go to the police, mentally incompetent or not, he would be finished immediately. Also, even ignoring this mistake (and the more serious one of the girl in question being Lisbeth Salander,) his crimes are so heinous that there is no way he could ever incite any reaction beyond absolute disgust and contempt from the reader.
    • From The Girl Who Played With Fire, Alexander Zalachenko, Lisbeth's father, clearly thinks he's a Magnificent Bastard but falls very squarely into this trope. Even though he was a competent spy for the Soviets, his arrogance and lack of self-control led him to balls up an assignment so badly that he needed to defect to save his own skin. After defecting to Sweden, he frequently got drunk, abused his girlfriend so badly she had permanent brain damage and delighted in making his handlers bail him out of his self-inflicted trouble. Following his eventual departure from the intelligence networks, he became a sex trafficker (a business which even The Dragon thinks is too high-risk for the mediocre profit it brings), essentially because he was a misogynist who enjoyed having power over women. When confronted, everything he says boils down to Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!, and he continues to believe this, right up until his handlers get fed up with him and blow his head off while telling him just how much contempt they have for him.
    • From The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest, Dr Peter Teleborian spends the book confident that his (falsified) assessment of Lisbeth Salander will be accepted without question, and is so used to being respected and admired that it genuinely throws him when someone does not fall for his charm and nod in agreement with everything he says. He has such faith that his connections will keep everything under wraps that he doesn't even do a good job of covering his tracks, and when his connections are compromised, the glaring errors become clear to everyone. However, his main flaw is that he has come to believe his own lies, and consequently completely underestimates his former patient. Also, he is a sadistic pedophile, so would be disqualified from Magnificent Bastard-dom even if he hadn't screwed everything up.
      • In terms of competence, the Section qualify, as they spend virtually the entire book being Out-Gambitted to the point of Epic Fail by Salander's friends while believing they have the upper hand. Also, as Cold War veterans, they are unsuited to the 2000s, and they seem unable to understand that you can no longer expect everyone in the country to tolerate your crimes simply because they were committed in the interests of "National Security", and when a younger man tries to get them to realise that times have changed, they dismiss him as lacking the spine needed to do his job.
  • Lord Straff Venture of Mistborn is a comparatively competent Smug Snake, being a skilled long-range Chessmaster and the most powerful nobleman in The Empire apart from its Physical God leader. At the same time, though, his arrogance, lack of skill in immediate, detailed manipulations, and the numerous petty and vile traits he shows in his interpersonal relationships keep him out of full Magnificent Bastard range.
  • Imogen Herondale from The Mortal Instruments. A racist Evil Chancellor and Manipulative Bitch with a pathological hatred of children. She thinks she's playing everyone throughout City of Ashes but her grand plan fails spectacularly and Valentine Morgenstern viciously humiliates her, resulting in her breakdown. Unusually for this trope, she is revealed to have a sympathetic side and ultimately redeems herself by sacrificing her life to save Jace.
  • Paul Krendler of the same series definitely qualifies, though it only becomes noticeable in Hannibal. In many ways, he's far more of a Smug Snake than Chilton was on his worst day. Like Chilton, he gets his comeuppance at the hands of Lecter.
  • Philonecron from The Cronus Chronicles. He considers himself an evil genius, and treats everyone he meets like dirt, but is defeated by two middle-school kids.
  • Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, whilst not exactly a villain, is rather smug and slimy, with a rather vast (and largely unearned) self-regard that makes him believe that Elizabeth Bennet is rejecting his marriage proposal out of some feminine desire to string him along when she's rather explicitly stating that no, it's because she doesn't like him.
  • Vizzini from The Princess Bride. Although he certainly is clever and recognizes his weaknesses, he has a colossal ego and treats everyone, even his own henchmen, like dirt. His arrogance also prevents him from recognizing that The Man in Black would never pull his battle of wits unless he knew he would win, and that there was no sure way of guessing which cup had the poison. There's a reason he's the former Trope Namer for Out-Gambitted.
  • Frederick Chilton from Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, who comes across as a bully as head of the Chesapeake State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. In Silence he makes the key mistake of handing Hannibal Lecter over to people who don't understand how dangerous he can be, which gives Hannibal the opportunity to escape.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu are obvious ones, and Cao Cao has shades of it when he's opposing the nominal protagonist, but even Liu Bei has his moments of snake-ness in the eyes of a modern audience. (But that What the Hell, Hero? reaction is probably intentional, as the author was suffering from Executive Meddling.)
    • Yuan Shu is probably the biggest example of the book. He declares himself the emperor with only the Imperial Seal to back up his claim, and thus alienates everybody. And his petty villainy while a member of the Coalition against Dong Zhuo, withholding food from ally Sun Jian's army to keep Sun from gaining too much glory.
  • Since the Yamiko of Sailor Nothing are the personification of their host's id, it's easier to list the ones that don't fall into Smug Snake, namely Argon, Cobalt, and Ohta, Cobalt's right-hand man. Dark General Radon is a particularly vile example of Smug Snakeery, being an arrogant Knight Templar and Evil Mentor before his Face–Heel Turn; afterwards, he just gets worse.
  • Yanagisawa in the Sano Ichiro mysteries, so much.
  • Count Olaf of A Series of Unfortunate Events is a huge one. He has some pretty Paper Thin Disguises (to the Baudelaires, at least) and he constantly remarks about how evil and cunning he is. Also, he suffers from plot-relevant Villain Decay and he clearly lacks common sense (seeing as he asks the Baudelaires to buy some roast beef with their fortune when he knows they're not eligible yet).
  • Gustav Fiers, aka The Gentleman from the Spider-Man novelisations, the Sinister Six Trilogy. He certainly thinks he's a Magnificent Bastard, and looks and acts the part, being an excellent Manipulative Bastard and Chessmaster, and Man of Wealth and Taste who successfully manipulates the whole of the Sinister Six, has evaded law enforcement for years, and refers to himself as an "investor in chaos". Yet he fails to earn the audience's respect due to his contemptuous attitude and his unpleasant personality, utter heinousness (only his genuine affection for his equally monstrous brother, Karl, keeps him from being a total monster), and underestimation of Spider-Man, The Chameleon, and Dr. Octopus put him squarely in this trope.
  • In Skulduggery Pleasant, Davina Marr is a patronising, ageist, sadistic Stepford Smiler who makes Dolores Umbridge look like Mother Teresa. Whenever she appears, you want to climb inside the book and punch her in the face. Nevertheless, she's an unwitting pawn in someone else's diabolical plan, spends most of book 5 unconscious, and is unceremoniously killed while tied up and begging for her life.
  • Queen Cersei Lannister in A Song of Ice and Fire. Overestimation of her own cleverness is one of her main character traits. There's a prophecy that everything that could possibly go wrong in her life will, so her ruthless methods are understandable, yet her incompetent attempts at manipulation and power-grabbing alienate almost every one of her allies and could well lead her to the terrible fate predicted in the prophecy.
    • Really this could be the hat of the entire Lannister house, even the more clever members of the family who qualify as Chessmasters in their own right are still so odious and preening it's hard to root for them. Jaime gets better, and Tyrion for all his faults seems more like an Anti-Villain.
      • Or at least the main branch. Tywin's brother Kevan comes across as a decent and obedient man, while his oldest son Lancel is a rather foolish and weak-willed figure easily manipulated by his more intelligent cousins.
    • Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish seems like a Smug Snake to most of the other characters, but this is a smokescreen to hide what is actually a subtle Magnificent Bastard, who has apparently single-handedly organized the War of Five Kings as well as the assassination of two kings, while simultaneously organizing the rise of a new queen... his protegee Sansa Stark.
    • In every appearance of Viserys, the book contrasts his attitude ("You don't want to wake the dragon, do you?") with the reality: he's a spineless, pathetic little man who bullies his sister Daenerys because there's nobody else even close to being weak enough to let him get away with it. When Dany develops enough strength to resist him, Viserys mentally collapses and gets himself killed within a few pages.
    • Theon Greyjoy could be the poster boy for this trope. At least until A Dance with Dragons, where Ramsay Bolton has tortured him into insanity - he's a thoroughly broken shell whose mind slides between his current identity as 'Reek', Ramsay's completely subservient and terrified slave, and his former identity, Theon, who bears little to no resemblance to his former self.
    • House Frey consists of so many Smug Snakes it could easily be considered their hat. There are a few exceptions to the norm within their family, but they all fade out of prominence as the more evil members take charge.
    • The Ironborn can also count as this, as they have a smug sense of superiority to the "greenlanders", those that live on the mainland. They constantly look down on those that talk about relatively normal values, while the Ironborn believe in a Might Makes Right philosophy. Despite these feelings, they have never won a significant victory over the rest of Westeros except back when they were a full kingdom and had the entirety of the Riverlands under their control. What makes it even worse is that they join the War of the Five Kings because Balon wants to "take what is his", despite the fact that he had already been beaten once before, easily, by the Iron Throne. The Ironborns' only successes are because they're attacking places that are lightly defended in the middle of a civil war.
    • There's also the Wildlings, who live beyond the Wall. They believe themselves superior to the "kneelers" of the South because they bend the knee to kings, while the wildlings believe that Might Makes Right, and that they also take what is theirs. They even hold this attitude despite the south having better weapons, more people, better horses, armor, and that every time they've managed to get past the wall they're swiftly defeated and sent packing.
  • The Traveler's Gate: Talos, one of the Damascan Heirs, believes that he is a genius plotter and master swordsman. He is not. He's not a terrible plotter, but his father sees a lot more than he thinks, and he keeps allying with the wrong people. He is, however, a terrible swordsman; Simon spends a good chunk of their duel assuming that Talos is playing with him before realizing he's really just that bad.
  • In Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell, Trixie and Gilda supply their normal arrogance, but manage to achieve very little.
  • Cree Bega, The Dragon in The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara is slipperily obsequious and has a penchant for Cold-Blooded Torture and murder, Break the Cutie, and Kicking The Woobie. He's also ungodly arrogant, seeing all of the Little Peoplesss as inferior beings worthy only of disdain. Even his undeniable bravery in combat and willingness to stand up to The Isle Witch stems from this arrogance, and it ultimately gets him killed when one of the Woobies Bites Back. Utterly unlikeable, and truly disgusting. Stenmin, the Evil Chancellor from The Sword Of Shannara is a more typical example, combining sliminess, Dirty Coward, and The Mole into one unloveable package.
  • The emperor of France, Napoléon Bonaparte, in War and Peace. The characters take up at least a third of the book talking about, predicting the actions of, or plotting against him. When Prince Andrei and later when Balashov, an emissary of the Russian emperor, finally meet him, they're both struck by how disappointing he is compared to his reputation. He's purposefully portrayed this way.
  • Stopwatch of the Whateley Universe. Brilliant planner, head of The Masterminds, has managed to hide his best power from the Superhero School Whateley Academy powers testing guys... and gets pwned by Phase in "Ayla and the Networks". He ends up having to beg Ayla for help and loses control of his own team of supervillains.
  • Corlant of The Witchlands thinks himself to be highly intelligent and a skilled Cursewitch who has every right to treat his boss' top agent like trash just because. Suffice to say, from the moment Iseult and Aeduen enter the stage, his supposed skills are looking less like brilliance and more like Corlant's an idiot who accidentally won the Superpower Lottery.


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