Big Bad/Literature

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"The ultimate villain of the story, who's causing the problem the heroes must solve."

Note that Big Bad is not a catch-all trope for the biggest and ugliest villain of any given story. The Big Bad is the one who turns out to be behind several other seemingly independent threats.


  • Animorphs: Visser Three is the Yeerk enemy the Animorphs encounter the most. However, the Big Bads of the series are The Council of Thirteen, who are in charge of him. They only appear once in a side-story, and it is ultimately the defeat of Visser Three that ends the war.
  • Voldemort from the Harry Potter series.
    • Each book also has its own main villain, though with the exception of the fifth all of them trace back to or are acting under the orders of Voldemort. The fifth book's Big Bad (at least until the Ministry battle) is Dolores Umbridge, who is the series' biggest Hate Sink due to her pettiness.
  • Stephen King books often have one:
  • Morgoth in The Silmarillion. He was originally Melkor, but after he crossed the Moral Event Horizon in a spectacular manner, the Noldor renamed him "Dark Enemy" in their tongue. After he was banished from the world, Sauron, previously The Dragon, assumed his Evil Overlord role.
  • Cthulhu in The Cthulhu Mythos series and adaptions.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire mostly features morally ambiguous and sympathetic humans pitted at odds with each other, making it difficult to pick out any heroes and villains. But when the Others finally come, everyone's gonna be screwed.
    • The closest thing to a regular Big Bad after the Others is Tywin Lannister: manipulating events to bring about the downfall of the Starks & their allies (the definite protagonists of the story), ensure his house's dominance, and is guilty of sanctioning or tacitly approving a number of barbaric incidents, most notably the killing of the deposed royal family's children, and the Red Wedding. Of course, he's now dead and buried.
    • Littlefinger is a better choice than Tywin. The books main action derives from his manipulations, notably the murder of John Aryyn. He also kills Joffrey and frames Tyrion for the crime, and was a crucial player in the death of Eddard Stark. The civil war itself is the intentional result of his plans, as he thrives in political chaos. And unlike Tywin he's still alive.
    • It's hard to say for sure given the series' long hiatus, but Feast for Crows appeared to be setting up Euron Greyjoy as a new Big Bad in the aftermath of Tywin's death.
    • Him, as well as Roose and Ramsay Bolton, who exemplify Complete Monsterness.
  • As mentioned above, Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the latter part of the James Bond novels, finally receiving a more fittingly dramatic send-off in You Only Live Twice.
  • Most individual books in The Dresden Files have one of these.
    • Storm Front: Victor Sells
    • Fool Moon: Agent Denton
    • Grave Peril: Bianca
    • Summer Knight: Aurora
    • Death Masks: Nicodemus
    • Blood Rites: Lord Raith
    • Dead Beat: Cowl
    • Proven Guilty: We're not quite sure who sent those wraiths, but the running theory is either Maeve or Queen Mab.
    • White Night: Cowl
    • Small Favors: Nicodemus
    • Turn Coat: Peabody
    • Changes: Duchess Ariana and the Red King
    • Ghost Story: Corpsetaker
    • That said, the driving force behind pretty much everything is the Black Council, which is believed to have been involved in setting up many of these Big Bads. Cowl is known to be a member. Nicodemus gets an honorable mention for being a non-Black Council recurring Big Bad in his own right.
  • Each book in the Artemis Fowl series has a big bad. The first book has the titular character as the big bad.
  • The Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz have a big bad in each one:
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe novels have had several. In addition to Emperor Palpatine (who takes the role by default during any work set during the timeframe of the movies) some of the most notable are:
    • In the X Wing Series, Ysanne Isard for the Rogue Squadron arc and Warlord Zsinj for the Wraith Squadron arc.
    • The Big Bad Duumvirate of Thrawn and C'baoth from The Thrawn Trilogy (though each could be said to think of himself as sole Big Bad, with the other as The Dragon and The Starscream).
    • Nil Spaar from The Black Fleet Crisis.
    • In The Courtship of Princess Leia, Zsinj for his fleet and Gethzerion for the Nightsisters. He's blockading her planet.
    • Thracken Sal-Solo from The Corellian Trilogy (notable among Star Wars villains for just being scum as opposed to an avatar of pure evil, and for surviving to take a supporting villain roles in later series).
    • From the New Jedi Order series, Supreme Overlord Shimrra, absolute ruler of the Yuuzhan Vong is presented as the Big Bad ... until the climax, when it's revealed that his insane court jester/slave Onimi was pulling the strings all along.
      • The Yuuzhan Vong have a whole succession of leaders throughout the series, each of whom inevitably is convinced he is/ought to be in command of the whole invasion: Prefect Da'Gara of the Praetorite, who isn't even a warrior (the title makes him a high-level bureaucrat. Seriously, no wonder he lost); Shedao Shai, fleet commander; Tsavong Lah, Warmaster, who actually is in charge of the warrior caste; Supreme Overlord Shimrra; and of course Onimi.
    • In the Dark Nest Trilogy, the titular Hive Mind, controlled by Lomi Plo.
    • Disra, Tierce, and Flim, the three Imperials who created the hoax of Thrawn's rebirth, in the Hand of Thrawn.
    • In Legacy of the Force, Lady Lumiya was the one who set things up, but as she was killed half-way through, in the end the role fell to her protege, Jacen Solo/ Darth Caedus.
      • Not to mention Thrackan, who likes to think he's in charge of the separatist forces. He is actually a credible threat, too, with his contacts. Until he gets shot, of course.
    • And the currently running Fate of the Jedi brings us the mysterious but undeinably powerful Abeloth.
    • The '80s-era Lando Calrissian trilogy features Rokur Gepta, the last Sorcerer of Tund. In the first book, he tries to con Lando (whom he selected essentially at random) into finding an ancient artifact for him. When Lando outsmarts him, he becomes so obsessed about taking his revenge that he abandons his plans to subvert Palpatine's Empire to spend the next two books chasing one guy across the galaxy and making his life hell.
      • Lando actually did procure the artifact in the first story, and Gepta's minion--Governor Duttes Mer--took it from him (Lando) with the intention of using it to seize power from Gepta and rule the system himself. As it turned out, the artifact didn't do what the villains thought it would, and in the end Duttes Mer wound up accidentally killing himself when he tried to use the thing while Gepta didn't get what he wanted. This is where Gepta started acting crazy; for some reason, he blamed Lando for things going sour when it really wasn't his fault at all.
  • Warrior Cats: Tigerstar is the main one. Most of the story arcs have their own Big Bad (book 1 has Brokenstar, book 6 has Scourge, series 2 has Hawkfrost...), but the majority of the time, even these characters are working for Tigerstar.
  • The Dark One from The Wheel of Time is the living manifestation of evil in that universe. His real name also happens to be Shai'tan.
  • The Skulduggery Pleasent books have a different Big Bad for each book. The first one had NefarianSerpine, while the second had Baron Vengeous. However, it seems the Big Bads for the whole series are The Faceless Ones.
  • The Codex Alera plays with this one. In the first book we're introduced to High Lord Aquitainus Attis and his wife Invidia, who are the masterminds of several schemes against the Realm, aren't defeated or even directly confronted by the heroes, and keep up their role as main villains in the subsequent books. The catch -- neither is the Big Bad. That would be the Vord Queen, a monster The Hero wakes up during a Sidequest early on, and is gradually revealed to be not the mindless creature she initially appeared, but an incredibly powerful and cunning adversary far more dangerous than either Aquitaine could ever hope to be. Meanwhile, Lord Aquitainus got Character Development moving him more towards Anti-Villain territory, culminating in Redemption Equals Death mixed with Alas, Poor Villain, while Invidia was pressed into service by the Vord Queen as The Dragon and died in that role.
  • Guardians of Ga'Hoole has first Kludd, once he defeats the previous Metal Beak, and then later, Nyra.
  • With a blatant disregard for history, Alexandre Dumas makes Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu the Big Bad of The Three Musketeers. And he does it again with Catherine de' Medici in Queen Margot!
  • The Big Bad of 7th Son is John Alpha, the initial subject of a decades long cloning experiment who got bitter, got crazy and got his hands on advanced cloning and memory manipulation technology.
  • The Big Bad of the Young Wizards series is the Lone Power, the creator and embodiment of death and entropy. Good luck, heroes.
  • The Inchoroi and the Consult of the Second Apocalypse series. Mostly because they apparently want to rape everything ever. And also because, according to Kellhus, the only way they can save their souls from being sent to Hell by the God is to exterminate the vast majority of the human race. The No-God is, in a way, something of a subversion of this: despite his overwhelming presence and the fact that his very existence makes every human baby stillborn, he doesn't really know what he's doing. WHAT DO YOU SEE? I MUST KNOW WHAT YOU SEE. TELL ME. WHAT AM I? Somehow, Bakker makes a Woobie out of an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Gabriel from the Modesty Blaise series is a low-key, but memorable Big Bad. After appearing in the character's first adventure, he then re-appears in A Taste For Death" wherein, in the words of series creator Peter O'Donnell (who was worried that a regularly-recurring villain might weaken the series), he is definitively killed at the hands of an even Bigger Bad than himself.
  • David Eddings:
  • The Crippled God from the Malazan Book of the Fallen is the most prominent and plot-centric among a number of recurring antagonists , though he's not directly introduced until the third volume. However, in the last book he gets Hijacked by the Forkrul Assail and turned into little more than a living McGuffin for them- which also helps elevate him from Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds to The Woobie.
  • The central villain of The Runelords is essentially that universe's equivalent to Satan though it manifests in several forms throughout, including the One True Master, Shadoath, and Lord Despair.
  • Count Olaf for most of A Series of Unfortunate Events, though we eventually discover that he's more like a Dragon to a larger organization. His incredibly horrifying superiors, however, are polished off in the second-to-last book, and Olaf enters into an Enemy Civil War with Knight Templar Ishmael in the finale. It's implied they kill each other.
  • Azrael de Gray from John C. Wright's War of the Dreaming spends roughly two-thirds of the series as the Big Bad. Then he suffers a Heel Realization and aboutfaces, and the God of Evil takes over this trope.
  • Petaybee: The Intergal corporation sends all of the major villains in the series to Petaybee and gets involved itself toward the end.
  • An impersonal example is the comet in Comet in Moominland that besides threatening to cause The End of the World as We Know It by colliding with said world causes all kinds of strange portents of doom for the heroes to contend with (ash all over the place, drying seas, storms) before it even gets there.
  • The Gaiaphage/Darkness from the Gone (novel) series.
  • From the Mistborn trilogy, the Lord Ruler is set up like this in the first book, until he's killed at the end. Later books reveal he was a Well-Intentioned Extremist, and the real Big Bad was Ruin, the dark god he'd been keeping imprisoned.
  • Lord Foul the Despiser from the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.
  • In Dragonlance, the dark goddess Takhisis is usually the Big Bad, though at various points of the timeline she's been overshadowed by Chaos, the dragon overlord Malystryx, and once nearly by Raistlin.
  • Gyphon is the overall villain of the Mithgar series. However, most of the individual books have their own Big Bads, who may or may not be trying to curry his favor, and usually come up with an enact their own schemes in the hopes of getting his support. Sometimes Gyphon's active Big Bad himself, sometimes he's The Man Behind the Man, and in other cases he's just the Bigger Bad.
  • The Stormlight Archive has Odium. He might not be the Big Bad himself, but there's definitely one somewhere, and he's a pretty good candidate, considering he killed God.
  • Shannara:
  • From Tad Williams' works:
  • Companions Quartet has Kullervo, a shape shifter that wants to wipe aout humanity
  • Malevil has Fulbert, a Sinister Minister who turns a town into a post-Apocalypse religious dictatorship.
  • Subverted in The Kingdoms of Evil with the main character, who is a moral person forced to act as an evil overlord.
  • In Everworld, depending on your point of view, the Big Bad is either Loki, Ka Anor, or Senna.
  • The dactyl demon Bestesbulzibar in RA Salvatore's Demon Wars Saga. Rather unusually, he's defeated in his physical body at the climax of the first book; he spends most of the saga as a disembodied spirit influencing other villains, who believe they're the Big Bad.
  • Eustace 'The Evil' De Mharburg from Paul Kelly's 'The Lost Brigade'. A man so heinous that he was deleted entirely from history...
  • The Sword of Truth has Darken Rahl in the first book, the Sisters of the Dark in the second book, and Jagang for the rest of the books, though most of those also have their own baddie for Richard to deal with, but they're almost always minions of Jagang's and the Imperial Order. The new book seems to have a villain named Hannis Arc, if the online blurbs released are to be believed.
  • Redwall
    • Cluny the Scourge in Redwall.
    • Tsarmina Greeneyes in Mossflower.
    • Slagar the Cruel in Mattimeo.
    • Gabool the Wild in Mariel of Redwall.
    • Feragho the Assassin in Salamandastron.
    • Badrang the Tyrant in Martin the Warrior.
    • Urgan Nargu in The Bellmaker.
    • Swartt Sixclaw in Outcast of Redwall.
    • Emperor Ublaz Mad Eyes in Pearls of Lutra.
    • Damug Warfang in The Long Patrol.
    • Mokkan in Marlfox.
    • Vilu Daskar in Legend of Luke.
    • Ungatt Trunn in Lord Brocktree.
    • Taggerung has many major villains, with Vallug Bowbeast as the most prominent.
    • Princess Kurda in Triss, with King Agarnu as the incredibly pathetic Bigger Bad.
    • Raga Bol in Loamhedge.
    • Gulo the Savage in Rakkety Tam.
    • Riggu Felis in High Rhulain.
    • Vizka Longtooth in Eulalia!.
    • Korvus Skurr in Doomwyte.
    • Quean Vilaya in The Sable Quean.
    • Razzid Wearat in The Rogue Crew.
  • Ezekiel Bloor in the Charlie Bone series.
  • Castaways of the Flying Dutchman:
    • Obadiah Smithers in Castaways of the Flying Dutchman with Percival Bowe as Bigger Bad.
    • Captain Redjack Teal in the first part of Angel's Command and Maguda Razan in the second part.
    • Al Misurata in Voyage of Slaves.
  • In Death: In each book, the murderer Eve is trying to get would be considered the Big Bad. However, for the entire series, Max Ricker qualifies as the Big Bad. Why? Well, he's a crime boss who controls a vast criminal empire. He had dealings with the terrorist organization Cassandra from Loyalty In Death. He appears again in Promises In Death, despite being in prison. Eve's father Richard Troy and Roarke's father Patrick Roarke actually worked for Max Ricker, although they were not particularly high up in the ranks of his organization. If all this does not make Max Ricker the overall Big Bad, then what does?
  • Kronos in Of Snail Slime
  • In Septimus Heap:
    • DomDaniel in Magyk and Flyte.
    • Queen Etheldredda in Physik.
    • Tertius Fume in Queste and Syren.
    • Merrin Meredith in Darke.
  • Rick Riordan's series:
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Well, there are certainly a number of Big Bad characters in the series!
    • Weekend Warriors: Doctor Clark Wagstaff, Doctor Sidney Lee, and Doctor Samuel La Fond are a Big Bad Triumvirate of dentists and rapists!
    • Payback: Senator Mitchell "Mitch" Webster is a Big Bad, and an HMO consisting of Elaine Monarch, Derek Monarch, and Ethan Monarch seem to be a Big Bad Triumvirate. They have seemingly no connection to each other, but apparently Mitch had sex with Elaine and got AIDS from her and gave it to Julia Webster! Hoo, boy!
    • Vendetta: John Chai.
    • The Jury: The Barringtons were being set up as this...but they got away! So the story throws in an unrelated Big Bad in the form of Domestic Abuster and National Security Advisor Karl Woodley.
    • Sweet Revenge: Rosemary Hershey. Bobby Harcourt seemed to be a big guy at first, but it turns out that he's just a Horrible Judge of Character who finally wised up!
    • Lethal Justice: Arden Gillespie. Roland Sullivan is more of The Dragon to her than a Big Bad.
    • Free Fall: Michael "Mick" Lyons. There are four men who are apparently subordinate to him.
    • Hide And Seek: Mitch Riley, assistant director of the FBI.
    • Hokus Pokus: Grant Conlon and Tyler Hughes appear to be a Big Bad Duumvirate.
    • Fast Track: Maxwell "Max(ie)" Zenowicz.
    • Collateral Damage: Dan Winters and Baron Russell are likely a Big Bad Duumvirate.
    • Final Justice: Hank Owens, with four men working for him.
    • Under The Radar: Harold Evanrod, the Prophet of a pedophile polygamist cult called Heaven On Earth.
    • Razor Sharp: Vice-President Hunter Pryce, with several men being subordinate to him.
    • Vanishing Act: Margaret Pearson and William "Bill" Bell, identity thieves and a Big Bad Duumvirate.
    • Deadly Deals: Baron Bell, with Adel Newsom acting as The Dragon.
    • Game Over: Strangely enough, President Martine Connor is being set up as this, but it gets subverted when it turns out that she had been reluctant to throw out Obstructive Bureaucrats that had barred her at every turn, and simply needed some urging to do it.
    • Cross Roads: Henry "Hank" Jellicoe, with Little Fish and Stu Franklin acting as Co-Dragons.
    • Deja Vu: Henry "Hank" Jellicoe.
    • Home Free: Owen Orzell and Jason Parker are apparently a Big Bad Duumvirate. Interestingly, Owen reveals that he was part of a Big Bad Triumvirate consisting of CIA director Calvin Span and Henry "Hank" Jellicoe. Henry is now rotting in federal prison, and Calvin is now dead from a heart attack he got while shovelling his driveway!
    • As indicated, Henry "Hank" Jellicoe could qualify as an overall Big Bad, especially after Free Fall.
  • William Shakespeare has various antagonists in his plays. The comedies tend to lack them though; if a major antagonist is present in a comedy, they will rarely be legitimately evil. [1]
  • Isabel Kabra in the first series of The 39 Clues, Vesper One in the second.
  1. This list is incomplete. Feel free to help.