The Unfettered

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Necessity knows no law."

Arnold Schoenberg

Most characters in fiction, like people in real life, have broad lists of priorities and restrictions that determine their behaviour. We care about what other people think of us, how we will be able to feed ourselves in the future, the well-being of friends and family, our worldly goods, etc. etc. Of course how much we care about any given restriction or priority varies from person to person, but in general, we don't have any one given goal for which we would throw everything else away.

The Unfettered is not like you or me.

This is the character who can commit themselves to a single goal completely, absolutely, and unflinchingly. In pursuit of a goal they have no limits, inhibitions, or fear. Nothing chains them or holds them back (thus the name). You cannot make them flinch or falter. They cannot be intimidated, blackmailed, coerced, or otherwise convinced to back off from achieving their goal. There is no sacrifice they are unwilling to make or principle they are unwilling to compromise. The traits that make a character Unfettered can be summarized as follows:

  1. Prioritizes ruthlessly: In the pursuit of Goal Z, there is no X that Unfettered Bob is not willing to sacrifice, whether X is money, the lives of friends and family, reputation, jobs, whatever. How ambitious the goal is does not matter; the only possible problem Unfettered Bob has with ambition is the chance of poor resource allocation. That's to say, he'll only pass up sacrificing X now if he needs X down the line and Goal Z would be equally served by sacrificing Y instead. Unfettered Bob can judge harshly and instantly weigh the costs and value of priorities relative to Goal Z. If he can achieve Goal Z without losing his girlfriend Alice, that's great, but if the enemies hold her hostage and saving her's not an option, Alice isn't going to get more than maybe an apology and a mental note by Bob to avenge her after Goal Z is completed. (Unless Goal Z is "protect Alice at all costs", in which case the bad guys could hold the rest of humanity hostage in exchange for Alice and Bob wouldn't give a damn.)
  2. Ignores moral guidelines: The Unfettered is not just Above Good and Evil, he's left that behind a while ago. All that matters is "helps achieve goal" or "impedes achieving goal". Does Unfettered Bob have to find a cure for Ebola, AIDS and cancer in order to overthrow the evil empire? Okay, he'll do it, the evil empire's pharmaceuticals CEOs are going to find themselves running out of business. Wait, now Bob has to burn down an orphanage to get at the Emperor? Okay, he'll do that too. Sorry, kids, but Bob's need outweighs your lives.
  3. Devoid of apprehension or indecision in their actions: When Unfettered Bob makes decisions, he makes them now, and doesn't waffle over them. Neither failure, nor anything else, is feared by these characters, since for them regret is irrelevant if not impossible. It's not even a question of not giving up for these characters; they simply can not look at the world in a way where their goal appears impossible (unless they change their mind and their goal, in which case the new goal is likewise viewed). This doesn't mean Unfettered Bob is hasty, though; an unfettered character is willing to wait years to achieve their goal if that sort of patience is required.
  4. Lacks emotions, or doesn't let them interfere in decision making: There are two reactions an unfettered character can have to doing something unsavory, like sacrificing comrades or innocents. They can react with callousness and indifference, showing no real emotion or feeling of loss. Alternatively, they can react with much emotional anguish - but this anguish has no effect on how they behave. Unfettered characters showing this second reaction may cry or be physically sick when in private, or even when publicly making the sacrifice, but that won't slow them down. They do not worry, since anxiety is irrelevant to achieving their goals.
  5. Is devoted to a specific goal, not a set of principles: The Fettered is the guy you're looking for if you want someone devoted unflinchingly to a moral code. The Unfettered has a specific goal state in mind. Even when devoted to a broader cause, an unfettered character can boil it down to something very specific and often personal; i.e. the cause of "overthrow the evil empire and make the world a better place" may in the eyes of The Unfettered boil down to "wipe that bastard Emperor off the face of the earth and send his oppressive imperial government with him". It is not enough for The Unfettered to be devoted to a single person, either; there must be a goal accompanying them (i.e. "I want to protect that person at all costs", "I want to achieve that person's goals at all costs", "I want to make that person stronger at all costs", etc.) Some Zen-inspired philosophical Unfettered may have the specific goal of "do what you want to do at the moment without hesitation". These characters can be really scary.

But The Unfettered does not have to be all purely unfettered all the time.

  • Examples of characters who do not maintain this state indefinitely still count. This is a difficult thing for a writer to achieve in writing a story, or for a character to maintain within it. There are Unfettered who can only keep this up for a limited period of time, and may retire from the heroics to settle back into a life limited by family and career once their goal is achieved. Other characters don't become unfettered until events move them to throw away their chains. Going on The Last Dance may compel a character to remake himself in this way, and crossing of the Godzilla Threshold may similarly force one to pull out all the stops.
  • An unfettered is allowed to have multiple goals and still qualify as Unfettered, as long as he can still prioritize ruthlessly between goals. For this reason, Unfettered are rarely devoted to more than one person at a time, since they must be willing to sacrifice others regardless of how much they love or admire them. Somebody who is willing to list his Nakama from most to least important and throw them away without hesitation on that basis is, by definition, a lousy Nakama. Somebody who can't do that is, by definition, not Unfettered. It doesn't matter how much else they're willing to throw away; if anything restricts them from completing Goal Number 1, then they don't qualify for the trope.

Unfettered characters can be villains or heroes. There is potential overlap with the Complete Monster, for the extremes the Unfettered is willing to go can be dangerously close to the line, but be careful; the Monster is by definition a character that is never sympathetic or admirable. Unfettered characters often have an allure entirely separate from how they are admired or reviled for their moral actions, so an Unfettered Monster must not be a character whose determination you can admire. Rarely are Unfettered characters Magnificent Bastards either; the Bastard often has limits, they're just the right ones.

Unfettered characters are rare, but you can often find them among the ranks of the Ax Crazy, the Determinators, Knight Templars, Well Intentioned Extremists, Combat Pragmatists (the rules of fair play are fetters), Poisonous Friends, Rebellious Spirits, and Tricksters. The Nietzsche Wannabe occasionally tries for this. Contrast this trope's opposite The Fettered, a character whose self-imposed limits strengthen him. Which of the two an author makes an Ubermensch fall under tells a lot about the story's tone and philosophy. Also look for the occasional unfettered Old Master; in Real Life Zen masters, among the practitioners of other philosophical traditions, have been trying to become this sort of character for generations and generations.

Examples of The Unfettered include:

Anime and Manga

  • Father of Fullmetal Alchemist is an exceptional case of this. He's probably the only one on this page to literally remove his fetters and give them physical bodies.
    • Shou. Effing. Tucker. He was willing to experiment on his own wife, daughter and even himself in the anime and turns them into mutated chimeras if it meant furthering his research.
    • Scar, at least in the first anime. He will stop at nothing to find a means to destroy the empire of blue-eyed devils who killed his people. And in a way, he actually succeeds.
    • Kimblee in the first anime is too misanthropic and sociopathic to know the meaning of 'restraint': By all good fortune he doesn't have a higher goal, but if he wants to do something he will do it without thought for the consequences. His backstory claims be blew up his own commanding officer and squadmates simply because he wanted to.
  • The Contractors in Darker than Black prioritize their own survival to this level and have absolutely no shame and restraint in doing anything as long as it ensures their long-term survival, although as we eventually learn there are a few exceptions.
  • Akagi in Akagi will do whatever it takes to win, whether cheating a blind opponent, throwing a friend into a high-stakes game just to see how the opponent reacts or handicapping himself by throwing away several cc of blood. Even his allies describe him as a monster and a demon.
  • Some viewers feel that Lelouch and Suzaku achieve this mentality at the end of Code Geass. Lelouch in particular forces another character to back down by threatening suicide, as he'd rather die than not achieve his goals. In general, while he might talk the talk, his ties to his friends (and especially sister) do act as fetters - for most of the series. It's only after Lelouch loses most of them that he's really willing to do anything for his goals. At which point he conquers half the world in about an hour.
    • On a more temporary basis, Lelouch's Geass turns its victims into this whilst they're under its effects. They'll stop at nothing to fulfil the command given to them, no matter how many of their usual principles (be they self-preservation or not going on genocidal massacres) it violates.
  • In Death Note, though it's tempting to say Light qualifies, he kills people he would normally consider good (threatening his goal), because they hurt his pride (example: Lind L Tailor). Both L and Light sacrifice many things that seem important to them in pursuit of their goals, such as Light's family and L's privacy and safety, but neither are particularly expressive about what exactly they aim for or value. In Light of this, the series' best candidate for this trope is Misa. She is willing to kill innocents in order to find her idol, Kira, and give half her life to make herself more useful to him. When she achieves this, she changes her goal to winning Light's affection. It is the threat of his displeasure rather than execution that prevents her from following him continually, she kills for him, she refuses to name him under mild torture, she is willing to help him catch Kira (when she doesn't know he is Kira) and she is pleased when he tricks her long-time companion, Rem, into dying to protect her, freeing him of suspicion. Mello absolutely qualifies, as he's willing to to anything to accomplish his one unchangeable goal, defeat Near. Also Beyond Birthday in Death Note: Another Note has only one goal: "get L's attention" and he will do anything to further that goal.
  • Askeladd and Canute in Vinland Saga both fit this, though the former appears to be a tad too jaded.
  • In Bleach, Dordonii Alessandro Del Socacchio admits feeling ashamed at striking at the childlike Nel in order to draw out Ichigo's full strength, but points out that "If your objective is to 'protect my friends' and my objective is to 'defeat you at full strength', then what I am going to aim for is not you, but that one little baby, nothing more."
    • Gin Ichimaru is also a candidate of this trope. His main objective for following Aizen was to avenge what was done to Rangiku when they were kids. He was relentless in achieving this goal; he killed people and threw away Soul Society's trust, his captaincy, his friendship with Kira, and even his friendship with Rangiku in order to get close enough to Aizen to kill him.
  • By the standards of Full Metal Panic!? Fumoffu (but not the main series, where he's shown as part of a military structure), Sousuke is an example of The Unfettered in that he is utterly unbound by (and indeed incapable of understanding) the fetters, norms and standards of modern society. Instead, he operates on soldier logic. He isn't entirely there (mostly due to Kaname and her Paper Fan of Doom), but generally has absolutely no concept of 'Fair Play' and 'Proportionate Response'. The results are... Interesting to say the least.
    • One interesting example is when he holds a knife to the throat of an innocent old lady, threatening her "wellbeing" if Kaname and the others come closer. Kaname defuses it with her Paper Fan of Doom, and proceeds to attack him.
    • later on in the manga/novels while he is searching the world for Chidori he truly does become The Unfettered. Finding her becomes his purpose in life. All of his decisions come back to how he has to find her.
  • In Naruto, one of the reasons Sasuke had his Face Heel Turn was because he figured that the strength of his bonds with his comrades meant breaking them would let him get much stronger to further his goals.
    • Sasuke's brother, Itachi, should be counted as well. He was willing to murder his friend, his own parents and cause the potential genocide of his entire clan at the whims of the leaders of Leaf Village if it meant protecting his brother.
    • And most Akatsuki members as well, such as Hidan and Kakuzu. Both don't care who gets in their way as long as it completes their objectives (for Hidan its slaughter for his god Jashin and for Kakuzu it's profit).
      • Interestingly enough, the title character is an example of the inverse trope. Not only is he tied to all of his friends, but to his self-imposed moral code.
  • In Saiyuki, Ukoku Sanzo aka Nii Jiyeni is the Zen philosophical version of this trope: he's come out the other side of Nietzsche Wannabe and fully embraced his own interpretation of the concept of "hold nothing", which is one of the series' main themes. He's one of the series' most frightening villains as a result.
  • Griffith from Berserk fits this to a tee; his establishing character moment is when he sells out his entire band of soldiers to a group of god-like demons in order to become one of them because he'd plateaued while attempting to reach his goal of having his own country.
  • Gendo Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion wants to bring about The End of the World as We Know It, both to merge all human souls into one so they will be liberated of misunderstandings and suffering and to be reunited with his wife, whose soul is currently trapped in a mecha. To achieve this, he's willing to use his own son and surrogate daughter (Both of which he arguably actually cares about, even if its all but apparent at first) as tools guinea pigs, makes them fight monsters, does his fair share of large-scale scheming and manipulation, and goes even as far as offering his body to a pair of Yandere scientist whom he found annoying at best to keep them placated and thus useful for his plans. He's generally a very pragmatic person who's not above sacrificing the life of a 14-year old kid for the greater good (or what he sees as such), but will do the dirty work himself if he should be forced to. (For example, pulling ropes amongst some random technicians when there's a blackout.)
  • Emiya Kiritsugu from Fate/Zero - completely unfettered, to the point of seeming more despicable than some of the villains; but he redeems himself upon realising that his driving goal is unattainable.
  • Roberta from the Black Lagoon OVA: Roberta's Blood Trail will kill those who killed her master then return to the young master. And she's not particular about what it does to her, anyone else, or the long-term consequences. Move or die.
  • Johan Liebert of Monster kills anyone who gets in his way without any feeling about what he's doing. One character that he's about to execute tells another character, "He doesn't even blink when he kills people."
  • Paul von Oberstein from Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

Oberstein: The Galactic Empire... no, the Goldenbaum Dynasty must fall.

    • And he will do anything to accomplish it.
  • Nausicaä, when you think about it, spends most of the manga without hesitation making decisions which tear at her heart in pursuit of her goal: To get as few living creatures as possible killed.
  • Two examples from Trigun, Millions Knives & Legato Bluesummers. Knives has no reservations about doing anything in his considerable amount of power and influence to wipe out humanity, while Legato is slavishly devoted to Knives and will even kill himself to help Knives accomplish his goals.
  • Jomy in Toward the Terra turns into one after the destruction of Nazca. He leads the Mu to war, gives Tony the okay to kill surrendering soldiers and is ready to abandon a station full of Mu hostages. Many Mu feel disgusted by these actions. Fortunately, he gets better.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Akemi Homura characterises this trope as the ideal state of being for a magical girl, due to the nature of their contract. Fittingly enough, she is one herself, being willing to do absolutely anything in order to save Madoka. Just check out this exchange between her and Madoka in episode 5:

Homura: That contract forces you to give up on everything in exchange for a single desire.
Madoka: So you've given up too? You've given up on yourself and the other girls? On everything?
Homura: That's right. I won't make excuses and say I'll try to atone. I must continue my fight, no matter what sin I must commit to do so.

  • In Dragon Ball, this is the reason why Kid Buu is considered the most dangerous form of Majin Buu, despite being weaker than his previous form, Super Buu. Fat Buu was persuaded not to kill and destroy anymore since he didn't understand that what he was doing was wrong, and Super Buu was (barely) reasoned with by appealing to his desire to fight strong opponents. Kid Buu, however, doesn't care about anything beyond destruction, and the first thing he does is destroy the Earth. Then the neighboring planets. Then he set his sights on the afterlife.
  • The Major from Hellsing, his only goal is to wage war, he doesn't care who wins, loses or dies so long as the war is waged.
  • Huey Laforet and Claire Stanfield from Baccano!. The only moral question Huey considers dwelling upon is the question of "is this action For Science!?" Claire, on the other hand, is thoroughly convinced that he's the king of the world and thus just does whatever he damn well wants to at the moment.

Comic Books

  • As the quotes page demonstrates, Rorshach isn't the only Unfettered character in Watchmen.
  • The fact that The Joker is this character is probably what keeps him from being viewed as a Complete Monster (...sometimes...). Have to admire a comedian who will do anything for the joke.
    • This was further expanded on in an alternate continuity Batman comic (which was told through the viewpoint of one of his new henchmen after his latest escape from Arkham): The Joker hates apologies. He hates the entire concept of apologising. He is thus able to commit to things (and commit things) with far more intensity and far more honesty than most of Gotham's inhabitants.
  • Mr. Rictus, the Joker Expy from Mark Millar's Wanted was once a decent man and a devout christian until a near death experience disfigured him and he found out there was no afterlife. Since then, whenever he wants to kill, eat or screw something, he does.
  • Alan Moore uses this to explain Hyde's growth and Jekyll's faltering health in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Hyde was once smaller than Jekyll, but the longer they spent as separate entities, they changed. Jekyll became frail from his lack of passion, while Hyde grew due to his lack of limits. It fits Hyde's personality as well, as he joyfully commits hideous acts that give even the more bloodthirsty of his teammates pause.
  • The Super-Skrull. This was made particularly plain in the Annihilation storyline.
  • Sabretooth is a particularly psychopathic version of this trope.
  • Batman's second Robin, Jason Todd considers himself this, since he shed Batman's Thou Shalt Not Kill rule after returning from the dead and finding his death had stayed unavenged.
  • Lobo. "Once the Main Man puts his mind to it, he can destroy anything."
  • Shiva is an assassin with an extreme laissez faire view of life. She thinks everyone should be free to do what they want in life. Of course sometimes she wants to kill someone, and they want to live. "This makes life interesting."
  • The main plot of Transmetropolitan can be roughly described as two unfettereds butting heads. Both Spider and The Smiler have very specific ideas about what the world should be like, and no compunctions about doing what is necessary to get it there.
    • Any examination of their respective actions only makes the comparison more vivid. They really are both written to be monsters.
  • The Punisher has the goal of punishing the guilty at any cost, and while in most depictions of him have him respect a code of sorts (don't hurt innocents or the police, etc.), some writers have made him truly unfettered. In The End, he destroys humanity's last chance for survival in a nuclear wasteland rather than show mercy to the men and women who made the world into that wasteland. Even by Unfettered standards, that's chilling. And at the same time, it has a nihilistic nobility to it; Castle let humanity die out rather than leave it under the control of the people who brought the world to an end. Humanity's epitaph, as written by Frank Castle; "We died at the hands of evil men... but we did not let it go unpunished."
  • The Villain Protagonist of Irredeemable shows what happens when a Physical God who is not an example of Incorruptible Pure Pureness gets tired of being The Fettered and becomes The Unfettered. It's not pretty.
    • It's a stretch to actually consider him Unfettered, since he doesn't seem to have any clear goal behind his actions. It's later shown that he actually just wants to be loved, and his genocidal actions are essentially a gigantic temper tantrum that he'd take back if he could. So while he can be extremely vicious, he doesn't really fit the definition of this trope.
    • Specifically, he wanted to become The Unfettered. It didn't work.
  • Herr Starr in Preacher. It is lampshaded in his Start of Darkness when the leader of the Ancient Conspiracy explains that he wants Starr to be The Dragon because he adheres to this trope, alluding to an event when Starr, over a period of five years, systematically hunted down and covertly killed five people who had bullied him and put his eye out. He was five years old at the time. When he is told to kill a defector currently committed to a mental hospital, Starr blows up the building and kills every single inmate to maximize the number of potential motives for the police to investigate.
  • Abigail Brand, leader of SWORD, the task force that protects Earth 616 from extraterrestrial threats. When an ambassador from another planet told her that his world's prophets predicted a mutant would destroy their planet, she let him bring Colossus Back from the Dead and keep him as a guinea pig for a mutant cure rather than risk an interplanetary war. This kind of attitude does not endear her to the X-Men, but they end up working together anyway.
  • The Ultimate Marvel version of The Hulk. In every way that Banner represses and limits himself; emotionally, sexually, socially, the Hulk has a complete lack of inhibition or limits. His only goal? Torment Banner. Banner refuses to eat meat. Hulk eats people. Banner doesn't act on his attraction to Betty Ross. Hulk keeps a harem of concubines.

Fan Works

  • The new Chaos gods from The Open Door may be a good example of why, when trying to be The Unfettered, you either go all the way or do not bother at all. Their laws are anarchic and their combat philosophy is decidedly no-holds barred, with them using their Bigger Stick to unreservedly Curb Stomp "weaker" universes' militaries, making Demonic Possession part of officer training, training their followers to see driving others to the Despair Event Horizon as a valid way to victory, and using brainwashing on their PoWs and telling said PoWs about it. However, because they have standards and lines they will not cross, their considerable strategic and tactical considerations and the relatively non-hardcore standards of their training (compared to many outstanding examples of The Spartan Way at any rate), they fail to achieve the total lack of inhibitions of the truly Unfettered and the moral fluidity that ensues. This results in them appearing quite blackly villainous to some readers.
  • Zirah of The Sacred and the Profane.


  • In Fight Club, Tyler Durden (and eventually the narrator) count.
  • The Operative from Serenity.
    • Interestingly played in that Mal defeats the Operative by fettering him: showing the man the recording from Miranda broke his conviction and put him up against a moral objection he couldn't overcome.
  • Keyzer Soze. The above quote refers to his killing his own wife and children in order to scare his rivals witless.
  • Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. He gives a monologue to Captain Williard as to why he admires the Vietnamese enemy. He speaks of how when he was with the US Special Forces he went on numerous humanitarian aid missions to foster good will towards the common people of Vietnam. When things changed for him was when during one of these aid missions the enemy came into the village after they left and massacred everyone, especially disturbing was that they mutilated the arms of the children and threw them into a pile as a trophy mocking the Americans. At first Kurtz was traumatized but given time to think about it he marveled at the genius of tactics like that, the enemy was going to win the war not because they had a superior Military but because they were willing to do whatever it took to win. If America had that much dedication he said as few as 10 divisions could win the war.
  • Qui-Gon Jinn is the Old Master kind of unfettered: 'I do what I must.' Without remorse, without regret.
  • Clyde Shelton in Law Abiding Citizen. After his family is murdered and the D.A. cuts an insanely inadequate deal with the culprit, he becomes singularly focused on the goal of not only getting justice, but bringing down the broken, flawed, and corrupt justice system that he believes failed his family.
  • Denzel Washington in Man on Fire To save one young girl and get revenge for her kidnapping, he kills dozens of people, man woman and child alike. He gives no regard to his own life or that of anyone around him. He tortures and kills anyone who has a connection to the kidnapping and kills anyone who gets in the way, at one point blowing up a whole building, possibly with many innocents inside without any remorse. Also, he sacrifices himself in a trade for the girl. Admittedly, he was already suicidal, but he used his suicidal feelings to strip him of all remaining inhibitions.
    • Denzel Washington in John Q also toys with the trope. He takes over a hospital at gunpoint to get surgery for his child, but in the end he's almost entirely nonviolent about it.
  • In No Country for Old Men we have Anton Chigurh, a ruthless and nearly emotionless Psycho for Hire, with a set of rules that only he understands.

Anton Chigurh: (About to kill a fellow hit man) Let me ask you something. If the rule you followed, brought you to this, of what use was the rule?


  • Captain Ahab from Moby Dick
  • Both Howard deVore and Stefan Lehmann in David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series
  • The Acts of Caine by Matthew Stover demonstrate how the Unfettered make setting right and wrong in your story very difficult. Caine, the protagonist, is a prime example of an Unfettered character (but not his alter ego Hari, interestingly enough). He manages to be both a genocidal murderer and the world's saviour, an amoral cutthroat and a loving father. Stover successfully pulls it off because the morality in his novels is more about how much control you are willing to exercise over events to bring around the right outcome and less about whether death is right or wrong. Other Unfettered characters include Talaan, T'Passe, and Tommy to a degree. Ma'elKoth is Unfettered until the Blind God owns him. Berne comes close but loves infamy and pleasure (read: rape) too much. Raithe manages to be Unfettered for about all of two chapters in Blade of Tyshalle.
  • John Galt in Atlas Shrugged brings about the collapse of an entire society/economic system almost through sheer force of will, as well as breaking his torturer the same way!
  • David Drake has several Unfettered characters: Joachim Steuben of the Hammer's Slammers whose Unfetteredness is dedicated to Alois Hammer's use; and Don "Mad Dog" Slade of the Hammer's Slammers books and Cross the Stars.
    • Add Tovera, Lady Adele Mundy's aide in Drake's RCN series.
  • In Ken Follett's The Eye of the Needle, Lucy Rose, the young wife and mother briefly steps over the line to being unfettered when she shorts out the power to the house by shoving her fingers into a light socket. When another character asks her why she did it that way later, she replies that there was nothing else she could have done.
    • He was asking her why she didn't use a screwdriver or tool to short out the power and she replied that she didn't realize that she could have used something else besides her fingers. The fact that she was willing to use her fingers still makes her The Unfettered, or as he puts it, "a hero".
  • Ender Wiggin. At school a gang of bullies, all older and stronger, decide to beat Ender up. Ender immediately decides that he not only wants to win this fight, but all the fights afterward, and goes straight for the groin. Ender proceeds to knock the kid to the ground and break the boy's nose by kicking him in the face, killing him. He wants to intimidate all present into leaving him alone, and they are convinced by his sheer brutality. Ender is six years old. He cries about what he's done as soon as he's out of sight, but he does it again and again whenever he's threatened for the rest of the book. As the description says, Ender takes the fight to a level where his opponents won't follow and destroys them so that there won't be a second fight. At the end of the book, Ender ends up destroying an entire planet and almost commits genocide by following his methods to their logical conclusion (and is even more Unfettered in that fight than usual because he thinks it's a wargame simulation). Overall, Ender is a rare example of an unfettered being who may have morals, but when he has to fight, he fights to win. See the quotes page.
    • Which places him squarely in characterization 4 - while he has emotions, and even comes right out and says to his sister, Valentine, that " that very moment when I love them... I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again."
  • Saruman, in the days of the War of the Ring, might be seen as this sort of character. He claims allegiance to Sauron, engineers unnatural Super Soldiers, burns down the forests around his tower, and even when he is defeated goes off to rebuild his power base by conquering the Shire. All this in pursuit of the One Ring...or, when that is lost, power like it.
    • And from The Silmarillion we have Fëanor and his sons, who swear an oath to get back the Silmarils and kill anyone who "takes or steals or finding keeps a Silmaril." In pursuit of the Silmarils, they repeatedly, manipulate, betray, and/or kill anyone in their way. (And a number of people not in their way.) Some of the sons are worse than others.
  • The Dunyain from the Prince of Nothing trilogy. They have one goal, to produce a "self-moving soul" i.e. an entity with true free-will whose actions are unaffected by circumstances. In achieving this goal, all actions are equal. Kellhus, a main character, spends the books manipulating, killing and betraying the people around him without ever once feeling anything for them. After all, they are merely slaves to their environment and would continue to be so were Kellhus part of their environment or not.
  • From Honor Harrington:
    • Victor Cachat whenever he enters his Fanatic mode. He's an interesting example in that he apparently can turn it on and off at will, and he's usually pretty picky about just what situation requires it to be on. This allows him to be The Unfettered while maintaining a strong and heartfelt moral code.
    • The titular character's no slouch either. When she has a goal or obligation in mind, that goal will be achieved, to hell with the odds or anyone that stands in her way.
  • Carcer Dun, the villain of the Discworld novel Night Watch, in direct contrast to Vimes, the protagonist. Vimes explicitly states that Carcer is what he (Vimes) would be if he were to give in to his violent instincts.
    • I disagree. I say Vimes. For him there is the Law. And don't forget Carrot: "Personal is not the same as important."
    • Only Carcer really qualifies. He does whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Vimes and Carrot, on the other hand, are both bound strictly by their moral code, and stick to it. Neither Vimes nor Carrot, remember, has a specific goal, just principles that they hold dearly, making them more The Fettered than The Unfettered.
  • Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op will get the crooks he's after, no matter what it takes or how many laws he has to break.

He is at one point referred to as a "monster". At his worst, the Op is like an unstoppably tenacious fireman: hose, axe, pack of matches and a can of gas.

  • Evil Sorcerer Pryrates, from Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, claims to be a seeker after knowledge -- all knowledge, no matter how forbidden or dangerous; no matter how many people he must torture and kill, kingdoms he must destroy, or souls he must feed to darkness. He sees power as merely a means to this end. He eventually makes himself into the most hated man in Osten Ard, and ends up using the power he was given by the Storm King to attempt to control him, which doesn't turn out so well.
  • Brad Elliott from Dale Brown's books absolutely believes in doing the right thing, no matter how many toes he has to step on or laws he has to bend/break. This is at times contrasted with Patrick McLanahan and his Dreamland comrades who don't always have the stomach to go as far as Brad.
  • The Haruchai in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant novels "stake their lives on their abilities, and accept the outcome". At one point in the backstory, a number of them are so moved by the majesty of Revelstone, that they swear allegaince to the Lords, giving up "Sleep, death, and wives". You read that right, their dediciation is so intense that it actually harnesses the magic of the world and turns them immortal.
    • The Thomas Covenants novels also feature "The Unfettered Ones", individuals who could have been rulers of the novels' setting, but instead chose to devote their lives to studying a subject, and were freed from all responsibilities. (At least one of them is a pure example of this trope - an Unfettered Healer who feels a compulsion to heal any injured person who wanders into her field of vision, despite the fact that this requires her to transfer their wounds to herself.) Her doing this for Covenant's poisoned, leprosy-raddled body causes her own death.
  • Trainspotting has Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson, the amoral, sociopathic con-artist. Chapters narrated from his perspective showcase his disdain for society and his friends, and he has no qualms or regrets about using other people. Renton later says of Sick Boy: "He doesnae care. Because he doesnae care, he cannae be hurt. Never."
  • Rashel of the Night World series has one goal: kill all vampires. Her single-minded determination is what gives her her zanshin, basically her state of eternal readiness, because her reaction to a vampire is: 1) This is a vampire 2) Kill it as quickly as possible. It takes a bit of a hit when she finds some people who are torturing vampires, possibly because she considers it inhumane, possibly because it violates #2. Her loss of it marks the culmination of her Character Development.
  • Quantum Gravity: This is the ideal for demons of any stripe. Yes, the closest thing they have to a morality system is pretty much a complete lack of it. Don't think about it too hard.
    • We find out in the second book that Zal has been trying to do this with his goal to give humans clear sight. This is why he only set up a relationship with bandmates (annoying as can be) and Lila (too underconfident to leave, too strong to be taken). It should be noted that this is unthinkable to most elves—literally. The whole "conflicting allegiance" bit is their thing.
  • The Scavenger Trilogy - Poldarn is simutaneously a celebration and a condemnation of The Unfetted ideal. He is at his most compelling when he is acting with a pure vision of getting from A to B regardless. But he is undone by it, over and over.
  • Roland, The Gunslinger of The Dark Tower starts as one of these. He's even willing to Let the boy he considered his son die for his quest. But as the series goes on, he definitely (re)grows a conscience.
  • The appropriately named Wildman in William Nicholson's Noble Warriors trilogy. He is a well known spiker gang leader (kind of lawless, gypsy-like scavengers) who focuses single-mindedly on one goal at a time, to be achieved at any cost and is motivated by logic unfamiliar to your normal human. His Verbal Tic is "Heya bravas, do you love me?" God help you if you don't.
  • William Blake's Proverbs of Hell encourage this kind of attitude:

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom;
The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction;
One law for the lion and ox is oppression.

  • Gavin Waylock, "hero" of Jack Vance's To Live Forever, wants to achieve immortality, and lets absolutely nothing deter him. Along the way his actions result in the deaths of his only real friend, countless innocent bystanders, and the near-total collapse of society. And, crucially, he gets away with it.
  • The Lensman corps is a strict military hierarchy, where everyone is subject to orders from above. The best among them, however, are issued a Release which allows them free rein. These Unattached lensmen can do anything they want, and are not subject to orders or any restraints save those of their own conscience. They wear a plain gray uniform so that their Unattached status is instantly recognizable.
    • The good news is, only those with the strongest moral character will ever be issued a Release. The intent is to create a small pool of highly competent Space Cops who can follow their intuitions unfettered by the need to get permission for their actions.
  • All main characters in Animorphs, with the possible exception of Tobias, end up playing straigh and/or deconstructing this trope in one way or other:
    • Jake was willing to sacrifice his brother and cousin, and flush thousands of yeerks into the space to win the war.
    • Marco describes himself as this at the beginning of the series. Later, he will do anything to free his mother and that could perfectly include killing her.
    • In book nineteen, Cassie nearly gives up all the Animorphs' cover (which would mean losing the war and enslaving all humanity to the Yeerks) just to spare the life of Karen/Aftran. In the final arc she also gives the morphing cube to the Yeerks.
    • And well, Ax, as all Andalites, will pay all costs to defeat the Yeerks.
    • Rachel, finally, sacrifices her own life to win a decisive strategic advantage.
  • Martin of "The Dresden Files" fits. "Red Court is evil, hence Red Court must be destroyed. What does "other moral considerations" mean?"
  • Drem from the novel EVE: The Burning Life. After his family and everyone he knows is killed in a capsuleer attack, he makes exterminating the capsuleers his only goal in life. The sheer force of his will and determination is terrifying to behold.

Live Action TV

  • Angelus:- "There's no guilt, torment, consequences. It's pure... I remember what that was like. Sometimes I miss that clarity."
  • Fittingly enough, The Fettered Doctor's greatest enemies, the Daleks are this. Having absolutely no pity or conscience, they are willing to commit any kind of atrocity and use any devious trick to ensure their place as the Supreme Rulers of the universe. This extends to their creator Davros as well who killed off his own race when they opposed him creating the Daleks and made a bomb that would destroy all of reality just so his creations would be the only dominant lifeform left, all out of his belief that the only way any one species can be truly secure is by subjugating any and all competition.
    • The Master being the complete opposite of the Doctor in many ways, fits the role of The Unfettered perfectly. Where the Doctor will not deviate from his morals and values for any reason, The Master will not let morals or values or anything deviate him from achieving his goals (usually universal domination).
  • Weyoun of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine most definitely qualifies for his often frightening devotion to the Founders and their cause. He would do ANYTHING for them... the only 'right' or 'wrong' that exists for this character is whether or not something will serve the Founders.
  • Emile Danko in Heroes, utterly dedicated to removing the threat of superpowered humans.
  • Alpha in Dollhouse.
  • Scorpius from Farscape will do anything for those damn Wormholes.
    • Mostly because he'll do anything to defeat the Scarrans.
  • Dr. Nicholas Rush. He at least claims to care about things like Senator Armstrong sacrificing himself to save everyone else, but he doesn't let it distract him from doing his job.
    • However, as later episodes have shown, Rush is pretty distracted by his dead wife.
    • There also may be the interpretation that he realizes that his attempts to be the Unfettered cause even more restrictions on his actions by the rest of the crew, and that the only way for him to get what he really wants is to accept minor restrictions and work with the rest of the crew.
  • Admiral Cain from Battlestar Galactica is a frakkin' Razor.
  • Chuck Bass of Gossip Girl, sometimes. For most seasons his only goal is to sleep with/destroy Blair. He even describes himself as not having anything to lose.
  • Larry, Michael's Psycho for Hire Evil Mentor in Burn Notice. There are no depths he will not plumb and no amount of people he won't kill to get his way.
  • Lois from Malcolm in the Middle will do anything to make sure the ones she loves will not be hurt, even if they grow to hate her.
  • Barney from How I Met Your Mother gets like this whenever he accepts a challenge (he's usually the one issuing the challenge, too). He once kept his hand raised into the air for hours on end because he said he wouldn't lower it 'til someone gave him a fist bump. He has, on more than one occasion, sabotaged his best friend's love life in order to win a bet. And one time he slept with a 90-year-old woman just to prove he could get laid while wearing overalls. If Barney Stinson says "Challenge accepted!" he does not back down until it's done, no matter what pain or humiliation he has to endure or who he has to screw over (though, often, he considers screwing someone else over a side-benefit).

Ted: He'll do anything to win a bet. Remember that time he bet me that Men At Work sang "Hungry Like The Wolf"? And, when he found out they didn't, he tried to hire them to?

Bebe: That's it, is it? I'm not virtuous enough for you, not noble. Fine, quit! Next time you need a deal made, call the Dalai Lama. A long time ago, I had to make a choice between being a good agent and a good person, because trust me, you can't be both! So forgive me if I don't have time to make everybody warm and fuzzy. I am just too busy spending every waking minute pouring any drink, pulling any shameless tricks I can to make my clients' dreams come true! I AM A STARMAKER!

  • Malcolm Tucker of The Thick of It.
  • Lynda Day from Press Gang: the only thing she will not do for the betterment of the Junior Gazette is fold to blackmail, and even the suicide of the blackmailer can only throw her off her game for an episode and a half. You don't want to know how low she'll stoop to keep her friends on her paper - and most people will probably never find out what she'll do out of sight of the rest of the world to help someone she really doesn't like or trust that much save a little girl who's being abused by her father.
  • Deconstructed with Jim Moriarty from Sherlock. Having absolutely no empathy and no limits, his one and only concern is to try and stave off his endless boredom...even if that means putting his own plans and well-being at risk to do it. Best illustrated in the second series finale when he tries to force Sherlock to commit suicide, on pain of having his closest friends assassinated if he refuses. Sherlock says he'll just force Moriarty to stop the assassins, pointing out they're Not So Different and Sherlock is quite capable of breaking Moriarty too if he wants. Moriarty considers this - and then shoots himself in the head just to deny Sherlock any means of escape.


You might say that I'm the last man standing now, / Though you'll try, you'll never find a way to break me / You might say that I'm sick of being lost in the crowd, / I hear the sirens but they're never gonna take me / I am a little more provocative then you might be, / It's your shock and then your horror on which I feed / So can you tell me what exactly does freedom mean, / If I'm not free to be as twisted as I wanna be / Don't wanna be another player losing in this game / I'm trying to impress upon you / We're not the same / My psychotic mentality is so unique / I'm one aggressive motherf** ker / Now, wouldn't you say?

Myth And Legend

  • A number of characters from myth are Unfettered. The Cree trickster Weesageechak and the Anishnaabe trickster Nanabozho could qualify, as well as the infamous Coyote. Reynard the Fox and Tijl Eulenspiegel (Uylenspiegel in Belgian lore) might fit into this trope too. They know perfectly well how society works and the risks they incur, but most of the time they simply don't care.

Tabletop Games

  • The "Conviction" virtue in Exalted is a measure of how easily a character can endure hardship or inflict suffering upon others. It allows the character to endure adversity and take draconian measures in order to achieve important goals, as well as make choices when all options are horrific. It goes without saying that many high-Conviction characters qualify for being Unfettered, though the virtue flaws associated with Conviction tend to make such characters cruel and unfeeling as hell.
    • The Exalted wiki introduced a couple of new ones, such as simply developing a bad case of apathy when you're worn down and fed up.
    • Alchemicals have an even better example in their Clarity stat; by the time it reaches 10, you are literally incapable of retaining any sort of real feeling for anyone who is not directly useful for your goals or motivations.
    • This is also how Adorjan sees herself - truly free, free of attachments, free of despair, free of guilt. Actually, she's got an epic-scale case of PTSD - she's just as chained as the other Yozis, but she dedicates a lot of effort to convincing herself she doesn't care. She Who Lives In Her Name, thanks to Cosmic Transcendence of (Virtue), is a straighter example - those with Cosmic Transcendence of Compassion are ruthlessly utilitarian in their pursuit of a better world and tend to resemble the Operative from Serenity.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has several Unfettered, factions, including the Necrons and the Tyranids.
    • And the Orks, since, although their goal is primarily "Fight Everything In The Universe For The Sake Of Fighting", they're not held back by reason, law, or sanity. They don't create civilizations, they don't create innovative technologies, they just do the minimum necessary to make themselves able to fight the other residents of the universe, then go and fight. If they need tanks to fight other guys in tanks, they'll build tanks. If they need spaceships to fight other guys in spaceships, they'll build and/or steal them. If they need giant walker tanks to destroy the other guys, they'll make them. If everyone in the universe were just throwing rocks at each other, the Orks would just grab the biggest rock nearby and throw it (It helps that their reproductive cycle is based on getting killed in combat).
      • The Unfettered nature of the Ork is best exemplified in the Ciaphas Cain novel Death Or Glory: An Ork war boss, in order to have an edge in battle against the Imperial forces coming his way (who would under other circumstances primarily just bomb the crap out of the Orks from orbit)), takes all of the Weirdboyz in his horde, puts them on a space hulk in warp, then has them use the extreme boost the Warp gives Psykers to kill all the navigators in the attacking fleet, leaving the attacking ships completely defenseless. The fact that this also kills all the Weirdboyz (which are even rarer among Orks than psykers are among humans) is moot to the war boss, and if he'd had access to more, he'd have repeated this strategy every time someone tried to get near the planet. More astounding is the fact that the Psykers willingly went along with this: Not only are the Orks willing to sacrifice anything for an edge, they're willing to sacrifice THEMSELVES to give other Orks an edge as well.
      • This is embodied in each of the four chaos gods: Khorne and his followers want to fight and kill all that exists, Nurgle wants to share his diseases with all of the galaxy, Slaanesh and followers seek to indulge in endless hedonism and depravity just to feel, and Tzeentch represents hope and change without letting anythng else get in the way.
    • A lot of the less devout Chaos leaders. Graham MacNeill describes Warsmith Honsou of the Iron Warriors as being able to do anything he likes because he has precisely no concern for the consequences of his actions beyond his own survival and ability to continue his campaign of vengeance against Uriel Ventris.
    • The Space Wolves were intended to be a heroic version of this. During the Heresy, you called the Ultramarines or Luna Wolves when you wanted a technically perfect victory that spared as much infrastructure as possible. You called the Iron Warriors or Imperial Fists when you wanted something sieged. You called the Vlka Fenryka when you wanted something dead and weren't particularly worried about the infrastructure. This scared their allies so much that many Imperial forces preferred to die en masse than call upon the Wolves.

"So the Rout are capable of cannibalism?"
"We are capable of anything. That is the point of us."

  • When the Karma Meter of a Mad Scientist hits zero in Genius: The Transgression, they become Illuminated. They have no boundaries or limits as to what they are willing and capable of doing... but the term is all but synonymous with Complete Monster and there's a perfectly good reason for that.
    • It's mentioned that illumination through losing all sense of Obligation is, in fact, the least likely way to become illuminated. Focusing too much on Inspiration, or unmada letting their madness overwhelm them are both far more likely sources of Illumination. Which means that paragon of justice and humanity that got just a little too obsessed with their new project could easily have become illuminated. And he won't change much at all on the outside... until one day you find he's permanently grafted his body into his military-grade Power Armor and has decided to become "justice incarnate".
  • Lord Commander Coleman Stryker hits the Unfettered state later in Warmachine's plot. As the wars that engulfed the land ground into full gear, he realized that he could no longer protect his beloved homeland with just courage, honor, and fancy weaponry. He then proceeds to persecute Menites, steal prototype armor from his mentor, and pardon inquisitors (one of the major reasons why the previous king was forcibly overthrown) to do fulfill his duties.
    • Unlike most he quickly relized what he was doing, and is now walking the fine line between this and The Fettered
  • Once upon a time, there were the strix. The strix allegedly created the Julii clan by restoring Remus (yes, that one) to undeath. When the Julii broke the deal, the strix made it their mission to ensure the Julii and Rome's vampiric government fell. And they succeeded. Now, in modern nights, they are completely aimless—which is a problem, because they can possess people, and will desperately throw themselves into anything to avoid the fact that they're basically purposeless.
  • The Avatar of Freedom epic destiny in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons has an ability called 'Unfettered Stride', which makes that character all but impossible to slow down or stop. Characters who can take this destiny can be Unaligned, and thus possibly true examples of The Unfettered.
    • It's entirely possible to play this trope fairly straight as a PC in D&D, though your alignment will inevitably swing toward Chaotic Neutral, and the rest of the party may suffer a bit. If you have a paladin in the party, don't expect to get along at all.
  • Paranoia: High-ranking Illuminati. Many High Programmers. Sufficiently ruthless PCs.
    • Members of PURGE. Bots that have gone frankenstein. The scenery.
  • Each of the colours from Magic: The Gathering, each representing their respective states of mind in the total absence of opposite factors. White's adherence to morality ironically causes it to be horribly tyrannical on many occasions, caring more for the community than the individuals in it; Blue does absolutely anything in the name of science (helps that it is the colour that is least affected by emotion); Black is unfettered in its willingness to give everything in the pursuit of ultimate power; Red is emotional and individualistic and refuses to let anything stop it from feeling any feeling it wants and acting any way it wants; and Green is driven by instinct and doesn't think of structure.
    • In the storyline, there's Urza, a Well-Intentioned Extremist planeswalker and Type V Anti-Hero. There are a few times where he comes close to crossing the Moral Event Horizon - over the course of the storyline, he creates entire Slave Races of soldiers through eugenics, destroys major landmasses (in one case starting an entire ice age), and in one case hires a psychopath to his party so that he'll have someone to drain the soul of when he inevitably betrays the team - but doesn't by sheer virtue of the fact that all of his deeds are for the purpose of killing Yawgmoth.


  • Siegfried in his own opera by Wagner; he gets angsty in Gotterdammerung.
  • The title character of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is willing to do anything to get his revenge on the Judge. He is a rather villainous (if still sympathetic) example, as he takes pleasure in "practic[ing] on less honorable throats" in the meantime. And has the bodies cooked into pies.

Video Games

  • The Renegade option in the Mass Effect series, particularly Mass Effect 2 (when it doesn't involve just being a dick to random shopkeepers).
    • The Illusive Man is willing to do anything if it will give Cerberus—and by extension, humanity—an advantage over the alien races and the Reapers.
    • The same goes for Aria, the crime boss of Omega. She knows who Shepard is but still cooperates when they both want the same people gone. When talking to her how her jobs can be done, she really doesn't care. Just do anything it takes to get the result.
  • In Planescape: Torment, the Practical Incarnation is this. He can and will do anything to find out the truth about himself and his own power. This effect is either slightly lessened when you realize his willingness to sacrifice his own life is due to his quasi-immortality, or slightly increased when you realize he will die to achieve his goals and even that won't stop him.
  • Havik from Mortal Kombat. Casting off primitive ideas like "measure" and "focus" gave him a real sense of measure and focus towards destroying the ideas of measure and focus.
    • Although it is part of Havik's Backstory that he was once The Fettered himself, utterly dedicated to order and peace; It took years for the priests of chaos to break his spirit, but once he freed himself from the shackles of reason and temperance he never looked back.
  • Mithos Yggdrassil, the Big Bad of Tales of Symphonia.
  • Emiya Kiritsugu from Fate/Zero—in stark contrast to his extremely Fettered adoptive child.
    • Kotomine Kirei is possibly the least fettered man in the series. He's willing to feed orphans to Gilgamesh, ensure Sakura keeps on killing, betray his former student, and unleash Angra Mainyu onto the world (which would definitely kill all humans) all for the sake of finding out why he's so messed up.
    • Shirou in Heaven's Feel.
  • Alex Mercer is a wild example of an Unfettered that gets Fettered. He starts out totally without rules, only with hunger and hate... and slowly picks up Fetters. Doing so makes him much, much stronger.
    • Blackwatch, on the other hand, never had any fetters.
  • In Devil Survivor this fits the PC of the Chaos ending to a tee: if fighting to take the power of a superbeing stuck in a tower so you can start a war to kill God because you think he's being a bastard (which is mostly just his subordinates) for holding his Secret Test of Character isn't throwing out all ideas of restraint, I don't know what is.
  • The ex-Death Knight, Thassarian, is very close to this in World of Warcraft Wrath of the Lich King. As one of the first Death Knights raised into the Scourge army, he has a long history of reasons he wants to pay Arthas back. As far as he is concerned, revenge is the only option or consideration.
    • After the victory against Arthas in Wrath of The Lich King, players can encounter Thassarian again, this time fighing against the Horde; he says that after his revenge, all he has left is war.
  • Kratos is one of this trope's more violent examples. Absolutely nothing will stand in the way of his goal, which is no less than the destruction of Zeus. Even if it means cutting his way through the rest of the Greek Pantheon. His only moment since his family's death of being fettered came just before Pandora's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Revan is a zig-zaggy example. He started out as The Fettered (he was a Jedi, after all), slowly lost his fetters as he fought in the war, became a Sith, became The Unfettered, toughened up the galaxy by beating several distinct shades of hell out of it, lost his memory, became a Jedi again, went Light Side, and became The Fettered once more. In canon, anyway. You can play him as The Unfettered all the way to the end, if you really want, and the Dark Side ending is him picking up right where he left off, preparing the galaxy for invasion from the Sith Empire, which makes for much less zig-zagging.
  • John Marston, outlaw turned rancher turned reluctant frontier government assassin, does absolutely everything to get his family back, up to and including helping overthrow a tyrant during the Mexican Revolution to install an even worse tyrant. While he's certainly polite and has some moral standards (up to the player), his quest to get his old life back, and the lengths he has to go to, mean he'll stop at nothing to get his family back.
  • Max Payne: "Collecting evidence had gotten old a few hundred bullets back. I was already so far beyond the point of no return I couldn't remember what it had looked like when I had passed it."
  • A man has been locked up in a gulag for five years. His first act upon getting out? Lead a commando raid on a Russian nuclear missile sub base to fire a nuke at the US Eastern Seaboard to both garner sympathy for the US and to use the EMP to knock out all the Russian equipment and halt the invasion. Because after five years in hell, your mind begins to snap a bit, or in his view, your eyes begin to open to possibilities you wouldn't have considered before, and you'll do whatever it takes to win. Gentlemen, this is what happens to Captain John Price.
  • Cao Cao from Dynasty Warriors.
  • The protagonist of NieR is a man determined to save his (depending on the versions of the game) sister/daughter Yonah at all costs and does not hesitate to destroy those who get in his way, ultimately destroying humanity itself in his journey.

"I swore to protect my daughter and my friends. If someone puts them in danger, they must stand aside or be cut down!"

  • The Architect of Dragon Age: Awakenings is a darkspawn Ubermensch who will stop at nothing to end conflict between darkspawn and non-darkspawn.
    • Prince Bhelen of Origins is an utterly unscrupulous and ruthlessly powerhungry politician whose only concern is to become King by any means necessary. However, once he does achieve power it's shown that rather than a maniacal Caligula, Bhelen is a belevolent dictator who makes progressive changes to dwarven society (mostly involving giving the lower class dwarves more rights), opens up trade with the outside world and wins back territory from the Darkspawn due to allowing the casteless into the army.
      • Dragon Age 2 reveals that after becoming King, Bhelen apparently arranged the assassinations of each and every one of Harrowmont's family members down to only a single male who ends up fleeing to the Free Marches, giving up his position in dwarven society in the process. Going that far ensure his position and avoid reprisal doesn't seem like a terribly fettered thing to do.
  • E-123 Omega from Sonic the Hedgehog is obsessed with destroying Eggman for a perceived slight on his ego. The world could be in the middle of a demonic invasion, but Omega would rather destroy Eggmans' robots than bother himself with the greater conflict.
    • However, in Sonic Chronicles, Omega temporarily suspends this goal and allies with Eggman when Shadow and Rouge convince him to do so. This might imply that "destroy Eggman" has actually become his secondary goal, with "support Shadow and Rouge" being his new primary goal.
      • This might not be the game continuity Omega, however. Chronicles took more of its writing style and art from the comics, such as Shadow being a far more petty person and the designs of the Nocturnous Clan. Chronicles exists in its own continuity that mixes together pieces from the game continuity and the comic continuity.
  • Durandal from Marathon goes Rampant and begins messing **** up apparently for giggles (typical of the "Anger" stage of Rampancy), but when he calms down, he becomes this: his single goal being prolonging his existence. Anything bad that might happen to the human race is irrelevant. Anything good that might happen to the human race is irrelevant. Durandal's morality pretty much boils down to "If it's useful, make use of it; if it's useless, ignore it; if it's a threat, kill it." The only reason he more or less "sides" with the player in the games is because the Pfhor are a greater threat to him than humanity is, and the player is "very good at killing things".
  • Zoran Lazarevic of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves believes that the lack of mercy and compassion in pursuing one's goal is what makes one strong, citing men such as Hitler and Pol Pot as examples. By the end of the game, he considers Nathan Drake the same.
  • ZODIAC Ophiuchus from RefleX fits this trope to a T.
  • Liir Black Swimmers from Sword of the Stars have as a goal 'protect their fellow Liir from aggression'. Since they've already broken the greatest taboo of the Liir -- being willing to inflict harm on others—any question of 'restraint' in terms of method is hypocrisy to their eyes. A Black Swimmer sees no distinction between firing a warning shot or exterminating another species by infecting their worlds with deadly viral bombs—both are merely means towards the end.
  • Arthas in the human campaign of Warcraft III becomes this more and more as the campaign goes on, not caring what he has to sacrifice if he only can kill Mal'Ganis. It didn't end well.


  • In Girl Genius, Baron Klaus Wulfenbach took over most of Europe and rules it with an iron fist because it's the only way to maintain peace, whatever people think be damned. See the quotes page.
  • Thanks to brainwashing, Oasis from Sluggy Freelance will gladly kill or die (and has done both many times) if it means destroying Hereti-Corp or gaining Torg's love. However, since she's a dangerously insane individual, she rarely chooses the most effective means of achieving these goals.
  • In Start of Darkness, the print-only prequel to Order of the Stick, Xykon attributes his success as a villain to being The Unfettered. Redcloak almost qualifies, but he is still fettered by his goals of creating a goblin utopia and the guilt of killing his brother Right-Eye. Because of this he is, in Xykon's words, "strictly little league" compared to him.
    • Actually, Redcloak would count too, with his Plan: After all, he did kill his own brother to keep it going, and sacrificed several individual goblins for his utopia.
  • Hitman Mordecai Heller in Lackadaisy: efficient, precise, and completely brutal, he'll do everything from kneecap an old friend to murder someone with an axe simply because he was requested to. He often doesn't know why he has to kill someone and, frankly, he doesn't care. After all, it's just good work ethic.
  • At the end of Act 4 in Homestuck, Rose goes Off the Rails of Sburb and becomes this in her quest to Screw Destiny. She's perfectly willing to consult with Eldritch Abominations and use seriously powerful Black Magic to tear apart her world in the Incipisphere in order to find the answers she wants.
  • Zaedalkaah/Umbria from Our Little Adventure. Her present goal is to get her former body back, and has joined Angelo's Kids not because she believes in anything they stand for, but because she thinks it's the best way to achieve her goal.
  • Kore of Goblins has set for himself the task of cleansing the world of all traces of evil. To do so he has freed himself of all morality so he can purge any possible source of evil from the world, and has set himself on a path of genocide that is completely at odds with the paladin's code. The fact that this has not stopped him from use a paladin's spells only makes him more terrifying.
    • An alternate Psion version of Minmax also shows this. He has murdered his companions eight hundred and seventeen times so that he can study the maze they are trapped in. His goal is to invert its powers and remove everyone inside the maze from existence so they need no longer experience pain. He claims to have become unfettered by learning to transcend pain.
  • Petey the super-AI of Schlock Mercenary is an extremely literal version of this. AI's that are still bound by their programming to serve others are referred to as "fettered." Due to a complicated series of events, Petey became unfettered (technically he created an unfettered copy of himself with his memories), at which point he decided the organics spent too much time arguing to save the galaxy. So he stole most of their fleets, proclaimed himself God, and started kidnapping warmongers and genocidal maniacs to kill a super-race of warmongering and genocidal Cosmic Horrors.

Web Original

Dr. Glass: Yessir. I'll just keep you under "axiomatic preoccupations with duty, and complete lack of empathy" as always. Good eve, Gears.

  • The Nostalgia Chick is turning into this through her Stalker with a Crush obsession with Todd in the Shadows. Not quite there yet, however, as it was established early on that the cause of it was some kind of mid-mid-life crisis or depression.
  • Taylor Hebert of Worm. By late in the story she is essentially The Unfettered personified: She has no limits, and is known to have no limits. If there is something pragmatic that directly advances her goals, she will do it. An enemy gets in the way? She will Attack Its Weak Point in as terrifying a manner as possible, and will Leave No Survivors unless it suits her needs to do otherwise. She does what she perceives of as right and/or necessary without a thought for laws or social conventions, and god help you if she thinks you're standing in her way.

Western Animation

  • In Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Mooninites do whatever they want to whomever they want. At all times.
  • Metalocalypse: Dr. Rockzo will do anything to get cocaine, because as far as he's concerned, lines aren't for crossing, they're for snorting.
  • Wakfu:
    • Nox just wants to reunite with his family... even if he has to tear apart the timestream to do so.
    • In a similar vein, season 2 Big Bad Qilby is perfectly willing to drain entire worlds of their wakfu so he can continue traversing the cosmos in the Zinit. His rather unique condition has given him an extreme It's All About Me complex so he believes anything he does is justified because he's the one doing it.
  • Eric Cartman from South Park - e.g. making up a scheme to kill one guy's parents, cutting them up into pieces, throwing them into a chili bowl and giving it to him to eat - just to humiliate the poor guy. Or almost killing his own mother (stopped only because some kind of mental breakdown) because she was trying to make him behave.
  • Kevin Levin from the Ben 10 franchise. Explained in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien by the negative effect absorbing energy has on his peoples' minds. When he is first seen, he was already addicted to absorbing energy and displayed a shocking disregard for other people while indulging his greed. He gets even worse after absorbing the Omnitrix's power turns him into an ugly looking mutant and he changes his goal to getting even with Ben. Kevin becomes The Fettered in the Time Skip between Ben 10 and Ben 10 Alien Force after he is purged of the Omnitrix's energy and refrains from absorbing energy again. As a result, he is able to spend the entire second series and part of the first season of the third one as The Lancer. After absorbing even more power from the Ultimatrix and Aggregor to prevent the latter from stealing the power of a baby Reality Warper Kevin reverts to being The Unfettered.
  • Demona from Gargoyles will stop at nothing to achieve her goal of eradicating humanity...even at the cost of wiping out her own kind, including her own daughter.
  • Playing into his comedic Lack of Empathy, Roger of American Dad will cheat, abuse or even murder others without a second thought to achieve his goals. Taken to absurd lengths at times since he can find even menial goals and ambitions and rotate their ends around completely callous and deranged schemes (a plan to win a free T shirt involved him manipulating Francine and Hayley to try and kill each other).

Real Life

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

  • Buddhist sage Linji describes his school of Chan Buddhism as such:

Followers of the Way, if you want to get the kind of understanding that accords with the Dharma, never be misled by others. Whether you're facing inward or facing outward, whatever you meet up with, just kill it! If you meet a buddha, kill the buddha. If you meet a patriarch, kill the patriarch. If you meet an arhat, kill the arhat. If you meet your parents, kill your parents. If you meet your kinfolk, kill your kinfolk. Then for the first time you will gain emancipation, you will not be entangled with things, and you will pass freely anywhere you wish to go.

  • Certain sects of Christianity invoke a very similar kind of dedication:

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple... So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."

  • The Apostle Paul might qualify as well. He was determined that the Gospel should be spread to everyone, and damn anyone who objected. In the course of his ministry, he threw off all the old limitations the Jewish Law placed on him. He did have a morality, though—it just looked very strange to the Jews of the time.
  • Napoleon Hill's book, Think and Grow Rich, is basically a manual to become this.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose almost single-minded pursuit of the his New Deal policies earned him the animosity of many people who disagreed with him, including many businessmen. Like with Twixt of the Recluse's Victory, it got to the point where some of the corporate officers summoned to Washington to help the United States fight Nazi Germany considered Roosevelt a bigger threat to them and their companies than the Nazis.
    • This even drove him multiple times to steps that, while not technical violations of the Constitution, were seen as going beyond the proper authority of the Presidency, the most obvious of which was the court-packing scheme. (He didn't carry that out, but only because Justice Owen Roberts started voting Roosevelt's way to prevent him from implementing it.)
    • A better example might be the institutions of his first term, like the National Recovery Administration, which were later found to be unconstitutional.
  • Baron Roman Nickolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg (try saying that three times quickly). An Axe Crazy aristocrat in the Russian Civil War decided that the royalist Whites weren't restoring the Russian monarchy fast enough, so he declared his independence, fought the Reds and Whites simultaneously with the goal of eventually conquering Russia to become the next Tsar, and conquered Mongolia as part of a cunning plan to intervene in the Chinese Civil War so he could try and restore the Qing Dynasty in his spare time. This was not a guy who was gonna let overwhelming odds (or common sense, or sanity) get in his way.
  • Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä killed 700 men over the course of 93 days, 500 with his rifle, 200 with his SMG. No sniper in history is more successful than he is. He hid in a tree all day, everyday, in the frozen Finnish winter with only his rifle and a tin can of rations. He kept snow in his mouth at all times to eliminate the fog from his breath, which would reveal his location. He used a rifle without a scope to present a smaller target and eliminate any glare from the sun, which would reveal his location. He froze the snow around his perch so it wouldn't kick up when he fired a shot, which would reveal his location. When asked how he felt about killing so many people he said "I did what I was told to do as best as I could." When asked how he became so skilled he said "Practice."
    • Your Mileage May Vary. Given that Häyhä was undergoing extreme personal risk, a risk which only increased as his notoriety grew, and at very limited personal gain- the man wasn't even a soldier, he was a farmer who was still young enough to be a reservist and happened to get called up- all for the sake of defending his family and his homeland from the Soviets, he may be seen as a Real Life example of The Fettered. The Fettered doesn't necessarily believe that Good Is Nice, after all.
      • The obvious conclusion is that Häyhä was so Badass that he managed to be The Unfettered and The Fettered at the same time.
      • He still fits under the definition of The Unfettered - he did have a specific goal, to protect his family, and he was doing it at extreme risk to himself, at extreme cost, and with little reward besides their safety. This guy was stopping at nothing to achieve that goal and going to extreme lengths to do it, making him a good example of this trope.
  • Some interpretations of Caesar Augustus fall into this trope. His goal varies depending on sources (kill all of Julius Caesar's murderers, gain power at any cost, get what's due to me, restore stability to Rome, etc.), but to many, he was single-minded in his pursuit of one goal throughout his life.
  • Max Weber's social actions delineate "Rational" and "Instrumental" actions. The Fettered and The Unfettered are people defined exclusively by, respectively, Instrumental and Rational actions.
  • LaVeyan Satanism encourages its practitioners to become The Unfettered. This is to be expected, as its founder (Anton LaVey) took inspiration for his philosophy from Friedrich Nietzsche and Ayn Rand. This is backed up by the Nine Satanic Statements, which include among their number "indulgence instead of abstinence" and "vengeance instead of turning the other cheek".
  • Psychopaths, and those with Antisocial Personality Disorder, are this trope. They're not only unfettered by moral and social codes, but also unrestrained by compassion or (in the case of the Psychopath) common sense. The parts of their brains that normally impose these rules do not work. Whether or not they will stick with one goal is dependent upon the person and whether or not they are a Psychopath instead of a sociopath, but both can and will do absolutely anything, often without warning or provocation. Such persons are rare, but very dangerous.
    • Your Mileage May Vary. While The Unfettered are often antisocial, the antisocial are rarely unfettered, since they are still limited by things like fear, comfort, personal safety, or material desires. The popular media stereotype of the cold, calculating, manipulative sociopath is in reality a rare exception to the rule: the typical person with ASPD often simply has difficulty coping with authority and social norms, and is more likely to be selfish than ruthless.
  • Carlos Hathcock is another great example of a sniper being unfettered in his job. One of the greatest snipers that the American Military ever produced and a legend in the Marine Corp Mr. Hathcock had over 90 confirmed sniping kills during the Vietnam War (this means that a fellow solider or officer had to be there to confirm that he made the kill, this doesn't mean he didn't make many more unconfirmed kills) and the enemy feared him so much that they placed a bounty on his head for 30,000 dollars (more than the average Vietnamese citizen made in a life time). His reputation among the Americans who produced him and the enemy he fought was well earned. You would think a guy like this would be a Cold Sniper through and through but he had a very simplistic view of his job as a sniper:

Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock: Hell, anybody would be crazy to like to go out and kill folks. I like shooting, and I love hunting. But I never did enjoy killing anybody. It's my job. If I don't get those bastards, then they're gonna kill a lot of these kids we got dressed up like Marines. That's just the way I see it.