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In short, I'm a bastard. And before you make any smart remarks, I mean the fatherless kind.
—Alistair, Dragon Age
While the Badass hero or the Anti-Hero may get called a bastard, it's not usually meant literally. This trope is for the protagonist for whom "bastard" is just a factual description, not a comment on his personality. He could easily be a very pleasant, well-mannered fellow, but his parents never married.
Until fairly recently in fiction, a child born out of wedlock was often expected to have a treacherous or villainous nature just due to the fact of his illegitimate birth, which of course is how the term "bastard" came to mean someone who was...well, a bastard. In modern times, however, with the rise of more liberal and humane attitudes -- as well as the rapid increase in unwed motherhood as a societal phenomenon -- it has become less acceptable to assume that a person will have a tendency toward evil behavior just because Dad never gave Mom a ring. (Or because Mom or Dad had him when one of the two already gave a ring to another person).
Back in the day, this could be a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Since a child born out of wedlock would be the target of all kinds of discrimination and would not be allowed to participate in some central parts of society (like church services), they often had to become ruthless, cunning rogues just to have a chance of surviving. Especially since the fathers didn't have to care for them (and often wouldn't) and the mothers may have used the kid to let out their frustration about "those goddamn men". Then again, fatherless children have a documented tendency to violence, suicide, lack of self-control, and poverty -- so, statistically speaking, there's something to the stereotype, though how much of this is due to the social stigma is left as an exercise to the reader. But most bastards manage to rise above these expectations.
In fact, modern authors have found that making their hero a bastard can have some valuable dramatic benefits. Perhaps his parents never married because one of them vanished mysteriously; this can lead to a juicy revelation later in the story when it is discovered that Mom or Dad is someone very important to the plot. If the writer is feeling generous, the vanished parent could be a local power figure or at least wealthy. If not, the vanished parent could end up being someone the hero has to fight. At a minimum, being born a bastard and getting socially snubbed for it can give your character a reason to feel mistreated yet prove his heroic character by rising above it and saving the world anyway.
Interestingly, if we look back far enough, we find that most of the greatest heroes of ancient Greek myth were illegitimate, making this Older Than Feudalism. However, this generally only applied if the hero's parents didn't marry because one of them was a god -- most often baby-daddy Zeus, who had serious fidelity issues with his goddess wife and was forever running around impregnating mortal women with heroes. It should be also be noted that in ancient Greece, "heroic" did not necessarily mean nice, so many Greek heroes were bastards who were also bastards.
While there ARE several people in history that qualify as this (like William the Conqueror, Don John of Austria and Don John's half-sister Margaret of Parma), it's best to not add other examples due to the complexity of history and humans themselves. So yeah, aside of these three, No Real Life Examples, Please
Anime and Manga
- Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward and Alphonse Elric have their mother Trisha's surname because she never officially married their father, Van Hohenheim, despite living with him for years and sharing a house with him. Hohenheim's failure to make an "honest woman" out of Trisha Elric is in the manga and in Brotherhood because he's a living, immortal Philosopher's stone, and probably doesn't actually exist in any official records, and he was trying to keep his sons from being associated with him to keep them away from Father, who would want to use them in his plot.
- Similarly, the first anime it's because he is a near-immortal Body Surfer with a jealous and centuries old ex-lover/ex-wife looking for him, who probably wouldn't have the best intentions in mind for his new family. His latest body may or may not have had its own name and proper records, but Van Hohenheim for whatever reason didn't want to use them if it did.
- Prince Arslan was roundly denounced by his detractors as not being of royal blood, which turns out to be true in the novels and the manga, as Queen Tahmine confessed that he was the son of one of their royal cavalry and a serving girl, but quickly proves to his devoted companions and several nobles that he is charismatic, kind, and intelligent enough to make a great ruler regardless. His knack for attracting high-class and devoted followers definitely doesn't hurt either.
- Serpico from Berserk is the illegitimate son of a powerful merchant born from an affair with a maid. He's also one of the few genuinely good characters in the series, as he cares for his legitimate sister Farnese and protects the weak.
- Takuto Tsunashi from Star Driver. He was the product of an affair between his mother, Sora and Tokio Tsunashi, AKA Reiji Miyabi, AKA Head, AKA the Big Bad of the whole series.
- Touma H. Norstein of Digimon Savers. Like in Ratatouille, it's never stated outright because this is a kid's show, but the implication is that he's the son of an Austrian aristocrat and a Japanese exchange student who never married. He's a nice guy, if a little cold at first, but he suffered due to his illegitimacy, as his grandmother told him to his face (right after his mother died!) that he was a member of the great Norstein family, yet he wasn't.
- Future Trunks from Dragon Ball Z. He states clearly to Goku upon their first meeting that Bulma and Vegeta never got married, because the former did not want to.
- Also Present-Day Trunks as well. Though his parents do eventually marry, and his sister Bra is born within wedlock.
- George from Paradise Kiss. His Hot Mom Yukino is a former model who got knocked up by an extremely wealthy man and quit her career to have him. This results in heavy resentment from her towards him, and strong and complicated love/hate feelings from him towards her, also affecting his relationship with Yukari.
- Tybalt from Romeo X Juliet. This is one of the reasons why he fights the Montagues, in fact. His mom was a Capulet lady who fell victim to Death by Childbirth... and his dad is the Montague leader and the Big Bad.
- Kallen Stadtfeld of Code Geass is the daughter of a noble and his lawfully wed wife. Except that Kallen Kozuki's mother is actually the house maid and her father's former lover, but no one talks about that.
- Jo Jo's Bizarre Adventure:
- Jousuke Higashikata, hero of Part 4 (Diamond is Unbreakable), is the illegitimate son of the now-elderly hero of Part 2 (Battle Tendency), Joseph Joestar. Jousuke is raised by his Japanese mother Tomoko and his grandfather Ryouhei and doesn't meet his father, who had no idea of his existence, until he's in highschool. Naturally, things are... awkward between the two.
- Giorno Giovanna and Trish Una from Part 4 (Vento Aureo). On one hand Giorno is one of DIO's bastards and, while pretty rough around the edges, he wants to take over The Mafia to make it more heroic; on the other, his ally Trish is the apparently haughty and spoiled illegitimate child of The Don aka Diavolo but is actually quite insecure...
- Satellizer L. Bridgette from Freezing, daughter of a nobleman and his mistress.
- Rio from Sora no Woto. After years of neglect, save for her older half-sister, her family finally acknowdleges she's around when they need a royal princess to marry for a peace treaty. She's not exactly willing, but she does it anyway because that's what her sister would have done.
- Sakuya Ookuchi from Sensual Phrase. Doubles as Child by Rape.
- Hideki "Hashizo" Kato from Aishite Night. His mother was The Mistress of a married man. When they died in an accident, Mr. Kato's eldest son Go took Hashizo in despite his mother Yoko's objections.
- Heero Yuy from Gundam Wing. The leads we have say that his father Odin Lowe and his mother Aoi Clark never married, that she raised him for a while with the help of the guy she did marry, and that after Aoi and her hubby's deaths Odin took the kid back in and trained him as a Hitman with a Heart.
- All the Gundam pilots with the definite exception of Quatre and maybe Trowa may be this, as most of them are orphans without birth names and their parentage isn't really explored. It's later confirmed that Trowa and his sister Catherine are not this.
- Banagher Links from Gundam Unicorn. In the 8-minute preview of episode 5, one member of the Vist Family distinctly refers to him as the illegitimate son of Cardeas Vist.
- Daigo from Virgin Love was the son of his father's mistress, and was never officially recognized as his son. His dad stayed completely out of his and his mother's life until he hit university age, when he sent him to school and put him on the fast-track in his company.
- Link in the first The Legend of Zelda manga is implied to be the son of Queen Zelda and her lover, when she was married.
- Tamaki Suoh of Ouran High School Host Club is an example, as the son of a Japanese rich man and a French Ill Girl.
- Hinted in regards to Nanako Misonoo from Oniisama e.... In the manga, it's mentioned that before marrying Prof. Misonoo, her Hot Mom was abandoned by a man whom she had been living with for years, plus her biological father is NEVER accounted for...
- Also, Rei Asaka aka Hana no Saint Juste, daughter of the Ichinomiya leader and one of the maids. The reason why she doesn't live with the Ichinomiyas is because her half-sister Fukiko, horrified after finding out that her father had a mistress and an illegitimate daughter, suffered a massive breakdown and refused to openly see a bastard child like her as a sibling. For worse, it happened right after Rei's mother killed herself.
- And then we find out that Fukiko, though NOT exactly heroic, is also a bastard child... and the full-blooded sister of Rei, taken away at birth and then adopted by the Ichinomiyas. She doesn't seem to know it, though, and Rei only found out when her mother told her the truth... before her aforementioned suicide.
- Also, Rei Asaka aka Hana no Saint Juste, daughter of the Ichinomiya leader and one of the maids. The reason why she doesn't live with the Ichinomiyas is because her half-sister Fukiko, horrified after finding out that her father had a mistress and an illegitimate daughter, suffered a massive breakdown and refused to openly see a bastard child like her as a sibling. For worse, it happened right after Rei's mother killed herself.
- Kakeru Manabe from Fruits Basket is the son of a filthy rich old man and his mistress. His younger sister Machi Kuragi is the daughter of said man and his legal wife. The half-siblings were forced into a rather bitter 'rivalry' by their mothers, until Kakeru told his mom to stop controlling him, but both are still deeply marked about it.
- The protagonist of Private Actress, Shiho Kobayakawa, is the illegitimate daughter of the most popular actress in Japan, Sayuri Nagasawa. Even more, her father Masakazu Ogata is another famous actor, a married man (Sayuri was The Mistress to him) and he does NOT know about her. Since unmarried mothers are heavily looked down in Japanese society Shiho is first raised by her grandma, then by a nanny-like Cool Big Sis and then lives alone; she goes by another surname and works as the titular private actress, refusing to openly getting into the stardom right away despite being as pretty and talented as her mom (whom she's quite close to despite the circumstances), because she first wants to forge her own rep.
- Shiho also has to play the role of one when she's hired to pretend that she's the illegitimate daughter of a corrupt politician by the child's mother, her Cool Big Sis Makiko Mori, who was deeply hurt by her lover's rejection.
- Her boyfriend Tomoomi and her close friend Mariko are these, too. In Tomoomi's case his dad was a very old CEO who later recognized him as his son, causing a huge mess in their Big Screwed-Up Family; in Mariko's, she is actually a half-Filipina girl who wants to be an actress in Japan so she can properly meet her father, another CEO who supports her economically but doesn't contact her.
- Alibaba Saluja from Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic was the son of a king and one of the maids in his palace. His mother was thrown out of the castle while still pregnant, and the father only could locate the son after the death of his mom.
- Later, it's revealed that Princess Kogyouku is the daughter of a prostitute. It heavily bothers her, and she ends up bonding with Alibaba over it.
- Krista Renz aka Historia Reiss turns out to be this in Attack on Titan, since her mother Alma was both a maid and The Mistress of King Rod Reiss. This becomes very important later, when she must step up and become the Queen.
- DC Comics is crawling (so to speak) with them:
- Connor Hawke, son of Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow. Oliver also has several other illegitimate children, including Robert, the boy Shado has with him after raping him. Suzanne "Cissie" King-Jones (the second Arrowette) is heavily implied to also be one.
- Damien Al Ghul, son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul (Although "Heroic" might stretch things a bit. But he tries.)
- Raven, daughter of the archdemon Trigon and a human woman.
- Damage, thought to be a bastard, revealed later that his true parents were married (The original Atom and his wife)
- Tom, illegitimate son of Wildcat of the JSA.
- Huntress is actually the daughter of Santo Cassamento, not Franco Bertinelli; she's also something of a bastard in the more colloquial sense, sometimes of the magnificent variety, as when she manipulates her uncle into murdering her biological father, while setting him up to take the fall for this, and tricks the Question into helping her. And all under the noses of Batman, Robin, Nightwing, and Oracle.
- Vic Sage makes the assumption that he is a bastard, since he was raised in an orphanage, but he never learned his actual parentage so it was never confirmed. He has made peace with this fact and does not let it wear him down.
Renee Montoya: "You really are a bastard."
- Marvel Comics also has a few:
- All three of Captain Mar-Vell's children: Genis and Phyla (by Elysius) and Teddy (by Anelle).
- Magneto's daughter Lorna/Polaris appears to have been born out of wedlock. Though the exact details are confusing, to say the least.
- Even Marvel Comics 2 has a few. Wolverine's son, Sabreclaw, who was a double bastard before his Heel Face Turn. His mother's still unknown. And then there's Darkdevil, son of Spider-Clone Ben Reilly and his imprisoned girlfriend.
- Wesley in Wanted is known to have been a bastard. In the comic book he's a Sociopathic Bastard, whilst in the film, he runs the gamut from Poor Bastard to Anti-Hero Bastard to Magnificent Bastard.
- Laurie Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre II) from Watchmen, who realizes late in the book that she was the result of a consensual affair with the Comedian, who had previously tried to rape her mother.
- It's rather obviously implicit that Rorschach's parents were unmarried, too. (And even if he's not a hero, he's a brave, very well-meaning main character, so... close enough.)
- The title character of Nikolai Dante is the illegitimate son of Dmitri Romanov.
- In Eye of the Fox Kira is a rather blatant example as while the methods of his conception is still unknown to the reader, his parents were obviously never together in a word, and he just barely stops short of being a Bastard Bastard.
Films -- Live-Action
- Kirk's son David, seen in the second and third Star Trek movies, was illegitimate. Kirk's cry of "You Klingon bastards! You killed my son!" in the third movie was parodied by Peter David as, "You Klingon sons! You killed my bastard!"
- Will Scarlet is Robin's illegimate half-brother in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It's... complicated: Will was born from Robin's widowed dad's relationship with a local woman, and when a young Robin found out he rejected the deal and Sir Locksley left them. Years later Will really hates his older half-brother for it, to the point of a near Face-Heel Turn - but when the Older and Wiser Robin confronts Will and he explains himself, Robin does his best to atone.
- Played straight in the 1999 Sci Fi adaptation of Beowulf: he's the bastard child of his human mother and a demon father. Grendel is the son of the King and another demon. He kills the latter two monsters.
- Also the film has Grendel the son of the King after an affair with the demon. The third monster, however, is the result of Beowulf succumbing to the monster-lady's charms.
- The Creed movies are about Rocky Balboa's disciple Adonis "Donny" Johnson Creed (Michael B. Jordan), a promising young boxer who is also Apollo Creed's illegitimate son born from his affair with a woman who died when Donny was a child. Subverted in that he's also the adoptive son of Apollo's legal wife Mary Anne, whom he adores.
Folklore and Mythology
- Hercules, Perseus, Ramma, Sigurd, Apollo, Artemis.
- In fact, the whole of the Heroic Age in Classical Mythology was basically about a bunch of heroes (which is a Greek word, by the way) who were mostly badass extramarital children of Olympian gods (first of all, Zeus), making them the Ur Example of Heroic Bastard (both in academic sense and often personality-wise).
- A startlingly large number of the protagonists in classic Arthurian myth are illegitimate, to wit:
- King Arthur himself was born of a deception when Merlin disguised Uther Pendragon as Gorlois so Uther could sleep with Gorlois' wife, Igraine. Uther and Igraine did get married before Arthur was born, so he is not of illegitimate birth, just illegitimate conception, so still technically qualifies.
- Merlin was said to be the child of a human woman and an incubus. It doesn't seem likely that they were married.
- The "perfect gentle knight" Galahad, one of the Grail-finders, was the bastard son of Lancelot and Elaine.
- Mordred is usually the son of Arthur and his half-sister Morgause (or Morgaine). While many of the older versions of Arthurian myth paint Mordred as a typical double-bastard (evil as well as illegitimate), more recent works (and even some of the older ones) have tried to reform this character.
- In Mary Stewart's The Wicked Day, Mordred is actually a decent guy, if somewhat broody. His falling-out and fight with Arthur is the result of incredibly bad luck and a terrible misunderstanding, not deliberate treachery on Modred's part.
- In Elizabeth Wein's The Winter Prince, Medraut (the original spelling of "Mordred") is highly intelligent and not evil, but is terribly conflicted about his heritage, particularly when he meets his half-brother Lleu, the legitimate son and heir of Artos (Arthur) that his evil mother Morgause wants him to kill, and finds that he simultaneously loves, hates, and envies the other boy.
- The Book of Mordred is entirely about Mordred's time as a knight of the round table.
- Perceval, in the versions where he's Pellinore's son. And that's just the major characters. To this add Sir Tor (one of the knights of the white hart), Guinglain (Gawaine's long-lost son), Yvain the lesser, and Sagramore in many of his Hungarian incarnations, plus at least two other bastard sons of Arthur (Logors and Arthur the less) and anyone that has slipped this troper's mind. As the majority of the fathers in these cases were major knights themselves, the original ballad writers were apparently more concerned with the geneaology than they were the marriage vows.
- Karna in the Mahabharata.
- Jephthah in the Biblical Book of Judges was the son of Gilead and a prostitute, and was exiled by his half-brothers for being a bastard. Later in life, they have to beg him to lead them to victory over the Ammonites.
- FitzChivalry Farseer, hero of Robin Hobb's Farseer and Fool trilogies, is the bastard son of Prince Chivalry Farseer. "Fitz" is Norman-French for "son," so Fitz's name is simply "son of Chivalry," but since Fitzroy ("son of the king") was the surname given to illegitimate sons of the English kings, it also means, colloquially, "bastard of Chivalry."
- Speaking of Fitzroys, the vampire protagonist of Tanya Huff's Blood Books novels is one Henry Fitzroy, the bastard son of King Henry VIII. He's also heroic.
- Henry Fitzroy also shows up in Mercedes Lackey's This Scepter'd Isle.
- Desmond MaqqRee, known to the press of the Fair World as Doc Sidhe
- George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire has bastards of all sorts in a wide variety of termperments. The most notable and heroic is Jon Snow, who is raised as the bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark. Jon's estrangement from the Stark family spurs him to leave the household and join the Night's Watch. The truth about Jon's parentage and birth is one of the central mysteries of the series which has not yet been revealed. It is entirely possible he is not bastard born at all, nor Ned Stark's son. However, everyone including Jon himself believes that he is Ned's bastard, and he is treated accordingly.
- Daine in Tamora Pierce's The Immortals series is illegitimate, hence her
patronymicmatronymic is "Sarrasri" from her mother. Turns out that her father is really Weiryn, the God of the Hunt, though she doesn't find this out until the last book.
- Touchstone in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series was the bastard son of the Queen and a nobleman, though he ends up taking the throne after a Rip Van Winkle situation leaves him as the only royal left alive anywhere. In the same series, Lirael of the Clayr, although not technically illegitimate since the Clayr don't typically marry, has to deal with very similar social disapproval because her mother ran off mysteriously (against tradition) and returned pregnant with Lirael, and completely refused to speak of the identity of Lirael's father. The odd circumstances of Lirael's birth, combined with her non-Clayr looks and lack of Clayr gifts, all cause her to be treated by some as an awkward "love child" rather than a "true daughter of the Clayr."
- Stragen, a thief in David Eddings' Elenium and Tamuli series, is the bastard son of a noble. He is initially a bit sensitive about it, but gets over it.
- He then uses it to insult a vast number of obstinate Styrics.
Is "Elene bastard" the best you could come up with? It's not even much of an insult, because in my case it happens to be true.
- In The Belgariad, Mandorallen is insulted as "the bastard of Vo Mandor"...due to "some temporary irregularity about my birth which still raises questions about my legitimacy." Since he is a fearsome fighter, however, the only people who mention this are relatives (local traditions disapprove of shedding the blood of kinsfolk), idiots, and people a safe distance away.
- In the sequel, king Urgit of Chtol Murgos is revealed to be one, as Silk's late father found the Murgo nobility's custom of sequestering their women nothing but an inviting challenge. The result is actually a benefit to Urgit (and by extension, his kingdom) as he's spared from the hereditary insanity plaguing the royal bloodline (as well as giving him enough cunnning to win the deadly succession war). It also saves him from Mallorean Emperor Zakath having him horribly killed as part of his (Zakath's) methodical revenge extermination of the Urga bloodline. After some king-coaching from Garion, Urgit goes on to be a fairly decent king.
- The titular hero in Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series is the son of a prostitute and an unknown man.
- Alain from Crown of Stars is (supposedly) the son of a servant and either a merchant, a count, an elven shade (don't ask), his grandfather or some completely unknown man. This is a major plot point in the series - until he stops caring about it.
- Oh, and Liath? She's the daughter of a priest and a fire elemental.
- Not to mention that in order to become king or queen, you have to sire or birth a bastard to prove your fertility. Sanglant is the bastard son of the current king and an elven woman from that "ceremony." He gets treated even worse than the average bastard thanks to his mother's blood.
- Pearl Prynne, the illegitimate child of Hester Prynne, from The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a slightly revised version of the "illegitimacy means evil child" notion. Because the entire book is about the rebounding effects of denying and admitting sin, Pearl is seen as a living embodiment of the scarlet letter A worn on Hester's chest. Pearl is irreverent, impish, and obsessed with the scarlet letter, and a source of much anguish to her mother, until her father admits to being Hester's lover and fellow-sinner. After this, Pearl's character changes completely -- one might say she becomes a "normal" little girl.
- Jack Jackson/Fitzjack, of Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, being the bastard of a hanged travelling musician. He turns out fine and even builds one of England's first Gothic Cathedrals, among other things.
- Lyra Belacqua (or Lyra Silvertongue, as she is later called) of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials was born of an affair between the adventurer/scientist Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter that resulted in the death of her husband, who had gone to Lord Asriel's home with the intention of killing the baby and avenging the violation of his wife. Asriel, being a kind and gracious host, took the gun from his hand and shot him .
- All of the half-bloods from Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and The Olympians series. The titular character is the son of Poseidon and a mortal woman.
- Tanis Half-Elven, the leader of a band of heroes in the Dragonlance Saga novels, is the product of a Human Warrior raping his Elven Mother.
- Steel Brightblade, the product of a one-night stand between Sturm Brightblade and Kitiara Uth Matar, may have been a servant of an evil deity, but he did help save the world on one occasion.
- Mark of Tasavalta in Fred Saberhagen's Books of Swords and Books of Lost Swords is the natural son of Mala and the Emperor.
- Tristran Thorn, hero of Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' Stardust, is the bastard son of Dunstan Thorn and the long-lost daughter of the Lord of Stormhold.
- Philp Kent, the title character of John Jakes' novel, The Bastard.
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunts Ghosts novel Ghostmaker, Dorden had, as a new fledged doctor, saved a woman in labor and her baby. This is revealed by Corbec, who was the baby; being illegimate, his mother did not have the same name, which is why he hadn't realized.
- In Sandy Mitchell's Warhammer 40000 novel Scourge the Heretic, Drake is the (presumably illegitimate) son of a man of high standing and a chambermaid. Though somewhat bitter about his inability to advance on his stratified world, he copes by joining the Imperial Guard to escape, and when he is recruited to help an Inquisitor, his uncertain status may be reflected in his ability to handle shifting social situations: intimidating a man of the very highest birth by treating him with no deference, and drawing information from servants by pleasantries.
- In Christopher Moore's novel Fool, an Affectionate Parody of King Lear, the protagonist Pocket, the titular character, discovers he's the illegitimate son of Lear's brother. The news is not very well received as he learns this in a vision that also reveals that his conception was the result of Lear forcing his brother to rape Pocket's mother after the brother idly mentions he finds her attractive, all just to prove the point that, as king, he had the right to. The other noble bastard in the story, Edmund of Gloucester, is decidedly not heroic.
- Alan Campbell's Deepgate Codex books have Carnival, born from the rape of her mortal mother by Ulcis. (God Is Evil much?) It Got Worse from there.
- Stephen Maturin of O'Brian's Master and Commander fame was the son of an Irish officer and a Spanish woman. At several points throughout the series, Maturin empathizes with other (literal) bastards, including Aubrey's illegitimate bi-racial son Sam.
- Les Misérables has Fantine, who has no family at all - she was named by a stranger who found her wandering barefoot in the streets as a child. She who bears a daughter out of wedlock, and names her
EuphrasieCosette, who is eventually adopted by Jean Valjean.
- Apropos in the Sir Apropos of Nothing series was the son of a prostitute who was gang-raped by a bunch of knights and the King's jester.
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion world, one of the five gods is the Bastard, god of the unseason, who give shelter to those who have none and provides friends to the friendless and justice to those who cannot find it.
- Discworld's King Verence... sort of. He's not really The Hero as much as a secondary protagonist. Verence becomes king after his half-brother TomJon, the child of the last ruler, decides to be an actor. He was made king thanks to the fact that Verence and TomJon have a strong resemblance to each other and the previous king had a habit of [exercising his droit de seigneur. Granny Weatherwax decided this was close enough and made him king. Subverted however in the previous king's wife had a thing for the previous court jester, Verence's father.
- Terry Pratchett seems quite fond of enthroning bastards. Aside from Verence's case, Pyramids ends with Teppic's half-sister Ptraci on the throne of Djelibeybi, and Witches Abroad's Ella, eventual ruler of Genua, is the illegitimate daughter of Baron Saturday and Mrs. Gogol. Princess Keli's late father (from Mort) was known as "King Olerve the Bastard" -- even on his hourglass! -- and he doesn't seem nasty enough to merit such a title unless he, too, was illegitimate.
- Richard in the Sword of Truth series is not only a bastard, but the product of his mother being raped by the Big Bad. Despite this, he is eventually recognized as being the big bad's legitimate heir and even taking his last name.
- Axis in Sara Douglass's Axis trilogy is of illegitimate birth, and is reminded of this fact constantly, particularly in the first book.
- Aeneas in The Aeneid. He's the illegitimate son of the goddess Aphrodite/Venus and the mortal Anchises. For that matter, any child of a god(dess) and a mortal, except for Achilles. His immortal mother actually married his mortal father, and then left him after Achilles was born.
- Max in the Codex Alera, while not the main character, is the bastard son of High Lord Antillus. This nets him both incredible power and an Evil Stepmother who's been trying to get rid of him for years.
- And while The Hero, Tavi, technically isn't a bastard, for the first three and a half books he thought he was and might as well have been, and he was plenty heroic in that time. His father was a soldier, and while it was technically illegal for Legionnaires to be married, it wasn't uncommon for them to do so in secret, or at least discreetly enough that nobody would bring it up. Since everyone who knew about it other than Isana and Araris was killed right along with Septimus at First Calderon, the fact that the Princeps was married for 10 months managed to go unnoticed by the rest of the world.
- Both Cat and Bones from the Night Huntress series. Cat is the product of rape, and she and her mother are both shunned by their small town for her out-of-wedlock birth. Bones is both a bastard and the Son of a Whore. They team up to kill evil vampires and rescue the human victims.
- Technically, Kvothe of The Name of the Wind actually is a bastard; his parents were never formally married, though they lived as a couple.
- Jiaan in the Farsala Trilogy is the bastard child of a Farsalan war leader and later takes his place, though with no one's consent.
- Thomas Raith from The Dresden Files fits this trope.
- Eric von Darkmoor in The Riftwar Cycle novels is the bastard (although his mother tried to claim that he was legitimate, and that his father's relatives annulled the marriage in order to get the Baron-to-be to marry another noble for an alliance) son of the Baron von Darkmoor. He is a much better person than the eldest legitimate child of his father.
- In Contact, Ellie, the protagonist, finds out in the very last chapter that her deceased father, whom she idolized, is not her father. Her (not actually "step-") stepfather, who she despises, is.. This subplot is completely absent from The Movie.
- Warrior Cats has so many of these that they're in every series. Examples include: Mistyfoot and Stonefur, who are half Thunderclan half Riverclan, with their mother faked as a Riverclan queen. Lionblaze, Jayfeather and Hollyleaf also count, with them also being half-clan, and their mother a medicine cat. They believe that another relation of theirs is their mother, and the truth does not come out until much later.
- They're cats for crying out loud! All non-human animals are bastards!
- Mariam from A Thousand Splendid Suns is a tragic example, since she had the bad luck to be one in a society that considers this utterly scandalous.
- Andre-Louis in Scaramouche was born from an affair.
- Tzigone, one of the central protagonists of Counselors and Kings is the bastard daughter of the renegade wizardess Keturah and King Zalathorm of Halruaa. She's very determined to keep this from coming out, however, since Halruaa's laws regarding marriage and procreation are draconian and a wizard's bastard is executed out of hand if both parents can't be named. In the end, Zalathorm acknowledges Tzigone as his daughter and marries Keturah, giving Tzigone a proper family for the first time in her life- and also making her Princess of Halruaa, much to her consternation.
- The title character of Candide is one of the nicest guys in the story. He also happens to be illegitimate (his mother refused to marry his father because "he could produce no more than seventy-one quarterings in his arms"). Despite how little legitimacy matters to the events of the book, Cunegonde's brother refuses to allow her to marry so far below her. He never lets up on this tiring belief, even after Candide bought him out of slavery.
- Emily Roland from Temeraire is and it's more common than not for women in the Air Corp to have children out of wedlock. The point that keeps coming up in the story is that no, she's not Laurence's bastard.
- Ellis Peters seems fond of bastards; many of them crop up in her Cadfael books and most of them are heroic. The one that stands out most is Olivier, Cadfael's son.
- Lanen in Tales of Kolmar finds out early that the man her mother married before running away wasn't her father after all. Her initial reaction is relief, since it explains the rather cool relationship that had existed between them, and largely it doesn't seem to matter, but in a low moment later she does bring up her bastard heritage.
- A good chunk of heroines in Hispanic Telenovelas are daughters of mothers abandoned by their lovers, even when the plot does not involve their heritage or lineage at all.
- Bobby Goren of Law and Order: Criminal Intent is the bastard of a serial killer. Fortunately, he was raised by someone else and only recently found out.
- Claire Bennett knew she was adopted, but it was only after she found out the man who raised her was working for a Pseudo-Government Conspiracy did she learn that she was the youthful indiscretion of a certain up and coming New York politician.
- Lampshaded in an episode of the TV-series The Associates in which a man notes that there is a TV show called The Bastard about a man who is, well, the title character, and he says, "What will they do next, create a sequel to Lassie called Son-of-a-Bitch?"
- Subverted in Veronica Mars, when the eponymous heroine looks to be then is revealed not to be the bastard daughter of Jake Kane.
- Henry from Once Upon a Time.
- Locke, Aaron, and Walt from Lost, all of whom have been said to be special and important, were all born out of wedlock. Further, all were given up (or scheduled to be given up) for adoption.
- Det. Olivia Benson from Law and Order Special Victims Unit is the child of a rape.
- In Kamen Rider Kiva, It's the titular rider whose the bastard child, although it's inverted, as his father was an all-around nice guy, while his mother fell in love with him more than her actual spouse.
- The term "hero" is debatable, but Francis Wilkerson from Malcolm in the Middle was born during the wedding ceremony between Hal and Lois.
- In a DVD extra to accompany the series, Hal, in Being Human tells Leo that he was raised in a brothel by six prostitutes, but that he never knew which of them was his mother. Ironically, he's often called Lord Hal by the other vampires, because he's one of the 'old ones'.
- In keeping with The Zeroth Law of Trope Examples: "The Bastard", Philip Faulconbridge, in King John is a sort of avatar of his father, Richard the Lion Heart. Richard's old enemy Leopold of Austria is conflated by Shakespeare with the Viscount of Limoges, and appears wearing Richard's own personal lion-skin (!), which Faulconbrige takes back after slaying him.
- Elphaba in Wicked, thanks to her mother's indiscretion with the Wizard. Possibly yet another reason why her father doesn't like her--he's probably sure she isn't his.
- Wagner's Siegfried.
- Jack Dunois, the Bastard of Orléans, in George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan.
- Ayane of the game Dead or Alive is the product of the rape of Hayabusa and Kasumi's mother Ayame at the hands of Raidou. As a result, while Ayame does love her, their relationship is quite distant for years.
- Thomas from Suikoden III is one of the nicest characters in the game and also is a bastard.
- Likewise Hugo from the same game.
- Ramza Beoulve, the main character of Final Fantasy Tactics, is heavily implied to be this. Although it only comes up in passing in the game, one imagines it was more of an issue when he was living among nobles, before everyone got caught up in the Lion War. Ironically one of the only unequivocally good characters in the game. For further irony, both his older (presumably legitimate) brothers are bastards in the more contemporary sense of the word. For instance, Dycedarg murdered their father, and is host to one of the demons intent on bringing about The End Of Ivalice As We Know It; Zalbag is much more sympathetic, even noble, but he was still the one giving the order for Algus/Argath to shoot Delita's sister Teta in order to take out Golagros/Gragoroth. The game implies that he may be, like Algus/Argath, a classist, and was willing to sacrifice Teta because she was a "mere" commoner, and insults Ramza for having his mother's "commoner blood".
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni's Battler is one, but does not know this thanks to the fact that his father Rudolf pulled a baby switch after his legal wife Asumu miscarried, and swapped the baby with his mistress Kyrie's. However, his parents did get married, just several years later. When Battler finds out about his origins, he... doesn't take it well. At all.
- His half sister Ange almost was one, since Kyrie was already pregnant with her when she and Rudolf got hitched. And she's the one to snap Battler out of his despair, but dies for it.
- The Bastard of Kosigan, bastard son of a precursor and Count Borogar of Kosigan. Though he might be a Villainous Bastard if you play him the other way. And given the number of women he can end up taking advantage of he may be leaving a few behind.
- Fire Emblem has a few examples as well:
- In the remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden, it's revealed via artbooks that both Jesse and Genny count as this. In Jesse's case, he is the illegitimate son of a VERY important Zofian noble and was expected to lead the clan itself but he left the family to avert conflict with his younger (and legitimate) half-brother, PLUS he felt stifled by his relatives and wanted to be free. In Genny's case, her mom was a Priestess of Mila from the Priory of Novis; she left the temple to live in the capital (and apparently was the mistress of a married nobleman), returned to the temple with a newborn Genny, raised her there for a short while and then disappeared, never to return.
- Princess Guinevere in Binding Blade, the illegitimate daughter of King Desmond and his mistress, turns out to be more heroic than her legitimate half-brother, King Zephiel. (Though Zephiel used to be heroic)
- Marriages between Beorc and Laguz are forbidden in Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, so all Branded are bastards except for the descendants of Lehran and Altina (like Micaiah), since Lehran and Altina got married before the prohibition against Beorc/Laguz marriages. Some of the Branded, like Soren and Stefan, serve Ike and could therefore be considered heroic.
- Ashnard's illegitimate son Soren in Path of Radiance may not be particularly heroic, but his loyalty to Ike and his brilliant tactics make him crucial to Ashnard's defeat.
- Azelle in Genealogy of the Holy Wars, born from the former Duke of Velthomer's rape of his wife Cigyun's favorite lady-in-waiting/maid... or at least he tries to be before everything goes to hell and they all die anyway.
- But wait, there's more! Sigurd's wife Deirdre was the illegitimate daughter of said Duke of Velthomer's runaway wife and the Prince of Grandbell. Her mom fell victim to Death by Childbirth and her dad never knew about her (unless it's the Oosawa manga, in which he was planning to search for his heir.) And then again, It Gets Worse.
- And even more. Thracia 776 reveals that Azelle's older brother Alvis also had an illegitimate son, Saias, with his Number Two Aida. Not only that, but he is implied to be the one who had enough Heroic Lineage to wield the Valaflame tome. (Which is confirmed in Fire Emblem Awakening.) It's also all but spelled that one of Leif's friends and fellow fighters, the swordsman Fergus, is the son of a Conote princess and Beowulf, one of Sigurd's late companions.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, Lissa fears that she's one because she doesn't have the Brand of the Exalt, unlike Emmeryn and Chrom (and Lucina). . In a subversion, her son Owain has it, and that fact proves Lissa's legitimacy.
- In Fire Emblem Fates, three of the four Nohrian Royals are this: Xander is the only one born from King Garon's first wife, Queen Katerina, whereas Camilla, Leo and Elise were mothered by concubines.
- It's implied that the Player Character counts as this too, due to his/her parents' Star-Crossed Lovers situation: their father is the Big Bad's Good Side and their mother is a Fallen Princess from Valla. . Fanon also dictates (though not without basis) that their mom's Second Love may have claimed that the protagonist was his bastard child so he could bring both mother and kid into Hoshido without raising too many eyebrows...
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses implies that Prince Claude von Riegan is this. He is: his mother is the daughter of the Duke of Riegan, Lady Tiana, whereas his father is the unseen King of Almyra.. His maternal family recognized him as their heir few before the game began, and in several of his endings he's also officially acknowledged by his paternal one and succeeds his dad as King.
- Princess Edelgard von Hresvelgr is the daughter of Emperor Ionus IX and his favorite mistress, Lady Anselma (later Patricia) von Arundel. She can be either a mix of this and Anti-Hero, or a Bastard Bastard (albeit a troubled one) depending on the route.
- Dorothea Arnault's mother was a maid for the Adrestian nobility, and both of them were kicked out of the father's noble household when Dorothea turned out to not have a Crest. After her mom's death, she was a Street Urchin until she was picked up by an opera company.
- On of the important reveals of Dragon Age is that King Cailan had an illegitimate half brother, namely Alistair, one of the few heroic characters in the game.
- Leliana was also born out of wedlock, something that apparently made life very difficult for her mother in Orlais. While Leliana did lead the very morally ambiguous life of a spy for many years of her life, she has completely reformed by the the time the player reaches her. Not only one of the more heroic characters, but also one of the only idealists.
- Mage NPC Feynriel from Dragon Age II, provided one helps him realize his potential.
- An Earthborn Shepard, if you play him/her as a paragon.
- Martin Septim in The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion. Not only he is the bastard son of the Emperor and the real hero of the story; he was a bastard on PURPOSE. (The Emperor of Tamriel was really Genre Savvy.)
- Implied with Emilia in Blaze Union; even though Gulcasa was raised by his abusive father--the parent they share--he never even knew that Emilia existed until she found him.
- The hero of Baldur's Gate if you play him/her to be good.
- Prince Amiti of Ayuthay in Golden Sun Dark Dawn was raised under a cover story where his mother was a powerful Mercury Adept who restored the lost Magitek beneath the palace and concieved him by a miracle. Once the player characters show up, the truth comes out-- Amiti's mother, a non-Adept, concieved him the natural way, with a foreign Adept who had started the machine and whose face no one else saw. It's rather unsubtly indicated that Amiti's father is Alex. Fans debate the implications of this.
- Jin Kazama from the Tekken series, who is the son of Jun Kazama and Kazuya Mishima. He was raised by his mother in his childhood and early-mid teens, and after her disappearance he went to his grandfather Heihachi - and after being betrayed by his evil grandpa, he started antagonizing him and Kazuya. His heroism however has since turned to villainy as of Tekken 6. Jin's Face Heel Turn is later revealed to be part of a desperate gambit to erase himself and Azazel of this world, which qualifies him as a Tragic Hero version of the trope. In 7, however, it turns out said gambit failed, and after waking up from the coma Jin he fell in after the fight, he's more or less back to this trope (if in a very Anti-Hero-ic shade).
- Also Lars Alexandersson, who is the ending result of one of Heihachi Mishima's trips to Scandinavia. So far, he fits this trope well and may be one of the most genuinely heroic Tekken charas. It's later explained that Heihachi impregnated Lars' Swedish mother to see if the resulting child would inherit the Devil Gene (like his eldest son Kazuya and later his grandson Jin), and when Lars was born without it (proof that Heihachi was NOT the one passing the Gene), he ditched Lars and his mom. Understandably, Lars loathes him.
- Kazuhira/McDonnel Benedict Miller, one of the main protagonists in Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, was heavily implied to have been conceived due to his mom having to work as a prostitute in post-war Japan to survive.
- Also Meryl Silverburgh, as she was conceived from an affair between her mother and her uncle Roy Campbell.
- Supplemental Halo material reveals that Lieutenant Commander Miranda Keyes is the product of an affair between the then Lieutenant Jacob Keyes and Dr. Catherine Halsey.
- Janine from Murphy's Law claims to have been born five months premature.
- Secret from Keychain of Creation.
- Alex from The Dreamer.
- Carmilla (Sara Waite), one of the students at Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, is the child of a powerful lust demon (Gothmog, a child of Shub-Niggurath) and a human woman (actually, a Deep One pre-transformation). You'll never guess, but it was a one-night stand. Of a sort. Despite this background, and having to suck the life out of things in order to live, she's one of the good guys.
- Bishop Curisor, aka Arturo, aka that guy that nailed Jesus to the cross. It's even on his business card.
- While the movie Ratatouille itself never uses the word (it is a kid's movie, after all), it's fairly obvious that Linguine was born out of wedlock and that his father apparently didn't even know he existed. The entire thing is not treated as odd or wrong in any way, and at least a few people have commented that this may show a changing public opinion about children born to unmarried parents in the US. Of course, this may come off as Values Dissonance it's set in modern France, where many if not the majority of children are born out of wedlock, so there it's a case of Truth in Television. (And of course, they're French.)
- In The Simpsons, Bart finds out that Homer has a brother named Herbert Powell (voiced by Danny DeVito), who was born out of wedlock, and says, "So any idea where this bastard lives?" Marge realizes that because technically it is the truth, they can't punish Bart for his use of this profanity. Homer, understandably, is still annoyed by it however.
- Bart himself also technically qualifies, as he was conceived before Homer and Marge were married. They did perform marriage and was born in wedlock, though, although he nearly came close to becoming one due to Homer leaving the family as he thought he wouldn't provide well for them.
- Caleb from WITCH when it's revealed that Nerissa is his mother. Since Nerissa used a different identity to trick his father Julian so she would conceive a child, Caleb actually doubles as a Child by Rape, though it's never outright said.
- Likely the case for Keith from Voltron: Legendary Defender, since his mother is an alien woman.