The 10 Things Every Fictional Bastard Needs

Why do we love the anti-hero so much? Author Mark Lawrence of The Broken Empire Trilogy takes us through the characteristics that define a true bastard.

1. 10. The Bastard roams free!

artbykimkincaid.com / Artist: Kim Kincaid

Mark Lawrence: “The bastard may or may not possess a moral compass. The key ingredient here is that they take no notice of it whatsoever, except when wishing to pretend they’re not really such a bastard after all.

The bastard is free to journey where they like on the map, unhampered by guidance of any sort. It’s the goal that matters. In many ways it’s the bastard who still has their compass that’s the worst, since they retain a sense of right and wrong but choose to ignore it.

In Prince of Thorns we see that Jorg definitely has a moral compass. He surgically detached himself from it at age ten, put it in a drawer, nailed that shut, then buried the desk in a very deep hole.”

Other notable bastards: Tyrion Lannister definitely has a compass…Ser Gregor Clegane doesn’t…Gollum gave his compass to Smeagol then walled him up.

2. 9. The Bastard never discriminates

hbo.com / HBO

Mark Lawrence: “The bastard hates everyone equally, or at least gives everyone the same opportunity to be screwed over.

People have called my ‘hero’ Jorg a misogynist because he treats women badly. This misses the point. Jorg is a misanthrope, he hates humanity regardless of gender. If little green aliens descended from the heavens he would hate them with an equal passion. And the red ones.”

Other notable bastards: Ser Gregor has no favourites and would be as happy to toss one of his men to the dogs as he would a common peasant if either became useless to him. Logen Nine-Fingers, if caught in the wrong mood, is as likely to kill you as give you a hug. R. Scott Bakker’s Kellhus will literally suck the usefulness out of his friends like a spider and give a wan smile while doing so.

3. 8. Bastards are great in a crisis

hbo.com / HBO

Mark Lawrence: “Like a good politician or CEO, bastards are great at making the hard decisions, trimming the fat, downsizing etc. A bastard would balance the budget in no time.

Jorg is happy to cut his way to the most efficient solution to a problem. The quickest path is often a bloody one, but your Class A bastard won’t flinch from the lesser of two evils – they’ll snatch the greater. Jorg has had occasion to reduce staffing costs with a sharp edge, or balance the odds with a weapon of mass destruction, or shoot a friend to get the enemy standing behind them. The thing about collateral damage is … you frikken won!”

Other notable bastards: Other notable bastards: Tyrion Lannister torching the ships outside Kings’ Landing with wildfire despite Lannister troops being in the blast area. King Edward in Braveheart having his archers fire on the Scots even though the remnants of his own front lines were still fighting.

English Commander: “I beg pardon, sire. Won’t we hit our own troops?”
Longshanks: “Yes… but we’ll hit theirs as well. We have reserves. Attack!”

4. 7. The Bastard loves his family… until he doesn’t

deviantart.com / Artist: Angel_8

Mark Lawrence: “Even the technical bastard has a daddy, he just didn’t marry Mummy. The thing about bastards is not the matrimonial state of their parents but the ease with which they will variously sacrifice, kill, or marry their own relatives in order to advance their state.

In Prince of Thorns we discover that Jorg’s father is actually a bigger bastard than Jorg himself. His uncle also appears to outdo him. Suffice it to say that all three of them are keen to trim the family tree with the sharpest weapon that comes to hand.”

Other notable bastards:
Fratricide has also been popular among bastards, ever since Cain did for Abel. In Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber the royal family are all about shortening the chain of succession, and Prince Corwin offs more than one brother himself. In a Game of Thrones the Baratheon brothers, Robert, Renly and Stannis are all a cross word from fratricide.

5. 6. The Bastard saves himself

lucasfilm.com / LucasFilm

Mark Lawrence: “Bastards are great survivors. It’s not just looking after number one … it’s more: there are no other numbers!

The bastards on the Titanic didn’t wait for the women and children to board first. They dressed as women, or children, or clubbed a sailor round the head and took his kit then piloted the lifeboat out.

Prince Jorg’s happy to win a fair fight but he’s damned if he’ll ever lose one. If the rules get in the way – change the rules.

In a polar vortex the bastard is Han Solo and you’re the tauntaun.”

Other notable bastards:
“Gentleman” bastard Locke Lamora is not above using the dirtiest of tricks to save his hide. Cook’s Black Company never fought fair nor did they ever make the attempt. And always remember…Han shot first.

6. 5. Nobody’s safe

forgottenworlds.wikia.com / Artist: Tom Lockewood

Mark Lawrence: “With a bastard, holy cows are just holy steaks you haven’t cooked yet. Nobody is safe. Not the best friend, not the lover, not little Jimmy with his crutch. Anyone can and will be used.

Prince of Thorns is as much about what Jorg is prepared to sacrifice as it is about what he wants. In the end it turns out that it’s pretty much everything, and this is classic bastard.”

Other notable bastards: Why are the best friends always surprised when they’ve seen our bastard off endless 2nd and 3rd best friends? Was Moonglum really that shocked when Elric’s sword (also a bastard) slipped? Is Drizzt Do’Urden a fool for trusting Artemis Entreri? (YES)

7. 4. Focus like a Bastard!

tcm.com / Turner Classic Movies

Mark Lawrence: “Your standard bastard is a magnifying glass and you’re the ant. He (or she) is a laser to your 1 candle-power candle. They want what they want and they’re not giving up on it.

Jorg wants revenge. He wants revenge in and of itself. You could fix the problem, put Humpty Dumpty back together again and he’d still want his damn revenge. He also wants the throne. The biggest one. The clue’s in the trilogy titles – Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, Emperor of Thorns.”

Other notable bastards: Robin Hood just could NOT stay away from that archery contest. Steven Erickson’s Karsa Orlong never met a foe or obstacle he didn’t want to pound into obsolescence.

8. 3. King of the Castle

Mark Lawrence: “If there’s a castle, the bastard wants to be king. And will be.

If there’s an archery competition. He’s going to win. Doesn’t matter if he’s that great a shot or not – the other competitors are much bigger than the bullseye.

If there’s just a heap of manure … the bastards going to be top of that heap.

Prince Jorg has a hard time backing down, from anything. The bigger someone is, the more he wants to hit them. This can cause problems when faced by overwhelming odds.”

Other notable bastards:
Richard III would have had his Kingdom but for want of a bloody nail. Conan the Barbarian didn’t get to be Conan the King by playing tiddly winks.

9. 2. History is written by the biggest Bastard

deviantart.com / Artist: DMantz

Mark Lawrence: “The past can be inconvenient. Everyone makes mistakes but not everyone is prepared to own up to them. Lying is an ugly word. Bastards call it history and they rewrite it.

Jorg is happy to erase uncomfortable truths and when he finds a conveniently magic box that memories can be put in, he stuffs it to overflowing.”

Other notable bastards:
Rand Al’Thor certainly turned from milksop to a soulless power broker all because he has the ability to reweave time. Joe Abercrombie’s Jezal dan Luthar is more than happy to accept the power and status (KING) conferred upon him by a powerful mage, even if it means conveniently forgetting the events that he has witnessed and the true nature of his world.

10. 1. You gotta love ‘em

deviantart.com / Artist: DeriHarrow

Mark Lawrence: “Whilst this isn’t strictly true, most bastards who manage to survive very long have a certain degree of raw charisma that allows you to overlook the worst of their crimes.

Honorus Jorg Ancrath may be a bastard but he’s charming with it, and even when he’s ripping your spine out through your stomach you have to admit he’s got a certain style.”

The fact is that many bastards get away with it because we let them. They flash us that smile and somehow all’s forgiven. Just entertain us, we say. And, God love them, they do.

11. Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled.
His day job is as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable
problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say ‘this isn’t rocket science … oh wait, it actually is’.

Between work and caring for his disabled child, Mark spends his time writing, playing computer games, tending an allotment,brewing beer, and avoiding DIY.

You can purchase The Broken Empire Trilogy at the following:

Prince of Thorns

King of Thorns

Emperor of Thorns

Mark Lawrence’s next novel, Prince of Fools, is due out in June.

It can be purchased here.

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