Beware the Ides of March: Some Of Our Favorite Literary Backstabbers
Et tu, Brute?
The Ides of March. That notorious date when Julius Caesar was killed, stabbed 23 times in the Roman Senate by Roman senators. Amongst the traitors was one of his closest friends, Marcus Junius Brutus.
Today, we honor some of our favorite literary backstabbers, those who, much like Brutus, betrayed characters near and dear to them. While Brutus’ actions changed the world and course of history, the actions of these literary characters alter and ultimately drive their respective stories.
But we’ve barely even scratched the surface. Have some picks you’d like to include? Leave them in the comments.
WARNING: Lots of spoilers to follow for Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, the Hunger Games, etc.
Guy Pearce as Fernand Mondego
Fernand Mondego (The Count of Monte Cristo): Easily one of the (if not THE) greatest revenge story of all time, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas tells the epic tale of Edmond Dantes, a man wrongfully imprisoned who, once he escapes and acquires a vast, forgotten treasure, ruthlessly seeks revenge against those who wronged him.
Enter Fenand Mondego, the best friend who gets Edmond imprisoned. The result of his actions cause Edmond to lose his fiance (Mercédès) and leaves Edmond’s Father to die in poverty. Oh, and there’s the whole Edmond-was-stuck-in-a-horrible-prison-for-fourteen-years thing.
Fernand is a cunning, manipulative monster who absolutely gets what he deserves in the end, but the sheer size of his betrayal and the enormity of its reprecussions has made The Count of Monte Cristo a story to be retold again and again through countless formats, from Hollywood films to television shows.
I mean come on, Revenge, anyone?
Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies
Peter Pettigrew (Harry Potter): Ah, Wormtail. You sniveling little rat. Once best friends with James Potter, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin, Peter is made the Secret-Kepper for the Potters while they were hiding from Lord Voldemort. He ultimately betrays the Potters, frames Sirius for the murder, and fakes his own death to go into hiding himself.
A coward? Yes. An important character? Absolutely.
Sure, while he achieves some sort of redemption at the end (when he hesitates to kill Harry and is killed by his own silver hand) it’s really hard to feel bad for this character. But without him, so much of what happened in the Harry Potter universe wouldn’t have happened. Who would have shown Voldemort where the Potters lived? Who would have brought back Voldemort? He’s a horrible little rat that’s easy to dislike, but we need him.
Veidt in the film and comic
Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias (Watchmen): In Alan Moore’s acclaimed series Watchmen, Adrian Veidt is a retired vigilante crime fighter who once fought crime under the name Ozymandias. Once part of the crime fighting squad the Watchmen, Veidt has since retired to a life of luxury and wealth. It helps that he’s, you know, the smartest man in the world.
When “masks” start showing up murdered, Veidt’s former colleague Rorschach starts pulling together the old team, eventually unraveling the horrifying truth that Veidt has been betraying every single one of them. From exposing all of those closest to Doctor Manhattan to deadly radiation to murdering The Comedian, he basically backstabs everyone in a misguided attempt to save humanity from itself. Yeah sure, he saves humanity… by teleporting a horrifying creature he’s engineered that explodes in the middle of major cities around the world, killing millions upon millions.
His actions do ultimately bring peace to the world, ending the nuclear confrontation building between the United States and the Soviet Union. But you have to ask yourself… at what cost?
Read this book please
President Alma Coin (The Hunger Games): The President of District 13 and the leader of the rebellion against the Capitol, Alma just loved betraying everyone. She tries to kill Katniss, she firebombs children and kills Katniss’ sister, and in the end, actually wants to bring back the Hunger Games, something Katniss and the rebellion had been fighting against. She’s a ruthless monster, but her actions make Mockingjay all the more gripping and intense.
She’s also responsible for me throwing my copy of Mockingjay across my living room several times.
Theon Greyjoy in the HBO series
Almost Every Character Ever (A Song of Ice and Fire series): Seriously, George R. R. Martin, can some of your characters please get along with one another? There’s Theon Greyjoy, a ward of Winterfell, who spends a lot of time with the Stark sons. And then when things get tough, what does he do? Swears allegiance to Robb, only to sneak back in to Winterfell and steal the castle from a crippled boy and a bunch of old dudes. Come on.
And let’s not forget Lord Varys, who has no loyalties, tons of intel, and has zero honor. He guides the more active characters into full on wars, using his ‘spiders’ all over the realm that feed him information.
Oh! And Little Finger (Petry Baelish). He promises the support of the City Watch, and as soon as King Robert dies, he backs out… and is ultimately responsible for the beloved Ned Starks downfall. Because Baelish loved Catlynn. If he hadn’t backstabbed Ned, maybe Ned would have overthrown Cersel and Joffery and restored order and gotten the Lannister grip off the Iron Throne. But that didn’t happen. Because Baelish is the worst.
But those are just three characters in Martin’s epic series. The rest? You better believe there is even more backstabbing going on. No one is safe. Thanks for the help with this one, Mikey, Alex, and Allie!
Have some picks? Let us know in the comments!
ERIC SMITH is the cofounder of Geekadelphia, a popular blog covering all-that-is-geek in the City of Brotherly Love, as well as the Philadelphia Geek Awards, an annual awards show held at the Academy of Natural Sciences. He’s written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Weekly, and Philly.com