29 April 2010

My Ten Favorite Literary Villains

So . . . I forced a few tagged followers on my second blog--Grammatically Motivated--to list their favorite fictional villains. *nefarious snicker* I love a good bad guy, or should I say an effective bad guy, so that led me to start thinking about my own personal favorites, whether it's because they are just so cool or just so evil. Considering I haven't read anything this week (Curses upon whomever invented finals!) and am running horribly behind schedule (Sorry!), I decided to post my list of the top ten literary characters I love to hate, or, in some cases, hate to love. :D

1. Count Dracula (Bram Stoker's Dracula): *cue organ music* I have a certain standard when it comes to vampires: I like my vampires mean. None of this mamby pamby sparkly crap. I want an honest-to-goodness bloodsucking vampire who sports a shiny black cape and has no problem with sinking his fangs into helpless victims. The venerable villain Count Dracula meets all of my requirements and is the main reason I adore Bram Stoker's classic vampire novel, the aptly named Dracula. The Count also gets bonus points for the cool Romanian accent. (Please tell me I am not the only one who reads his lines with a Bela Lugosi voice.)

2. Iago (William Shakespeare's Othello): The Bard has given us many great bad guys, but Iago is, in my opinion, Shakespeare's best villain. True, he isn't one of those scary axe murderer type villains; Iago is actually much worse. Instead, he's an insidious, deceitful scoundrel who worms his way into friendship with Othello and wages a ruthless (but absolutely effective) war of mind games with the sole intent of bringing Othello down. Give me a choice between confronting a crazed ax murderer and an Iago, and I'll take the axe murderer. You may at least be able to outrun him. Good luck getting away from the seemingly charismatic and loyal Iago.*shudder* And, if Iago has no other redeeming personal qualities, he is at least good with hilarious Elizabethan insults and putdowns. :D

3. Mrs. Danvers (Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca): Who says maniacal rogue scientists have a monopoly on being evil? Creepy British housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, who is hellbent on tormenting the young second wife of her employer for having the audacity to replace her beloved mistress, is about as nightmarish of an opponent as you can get. The fact that Du Maurier keeps comparing her to a skeleton in a formal black dress doesn't help matters . . .

4. Bill Sikes (Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist): Fagin may be the main villain in Oliver Twist, but the unhinged Sikes makes Fagin look as docile as a tranquilized guinea pig. A burglar, thief, murderer, Sikes isn't literature's brainiest villain, but he is certainly one of the most remorseless vagabonds to appear in fiction. Whenever I read about Cockney crooks, Sikes always comes to my mind.

5. Heathcliff (Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights): Pop culture perceives Heathcliff as the brooding British heartthrob of Victorian literature. And, I must confess, I have always pitied Heathcilff, what with his troubled childhood and thwarted romance with Cathy. That being said, Heathcliff's personal sufferings do not in the least negate the malicious, sadistic revenge campaign he unleashes upon any and all who dare anger him. Heathcliff is a puzzling character with no rhyme or reason to much of his behavior, which is one reason he's so disturbing.

6. Vito Corleone (Mario Puzo's The Godfather): This is sort of a cheater's pick on my part. I like the film version of this story better than the book (The movie has my boy Brando!), but Vito is still one of my favorite bad guys. Vito Corleone is a loving father, husband, and friend. Vito is loyal, generous, and wise. Vito is also one of the most feared Mafiosi in New York. When he, ahem, makes you an offer you can't refuse, you better take it, if you get my drift. *wink wink*

7. Anton Chigurh (Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men): This is a pick where I adore the film version of the villain, but I also like the original literary portrayal, too. I am not really quite sure why I like Chigurh so much. He's a quirky, coldblooded hit man who is prone to philosophy. I think I like him so well, because he's so unusual...and has so many catchy lines. What's it to you, friendo? Whatever it is, it makes me forgive his questionable taste in hair styles.

8. Roger (William Golding's Lord of the Flies): Yes, Jack is the leading meanie in this classic tale of British school boys gone wild, but Roger is the major psycho. Roger is a creep not because he is the brains of the outfit, but because he enjoys whatever he's tasked with doing far more than is mentally healthy. If you don't believe me, check out the part where he starts rocking his classmates before Jack forms his tyrannical choir regime.

9. Nazguls (J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings): Sure, Sauron is the villain and the nazguls are the minions. But they're such cool minions! The scene where they enter the Shire hunting for Frodo always struck me as the scariest scene in the Rings trilogy. They get bonus points for the intimidating cloaked appearance. If I ever get minions, they are so wearing cloaks! ^^

10. Roger Chillingworth (Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter): You guys have probably noticed I prefer villains who aren't stereotypical and the more psychological ones. Chillingworth definitely falls in both categories. Puritan physician isn't the most insidious occupation that comes to mind when casting villains, but there is no doubt from the moment Chillingworth appears that he is a most dastardly fellow. If holding grudges were a team sport, Chillingworth would be my first round draft pick. If he doesn't have you cringing, especially in that creepy scene when he tells Hester he knows exactly where she's going and that it isn't happening, I am not sure who will.

Who are your favorites?

By the way, due to finals, I won't have a book review up next week, either. How do you guys feel about a list of my favorite hereos to balance this list out?


  1. Good post, Zella! Yes, psychological villains are some of the best.
    Oh, and to favorite heroes I say YES!

    Some of my favorite villains are;
    1. The Witch King of Angmar (LOTR). This one more in the movie version, but this guy just inspires me! Er...not sure if that's a good thing, actually...
    2. Cosmo Lavish from Making Money, by Terry Pratchett. Though one of the most ineffective villains of all time, this guy is one of the most hilarious, and for that, he's got props from me. ;)
    3. The Mule from Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. One of the scariest and most powerful villains ever. A guy that can alter your emotions to the extent that he can make you love or hate anyone is a villain that is seriously hard to defeat.
    4. Durza. Yeah, I admit it, Eragon isn't an awesome book, and Durza isn't even that amazing of a villain, but...well, yeah he is. A lot of his power lies in the fact that if you actually managed to defeat his near-endless supply of magic and kill him, you'd go completely mad unless you were a Dragon Rider. So he's pretty awesome.
    5. Grendel. And his mom, for that matter. Both awesome villains.

    I'll probably remember five more when I leave this comment, but that'll have to do for now.

  2. I love Heathcliff myself. But he's not really a villan. Stuck with a mad wife, who wouldn't look for better!!!

  3. While not much of a "literary" villan, my choice villan is probably Light/Kira from Death Note.
    Light's the protagonist as well as the villan which I think makes him super creepy. He's done in this way where you can't help secretly rooting for him even though you think what he's doing is wrong and it really makes you question your own morals. Whether its right to kill bad people.

    And I also like James from Twilight because he breaks Bella's leg :D

  4. Heathcliff was always my favorite too. I agree; the phsychological, non stereotyped ones are much better to read about!

    Briony from Atonement I always disliked; she wasn't perhaps a 'villain' but she caused the major harm.

  5. Wow! You guys all snuck up on me while I was fast asleep. :D

    Scott: Ooooh, you have some good picks. I actually considered using Grendel then ended up dumping him in favor of Roger from LOTF. I didn't think of Cosmo. Hehe He *is* a hilarious villain.I've never read any Asimov or Eragon. Do you recommend them? If so, I can always add them to my ever-growing summer reading list. :D

    Margaret: Are you sure that's Heathcliff? As I remember the story, Heathcliff didn't have an insane wife. He is extrememly cruel to his wife Isabella, just to torment her brother, and she ends up deserting him. Are you thinking of Rochester from Jane Eyre, maybe? I love him! He might make an appearance on the hero list. :D Thanks for commenting!

    Penguins: Oooh, I like stories where the protag is the villain. Neato! I must check that one out. And how could I forget anyone who broke Bella's leg? James should get Times' Man of the Year. :P

    Rebel: Yeah, Heathcliff has his charm, in a twisted sort of way. In my mind's eye, I see Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd as Heathcliff. :P I have never read Atonement, but I want to! Is it good? :)

    Thanks to all of you for commenting! :D

  6. Comments make people feel all warm and fuzzy xD

    I loved it. It's definitely sad, but it's really good historical fiction and it's not super sappy like most love stories. Just the general 'feeling' of it was great...I can't quite describe it. And after you read it, you *must* watch the movie!!

    I've yet to see the new Sweeny Todd; the old one was kind of...odd. Like, a weird combination of poor effects and yet still sufficiently creepy. For some reason, I never liked any actor as Heathcliff. None of them really quite made him believable.

  7. Nice list Zella! I totally agree with the Nazguls- but, you wrote Narguls? Those are Harry Potter characters that float in your brain and make it go all funny, according to Luna. :D
    Sikes is definitely one of the most horrid villains. What a scary guy. D:
    I think Voldemort is definitely in the top villains, along with that elderly dude from the Bourne movies that I can't remember the name of. And Scott, you're right about Grendel from Beowolf. Have you ever read Grendel by John Gardner? It's quite...interesting. :D

  8. Rebel, Yay! I have Atonement on my summer reading list. I can't wait to read it! I am biased because I adore Burton/Depp flicks, but I loved Sweeney Todd. It's weird, but it's good. :D I agree: No actor can ever play Heathcliff, except for maybe Johnny. I just look at the covers for Wuthering Heights' adaptations and wince. That's not how *I* envision Heathcliff. :P

    Feathers, Thank you! I have no idea where my poor brain wandered when I typed that. Tis corrected. I must confess: I am not as familiar with Harry Potter or The Bourne Identity as I should be. I need to rectify that as well . . . What is Gardner's Grendel about? Is it Grendel's side of the story? If so, I have to read that! :D

    Thanks to both of you for commenting! :D

  9. "I've never read any Asimov or Eragon. Do you recommend them? If so, I can always add them to my ever-growing summer reading list. :D"
    Asimov's science fiction: Yea, verily! I'd love to hear what you think of it. It's different, mostly in that a book will follow the protag, and then jump twenty years to a different protag. It's cool, though, and not confusing the way he does it.
    Eragon, not so much. I mean, I'd LOVE to hear what you think of it, but I might just read the first book if I were you. The others are long, and if you aren't feeling it with the first, then I wouldn't go on and waste time on the others. They just get longer and longer.

  10. Ooooh, Scott, thanks for the recommendations! I do really want to read some Asimov. I feel I've neglected hard sci fi on my blog and I want to remedy that. Any specific recommendations for him or is it all good?

    I have heard a lot of mixed opinions about Eragon. I want to read it to form my own opinion. Based on what you've told me, if I can get to it, I'll read it, but I won't make it a huge priority. Thanks so much! :D

  11. Eragon isn't the best of literature, the writing style really isn't something I enjoyed, but the story was interesting enough for me to read over the summer when I had run out of books. :D
    And yes, Grendel is Beowulf from Grendel's viewpoint. He is a very philosophical monster. xD

  12. Feathery, Thanks for chiming in on Eragon! I am thinking that I won't not read it, but I won't make it a priority based on what you and Scott have told me. Maybe this summer in between some other reads it'll be a good change-up. Thanks so much for telling me about Grendel! My library has it and I will get my hands on it shortly. ^^