For some strange reason, whether it be fiction, film or gaming, I’ve always been drawn to the villainous characters as opposed to the good old heroes. Maybe it’s just their darker sensibilities, the tortured pasts. Villains are just so much cooler than the heroes.
So here’s a selection of five of my favourite villains in fiction!
The white wizard from Tolkien’s stories has been a favourite villain of mine since I first watched Fellowship over ten years ago. There’s just something about this wizened, bearded, staff-wielding badman that really makes me wish I had created him, not Tolkien. Saruman has a lot of power in the story; not only is he amongst the most powerful in Middle Earth, but he’s the elected leader of an order of Wizards known as the Istari. But what really earns him a place in this list is the fact that, despite this power, he’s still just a puppet for a greater evil. He could have done so much with this power, but instead he chose to succumb to temptation and a desire to gain even more. His ultimate downfall was a weakness to the very thing he yearned for.
Yes, I know, another white-haired stately old man played by Christopher Lee – the difference is, this one sucks your blood. Count Dracula is THE vampire, period. I would love to shove Edward Cullen into a pit with Dracula and see who comes out top. Reading Bram Stoker’s in this day and age isn’t such a terrifying experience, but what keeps Dracula being such a great villain today is the symbolism that surrounds him. When he’s sucking your blood and replacing it with his own, Stoker is actually saying so much about Victorian society that you can write a whole essay on it (which during college – I did!). It’s the submerged fears and thoughts scattered beneath the surface of Dracula’s actions that terrify even me, years after it was written. A final point – Dracula leads a reign of terror against the protagonists, literally has them scurrying about for their lives; and all without a single drop of blood on the page.
Before we get into an argument about how the Lannister Imp isn’t a villain, I’ll just say: Tyrion is every inch the anti-hero, meaning he has qualities of both a hero and villain (which, because Martin does this so well, is what makes this character really special). Therefore, he has enough villainous qualities to suit this list. Anyway, what Top 5 would be complete without this whore-thirsting, manipulating dwarf? The reason I love Tyrion is that he thinks he’s the only sane person in the city, the only one thinking straight, the only person actually willing to do anything about things that are going wrong around him. But his methods are not so heroic. He schemes and plans at every opportunity, tricks and plots. The cool thing about Tyrion is that he knows full well that he’s never going to be any good with a sword, so he hones his mind, uses it as a weapon. He doesn’t let the fact that he’s small and a little ugly stop him from achieving what he wants.
I’m not going to say too much about this villain, taken from the imagination of Patrick Rothfuss and his Kingkiller Chronicle, except that it’s a weird spirit thing that lives in a tree. The Cthaeh, especially as its Mum gave it a really hard to spell name, is pretty much the epitome of evil, using its power to cause suffering unto any poor traveller who comes across it. I remember reading this part of The Wise Man’s Fear during a holiday in Majorca in broad daylight – and I was genuinely concerned for my sanity afterwards.
I was torn between this character, and her boss, Voldemort, for the last position. I’m not a massive Harry Potter fan by any means, but I’ve always found Bellatrix to be a really interesting character. I love the fact that she’s utterly and completely insane, doesn’t care about anything other than Voldy, and, in the films, has hair like Monica from Friends when they all go to Barbados. For me, Bellatrix has a really good antithesis going on – she’s terrifying, if you met her in a dark alley, that grin would send you running, but she’s also really fun. She seems like a cool girl to hang around with. She loves torturing people and causing them pain, and does it well. If you’re into that kind of stuff, Bellatrix is the villain to do it with.
So there’s my list. I’m sure I’ve missed countless great villains, so if you have any more, leave a comment. Villains are generally my favourite parts of fiction, and I’d love to read any books I haven’t already read that have a great villain running riot in them!