Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My Favorite Literary Knaves and Villains

This week's prompt from The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday is all about new releases in the second half of the year. Since I don't really pay too much attention to new releases I don't really have anything to contribute but I was still feeling listy. I decided to go rogue, literally, and see who might show up on my list of favorite villains, knaves and general ne'er do wells.  

The list below is made up of some truly terrible people(ish) who really inspired horror but also a few who confused me because I kind of liked them and felt like I understood them. There's no doubt though that all of them caused problems for our heroes/heroines.  


1) Tyrannthus Slaughter from Mister Slaughter by Robert McCammon

McCammon wasn't fooling around when he created the mad, charming, violent, amoral Tyrannthus Slaughter.  He's deliciously evil, almost indestructible  - the perfect nemesis to Matthew  - dastardly enough to change him profoundly forever.

2) Count Fosco from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Count Fosco is bad to the bone but he's also rather smart and charming.  And the thing is, he loves Marian who is amazing - the best character in the book and a woman much more deserving of adoration than the other females presented.  Basically he's got great taste so it's hard to truly hate him even though his actions are despicable.

3) The Darkling from The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo

The Darkling is a seductive villain. Oh let's just face it - he's hot.  Making out with him is a bad idea but when he turns on the charm, I doubt there is a lady who could resist him.  Too bad he's a power hungry and selfish bastard.
Honorable mention for seductive villain:
Nahadoth from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. Nahadoth isn't really a villain but he's not exactly trustworthy or reliable or...human.  But he's also pretty irresistible.

4)  Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I think Willoughby is one of Austen's most interesting characters.  Any thought that he may not be SO bad  - just weak-willed and too materialistic - are removed when it is revealed that he seduced, impregnated and abandoned a young woman and yet....  Austen makes a point of revealing towards the end of the book that Willoughby truly did (does) love Marianne.  Why did she make a point of this?  To emphasize that his selfish behavior has not led him to happiness and has cost him everything?  That his knavery has brought him to unhappy ends? Probably.  It still doesn't stop me feeling that Marianne's marriage to Colonel Brandon is a little melancholy and a consolation prize.

5)  Logen Ninefingers aka The Bloody Nine from The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

Logen Ninefingers is technically one of the "good guys" in the The First Law trilogy but his past, as it is revealed, is filled with horrors he has committed and he is always a hairsbreadth away from reverting to that bloody creature.  And he does in fact revert by the end of the series which was such a huge bummer.  He's one of those villains that I feel for and for whom I wish a better life.  In the books I feel like we get a glimpse of who he might have been if his life had been just a smidge kinder.

6) You Know Who from The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Revealing the villain of this murder mystery would be a GINORMOUS spoiler so I won't name the character for those who haven't read it BUT trust me - he/she is Christie's most interesting if not best villain.

7) Mrs Danvers  from Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier

Mrs. Danvers is the insidious kind of villain with a strong touch of madness who manages to remain competent and functional enough to make YOU feel like YOU'RE the mad one.  She's creepy and horrible and I hope I never have to share a large house on the sea with her,

8) Richard III from Richard III by William Shakespeare

In  this play Richard III looms like a megalomaniacal, devious and power hungry monster.  I saw a production of this play many years ago that had shifted it into a Nazi Germany/World War II with Richard playing the part of you know who.  He's pure evil.  The interesting thing is that historically speaking Richard may not have been so bad.  Some historians make the case that he may have in fact been a pretty great king and human being but his throne was usurped by the Tudors who were still in power during Shakespeare's day.  Shakespeare couldn't have gotten away with portraying Richard as anything but evil incarnate.

9) Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Forget Voldemort (though he is also a very interesting villain), for my money Dolores Umbridge is by far the scariest villain in the HP series.  At least Voldemort is up front with his power hungry intentions and evil nature.  Dolores is a member of the ministry and meant to be one of the good guys fighting Voldemort.  That makes all the cruel things she does that much more terrible.

10) Uriah Heep from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

It's been so long since I read David Copperfield that I don't remember the specifics of Uriah Heep's villainy, all I remember is the impression he made.  Oily, snake-like, sycophantic, disturbing.  Just seeing his name gives me the shivers.  David Copperfield is said to be somewhat auto-biographical which begs the question - did Dickens know someone as terrible and creepy as Uriah Heep?
Honorable Mention Dickens villain?
Bill Sikes from Oliver Twist - I haven't actually read Oliver Twist so I didn't want to include Sikes but if you've ever seen the musical movie, Oliver!, from 1968, the scene where Bill beats Nancy to death is truly disturbing and upsetting.  He is surely a bad 'un.


I truly do love me some good villainy but I think I am done for now.  What are some of your favorite villains?

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