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September 24th, 2008


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12:47 pm - Baddies
The Telegraph persist in issuing literary lists, although we mock them so. Here are the top 50 literary villains. List below the cut. I have bolded the ones I think are excellent baddies.

ETA metafilter discussion of the list. Loads of omissions of course (Richard III for instance, Anton Chigurh). I agree with the commentator who would put The Judge from Blood Meridian at #1. Edmund the Bastard and Mrs Coulter are my other favourites.

50 Helen Grayle/Velma Valento from Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler
49 Steerpike from Titus Groan and Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake
48 Shere Khan from The Jungle Book stories, by Rudyard Kipling
47 Long John Silver from Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
46 Moriarty from The Final Problem, by Arthur Conan Doyle

45 The White Witch from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis
44 Milo Minderbinder from Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
43 Fred from The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
42 Grendel's Mother from Beowulf
41 O'Brien from Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell

40 Captain Hook from Peter and Wendy, by J M Barrie
39 Moby-Dick from Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
38 Gil-Martin from The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, by James Hogg.
37 Surtur in A Voyage to Arcturus, by David Lindsay
36 The Judge from Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
35 Mrs Coulter from the His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman

34 Clare Quilty from Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
33 Count Fosco from The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
32 Signor Montoni from The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe
31 Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith
30 Bill Sikes from Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
29 Marquise de Merteuil from Les Liaisons Dangereuses, by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
28 Quilp from The Old Curiosity Shop, by Charles Dickens
27 Alec d'Urberville from Tess of the d'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy
26 Cthulhu from The Call of Cthulhu, by HP Lovecraft
25 Sauron from The Lord of the Rings, by J R R Tolkien
24 Don Juan in (among others) El Burlador de Sevilla, by Tirso di Molina
23 The Joker from Batman, by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jenny Robinson
22 Ernst Stavro Blofeld from the James Bond novels, by Ian Fleming
21 Augustus Melmotte from The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope
20 Mr Hyde from Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
19 Edmund from King Lear, by William Shakespeare

18 Mrs Danvers from Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
17 Patrick Batemen from American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis
16 Ferdinand from The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster
15 Svengali from Trilby, by George du Maurier
14 Hannibal Lecter from Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris
13 Count Dracula from Dracula, by Bram Stoker
12 Barabas from The Jew of Malta, by Christopher Marlowe
11 Pinkie Brown from Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene
10 Vindice from The Revenger's Tragedy, by Thomas Middleton
9 Mr Kurtz from Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
8 Claudius from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
7 Ambrosio from The Monk, by M G Lewis
6 Robert Lovelace from Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson
5 Voldemort from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
4 Iago from Othello, by William Shakespeare

3 Cruella de Vil from The Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith
2 Samuel Whiskers from The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, by Beatrix Potter
1 Satan from Paradise Lost, by John Milton

(24 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:September 24th, 2008 11:51 am (UTC)
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Oh, Saruman is a much better baddy than Sauron!
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 24th, 2008 11:54 am (UTC)
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Yes, because he is more real, more complex, more tragical

Similarly, Voldemort is the least interesting villain in Harry Potter

Edited at 2008-09-24 11:55 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:iainjcoleman
Date:September 24th, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC)
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The big difference being, Tolkien had the good sense to keep Sauron off-stage.
[User Picture]
From:kalypso_v
Date:September 24th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
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I think Sauron used to be a good villain, when he was hanging around Ar-Pharazon. Maybe villains need the ability to take forms fair to men.
From:cdybedahl
Date:September 24th, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC)
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Milo Minderbinder is a villain?

Also, where is Francis Urqhart from House of Cards?
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 24th, 2008 12:09 pm (UTC)
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Funny that the Telegraph criticise Minderbinder for selling medical supplies for profit. The rage of Caliban at seeing his own face in a mirror.
[User Picture]
From:kalypso_v
Date:September 24th, 2008 01:39 pm (UTC)
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I think Minderbender makes more sense than, say, Ferdinand or Alec d'Urberville.

I'm glad Merteuil gets in; I think she's one of the best she-villains ever. Maybe alongside Lady Kaede, though I'm not sure if she'd qualify as "literary".

Not sure about Grendel's Dam, though. I wonder how I'm defining a villain? I think some element of heartlessness, and of conscious moral choice. But not someone who's as much a victim of the plot as the apparent heroes (there's a difference between a villain's come-uppance and being trapped by fate).



Edited at 2008-09-24 01:45 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 24th, 2008 01:51 pm (UTC)
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And you have a favourite from I Claudius I think? So long since I've read it
[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:September 24th, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
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Livia? (Remembering Augustus' death scene from the TV version.)
[User Picture]
From:kalypso_v
Date:September 24th, 2008 02:28 pm (UTC)
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Yes - specifying Graves' Livia, in the way that one should say Shakespeare's Richard III. Or maybe even Pulman's. Watching the dramatisation again, I was struck by the fact that Livia understands what she's doing. She says her crimes are necessary for the good of Rome, but she knows very well that they're still damnable crimes. She's distressed when she kills Augustus, but even in the first episode there's a private sadness when she's killed Marcellus. It's a long time since I've read Graves, and I can't remember whether that complexity appears within his Livia.

Livia Soprano, who's in my icon, doesn't quite make it; she's a nasty bit of work, and does display sadness worthy of her namesake ("In the end, you die in your own arms"), but she's not quite the free agent she needs to be, even if she manages some impressive manipulation from an apparently powerless position.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 24th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
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We could do a top ten of female villains
[User Picture]
From:hafren
Date:September 24th, 2008 12:09 pm (UTC)
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I think it's debatable whether Long John is a villain, and I always felt sorry for Shere Khan - but then, faced with the choice of siding with an annoying small boy or a big stripy pusscat, there was never a choice.....

Can Satan be a villain if he was fulfilling the purpose of god?
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 24th, 2008 12:10 pm (UTC)
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Several people on metafilter have said that they have missed the point of Paradise Lost (and Moby Dick for that matter).
[User Picture]
From:the_wild_iris
Date:September 24th, 2008 01:32 pm (UTC)
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So… what did they think Moby-Dick's motivation was?

Milo M., while certainly not a Good Person, isn't a particular antagonist of the hero; he conducts his profiteering with the knowledge and consent of all the other antagonists who make up the military establishment. And he's an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers! A blatant slander on a fine body of men.

I wouldn't call Alec D'Urberville a villain either. He's a cad, but he doesn't do anything criminal (IIRC), and he ends up more sympathetic than Angel.

They missed Randall Flagg. Is Stephen King too low-brow?
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 24th, 2008 01:57 pm (UTC)
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I think Jack Torrance might be the best Stephen King villain
[User Picture]
From:the_wild_iris
Date:September 24th, 2008 07:26 pm (UTC)
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Ah, I haven't read The Shining. (I've seen the film but it didn't do a lot for me.) I might nominate Annie Wilkes from Misery in your female villains list, too.
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From:vilakins
Date:September 24th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
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Milo Minderbinder is a villain? He's just a capitalist (which is bad enough, but not really villainous. Also, I love Shere Khan. He has style.

I agree that Livia ought to have been included. Perhaps she doesn't count because she was real?

And wow, Beatrix Potter had a villain? I avoided her stories, even as a kid, because they seemed so soft and wimpy, and I loathed the illos.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 24th, 2008 08:59 pm (UTC)
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Samuel Whiskers in a bit fat rat in a waistcoat who wraps Tom Kitten in dough to make a kitten pudding (sob) but all is well in the end
[User Picture]
From:vilakins
Date:September 24th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
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That's horrible! And rather like the disturbing ads that show chickens buying fried chicken at a fast food place.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 26th, 2008 10:15 am (UTC)
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Here is a pic of the horrid event in progress


Edited at 2008-09-26 10:15 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:vilakins
Date:September 26th, 2008 10:17 am (UTC)
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CANNIBALISM! And he's being aided and abetted (yes, redundancy) by someone! Is that his wife?
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 26th, 2008 10:27 am (UTC)
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Anna Maria his wicked wife
[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:September 25th, 2008 09:04 am (UTC)
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I knew I was right to avoid these books, this sounds terribly traumatic.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 26th, 2008 10:28 am (UTC)
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I'm just doing a post about it now. One of my favourite books when I was pre-school

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