Top Ten Villains

“Haven’t all ambitious people something of the monstrous about them?”

Mervyn Peake

  1. Gollum – The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien. OK, he’s evil, but he’s also terribly sad because he could so easily have not been evil. He has the potential for redemption, but never the opportunity. And one always feels that his badness is more down to the Ring’s corruption than to his own essential personality.
  2. Blaine the Mono – The Waste Lands, Stephen King. He’s a homocidal train with a penchant for riddles and a warped sense of humour. SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.
  3. Satan – Paradise Lost, John Milton. Because he’s comprehensible. He’s relatable, and he’s almost human in his bitterness and his regret and his grief. He’s full of an energy and a vitality that the other characters in this poem just don’t possess.
  4. The creature – Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. Leaving aside the debate over whether he is actually a villain, my reasons for liking the creature as a character are strikingly similar to my reasons for liking Satan: his tragic tale of rejection and ostracism.
  5. The slake-moths – Perdido Street Station, China Mieville. These monsters are scary. They’re like the Weeping Angels and the Silence and the creepy house from House of Leaves all rolled into one mass of horror. They’re not deliberately evil; they’re mindlessly so, which somehow makes it all the worse.
  6. Steerpike – Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake. “He was meaner, more irritable, more impatient for the ultimate power which could only be his through the elimination of all rivals; and if he had ever had any scruples, any love at all for even a monkey, a book, or a sword-hilt, all this, and even this, had been cauterized and drowned away.”
  7. Crowley – Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I rather enjoy Crowley’s low-level villainy; for him, it’s just a job, one which he takes pride in, yes, but one that also doesn’t really hurt anyone beyond slight annoyance. And he likes humans.
  8. The hiver – A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett. This is a sad tale, I think. It’s a monster that spends its time being nasty to people, because that’s all it knows how to do. Also Tiffany gives it a nice name at the end.
  9. Charles Kinbote – Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov. More because of the puzzle he sets us in the book than anything else; a deeply strange and incredibly dark character who’s very interesting to read about.
  10. Roland Deschain – The Gunslinger, Stephen King. Roland almost didn’t make it onto the list, because I’m not sure whether I can quite call him a villain. But certainly in this first book of the Dark Tower series he’s pretty dark, and it’s that ambiguity that makes him such a fascinating character, I think.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

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