October 27, 2010

Thursday Thirteen (13)

My daughter Leah has just discovered The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood.  She is scared to death of the wolf, and each time we read it, she says "I hate that wolf"... but she wants us to read it to her over and over again.  Why?  What is it about villains that we love?  My husband gets frustrated with me because I always like the bad guys in a movie.  Does this make me evil?  I think not.  I love a complex character and a great villain is complex.  I guess that makes me... complex?
Here are my criteria for great villains.
1.  A great villain has a past.  The story is written in a way that we learn what makes the villain so bad.  If we know the villain's past, we can feel sympathy for them.  If we feel sympathy for them, we can root for them a little bit- even if we hate them.  Take Helen in Wait Til Helen Comes.  Helen dies in a fire when she is a girl.  We find out that she started the fire, and her entire family dies in the fire.  I hated her up until that page- and then I understood why she was so evil. 
2. A great villain has motivation.  There is something they need or want.  I think motivation makes us relate to a villain on a more human level- because we may have the same motivators in our life- wealth, power, strength, knowledge.  The Warden in Holes is so motivated by wealth that she is blinded with rage and anger.  This makes her a great villain, because deep down, we can feel that same desire for wealth.  We still don't like her, but we understand her.  
3. A great villain is ALMOST pure evil.  They are about 99% evil.  They can level an entire city, but then turn around and save the puppy from drowning in the river.  Just when we think we know them, they surprise us.  That makes us wonder if there is more there than meets the eye- if there is something more to love.  Take President Snow in The Hunger Games.  I detest that man.  He is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, yet he is smug and full of himself.  Spoiler: In the last book, Mockingjay, he redeems himself on his death bed.  He reveals information to Katniss that forever changes her life.  He didn't have to do that... was it kindness or him being vengeful?  We don't know, but we thank him for his confession.  Here are my top 13 villains.  They all have at least one of these 3 characteristics.  Do you agree with me and who are your favorite literary villains?

White Witch  (The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis – 1950)
She wants power over Narnia.
Voldemort  (Harry Potter books by JK Rowling – 1998)
He wants power and he wants revenge.  This is a dangerous combination!
Miss Trunchbull  (Matilda by Roald Dahl – 1988)
She is motivated by her fear.  She may act tough, be she is a very fearful woman. 
The Warden (Holes by Louis Satcher- 1998)
The Warden is motivated by wealth, and she has a history as well. 

President Snow (Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- 2008)
This man has a past.  A long, hideous past that causes him to be as evil as he is.  And, as I said above, he is 99% evil.  
The Mayor (City of Ember by Jean DuPrau- 2003) 
The mayor is motivated by fear and he is very power hungry. 
Heather (Wait til Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn-1986)
Helen's past causes her to be a villain- even in the afterlife! 
Jud Travors (Shiloh by Phillis Reynolds Naylor- 1992) 
Oh, I hate Jud Travers!  I can't find anything redeeming about him, and I don't really know his motivation.  Is it possible that he is just evil?  100% evil??  
The Uncle (Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac- 2001)
The Uncle is motivated by money... and it doesn't hurt that he is a hideous, flesh eating ghost-man!
The Other Mother (Coraline by Neil Gaiman- 2002)
The Other Mother is motivated by love.
Annie  (All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn- 2008)
Annie has a past that is causing her to haunt the lake.  She is also motivated by revenge.  And she is just a little girl, so she can't be 100% evil... or can she??
The Bully (Shredderman: Secret Identity by Wendelin Van Draanen- 2004)
A bully is not like a scary, evil ghost villain.  A bully is usually motivated by their own insecurities.  Everyone can relate to a bully- either because they were bullied or did the bullying. 
Tall Jake (Malice by Chris Wooding- 2009)
 Tall Jake is a very evil comic book character.  There is nothing redeeming about him.  He needs the souls of children to run the clock that powers his evil comic book world- so he is motivated by power. 


  1. Oooh President Snow is a great villain.

    Hmmm. One of my favorite villains in literature is Hannibal Lecter. Children's lit, including YA, Visser Three in the Animorphs.

  2. I have not read all of those, but of the ones I have, I'd definitely agree with you. I really need to get to Mockingjay before someone (ahem!) gives away the ending and spoils it for me.

  3. I think any of the evil witches would qualify (from "Snow White" or "Sleeping Beauty"). What about Hannibal Lecter?

    So many villains, so little time...

  4. Definitely love Hannibal Lecter as a villain.

  5. Hannibal Lecter, yesssss He is definitely at the top of my Favorite Villain list.

    Happy Halloween!

  6. I enjoyed this though I am not a villain fan. Sauron and Sauraman in The Lord of the Rings are both great villains, and I have always been more partial to the wizard because he is more human, I think. Vlodemort is also a great villian, better in the end after he's made human, too. Great post!

  7. Some very interesting choices. I only really know 2 of the stories, but an interesting look at villans, especially if you write.
    MY TT

  8. AH! Trunchbull was a great villain! I loved hating her!

    Super list...thanks so much for sharing it :)

    Have a great Thursday!

  9. I'm not a villian person so I can't choose a favorite, but I do like them to have the depth that you spoke of so I feel something for them. I think your number one, Voldermort would come closest to a fave for me. :)

    Happy TT,

    13 Inspirational Sentences

  10. Oh, Miss Trunchbull was a great one! This is an awesome list! Happy Thursday!

  11. You've got a very fine list indeed.

    Have a terrific TT and Happy Halloween. :)