Sunday, September 21, 2008

The 50 Greatest Villains

The Telegraph critics choose the 50 foulest fiends in literature but admit :
Compiling a list of the 50 Greatest Villains in Literature, without too much recourse to comics and children's books, proved trickier than we'd imagined - but gosh it was fun. ... It's perhaps the nature of grown-up literature that it doesn't all that often have villains, in the sense of coal-black embodiments of the principle of evil. And even when it does, it's not always so easy to tell who they are. Is God the baddie, or Satan? Ahab, or the white whale?
Topping the list in the end is Satan from Milton's Paradise Lost; closely followed by Samuel Whiskers from The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, by Beatrix Potter; Cruella de Vil from The Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith, Iago from shakespeare's Othello, and Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. Find out why, and see if your own favourite baddy is on the list here.

My vote is for Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, but he doesns't make the cut. Of those who do, I think my favourite is Tom Ripley who makes his debut in The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. I seem to have a soft spot for serial killers who exhibit a pride in their work. Perhaps I should add Hannibal Lecter to my list!

12 comments:

animah said...

I would have included Lady Macbeth in that list.

God is quite the villain in Saramango's The Gospel of Jesus Christ and Satan is the hapless carry outer of His directions. The scenes between God and Satan are brilliant and quite funny. Jesus is of course on the receiving end.

In any case I wouldn't put God on the top 50 list.

Anonymous said...

Satan comes across as very human in Paradise Lost (although I never finished reading it)...

- Poppadumdum

Anonymous said...

The Evil Famous Sister in Christopher Ciccone's book on Madonna :-)))

- Poppadumdum

Anonymous said...

Pinkie from Brighton Rock is on that list, but in my mind one of the most impressive things about that book was the way it managed to make me sympathise with a character who had so much malevolence in him. I completely felt his urge to be cruel; I may not have acted the same way in the same situations, but I felt the urge. And that's what the article is saying, I suppose -- good literature usually doesn't have villains and heroes.

I agree with Poppadumdum about Satan in Paradise Lost, too. You almost feel bad for him.

bibliobibuli said...

i loved "paradise lost" which we read at school - and yes, satan is a very sympathetic character.

pinkie in "brighton rock" oh yes. i loved that too and want to reread it.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Jeffris in Oscar and Lucinda (the man in charge of the expedition to deliver the glass church) is a pretty despicable character, though not a major character if you judge solely by the number of pages he's given (if you judge by his role in the plot, though, I think he is....).

-- Preeta

Yusuf said...

Mr Croup from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.

Carlos from Robert Ludlum's Bourne trilogy

Yusuf said...

The sad villain Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Patrick Süskind's Perfume

June said...

I seem to have a soft spot for serial killers who exhibit a pride in their work. Sharon, have you watched Dexter, the tv series? You ought to.. (I hear that it was a book prior to the tv series but don't know whether it is as good as on tv).

KayKay said...

Sharon, if you asked my Better Half she'd say Lecter's no villain...but an exquisitely mannered individual with cultivated tastes who abhors crassness and a lack of sophistication:-) A True Gentleman then....he only eats The Rude

Siege said...

I think they missed The Devil from The Master and Margarita, and Annie Wilkes from Stephen King's Misery.

Anonymous said...

Y,

Indeed. I have come across many people who think cultured, well-mannered people are somehow better than crude, barbaric people. It seems knowing what fork to eat with, and where to place your napkin makes you somehow a better person than someone who eats on banana leaves with his hands.