I don’t know about you, but I love a well-written villain. Whether or not I’m rooting for the “bad guy” I want them to be evil, but with a purpose, with motivation! I can’t stand those antagonists that are just “evil” – they do bad things because they’re bad people and our heroes need to defeat them! Oh please, no one is inherently bad, and the antagonists in the books we read shouldn’t be either. I just wanted to write a little appreciation post for those antagonists we all love to hate (or love to love!).
I couldn’t possibly name all the antagonists I appreciate, but I wanted to highlight just a few, in no particular order.
+ I’ll start with the Grossbart brothers, from The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, as they’ve been on my mind lately, what with my Judging A Book post and a recent conversation on Instagram. Hegel and Manfried are utterly despicable characters, but they have clear motivations and in their minds, they’re not the antagonists. They’re both disgusting and frankly, I was rooting for their demise, but I loved reading about them and maybe once or twice I was rooting for them. By having the whole novel be about two men who would normally be the antagonists in another novel, it made them into a weird cross between protagonists and antagonists – I enjoyed the mix-up of traditional roles and I also liked reading their motivations first hand.
+ I have to mention George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series because all of his characters are so developed and involved. I have a feeling that those of you who have read the series may choose different “villains” than I do. I also think that once I read the completed series
please god let it be soon my perspective may change again. For example, when I read book one all Lanisters seemed evil, but now Jaime and Tyrion are two of my favorite characters – I understand their motivations and the fact that they grow and change with the series makes them wonderfully human. I could go on for days about this series, but I think you catch my drift.
+ I’m not a diehard Harry Potter fan, but I do love me some Snape *cough*mostlyAlanRickman*cough* and one of the reasons is his complexity. He’s seen as an antagonist through most of the books, constantly hassling and harassing Harry. But then we get a look into his past, why he treats the boy this way, and why he later does what he can to help Harry.
+ Wicked by Gregory Maguire is another book with wonderfully complex characters. I suppose that saying Elphaba is an antagonist in that series is up for debate. But I grew up with the Wizard of Oz movie and the Wicked Witch was well…wicked! Wicked gives us more than the other side of the story and again, Elphaba was a complex character with her own motivations and her own experiences that shaped her into who she became in that novel. Reading that book (and the rest of the series) was so much more enjoyable than watching the movie – sure, as a kid, she was scary, but she was just the evil green woman who wanted to steal Dorothy’s shoes. Why? Well, they were her sister’s…and…she was evil!
+ NOS4A2 by Joe Hill features one of the creepiest villains I’ve read about in a quite a while, Charles Manx. He was certainly motivated and in his mind, what he was doing was not only making his life better, but the lives of others. I won’t say too much because you should read the book – Joe Hill rocks!
I could go on and on – but I just wanted to get everyone thinking about why we love villains. Who are some of your favorites?