Weston Poor is an Editorial Assistant in EDP. Below he shares his top 10 anatagonists from his favorite childhood fiction.
As a young pup, I thoroughly enjoyed losing myself in the glorious world of books, like a good bookworm should. Growing up with books, I was introduced to many heroes and heroines who captured my imagination. I met them, got to know them, and went on fantastic adventures with them. I was also there when they had to face their fears. The villains became almost as integral to my connection with the story as the main character. Some antagonists I remember evoked anger so authentic I could have sworn that they had personally wronged me.
Looking back on these dynamic characters, at least in the books I loved as a kid, I can't help but tip my cap to their all-too-real malevolence. Even though we honestly and heartily root for the hero or heroine to prevail, sometimes a well-constructed antagonist warrants our respect. This blog post is a list of my top 10 antagonists from my favorite childhood fiction.
10. Beans and Mutto from Wringer by Jerry Spinelli. These little guys were actually friends with the protagonist, Palmer LaRue. I consider them one entity because they represent peer pressure. To LaRue, the barbaric idea of killing pigeons to raise money for a playground was not cool, even though all his friends loved it. LaRue battled considerably with Beans and Mutto for what he thought was right, and that took some guts.
9. Rumpelstiltskin from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale (you guessed it) “Rumpelstiltskin.” What an interesting little bugger he was. The ability to weave straw into gold was definitely a good quality to have in this mischievous imp. He thought he was so clever duping women out of their firstborns by including a seemingly simple exit clause in their contracts. Despite his flaws, he represents something much bigger: greed and temptation. You can always count on the Brothers Grimm for a healthy dose of morals.
8. The Grinch from How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. All right, admittedly this one is a little iffy, but it's Christmastime so he's going on the list. As far as Dr. Seuss villains go, the Grinch is by far the most notable for his disdain for anything good or nice.
7. Pap from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Pap—what a weak name for someone who causes bodily harm to our beloved Huck. Despite the name, he does embody the reality of a monstrous father. This drunk, abusive, relentless ne'er-do-well represents a sad connection to our society.
6. Jadis, the White Witch, from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. Bearing a close resemblance to Sleeping Beauty’sMaleficent, Jadis is clever, conniving, and powerful, holding the blackest of hearts. The 4 young protagonists don't stand a chance against her until the mighty, mighty Aslan comes to their rescue. Only a savior of such profound strength and wisdom could match the unscrupulous nature of the White Witch.
5. It from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. While not the most original name, It evokes a revolting truth—that conformity and hatred fuel the likes of soulless intelligence. As a giant brain, It cannot be outsmarted. This antagonist is so maniacal that he possesses a 5-year-old boy. The brain is truly indestructible and unstoppable. In fact, the book never concludes with what happens to It, therefore It will most likely be back . . .
4. Voldemort from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. The dark lord obviously has to be accounted for on this list. He is among some of the greatest Machiavellians, however, he's not at the top because his character has its flaws. There is a blindness to his reign of terror, one that can’t be overlooked. He prefers the strong-arm technique as opposed to more clever devices. He loses points for his white-hot rage, since any good villain should be able to quell all emotion until just the right moment. Having said that, his cast of deranged psychopaths could strike fear in anyone, especially Bellatrix Lestrange (kudos to Rowling for such a solid name). That He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named could unsettle her is disparaging. His sheer might is astounding, which allows him a higher spot. Delores Umbridge deserves special mention because I've never been able to handle the sweet-but-evil type.
3. Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler). Here is yet another villainous creep bent on the destruction of children. But where Rowling fails with Voldemort, Handler succeeds with the murderous Count Olaf. As an evil genius, Count Olaf consistently plots and schemes in the most delightfully egregious ways. His insatiable lust for the Baudelaire fortune incites pure acrimony in me. There is nothing worse than a slimy villain capable of slithering his way out of trouble time and time again.
2. Long John Silver from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I won't get into the resemblance between the character and the fast food chain, but Long John Silver was one of the first villains I truly liked, namely because he was nice to Jim Hawkins, the protagonist. Silver has a great charisma about him while also redefining self-destruction and reckless abandon. His secret post as the leader of the pirates always intrigued me. However, like Voldemort, Silver operates with fear. Those surrounding him are at constant risk of spontaneous outbursts of rage and could be killed at any moment.
1. Gmork and the Nothing from The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Here, the narrative employs two dynamic antagonists simultaneously. The Nothing attempts to erase Fantasia, while Gmork seeks to kill the only person who can save Fantasia from the Nothing. As its name elicits, the Nothing is purely nothing. Ende's characters attempt to describe it in the novel in comical ways and eventually come up with an acceptable description—in my opinion, as what one would presume going blind feels like. What makes the Nothing so mortifying is that it represents the desolation of children's imaginations when books are abandoned. While the Nothing ceaselessly creeps over Fantasia, Gmork, a werewolf, hunts down Atreyu to stop him in his quest. Gmork is given one of the top places in this list because he literally and metaphorically gives the narrative another dimension. Gmork is not a creature of Fantasia; he was sent by some beings from another realm to ensure the destruction of Fantasia. Just a wonderful story structure on Ende's part—there is nothing quite like it.