Literary villains


Continuing the list of good villains in literature:

45. Hal 9000: Can a computer get much more sinister? The onboard sentient computer from Arthur C. Clarke‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, New American Library) tried to kill every last member of its crew during its mission to Jupiter. Hal paved the way for other fictional artificial intelligences like Skynet and WOPR.

Even now, he could not fully accept the idea that Frank had been deliberately killed—it was so utterly irrational. It was beyond all reason that Hal, who had performed flawlessly for so long, should suddenly turn assassin.

44. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar: There aren’t many villainous pairs quite as memorable as these two from Neil Gaiman‘s Neverwhere (1996, BBC Books). A matched pair of assassins from the magical realm of London Below, tasked with finding and eliminating the last of the royal bloodline, princess Door, one of the character traits that makes this dastardly duo stand out so prominently is that they’re just so damn polite.

Croup and Vandemar, the Old Firm, obstacles obliterated, nuisances eradicated, bothersome limbs removed and tutelary dentistry undertaken.

– Mr. Croup

43. Montresor: Who could forget this classic villain from Edgar Allan Poe‘s short story of suspense The Cask of Amontillado (1846, Godey’s Lady’s Book)? So consumed with anger over some hinted at insult, he lures his friend into a wine cellar and then after getting his pal drunk on the spirit, entombs him alive in the cellar wall.  If that’s how Montresor treats his friends I’d sure hate to see what he does to his enemies.

I must not only punish, but punish with impunity.  A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser.

42.  Wicked Witch of the West: In Frank L. Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900, George M. Hill Company), Young Dorothy just wanted to get home after being deposited by a cyclone into a strange land. The Wicked Witch of the West did everything in her power, from casting magical spells to commanding flying monkeys, to capture Dorothy because she wanted the girl’s silver slippers.  The woman is a matriarch who rules Winkie Country with a gnarled iron fist and according to the book, she is so wicked that she doesn’t even bleed when Dorothy’s dog, Toto, bites her in response to being hit with the witch’s umbrella.

See what you have done! In a minute I shall melt away. Didn’t you know water would be the end of me? Well, in a few minutes I shall be all melted, and you will have the castle to yourself. I have been wicked in my day, but I never thought a little girl like you would ever be able to melt me and end my wicked deeds. Look out – here I go!

41.  Max Cady: Sent to prison for rape, Cady believes his attorney Sam Bowden failed to appropriately defend him in court in John D. MacDonald‘s novel The Executioners (1957, Fawcett). When Cady gets out of the Big House he decides to enact the revenge he vowed upon Bowden while locked away.  He proceeds to terrorize the attorney’s family, attempting to seduce the man’s younger daughter in the process. When a restraining order doesn’t work, Bowden hires some men to rough up Cady.  Naturally, this doesn’t dissuade the criminal in the least. Cady is such an engrossing villain, MacDonald’s book has been made into a film twice.

It’s not necessary to lay a foul tongue on me my friend. I could get upset. Things could get out of hand. Then in self defense, I could do something to you that you would not like, right here.

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