Friday, September 3, 2010

When Good Books Go Very, VERY BAD!

You might think this post is about a story that suddenly takes a turn for the worst, morphing from something brilliant into a train wreck of clich├ęd storytelling. But no, given that Halloween (my favorite holiday) is next month, I thought it would be a treat to have an early talk about our favorite villains of all time!

I think I worked for her at some point...

I'm one of those people who always veers toward the scoundrels of my favorite stories, finding something redeeming about them OR something so deliciously horrible, I'm driven to cheer them on.

As a writer, villains are one of my favorite characters to create and when my editor told me I had a knack for the bad guys, I got goose bumps for weeks! Is there something wrong with me? Probably, but that's another post and lots of dollars towards therapy! In Nightshade City, Billycan is the wicked of wickedest rats, maybe that's why he's my favorite character to write about. He's cunning and duplicitous and looks as rotten on the outside, as he is on the inside! Tall and bony, with shifting red eyes and a thick black scar running across his muzzle! Oh, and he has a penchant for collecting tongues! Grrr! Okay, sorry, going way overboard--but I LOVE the bad guys! I'm sure many of you have a thing for them too.

Oh, but he looks so cuddly...
As rabid readers of middle-grade books, we all know villains can be rats or cats, witches or grinches and without a doubt--people! Who are your favorite villains in children's literature?

Here is my top five most villainous of villains in order of villainy!

5. Miss Trunchbull from Matilda

4. Goth from the Silverwing Series

3. Shere Khan from the The Jungle Book

2. The White Witch from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

1. The Grand High Witch from The Witches

What is in that there pot...errr...ladies?

Oh, and if we want to talk villains of the newer variety, as in newer books, I simply have to mention The Man Jack from The Graveyard Book, undeniably chilling!

So, who tops your list? Who sends shivers up and down your quivering spine?

By Hilary Wagner
Author of Nightshade City, in stores now & Kings of Trillium (Oct. 2011, Holiday House)


  1. I don't think of myself as a person that loves villains, but you got me thinking on Shere Khan. I was fascinated by Malificent in Sleeping Beauty, too- I talked my mom into making me a Malificent Halloween costume when I was 7 or 8. She rocks like that:)
    I guess the thing about the antagonist is s/he gives the protag the chance to shine. And it is kind of fun to write them!

  2. Hm. Besides for your bad self?


    I wasalways afraid of Ken's father in My Friend Flicka. Shere Khan was a good pick for scary, too!

  3. Kelly, I just love Shere Khan--even down to his voice! Malificent is an awesome pick and man, do I love that name!

    JKB, I am quite wily! ;)

  4. miss trunchbull scares the tar out of me!!!

  5. Oh, I know! Can you imagine her as your mother-in-law?? Gah!

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  7. The evil ladies of Harry Potter are especially excellent evil characters - I have a real love of Bellatrix Lestrange (she is just truly, viciously, evil) and get all giggly at Dolores Umbridge and her little "hmm-hmm."

    I'm also really fond of the maybe-bad characters of the Skullduggery Pleasant series. It has some great villains loving being bad, but it also has some really interesting shades of not-quite-good-but-working-with-the-good characters that keep me guessing - like the very smart and dangerous sorceress China Sorrows. She's an ally when it suits her, but every time she appears, you never know if she's really an ally or if she will turn on Skullduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain.

  8. Funny Post! Villains are my favorite for sure!

  9. Oh the Grand High Witch was truly diabolical!

  10. Villains have the best names!
    One of my faves is Miss Slighcarp from The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.

  11. I always had an issue with The Wicked Witch of the West because of her evil laugh and Cruella DeVil because I didn't want her to get the puppies.

  12. Cruella DeVil is one mean mamagama and quite a snazzy dresser too boot, err...minus the animal pelts of course! oh, and I love the Cruella DeVil song, not to mention her name...another goodie.

  13. My favorite bad guys are the ones who walk the line between hero and villain - and sometimes it's hard to tell which side they are really on. I'm having a hard time thinking of a good example of this for middle grade - Professor Snape, maybe? In NOT middle grade, I loved the character Sylar from the TV show Heroes - not too shabby when they can convince you to route for a serial killer.

  14. My favorite has always been Maleficent. From the appearance to the attitude she is the embodiment of wicked and conniving. And I agree, Hilary, Billycan is a fantastic villain.

  15. Rowlings is great with villains! She has a gift for some very bad witches and wizards!

    Robert, thank you! He is my fav! Wait until Book II, that's all I'm saying! ;)

  16. Snape!!

    The multidimensional villain is always so compelling.

    This post really got me thinking....

  17. I agree, the motives behind their villainry often makes villains the most interesting. Why they want to take over the world. Or why they want to destroy everything that is good.

    I second the White Witch. Sauron in LOTR is an interesting villain because he's so impersonal, but his far reaching evil creates "lesser" villains among the orcs, Saruman, and even Wormtongue.

    In contemporary middle grade, villainous activity seems to often come from some sort of bullying figure, which introduces interesting options for character develop.

    Lots to consider here. Thanks, Hilary!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!