Great Villains to Study and Imitate
Harpercollins editor Susan Rich’s favorite villain are those in Roald Dahl’s stories. “I have great admiration for Roald Dahl’s villains. Farmer Boggis, Farmer Bounce, and Farmer Bean come to mind, the evil trio in Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. All three are boneheads, are united in their mission, and all three share that villainous trait of being so single minded about accomplishing their nefarious plot that they lose sight of all reason. Such disregard for logic makes them all the more frightening, and all the more fallible. ”
Carol Saller, editor for Cricket Books, says, “My favorite villain is definitely Arawn the Death Lord in Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. Because we don’t see him directly, but only as he appears in various forms, each reader is left to imagine him as horribly as possible. He is so evil and so powerful that we can’t imagine how Taran will ever defeat him. And his agents the Huntsmen are themselves so unimaginably powerful (since killing one makes the rest stronger), Taran’s task takes on a heroic stature from the start.”
For more examples of villains, study The Oxford Books of Villains, by John Mortimer, the author of the Rumpole of the Bailey mysteries. He provides literary excerpts detailing villainy. These tend to be more the Victorian-type villains, but includes everything from Cain to Moriarty to Captain Hook. To study villainous characters in children’s books, begin with the following list. These villains represent a wide range of “bad guys” from the sympathetic Herdmans to the frightening Cruella DeVille.
- Count Olaf in One Unfortunate Accident by Lemony Snicket
- Voldemort in Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
- White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
- Wicked Witch of the West in Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum
- Judd Travers in Shiloh by Phillis Naylor
- Miss Slighcarp in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
- Archie in The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
- Cruella DeVille in 1001 Dalmations by Dodie Smith
- Camilla Capybara in Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester
- IT in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.
- The villains in the Redwall books by Brian Jacques: Cluny the Scourge, Badrang, etc.
- The Warden in Holes by Louis Sachar
- Charlie Simms in The Well by Mildred D. Taylor
- Artemis Fowl in Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
- The Herdmans in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson