Fiction is full of interesting villains. From the wicked wrongdoers that populate children’s books like Count Olaf to classic foes like Sauron, a good villain takes any fictional story from good to great. Because without an antagonist, the main characters can’t complete the hero’s journey and then what would we be left with? Without an adversary, there’s very little for a character to do in a novel.
At Frostbeard, we love a good baddie. Here are just seven of our favorite fictional villains.
The White Witch
A central character in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, The White Witch, whose name is actually Queen Jadis originated in the World of Charn. After she was accidentally brought to the World of Narnia she was banished to the North by Aslan, the Great Lion. But then 900 years later, she ventured South and retook the Narnian throne from the original royal family of Narnia.
During her reign she began the Long Winter, and threw Narnia into a hundred year freeze, thus earning her name as the White Witch. The Chronicles of Narnia are full of religious allegory, and the character of The White Witch is a somewhat complex one for a children’s novel. Eventually defeated by the four Pevensie children, The White Witch is a great first villain for children to explore in literature.
Sauron has a super long and complicated backstory which can basically be boiled down to; he was one of the creators of the One Ring and was the most trusted lieutenant of his master, the first dark lord, Melkor. After Melkor died, Sauron became the new dark lord and tried to take over the earth (Arda) by creating the rings of power. He was eventually slayed when Isildur cut off his ring finger and stole the source of his power. But, he actually only lost his physical form and then spent hundreds of years rebuilding his strength. He was defeated for real when Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, and Gollum (unwillfully on his part) returned the One Ring to Mount Doom during the War of the Ring.
Sauron makes this list because he has a crazy backstory and is remarkably well crafted for a villain. Anyone who enjoys fantasy even a little knows the name Sauron.
When it comes to villains, Hannibal Lecter is one that would immediately come to the mind of most. While not the first cannibal to be depicted in either film or literature, the almost sane way in which Hannibal commits his horrendous acts is creepily fascinating. As a psychiatrist who studied at Johns Hopkins, Hannibal has a very high intelligence and doesn’t operate like many other villains. Hannibal the Cannibal is one of the grossest villains you’ll come across in literature, but the character is so cleverly constructed and Anthony Hopkins did such a good job portraying him in The Silence of the Lambs and subsequent movies that he deserves a spot on this list.
“Quick, the thicket! Faster. Faster, Bambi! Don’t look back! Keep running! KEEP RUNNING!”
Let’s be real. When we were little, nothing was more traumatizing than the part in Bambi when “He” shoots Bambi's mom as they run through the forest. I had to rewatch this clip on Youtube to find the exact quote to write above, and it made me cry. Aside from the T-Rex that kills Little Foot’s mom in The Land Before Time, the hunter that kills Bambi’s mom is the absolute worst villain ever.
And technically, Bambi was based on the German novel Bambi, a Life in the Woods, so this counts.
If you love a certain wizarding world as much as we do, then you’re very familiar with this villain. Lord Voldemort, aka Tom Marvolo Riddle, is the dark force that fuels many of the events in the Harry Potter series. Thought of as the most powerful dark wizard of all time, Voldemort committed many crimes during his rise to power and following reign.
Born a half-blood, Voldemort sought to purify the wizarding world by prompting only pure-blood wizards. Being the Heir of Slytherin, Voldemort originally opened Salazar Slytherin's Chamber of Secrets back in 1938. It was while using the Chamber of Secrets and the basilisk inside that Voldemort created his first horcrux, after he instructed the giant serpent to kill Myrtle. In the end, Voldemort made six horcruxes on purpose and a seventh accidentally. It was these horcruxes that allowed him to live on after his death. Voldemort is the perfect villain to balance out the good in the Harry Potter universe.
Another classic from children’s literature, Count Olaf is the main antagonist in the A Series of Unfortunate Events books. Always trying to steal the enormous fortune of the Baudelaire children. The most frustrating part about the Count Olaf character is that he is always easily detected by the children but none of the adult present in the novels ever believe the Baudelaires when they point out Count Olaf in one of his wacky disguises. This trope occurs over and over again and kind of makes one understand what someone would feel like if they were unjustly put in a mental institution. Yelling “I’m not crazy” over and over again just makes you look crazy, and such is the case for the poor Baudelaires as they cry “That’s Count Olaf” again and again.
Lemony Snicket did a great job of creating a somewhat silly character that carries real weight. While he may dress up as a sea captain or gym teacher, Count Olaf says some pretty chilling stuff like “I'll get my hands on your fortune if it's the last thing I do. And when I have it, I'll kill you and your siblings with my own two hands.” It’s a great way of teaching kids to pay attention to the intention behind someone’s words and actions, regardless of their silly facade.
If you’ve only ever read or watched The Wizard of Oz, then you were probably only mildly disappointed when it turned out that the man behind The Wizard was an ordinary magician with no special powers or abilities. But don’t worry, Glinda will still help Dorothy get home. But, if you read the origin story for The Wizard of Oz, Wicked, then you know that there’s much more to this story.
In Wicked, yes it’s the same book that the wildly popular musical is based off, we get a deeper view of some of the most important characters in Oz, including The Wizard. And while The Wizard doesn’t kill or physically harm anyone, he definitely uses his position to hurt at least one character; Elphaba. Twisting truths and seeding lies, The Wizard of Oz is no friend to all. If you haven’t already, we highly recommend reading this tale of how the Wicked Witch of the West became so wicked.
Who Are Your Favorite Villains?
Do you agree with our list, or do you think we missed some pretty big names? We’d love to hear who you think are the best literary villains. Maybe you think Dolores Umbridge should have gotten her own mention - let us know in the comments below!
And if you’re looking for something to keep you company as you fight against these dastardly foes while you read, give our book themed candles a try. With soothing scents from your favorite worlds, our book inspired candles can be your constant companion as you do battle against these classic literary villains.