Beware These Big Baddies: 22 of the Best Book Villains

From Book Riot:

The Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, the Stepsisters, Joker, Darth Vader – these iconic villains have stayed with us for a very long time. We read about them, we see them in movies, in the originals and remakes. What makes a villain iconic? What makes them timeless? For you to remember them years and years later and still know what the story is about and what the villain did so the hero couldn’t achieve their destiny. These book villains tell their story, you might even relate to them a bit, but the way they do things might not be the right one.

For me, a villain needs to have a reason. A reason for them to do what they’re doing. And for you to see it in a different light, it might be the way to change things, yes, but the villain always does it in their own way: not at all caring that they might create chaos. The hero, if you’re in a A+ story, is not at all that good. They might not follow the rules completely. So you have that gray area that you can see how easily the hero can turn into a villain. The villain also can work into that area. Take a look at these book villains.

Best Book Villains in Children’s Books

Dolores Umbridge From Harry Potter

When I first got introduced to her, I instantly didn’t like her. And with reason! Her whole story arc is to be a bad person. She tortured Harry, she was completely on Voldemort’s side, she fought with him. Through it all, Dolores Umbridge was a pain to read about whenever she was on scene.

The Grinch From How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

One of the greatest book villains. He hates Christmas and wants everyone to be completely miserable like him? So he decides to steal Christmas from the Whos. How does he do it? He dresses up as Santa, puts some antlers on top of Max’s (his dog) head, and call it a day. It’s wonderful.

Smaug from The Hobbit

A dragon who was drawn to the fortune of the Lonely Mountain? It’s pretty amazing when you meet him for the first time. Plus he pretty much doesn’t care about the world. He just wants his fortune and to lie there with it.

The Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid

You might know Ursula, the sea witch in the Disney’s retelling, but the Sea Witch from the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen is much worse and more cruel. Why is that? Well, she makes a deal with the Little Mermaid for human legs. Her tongue is chopped off, her fin is cut in half literally to make two legs, and whenever she walks on land, she will feel like she’s walking on sharp knives.

. . . .

Best Book Villains in Adult Fiction

The Wood From Uprooted

The Wood is a frightful entity. A living, dark entity that feeds constantly. If someone went inside the Wood, you probably won’t be seeing them again. Or if they did come out, they would come out changed, be it in the mind or on their bodies. The Wood ate you alive and good riddance if you so much as get neared it. That’s why everyone is afraid of it and the only one who can protect the town is the Dragon, another being that whispers fear.

Circe From Circe

If you’ve read The Odyssey, you know about Circe. The sorceress who was exiled to the island of Aiaia. Who was a very important part of Odysseus’s journey. But when you read that, you don’t stop and think about Circe’s story and upbringing. Madeline Miller’s book shows you how the stories vilify Circe, and in this love letter to her, Circe becomes a new being. There’s more than turning men into pigs, believe me.

Pennywise From It

One of the most terrifying clowns in history. Pennywise is still making people have nightmares. With the new remake, It came back into our lives. Pennywise is a shapeshifter that changes into people’s fears or loved ones in order to manipulate them and kill them. It’s a rather intelligent being that stalks the Derry kids in the form of a clown because it knows that kids love clowns so it would be easier to get to them.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

5 thoughts on “Beware These Big Baddies: 22 of the Best Book Villains”

  1. Somewhat off-topic, but I’m interested to see how much the Game of Thrones TV series has completely taken over for George RR Martin’s books in the popular imagination. In the OP, one of the villains listed is Ramsey Bolton, but it’s clearly the TV show version of him. One of the crimes they list is “raping Sansa Stark”; in the books, Ramsey and Sansa have never been within fifty miles of each other, and I doubt Sansa even knows who he is.

    No greater point on his villainy. I just find it interesting that, even on a site ostensibly devoted to books, the TV show wins out.

    • I haven’t read the books (I avoid long fantasy series until they’re finished, if ever) so I don’t know if anybody raped Sansa in the books. But in adapting books to video a lot of material and characters get cut. Repurposed, combined. One memorable villain beats two or more minor ones.

      (A lesson Marvel studios needs to frame and mount. $270M+ —> $47M opening has many causes but a forgetable villain is a big part of it.)

      • In this case, though — and note, I never watched the show, but I follow a pair of vloggers who did — the change in Ramsey fatally damaged the character of Littlefinger, who is indeed a memorable villain. He’s supposed to be intelligent and wily, and book-Littlefinger would never have been stupid enough to give Sansa to Ramsey. TV-Littlefinger was not stupid until they showrunners deviated from the books (and later ran out of source material). The show was forced to acknowledge that they dumbed him down with this decision, when TV-Sansa points out he had to have been an idiot for the whole thing.

        It’s one of a long list of missteps that led to showrunners Weiss & Benioff being referred to as “Dumb & Dumber,” (both their first names start with “D”) and led to this episode which put Ryan George’s “Pitch Meetings” on the map. From what I understand, their stupidities cost them their Star Wars gig, among other things.

        To me, this is an object lesson in “finish writing the series before you let Hollywood anywhere it.” George R.R. Martin has learned this. George Lucas has learned a variant of this with Star Wars. Don’t let idiots near your source material is still another variant, taught to the estate of Tolkien. I don’t know if Tolkien’s estate has actually learned, you understand, but now viewers and producers everywhere know that acolytes of J.J. Abrams are not to be trusted with the rings of power.

    • Point well taken, Z.

      However, I grab interesting items for TPV wherever I can find them. Plus, the trip from the page to the screen is highly unpredictable and often entertaining to all but the author.

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