Great Literary Villains

Who is ready for Halloween? Get in the spirit with these literary villains. From children’s books to intense adult fiction, TheReadingRoom has you covered! Who are some of your favorite villains? Comment below and tell us who you wouldn’t want to go up against!

PrintNapoleon from Animal Farm

“When they had finished their confession, the dogs promptly tore their throats out, and in a terrible voice Napoleon demanded whether any other animal had anything to confess.”

The novel that was described by Orwell to be a satirical story against Stalin follows a farm of pigs as they overthrow the humans and reign for themselves. Among the pig leaders is Napoleon, who represents Stalin. Napoleon instates a dictatorship in which the pigs are promised a “better life” after working harder and harder. Like most villains, Napoleon never acts upon these promises—instead killing those who consorted with his foe and creating a society focused on his praise.

bambiHe from Bambi, A Life in the Woods

Arguably one of the most devastating moments of childhood was when “He”—the nameless hunter—killed Bambi’s mother. While most would reference the Disney adaptation, the original tale: Bambi, A Life in the Woods was written by Austrian novelist Felix Salten in 1923. Not only does the hunter kill Bambi’s mother, but he teaches children about how awful loss is. A lesson that perhaps we (along with Bambi and friends) were not quite ready to learn.


seriesofunfortunateeventsCount Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events

“There are two kinds of fears: rational and irrational- or, in simpler terms, fears that make sense and fears that don’t. For instance, the Baudelaire orphans have a fear of Count Olaf, which makes perfect sense, because he is an evil man who wants to destroy them. But if they were afraid of lemon meringue pie, this would be an irrational fear, because lemon meringue pie is delicious and would never hurt a soul.”

The beloved Children’s series A Series of Unfortunate Events contains thirteen novels, all in which Count Olaf is a villain. After the Baudelaire sibling’s parents’ are killed in a fire, they are placed in the custody of their evil distant cousin Count Olaf—whose main goal is to steal their inheritance. After he is deemed unfit he is taken away from the children but proceeds to find them by dressing in disguise throughout the rest of the books. Count Olaf is essentially an evil “mastermind” who murders many people to try and get his hands on money.

lord voldemortLord Voldemort from the Harry Potter Series

“If he could only have understood the precise and terrible power of that sacrifice, he would not, perhaps, have dared to touch your blood… But then, if he had been able to understand, he could not be Lord Voldemort, and might never have murdered at all.”

I would confidently suppose that most people, children and adults alike, know of the infamous Lord Voldemort. Villain-extraordinaire of all seven Harry Potter books, the main plot throughout the series is to try and kill him. After killing Harry’s parents and cursing him as a baby, Lord Voldemort’s single goal (besides, of course, ruling the world and killing non-purebloods) is to destroy Harry Potter—whom he believes to be a major threat. While Voldemort is not wrong about this, he basically kills everyone Harry loves throughout the book and can be seen as the ultimate villain.

psychoNorman Bates from Psycho

“Cold-blooded murder is one thing, but sickness is another. You aren’t really a murderer when you’re sick in the head. Anybody knows that” [Norman—on his mother]

When one first starts to read Psycho, it may appear that Norma Bates (Norman’s mother) is the real villain. However, she is nothing compared to the crazy that is Norman Bates. He eventually kills his mother and keeps her corpse their house. His mother taught him that women are evil—besides her of course, and the co-dependent relationship they have alone would almost qualify as something “psychotic”. Regardless Norman Bates is a serial killer who stabs people to death while wearing his mother’s clothes…Psycho indeed.

Complete Sherlock HolmesDr. Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes

“He [Moriarty] is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and nearly all that is undetected in this great city.  He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker.  He has a brain of the first order.”

While not featured in all Sherlock Holmes stories, during his appearances Moriarty is a “criminal mastermind” and seeks payback from Sherlock for exposing his criminal ring. He is a crime lord who protects many English criminals in exchange money and loyalty—obviously posing a problem for protagonist Sherlock Holmes. Moriarty is a murderer who is one of the major villains in the series.

lord-of-the-fliesJack from Lord of the Flies

“[Jack] tried to convey the compulsion to track down and kill that was swallowing him up.

‘I went on. I thought, by myself—‘

The madness came into his eyes again.

‘I thought I might kill.’”

This novel was a real eye-opener, both for readers and the boys forming this civilization. After being stranded on an island, a group of British boys are forced to govern themselves. Jack, the leader of a boys choir group, does not get along with the chosen leader—Ralph, and schemes to overthrow him. Throughout the novel, Jack turns from civilized to violent—leading to the death of another boy. He represents the worst parts of human nature, eventually leading an attack to kill Ralph.

othelloIago from Othello

“If I can fasten but one cup upon him,
With that which he hath drunk to-night already,
He’ll be as full of quarrel and offence
As my young mistress’ dog.”

Shakespeare’s plays always contain a villain—sometimes many! Iago from Othello is one of the worst. After being overlooked for a promotion, Iago hates Othello and conspires to turn everyone against him. Iago manipulates all of the characters, while they continue to refer to him as “honest Iago”. The quote above explains Iago’s plan to get Cassio (the man promoted) drunk so he would make a fool of himself and be punished. He is constantly scheming and even convinces Othello to kill his wife—who he believes to be sleeping with Cassio. In Shakespearian terms, that’s a villain.

hannibalHannibal Lecter from the Hannibal Lecter Series

Hannibal Lecter is featured in four novels by Thomas Harris, and is a serial killer. An obvious choice for a villain. Although Hannibal had what seemed like a rough childhood, he is still a murderer and cannibal. Described as a sociopath, he does not fit into any standard psychological profile. Hannibal Lecter is definitely one of the worst villains in modern-day literature.




The-Lord-Of-The-Rings-9780007149247Saruman from The Lord of the Rings Series

The villain of the very popular Lord of the Rings series, Saruman was originally the chief of the wizards and of the White Council that opposed Sauron. However, being a villain, his experience with dark magic ignited his desire for the One Ring. He was eventually defeated in the War of the Ring when he allied himself with Sauron. As Lord of the Rings fans know, desiring the One Ring for yourself is never a positive trait.

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