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Our 10 Favorite Iconic Literary Villains

From magical nemeses to psychotic murderers, these are the most compelling bad guys in books

Everyone loves cheering for the protagonist in a great novel, but what about the bad guys? Without them, there would be nothing for the hero to vanquish. We’re celebrating the under-appreciated baddies with this list of iconic literary villains. Here are the characters that we love to hate.

 

Big Brother

From 1984 by George Orwell

George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel, the repressive surveillance state is represented by one of the most iconic villains in literature. Big Brother is omnipresent symbol of a regime that demands total loyalty and submission.

 

Count Dracula

From Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula is still a part of our popular culture, thanks in a large part to his appearance in Bram Stoker’s landmark vampire novel. Stoker’s vision of Dracula is the original source for many of the traits that we now associate with vampires.

 

Frankenstein’s Monster

From Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein’s monster has stayed with us because he is so grotesque (he’s made of sutured corpses, after all), but also because he is such a tragic figure: after all, nobody asked him if he wanted to be created. Just remember, Frankenstein is the scientist, not the monster!

 

Captain Hook

From Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Captain Hook is a classic cool villain. After all, Hook is a pirate, and kids love pirates. But in Peter Pan, Hook is no friend of the child protagonists. Luckily, Hook’s grip on Neverland isn’t destined to last.

 

Hannibal Lecter

From Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Hannibal Lecter is the most disturbing creation of crime/thriller writer Thomas Harris. His lethal combination of brilliance and insanity make him one of the most frightening and believable characters in in literature. Many consider the books he’s featured in to be horror novels as well as thrillers, and we agree!

 

Nurse Rached

From One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

In Kesey’s classic novel about an insane asylum, the head nurse is the ultimate symbol of abusive authority. If Nurse Rached’s attitude doesn’t make you want to join Kesey's 60s revolution, we don’t know what will.

 

Sauron

From The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Fantasy books always have cool villains, and Tolkien’s classic series is no exception. Sauron is a dark and magical being and the creator of the rings of power. The title of J.R.R. Tolkien’s series refers to Sauron - he is literally the “Lord of the Rings.”

 

Miss Trunchbull

From Matilda by Roald Dahl

Roal Dahl has a knack for creating compelling villains. His grouchy and mean-spirited adult characters often make life miserable for his child protagonists, and Miss Trunchbull is the classic example. She runs Matilda’s school like with an iron fist, but don’t worry - she’ll get what’s coming to her.

 

Lord Voldemort

From the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling’s bad guy is so evil that her characters are afraid to say his name. Plus, “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” is supposed to be dead and gone - but isn’t. That makes for cool and creepy appearances (in various magical forms) throughout the books. Spoiler alert: Old Voldy doesn’t look so pretty these days.

 

The Wicked Witch of the West

From The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz gave us several iconic characters, but the best of them might be the book’s villain. The Wicked Witch of the West is the reason the Tin Woodman is made of tin (poor guy), and she wants Dorothy’s Silver Shoes (these became “Ruby Slippers” in the movie version).

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