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The Greatests

I want to know: who are the greatest heroes and villains you’ve encountered in fiction?
| Nov 7, 2012 | No comments |

Okay, I’ve come to realize that my last few posts have been a lot of preaching. Sorry. Call it an occupational hazard. Give a pastor a soapbox, he’ll start bloviating in some way, shape, or form. So this week, let me give you the chance to “preach” at me. I want to know the answer to two questions:

1) Who is the greatest hero you’ve ever encountered in a fictional story (Christian or not)?

and

2) Who is the greatest villain you’ve ever encountered in a fictional story (Christian or not)?

And show your work? Why are you answering the way you answer?

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Kessie Carroll
Member

Well, my favorite heroes are ones I have to revisit at least once a year. So that’d be Mitt from the Dalemark Quartet, Frodo from Lord of the Rings, and Master Chief from the Halo novels. And also Nick from The Merlin Conspiracy.
 
All of these heroes are deeply flawed. At times they can be jerks. In the case of Nick, utterly and completely selfish. Master Chief wrestles with the morality of letting a few die to save the many. Mitt has to deprogram from years of brainwashing. On the flipside, they’re brave. And loyal. And spunky. Sometimes they drop snarky lines. They stare the supernatural in the face and in some cases embrace it to become even stronger, overcoming some of their flaws.
 
My most favorite villain EVER has to be Peaceable Sherwood from the Sherwood Ring. It’s a historical fiction/fantasy set in the end of the Revolutionary War, when the Whigs and the Tories waged political war. Sherwood is a terrorist who goes around causing havoc around a small New England town. He’s lazy, relaxed, always has a plan, and is slippery as an eel. And he also falls heavily in love with the hero’s sister. Peaceable isn’t evil, per se. Just opposed to the hero’s objectives. Especially once we get into his POV in the second half of the book. And once the war ends, he and the hero wind up on cordial terms. I’ve never read another villain/antagonist like him, and he’s HUGELY entertaining.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

[…] Mitt from the Dalemark Quartet […]

Heh heh. “Mitt.”

Note: there is no further substance contained in this comment.

Jill
Guest
Jill

I just discovered The Sherwood Ring this summer and fell in love with Peaceable Sherwood. 😀 He’s kind of a hero/villain though–just doing his job as a military officer and happens to be on the enemy side!

Kessie Carroll
Member

Oh good, I’m so glad somebody else has read it, too! I didn’t pick him because he’s a really evil villain, so much. Just because he’s so dang entertaining. 😀

Patrick J. Moore
Guest

The Greatest Hero is Jesus.

Oh, you said fictional… Then I’d pick Spider-Man. He’s a flawed human being who tries harder than any other hero I’ve read to always do right. Unfortunately this motivation in him is to make up for past failures, especially regarding the death of his Uncle Ben. How much more heroic could he be if motivated by the love of God? What other hero would risk his life to protect bad guys from the bullets of other “heroes” like the Punisher? “No one dies on my watch”.

Greatest… I mean worst … no greatest? Villains are so messy. Leck from Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series is what I believe to be the most awful villain I have read. He is graced with the ability to make people believe whatever he says. He uses this power to take over and all but completely ruin a kingdom with all his lies, murders, and many other disgusting crimes. In this trilogy the heroes are different from book to book, but Leck is the worst villain through them all. Even though he had been dead for years the 3rd book (Bitterblue) spends the whole novel trying to unravel all the lies, figure out what really happened during his reign, and try to put what is now  her kingdom back together again. The lies are still alive and well and causing all kinds of problems.

Patrick J. Moore
Guest

another particularly disturbing villain is Phoenix/Mr. Ashes from The Ashtown Burials series by N. D. Wilson. He always talks like and tries to make people believe he is the good guy… while he is manipulating them, mutating them, killing them or their loved ones… it is really all for their good in his mind. And he always knows exactly what to say to make others wonder if he might be right- no matter how much they hate him for what he has already done.

Huh, just noticed my 2 worst villains sound quite similar.  

D. M. Dutcher
Member

A couple of anime/manga examples from me:

Favorite Hero: Tomoya Okazaki, from Clannad and Clannad: After Story. I’m a big fan of Key Visual Arts stories: Kanon, Angel Beats, Air, and Clannad.  All of them have male protagonists who are a bit snarky or teasing, yet have good hearts and try their best to fix their problems and the problems of others that stem from the distant past. Many of them have some incredibly heartbreaking or heartwarming moments, and there’s always a hint of magic or the numinous.

But Tomoya is my favorite, because Key  did this formula in the context of falling in love, becoming a husband and father, and the suffering and loss that comes from it. It’s unusual in an art form that is more about giant robots and magical girls, and especially in that it’s targeted to guys, not girls. And he suffers some tremendously primal fears and longings that hit guys too. That’s why it’s a series where hardened Youtube trolls will cheerfully admit to crying their eyes out over it. Tomoya fees real, and suffers and grows in real ways.

Favorite Villain: Yuno Gasai, from The Future Diary/Mirai Nikki.

 There’s a kind of movie which has a bodyguard dynamic. Strong male protector and helpless female are thrown together by fate. Both grow in the course of surviving the gauntlet that their enemies through at them. The female grows stronger, the male more tender.

The Future Diary takes this formula and subverts it so well that it sticks with you. The genders are reversed: A young, cheerful girl named Yuno Gasai is the protector of Yuki, a young boy who is thrust into the middle of a deadly contest where people fight for the right to take over god’s position. 

There’s just one little problem; Yuno is a serial killer.

Yuno loves Yuki. She’d do anything for him. She’d do anything to keep him with her forever. He’s literally the light in her world, to the point where her supernatural edge is a diary that focuses completely on his future. Anything. And as the story progresses, what she does and who she is keeps growing darker, and darker in heartbreaking ways towards their “happy end.”

But the author makes you feel for her, because she is profoundly broken. At times, just being with Yuki shows the normal girl she could have been, but the instant he is endangered, or is threatened to be taken away from her the madness bubbles up in subtle and terrifying ways. Yuno also is compelling because the author manages to make guys somehow understand the allure of dangerous men to women by reversing the gender, and it makes you uncomfortable how many guys say in comments that they’d like a Yuno in their lives.

 The series itself isn’t the best, but Yuno dominates it in the same way Darth Vader dominates Star Wars. She’s probably one of the purest expressions of a new type of character, the yandere; loving and doting on the outside, axe-crazy on the inside (literally.) The best villains make you feel for them, and dispel the idea that evil is far away or remote, the thing that Hitlers only do. Yuno does this in spades, and it works incredibly well. 

Kessie Carroll
Member

Anime examples are always so interesting, because the stories and characters are so involved (and emotional!) I think American writers could learn a lot from Japanese writing.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

Well, a lot of them are cliched, and there’s some very disturbing trends in anime lately that make me worry. There’s a lot of nihilism in recent shows, and there is a lot of pandering to a fanbase who seems increasingly divorced from reality. Also it’s always been hard at times for a Christian to watch it because the values are so different: Christianity is such a minority there that the culture has little idea what it’s even like apart from borrowing the trappings now and then.

But when it gets it right,  they explore things in ways that are really compelling, with an alien style that can hit to your heart. It can be more darkness than light, though.

Kessie Carroll
Member

I’m not old enough to watch most anime (30 isn’t old enough!). My hubby tried to get me to watch the old Fullmetal Alchemist series. I made it to the episode where the dude makes a chimera out of his little girl and the dog, and I was done.
 
The last one I actually watched (and enjoyed) was Gurran Lagann. I’m just slightly behind with what’s recent. :-p

Jenni Noordhoek
Guest

Fullmetal Alchemist can be a very sad show at times, but it’s also very thoughtful. (I haven’t finished the anime but I read the manga) If it’s just the tone and not the violence that bugs you, might want to give it another try someday. [That part is probably the most devastating emotionally, IIRC; though it’s been a while]

Tamra Wilson
Member
Tamra Wilson

My brother says Aragorn and Dr. Doom. He says Aragorn because he has the will to resist the Ring, Dr. Doom because he is one of the truly bad guys in fiction. In my opinion, I call Martin the Warrior from Redwall, Robin Hood, Sir Gawain, (Seeing a pattern here?) for their nobility and strength and for villains Saurman, Grima Wormtongue, Mordred and all other traitors. 

Literaturelady
Guest
Literaturelady

When you said “greatest hero,” the first thing that came to mind was the LotR characters.  🙂  I’m just going to pick a few names here.  Aragorn (unlike the film) is willing to claim his heritage, but he knows to wait for the right time.  In the meantime, he works hard at any given duty, mainly protecting others, and has a very steadfast nobility of character.  Faramir is both just and merciful, prudent and patient.  He knows well his own weaknesses and is wise enough to flee from temptation.  And Legolas is quite an underrated character.  He is cheerful, faithful, industrious, and a steadfast friend.  🙂
 
As for villains, the first that comes to mind is Saruman (any guesses as to one of my favorite stories?) because of the powerful sway of his voice and the way he uses words and twists reality.  Another would be Count Grinssorg from The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian (Lloyd Alexander) because he takes tyranny to an extreme, regulating nearly every aspect of his subjects’ lives and taxing everything but the air.  And the last would be the Lady of the Green Kirtle from The Silver Chair.  She tricks by her beauty and soft speech and twists of logic–the oldest seduction in the book.  These villains are intimidating because they use evil that we see in this day and age.
 
This is a great topic, and it’s interesting seeing all the different opinions.  Who would you consider the greatest heroes and villains?
 
Blessings,
Literaturelady
 

Sarah Parks
Member
Sarah Parks

Ah, i see i won’t be the first/only person to have multiple answers.

I’ll start with the webcomic The Order of the Stick – hero, Roy (leader of the eponymous order) and the lich Xykon for villain.

Roy is frequently frustrated and grumpy. He deals with people underestimating him because he’s a fighter in a D&D-style fantasy world, and fighters are dumb, right? His followers interfere with his plans and try his patience, either through incurable stupidity or outright malice; same goes for pretty much everyone he runs into. He’s involved in a huge, save-the-world quest because his dad swore an oath to defeat the villain – and then abandoned it and left it for his kids to handle, and takes every opportunity to mock Roy for choosing to be a fighter rather than a magic-user like him. But Roy chooses to be the bigger man, make the right decision, do the right thing no matter how hard – and the one time he doesn’t, he comes to his senses, goes back and does the right thing anyway. 

As for Xykon, he appears to be a lazy, purely-comedic villain. And 90% of the time he shows up, he is. But he is also utterly, irredeemably evil. Though lines like “you don’t know the lows to which he will stoop” are usually followed up by a joke, there is literally nothing he won’t do. And he manages to be comedic, disturbing, threatening and completely unsympathetic without being irritating, overused, or unbelievable (for a fantasy-themed webcomic drawn with stick figures that rarely takes itself seriously). 

(you said to preach at you; i’m going for it!)

I really should be working on NaNoWriMo, so i’ll just go in-depth on one or two more.

Hero: Hazel from Watership Down. He’s not the smartest, or the fastest, or the strongest, or the most perceptive. He starts from a place of obscurity, with zero authority or reason for anyone to listen to him. But he knows how to delegate, he knows how to be diplomatic, and he will make the decision others are afraid or unwilling to make. By the end of the book, he’s got the respect of countless rabbits – and he’s earned it.

Villain: The Joker from The Dark Knight. Like Xykon, he’s utterly amoral, no excuse given for him being the way he is, no rhyme or reason to his methods. He has a charisma to him that just makes his horrible deeds stand out all the more sharply. He’s pure evil, come out to make the lives of Gotham’s citizens hell. 

Honorable mention:

Heroes: Chell from Portal, Faramir, Sam, Gandalf, and Frodo from The Lord of the Rings, Bigwig from Watership Down, Marlin from Finding Nemo, Captain America, Gregor from The Underland Chronicles, Mariam from A Thousand Splendid Suns, Christopher and Kate from The Perilous Gard, and Elend from the Mistborn trilogy.

Villains: Genshed from Shardik, General Woundwort from Watership Down, Brandon Nichols/Jason Cantwell from The Visitation, GLaDOS from Portal, the Nazgul from The Lord of the Rings, the gentleman with the thistle-down hair from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Gehn from Riven, Mother Gothel from Tangled, Darth Vader from Star Wars, Mal from Inception, and Redcloak from Order of the Stick.

And under both headings, (Darth) Revan from Knights of the Old Republic

PaulC
Guest

Four greatest heroes (I tried to limit myself, but there’s so many I love):
Kaladin (Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings) — he is so compelling as a leader who doesn’t want that role, and who sees most things as hopeless but perseveres anyways because he is driven to help others (and hates how his attempts to help always seem to make their lives worse).
Second, Faramir (Lord of the Rings) — he’s compassionate, and wise enough to not desire the Ring because he recognizes the temptation the Ring would have for him. He simply radiates nobility, honor, and a meek awareness of his own weaknesses and inadequacies.
Thor (the recent film version) — Lightning powers and a war hammer fulfills the ‘cool’ aspect; his characterization as a bit hot-headed and touchy but ultimately willing to put others above himself is quite compelling (and, for me, relatable).
Lastly, for an obscure one, Kal Skirata (Karen Traviss’ Star Wars: Republic Commando novel series) — he’s a gruff mercenary and sergeant, but ultimately has the proper perspective of putting individuals first, above over-arcing galactic-level problems; he’s the one person to treat his clone troopers as human, and even more, as close family. In that regard, he’s the polar opposite of “sacrifice the few for the many”.
 
For villains, four likewise seems a round number.
Magneto (X-Men, no specific version) — He’s one of the few comic-book villains who is compelling for more than just his powers. He almost has valid points, apart from the fact that his means of achieving them are so despicable.
Scar (The Lion King) — Come on; he’s almost 100% villainous, yet still manages to talk others into either believing he isn’t. And he can sing without losing villain points. :p
Smaug (The Hobbit) — eloquent, villainous, devious, and vengeful. And he’s a dragon. Hard to beat that.
Lastly, Grand Admiral Thrawn (Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars: Heir to the Empire trilogy)– He’s so brilliant and mysterious, the epitome of an active villain who’s one step ahead of the heroes almost the entire trilogy. Especially since his motives aren’t too bad – law, order, stability… albeit enforced by tyranny. And he out-thinks his opponents by studying their art — does it get any better than that?

Joanna
Guest

Hero: ….. okay, so I just discovered this world, but The Doctor…. esp. the 10th. He’s mysterious, powerful, terrible, and awesome. He could be The Master, or even worse, like the President of the Council of the Time Lords, but he choses not to be. He, like Donna’s grandfather, would never leave a man trapped, even if it meant the end of himself…. (so I just watched the end of the 10th Doctor…. thus the fan-girling.)
 
Also: Aragorn, Samwise Gamgee, and Brennan Caldwell (Firebird).
 
Villain: as mentioned in a comment above: The Joker from Dark Knight. He IS evil.
 
Also: President Snow from Hunger Games and Dru Polar (Firebird).
 
 
 

Joanna
Guest

Just thought I’d include an addendum of, in my mind, the most loveable villains to offset the most evil:
 
Darth Vader, Prince John (“Ivanhoe,” Disney’s “Robin Hood”), and last but not least — the Daleks … (“Ex-term-minate!”)

Christian
Guest
Christian

Favourite fictional heros:

Aslan
Samwise Gamgee – both self-explanatory

Tintin – every boy’s adventure hero

Captain Haddock – hilarious, enraging, loyal, strange

Odd Thomas from Dean Koontz’s works – humble, at times funny, very unique
 

Favourite fictional villains:

Randall Flagg from some of Stephen King’s works (The Stand etc.). There’s no doubt that he’s evil but he has a lot of dimension to his character and he can shape-shift. He also has borrows many of his interesting and disturbing qualities from the Father of Lies.

The Unman from C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra. Chilling, raw, animalistic.

The Head from C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength. Ugh! Spoilers!

Shift from C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle. Not creepy so much as really easy to hate. I’ve never hated a fictional character like I’ve hated Shift.

This list makes it seem that I don’t read more widely, I certainly do. It’s more coincidence, or something.

Christian
Guest
Christian

Something ate my detailed post, so here it is sans descriptions.

Other media:

Good:
Batman
Alfred

Bad:
The Joker
Scarecrow

Good:
Jack Shephard (LOST)
Hugo Reyes (LOST)

Bad:
Benjamin Linus (LOST)

Good but currently working for the Bad:
Miss Parker (The Pretender)
Sydney (The Pretender)

Good:
The Doctor (Doctor Who)

Bad:
Spellbinder Ashka (Spellbinder)

Joanna
Guest

You just made my day by mentioning Miss Parker and Sydney (I was disappointed that Jared didn’t make it into the list, but that’s just my fan-girl showing through). Also, with your inclusion of Captain Haddock and Tintin, you made my day more. 😀 
 
Finally, the fact that you also said The Doctor was the final touch. He’s like all the best characters rolled into one…… which one is your favorite, by the way?

Christian
Guest
Christian

Awesome! Oops, I did forget to add Jarod (yes, his name is spelled strangely). As for Captain Haddock and Tintin, I’m a huge fan and have been for most of my life. I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who since the late 80’s. My favourite classic Doctor was Tom Baker (sorry to be predictable) and my favourite new Doctor is David Tennant but I also love Matt Smith.
 

Christian
Guest
Christian

Adding to the list:

Good:
Jarod (The Pretender)

Evil: (all Doctor Who)
The Silence
Weeping Angels
The Vashta Nerada

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

Hero: Superman. He is the quintessential power masked as weakness.
I like the above mention of Aslan too and have to add him as a second.

Villain. No close second as far as I’m concerned: the Black Riders in LotR. There’s temptation but also, at first, a suspected threat and mystery, followed by unrelenting opposition.

Becky

lovedandamazed
Member

Clearly I am catching up on the blog after a very busy few weeks kept me away. 🙂
 
Greatest hero? John Wells from the Mars Hill Classified series by Austin Boyd. He’s a strong leader and even better friend. He has weaknesses and goes through some intense struggles. His faith dominates him and he has a unique thinking approach that is helpful in many areas. I just love him.
 
Greatest villain? The first one that came to mind was Ben Linus from LOST. So evil, so consumed by deception. You couldn’t trust anything that came out of his mouth. Yet he found (spoilers!) some measure of redemption by the end of the show, which I love. I hope Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon a Time is on a similar redemption journey, because I enjoy rooting for him.