The dark lords of literature

The dark lords of literature

Villains' world

The dark lords of literature

Sometimes the world doesn’t need a hero, sometimes what it needs is a monster’. This line from ‘Dracula Untold’ reminds us just why villains are some of the most important characters in the fantasy world of movies and literature. The darker the villain, the more we root for the hero to win. And there is no dearth of such characters in our books — fiends whose notorious reputation will make them hated for ever.

While the Harry Potter series introduced us to the evil Lord Voldemort, there were other characters that were equally loathsome and one of them is Diya Bhattacharya’s favourite villain. She says, “I hated Dolores Umbridge. She, drunk on the power that her position of authority provides, is almost a megalomaniac. Everything she does at Hogwarts is vindictive in nature, a response from her affronted ego. She derives pleasure at being able to take away the freedom of the students. But what stands out and makes her worse (or better as a villain) are the mind games she plays and the physical cruelty she inflicts as a punishment on a teenage boy. As a reader you feel aghast and outraged at her obvious glee at Harry's pain.”

For Kriti Bajaj, writer and art editor, there are not many ‘ideal’ villains, as she likes to call them. “I want to say President Snow, because I actually did feel an uncannily strong hatred and helplessness while reading those books,” she says, talking about the autocratic ruler from ‘The Hunger Games trilogy’, a series of young adult science fiction novels by Suzanne Collins. She says, “I like layers; for me an antagonist is most compelling when an author shows us what is behind the villain. Not just words spoken about their traits and motivations (arrogance, ambition, revenge or madness) but where they’re coming from and what they stand for.”

Asked about what would make a villain a truly fearsome person, Kriti says, “What I want to see is a nuanced exploration of deviance, a villain you don’t feel simple hatred for because you understand them and even sympathise with them a little. A relateable villain — now that would be truly scary.”

For Shivangi Misra, the Byronic hero Heathcliff from Emily Brontë’s  ‘Wuthering Heights’ was a reflection of the corrupted character of society of that period. “He was a bitter, angry, selfish man obsessed with love. It hit me deeper when I realised that Heathcliff could represent each one of us. The brooding arrogance and savageness as such are not what make us hate him but how he chooses to act. His lust for revenge post Catherine’s marriage to Linton does away with any sympathy that the reader might have felt for him.”

For Yash Sharma, the Shakespearean play ‘Othello’ gave the world one of the most devious literary characters in the form of Iago. “The defining characteristic of Iago is his complete amorality,” says Yash.“ He isn’t breaking the rules so much as ignoring them. He combines a total lack of conscience with a willingness to lie, cheat and deceive anyone and everyone to bring his schemes to fruition. His motivation is ostensibly ‘revenge’ and the complete devastation engineered by him is a good example of disproportionate retribution,” he adds.

Revengeful, deceitful or plain insane- villains are still the much needed ingredients in a good plot which can keep a reader hooked till the last page. And there is no debate on this for sure!

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