Tag Archives: Watership Down

Villainy most vile

Book Meme 2012

Question 3: Best Villain

Difficult! Difficult! There are many good ones abroad in fiction. To complicate matters, there is the highly subjective nature of “best.”  Only an hour’s consideration, though, supplied my ready answer. Best, for me, does not mean the most interesting, the most terrifying, the most unusual or my favorite. Best means the most effective antagonist, one that lingers in the mind of the characters and the readers, the antagonist that haunts us even after they are gone. Of the many contenders, two stand out to me, and I will allow them to share the throne. If a vicious villain battle ensues, it will choose the victor for me, and be highly entertaining to boot!

Beware of spoilers, for I shall not hold back.

Ladies first:

Rebecca
from Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

This woman is one of the best villains of all time simply because she is already dead. If you are unfamiliar with the book named for her, then I should clarify that Rebecca is not an Undead. Oh no, she is far too villainous for that! She is, quite simply, Dead.

The protagonist of the tale is pitted, not against the woman herself, but against the memory of her. A master manipulator while she lived, Rebecca’s reputation survives with very few knowing her true character.  Rebecca’s weapons against the protagonist consist of the dead woman’s servants and friends and, most of all, the protagonist’s own imagination. Rebecca is beyond reach of reprisal; she cannot be stopped, she cannot be fought, she simply hovers over her rival in memory and in doing so, nearly destroys her.

How terrifying to fight the perfection of the dead. The protagonist does not even think it is right to fight such a paragon of femininity and refinement. Her imaginings almost destroy her marriage and her life. But is that all? No indeed.

Maxim, the protagonist’s husband and Rebecca’s widower, was always the true target of Rebecca’s wrath, and the protagonist is merely a weapon to be used against him. To the end, Rebecca manipulated affairs so completely that the mechanism of her revenge moves forward like clockwork. That, my ladies and gentlemen, is villainy. To reach from beyond the grave, without even reaching, in order to destroy your enemies and rivals with the workings of their own minds and emotions.

Yikes.

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Hares Second:

General Woundwort
from Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Yet another bunny. If I fail to finish this post, you can be sure he has torn out my throat for being so impudent as to call him a “bunny.” The death-rabbit from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is, perhaps, the General’s puny cousin. Beware.

This leporid of doom hails from Watership Down. If he were human, or an ogre, or a dragon, he could hardly be more terrifying. If I saw this hare, I would flee. He is large for his species (if you have ever met a hare, you will know that they are not small to begin with), ruthlessly ferocious, and insane. As his title denotes, though, his insanity is of a very orderly nature, up to military standards.

General Woundwort is driven by fear. Fear makes him very strong. He controls the colony, of which he is the head-hare, with repressive efficiency, supported by a military of his own making. Strength is the primary qualification for leadership and greatness. Power… power to defend and to control is, to the General, the highest virtue.

“Safety” is everything, and freedom is dangerous. No one leaves. No one really lives. But they are “safe.”

When a handful of hares do escape, through the machination of Hazel’s band, the General’s hitherto controlled insanity explodes. Even his devoted followers hesitate at the sight of his manic, obsessive pursuit of his enemies. He is driven as if his world will come crashing down should this small band defy him in peace.

His end is befitting one of the greatest villains of all time. No one sees him die.

He walks from the field of deadly battle, straight into legend, and his name becomes synonymous with fear on the downs.

This is the rabbit of nightmares.

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


Motley Crew

Book Meme 2012

Question 1: Book Crush(es)

And so we begin with a very personal question.

Though there are many characters I find attractive, I do not develop crushes easily. There are no Byronic Heroes here, for I would rather hit Mr. Rochester with a brick. Also absent are the characters who attract me by their interaction with another character. You will not find Mr. Darcy below (Addibus, if you read this, don’t disown me!), because as much as I find him attractive, it is in his context with Elizabeth. On his own, I like him, but he is not crush-inducing. There is also a dearth of the traditional “hero” types below. While I have respect for chivalry, and the heroes of legend, I find that for me there is such a thing as too high and noble to induce a crush.

So my parameter is simple: Do I have a crush on this character, and why? I will do my best to deconstruct. When I consider these “men” all together, I find it difficult to pinpoint my literary “type.” They do have some traits in common, but on the surface they are very different.

So, who does Jubilare swoon over? Let’s begin with four honorable mentions, and then we will come to the king of my literary heart.

Faramir, son of Denethor
“We are truth-speakers, we men of Gondor. We boast seldom, and then preform or die in the attempt. Not if I found it on the highway would I take it, I said.” -Faramir

There are few heroes that can match Faramir’s quality, and he is a secondary character! Dear authors, never neglect the folk who walk on the edges of your central story. Faramir’s role in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is small, and yet his personality fills every corner of it. Son of a maddened ruler, brother to an ambition-corrupted man, Faramir is in a most difficult position. He loves his family, but cannot be blind to their flaws. He must stand in the gap for his people, honor his father, and bear up under the weight of growing despair. Often these three duties conflict. Reserved on the surface, warm-hearted beneath, he is brave and fierce at need, but has no love for war. He is humble, but also a leader, grave but with a sense of humor. For me, he outstrips all the elves and Aragorn as well. Faramir is an “old soul” with a “young heart,” while the elves are often young souls with old hearts, and Aragorn is an old soul with a heart that, while perhaps not yet old, has lost its youth. Faramir is vitality with a steady mind, and he sticks to his honor while taking full advantage of his liberty. In short, he is an excellent balance.

Samuel Vimes
‘Now I know what you’re thinking,’ Vimes went on, softly. “You’re wondering, after all this excitement, has it got enough flame left? And y’know, I ain’t so sure myself…’ He leaned forward, sighting between the dragon’s ears and his voice buzzed like a knife blade: :What you’ve got to ask yourself is: Am I feeling lucky?” -Sam Vimes

Here’s a mess. Faramir is one I would marry if he existed and were interested (both equally unlikely), but Sam Vimes? I am not so self-destructive as to think of him in that way, and yet he is definitely a crush. Is he handsome? No. Is he admirable? …that depends. Whatever he may be, he is NOT balanced. When the reader first encounters Sam (assuming the reader begins with Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett) the good captain is drunk in a gutter. The relevant question is, “why is Sam drunk in a gutter?” The answer is that he is a good man trapped in an impotent job. He is Captain of the City Watch, which has been hobbled in order to allow for a self-regulating ecosystem of crime in his city. Over the course of the aforementioned book and its sequels, Vimes is pulled out of the gutter (and eventually off the bottle) through the efforts of friends, the love of a great-hearted woman, and the shreds of his own determination and nobility. Under the stony face and sharp layers of sarcasm lies the heart of the ideal copper. Vimes is the policeman I want on my case (assuming I am not the malefactor). He cares about people, he cares about justice, and despite the fact that he is often underestimated, he is a very intelligent chap. Despite his rough edges, or maybe partly because of them, he earns a strong place in my heart. Hear the fangirl squeals at his one-liners? That would be me.

Atticus Finch
“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” -Atticus Finch

A single father of two who is both firm and loving enough to bring them up well.  In To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus tries to uphold justice against the tide of popular “feeling” with a quiet but indisputable strength. I would give a great deal to sit with him on his porch, watch the fireflies and talk. To me, the best mark of a man is that he has no need to prove his manliness. This rural lawyer follows his moral convictions and when he opposes them, a lynch-mob stands down, less out of fear than out of the knowledge that he is in the right, and they in the wrong. I am not sure what more I can say. If I cannot have such a man for a husband, then God give me such a man for my friend.

Blackberry
“‘Frith and Inle!’ said Dandelion. “They’re sitting on the water! Why don’t they sink?’
‘They’re sitting on the wood and the wood floats, can’t you see?’ said Blackberry.”

This is a weird one simply because Blackberry is a hare. I find Leporids cute, but I do not find them physically attractive, so please call off the men in white coats. I would not have mentioned him here if it were not for a funny conversation between my housemate and I. D mentioned that she had a crush on one of the rabbits from Richard Adams’s Watership Down, and I laughed and said that I had a crush on Blackberry. It turns out that he was her crush as well. To be fair, we were both children when we first encountered this story. So, what is it about this hare that makes me wish he A. was not fictional, B. was my species, and C. liked me? Blackberry is the brains of Hazel’s  operation. If there is planning to be done, Blackberry is at the heart of it, and Thlayli owes the clever bunny his life. While others panic, Blackberry has a clarity of mind and a will for action. For all this, he is not a cold, calculating braniac, nor a powerful mind attached to a frail body. He may not have Thayli’s or Captain Holly’s raw power, but he is no pushover, and he is brave when there is need for bravery. His ties of friendship are strong, and he often shows compassion. Loyalty is another of his distinguishing traits, and, lets face it, he just has style! Blackberry proves that Smart is Sexy, even if one is the wrong species.

^^^ All Hail King Samwise ^^^

“‘What am I to do, then?’ he cried again, and now he seemed plainly to know the hard answer: see it through. Another lonely journey, and the worst.” -Samwise Gamgee

Yep. My #1 book crush is Samwise Gamgee. If any character manages to usurp his throne, I will be shocked.

Every time I read Lord of the Rings, Samwise amazes me. At first glance he might seem simple, or even timid. As the story progresses, his hidden facets begin to shine. Early on it is clear that Sam has a poetic soul; a deep appreciation for beauty, peace and simplicity that echos my own feelings.

Courage and determination overcome his natural fears and launch him into action against some of the most terrifying creatures and situations to be found in the books. Who, among us, would take up a short blade, elven or not, and stand alone against a GIGANTIC SPIDER? What diminutive farmer’s son would storm an orc-filled tower in the faint hope of rescuing a friend? Who would carry said friend up the slope of a fire-mountain in order to finish a task that cannot save their lives?

Sam.

His greatest flaw is the humility that makes him doubt his own abilities, but even that serves a purpose. If he were aware of his a worth, he might be intolerable. Samwise considers himself stupid. Hah! He is unlearned compared to his traveling companions, but that is no measure of his intelligence. When there is no one to direct him, when he must take charge, he proves himself quick and capable. Tolkien lets us see into the noble halfling’s mind and there we find him hard at work navigating the rough terrain of the world, as we all must do.

Sam is often credited with loyalty and tenderness. These, he has in abundance. If I had to choose only one fictional character to have at my back through a conflict, it would be Sam. He will not betray his friends, he will not shrink from the task that must be done, and he manages to hope when others around him fall into despair.

Finally, his love of peace, and home, and Rosie touch me sharply. My heart aches with Sam’s longing. I weep when he is sad, and rejoice in tears and smiles when he is happy. Despite not being human, he is staunchly human in his abilities, thoughts and feelings, managing to represent the best that is in us while not denying our weakness.

Therefore, if I have to choose just one fictional crush, one who, if he were my species, not fictional, and happened to like me, I would marry in a heartbeat, I would soon be a Gamgee.

I have made some interesting conclusions about my own heart after seeing these “men” juxtaposed. I will, however, let you draw your own conclusions on the matter.

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


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