Popularity of books

hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk
Wed Apr 9 05:45:06 EDT 2003

> Villain - Someone or something kids can hate without hindrance
I find this a tricky one. If a villain is 'simply' evil, I find myself wondering why? Why are they behaving like that? It always seems to boil down to a desire for money/eternal life/world domination, or a combination of the three - what a bore! I don't mind it if they're some sub- or super-human or animal force, where the rules for good and evil don't apply in the same way and they're 'just doing what they do' (I've no problem with Shelob, or Monigan, or even Laurel) but with human beings I appreciate a bit of an attempt to understand their motivation. And of course, as the saying goes, to understand all is often to forgive at least a bit, which gets in the way of the genuine pleasure to be had from unhindered hating.

Did I always feel like that, though? Probably not. Maybe this taste for understanding how villains got to be that way is one of the hallmarks of YA books (as opposed to those for younger children). But DWJ has always tended to go in for it, even in her younger books, and more than that she has always been aware that villains can reform (Astrid in EDOL and the bully in Archer's Goon are the two that spring first to mind), and conversely that goodies can have feet of clay (Chrestomanci not excepted - Howl DEFINITELY not excepted); and that one's perceptions and understanding of people can change - look for example at the wildly fluctuating opinions Sophie has of her stepmother in HMC.

Mind you, she has some outright villains too! Aunt Maria, Uncle Ralph, various others - but is it fun to hate them? Not for me now, but if I were thirty years younger, maybe.


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