Popularity of books

hallieod at indigo.ie hallieod at indigo.ie
Thu Apr 10 07:57:37 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 
>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.

I was going to write that maybe this is a mark of DWJ's superiority 
to certain other children's books writers (naming no names, of 
course) but I think you've saved me the effort.  Maybe I won't have 
to justify it so much if I say instead that I think her writing of 
believable (and redeemable sometimes) villains and feet of clay 
goodies is a mark of how much credit she gives to the children 
reading her.

Can you remember any books you loved as a child which would back up a 
possible difference in your tastes now and then?  I've been trying, 
and honestly can't come up with any.  The only Dahl I ever read as a 
child was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the thrill from that 
was of Charlie's rescue from the ultimate underdog-hood.  I certainly 
don't remember revelling in the punishment of the supposed baddies. 
Other than that, as a child, I loved Arthur Ransome, Elizabeth 
Enright, E. Nesbit and Ursula Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea, just off 
the top of my head, and there certainly aren't a lot of super-hatable 
baddies in that lot!

This has just reminded me of a forgotten frustration though, which 
was with Disney films.  Having had to take scared children out of 
cinemas a few times (this was a *long* time ago), I became very aware 
that the films always had a villain - and they'd invent one if none 
existed in the original tale.  Beauty and the Beast had no real bad 
guy (the Beast, redeemable, doesn't count!) so they invent Gaston. 
The Little Mermaid didn't have an important one that I can remember 
(though I've done my best to block that out anyway), and we got 
Ursula.  Etc.

Was I going anywhere with this?  Not sure.  But it was something 
which irked me then (films), and still does now (books).


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