We missed including Bradley Beaulieu’s response in yesterday’s mind meld…so today we’re passing along his response to this question:
Here’s what he said…
My favorite villains? One that certainly stands out is Grima Wormtongue, from the Lord of the Rings. I think what makes him so memorable for me is that he was a man who didn’t rely on physical might or prowess in battle. He relied on his words (and a bit of magic), and that made him all the more insidious for me. Plus, I think part of the thrill for the reader is seeing how the villain is pitted against the heroes (or vice versa), and how the heroes do or don’t overcome their villainy. It was really delicious reading for me when Gandalf overcomes Wormtongues treachery with words of his own.
The wise speak only of what they know, Gríma son of Gálmód. A witless worm have you become. Therefore be silent, and keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a serving-man till the lightning falls.
See, Théoden, here is a snake! To slay it would be just. But it was not always as it now is. Once it was a man, and it did you service in its fashion.
He instills new life in Théoden by calling upon his younger self, and that was brilliant reading, especially after seeing how low the King of the Riddermark had been brought by Grima.
Another that leaps to mind is Eric from Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber. Corwin is a wonderful hero, made all the more interesting by his amnesia in Nine Princes in Amber. But one of the coolest parts of these books was the fact that there was a power vacuum left when Corwin’s father, Oberon, disappeared, and it’s Corwin’s family, and not some evil, outside threat, that make up the opposition (as well as his allies). Eric is in some ways a reflection of Corwin. They come from the same family—they have very much the same goals, the same abilities—but Eric also acts as a foil to Corwin, because he’s more insidious, more ruthless. And that dynamic—similar but different, family but foe—kept me glued to the pages of Amber for many a week.
The last “villain” I’ll mention is Gerald Tarrant from C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy. Tarrant is a villain that Warrior Priest Damien Vryce finds himself dependent on in the opening of the trilogy. Vryce detests Tarrant and his experiments with the Fae. To him they are sacrilege. And yet Vryce finds himself allied to Tarrant, and as the story progresses he finds his beliefs and morals challenged ever more strongly by Neocount’s cruel methods, all in the name of reaching a greater good, the survival of humanity itself. You might be able to tell that I like my heroes and my villains gray, and Tarrant is a perfect example of this. Compelling story aside, I will also admit that those stunning covers by Michael Whelan did a lot to frame this particular villain for me.