Tag Archives: Thomas Hardy

My Top Ten Literary Heroes

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In the interests of gender equality, I felt that I should write an article featuring my top ten literary heroes, after publishing the blog ‘My Top Ten Literary Heroines’ here. In no particular order, here they are…

1. Rincewind from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchettthelightfantastic
The timid wizard who finds himself in the middle of adventures despite himself. I love his aversion to any form of risk – a confirmed coward myself, I’ve always found the lantern-jawed sort of hero rather offputting. I also hugely envy Rincewind his Luggage, a chest made of sapient pearwood that will swallow any amount of clothing – along with particularly aggressive characters Rincewood regularly encounters on his travels.

thegobetween2. Leo Colston from The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
I first read this book as a teenager, cried at the end – and it somehow wormed its way under my skin and never really left me. Leo’s bitter-sweet recollection of a particular summer holiday that altered his life when he was thirteen leaps off the page and deserves to be far better known for more than its marvellous opening sentence.

peterpan

3. Peter Pan from the play by J.M. Barrie

I fell hook, line and sinker for the beautiful, cocky little boy when I read the story of the play aged eight. And at intervals in my life, there have been other adorable, cocky little boys full of vinegar and spirit, who light up my existence…

4. Miles Vorkosigan from the series by Lois McMaster Bujoldmemory
Miles is a remarkable creation – chockful of testosterone and driven with a desire to prove himself in a series of wonderful science fiction, space opera adventures. He would be unbearable if he wasn’t also battling the congenital defects that he has to deal with due to an attack on him before he was born. As it is, his foolhardy bravery is awesome and admirable.

5. Lord Peter Wimsey from the series by Dorothy L. Sayersbusman'shoneymoon
Forget about Jane Marple or Hercule Poirot – the detective I’ve always loved is the shell-shocked, younger son of a noble family. He often affects the idiot, while being in possession of a keen intellect and a drive to see justice done. Dorothy Sayers confessed that she was in love with Wimsey – and I can see why.

6. Claudius from I, Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves
IClaudiusAgain, a series I read as a teenager and fell in love with this complicated, damaged man who manages to survive by sheltering behind his physical disabilities most of his life. Derek Jacobi managed to bring a marvellous incarnation of the character to life in the acclaimed TV series.

7. Kvothe from The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfussthenameofthewind
Rothfuss took the Fantasy genre by the scruff of the neck and gave it a very good shake in The Name of the Wind. I love the character in all his driven complexity and secrecy – and am very much looking forward to reading The Doors of Stone when it comes out.

farfromthemaddingcrowd8. Gabriel Oak from Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
He has always been my ideal male – brave, physically strong, with an inbuilt instinct for doing the right thing and loyal right down his marrow… Bathsheba Everdeen is an idiot for refusing to marry him the first time around and I just hope she pulls herself together and is the wife he deserves.

wolfhall9. Thomas Cromwell from Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Henry VIII’s bullying fixer is so much more in this remarkable portrayal. I love the way Mantel’s writing manages to get right inside the character – a man of extreme contradictions, but fascinating, driven, formidably intelligent and physically energetic… Yep. I’m smitten.

themartian10. Mark Watney from The Martian by Andy Weir
Did I mention that I was an inveterate coward? The one exception is that I’ve always longed to go into Space – indeed, as a little girl I was firmly convinced that I’d end up there. I picked up this book, hoping it would be a story of brave derring-do survival and I wasn’t disappointed. And yes… as a girl I read Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson and spent hours playing versions of being castaway on a desert island…

Those are my offerings. The near misses include Hagrid from the Harry Potter series – I’ve always loved Hagrid’s sheer stubborn good-heartedness and his bluff inability to keep secrets. If only perfidious Dumbledore had half of Hagrid’s intrinsic integrity… Shakespeare’s Macbeth – yes, I know he turns into a murdering monster. But at the start of the play he’s a brave warrior in love with his wife who wants to do the right thing. For me, he has always epitomised the doomed anti-hero who could have been someone even more extraordinary, if only events and the people closest to him hadn’t stacked up against him. Hiccup from the How To Train Your Dragon series. No, not the magnolia hero of the animated film series – but the skinny, unsure and permanently anxious version Cressida Cowell brings to life in her outstanding humorous adventure series. Cade Silversun from Melanie Rawn’s intriguing and original Glass Thorns series about a magical theatre troupe. In addition to writing their plays, Cade is afflicted with prescient visions – and is one of the most interesting, layered characters in modern fantasy. Matthew Shardlake from C.J. Sansom’s Tudor crime series. A spinal abnormality has prevented Matthew inheriting the family farm, so he travels to London to seek his fortune practising the law and gets embroiled in a number of murder mysteries.

So that’s a roundup of my top literary heroes to date. Who are yours? I’d love to hear who are your favourites and why…

So… what about YOU?

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I was reading Sarah McCoy’s sharply funny blog yesterday ‘Shag, Marry and Kill (Literary Edition)’ on Writer Unbox – see the post here – when I got to wondering… Which fictional characters would I shag, marry and kill?

Shag
I was debating whether to be all clever about this… Present you with some eminently desirable hunk from the 420410-colin-firth-pride-and-prejudiceplethora of books I devour – but decided in the end to be absolutely honest. Because if I’m not, frankly what’s the point of sharing my feelings with you? And the reason why I was tempted to lie? The moment I imagined myself rolling around in passionate abandonment with any fictional character – an image floated across my inscape of a certain actor wading out of a lake wearing a white cotton shirt, breeches and a look of shocked longing… Yep. It’s Mr Darcy – and yes, it would be the Colin Firth version. And yes… I know that lake scene doesn’t appear in the book – but I’m betting that someone who keeps himself on such a tight leash, yet is prepared to continue pursuing the object of his desire even after a rebuff, is probably an exciting and inventive lover.

But as for marrying? Nope – he’s far too prickly and closed off. Once the initial fervour died down, I reckon he’d be a rather distant, if loyal husband… Lizzie Bennet is welcome to cope with his cagey defensiveness.

Marry
Again, this is a no-brainer. It HAS to be Gabriel Oak, the lovelorn shepherd in Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. Though all his steady, loyal love is wasted on that flighty Bathsheba, whose empty head is initially turned by an officer’s uniform and some flashy swordplay.

I was smitten by Gabriel at the tender age of 16, when reading the book and came across the passage where was describing the sort of home he wanted to provide for Bathsheba. When he talked about at the end of the day, both of them reading either side of the fire and said, ‘And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be— and whenever I look up, there will be you…’ I felt a lump in my throat and was lost in a mist of longing for someone just like that.

Which is why, when I found someone with the same enduring quality, who also shares my love for books, I fell hook, line and sinker – and am now very happily married to him.

Kill
Killing someone is a VERY big deal. So in order for me to be prepared to murder a character, they have to be absolutely evil and pose a terrible threat to those who are unable to fight back.

THE WITCHES (BR1990) ANGELICA HUSTONThe character who always raised the hair on the back of my neck is the Grand High Witch from Roald Dahl’s spooky book The Witches. She is one of the most memorably unpleasant antagonists I’ve encountered with her sheer malice and determination to rid the world of all children. Most pantomime-type villains are ameliorated by some bungling – but Dahl doesn’t do this. So, as long as I wasn’t immediately turned into a pile of ash, she would be the character I would like to kill – preferably before she turns the boy into a mouse…

So… that’s my three – what about you? Which fictional characters would you like to shag, marry and kill? Do please let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear from you.