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The top 5 fiendishly wicked characters from children’s literature

Every story needs a villain. As much as the reader might root for the good-natured protagonist with nothing but noble intentions—deep down, whether they like to admit it or not, it’s those dastardly antiheroes who keep the adventures thrilling and the pages turning.

We might recoil in horror at their latest despicable scheme, or pray for a sticky demise, but, ultimately, the world of classic literature would be a far less colourful place without the fiendish evil-doers to keep our heroes on their toes.

So, let’s take a look at some of the most memorable, diabolical, or just plain mean antagonists from the pages of classic children’s literature.

You might see a few familiar faces along the way…

1. The Queen of Hearts, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)

A cantankerous, violent-tempered monarch whose tyrannous reign over Wonderland has its inhabitants shaking in fear at her very mention. 

With an appetite for capital punishment, and never one to listen to reason, the Queen of Hearts is a beastly presence in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

2. The Sea Witch, The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen (1837)

If Ursula, the sea witch depicted in Disney’s 1989 animated adaptation seemed like a fearsome proposition—it’s nothing compared to the sheer cruelty demonstrated by the subterranean sorceress in Hans Christen Andersen’s original novel. Mutilations, curses, painful transformations. All in a day’s work for this unforgettable aquatic monster.

3. General Woundwort, Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)

Said to rule with an iron claw, General Woundwort is the merciless overlord of the Efrafa warren in Richard Adams’s classic novel, Watership Down.

A monstrous, savage-looking rabbit with razor-sharp claws and cold eyes, Woundwort will pit himself against any of his natural predators–including a cat!—encouraging his fellow rabbits to do likewise. 

Fearless and truly menacing, General Woundwort is one the most disturbing antagonists in classic children’s literature.

4. Miss Trunchbull, Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)

I have never been able to understand why small children are so disgusting!

Miss Trunchbull, the ferocious, loathsomely mean headmistress in Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel, is seemingly only happy when she’s terrorizing her students. Whether she’s hurling them like javelins, forcing them to eat colossal chocolate cakes, or throwing them in the dreaded Chokey, The Trunchbull is a fearsome presence at Crunchem Hall Primary.

5. Mr. Tod, The Tale of Mr. Tod by Beatrix Potter (1912)

I have made many books about well-behaved people. Now, for a change, I am going to make a story about two disagreeable people…

Mr. Tod is at the heart of one of Beatrix Potter’s darkest tales. While perhaps not as outwardly evil as some of the other characters on the list, Mr. Tod is a distinctly disagreeable gentleman Fox. 

Embroiled in a classic crime story set in the brooding Cumberland woodlands, The Tale of Mr. Tod aims to shed light on some of the undesirable elements of society—laid bare in Potter’s opening missives.

Posted on January 18th 2022

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