Fiendish Fridays #6: Mrs Danvers

Fiendish Fridays is hosted here at She Reads Novels, profiling some of our favourite literary villains. You can see a complete list of previous Fiends and suggest one of your own here.

This week’s Fiend is a controversial one – she is often cited as one of literature’s greatest female villains, but some people don’t consider her to be a villain at all. What do you think?

#6 – Friday 19 March 2010: Mrs Danvers

Name: Mrs Danvers

Appears in: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Who is she? Mrs Danvers is the housekeeper at Manderley, the house where Maxim de Winter lived with his wife Rebecca before her tragic death. When Maxim brings home his second wife whom he has met in Monte Carlo, Mrs Danvers is not happy!

What is she like? The character was famously portrayed by Judith Anderson who received an Oscar nomination for her role in the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film. In the book she is described as ‘someone tall and gaunt, dressed in deep black, whose prominent cheek-bones and great, hollow eyes gave her a skull’s face, parchment-white, set on a skeleton’s frame’.

What makes her a Friday Fiend? She does her best to make the second Mrs de Winter unwelcome at Manderley by constantly undermining her confidence and making her the target of some cruel tricks, causing her to feel inferior to Rebecca in every way.

Redeeming features: Her devotion and loyalty to Rebecca even after her death can be seen as an admirable quality and is the reason for her behaving the way she does.

Have you read Rebecca? What do you think about this week’s Friday Fiend?

Fiendish Fridays #5: Black Jack Randall

Fiendish Fridays is hosted here at She Reads Novels, profiling some of our favourite literary villains. You can see a complete list of previous Fiends and suggest one of your own here.

There are several Fiends I could have chosen from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. This is one of them…

#5 – Friday 5 March 2010: Jonathan ‘Black Jack’ Randall

Name: Jonathan Wolverton Randall

Appears in: Outlander/Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon

Who is he? A captain in the English Army during the 18th century and an ancestor of our heroine Claire Randall’s husband Frank.

What is he like? He looks so much like Frank Randall that even Claire almost mistakes him for her husband, although his hair is longer, and his skin darker from years of exposure to the weather.

What makes him a Friday Fiend? According to Jamie Fraser, Randall’s nickname ‘Black Jack’ refers to the colour of his soul. Randall is cruel and sadistic and abuses his position in the army by flogging, torturing and otherwise badly treating his prisoners. As Jamie’s uncle Dougal MacKenzie says, Randall is unable to earn the respect of his men so earns their fear instead.

Redeeming features: Of all the Outlander villains (Stephen Bonnet, Geilie Duncan, Laoghaire MacKenzie and others) Black Jack Randall is probably the least sympathetic character. He does love his brother, but that’s all.

What do you think about this week’s Fiend? Who is your favourite Outlander villain?

Fiendish Fridays #4: Waleran Bigod

Fiendish Fridays is hosted here at She Reads Novels, profiling some of our favourite literary villains. You can see a complete list of previous Fiends and suggest one of your own here.

This week’s Fiend comes from one of my favourite historical fiction novels, The Pillars of the Earth!

#4 – Friday 19 February 2010: Waleran Bigod

Name: Waleran Bigod

Appears in: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

Who is he? A 12th century English bishop.

What is he like? Tall and thin with long arms and legs, ‘lank jet-black hair and a pale face with a sharp nose’. He is compared to both a spider and a bird of prey.

What makes him a Friday Fiend? He is constantly scheming and thinking of ways to thwart Prior Philip and Tom Builder in their mission to build a cathedral in Kingsbridge. Unlike his violent accomplice, William Hamleigh (definitely a future Friday Fiend!), Waleran uses his brains and his influence in the church to get what he wants, which makes him a very dangerous enemy.

Redeeming features: As one of the Kingsbridge monks points out, Waleran seems genuinely devout, but is driven by ambition and a belief that the end justifies the means. This leads him to think it’s acceptable to do whatever he wants in the service of God.

Have you read The Pillars of the Earth? What are your opinions on today’s Friday Fiend?

Fiendish Fridays #3: Biju Ram

Fiendish Fridays is hosted here at She Reads Novels, profiling some of our favourite literary villains. You can see a complete list of previous Fiends and suggest one of your own here.

This week’s Fiend comes from one of my current reads – The Far Pavilions.

#3 – Friday 5 February 2010: Biju Ram

Name: Biju Ram (also known as Bichchhu-ji – the scorpion)

Appears in: The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye

Who is he? Although he is officially an attendant of Lalji, the young heir to the throne of Gulkote, it is believed that Biju Ram is working for Lalji’s stepmother, the scheming Janoo-Rani.

What is he like? He wears a single diamond earring in one ear and has a distinctive giggling laugh.

What makes him a Friday Fiend? He has been an enemy of our hero, Ashton, for many years. As a child Ash was the target of his practical jokes and cruel comments. Biju Ram is also involved in two assassination plots (I won’t tell you if they were successful or not) and probably responsible for at least one murder.

Redeeming features: None. We see Biju Ram only from Ash’s point of view and Ash sees only the bad side of his character.

Fiendish Fridays #2: Thenardier

Fiendish Fridays is hosted here at She Reads Novels, profiling some of our favourite literary villains. You can see a complete list of previous Fiends and suggest one of your own here.

#2 – Friday 29 January 2010: Thenardier

Name: Thenardier
Appears in: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Who is he? Thenardier is a greedy and corrupt innkeeper.
What is he like? He is introduced to us as a “small, skinny, sallow-faced man, bony, angular and puny”, who is “thoroughly crooked, a sanctimonious knave”.
What makes him a Friday Fiend? When we first meet Thenardier near the beginning of the book he is extorting large amounts of money from the poverty-stricken Fantine on the pretext of needing it to feed and clothe her daughter Cosette. We also see him stealing from corpses after the battle of Waterloo – he subsequently claims to have been a sergeant in Napoleon’s army, hence the name of his inn, The Sergeant of Waterloo. Later in the book he causes further trouble for our hero, Jean Valjean.

Many people consider Inspector Javert to be the villain of Les Miserables but I disagree. Yes, Javert also makes life very difficult for Valjean, but he behaves the way he does because of his belief in upholding the law no matter what. I don’t see Javert as an evil character, unlike Thenardier who cares about nothing but himself and his latest money-making schemes.

Redeeming features: I can’t think of any – can you? His wife Madame Thenardier is equally unpleasant but at least appears to love her daughters, whereas Thenardier doesn’t seem to care about anybody.

Fiendish Fridays #1: Count Fosco

Fiendish Fridays is hosted here at She Reads Novels, profiling some of our favourite literary villains. You can see a complete list of previous Fiends and suggest one of your own here.

#1 – Friday 22 January 2010: Count Fosco

Name: Count Isodor Ottavio Baldassare Fosco

Appears in: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Who is he? Count Fosco is an Italian friend of Sir Percival Glyde, a baronet who marries Laura Fairlie.

What is he like? He’s old and very fat with a fondness for wearing brightly coloured waistcoats and playing the concertina. Doesn’t sound like a typical villain, does he?

What makes him a Friday Fiend? Although Sir Percival is the nastier of the two and initially appears the more villainous, it quickly becomes obvious that Fosco is more dangerous due to his intelligence, charm and ability to fool people (even Laura’s half-sister Marian Halcombe originally admits to liking him, though her opinion changes drastically later on). Fosco is the brains behind the scheme to steal Laura’s identity and gain her inheritance.

Redeeming features: He shows tenderness towards his pet mice and birds, and admiration for Marian Halcombe (although this unfortunately doesn’t stop him trying to destroy her sister’s life!)

Fiendish Fridays

This feature is currently taking a break but will be back soon!


Have you ever noticed how the villains are often more interesting and more memorable than the heroes? In my new feature, Fiendish Fridays, I will profile a different literary villain every two weeks.

If you’d like to submit a Fiend of your own, you’re very welcome – send me an email at helenlovesbooks81[at]gmail[dot]com. I will be using the format shown below, but you can present the information in any other way you wish. Please try to avoid any major spoilers.

Name:
Appears in:
Who are they?
What are they like?
What makes them a Friday Fiend?
Redeeming features (if any):

Of course, you’re also welcome to comment on any existing Fiendish Friday posts. I hope you enjoy this new feature!

Friday Fiends

A new Fiend will be posted every other Friday.

#1 (22 January 2010) – Count Fosco from The Woman in White
#2 (29 January 2010) – Thenardier from Les Miserables
#3 (5 February 2010) – Biju Ram from The Far Pavilions
#4 (19 February 2010) – Waleran Bigod from The Pillars of the Earth
#5 (5 March 2010) – Black Jack Randall from the Outlander series
#6 (19 March 2010) – Mrs Danvers from Rebecca