Monday, January 2, 2012

Villainous good guys

Months after reading The Shadow of the Lion by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer.

I have to say that I'm rather fond of the villainous good guys who lurk in the shadows and protect the good guys who aren't ruthless enough to protect themselsves. These characters are needed if you're going to convince me that your morally upstanding, lovable leader guy isn't just going to get whacked immediately in your semi-realistic, brutal, politically-internecine, fantasy world. These characters tend to have a low opinion of themselves but consider almost any behavior excusable when it's in the service of the greater good of the person they have chosen to protect.

I wonder why I don't remember more characters like this outside of Japanese pop culture, where this villainous good guy character type is familiar and sometimes taken to such an extreme that he will become a straight out villain to allow the good guy to change the world. I think the only other place I've seen it recently was in the Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks. We know my memory is very sieve-like, so maybe it's a more frequent character than I'm giving it credit for being.  Can you think of any other good examples?


  1. I think something like this goes on in the Harry Potter books, though not as extreme. But yeah, I'm having trouble thinking of other examples; I don't usually encounter worlds that dark in Western literature. Lewis and Tolkien have dark-ish worlds, but the characters are morally ambiguous in a different way, if at all.

  2. Yeah, Snape is a similar sort of character, I guess, but not quite the same. Actually, maybe Dumbledore comes closer, though,