I had a bit of a feminist rant about ‘Top 10 Female Book Characters’ posts (of which I have done one, I’m just as guilty), complaining that no one ever does the equivalent for men. So then I had to put my money where my mouth was and do one myself.
Of course the proper thing to do would have been to forget gender all together and just do a list of my top ten characters, male, female, whatever, but that would have meant half as many choices and only one post instead of two. So I shrugged off that idea.
I started off trying to create the list off the top of my head which wasn’t that easy to be honest. I could name you twenty fictional female characters I idolise without a second’s thought but I guess I just don’t connect with male characters in the same way. Which makes sense, not being male myself. But when I actually got home and started looking at my bookshelves there were obvious choices leaping out at me all over the place.
These aren’t about characters I find attractive – I’ve done my top 5 fictional crushes list before – but those characters who really captured my imagination. In the highest form they’re characters so compelling that the book became less about the plot and more about the individual. Or, less high-minded, they’re just so outlandish and awesome that I couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love.
- Ron Weasley in Harry Potter by JK Rowling
“Always the tone of surprise”
Ron is the epitome of an unlikely hero. Especially as he isn’t really supposed to be the hero. But I lost patience with Harry’s moaning and whining and all the ‘I have so much on my shoulders and all the world’s against me so I’m just going to brood in this corner’ stuff. Ron could always be counted on for some comic relief but when the need was dire he’d step up and win that chess match, open that chamber, stab that horcrux and never get any of the glory.
- Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
“If it could only be like this always – always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe and Aloysius in a good temper”
One of the most pitiable characters I’ve ever encountered, Sebastian’s troubled relationship with his parents and strict Catholic background take him from the eccentric character he starts the novel as (traits include carrying around a teddy bear named Aloysuis) to a homeless alcohol, estranged from his friends and family.
- Zaphod Bebblebrox in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
“If there’s anything more important than my ego around I want it caught and shot now”
The swagger, the arrogance, the narcissism of Zaphod Beeblebrox is quite something to behold. Ex-President of the Galaxy with two heads, three arms and a grand scheme that he can’t remember but follows blindly while really wishing he was lying on a beach somewhere. And if you’ve never read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy then that’s really only the tip of the craziness iceberg going on in that book.
- Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter by JK Rowling
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends”
I really wanted to avoid having two Harry Potter entries but I just couldn’t choose between them. Neville is another prime example of an unlikely hero, added to by his incredibly tragic backstory on his side. And as with Ron, when the need arises, you can count on Neville to step up to the plate.
- Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you”
Oh Mr Darcy. The true pinnacle of romantic leads and an obvious choice to include on this list. All of Jane Austen’s heroes could make a lady swoon but they don’t all have the depth of emotion or character development of Mr Darcy.
- Silas Marner in Silas Marner by George Eliot
“I can’t part with it, I can’t let it go…It’s come to me – I’ve a right to keep it”
Now here’s a heart-warming tale. Miserly old man is robbed of his prize possession, his gold, but finds a greater meaning to life in caring for an orphaned young girl. If you can make it past the early chapters where NOTHING HAPPENS then you’re in for a real treat.
- Richard III in The Cousins’ War Series by Philippa Gregory
“They will call me a monster. Whatever else I will do in my life this will cast a crooked shadow. All that everyone will remember of me will be this crime. And I didn’t do it”
History has not been kind to Richard III, painting him as an unquestionable villain; deformed and the murderer of his two young nephews. But what I love so much about Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction is her ability to start with the facts and fit around it a completely original take on a famous character. She makes Richard’s character relatable, his actions understandable and his end almost pitiable. A youngest son, used to being overshadowed by his brothers in every respect, who’s had ambition and power hammered into him since a child; is there any wonder that when he saw an opportunity to make himself king he took it?
- Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
“But I cannot be satisfied without Fanny Price, without making a small hole in Fanny Price’s heart”
The second best Jane Austen hero is still very high up on the list of all time heroes. And although Henry Crawford isn’t supposed to be the hero of Mansfield Park secretly he was the one I was rooting for. I liked that he was the first character to notice that Fanny was deserving of a lot more praise and appreciation than she was getting. Which certainly makes him more worthy of her love than stupid Edmund. But his true nature ran too deep to resist the temptations of Maria Bertram.
- Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein
“I am glad you are with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam”
I was having a bit of a struggle deciding whether to include Sam on this list. I know that I loved his character in the films but, as I learnt the hard way, pretty much everything amazing in the films wasn’t actually in the books. But I’m including him anyway because, well, I’m a little short of other ideas.
- Dobby in Harry Potter by JK Rowling
“Dobby has no master… Dobby is a free elf.”
If I’ve got two Harry Potter characters on the list I might as well have three. Dobby, although not human, is decidedly male, and definitely deserving of a place on this list. Fiercely loyal to Harry in the same way Sam is to Frodo and the bringer of just as much comic relief. I was never going to much of a fan of the films anyway but when they cut Dobby out of the fourth one that was the final straw.