If being bad is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. No story is complete without the perfect, terrible villain, and fairy tales have some of the creepiest ones to offer. We asked C.J. Redwine, author of the Snow White retelling, The Shadow Queen, to share her top 5 fairy tale villains of all time!
CJ Redwine’s 5 Favorite Fairy Tale Villains
Truly great villains keep their word. When they say they’re going to pluck out your eyes and feed them to the crows, they do it. When they want you hunted down, you get hunted down. And if they want you dead?
Enjoy that dirt nap.
I grew up reading fairy tales every night before bed. (It causes less nightmares than you’d think.) I loved the juxtaposition of the truly evil villain and the heroine who suddenly found herself on the wrong side of someone who wouldn’t hesitate to do whatever it took to bend the world into a shape more to their liking.
When Epic Reads asked me for a list of my fave villians, I grabbed one of the bound volumes of Grimm’s fairy tales that I keep in my office and started choosing my all-star team.
1. The Witch from Hansel and Gretel
This one scares me spit-less. I mean . . . come on. She EATS children. And like all good predators, she knows exactly how to lure her prey. No way a kid wanders lost in the forest and comes upon a house made of candy and gingerbread and is all “Nah.” She’s vicious, predatory, and heartless, and she uses sugar as a weapon.
2. The Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood
I think the Big, Bad Wolf is the sociopath of the bunch. He can be charming when he needs to be. He knows how to manipulate others into giving him what he wants. The way he sets up Red to give away her grandmother’s location so he can eat them BOTH instead of just devouring Red in the forest is pretty sick. And then he not only swallows Granny whole, he keeps playing mind games with Red. A predator who wants to devour both flesh and sanity.
3. The Wizard from The Girl With No Hands
The Girl Without Hands – art by Stardust-Splendor on DeviantArt
This guy is bad news. He tricks a poor miller into trading his only daughter for some wealth, but the daughter is smart enough to wash herself clean and stand inside a circle of white chalk, which means the wizard can’t touch her. (Note to self: Buy chalk.) The wizard can’t break the chalk line, so he tells the girl’s father to deny her water so she can’t keep her hands clean. (Note to self #2: Always wash your hands.) When even that doesn’t give the wizard access to her, he tells the father to cut off the girl’s hands. (Note to father who OBEYS the wizard to save himself: You fail at life.) When the girl still outsmarts him and ends up married to a king, the wizard stalks her, waits until the king is away at battle and the girl has just given birth, and then intercepts messages between the husband and wife to order the wife’s death. (Bonus points for also including the dismemberment and death of the baby in his orders.) This is one wizard who obviously has issues with a girl outsmarting him. And with, you know, basic decency.
4. The Evil Stepmother from Snow White
It’s pretty pathetic to be jealous of a child’s looks, but when you pair that jealousy with magical powers and a wide streak of viciousness, pathetic turns into lethal. This is one villain who doesn’t let failure stop her. When her huntsman fails to kill the girl, she decides to take matters into her own hands. And like all good fairy tale villains, she does the deed with style. She could have found Snow White in the dwarves’ cottage and killed her with her bare hands or with a knife or some other pedestrian murder method, but no. Magically poisoned apples FTW!
5. Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty
What sets Maleficent apart from other villains is her patience and her cruelty. (I have some sympathy here because really, King Stephen, how hard is it to get just one more gold plate made so that you can honor ALL of the fairies in your land?) When Maleficent visited the feast to get her revenge, she could’ve just struck baby Briar Rose dead in her cradle. Boom! Mission accomplished. Instead, she devised an insidious plan—let Stephen and his wife raise their daughter and love their daughter, all the while knowing that on her fifteenth birthday, she’d drop dead. (Spinning wheels, man. It only takes one bad one in the bunch.) This is a villain who thinks long-term and has the patience to wait for her own gratification if it means she can cause her foe to suffer even more. Revenge Achievement Unlocked.
Who makes your list? Tell us in the comments below!
For more fairy tale villain action, check out our quiz inspired by The Shadow Queen to see which Evil Queen you are!