Monday, June 12, 2006

Wicked Women of Children's Literature

On Tuesday I posed the question "How many other Wicked Women, who aren't Witches or Fairies, are there in children's literature ?" I said I could really only think of Dolores Umbridge and Bellatrix Lestrange (and yes, I know they're both witches, but I was thinking of fairy-tale wiches when I said "wicked women who aren't Witches or Fairies". I've had a few suggestions so far:

Achren - Lloyd Alexander's "The Chronicles of Prydain" (Me)

Kissin' Kate Barlow - Louis Sachar's Holes (Me)

Mrs Bloodvessel - Joan Aiken's Dido and Pa (Hallie, So Many Books...)

Mrs Coulter - Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy ("Mrs Coulter", The Republic of Heaven)

Jane Farrer - Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy (Hallie)

Queen Ginevra, Mrs Morgan and Mrs Vavasour - Joan Aiken's The Stolen Lake (Hallie)

Lady of the People of the Hill - Elizabeth Marie Pope's The Perilous Gard (Hallie)

Laurel - Diana Wynne Jones' Fire and Hemlock (Hallie)

Bellatrix Lestrange - J K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix & Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Me)

Mrs. Rachel Lynde - L M Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (ThursdayNext, Eyre Affairs

Miss Minchin - Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess (heather)

Mrs Mumm/The Mayor of Uraniborg - Charles Butler's The Fetch of Mardy Watt (Me)

Mrs Palk - Susan Cooper's Over Sea, Under Stone (Hallie)

Pamela - Jane Mendelsohn's Innocence (little willow, Slayground)

Grandmother Patience - Jennifer Holm's Our Only May Amelia (Camille, Bookmoot

The Queen of Hearts - Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (heather)

Blodwen Rowland - Susan Cooper's Silver on the Tree (Hallie)

Tante Sannie and Mrs Lubbage - Joan Aiken 's The Cuckoo Tree (Hallie)

Mrs Scratcherd - Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (Krista, Musings of a Lady)

Ms Slighcarp - Joan Aiken's Night Birds on Nantucket (Krista)

Esme Squalor - Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" (Krista)

Frau Edeltraut von Tannenberg - Eva Ibbotson's The Star of Kazan (Hallie)

Dolores Umbridge - J K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Me)

Ms Walker the Camp Green Lake Warden - Louis Sachar's Holes (Me)

But there must surely be rather more than these few I've just listed, so I invite you to name names; remember this is a Spoiler Zone, so spoiler-ish details can be shared, not that giving the names of Wicked Women in particular books should be too spoiler-ish ! I will post an updated version of the list in due course.


Becky said...

I tried to post last week but Blogger wasn't letting me in...

Miss Minchin was the first to come to mind, and then Cruela de Vil.

Definitely wicked fun, and surprisingly wickedly hard!

Michele said...

Thanks Becky ! Yes, Blogger was in such a pickle last Wednesday and Thursday - I kept trying to post comments on friends' Blogs and getting nowhere fast !

Miss Minchin seems to have made quite an impression on people's minds - not surprisingly...

Cruella de Vil, of course, from 101 Dalmatians - a book I've never read (nor have I seen the film !)

In the meantime, I've remembered Esther Hartleib from my favourite Cornelia Funke novel, The Thief Lord (and her husband's not much better !)

Anonymous said...

I do have to politely disagree with two of the inclusions - one mine! I don't really consider the Lady in The Perilous Gard to be a wicked woman at all, though I had an interesting discussion on the DWJ list with someone who thought she was worse than Laurel. I may be misrepresenting her point, but I think it was that she chose the natural over the supernatural understanding of the People of the Hill, and therefore, the Lady was a human and should be held to the normal rules of how other people should be treated. If you regard her as a Queen of Faerie, on the other hand, she's doing what she must to ensure the survival of her people. And the wonderful climactic scene between the Lady and Kate (which I won't describe - spoiler zone or no!) shows her capable of respecting what's admirable in those with completely different values, as is Kate.

The other one I'd protest is Rachel Lynde in the Anne of Green Gable books. She is certainly outspoken, insensitive and a busy-body. But I think there are quite a few mitigating circumstances - not least the society, in which it's considered normal to take an 11 year old orphan in as essentially just another hand on the farm. After all, Marilla, who'd certainly doesn't deserve to be on a wicked women list, starts off by telling Matthew to take Anne back, as she'll be no use to them! In later books Rachel has mellowed a lot, and by the time she comes to live with Marilla, she clearly cares deeply about Anne. (In fact, just picked up Anne of the Island in order to check a scene I thought I remembered, and there's a description of Rachel putting 'her kind old arms' around Anne.)

I've been trying to see sub-categories of these WW, but failing so far. The evil enchantress types, who want power regardless of the effect on others, aren't necessarily different from the 'realistic' type nasties. Possibly they can be divided up less by generic mode, and generally into those who want power/money/status regardless of the effect on others and those who seem to be cruel just because they can be. Though there are sometimes 'explanations' for both - Kate Barlow, for example, as you said Michele. Miss Minchin, possibly? Though she's undoubtedly cruel, perhaps the enormous insecurity of being a single woman running a school at the time would explain some of her nastiness and greed. While Aunt Reed, who behaves in a similar manner, wouldn't have that excuse.

Michele said...

Hallie thanks for your long and thoughtful post... I'm afraid I don't know either of the books concerned to be able to comment, but perhaps others who have read The Perilous Gard or Anne of Green Gables would like to comment on what Hallie has said ? Can a case be made to justify the inclusion of these two women in the list of Wicked Women, or should they be removed ?