Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why I Love the Baddies by Jacqueline Harvey

Alf turned to face the tiny intruder.
‘What are you doing here you little snoop?’ he roared. ‘I’ll give you a walloping as well.’
Alf charged forward and slashed at the child with the whip. Voomp, voomp, it cut through the stale air.
‘Bonaparte!’ Alice-Miranda yelled. The pony burst out of the stall and charged at Alf, sending the old man flying. Alf didn’t know what hit him as he thudded onto the cobblestone floor.

Alice-Miranda Shows the Way by Jacqueline Harvey

It’s fun to create the villains in stories - those evil characters, whose actions present problems for the heroes and ensure that there are thrills and confrontations. Baddies are often clever and calculated, with great depth and even some admirable qualities – if only they would use their talents for good instead of evil.

When I think about some of my favourite books for children, many of them have fantastic villains.

Illustration by Quentin Blake, "Matilda" by Roald Dahl, Random House, 1988

The Trunchbull in Matilda is terrifying. Her cupboard of cruelty known as The Chokey no doubt strikes fear into the hearts of young readers and when she gets her come uppence in the end, there are cheers all round. But The Trunchbull is not the only villain in that story.

Matilda’s parents, Harry and Xinia Wormwood are frightful too. Their neglectful and ignorant ways present many challenges for Matilda as she wonders what it would be like to have parents who really cared about her. When Harry and Xinia take their equally frightful son and flee the country, Matilda is adopted by Miss Honey, which seems the best possible outcome for all.

Another of my favourite stories growing up was Heidi.  Fraulein Rottenmeier, the very well named housekeeper seemed to take an almost instant dislike to Heidi and set about making her life as difficult as possible. I detested that woman and wished that she would leave Heidi and Clara alone or better still be sent packing.

Well drawn villains are so important in stories. They should make the reader feel something – loathing or fear perhaps, or a combination of both. I think Roald Dahl was the master of the baddie. Mr and Mrs Twit are vile characters whose treatment of Mugglewump the monkey and his family is disgusting – but again in the end, the Twits get what they deserve. The Grand High Witch and her cronies in The Witches are equally nasty and perhaps some of the scariest villains I’ve come across. I can recall reading The Witches to a class of Year Four students and there was a palpable fear in the room.

My own books have given me many opportunities to invent an ever increasing range of rogues. Some have started out as nasty pieces of work then grown and changed over time, while others have retained their appalling ways. Both the Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series have their fair share of bad guys.  From the misguided Miss Grimm and Aunt Violet to bullies including Alethea Goldsworthy, Morrie Finkelstein and Angus Archibald through to calculated scoundrels such as Rupert Blunt, Addison Goldsworthy, Arthur Prendergast and Claude Bouchard; the baddies are some of my favourite characters.

It might sound strange but I love the baddies. They enable you to do things you’d never do in real life. They add colour and conflict and without them I think the stories would be very dull indeed. So the next time you’re reading or writing a story, think about the importance of the villains – and have fun with them. I certainly do.

About the Author

Jacqueline Harvey is the author of 14 novels for younger readers and a CBCA award winning picture book. Her bestselling Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series’ are published internationally and Jacqueline has travelled widely, speaking and teaching in Australia and overseas. 

In 2012, Alice-Miranda at School received YABBA and KOALA awards and in 2013 Alice-Miranda in New York was shortlisted for the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year for readers 8-14 years.

When I was little I fell in love with books. My mother used to take me on a weekly outing to the local library – which I always looked forward to. I loved the smell of the library and the books – it made me wonder what new adventure lay in store. 

When I was at school, I had a fantastic teacher who would read aloud to our class all the time. I particularly remember Colin Thiele’s February Dragon and loving that story. When I became a teacher, I adored reading to my own classes.   Hating Alison Ashley, Bridge to Terabithia and anything by Roald Dahl were firm favourites. 

 At the moment I’m reading lots of new books for children including The 26 Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, Mortified by Martin Chatterton, Ghost Club by Deb Abela, Saurus Street by Nick Falk and Tony Flowers and Lulu Bell by Belinda Murrell.  I’m also revisiting old favourites including Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce and Paddington Bear by Michael Bond.’

Jacqueline's website:


  1. Thanks Jacqueline.

    Lots of good baddies to think about! You have to wonder about the connection between the popularity of Roald Dahl's books and the many unpleasant villains that populate them - what is it that obviously appeals to so many of us?

    My top 5 villains are:

    The White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis;

    Shere Khan in The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling;
    Tigerclaw in the Warriors series by Erin Hunter;

    Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket;and

    Aaron the preacher in The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

    I like my villains to be a little unhinged. One of my favourites, from the animated film, The Incredibles, is Syndrome.

  2. It's too easy to make a hero, that's unselfish, good-hearted, kind, clever,and can do everything right.
    I detest those sort of characters.
    I love villains, that are witty,funny, cold, and evil. They are so easy to like , because they are more human.
    My top 5 favourite villains are:

    Mistress Coyle, from the Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
    Hester Shaw, from the Hungry City Series ( Although Hester is a bit of a good/bad guy)
    Lady Tamarind from Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge ( When I found out she was a baddy, I couldn't believe it)
    Shelter from Stone Cold. BEST VILLAIN EVER.
    China Sorrows from Skullduggery Pleasant.

    One of my favourite villains, is Azula from the Last Airbender series on Nickelodeon.