Complex Characters: (Not) My Hero, Klaus

Randomly, I have been thinking if there have been any protagonists in YA books who are clearly not a hero, but not a villain either.  The closest I could come up with is Mara Dyer in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Truth bomb: I am obsessed with The Originals and a large part of that is because of Klaus Mikaelson.

When Klaus was first introduced in The Vampire Diaries, he was the villain. Like straight up. He killed Elena’s aunt. He terrorized the residents of Mystic Falls. But somewhere along the way, fans fell in love with him. I personally fell in love when he revealed his softer side to Miss Caroline Forbes.

And then he jumped ship to his own show.  And suddenly, the villain that had been developed for a season and a half became the protagonist of another. At first, I wasn’t so sure I would like this. Klaus was THE villain. Yes, he had some redeeming qualities, but even he would admit he was evil.

However, as the second season develops, I find myself getting sucked in (pun totally intended).  He still does the villainous things, and other characters view him as a villain, but, especially on the most recent episode, Klaus has greater complexity. He admitted to killing a beloved character, even though he didn’t, because everyone else needed to fear him. We can debate whether this actually played to his advantage or not, but I digress. The videos below give a bit better context to the situation.

Unlike Rumpelstiltskin, who reveled in being a villain, and Snape, who was a conflicted hero, I am not sure what Klaus is. He certainly acts like a villain, but I am not sure he revels in it. More like a hurt child acting the way everyone says he must.

There are now books about The Originals, but I would love to see a YA book tackle a protagonist like Klaus, a character everyone else views as evil, but that we as readers can see differently. Actually, Julie Plec should just write that book for me.

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Complex Characters: The Guilty Pleasure of Rumpelstiltskin

Warning***Spoilers***

In honor of one of my shows returning (Once Upon a Time), I have decided to do a complex character study of one of the best villains: Rumpelstiltskin. I honestly would love to see a YA book about a villain and the best example I can point to for an example of a villain people can connect to is Rumpelstiltskin.

If you don’t watch the show, you should. The video below contains major plot spoilers for the third season, but it is a GREAT example of Rumple actions and driving reasons.

So let’s start.

Rumpel becomes the Dark One because he wanted to save his son from the army. He becomes addicted to the power and uses it to protect his son, but also to punish people who have wronged him.

This addiction is central to how Rumpel loses his son. But the power also allows him to see how he can get his son back. Rumple uses his dark powers to play with people’s lives so he can arrange the sequences of events (i.e. making the Evil Queen actually evil, killing people, conning them into doing things for him) that eventually causes the curse which was the endgame to getting to his son

So though he does evil things, he does them for reasonable reasons.

But what I love about Rumpel is that he OWNS it. As he says in the video, “I’m villain.”

For all that he loves his son, and his girlfriend, he admits he is the villain. There is no apology and there is no removing his agency.

Something that irritates me with female villains lately (**Cough** Maleficent), if that they act out but their stories make it clear they are not evil. Rumple owns his villainhood.

I would love to see a young adult book about a villain who owns it. They do evil, they acknowledge it, but at the same time, the reader can identify with some of the choices.

Rumpelstiltskin is a complex character I can get behind. Hence my guilty pleasure in loving him.