Villains in the Dresden Files?
[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B004GB1I3C” cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51uqu2Wf3rL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”buzmag-20″ width=”146″] If you are reading this, you probably know who Harry Dresden is. If not, he is Chicago’s only Private Investigator slash wizard. He’s in the phone book under “Wizards.” One day when I have achieved a thing called “disposable income” I am going to personally drop the 4 grand it’ll take to make a little box ad for Harry Dresden in the Chicago Yellow Pages.
One of the things I like about Jim Butcher’s books so much is that in the Dresden Files Harry Dresden is a white knight doing the right thing every single time no matter the cost to his personal well being. He puts his life on the line as quickly for a box of puppies being assaulted by giant purple apes throwing flaming poo as he would to save the world. Harry is a hero’s hero, there’s no denying it. But you have to admit Harry is a hero only because there are villains. Without the guys who wear the Black Hats there is nothing to compare Harry against. Some old Roman senator whose name I am too lazy to Google right now (and you should finish reading this blog before you go and Google anything) once said something like “You are defined as who you are by your enemies.” As time wore on that seems to have evolved into “That which does not kill me makes me stronger” by Friedrich Nietzsche (a phrase he borrowed from the Latin proverb “quod does non iuguolo mihi , tantum planto mihi validus”). If that were true, Harry Dresden would be Superman, Green Lantern, Black Adam, Martian Man Hunter and Wolverine all balled up into one.
Harry hasn’t died yet and his power level is in fact increasing a little bit with each passing book. Good thing too, because his adversaries are getting more powerful as well. For a long time now there has been a lot of talk about the White Council having cracks in its foundation and that there is something like a Black Council alive and active somewhere out there. Harry has long held this belief to be true and the newest book, “Turn Coat” covers a lot of ground in this area.
There is no denying that the fallen archangels, the Members of the Order of the Darkened Denari are evil. Fallen Angels by definition are evil beings. They admit to it and do nothing ever to promote or foster any ideas to the contrary. Justin DeMorne is evil, trying his hardest to kill lots of people to further his evil goals. But those are the easy evils in the books. Deep dark solid black, the shade of black that New Yorkers like to wear.
Harry is a Byronic hero, his white hat doesn’t gleam with the that blings like a starburst off a set of perfectly brushed teeth. Therefore his villains are not the black of the abyss but rather a bit grey. Wicked to be certain the whole lot of them, but I rather like that suspense, a lingering doubt of their being capable of having a moment of clarity and coming around to our way of thinking, even if just for a moment. Why shouldn’t I hold out for that moment? Lash, a fallen angel who was imprinted on Harry’s brain was with him for a couple of books and even she, a fallen angel, an agent of evil, she sacrificed her life, her immortal being to save Harry. So what about the other big bads that linger in the grey?
There was a time when mob boss “Gentleman” Johnny Marcone was Harry Dresden’s biggest concern. When Storm Front, book 1 in The Dresden Files opens Marcone is little more than a bent nose gangster who knows just a little more about magic than your average bear but not enough to be a danger to Harry. Marcone is dangerous, don’t misunderstand me, all powerful and rich men are, but Marcone is not a real villain per say in the world of magic. Not until he gets to know Harry, and magic, better. As the books progress so does Marcone’s danger level and it is in fact the driving force in at least three of the books. Although they have worked side by side to fight against a common enemy, when the dust settles Marcone goes back to his daily grind al la Sopranos meets the Unseelie Court. Marcone, whose eyes are the same shade of green as the color of money, is truly dangerous because of how damn likable and brave he is. (Brave is not heroic, in Marcone’s case its bravado.) Harry can never let his guard down for one second. Never let his heart rule his head. Never let his desire for all the material and financial comforts that Marcone can freely and willingly provide ever get the better of him. It would be like having to drive cross country with the Devil himself riding shotgun in the car alongside you. How long do you think it would take before the conversation began to take a dangerous turn?
The ass we love to hate, Donald Morgan, the man who wields a sword about seven miles long. This is a guy who is clearly not a black hat wearing bad guy. He is forthright and trustworthy and seemingly incorruptible. Without flaw to exploit or a haunted past to throw back into this face there is nothing one can do to deter Morgan once he has decided someone is “evil.” If he ever got a look at himself he would have to fall on his own sword. Since about chapter four of Book 1, Morgan has been a frog’s hair away from killing Harry every single time they have so much as been in the same room with one another. Morgan is of the opinion that Harry is not redeemable and should be killed. It matters not that Harry has saved the world bunches of times. Morgan’s mind is made up and he is always looking for some legal way, some honorable means by which he can justifiably kill Harry. And yet Morgan, who is not a bad guy, per say, is always on the look for a way to kill the hero of the books. Is that not the very definition of bad guy, “the guy who tries to thwart the hero?”
As a general rule, all of the fey who fall under the dominion of the Winter Court are perceived as evil, and Mab is their Queen. Her lips are the color of frozen raspberries and her voice is pure music to hear. She is rather insane and quite homicidal and holds the debts that Harry had originally owned to his fairy godmother, a banshee. However, in her defense, is Queen Mab really evil? After all, the fey are by their nature, well, nature. A hurricane is not evil but rather its effect upon the world of man is perceived as such. That is not to say that Mab is a largish inconvenience of the weather that would take FEMA a week to respond to but rather that we cannot hold her and her kind to our human standards. Just as meteor showers and earthquakes do not shun hurricanes we should not do the same to her. What we need to do is keep the heck clear of her and never confront that wack-a-do because she’ll do worse than kill a fella, just ask her last Knight, Lloyd Slate. He’s been being tortured for the last four, five books now. She won’t let him die and he is so messed up at this point that he is actually begging her to torture him because he is so in love with her that it is the only time he gets to see her anymore. That is a special kind of insane. Mab promised Harry that she will let Lloyd die but only when Harry replaces him as her Knight. OK, so maybe she is evil, but I suspect it is because of all the crazy flakes she’s been chowing down on. Since most states don’t hold crazy folks to the same level of criminal prosecution-ness as sane people I guess what I am saying here is that if she is as mad as a hatter, shoot her down like a rabid dog. If she is sane, write off her behavior as her fairy nature. Mab is basically a no-win situation.
Is Lara Wraith a villain? Hello, yes she is, but not necessarily evil. True, she enjoys her work, running her family’s porn empire. And yes, she is a vampire so killing humans is par for the course, but a person’s race does not genetically predispose them to be evil, that’s crazy Nazi talk. Lara is usually doing what is necessary to see to the longevity of both her particular family as well as her species. True there are occasions when Lara’s orders put her and hers at odds against Harry, but she is very willing to listen to what others have to say and make an informed decision. Sometime she “changes sides” as it were, but really, she is only doing what is best for her family.
All of the afore mentioned folks are largely considered to be “bad guys.” Marcone is a mobster making his money illegally and killing people who get in his way. Donald Morgan was a man whose moral compass was demagnetized and used his holier-than-thou backlighting to blind himself and others to what he was really doing, killing people. Queen Mab a stark raving lunatic, rabid as a dog and twice as dangerous, killing for both business and pleasure. Lara Wraith, matriarch to her family of vampires, killing to live and manipulating the lives to others to achieve petty personal goals. All evil, but not one of them is 100% villainous.
Btw, don’t waste your time Googleing the name of that Roman Senator who said “you are defined by your enemies.” Its an old quote attributed to no one, and every 50 years or so its pops back into the main stream. But feel free to attribute it to me. It wouldn’t be villainous to do so, just ever so slightly unethical.
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