Should any character be both villain and hero?

Interesting things are happening in speculative fiction. New ideas are coming out and they must be analyzed to determine the validity of their argument. Today’s question: Can a fictional character be both hero and villain?

In the past I have not taken this concept seriously, but a couple of recent examples in film have made me consider this again and consider how to use this in my writing. The best example I have seen of this is in Disney’s Maleficent. Other stories have tried but most fail.

(Warning: the following material will give plot spoilers from the movie.) In Maleficent we find a startling re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is not a witch. She is a fairy. A human-size fairy but a fairy nonetheless. She is pure in her heart and that purity is taken advantage of by a greedy lad who steals first her heart and later her wings. What follows is Maleficent’s transformation into a vindictive creature who places the infamous curse on Aurora. Yet Maleficent is fated it seems to watch Aurora grow up, and she, like the lonesome creature she is, ends up fully vesting herself in Aurora’s future. The ultimate and fantastic conclusion to this is that the villain seeks to undo her own curse, even throwing her life on the line to selflessly protect an innocent life.

I have seen a similar concept attempted before when Marvel showed the progression of Magneto from lone wolf to repentant ally. But Magneto’s story did not leave me fully convinced that he was ever truly a hero. Left to his own devices again (and without an enemy common to him and Professor Xavier) Magneto, I have no doubt, would fall into other dark paths.

Can a character be both hero and villain? I think so. Under the right circumstances.

If we look historically we can find some interesting examples of this. An obvious example is Saul who was blinded on the road to Damascus and thereafter was called Paul. He went from persecutor of the church of Christ to one of its most prominent leaders. A leader of the faithful and a godly man. But that sort of shift, the change from villain to hero, is made in the change of a heart. Radical conversion is one example of this, and another avenue for this shift is if the individual in question is like Maleficent. She began as a child, then her heart hardened, but another child softened it.

Question: When do you think it is ok for a villain to become the hero in fiction?


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Most obvious thing about me is how much I love reading and writing. This is truly my passion and has been for almost as long as I can remember. I know that sounds cliche, but it is true. Growing up in a conservative Christian home I learned to value God, intelligence, and life. I am always learning. I am a husband and a father of three young children. I love my family and my life. God is good and I attribute my success to His provision.

Great fantasy stories are a lot of fun. I write the stories that I want to read and am fortunate enough to have several published novels under my belt as well as more in the pipeline.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Should any character be both villain and hero?

  1. I think the villain becoming the hero is only acceptable when the character has a change in heart. Personally, I love it when villains redeem themselves and are allies for the main character throughout the rest of the story.

    That being said, I get rather annoyed with villains who turn “good” because of their own selfish reasons. I also can’t stand “anti-heroes” or whatever they’re called. A hero should have human qualities; they’re not perfect, but having a hero with morals essentially the same as the bad-guys is not okay! The ends should never justify the means!

    It also really bothers me when villains established as pure evil are shown later as “Oh, they were just misunderstood. Here’s a sad origin story. Feel bad for the evil guys. They need your sympathy”. I’m all for villains having good origin stories, but I’m sorry, I don’t think one of the most loved Disney villains of all time should have a sappy origin story stating that “she was trying to be good, but the world was against her”. *Sigh*

    I haven’t seen Maleficent yet, so I may be judging it way too harshly. But seriously, Maleficent was the only reason I used to watch Sleeping Beauty as a child (She turned into a freakin’ dragon! Was that in the origin story movie?) and I guess it just really bothers me to see her as this weak person that we should feel sorry for. I just don’t think villains as a whole should be weak. Villains are supposed to be strong and threatening. At least in my mind.

    Anywho, I’m a bit ticked now. Reading this made me think of Kelsa, which made me think of your books, and now I have this need to read some more Appleton books but I don’t have any to read (*Flails* I’ve already read them twice!). Thanks Mr. Appleton, now even Rick Riordan doesn’t seem appealing. Oh well, I’d rather wait until fall and have a really good book then wait a short time and have a *insert whatever really bad books are called here*.

    • I’m sorry you don’t have any more Appleton books to read. If it’s any consolation I think In Search Of Dragons will be my longest novel yet and that’ll give you more story to chew on :)

      As to Maleficent, the idea in the movie reinvents her. In this story she doesn’t start out evil but in a moment of revenge against an unjust king she curses his child. What follows is a story I think you will enjoy. I always love a story that shows a character being redeemed from darkness.