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Great Villainesses In Literature

08/04/2014 08:15 am ET | Updated Oct 04, 2014

Our first year of marriage my husband affectionately nicknamed me, "Her Royal Highn-ess." Except, the way he pronounced it, I swear that "e" at the end sounded a lot more like an "a." A fact for which I clearly would've been insulted if (1) I didn't have my own precious nickname for him, and (2) I didn't wear that title with a good bit of pride.

"Just like all the great villainesses," I'd pat his cheek and tell him.

Because, really, don't we all love a good evil person? Some of the most memorable characters in literature are those wicked baddies we adore to hate. Perhaps that's because, on some level, we can relate to them (my husband would say some of us more than others, ahem). They've always been an essential part of good dramas, from fairy tales to modern classics. And, in my slightly jaded but always spot-on opinion, some of the best villains in literary history have been female, dating as far back as the monster Grendel's mother in the epic Old English poem, Beowulf.

Which would explain why, when writing Storm Siren [Thomas Nelson, $15.99], my absolutely favorite character to craft was Adora -- a gorgeous, calculating, older woman of means with an affectation for bizarre parties and flesh-eating animals. (Basically, she's a rich cougar who's a tad unhinged.)

I propose we revel in the wonder of a few other fictional villainesses who are just as endearingly evil. If not more so.

Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling Bellatrix is my all-time favorite. The ultimate BA on this list, she's the best known female Death Eater in the Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling, 1997-2007). Bellatrix Lestrange is almost as sadistic as she is skilled with her wand and Cruciatus Curse (thus making her AWESOME), and as Voldemort's loyal and trusted follower, she seems to prefer torturing her victims rather killing them outright. Heck, this sweet babe is such a blood-purist villainess she actually killed some of her own family!

Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey Ruling over the patients and staff of the psychiatric hospital in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Nurse Ratched is the terrifyingly realistic epitome of a twentieth-century villainess. With hospital superiors ignoring her creepy control trips and withholding of patients' medications, she's come to symbolize everything corrupt in the medical establishment. After all, how else would a lowly nurse be able to order electroshock therapy and lobotomies on "unruly" patients?

Shelob from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien The most terrifying spider ever put to print, Shelob's appearance in the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers makes arachnophobics the world over cry for their mommies. Not only is she a serious obstacle in Frodo and Sam's journey, but she's also unbelievably hard to defeat (unlike the spiders at my house which meet their doom at my flailing legs and hands). The sole non-human on this list, Shelob's insatiable appetite, paralyzing venom, and near-defeat of the entire series' quest makes her a perfect addition. However, it's the back story fueling her character that makes her one of my favorites.

Mrs. Coulter from His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman One of the most powerful (and manipulative) people in the parallel-to-our-own universe in His Dark Materials, Mrs. Coulter is the leader of the General Oblation Board- an organization that has been stealing children in order to detach them from their dæmons. While not above hurting her own daughter to get her way, the terrible Mrs. Coulter is actually one of the few villains redeemed by the end of her story arc through her ultimate love for Lyra. So basically she's both good and evil, and thus, wins all.

Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum Probably the best-known baddie on this list, the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz sends the fearsome creatures under her control to attack Dorothy and her companions. Though her attempts are thwarted, her use of the enchanted Golden Cap that controls the Winged Monkeys allows her to capture and enslave Dorothy and severely incapacitate all of her companions. The Wicked Witch plots to take the silver shoes from Dorothy, and would kill her if not for the magical protection bestowed by Good Witch Glinda's kiss upon Dorothy's forehead. Also, can we talk about that telescopic eye?

Cersei Lannister from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin Introduced in A Game of Thrones, the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, Cersei Lannister cheated on her husband with her twin brother, accused her other brother of poisoning her son, and then tried to have him executed for it. (Spoilers ahead.) She almost cripples Westeros' economy by refusing to honor the Crown's debts, and frames Margaery Tyrell for adultery and high treason because she sees Margaery as a threat to her power. There seems to be nothing that Cersei wouldn't do, and nobody that she wouldn't manipulate, to get what she wants. Verdict? She's kind of a serious creeper.

The White Witch from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis First seen in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the White Witch is later given a backstory in The Magician's Nephew (1955) that is both tragic and fascinating, involving her arrogant destruction of all life on her home world of Charn. Later transported to Narnia, she magically causes an endless winter to come over the land, terrorizing the inhabitants into submission. She kills the beloved protector of Narnia, Aslan, before being killed by him upon his resurrection. But even better than all her awfulness is the fact that she has magical Turkish Delight. Yum.

Milady de Winter from The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas A beautiful spy and assassin, Milady de Winter is one of the main antagonists of The Three Musketeers. (She also has the most awesome name on this list.) In the employ of Cardinal Richelieu, she's an essential figure in his plot to cause scandal for the Queen of France. Along the way, she causes trouble for the Musketeers by attempting to have D'Artagnan assassinated several times and even murdering his lover to get her revenge on him.

Adora from Storm Siren by Mary Weber Introduced in Storm Siren, rumor has it this villainous court advisor may in fact be based upon the book's author, Mary Weber. As the savior of Nym, a slave girl with storm-summoning powers, Adora seems to be nothing short of charming. But like all villains, her intentions are oh-so-wrong. Through mass manipulation, Adora plans to use Nym as a lethal weapon and gives Nym two options: comply with Adora's commands or be killed. As if that weren't weird enough, Adora's deep jealousy of Nym's new crush only deepens the malicious (and totally stalkerish) streak she has.