The literary world is home to some of the greatest villains of all time. Aside from the fact that it is the oldest media, dating back since our origins in caves, the fact that books are not constrained by time limits allows a more in-depth look at everything that’s going on. This is especially true for villains, as the increased space allows for even more room with which to develop their character, backstory, and reason for becoming evil, which enhances their villain-ness exponentially. By getting to know the character, it’s possible to either love them or hate them depending on their reasons for doing evil things, again allowed by the fact that you have more time to get to know them. Sometimes you might even find “villains” in the role of protagonist, and one of my favorite books that demonstrates this duality is the villain Artemis Fowl II, from Artemis Fowl.
Artemis Fowl is, to put it bluntly, a genius. He is easily the most intelligent person his age, if not on (or under) this planet. After his father’s apparent death, he used his intellect to pursue more criminal pastimes, following in the footsteps of his forefathers, a long line of major criminals. While this in and of itself is not very villainous, as many stereotypical bad guys inherit their villainy through their family or are supergeniuses, one thing makes Artemis a very atypical and interesting foe is this: he is only twelve years old at the beginning of the first book in the series. Though only twelve years of age, Artemis is not only the most intellectual being in the world, he also demonstrates a condescending demeanor, cold expression, and social isolation, acting much older than he truly is. One might expect this “man in a child’s body” to be almost comedic in its implausibility, but never once does the author consider Artemis to be amusing. He combines the confidence, wisdom, and arrogance of his vast intellect with his youthful determination and flexibility to create a truly strong character, capable of seemingly anything.
In the book, Fowl has recently set his eyes on a new target: Fairies. Determined to extract a large amount of gold from the underground society of magical creatures, who are actually much more technologically advanced than humans and only possess minor magical traits, Fowl and his butler Domovoi Butler kidnap a member of the Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance forces (or LEPRecon) named Captain Holly Short after deciphering a book written in the fairy language, Gnommish. This is followed by a lengthy hostage situation, in which the fairy police force attempts numerous times to retrieve the Elvin captain, throwing up a field that stops time around his home, but all attempts to free her are met with failure. Artemis constantly shows his intellect by staying five steps ahead of his enemies almost all the time, butting heads with the LEP resident genius, – a centaur names Foaly – until the 5th act when things go completely haywire. However, in the end, Artemis is successful, managing to secure half the gold he demanded, along with a wish, in exchange for the Elvin captain, even managing to avoid being killed by a bioweapon intended to kill him and his bodyguard by escaping the time stop field.
Possibly the most interesting aspect of Fowl’s character, however, was the fact that he always had the opportunity for redemption throughout the story. Artemis’s criminal activity can find its root in the apparent death of his father two years prior to the events in the book, and it can be argued that he only ever considered crime as a result of him attempting to keep his father’s memory alive in any way he could, even through evil activities. Despite being a cold, calculating villain, who played everyone in order to accomplish his own ends, he never recklessly endangered anyone’s lives. When he did things that crossed the border between cunning and evil, he felt bad, and we knew about it. For example, when his hostage, Holly Short, woke up in her cell, he lied to her, telling her that he had discovered about the world of the fairies by drugging her and forcing her to divulge those secrets. This caused Capt. Short severe emotional distress, as her betraying those secrets to a human was punishable by eviction from fairy society, and this in turn caused Fowl to wonder if he had perhaps gone too far in his scheme. Along with a few other heart wrenching moments that occurred, in the end Artemis took his chance for redemption, trading half of the ransom in exchange for curing his mother of a mental illness that had afflicted her since the death of his father. Though Artemis continued his criminal activities in the next two books, he eventually completely turned his back on villainy, joining together with the fairies multiple times to save the world, using his vast brainpower to prevent evil from occurring again, often against series regular Opal Koboi. This fundamental change in his view on life, from pessimistic villain to altruistic hero, gives hope to the reader, by showing them that it is always possible to turn away from evil, that it is never too late to give up.
Though I have yet to finish reading the entire series of books, Artemis Fowl, the evil boy genius, has always captured my imagination. From his very reasons for engaging in criminal activity to his redemption, the Artemis Fowl series has always managed to convince me of its realism, despite the fact that a majority of the characters in the series belong to races that do not exist. Fowl is a highly realistic villain, and realistic characters are the ones that usually do the best work, as the writer doesn’t have to go out of their way to explain their action, or make use of overused clichés by writing away their actions as eccentric or “evil for the hell of it.” His actions speak for themselves, and, though he doesn’t often show them, he does have emotions. The Artemis Fowl series is definitely one that could stand the test of time, as could Fowl himself.