Ever since I was three, my grandmother would read me the tales that began with a ‘Once upon a time’ and end with ‘…and they lived happily ever after!’ They were fairy tales that, just like any other kid, I had grown in love with and had taken inspiration from, delivering the same moral of ‘good triumphs evil’. Like Cinderella and her step-family, Snow White and her evil step mother, Rapunzel and the Evil Witch Mother who locked her in the desolate tower, Little Red Riding Hood and the Evil Wolf, to name a few. And, it had taught me one thing – Villains are pure evil and the heroes vanquish them.
But, as I grew up, I realized that something about the tales that I had read in story books and what I had learned from observing everything around me, that something did not add up. Which is when I had realized why my story lacked meaning, because the villains in my story did not live up to the hero that I was trying to build. And, that is when I had started to understand the truth. That, I had got the concept of a villain all wrong.
I revisited the fairy tales that I had read more closely, not for the plot but for the characters that make the heroes look great. That is when I had seen that the evil step-mother and the two step-sisters were insecure of Cinderella’s beauty and knew that they could never overshadow her. I had seen that the evil step-mother who believed that, without her beauty she was nothing. That the Evil Witch Mother had secretly longed for a family and was afraid of losing the one that she had nurtured. That, the Evil Wolf was pictured to be evil when he was nothing but following his animalistic instincts.
This is what I had understood, out of my experience, as well as the more mature storylines that I had come to familiarize myself with:
- Every villain is a hero in his own story and not all heroes are on the right side.
- Most formidable villains are just like the heroes, with the same emotional range, with the same ambitions, sometimes even with the same goals. Only the means of achieving them may be questionable in the eyes of the world.
- Villains are more realistic and appealing, if they were hardened by a reasonably disturbing past.
- Villains who are focused, mission-oriented and unstoppable in their questionable ambition to right the wrong in their eyes can make a hero look perfect.
- Every villain and hero follow the ‘yin and yang’ concept – Every villain has something good in him and every hero has some darkness in him.
At the end of the day, to summarize it all, neither is the villain the monster nor is the hero the light…
…it is all about the perspective of the storyteller’s idea.
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