Sometimes a bad character just ruins a good book. Here are our picks - 3 each - for the most irritating characters in fantasy.
Chime in with your own pick in the comments (we may even have PRIZES).
HE SAYS: Tom Bombadil is a given on this list. Fellowship is a surprisingly annoying book anyway. Tolkien has a lot for which he should be held accountable, and his addiction to self-indulgent, italicized word-vomit world-building is right up there on the list. Tom Bombadil is this, on legs, dancing a shitty little jig. He's a dull, meandering, action-suck that makes an adequate-if-plodding book into an outright dull one.
SHE SAYS: If Tom Bombadil drags down Fellowship, there's no question in my mind which character drags down the entire trilogy - Samwise Gamgee. All high fantasy is painfully, anachronistically nostalgic about feudal society, and no author more so than Tolkien, who added a dash of conservative 19th century social rhetoric to the mix with Sam and his forelock-tugging servility. Peter Jackson did manage to make the character more or less tolerable by turning Sam from Frodo's servant into Frodo's friend, but don't get me started on Sean Astin's appalling accent. No. Don't even try.
More from both of us after the jump...
HE SAYS: Even setting aside the fact that he's meant to be four-footed Jesus, Aslan is the worst part of the Narnia series. He's a deus ex felina that shows up, on average, six times throughout the course of each book. Whenever anyone is in the least bit of danger (emotional, physical, spiritual), Aslan saunters in, stares disapprovingly, yowls a bit and sorts the whole thing out. He's also, until the advent of Polgara, the smuggest creature in fantasy. Actually, I'll get to Eddings with my next pick.
SHE SAYS: I'd like to add JK Rowling's Dobby the House-elf to the list of deus ex somethingas. Although the house elves were Rowling's attempt to inject some pointed social commentary into her beloved fantasy series, the proof of the pudding is in the eating of it. So irksome are the house elves that multiple subplots about them were axed from the movies. Unfortunately, this included some of the little character-building that wasn't about Harry, with Hermione's budding social conscience inspiring her to try to make the world a better place for someone besides The Chosen One. Fortunately, their exclusion means moviegoers aren't subjected to scene upon endlessly dull scene with the squeaky-voiced Dobby "hilariously" making life more difficult for Harry time and time again, as in the books. (Though the wonderfully dour Kreacher gets a pass from me, just for being a pain in everyone's ass.)
HE SAYS: Ce'Nedra. This whiny little object is everything wrong about women in fantasy, with the aforementioned Polgara the Smugeress in a close second. Whatever points Edding gets for not making Ce'Nedra a big-boobed blonde are swiftly counter-acted by the fact that she's a whiny, semi-adolescent, self-absorbed princess (literally) with no redeeming appeal at all. Which means, of course, she's the love interest. And her closest brush with heroism? She makes speeches to lure men into battle & gives her dad a heart attack by throwing a temper tantrum. Progressive.
SHE SAYS: So we want to talk about what's wrong with women in fantasy, do we? I'll take your Ce'Nedra and raise you a Goldmoon, the magical noble beautiful innocent ethereal dainty elegant graceful "barbarian"-lady of the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy. From her ridiculous high-fantasy name (Goldmoon?!) to her ridiculous high-fantasy description (tall, silvery-gold blonde hair, and “like the face of a marble statue- classic, pure, cold.”) to her ridiculous high-fantasy role (she heals because she is a delicate lady and ladies heal), Goldmoon ain't pushing the gender-envelope very far. Everyone loves her because she's so incredibly beautiful and lovely and sad and lovable; everyone protects her because she's so graceful and delicate and lovely and sad (and useless). In addition to being the female half of Dragonlance's nod to Noble Savagery (a barely-disguised analogue of the American plains Indians), Goldmoon is presented as the ultimately desirable, ultimately untouchable embodiment of perfect femininity - and a complete contrast to the other type of woman represented in the Dragonlance novels, the stupid, earthy, fur-bikini-wearing, shag-happy barmaid Tika Waylan.
SPECIAL BONUS HATE!
HE SAYS: Anomander Rake aka the Mane of Chaos aka Lord of Moon's Spawn aka Son of Darkness. Want to know why I only made it through one book in the oft-vaunted Malazan series? Here's your answer: the super-tall, super-powerful, warlock-warrior-dragon-ninja-sorceror with the nine-foot-deathsword and the ability to turn into a dragon at will. Presumably he also shits lightning and can slay a displacer beast at twelve paces with his adamantine nipples. You know what? I PLAYED HIM WHEN I WAS TWELVE. My psionic kensai/sorceror fought 67 Asmodeuses and took their Ruby Rods of power before having awesome sex (whatever that was) with a village stuffed with nubile princesses. So screw you, Anomander Rake, Son of the Mooning Darkness, my character would have you.
What about you? Who do you have pegged as the most annoying character in fantasy?