Books have always contained some of the darkest, most callous and unfeeling characters from the blackest corners of the human imagination–walking manifestations of the most horrifying qualities of mankind. Not many of these anti-heroes tend to be female, however, which is fortunate because when women choose to kill, they do it with heart-stopping efficiency.
5. Lady Macbeth (Macbeth)
It would be an understatement to describe William Shakespeare’s well-known Scottish play as dark. And although the plot centers around the up-and-coming Thane who is the namesake of the production itself, the catalyst for the carnage originates from the desires of his lovely wife. Obsessed with the idea of becoming Queen, Lady Macbeth manipulates her dutiful husband into murdering his liege lord, causing a domino effect of betrayals and stabbings. As is typical with Shakespeare’s literary MO, the deadly Lady is driven mad by her own violent actions, causing her to scrub constantly at a phantom spot of the King’s blood on her own hands.
4. Madame DeFarge (Les Miserables)
In the years just preceding the bloody French Revolution, Madame DeFarge sits in the back corner of her husband’s shop and knits. What does she knit, you ask? Scarves? Sweaters? Perhaps a nice tea cozy? Actually, Madame DeFarge is knitting the coded names of every aristocrat and every spy she would like to see. Headless. And she has a long list. So when the tables turn and the poor take arms against the rich, everybody who got on Mrs. DeFarge’s bad side suddenly has a large guillotine to worry about.
3. Morgan le Fay (The Legend of King Arthur)
Don’t let The Magic Tree House series paint this young lady as a benevolent but misunderstood lover of books and children. In reality, she’s an incredibly evil enchantress/fairy/witch, who, more than anything else in the world, wanted to replace Guinevere as the Queen and Arthur’s wife. When that didn’t work out, she manipulated a young girl to kill off the coolest character in the story, Merlin, by sealing him eternally in a magic tomb.
2. Milady de Winter (The Three Musketeers)
Cardinal Richelieu’s beautiful spy is a master at the subtle art of political sabotage and straight-up murdering people. To kick off the story, de Winter steals the diamonds the Queen of France had been given by the King. Unfortunately, she steals them from the Queen’s secret lover, the odious Duke of Buckingham, threatening to cause crap to hit the political fan, so to speak. When she is foiled by the protagonists, Milady returns to England and convinces a loyal Englishman named John Felton to murder the good Duke, then leaves him to his fate. To top it off, she then returns to France to poison D’Artagnan’s (the protagonist’s) lover, Constance, until she is finally caught and beheaded. As if all this wasn’t enough, it is revealed that she began her life of fun and games as a nun who stole from a church, seduced a young priest, and once again left him to die for her crimes.
1. Jadis, AKA The White Witch (The Chronicles of Narnia)
You may remember this old girl from the first book of the Narnia adventures, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which she ruled the land with an icy fist and turned talking animals into statues for kicks. Not only did she cause the deaths of thousands of amiable woodland animals, she also negotiated the ritual killing of Aslan, the coolest and most powerful lion ever, and probably the Narnians’ last hope for a better future. But the real reason Jadis is number one on this list is her history, as described in The Magician’s Nephew. As it turns out, the Witch is originally from an ancient city called Charn, in a world entirely separate from our own (or even Narnia, in which she is Queen.) For some reason, (probably because she’s a complete psychopath,) the people of Charn rose up in arms to dethrone her. So what does she do? Nothing much. She just casts a spell by speaking the “deplorable word”, which ends all life except hers. The entire population of Charn falls to the ground, dead, in an instant. After that, she puts herself in a state of hibernation until some unfortunate soul awakens her, so she can have a fresh start with a whole new world of people.