The best fantasy characters

GandalfThe fantasy genre has always been very good at portraying characters that are good or evil. In recent times this distinction has become blurred due to the new breed of authors creating sympathetic villians and flawed heroes.

We have put together a collection of our favourite characters from the fantasy genre. We have focused mainly on the best known and loved characters. Please feel free to email us with your favourite characters and we will add them to our list.

We will begin with the Lord of The Rings. Where better to start? In the good corner we have Gandalf, a kindly, yet powerful wizard who is a friend to all Hobbits. Gandalf is possibly one of the most readily identifiable characters in fantasy, from his first appearance in The Hobbit through to his starring role in The Lord of the Rings, he became known within and outside fantasy circles.

Ged from The Wizard of EarthseaWe will stay with wizards for our next selection. Ged, or Sparrowhawk, the young boy who becomes a Wizard in Ursuala Le Guin‘s Earthsea series is an endearing character whom we follow for childhood through to old age. He is a character that we can all identify with in that although he always tries to do good, there is always a darker side to us that is fighting the other way. He is, in our opinion, the greatest wizard in fantasy after the great Gandalf. If you want to read more about The Earthsea books, we have a full review of The Earthsea Quartet on this site.

Let’s move on and look at an character that would be classified as evil…

We have gone for Lord Foul, “The Despiser” from Stephen Donaldson‘s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant to be our first evil character. In a style similar to Sauron, he never appears in the flesh in the books but his spoken word is pure venow. His aim is to break the Arch of Time and gain revenge upon his enemy “The Creator”. Lord Foul oozes unpleasentness and evil throughout the series and his harm is often more pyschological than physical in its manisfestation.

Bilbo BagginsBilbo Baggins, no further explanation is needed! Bilbo has been enchanting readers for over fifty years. A comfort-loving Hobbit and star of the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo’s reluctant adventures in The Hobbit remain with anybody who has ever read and enjoyed the books. Perhaps it his unwillingness that makes him more appealing than most, a Hobbit who would be quite happy at home with the kettle boiling, he finds himself in conversations with a dragon, meeting trolls and fighting at the Battle of Five Armies. Bilbo has indeed taken his rightful place amongst the best-known literary characters.

Druss the LegendIf you prefer your heroic fantasy characters then David Gemmell‘s Druss the Legend should keep you going for years. He is an old-fashioned hero, a man not without flaws but a great man who lives by a code of decency. He can combat unsurmountable odds and even travel into the Netherworld to help friends. In Druss, Gemmell has given us a hero worth the name.

I think that David Gemmell was the foremost writer of heroic fantasy. Druss will appeal to readers of all ages and in Sieben, his loyal friend we have a great partnership that brings humour into a world full of violence, hurt and sadness. If you have never read any eroic fantasy before, give this a try, you will not be sorry. Read our review for Druss in The Legend of Deathwalker here.

There have been a couple of excellent suggestions since this page was first published in 2008 (the date today is July 4, 2011). They were for Tyrion Lannister from the ever popular G. R. R. Martin series, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Bartimaeus, the irascible djinni for Jonathan Stroud’s wonderful trilogy for older children and young-adults. So, without any further ado, here is a little information on both. If you have any other suggestions, please feel leave to leave them in a comment below.

Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion Lannister, a character in G. R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, is a misshapen dwarf nicknamed The Imp and The Halfman. He is capable of cruelty to his enemies but capable of great sympathy for fellow outcasts.

Bartimaeus, the titular character of The Bartimaeus Trilogy is a sarcastic and cheeky djinni of the fourth level and 5,000 years old at the beginning of the first book. His many masters have included Gilgamesh, Solomon, Ptolemy, Tycho Brahe, Faust, Zarbustibal, and, most recently, the British boy magician Nathaniel (known as John Mandrake to his peers), who is his master for the duration of the trilogy. His trademark cheekiness and wry, often hilarious side comments annotate the novels. Enjoying insulting his master for appearance, emotions, and stupidity, the chapters that he narrates often contain humorous footnotes that add information on the nature of spirits and his history. Although he is only a middle-class djinni, his quick wits often save him in difficult situations. He has a fairly large ego, due to his many accomplishments over the ages and often becomes indignant when forced to work with jobs he considers “unworthy of his talents”. He is fairly powerful for a Djinn, but has often been forced to retreat against stronger foes such as Jabor. He continually boasts of his many exploits.

13 Replies to “The best fantasy characters”

  1. One of my favorite characters in all of fantasy would have to be Raif Sevrance from J.V. Jones’ Sword of Shadow series. Besides having a spectacular name, he is very well written, as are a lot of her characters… especially the evil Baralis (who, btw, is not only in her Sword of Shadow series, but also in her Book of Words series, where he is introduced in an incredibly diabolical and evil début, and in the Barbed Coil book.

  2. I agree Nathan, they are two excellent characters. Younger readers who have enjoyed The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness (Wolf Brother) books will have also experienced a similar great relationship between Torak and Wolf and I would thoroughly recommend they move on to the Farseer trilogies as soon as possible! But going back to the Assassin trilogy the names that first come back to mind are Molly, Burrich, Verity, The Fool and of course Chade. Excellent characters, excellent books.

  3. Robin Hobb’s Fitzchivalry Farseer/Nighteyes should be added. Actually, the Assassin Trilogy contains several wonderful characters. Hobb does a fantastic job of writing characters that the reader truly cares for.

  4. It’s very funny that you mention Gemmell’s works, but didn’t say a word about Howard and his character, Conan. Sorry, but Howard is one the fathers of heroic fantasy and therefore more important. Gemmell himself said that he was inspired by Howard and that Druss is loosely based on Conan.

    Also your article forgot the works of Robin Hobb and Terry Goodkind, whom are very important writers.

  5. I will also cast a vote in favor of Tyrion Lannister. He is one of the most unique characters in all of fantasy literature and is the total hero archtype. But not because of his attitude or beliefs but rather of his size and birthing.

  6. Favourite characters would have to be Bartimaeus from The Bartimaeus Trilogy… (Jonathan Stroud)
    He is just brilliantly sarcastic.
    Mogget from Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Trilogy, as well as the disreputable dog.
    Oh, and Merry and Pippin from LOFR. 🙂

  7. In my opinion, the greatest character in the history of fantasy literature would have to be Tyrion Lannister from the Song of Ice and Fire series by G.R.R. Martin. His unrivalled cunning and sharp wit, combined with a tendency to be underestimated due to the fact he’s a (human) dwarf, make Tyrion Lannister a real player in the struggle for power in this epic series. For these reasons, and others, I would have to say that he is probably my favourite character in fantasy literature, and probably all literature. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for him in the coming books.

    Other great characters from the A Song of Ice and Fire series include Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane, Robb Stark the Young Wolf, Jon Snow, Arya Stark, Jaqen H’ghar, Dolorous Edd and many more.

    I also thought that I should mention Boromir as he is probably my favourite character from the Lord of the Rings series.

    Those are the characters i can think of at the moment.

  8. Hi jball, you are absolutely right about Jordan not having enough presence on the site. We hope to get the whole series read and reviewed as soon as possible. The reason I have put it off slightly is because I have read that the Wheel of Time series contains some of the best fantasy books ever but there are a couple of books that are hard going where nothing much seems to happen. This is, of, course, only what I have read and I look forward to making up my own mind. It’s nice to have what is obviously a quality fantasy series still unread.

  9. I’m very disheartened to see Robert Jordan being rather snubbed on this site. He is nowhere on the Top 100 list although his writing is much better than Le Guin and many others on the list including Farland and David Gemmell. While I enjoy all of their work and think the list has many of the best books, you cannot have a top 100 list and have not ONE book of the Wheel of Time series included. It is the closest in skill to Tolkien that I have ever read.

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