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Mary Robinette Kowal – The Top Ten Evil Queens of Fantasy

One of the biggest draws to fantasy is the nobility — the Kings and Queens who exert dominion over magical lands. But there’s an interesting trend with Queens: They have a striking tendency to be evil. Forget “Who’s the Fairest.” Let’s talk body count.

10. The Queen of Hearts, Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Queen_Alice_Wonderland.jpgThe Queen of Hearts is one of the most famous fantasy dictators, and made the list purely for her periodic declarations of “Off with her head!” More mad than truly evil, however, she regularly threatens death and never manages to kill. That’s no way to get a-head in life.
Attempted Bodycount: Everyone
Actual Bodycount: 0

9. The Wicked Queen, Snow White (1937)
Snow_White_Queen.jpgVanity is the driving motivator behind the Wicked Queen, who forces her stepdaughter to live as a scullery maid until the girl’s beauty threatens her own (Ironically, beautiful this Queen ain’t). The only obvious choice is to send a huntsman to cut out her heart. When that fails, what’s a queen to do but turn to poison apples? Which only put her to sleep. Nice try, but fail.
Attempted Bodycount: 2
Actual Bodycount: 0.5

8. Queen Narissa, Enchanted (2007)
Enchanted_Queen.jpgNarissa (Susan Sarandon) can only retain her power if her stepson never marries. Naturally, when he falls in love with Giselle (Amy Adams), this is a problem. As wicked Queens go she’s fairly tame, starting with a simple banishing. But when that fails, Queen Narrisa falls back on tradition and sends poison apples.
Attempted Bodycount: 3
Actual Bodycount: -1 (She loses points for lack of originality)

7. Queen Tamora, Titus (1999)
Titus_Queen.jpgAfter Titus (Anthony Hopkins) kills her eldest son, Queen Tamora (Jessica Lange) swears revenge. She doesn’t have magic, but she does have the lockdown on sultry. After sleeping her way back into power as the Queen of Rome, she becomes a regal Ahab, motivated solely by her desire to seek vengeance by killing Titus’ entire family.
Attempted Bodycount: 11 (not counting the war)
Actual Bodycount: 3

6. The Mirror Queen, The Brothers Grimm (2005)
Grimm_Queen.jpgA 500-year old Thuringarian Queen lives in a tower and uses — wait for it — magic to maintain her dominion. Apparently being a queen and a witch go hand in hand. Unfortunately, her immortality does not come with eternal youth, so the only way she can regain her appearance is to drink the blood of 12 beautiful young women. She comes close, ultimately her outlook is a bit grim.
Attempted Bodycount: 12
Actual Bodycount: 11

5. Queen Taramis, Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Conan_Queen.jpgTaramis (Sarah Douglas) wants a magic gem — shocking, I know — in order to awaken the god Dagoth and take over the world. The catch is that it can only be touched by her niece who she’s also planning to sacrifice. This is not the way to be a good aunt.
Attempted Bodycount: Thousands
Actual Bodycount: 4

4. The Queen of Shadows, MirrorMask (2005)
MirrorMask_Queen.jpgThis Queen is pretty much the worst mother ever — treating her daughter as if she were a pet. So what happens when your pet runs away? You get a new one of course! But sending the heroine to bed without supper is one step too far. Oh yeah, and this “role model” kills a ton of people, too.
Attempted Bodycount: Thousands
Actual Bodycount: Thousands

3. The White Witch, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
Narnia_Queen.jpgI will grant that the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) does not have the title “Queen,” though she rules over Narnia for centuries as if she were. She keeps the land in perpetual winter and turns all who oppose her into stone — plus she tries to kill Aslan, the story’s Christ figure. Completely ruthless, she is also easily the best-dressed.
Attempted Bodycount: Thousands
Actual Bodycount: Thousands, plus Jesus

2. Queen Bavmorda, Willow (1989)
Willow_Queen.jpgBavmorda (Jean Marsh) has it pretty good. She rules over her land with an iron fist and enslaves people as casually as others might smash a bug. Her reign is threatened when a prophecy warns that a child born with a specific birthmark will bring about her downfall. But pride is this one’s deadly sin: Ignoring the cardinal rule of fantasy that you can’t escape a prophecy, she imprisons all pregnant women in order to kill the babe. Never underestimate a prophecy — nor a dwarf.
Attempted Bodycount: Babies! Mothers! Anyone who angers her!
Actual Bodycount: All of the above, except the child she needed to kill.

1. Akasha, Queen of the Damned (2002)
Queen_Damned.jpgThis one ought to be pretty darn obvious just based on the title. Akasha (Aaliyah) is the first vampire ever created and has a very simple plan — kill every man and boy minus a few for breeding stock. Anyone who opposes her is an enemy and also killed. The bloodshed, even for a vampire, is immense.
Attempted Bodycount: Millions
Actual Bodycount: Thousands

Who do you think is the most evil fantasy Queen? Click here to vote in the poll.

Mary Robinette Kowal is the winner of the 2008 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a professional puppeteer. Her first novel Shades of Milk and Honey is being published by Tor in 2010.

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