Character trope day! Hooray!
Enfant Terrible is a character trope where a child is the villain – a disturbing and emotionally powerful villain, capable of terrible things without remorse, much to the shock of everyone else in the story since in the real, normal, not scary world, children are pretty much innocent of truly bad deeds.
When a normal child messes up, it is a growing pain, an experience of life and learning.
When an Enfant Terrible messes up, it is because they failed to smother you in your sleep and are really bummed about it.
Enfant Terrible are a step past puppy kicking and being creepy. Enfant Terrible are the mutilating family pets and strangling neighbor kids in the woods out back villains that take scary to a whole new level. Enfant Terrible are honest-to-God dangerous. They will do terrible things to the other characters and enjoy it.
Unnatural, emotionless kids freak me the f-bomb out. Which is why they make such great characters (Great as in, awesome at being villains, not Great as in I want to have them round for cake sometime.) No one expects the apple pie twelve year old to be the villain and when they are, everyone looks for rational reasons why a little kid would do something so terrible. It has to be the parents. Bullies. Abuse. They never wonder if the kid was really a sociopath in miniature.
I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
Enfant Terrible are really hard to do well. Done carelessly they come off as caricatures of evil instead and you can see them coming a mile away. But sometimes, every once in a while, someone gets it right and whoa-nelly, I end up sleeping with a night light for a week.
In Orson Scott Card’s book Ender’s Game, Ender’s brother Peter is a classic Enfant Terrible. And he’s done very, very well. When Peter is torturing Ender in those subtle “Don’t want mom to find out” ways, I’m right there with Ender panicking. Here’s an excerpt:
He lifted his foot, took a step, and then knelt on Ender, his knee pressing into Ender’s belly just below the breastbone. He put more and more of his weight on Ender. It became hard to breath.
“I could kill you like this,” Peter whispered. “Just press and press until you’re dead. And I could say that I didn’t know it would hurt you, that we were just playing, and they’d believe me, and everything would be fine. And you’d be dead. Everything would be fine.”
Great Enfant Terrible in media and storytelling:
- Kasey in Katie Alender’s (AWESOME) Bad Girls Don’t Die YA novel (Sequel From Bad to Cursed is coming out soon YAY!!!!)
- Hit Girl from Kick-Ass (the comic and the movie, but WAY more from the comic. Girl freaks me out.)
- Henry, played by Macauley Caulkin, in the movie The Good Son is one of the best film portrayals.
- “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is an episode from the tv show Angel with a boy possessed by a demon. Only after the demon has been drawn out of the boy does everyone discover that the demon was not controlling the empty, emotionless, scary-as-hell kid out to kill his little sister. The look that kid gives his sister at dinner made my blood go cold. CREEPY. One of my favorite episodes of Angel.
- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have a song called “The Curse of Millhaven” about a 14 year old psychopath named Loretta. (Click on the link to YouTube to listen)
Hah! Probably not what you thought you’d be reading about on a Wednesday I’m guessing. Sorry about that, but having great villains is very important to me! It’s one of the five major food groups. If your villain sucks, you’re screwed.
Creative Commons Picture:
- Box o’Whine – This is a great little blog with a voice that cracks me up. It’s pretty dark humored but I like the author. I even wrote her a little haiku to go along with her haiku’s for her “B” day. Want to hear it? It goes like this:
May your April be
Blog post filled from A to Z
I’ll be back for C.
- Banned Libraries – not only a cool title for a blog, but actually about libraries. I’m assuming the author is a librarian based on some of the posts, but there is absolutely no information anywhere that I could find about the author. That’s too bad, but the blog is cool.
- Waiting on the Muse is a great little good looking writer blog. I like her A to Z posts so far. They are very writer friendly.
- *NOT part of A to Z, but Tahereh Mafi has a really great post this week called Naked in the Middle of Kmart and it’s all about being published. Highly recommend reading.