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From fairy tale he­roes to gothic-grotesque foes, take a trip to the light fan­tas­tic this Di­wali with our pick of the best char­ac­ters from fan­tasy fic­tion

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Our pick of the top fan­tas­tic fig­ures from fan­tasy fic­tion.

Lyra Belac­qua in North­ern Lights by Philip Pull­man In­tel­li­gent and re­bel­lious, 12-year-old Lyra Belac­qua is the plucky hero­ine of this epic youn­gadult novel, and must use all pow­ers at her dis­posal – in­clud­ing skew­ing the truth, earn­ing her the nick­name Lyra Sil­ver­tongue – in or­der to fight her cor­ner in the cos­mic bat­tle in which she be­comes en­tan­gled. Set in a par­al­lel universe that’s at once both for­eign and fa­mil­iar to our own, the or­phaned Lyra is raised by schol­ars at Jor­dan Col­lege in Ox­ford Univer­sity, but her des­tiny and the search for her miss­ing friend Roger lead her on an ad­ven­ture into the Arc­tic, where she en­coun­ters big themes that will spark even big­ger imag­i­na­tions. Bilbo Bag­gins in The Hob­bit by JRR Tolkien “In a hole in the ground there lived a hob­bit.” When Tolkien first scrib­bled this sen­tence while mark­ing stu­dent ex­ams, he couldn’t pos­si­bly have known the legacy it would lead to. Now, al­most eight decades af­ter the 1937 chil­dren’s fan­tasy novel was first pub­lished, the char­ac­ter of Bilbo Bag­gins is bet­ter known and loved than ever. Played by Martin Free­man in the movie ver­sions (watch out for the sec­ond film in the Hob­bit tril­ogy this win­ter), much of the charm of Tolkien’s master­piece lies in Bilbo’s skit­tish and homely na­ture. Talked into join­ing a per­ilous ‘ad­ven­ture’ de­spite his in­nate hob­bity pref­er­ence for com­fort, quiet and cake, the out­side world of magic, elves and evil brings out the brav­ery in the bum­bling Bilbo, mak­ing him a qui­etly hu­mor­ous and lov­able hero. Tyrion Lan­nis­ter in Game of

Thrones by Ge­orge RR Martin “My mind is my weapon,” says Tyrion Lan­nis­ter, the shrewd and in­tel­li­gent ‘imp’, whose diminu­tive size means he must get by on his wits alone in the bru­tal fan­tasy world cre­ated by Martin. Ev­ery­one’s favourite char­ac­ter – in­clud­ing that of the au­thor him­self – Tyrion’s sharp hu­mour and quick tongue

en­able him to de­flect the mock­ery oth­ers would in­flict on him for his dwarfism, and his strong per­son­al­ity means that he’s made nei­ther mad nor bad (as so many other GOT char­ac­ters are) by his dif­fi­cult start in life. Played by Peter Din­klage in the TV se­ries, Tyrion fans can look for­ward to Oc­to­ber 29, when a spinoff book ti­tled The Wit and Wis­dom of

Tyrion Lan­nis­ter – a com­pi­la­tion of his quotes from the se­ries – will be re­leased on Ama­zon.com. Oz in The Won­der­ful Wizard of OZ by L Frank Baum The name­sake of Baum’s fa­mous fan­tasy tale is rarely phys­i­cally present, but re­mains a com­pelling sym­bol of a char­ac­ter through­out. Cher­ished by the munchkins and revered as mag­i­cal, om­nipo­tent and the only pos­si­ble an­swer to the prob­lems of Dorothy and her com­pan­ions, the elu­sive wizard even­tu­ally turns out to be no more than an or­di­nary cir­cus ma­gi­cian, whose ar­rival in the land of Oz was just as ac­ci­den­tal as that of Dorothy’s. Benev­o­lent, but a con man none­the­less, the wizard’s un­mask­ing is the ul­ti­mate an­ti­cli­max, and has fu­elled many dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions – from those who see the book as po­lit­i­cal al­le­gory (where Oz is the US pres­i­dent), to those who see it as a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the in­ad­e­quacy of adults. Steer­pike in Gor­meng­hast by Mervyn Peake The ruth­lessly am­bi­tious anti-hero of this sprawl­ing and eerie fan­tasy se­ries, Steer­pike is a clas­sic Machi­avel­lian schemer, who rises by hook or by crook up through the cas­tle ranks from his start as a 17-year-old kitchen boy. His com­bi­na­tion of fast wit and ut­ter amoral­ity – “if ever he had har­boured a con­science [...] he had by now dug out and flung away the awk­ward thing” – makes him one of the most dan­ger­ous yet ir­re­sistible char­ac­ters in Peake’s un­set­tling world of gothic grotesques. Played by the hand­some Jonathan Rhys Mey­ers in the TV adap­ta­tion of the novel, Steer­pike serves as proof of the in­eluctable charisma of a good old­fash­ioned vil­lain. Su­san Peven­sie in The Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia by CS Lewis The sec­ond-old­est of the four evacuated Peven­sie chil­dren, who find them­selves in a grand old English coun­try manor – which also hap­pens to con­tain a wardrobe-shaped por­tal to another di­men­sion – Su­san is prac­ti­cal to a fault. She re­fuses to be­lieve in the ex­is­tence of Nar­nia un­til she goes through the wardrobe her­self, where she ac­quires amaz­ing war­rior abil­i­ties. But with age comes su­per­fi­cial­ity, and Lewis was crit­i­cised for the am­bigu­ous end to this once-vivid char­ac­ter, who be­comes “in­ter­ested in noth­ing ex­cept ny­lons and lip­stick and in­vi­ta­tions”.

West­ley in The Princess Bride by Wil­liam Gold­man Os­ten­si­bly the retelling of an old his­tor­i­cal ro­mance by [the fic­tional] S Mor­gen­stern, the main ac­tion cen­tres around Princess But­ter­cup and West­ley, the oh-so-earnest farm boy who is in love with her. De­ter­mined to win her heart, he runs off to sea and learns lan­guages, duelling and wrestling to be­come her per­fect man. Both mak­ing use of and pok­ing fun at tra­di­tional fairy-tale tropes, this is one of the most gen­uinely witty fan­tasy books you’re ever likely to come across, and the 1987 film ver­sion has gar­nered a pas­sion­ate cult fol­low­ing. Yoda in the StarWars se­ries by var­i­ous au­thors It might be cheat­ing to choose a char­ac­ter that orig­i­nated in film rather than lit­er­a­ture, but we couldn’t do jus­tice to our roundup with­out men­tion­ing wise old Yoda. Of an un­known species, the stern yet pow­er­ful Grand Mas­ter of the Jedi Or­der is an ex­cel­lent swords­man and war­rior, with a par­tic­u­larly idio­syn­cratic syn­tax. His oblique pon­der­ings bor­row much from East­ern phi­los­o­phy, and the wiz­ened wise­man has been a large in­spi­ra­tion for the tonguein-cheek Jedi ‘re­li­gion’ of the more ec­cen­tric StarWars fans. Harry in the Harry Pot­ter se­ries by JK Rowl­ing While the se­ries is pop­u­lated with a host of en­gag­ing and lov­able char­ac­ters, and fans could ar­gue about which is the best in­def­i­nitely, it’s Harry, the “scrawny, be­spec­ta­cled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard,” who first in­spired JK Rowl­ing to put pen to pa­per. An or­phan with a great gift for magic, Harry over­comes the many ob­sta­cles he faces – from the school­yard bul­ly­ing about his ‘half-blood’ sta­tus, to the evil of Lord Volde­mort – with courage and dig­nity. He may not be as funny as Ron, or as com­plex as Snape, but his moral strength, unswerv­ing loy­alty, and mod­esty makes him a great role model and our se­ries hero. Rincewind in Dis­c­world se­ries by Terry Pratch­ett Rincewind burst on to the scene in Colour of Magic, the first of the 39 Dis­c­world nov­els penned by Terry Pratch­ett pub­lished in 1983. A failed stu­dent at ‘Un­seen Univer­sity’ for wizards, he sur­vives dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions mainly by run­ning away from them. Known for his ‘abil­ity’ to solve mi­nor prob­lems by turn­ing them into ma­jor catas­tro­phes, he’s a cowardly but hi­lar­i­ous char­ac­ter, who has con­trib­uted to mak­ing Pratch­ett the sec­ond-mostread au­thor in the UK af­ter JK Rowl­ing.

Lyra’s dæ­mon,

Pan­ta­lai­mon ac­com­pa­nies her ev­ery­where she goes

(From left) Harry Pot­ter, Ron, Hermione star in Harry Pot­ter and

the Philoso­pher’s stone

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