Top 10 Fictional Men

Well, I am out of my bad mood of Friday (with no small thanks to you, dear blogging friends, and your lovely comments) and now I’m feeling frivolous. In fact, I can’t quite believe I’m doing this, when I should still be catching up on reviews, but here, to edify all my female blogging friends, and who knows, maybe a few males ones as well, is my list of top ten fictional heartthrobs. It’s all due to Becca suggesting it in the comments to the literary best friends post I wrote a few days back. It struck me then as a fun thing to do, although to be honest it was much harder than coming up with friends. Unsurprisingly, I turn out to have a certain type – intelligent, sensitive, a bit tortured. Scarily enough it’s not at all like the man I married, who is one of life’s cheerful puppy dogs…. clearly I like to separate fantasy from reality!

Julian from the Famous Five by Enid Blyton.

The first literary crush I can remember having, although I was too young to recognize it as such. I just liked the way he always knew what to do in a crisis, and how he led his friends without ever having to bully or blackmail or otherwise manipulate them. The only thing that spoilt it was that he shared his name with my brother, a deeply unromantic coincidence.

Rupert Campbell-Black from Jilly Cooper’s novels.

He’s not really the sort of man that I would choose in my older, wiser years, but as a teenager I was wowed by his glamour and his arrogance, not to mention his blond good looks. Jilly Cooper was always my favourite trashy read because she managed to create characters who were deeply flawed but somehow extremely sympathetic. You couldn’t help but be drawn into her world. Because she was in love with her hero, it was very easy for the reader to be as well.

Sir Lancelot from the legends of King Arthur and his knights of the round table.

Because isn’t this what lies at the basis of any sort of romantic attachment? The longing for an absolute, impeccable, immortal love, and a man who’s hardly ever home. Really, Sir Lancelot is a bit of a scoundrel, breaking up King Arthur’s marriage like that, but the thought of being chosen and taken, despite insurmountable odds, is a regressive but powerful fantasy. Here’s a rather nice photo of Ioan Gruffudd as Sir Lancelot, or at least, I think he’s playing Sir Lancelot. The site wasn’t altogether clear, but if I’ve made a mistake I’d rather not know about it. He’ll do.

Henry Tilney from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

Yes, I know, Mr. Darcy is the name you’d expect to see, and believe you me, Colin Firth as Mr Darcy is pretty high on my list of all time great eye candy. But I know I could never last five minutes with a sulky chops. Henry Tilney, by contrast, I adore; he is such a gentleman, so charming and funny and kind. And he accepts Catherine and all her quirks and foibles, nudging her back on course, never letting her wallow in humiliation. Yes, a 24-carat gold sweetiepie.

Father Ralph de Bricassart from The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.

I’ve written about The Thorn Birds many times on this site, and I won’t go over it all again. But undoubtedly Richard Chamberlain played an influential role in my romantic imagination; not that I’ve ever felt the urge to date a man of the cloth, I hasten to add. No, just stick a blonde wig on him and he is surprisingly like Mister Litlove in physical appearance. I wish I could say it was more profound than that.

Vicomte de Valmont from Les Liaisons dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos.

Valmont is one of the great seducers and manipulators of literary history, but what I like him for is his downfall. He falls in love with the woman he really is not supposed to, a good, virtuous woman, a woman he is supposed to be tricking for his own egotistical ends. Despite the fact she is everything he is not supposed to want, he loves her, will not deny her and fights to the death for her. Now that’s romantic.

Lord Peter Wimsey from the novels by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Intelligence is one of the great features of attraction for me, and Lord Peter not only has it, he is funny and laid-back and charming about having it. I confess that I am a fan of the BBC radio adaptations of these novels and Ian Carmichael, who plays Wimsey in the series, has an absolutely beautiful voice. That’s not a negligible factor.

Harry Haller from Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse.

My most eccentric choice, undeniably, but I admit I have a certain weakness for men in crisis. Haller is an outsider, a man stuck in inner conflict, trying to break out of a repressive sense of self and to access his more authentic emotions as well as his playfulness and sensuality. I do find myself attracted to people who want to get deeper into life, and who seek genuine self-awareness. That sort of journey fascinates me.

Adam Dalgleish from the novels by P. D. James.

Why are detectives so insidiously attractive? It may have something to do with the fact that they are master readers, piecing together a complicated past from a motley array of traces and clues. For that they need emotional insight, perspicacity, lateral thinking skills, sensitivity, sheer brain power. And I appreciate all of those qualities, and particularly when wrapped up in the figure of a gentleman poet. That Dalgleish turns the melancholy of his type into a creative endeavour is rather endearing.

Abelard from the old story of Abelard and Heloise.

Peter Abelard was a French philosopher in the twelfth century, and Heloise an educated young woman. Abelard became her teacher, moved into the house she shared with her possessive uncle, and began a love affair with her that ended in an illegitimate child. Abelard wanted to marry Heloise but her uncle, in his vengeful rage, had her sent to a nunnery, whilst he saw to it that Abelard was set upon and castrated. After that the two spent their life separated, but conducting their love affair through letters. I am a sucker for a well written letter. Affairs of the mind seem almost more enticing to me than physical ones, and the thought of receiving beautiful, intelligent, romantic letters sends a little shiver down my spine.

So those are my ten top men. Who would you choose?

28 thoughts on “Top 10 Fictional Men

  1. How fabulous to see Julian make the list! I remember having a crush on him back when all my friends had a thing for Sean Cassidy. And while Tilney is indeed wonderful, I personally have a thing for Mr. Knightley. And Adam Dalgleish! Yesyesyes. Yummy.

  2. What a fun list! I wouldn’t have thought of him but because you mention Adam Dalgleish I must agree. Smart and nice, catches bad people and is a poet on top of it. Yes, he’ll do nicely. But I will forever keep a flame burning for Atticus Finch.

  3. I’m sure I must have had some kind of a crush for Julian of the Famous Five as well, although he was probably named differently in French.

  4. I completely agree with your comments on detectives, although I don’t know Adam Dalgleish. The ones which spring to my mind are the sardonic Ellery Queen, and Roderick Alleyn from the Ngaio Marsh novels.

  5. Yup, it is a true story about Henry Tilney. I love him. He’s the only one of Austen’s heroes I would seriously marry. Mr. Darcy? Pfffft. But I probably wouldn’t marry Peter Wimsey. I can’t be bothered snuggling him for hours and hours every time a criminal gets executed. I live in America! I can’t do that much snuggling!

  6. Wonderful! I recently did a post on my top 10 fictional heroines, but am still debating which men would go on my top 10 list, so haven’t quite finished that one yet. I’m definitely with you on Henry Tilney though, he’s my favourite Austen hero.

  7. Oh, fun post! I may have to borrow it. But I’m afraid I’m not prepared to share Peter Wimsey, for whom the fires have been flickering these many years; on the other hand, obviously, one would have no choice about sharing Rupert C-B. As for Austen’s heroes, I have a soft spot for Col. Brandon, especially as portrayed by Alan Rickman.

  8. I love Tilney too! And if I married him, I wouldn’t have to put up with all the snobs Darcy associates with. 😉

    And I share your attraction to Dalgleish and Wimsey, although I’m not sure I’d actually want to be in a relationship with either of them. My fictional hero ‘type’ is so different from the guys I’m attracted to in real life!

    This is fun to think about…speaking of Ioan Gruffud, Horatio Hornblower is definitely one of my literary crushes. 😀

  9. I’m right there with you when it comes to Adam Dalgleish and Lord Peter. I was never impressed with Lancelot, though – maybe it’s the tights. I always liked King Arthur better and think Guinevere was totally undeserving – silly girl. If she doesn’t want him, I’ll be happy to take over for her. My sister found a copy of L’Morte D’Arthur in a used book store for me and I’ve been reading small bits of it determined to get through the whole thing.

  10. This is a great list! Does it count if I’m writing a crush at the moment? His name is Otto Bauer, from Munich, and he takes care of my protagonist in her moments of crisis. He sounds something like Henry Tilney. I’ll have to look at that book. Thanks for this great post!

  11. I can see I am really going to have to read Les Liaisons Dangereuses next year–that little blurb totally sold me! I like you’re list. I’m with Eva on Horatio Hornblower–he is a complete gentleman–definitely my type and it helps that Ioan Gruffudd played him in the movie. And yes, IG did play Sir Lancelot. I’ve always had a thing about Roux in Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, but then maybe I’m just visualizing Johnny Depp in the role… 🙂

  12. Dalgliesh and Finch. Without question. Robin Hood, too. Curmudgeonly loners (with heart!) and a rascal. Wonderful. Fun post, and yes, I’ll have to read Les Liasons Dangereuses too…

  13. Adam Dalgliesh and Franz Baer: oh yes!

    The protagonist of any Orhan Pamuk novel (all versions of himself)

    Guido Brunetti, hero of Donna Leon’s Venice police novels.

    I’m sure I will think of others.

  14. This post is so fun, lurve it. Literary man watching and it starts with a cracker, as I was one of many bookish British girls who thought Julian’s practicality was ever so dreamy 🙂 Lancelot though, eh, my feelings about him go back and forth with each new film/tv adaptation – in some I hate him, in others he’s just misunderstood. Ioan though, my feelings on him are very clear – he played Hornblower for hotness sake 😉

  15. Ariel – ooh I remember him! Yes, can understand your feelings there. 🙂

    Lifetime Reader – Sean Cassidy? Eww! Julian is by far the greater person. And Mr. Knightley is a good call. I could go along with that.

    Stefanie – when I was playing around the internet, thinking about who I could choose, Atticus Finch came up a lot as one of the great literary heroes. I am ashamed to say I have never read To Kill A Mockingbird. Perhaps I should start my 2011 reading list??

    Em – I am wondering altogether what the Famous Five would have looked like in French incarnation! Most intriguing!

    Bluestocking – that made me positively yelp with laughter!

    Karyn – Roderick Allen, yup, absolutely. But Ellery Queen I have never read – what an omission! Should do something about that.

    Jenny – lol! Hilarious. And of course completely true. You would waste half your life that way.

    Lilian – I don’t know Professor Baer, although from subsequent comments it is clear he is a popular choice. Nor do I know William Murdoch – I sense additions to the tbr pile!

    Carolyn – ooh I shall have to come and read your post on heroines. I’m so glad you like Tilney – he is such a poppet.

    Charlotte – Prince Caspian! The name alone is pure romance! And I love that Jackson Brodie is the other end of the scale – the kind of man one might feel the need to iron first.

  16. Eva – I have never read or watched the Hornblower series. I really ought to, for obvious reasons. And I so agree – my fictional type is completely different to the men I appreciate in reality (well, apart from Henry Tilney perhaps!).

    Margaret – aww, isn’t that nice and even-handed? I need to find out who this Professor Baer is, clearly.

    Grad- oh I believe there are more than enough Knights of the Round Table for us all to share around! 🙂 I’m reading Rosemary Sutcliffe’s account of the legends and there are indeed a lot of them. Jolly reading, though, in its way.

    Melissa – I cannot think of anything nicer than writing a crush. How lovely to bring one’s perfect man to life!

    Danielle – I have fond memories of Johnnie Depp in Chocolat. And I can also see how watching Ioan Gruffudd in just about anything would make for a character that sticks in the mind. He really is uncommonly handsome.

    ds – Robin Hood! That’s a pretty good idea. Yes, there is something very attractive about that vigilante type. I do hope you enjoy Les Liaisons Dangereuses – I can see I really need to read To Kill A Mockingbird….

    Caroline – Philip Marlowe! You all keep coming up with good ones I’d not even thought about. Felix Krull I don’t know, although I feel I should…

    Jean – I so keep meaning to read Donna Leon. I hear you on Orhan Pamuk. His protagonists are so deliciously obsessive.

    Jodie – He really is a gorgeous man, isn’t he? I know what you mean about Lancelot. I’m reading Rosemary Sutcliffe’s adaptation of the legends at the moment, and she takes Mallory as her source. I was surprised to read that Lancelot is supposed to be a very ugly man, only he has an undefinable something that drives women wild. That I was not expecting at all.

  17. I used to devour Thomas Mann. He can be tiresome at times but The Confessions of Felix Krull are absolutely enjoyable. Unfinished though. Try it, he will cheer you up…

  18. This was great fun to read! Adam Dalgleish would probably make my list, too. And Atticus Finch. As I said before, Thomas Lynley from the Elizabeth George novels, and probably Inspector Banks from Peter Robinson’s series (obviously I have a deep penchant for forlorn British detectives…must investigate further…)

  19. Great list! You make me want to read all these books right now! Wouldn’t that make a fun reading spree? 🙂 I fully agree with you on Wimsey and Dalgliesh, although I’m more of a Darcy kind of person than Henry Tilney (although actually living with such a person would be an entirely different matter!).

  20. Pingback: Top 5 fictional men | Musings from the sofa

  21. Pingback: Erri de Luca: Tre cavalli aka Three Horses (1999) The Scent of Earth, Sage and Flowers Pervading a Story of Love, Pain and War « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

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