Book review and quiz answers: The Fictional 100

The Fictional 100:
Ranking the Most Influential Characters
in World Literature and Legend

The Fictional 100

Author: Lucy Pollard-Gott
Publisher: iUniverse
Release date: Jan 23, 2010
Pages: 475
ISBN: 978-1440154393
Genre: Literary Criticism


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Having some common interest in literature with the author, we happened to have some online exchange, and one day Lucy generously offered to send me a copy of her impressive The Fictional 100. I decided to read a bit of it daily, and I’m really excited to be able to present to you this book today. It is a unique reference book that every lover of books should REALLY consider reading.

In the introduction, Pollard-Gott explains how she did the ranking, whom she included or not.
It was a real eye opener for me. I thought I knew some things about of literature, well, I only know a tiny bit in my corner of this world and time. Right know, there’s a common discussion among publishers and book bloggers about literary diversity. Perfect time to read this book!

What I really liked about this book :

  • it includes characters coming from world literature across the ages, from the Bible, Greek Classics, to 1987 (with Beloved)
  • and across the continents or even the galaxy (the first search for extraterrestrial intelligence was dubed Ozma!)
    I discovered so many characters from African, Indian and Chinese literature I had never ever heard about!
    It was fun to discover that Cinderella indeed originated in China, well the tiny foot part of the story does make even more sense in that context
  • the author is so good at showing how a same character evolved between ages and places (700 variations for Cinderella!)
  • she shows this for instance for some major archetypal characters, such as tragic lovers, and the trickster
  • a most fascinating element of the book is about how a character inspired many other arts, and how it ended up not only in other novels of all kinds of genres (Beowulf in science fiction!),
    but also on the stage, in movies, operas (Carmen), musicals (Jean Valjean), in TV series,
    in paintings, in Orthodox iconography,
    in cards games (Genji),
    in psychology (Oedipus, the Peter Pan Syndrome), in social behaviors (large number of suicides because of Tokybei and Ohatsu; repercussions of Uncle Tom in Thailand!), even in religion (a cult developed in India based on the heroine Draupadi!), just to name a few examples
  • the author sometimes reflects on the possible reason for the fame of a character (Alice, and many others)
  • each section is easy too read and short, an average of 3 or 4 pages per entry, with occasional illusteations


Intelligent panorama de la littérature mondiale, insistant spécialement sur la répercussion de la présence de ces personnages dans tous les arts.

VERDICT: Smart presentation and ranking of literary characters, across countries and times. If you believe in diversity in literature and consider yourself a lover of books, you absolutely need to have this reference volume on your shelf.


The Fictional 100 presents one of the strongest collections of literary characters enclosed in a single work, serving as a reference for lovers of the classics, a source of debate for critics, and a guide for those curious about the canon of great world literature.
The Fictional 100 offers–in short, readable chapters–the triumphs and tragedies, romantic escapades, and adventures of the most interesting people in world literature and legend. Each chapter begins with an epigraph in the character’s own words, which reveal something of each one’s unique style and personality, starting with the famous “To be, or not to be” from the brooding Hamlet. Then each character’s “life story” is recounted, typically emerging in one or more key works of literature, but often continuing to evolve in music, film, and other literary works far removed from the character’s time and place of origin.
Students will find a ready resource for their research needs, from biblical and Arthurian legends to Shakespeare and the chief figures of the modern novel. The Fictional 100 compiles a wide selection of critical responses to each character, spanning numerous works and varied media.The Fictional 100 selects the most enduring and compelling characters from six continents, and traces the reasons for their unique appeal, which may lie in a deep psychological or mythic resonance, the artistry of their presentation, or the special circumstances of time and society that brought them into being and sustain their popularity.
Please go to the author’s website to read a much longer presentation of her book, as well as the list of the 100 characters the way she ranked them.


Lucy Pollard-Gott

Lucy Pollard-Gott holds an AB, summa cum laude, and a PhD in psychology, both from Princeton University, where she specialized in the psychology of the arts. Her scholarly articles have been published in such journals as Discourse Processes, Cognitive Psychology, and Poetics. As a psychologist and critic, her literary research has addressed the structure of fairy tales, attribution theory and the novel, and fractals in the poetry of Wallace Stevens.  A native of Binghamton, New York, she now resides in Princeton, New Jersey.  The Fictional 100 is her first book.

She shares the latest news and reviews about the Fictional 100 characters, along with other books she’s reading, at her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.  She especially likes to read what others are writing about books they like, stories that move them, or characters who have changed their lives.


  1. Hamlet; Odysseus (Ulysses); Don Quixote
  2. “To be or not to be”
  3. Dream of the Red Chamber
  4. Sherlock Holmes
  5. The Mahabharata
  6. Frankenstein
  7. Werther
  8. Cinderella
  9. Carmen
  10. Anna Karenina
  11. Things Fall Apart
  12. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
  13. Chin P’ing Mei
  14. Pinocchio
  15. Jane Eyre
  16. Captain Ahab
  17. Kalidasa
  18. Hester Prynne
  19. Native Son
  20. María
  21. Dorothy Gale
  22. Rip Van Wrinkle
  23. Botchan
  24. Beloved
  25. Personally, I have only read 8/24!

 Eiffel Tower Orange

Who would be your favorite three characters?
What’s your result to the quiz? What’s your biggest surprise?

Eiffel Tower OrangeEiffel Tower OrangeEiffel Tower Orange

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges

Nonfiction 2015    New Authors 2015         


10 thoughts on “Book review and quiz answers: The Fictional 100

  1. Emma, I am floored by your thoroughness and thoughtful, generous words about the book. You present so well WHY I wrote the book, as I hoped to discover and share what I had found out about diverse literature, showcasing the characters who were important to readers and cultures around the world. I have also been so fascinated by the way characters like Sherlock Holmes “live” in our world and pop up in so many different guises. More gratitude than I can even express, so I’ll just say, Merci Beaucoup!!


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