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Surtur included in the Daily Telegraph's list of literature's 50 greatest villains
20 September 2008
Surtur by John Charles Dollman

The Daily Telegraph places Surtur at #37 in its list of the "50 greatest villains in literature", beating C S Lewis's White Witch and Mervyn Peake's Steerpike, but failing to top Lovecraft's Cthulhu, Tolkien's Sauron, or Milton's Satan (who's in the #1 spot).

Of A Voyage to Arcturus, Christopher Howse (whose other picks are Svengali from Trilby and Claudius from Hamlet) says:

"No one in this anomalous classic of science fiction comes off very well. Despite his best intentions, the hero, Maskull, keeps killing people. Surtur is the greatest villain in the universe because he is its malevolent maker."

Petty as it seems to quibble with any promotion of Lindsay's work, it is, of course, Crystalman who is the villain — or, at least, whose name is the most unambiguous term for the book's villain. Exactly who "Surtur" is is a bit of a confused issue in Arcturus, starting with Joiwind saying "Surtur" is another name for Shaping, "Shaping" later being identified with Crystalman. But on the last page, Krag says to Nightspore that he is Surtur.

Surtur perhaps gets his villainous air from his origin as destroyer of the world in Norse Myth:

"The one who sits there at land's end to guard [Muspell, the region of flames,] is called Surt; he has a flaming sword, and at the end of the world he will come and harry and will vanquish all the gods and burn the whole world with fire."

— Kevin Crossley-Holland, The Penguin Book of Norse Myths, p. xxiii
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