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For other uses, see The Bad Man. A female villain is occasionally called a villainess. French villeins in the 15th century before going to work, receiving their Lord’s Orders. None of these acts necessarily occurs in a fairy tale, but when any of them do, the character that performs the act is the villain. The villain, therefore, could appear twice: once in the opening of the story, and a second time as the person sought out by the hero.
When a character performed only these acts, the character was a pure villain. The functions could also be spread out among several characters. Two other characters could appear in roles that are villainous in the more general sense. One is the false hero: this character is always villainous, presenting a false claim to be the hero that must be rebutted for the happy ending. Among these characters are Cinderella’s stepsisters, chopping off parts of their feet to fit on the shoe.
Another character, the dispatcher, sends a hero on his quest. This might be an innocent request, to fulfill a legitimate need, but the dispatcher might also, villainously, lie to send a character on a quest in hopes of being rid of him. The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an example of a literary villain.
In fiction, villains commonly function in the dual role of adversary and foil to the story’s heroes. In their role as an adversary, the villain serves as an obstacle the hero must struggle to overcome. In their role as a foil, the villain exemplifies characteristics that are diametrically opposed to those of the hero, creating a contrast distinguishing heroic traits from villainous ones.