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The 10 Most Influential People Who Never Existed

How can fictitious characters influence us? For countless people literary and fictional characters from books, movies and now video games can inspire and move us sometimes more than living people. Man

How can fictitious characters influence us? For countless people literary and fictional characters from books, movies and now video games can inspire and move us sometimes more than living people. Many have pointed out that the transporter on the original Star Trek is like the cell phone, invented decades later. Indeed, things like iPhones and laser guns and all sorts of formative technology were imagined, in some form or another, in fiction long before they were invented.

A fictional character imparts wisdom, entertains, can engage our emotions and our loyalty. Indeed, over the course of history, stories have been told and retold and classic tales and tropes have contributed to forming the very fabric of society. The bogeyman, for example, exists in every culture in some variation and has been used to scare children into submission for hundreds or even thousands of years - though the source of the tale is unclear. In the same way, characters invented by authors that take hold of the imagination can spawn other innumerable variations and can profoundly influence cultures.

In 2006 Harper Collins published The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived. We have taken a look at which characters they placed at the top 10 and have analysed their places in the history books, introducing you to some of the most important fictitious characters of all time. Writers from all over the world - novelists, screenwriters, playwrights in every country and every era -aspire to create this sort of memorable character whose influence is so strong it jumps off the pages and into reality. What makes a character so powerful that it can be said to influence the world around us? To answer that, have a look at why these 10 characters thrived, survived and continue to spark discussion and cultural influence.

10 Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde:   Literature

This renowned book by R.L. Stevenson, published in 1886, was the first of its kind and has had a massive influence on “monster” literature since. Dracula was published 11 years after this, and all subsequent heroes and superheroes created by a maker or spurned despite their gentle inner natures owe something to Stevenson. There have been many JekylL and Hyde portrayals and offshoots. Eddie Murphy as the Nutty Professor was none other than Jekyll and Hyde in a modern (and comedic) guise. Although Alice in Wonderland predates Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, transformation is the only thing the books have in common. Stevenson’s book was the beginning of the iconic mad scientist.

9 Romeo and Juliet:   Theater

Were there ever such star-crossed lovers? Romeo and Juliet were not the first tragic pair (Tristan and Isolde, Troilus and Cressida), but they were the ones that caught the imagination of generations to follow. There have been many such tragic tales since, but none so noteable as this Shakespearian classic. Actors and actresses who have played the pair on-screen include Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes (1996), and Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey (1968). There have also been foreign versions, including Russian and even Bollywood, with a host of other films that are adaptations of the original play by Shakespeare. The play still graces stages the world over every year, and has also been adapted in operas and ballets.

8 Sherlock Holmes:   Crime

Sherlock Holmes, like his author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, used drugs recreationally, cocaine and morphine, both legal in Victorian England. Heroin was not, and so the character publicly derided it in the literature. R.L. Stevenson published Treasure Island just four years prior to the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes, but although we still (infrequently) use the expression “Man Friday,” it is Holmes and Watson who have really influenced the sidekick trope in literature, perhaps because of the extreme closeness of the two, or the fact that their appearance was serial. Everyone loves a good story that goes on and on.

7 Siegfried:   Theater

6 Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster:   Monsters

5 Hamlet :   Theater

4 Santa Claus:   Folktales

3 King Arthur:   Legends

2 Big Brother:   Propaganda

1 The Marlboro Man:   Commerce

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The 10 Most Influential People Who Never Existed