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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Are Barons always Bad?

I had a thought in class today. This is rare because review class is kind of mind-numbing (necessary, but mind-numbing) and my thought is...

Has there ever been a GOOD fictional character with the title of "Baron" (or "Baroness")?

I mean, we see a lot of good and evil aristocratic characters in general, and I can think of good and evil Dukes/Duchesses, Counts/Countesses and so on. But every "Baron" I can think of off the top of my head (Red Baron*, Baron Zemo, the Baroness in GI Joe) is a villain.

Can you think of any good barons?

(Edited to clarify: I'm thinking specifically of fictional depictions of the Red Baron, a.la the Howling Commandos, Charlie Brown, et al. I'm generally unwilling to categorize most real life people as "heroes" or "villains" outside of a fictional context. :-))

26 Comments:

  • At June 23, 2010 7:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There have been some.

    TVTropes has something.

    The good Baron that I can think of off the top of my head is Baron Soontir Fel.

    "Baron Soontir Fel, the Empire's best pilot since Darth Vader died at Endor. Was a Farm Boy who, after stopping an Attempted Rape, got drafted into pilot training, was ruthless and very skilled, got promoted repeatedly and was given the title "Baron". Was Happily Married to Syal Antilles, very principled, knew what he was in the dark, decidedly not evil, but very complex, generally between an Anti Hero and a Noble Demon. Eventually switched sides, got kidnapped, joined Thrawn's Empire of the Hand, was cloned, and had a lot of kids, one of whom apparently married Leia's daughter. Soontir's great-grandson became Emperor, and inherited a lot of Soontir's traits, like being not evil but morally complicated."

     
  • At June 23, 2010 8:30 PM, OpenID jhota said…

    Horatio Hornblower is ennobled and created the 1st Baron Hornblower.

     
  • At June 23, 2010 8:38 PM, OpenID jkcarrier said…

    Baron von Munchhausen? He's a big fibber, but otherwise kind of cool.

     
  • At June 23, 2010 8:49 PM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    Do baronets count? Colonel Brendig in the Belgariad is a baronet, and he's a pretty good guy.

     
  • At June 24, 2010 12:12 AM, Anonymous heckblazer said…

    The Red Baron was a good guy if you were German...also, he was kinda nonfictional.

    Baron the Cat Baron in The Cat Returns springs to mind as a definite good guy.

     
  • At June 24, 2010 12:15 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    heckblazer: Point. I was thinking more American fictional depictions. :-)

    Matthew E: Come to think of it, I think one of the Church Knights in the Elenium/Tamuli might have been a baron. But they never used their titles, so I don't think they count.

     
  • At June 24, 2010 12:41 AM, Anonymous heckblazer said…

    Now that my memory has been jogged, the DC version of the Red Baron was a good guy, though I'm not sure if Hans von Hammer was himself a baron:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enemy_Ace

     
  • At June 24, 2010 6:22 AM, Blogger Menshevik said…

    Well, you got me there. I think it is because "Baron" is generally thought of as a title of nobility from German-speaking countries, and "German-speaking" plus "aristocratic" tends to equal "evil" most of the time in popular literature at least since the turn of the last century (note e.g. the way how Victor Frankenstein, originally a bourgeois, became "Baron von Frankenstein" in a few adaptations, many of which also transposed his home from French-speaking Geneva to traditionally "evil" Eastern Central Europe, e.g. Transylvania). Also, "Baron" alliterates with a lot of nasty words (Baron Blood, Baron Blitzkrieg, Baron von Blitzschlag).

     
  • At June 24, 2010 7:38 AM, Blogger Menshevik said…

    @ jhota and Matthew E

    Barons tend to be thought of as continental European titles. You have them on the British Isles as well, but there are relatively few and normally you don't speak of members of the British barony as "Baron so-and-so" but as "Lord so-and-so". The fact that the title "baron" is associated with Germany so much is because German barons are more numerous within their nobility. In France and Britain, barons form(ed) the lowest rank of higher nobility, while in Germany they form(ed) the highest rank of lower nobility. Also, in Germany "Baron" is not the official title but a colloquial synonym taken from the Anglo-French for the official title "Freiherr" (literally: free lord or free gentleman). (Feminine would be "Freifrau" (free lady), while an unmarried daughter is called "Freiin" ("free-ess")). Thus the Red Baron's real name was Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen and Münchhausen's Hieronymus Freiherr von Münchhausen.
    The baronetcy on the other hand is specific to Britain - it was instituted by James I as a measure to get money into his coffers (he sold baronetcies to anyone woul would pay 1000 Pounds sterling or provided 30 soldiers to serve in Ireland). So I think baronets are not as a rule thought of as evil (even P.G. Wodehouse's Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, 7th Baronet, is not quite as bad as the Earl of Emsworth and his brother The Hon. Galahad Threepwood think he is).

     
  • At June 24, 2010 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Baron Von Trapp?

     
  • At June 24, 2010 8:57 AM, OpenID bookslide said…

    Romance novels. Almost everyone who's titled is a good guy.

     
  • At June 24, 2010 9:54 AM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    even P.G. Wodehouse's Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, 7th Baronet, is not quite as bad as the Earl of Emsworth and his brother The Hon. Galahad Threepwood think he is

    Oh yes he is.

     
  • At June 24, 2010 12:52 PM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    DC has Baron Winter, who isn't a bad guy. Not really a good guy either I suppose...

     
  • At June 24, 2010 3:57 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Well, there was Baron Von Evilstein...oh forget it.

     
  • At June 24, 2010 4:12 PM, Blogger Seangreyson said…

    In the Valdemar series, the country's original ruler was Baron Valdemar. He eventually became a king because his people were embarrassed that his title was less impressive than their neighbors.

    Also the leader of the Belmont Clan, in Castlevania seems to have the title Baron.

     
  • At June 24, 2010 8:13 PM, Anonymous heckblazer said…

    Are barons really thought of as rare except for the continent? When I hear the word I immediately think of pissed-off English barons forcing King John to sign the Magna Carta. Am I just weird?

     
  • At June 24, 2010 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was going to say the Baron from Flash Gordon, but he's *Prince Baron* and doesn't count.

     
  • At June 25, 2010 3:23 AM, Blogger Menshevik said…

    @ Heckblazer

    Historically, and specifically in Plantagenet-era England, "barons" referred to a specific relationship between a superior (usually a monarch) and their noble inferior, comparable to (but apparently distinct from) that between liege and vassal. It only became a proper title or order of nobility later. The barons who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta (after he got beaten by the French) thus were members of various orders of nobility, what later would be called "peers".

     
  • At June 25, 2010 8:00 AM, Blogger Jeff said…

    Vlad Taltos is a Baronet in the Dragaera books. He's an assassin, but the protagonist of the books.

     
  • At June 26, 2010 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There was the vampire hunter Baron Vordenberg from 1872's "Carmilla".

    He was a direct inspiration for Van Helsing in Dracula.

    -Phil

     
  • At June 26, 2010 9:21 PM, Blogger David said…

    Baron Hans von Hammer, aka the Enemy Ace, works well enough, but if you wanted someone else...

    What about the Baron from 'The Cat Returns' from Studio Ghibli? (Yes, I know his name is Baron, but he's called Baron the Cat Baron, don't ask me why.)

     
  • At June 26, 2010 11:04 PM, Anonymous Kevin Lighton said…

    There was Baron von Joy in the Go-bots toys (who became Professor von Joy in the cartoon).

    And I don't think it was clear just where the Green Baron from the Micronauts fell on the good/evil scale.

     
  • At June 29, 2010 11:09 AM, Anonymous Dan Coyle said…

    That Baron Von Kissalot from the Simpsons seemed like an okay guy.

     
  • At June 29, 2010 5:20 PM, Anonymous D said…

    Just found this:
    Baron Buzzsaw
    a one shot hero for Dial H for Hero

     
  • At July 14, 2010 1:22 PM, Blogger Ethan Hoddes said…

    I think that what is meant is not that English Barons are rare compared to other nobles (Dukes, Earls, et cetera) but that they were rare (in the nineteenth century) compared with German Barons, who were more comparable socially with English Baronets or knights (I'm not a hundred per cent sure this is accurate, but I think it is what the previous poster was getting at). Count is also a characteristically continental title (in Britain they're Earls). And rather then being translated into English directly, the various equivalents of the title "Marquess" are usually rendered in English as "Marquis" or "Margrave" meaning they also tend to sound foreign.

     
  • At July 22, 2010 5:52 PM, Blogger Erich said…

    I know it's pretty late to comment on this post, but I recently discovered a "good baron" in a movie I taped off Turner Classic Movies last week. The movie was "The Fighting Guardsman," an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' "The Companions of Jehu." The hero was the Baron Francois de St.-Herman, a French nobleman leading a double life as a Robin Hood-like bandit. So there's one for the list...

     

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