Great fictional characters from Scotland

25 Nov 2012
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From Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter to Toad of Toad Hall and Peter Pan, many of the world's most memorable literary characters were brought to life in Scotland. We take a look at ten of the best below.

Harry Potter

The biggest phenomenon in 21st century children's fiction was brought to life in Scotland's capital city.

J K Rowling famously wrote the first of her Harry Potter books in a series of cafes in her adopted home of Edinburgh.

Her stories of the bespectacled boy wizard and his adventures at Hogwarts have since become an incredible global success.

The series has sold more than 450 million books in 67 languages, set records as the fastest-selling books in history and been turned into a series of big budget Hollywood movies which continue to break box office records.

Toad of Toad Hall

Despite being written more than a century ago, Kenneth Grahame's tale of the riverbank and the rich cast of animal characters that inhabit it is still much loved by children of all ages.

The largest of life of all of these characters is without doubt the impulsive Mr Toad. Known for his love of fast cars and the sound of his own voice, Toad constantly gets into trouble, including being jailed, but always bounces back.

Edinburgh-born Kenneth Grahame's 1908 children's classic started out as a series of bedtime stories for his son Alastair.

Some have suggested 'The Wind in the Willows' was inspired by the Crinan Canal because Grahame spent some of his childhood in Ardrishaig, Argyll.

Sherlock Holmes

The world's best known detective Sherlock Holmes was created by Edinburgh-born writer Arthur Conan Doyle.

The character of Holmes was said to have been inspired by Dr Joseph Bell for whom Doyle had worked as a clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Famous for his logical reasoning and his use of forensic science skills to solve difficult cases, Holmes made his literary debut in 1887 and has grown in popularity ever since.

The Guinness World Records has consistently listed Sherlock Holmes as the 'most portrayed movie character' with 75 actors playing the part in over 200 films.

Peter Pan

Scottish author and dramatist J.M. Barrie found international success and acclaim with his immortal - figuratively and literally - creation, Peter Pan.

The enduring story of Peter, the boy who refuses to grow up, Wendy and the Lost Boys has enchanted both adults and children across the world.

First performed as a stage play in 1904, Disney's iconic feature-length animated cartoon brought the adventures of Peter, Wendy, Captain Hook and Tinker Bell to the big screen in 1953.

Today, over 100 years after the play first debuted on the London stage and more than 70 years affter Barrie's death, Peter Pan still fires the imagination.

The 2004 film 'Finding Neverland' turned the story of how Barrie was inspired to write Peter Pan into a critically acclaimed movie starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet.

Long John Silver

Stevenson's swashbuckling pirate villain Long John Silver is without doubt one of the most powerful and formidable characters in literature.

Cunning, disloyal and a cold blooded murderer, Silver can also be extremely charismatic and is quick to inspire trust in those who meet him. He also seems to have a genuine fondness for the story's young protagonist Jim Hawkins and eventually becomes a father figure to the boy.

Stevenson's 1883 adventure novel 'Treasure Island' and the character of Long John Silver has greatly influenced today's popular perception of pirates - including treasure maps with an 'x', the Black Spot and one-legged seamen with parrots on their shoulders.

Miss Jean Brodie

Muriel Spark's much-loved 1961 novel introduced the world to the fascinating character of Jean Brodie, a schoolmistress at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburgh in the 1930s.

The unconventional Miss Brodie, who has chosen to dedicate the prime of her life to the girls she teaches is one of the most complex characters in Scottish fiction. Both attractive and repellent at the same time, her passion for teaching is to be admired. However, as the story unfolds, her hold over her chosen group of pupils - her crème de la crème - becomes increasingly ominous.

The character of Miss Jean Brodie brought international fame to Spark, who died in 2006 at the age of 88.

The book has been adapted for TV, stage and screen and includes a memorable 1969 performance by Maggie Smith who went on to win a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the eccentric teacher.

Para Handy

One of Scotland's best-loved literary creations, the Highland skipper and his exploits on the puffer boat known as the Vital Spark first came to public prominence in 1905.

More than a hundred years later and the puffer boat's famous crew- skipper Captain Peter MacFarlane (aka Para Handy), engineer Dan MacPhail, Dougie the shipmate, Sunny Jim and The Tar continue to captivate generations of fans with their antics.

The characters were born from the imagination of Neil Munro, a journalist and writer from Inverary who came up with the idea to fill his weekly newspaper columns.

Inspector Rebus

Detective Inspector John Rebus was first introduced to the world in Ian Rankin's 1987 book 'Knots and Crosses', and has since gone on to become one of the most memorable characters in Scottish fiction.

The former SAS operative turned hard-drinking detective is the focus of a series of detective novels that have sold millions of copies worldwide in 20 languages.

Rebus' daily investigations involve tackling Edinburgh's grim underbelly, introducing readers to an alternative side of the city that lies behind the normal tourist haunts.

The celebrated maverick detective has been brought to life on screen by Scottish actors John Hannah and Ken Stott.

Fife born Ian Rankin, a graduate of Edinburgh University, is one of Scotland's most commercially successful writers. He has received numerous crime-writing awards including America's celebrated Edgar Award for the book 'Resurrection Men'.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' met with immediate success when it was published in 1886, selling 40,000 copies in six months.

Described by its writer Robert Louis Stevenson as a 'fine bogey tale', it tells the story of Dr Henry Jekyll, an outwardly respectable doctor who transforms himself into a savage murderer, Mr Edward Hyde.

Stevenson's dark fable and its exploration of the duality of human nature has inspired hundreds of stage and film adaptations. This includes a 1947 Tom and Jerry film in which the mouse is transformed into a monster after drinking a saucer of milk spiked with bug powder!

Oor Wullie

Ok, not generally regarded as a literary character as such but no list of top Scottish fictional characters would be complete without a reference to Oor Wullie.

The spiky-haired, bucket-sitting comic strip hero first conceived over 50 years ago has a special place in the heart of Scots.

The first Oor Wullie cartoon ran on 8 March 1936, in the newly launched "Fun Section" of the Scottish newspaper, the Sunday Post.

Drawn by artist Dudley D Watkins in his trademark black dungarees and tackety boots, Wullie caught the imagination of young and old with his comedic misadventures.

Still going strong to this day, the loveable tearaway is described in his annual Christmas compendium as 'Oor Wullie! Your Wullie! A'body's Wullie!'

Test your knowledge of with our Scottish fictional characters quiz

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