Hey, you. You’re finally awake…and just in time to read about the most iconic fantasy characters we’ve ever been graced with. Buckle in for some good old nostalgia as I walk you down memory lane to honor these fantasy greats.
What makes a fantasy character iconic? Seriously, I’m asking. Is it the instant name recognition of a Frodo Baggins or a Kvothe? The epic story of a Fang Runin or a Queen Talyien? The memeability of a Tyrion “I Drink and I Know Things” Lannister or a Cloud “Did Sephiroth… Do This” Strife?
That’s a really roundabout way of saying that each of the characters on this list is iconic for a different reason. Many owe their icon status to a non-book medium, such as a TV or movie series. One or two have never been in books at all, but have still managed to leave a lasting impression on nerd culture — and likely inspired a fun literary homage or two in the process.
As you might imagine, these aren’t necessarily the strongest, smartest, or most beloved characters out there. This isn’t a contest to see who would win in a fight. It’s about who has reached True Icon Status™…whatever that means.
Below, the most iconic fantasy characters of all time.
Most Iconic Fantasy Characters Ever
Aziraphale & Crowley
Good Omens Season 2 just hit Amazon Prime in July, and, although the series’ fans have been clamoring for more of Michael Sheen and David Tennant’s Aziraphale and Crowley, they’ve been delighting fantasy fans for decades. This lovable odd couple made their first appearance in Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens way back in 1990, and we’ve been shipping them ever since.
Speaking of delighting fantasy fans for decades, let’s talk about Bilbo Baggins. The hero — and original author — of The Hobbit first appeared in print during the Great Depression, making him the oldest character on this list by far. A lot of us slept on Bilbo for too long, but honestly? This ambivert is totes relatable, and his penchant for pragmatism makes him a truly wonderful — and devious — fantasy icon.
OK, so the eponymous hero of Fujiko F. Fujio’s Doraemon is technically a sci-fi character. I mean, he’s a robotic cat who has traveled back in time. You don’t get much more science fictiony than that. But I’m including him here for two reasons: 1) because the pocket on his belly functions, essentially, like Mary Poppins’s carpetbag, and 2) his general vibe leans a lot closer to a cozy, feel-good sort of fantasy. Also, he’s so iconic he was named Japan’s first animation ambassador in 2008.
Everyone’s favorite drow badass has inspired several generations of D&D players at this point. Drizzt Do’Urden is, for all intents and purposes, a gigantic Gary Stu. He’s hella powerful, always on the good guys’ side — even if he is a little chaotic — and he’s even Not Like Other Girls™…I mean drow. With all that said, he’s a cultural touchstone at this point, and The Legends of Drizzt are a whole lot of fun to read. So you gotta put at least a little respect on his name.
Everyone loves a Mama Bear, and Essun, the heroine of the Broken Earth trilogy, has Big Mama Bear Energy. When her husband murders their son and kidnaps their daughter, Essun sets out with a singular goal: avenging her children. Nevermind that the world is literally ending around her; she’s got one thing on her mind, and it’s some good old-fashioned vigilante justice. We stan.
OK, let’s be honest: who didn’t want to take a ride on Falkor’s back after watching The Neverending Story as a kid? Fans who haven’t had the chance to read Michael Ende’s 1979 novel will be happy to learn that the only Luck Dragon in existence is just as delightful in the original book, where he’s known as Fuchur. So here’s to Falkor — for inspiring our dreams and helping us believe in luck for close to 50 years.
The entire cast of The Princess Bride is utterly iconic, but Inigo Montoya has the fantasy icon trifecta: determination, a tortured backstory, and kickass sword skills. Then there’s actor Mandy Patinkin’s signature line from the 1984 film — “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” — which is equal parts memorable and memeable. 10/10. No notes.
Speaking of memeable, I would be remiss if I did not mention the most memed fantasy character of the century: Ralof, from Bethesda Softworks’ The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. If the name doesn’t ring any bells, perhaps you know him better for his signature line: “Hey, you. You’re finally awake.” Twelve years — and how many ports? — after Skyrim originally came out, Ralof will still be there to greet you upon each new playthrough.
In my humblest opinion, there’s no fantasy character more relatable than Usagi Tsukino. She’s not too bright, just wants to sleep in, eat cake, and read comic books, and really, really hates when people are treated unfairly. The eponymous heroine of Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon has nearly unlimited power at her disposal, and she uses it to fight for what’s most important: love and justice.
Three generations — Millennials, Gen-Zers, and Generation Alpha — have grown up on stories of teen protagonists coming into their power and leading rebellions against evil empires. For that reason, I’d like to formally submit Terra Branford as the ur-YA-fantasy heroine. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that Final Fantasy VI gives Terra the character arc she deserves, and in spades. If you haven’t played the game before, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy ASAP.
Want more awesome profiles of iconic fantasy characters? Check out these Myers-Briggs profiles of your favorite fantasy characters and find out which fantasy character you are.