Mar 6 2012 11:00am

Shot Through the Heart! Our 10 Favorite Fictional Archers

Our 10 Favorite Fictional Archers

Though Obi-Wan Kenobi claims a lightsaber is an elegant weapon for a more civilized age, the real-life weapon that probably holds this distinction is the bow and arrow. Not only does it take strength, dexterity, and accuracy to excel at archery, but also there’s something inherently romantic about the image of the archer. With Katniss fever in full effect, we decided to set our sights on fictional archers from the original arrow-slingers to some of the newer cool kids. Adjust your quiver and read on.


1.) Hawkeye (The Avengers)

Our 10 Favorite Fictional Archers

In terms of chronological comic appearances, Hawkeye could be considered the faux-Green Arrow insofar as he first showed up in the 60s, whereas Green Arrow popped up first in 1941. Though his archery might not seem all that practical in the world of The Avengers, (what are you going to shoot the huge flying snake with, Hawkeye?) there’s still something slick as hell about Clint Francis Barton. With his current incarnation making his first appearance in the Thor last summer, it’s exciting to know Hawkeye will be on the big screen very, very soon. With him and Katniss, that’s two archers hitting our screens this summer in big blockbusters.


2.) Princess Merida (Brave)

Make that three archers in big summer blockbusters! We haven’t seen Brave yet, but by all accounts Princess Merida is poised to be a great and memorable character worthy of the high quality of the Pixar family. The trailers are exciting as hell and the notion of a Pixar film focusing on a female protagonist archery badass, is well, brave. (Though we’re starting to wonder if Hawkeye, Katniss and Medira are going to have their own spin-off movie called Hot Arrows.)


3.) May Welland (The Age of Innocence)

Our 10 Favorite Fictional ArchersOh yeah, oh yeah, it’s Edith Wharton time! In this classic novel, one of the more memorable scenes occurs when May Welland wins an archery tournament in Newport. If that doesn’t seem crazy enough, she’s hanging out in Newport, with her husband Newland Archer. The word games in this novel are almost as awesome as the dialogue, but May’s archery is a nice symbol of her character’s subtle complexities as well as serving up some pretty harsh commentary of the upper class of in New York in the 1870s. Further, May’s archery pin in the Martin Scorsese film adaptation is oddly reminiscent of the Katniss mockingjay pin. Coincidence?


4.) Legolas (The Lord of the Rings)

Our 10 Favorite Fictional Archers

This is a no-brainer. Legolas is such a badass with a bow and arrow, it’s not even funny. Sure, there are a lot of archers in the whole Lord of the Rings world, but Legolas is by far the most impressive and physics-defying. It might be a little unfair insofar as he’s an elf, but that doesn’t mean he’s not one of the best shots on this list. It just means he has a leg up on everyone else, although he pushes even that to the extreme.


5.) Green Arrow (DC Comics)

Our 10 Favorite Fictional Archers

Oliver Queen may come across ridiculous on the surface, but Green Arrow has depths his comic book company rival Hawkeye can only dream of. In the 1970s DC comics did their best to make the series hardcore by having Green Arrow show Green Lantern just how terrible things had gotten in lower-class neighborhoods of America. Riding around in a pickup truck, the two discover all sorts of injustices from poverty, to racism, to corny dialogue. Still, despite some of its heavy-handedness, this was about Green Arrow was all about: keeping it real. Which is a personality trait that stands to this day.


6.) Odysseus & Telemachus (The Odyssey)

Our 10 Favorite Fictional Archers

When the cleverest Greek of them all returns to Ithaca, he shows up in disguise in order to suss out just how how messy his house has become since suitors have overrun it in his absence. Odysseus ’s loyal wife Penelope has set up a system by which each suitor must prove his worth by stringing the famous bow of her husband. Naturally, the bow is so serious, no one can do it; much less perform perfect target practice with it. But Odysseus strings his own bow just fine, and has brought along his son Telemachus, who is also awesome with a bow and arrow. The ensuing bloodbath is brutal, and one has to wonder if Odysseus killed more people in his own house than he ever did during the Trojan War.


7.) Artemis (Greek myth)

Our 10 Favorite Fictional ArchersGiven to her by the Kyklopes, this goddess wielded golden arrows that caused sudden death in women. She was a naturally a crack shot with these things, and another famous archer Orion was, at one point, her suitor. (Archers got to stick together?) Artemis is interesting insofar as there are connections between her and ancient bear cults, and also because she had the magical ability to change the gender of people. When the young boy Sipriotes crossed her, she turned him into a girl. And you thought her death arrows were serious!


8.) Robin Hood (Everywhere)

Our 10 Favorite Fictional Archers

Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor requires skill, panache, and sometimes a hat, but also a long-range weapon. More than any other fictional archer, Robin Hood might be more responsible for the current cultural love affair with the bow and arrow. Whether it’s Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Cary Elwes, or Patrick Stewart, the man in green’s arrows are perhaps the most virtuous of them all. (Though the personal Tor.com staff favorite version of Robin Hood is easily the fox from the Disney version. Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally golly, what a day, suckas.)


9.) Cupid (Roman myth)

Our 10 Favorite Fictional ArchersThough falling in love can happen a variety of different ways like: getting stranded on a spaceship together, being betrothed by your Vulcan parents, or the internet, the good old fashion way is easily Cupid’s dart. Unlike most of the other arrows presented here, Cupid’s arrows cause people to fall in love. (No wonder we have a romanticized feeling about the bow and arrow, it literally makes us swoon.) Though when you stop to think about it, there is something creepy about the notion that one must be pierced in order to enable love....


10.) Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)

Our 10 Favorite Fictional Archers

The current darling of YA literature, and soon-to-be big-screen badass, Katniss’s skills with a bow and arrow are tops. This isn’t just some random talent Katniss possesses, but rather one she developed out of necessity. She managed to feed her family with her archery skills, and we don’t feel like she’s quite complete until she gets her hand on that bow and arrow in the games. (Though the way she obtains it through the course of the games is a little grisly.) Anyway you look at it, Katniss is a worthy successor to a long tradition of heroic archers.

Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of Tor.com and in another life was known as Stubby the Arrow.

Fred Zimmerman
1. Fred Zimmerman
The rankings here are a bit strange. Princess Merida (who?) ahead of Legolas? May Welland ahead of Robin Hood? Really?
David Stumme
2. grenadier
There's a typo on "Costner" in the Robin Hood entry.
Fred Zimmerman
Burt Reynolds in Deliverance.
Fred Zimmerman
4. jtgibney
We haven't seen what Merida is like. The movie could be crap. You should have gone with someone more established, and kick-ass, like Evangelyne from Wakfu.

Kent Aron Vabø
5. sotgnomen
Usually when a list like this is ranked, you count down from 10 to 1, not the other way around. I assume this is simply a listing of Tor's 10 favorite archers, in random order.
Ryan Britt
6. ryancbritt
What you've never heard of Conster? He's awesome.

@Everyone, yes the list is in random order. And as far as Merida, maybe we just like the red hair? :-)
Kent Aron Vabø
7. sotgnomen
Also, Lurtz should be on this list. He is the embodiment of the Ukuk Hai, and he's clearly an archer for preference, with the most ominous sounding bow seen on screen.
Mike Conley
8. NomadUK
Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Cary Elwes, or Patrick Stewart

Let's not forget Sean Connery, my favourite Robin Hood of all, in Robin and Marian.
Fred Zimmerman
9. Ruby in the UK
No love for Birgitte Silverbow from Wheel of Time?
Tony Linde
10. tonylinde
Katniss better get an arm band and take some lessons before she lets the string go or she'll strip all the skin off her forearm first shot.
Kerry Kuhn
11. Kerry
Katniss is obviously NOT a real archer. She has her elbow locked and is going to twang it and raise a huge bruise when she releases that bowstring.
Fred Zimmerman
12. Kirshy
Typos, typos, typos galor. Was this thing proof read or edited at all? Yikes, this is almost as bad as a Yahoo news story.
Ashley McGee
13. AshleyMcGee
Lol, not one of Stubby's better ones, but it still got us talking. And to be fair, I only looked at the list. Didn't actually require the recap. The list would have sufficed if we're just talking generally about archers (considering, of course, that I don't care about Katniss).

I'm still a huge fan of Legolas, but there are some pretty bad-ass archers out there in fiction. Glad to see some of the classics made it in. But I have a question, dramatized by equally bad grammar: like why is it that no one else has ever heard of the Owen Archer novels? I can't even remember who wrote these books, but Owen Archer (or, oddly enough, Hawkeye) was a character in a series of historical-fiction-detective novels that solved crimes despite the obvious handicap of having lost an eye (though I suppose that was just a bit of drama, considering he did a fair job on and off the battlefield). For an archer, that's a pretty big deal, but a crazy lady (witch?) taught him how to shoot with the other eye and he became a famous detective, yadda yadda yadda. Well, I read these as a child and still list them among my favorites for historical fiction. I was wondering if anyone else had heard of these and could tell me where I might still be able to find them, or if I have the name completely wrong. I did read them in middle school, so...

Wasn't that girl from Chronicles of Narnia an archer? Why did we leave her out? I can't even remember her name; I guess that shows how much I care. Also, we left out Chingachkook from the Leatherstocking series. The Pioneers/Last of the Mohicans needs a little love, and Buffalo Hump from Dead Man's Walk got left out, and he was a killer with a bow and arrow. I guess there's just no room in popular fiction for Native American archers. Oona Von Bek, or the Dreamtheif's Daughter, was an archer. Rakhir the Red was an archer. I guess what I'm getting at is: Katniss--not the first archer, not the last archer, and certainly not the best.
Michael M Jones
14. MichaelMJones
Alas, no love for Speedy (Roy Harper), Speedy (Mia Dearden), Green Arrow (Connor Hawke), Merlyn, any of the International Delegation of Masked Archers, Maya, Alias the Spider, Arrowette, Shado, Artemiz, Rainbow Archer or the Huntress with her crossbow.

No love either for Trick Shot, Golden Archer, Hawkeye (Kate Bishop), or Danielle Moonstar.

I weep also for the exclusion of Link, Pit from Kid Icarus, John Rambo, any of the characters called Arrow or Archer, Turok, and the Duke boys with their flaming arrows.

There, I think I got most of them. :)
David Levinson
15. DemetriosX
I'm going to add a word for the Yeoman from the original Wild Cards universe (don't know if he's still around for the new series). He was kind of the Batman analog, just an ordinary guy with no powers beyond tremendous training and his brains.
Fred Zimmerman
16. N. Mamatas
Teucer is a much better archer than Telemachus.
David Goldfarb
17. David_Goldfarb
If you're going to mention Artemis, you might also note that her brother Apollo had a silver bow that likewise caused sudden death in men. (In the Homeric poems he is sometimes called "far-shooting Apollo" and "Lord of the Silver Bow".)
Bruce Arthurs
18. bruce-arthurs
Nick Mamatas beat me to mentioning Teucer from THE ILLIAD. Odysseus probably had greater range with a bow, but Teucer would have consistently outshot him.

And add Michael Praed (ROBIN OF SHERWOOD) to the list of actors who've portrayed Robin Hood. (Hey, how about a Rewatch for that series?)

(Does Jason Connery, who kinda sorta took over the role after Praed left the series, count? Not to most people who watched the series.) (Athough how many other father-son pairs have played the same character?)
Fred Zimmerman
19. Tehanu
Wasn't that girl from Chronicles of Narnia an archer?
That was Queen Susan the Gentle, or Susan Pevensie as she was known in our world. Jill Pole was also an archer, but Susan was considered the best.

As for good Robin Hoods, don't forget Patrick Bergin.
Fred Zimmerman
20. EmmaPease
Kitty Beighton of Simla who had to lose an archery contest in order to win.
Jennifer McBride
21. vegetathalas
@Kerry. Not to mention she's not aiming right. Look at her back elbow. That thing's going to go all wonky.
Rob Munnelly
22. RobMRobM
Speaking of Wheel of Time, Rand alThor himself was quite an archer, almost as good as his father Tam. Indeed, nearly all the Two Rivers men are awesome archers. Someone will have remind me of the name of the archer that hit the log held above Perrin's head in his big meeting with the Seanchan.
Fred Zimmerman
23. mad_for_fantasy
Arjuna from The Mahabharata...
Fred Zimmerman
24. Huimang
Strongbow from "Elfquest"? Please?
Fred Zimmerman
25. StrongDreams
I'm surprised at how few genre archers there seem to be, without devolving into comic books and video games. (What about the Elf from Gauntlet? Loved that little guy...)

(And FWIW I'm not trying to denigrate comics per se. A comic book character who has been around 50 years and stood the test of time probably deserves to be on this list more than a character from an unreleased movie.)

But it seems to me this conversation would be a lot more interesting if we were talking about fictional detectives, or gun fighters, or swordsmen, or even startship captains (throwdown: HH vs Janeway). There really don't seem to be that many archers, I wonder why.
Stephanie Treanor
26. Streanor
I'm going with Rambo

And i think the people at: StalloneZone would agree
John Hardy
27. screwtape
How about Aylward the longbowman from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novels Sir Nigel and The White Company, set during the 100 Year's War?

For a non-fictional archer who should be fiction, look up "Mad Jack" Churchill. He always carried a claymore, claiming that "any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed". He also routinely carried a longbow and arrows, and once signalled the start of an ambush by shooting an arrow into the officer commanding an enemy patrol. No big deal in the age of Robin Hood - but this was WW2!
Fred Zimmerman
28. dwndrgn
Oh yes, Michael Praed of Robin of Sherwood was great. I would definitely enjoy a rewatch of that series.

Also, Bernard Cornwell's Thomas of Hookton.
Leon Rosenshein
29. leonrose
What about Sam Aylward from the Stirling's Emberverse? Just really good because of lots of hard work, nothing magical or fantasical about him
Anthony Pero
30. anthonypero
Rand al'Thor is an archer. Way to support the Corporate Product...
Fred Zimmerman
31. a-j
A Robin of Sherwood* rewatch would be great especially given the recent death of series creator and main writer Richard Carpenter.

*I think it was called The Adventures of Robin Hood in the US
Fred Zimmerman
32. Marcos Faria
Legolas is not even the best archer in Tolkien's books. Beleg Cúthalion, or Beleg Strongbow (from "The Silmarillion") outranks him by far.
Though William Tell is a historic charachter, his rendition in Rossini's eponymous opera qualifies as a fiction archer (ok, crossbowman).
Also Dardo (Burt Lancaster), from the 1950 movie "The flame and the arrow".

@mad_for_fantasy Another vote for Arjuna!
Del C
33. del
Crawford of Lymond, Master of Culter, who shot his brother's papingo.
Fred Zimmerman
34. a-j
Paris of Troy? After all, he manages to hit Achilles on his only vulnerable spot.
Fred Zimmerman
35. monolith
Yeah, sorry Stubbs, this is by no means the definitive list I was hoping for. But if everyone wants greek heroes (and I wouldn't mind seeing one) then they should probably have their own list. Thanks, screwtape, Mad Jack Churchill is my new hero!
Fred Zimmerman
37. eol
Philoctetes from Greek mithology. He was a famous archer and it is said that Troy could not be overtaken without Hercules bow that Philoctetes inherited. Greek army left him on island Lemnos because his wound smelled awfully. He is a main character in Sophocles drama play Philoctetes.
Fred Zimmerman
39. memelord
Hawkeye Gough. The man who could take down dragons with single arrows. Yet you place a failure of a superhero, a girl who barely won the Hunger Games, an elf with girl's hair, and a fox with green tights. Despicable.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment