I am sure you must have heard of the Forbes List, an annual listing of the world’s wealthiest billionaires? I was fascinated to discover recently that there was a Forbes ‘Fictional 15’ List which included extremely wealthy characters from fiction, film, TV and games. Normally characters from folklore have been excluded from the list, but for some years there was an exception – Santa Claus. It’s a good thing he’s so well off, when you think of all those presents he has to provide. The list was run in Forbes magazine from 2002 to 2013, and in the final issue the winner was declared to be Scrooge McDuck whose collection of gold coins and ingots made him worth $65.4 billion. In second place was the dragon Smaug from The Hobbit. Other wealthy fictional characters were Richie Rich, Tony Stark, Christian Grey, Lara Croft, Artemis Fowl, Lady Mary Crawley and Jay Gatsby.
I’m not so interested in the movie characters, but who do you think should be added from great novels? Mr Rushworth is the richest man in Jane Austen, Mr Rochester never seems short of a penny, and Bertie Wooster is not afraid to face his bank manager. Amongst the super rich are Mrs Mingott in Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, Aunt Crawley in Vanity Fair, Scrooge, Monsieur Grandet in Zola’s Eugenie Grandet and Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. Can you add any others to the list?
As F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously declared, “the rich are different from you and me.” Dorothy L. Sayers created a very wealthy hero in her marvellous Lord Peter Wimsey novels, so that she could enjoy his wealth vicariously: “When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubusson carpet. When I had no money to pay my bus fare I presented him with a Daimler double-six, upholstered in a style of sober magnificence, and when I felt dull I let him drive it.”
Perhaps just by reading about these rich characters, we can somehow share all the pleasures of wealth, without any of its responsibilities. Well, that’s my theory, but I wouldn’t say no to trying the real thing!