Achilles de Flandres

From Academic Kids

Achilles de Flandres is a character in Orson Scott Card's Shadow series, part of the universe created in the novel and short story Ender's Game. Achilles appears in the novels Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, and Shadow Puppets. He may be considered the villain of these novels, or at least the antagonist.

A native of Belgium, Achilles grows up in the dangerous streets of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. (At the start of the series, the Netherlands is under international jurisdiction during the global emergency of the Formic, or Bugger, Wars. This leads to an influx of refugee children, including Achilles.) As Achilles matures, he is noted for a brilliant mind in tactical matters and a large number of sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies, two traits that will define and characterize his short and brutal life. Achilles' name is pronounced in French, as "ah-SHEEL." This is as opposed to the legendary Greek hero Achilles, pronounced ah-KILL-eeze.

Near the beginning of the series, Achilles is established as an enemy of one of the main characters, Julian "Bean" Delphiki, another urchin of Rotterdam. Both Achilles and Bean are considered for Battle School, the training ground for Earth's interstellar military; Bean is accepted, but Achilles is deemed too unstable and violent. Achilles is later sent to Battle School simply as a test for Bean - Colonel Graff wants to see how Bean will deal with the resurfacing of his old nemesis from Rotterdam. Bean tricks Achilles into a trap in an air shaft, and forces him to confess all of his murders onto a recorded tape, which Bean shows to the schools administrators, resulting in Achilles's expulsion. The teachers remark on the irony that Bean, the homeless urchin from the streets of Rotterdam, ends his problems nonviolently, while Ender defeats his enemies with pure violence - ending them so they will never be able to attack him again. Bean eventually becomes an assistant to Ender and a hero of the Third Invasion.

Achilles, meanwhile, positions himself to take advantage of Earth's political circumstances after the end of the Bugger Wars. In a series of deft political and military maneuvers, he establishes a well-honed pattern. Achilles' modus operandi is to convince a set of influential leaders in a major country that his tactical genius is at their military's disposal. He uses his charisma to rise to a position of high influence in his host country's military, and prepares detailed plans for their geopolitical objectives. Once he has positioned forces in his current host country, he makes overtures to a neighboring power. At the point of his hosts' greatest confidence, he betrays them and transfers to a new country, where he begins the cycle anew. With each repetition, Achilles' host country is a larger and more powerful entity than the one he betrayed. Achilles uses this tactic repeatedly to become master of Russia, Pakistan, India, China, and eventually the Hegemony itself, the (nominal) world government.

Achilles' genius and charisma are enough to overcome even his noted history of betrayal; his sociopathy makes him unable to remain loyal to any of his masters. He is driven by a psychological need for outward strength; he must kill anyone who sees him in a position of weakness, and cannot allow anyone to attain a position of strength over him, even for a second. These character flaws cause his descent and eventual fall.

After a successful attempt to steal Bean's and Petra's embryos, Achilles is eventually defeated and killed by Bean, with the assistance of Suriyawong who, stealing a page from Achilles's own book, had worked his way into Achilles's trust him for the purpose of eventually betraying him.

Role as a villain

Achilles is a true sociopath, believing that the universe exists for his benefit and moves in ways that allow him to gain power and "set things to rights". Seeing himself as a noble figure who must improve the world, he sees no problem with taking power by force and manipulating and/or killing those around him, because they are merely tools of the grander scheme. He cannot bear to have any weakness revealed to others, and kills those responsible for shaming him or viewing his weakness.

As opposed to Bean, who began as a very aloof, calculating person before learning the warmth of companionship, and to Peter Wiggin, who despite his ruthless mindset still has an ethical perspective, Achilles has no such grounding. Despite his brillance, his overconfidence and view of his place in the universe are what lead to his downfall.

Among the other Battle School children, Achilles represents absolute evil; his sociopathic and sadistic behvior are reminiscent of 20th century dictators, along the lines of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Despite this, the closest historical parallel to his role within the context of the Enderverse is the Athenian leader Alcibiades, whose shifting alliances resemble the politcal manuevers made by Achilles during the second and third books of the Ender's Shadow series.

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