The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived

It’s time to play “Trolling for Trivia.”

Our fascination with lists is perpetual. Top ten pitchers of all time, top 100 rock albums of all time, top 50 jazz piano players of all time…. top ten lists of all time. I once walked into the warehouse where I worked and found myself in the midst of a heated debate between two co-workers as regards who is the greatest guitar player of all time. So it only only makes sense that a book titled The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived would get our attention and stimulate our curiosity.

The full title of the book is, The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived: How Characters of Fiction, Myth, Legends, Television, and Movies Have Shaped Our Society, Changed Our Behavior, and Set the Course of History, an unwieldy title by any standard.

The book itself is essentially a bead string of essays combined thematically in chapters titled Greek & Roman Myths, Folktales, Legends, Monsters, Stereotypes, Adventure, Crime, Americana, Literature, Children’s Literature, Theater, Movies, Women’s Liberation, Comics and Animation, Commerce, Propaganda, and Television.

My personal feel about the book is summed up in the words of the reviewer who wrote, “Interesting concept, disappointing execution.” The authors own up to their subjective approach and make no attempt to claim this is a definitive list by any stretch, so they have integrity. I just didn’t care for the writing because the tone was off-putting. Nevertheless, it is an interesting concept and kudos to anyone who starts and finishes a book and finds a publisher.

Your Assignment (If you choose to accept it)

I thought it might be fun, if you have a moment, to come up with a list of your own Top Ten Most Influential People Who Never Lived. What follows are names from the book which are in the top 101 but are NOT in the Top Twenty. The aim here is to get you zeroed in on the variety of influential characters who were not real people. Interesting, eh?

At the end of this incomplete list is a warning, after which I have listed in reverse order the Top Twenty. How many of your Top Ten were in the Top Twenty? Have fun.

Rosie the Riveter
Don Juan
William Tell
James Bond
Hansel & Gretel
G.I. Joe
King Kong
The Pied Piper
Captain Ahab
Peter Pan
HAL 9000
Norman Bates
The Cat in the Hat
Dr. Strangelove
The Great Gatsby
Luke Skywalker
The Little Engine That Could
Archie Bunker
Richard Blaine


If you do not have a top ten written, what does your Top Three list look like? Here are the top 20 according to our (biased) authors.

20. Prince Charming
19. The American Cowboy
18. Mickey Mouse
17. Don Quixote
16. Ebenezer Scrooge
15. Lady Chatterly
14. Oedipus
13. Jim Crow
12. Robin Hood
11. Uncle Tom
10. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
9. Romeo & Juliet
8. Sherlock Holmes
7. Siegfried
6. Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster
5. Hamlet
4. Santa Claus
3. King Arthur
2. Big Brother
1. The Marlboro Man

How’d you do? Hope it was fun. Just more stuff to ponder as you continue your day. Be well.

Originally published at

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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