Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter and Clarice Starling aren’t your average couple.
They’re anything but average.
Two diametrically opposed people who together create one of the most intriguing couples, in their own twisted way.
Who would have thought that a serial killer and a FBI trainee would become one of pop culture’s most well-known couples? And most loved.
There’s something fascinating about their relationship, something so riveting that we can’t help but be drawn to it. These vivid characters, created by Thomas Harris (RED DRAGON, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, HANNIBAL), each has a separate agenda but needs the other to succeed.
Hannibal Lecter is a psychiatrist. A murderer. A psychopath. He has an air of superiority despite being locked in a cell. Sure, he’s eaten people, but he’s done it with class, or at least he likes to think so. He’s terrifying and evil, yet he respects Clarice. She, on the other hand, sees him as mentor, the only one who can help her catch a notorious killer. And he’s willing to do it if she gives him a piece of herself, an insight into her mind and her soul. It’s a complex relationship that’s filled with mutual respect and reveals the good and evil in all of us and just how far we’re willing to go to achieve goals.
I asked a bunch of my colleagues what they thought about Hannibal and Clarice’s relationship. Here’s what they said:
“There are several facets to their relationship: father/daughter, mentor/prodigy, boss/employee, dominant/submissive, teacher/student, one can go on and on and on, and each grouping deserves its own essay. But they all have one thing in common-power. Lecter has power over Starling, and she simmers with barely contained rage at that injustice, while at the same time enjoying the attention she’s getting from this master. She is an acolyte who allows herself to be manipulated because she’s just as curious about him as she is dedicated to solving the case. By showing him up, she regains control over her own father, and cements her ambitions. Love? Hate? Two sides of the same coin, truly, and therein lies their fascination-they are one and the same.”—JT Ellison, author of WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE and A DEEPER DARKNESS.
“For Hannibal and Clarice it’s all about acknowledgment and respect, because those qualities are key to any successful relationship. Each of them is able to acknowledge the unusual and superior qualities in the other, and to demonstrate respect for those qualities. This acknowledgement is, in its own twisted way, nonjudgmental because each person possesses that rare quality of being able to appreciate uniqueness without first filtering it through moral restraint. That happens only in the most deeply passionate relationship.”— Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of ASSASSIN’S CODE and DEAD OF NIGHT.
“Clarice is wounded, coming into her own, finding her place in the world. Hannibal admires her fight to find that place—just as he himself carved out his own individual path, pun intended. I don’t know if Hannibal has a “wound” himself, since he seems to be singularly sociopathic, but Clarice stands out in sharp contrast to the other people he views as lesser beings, as prey and meat. As he says, ‘The world is a more interesting place with you in it, Clarice.’ Clarice, despite her clear sense of justice, sees something of the buried humanity in Hannibal. It is an uneasy, mutual respect and a psychological conflict that makes for epic storytelling.”—Scott Nicholson, author of LIQUID FEAR.
“Starling and Lecter both have needs, different though they may be, and like a bee to a flowering plant, they develop a true symbiotic relationship that nourishes both of them. The BBC series LUTHER features a similarly addictive cop/killer bond that rivals, and might even surpass, Starling and Lecter.”—Alan Jacobson, national bestselling author of the acclaimed FBI Profiler Karen Vail series
“Hannibal may have gotten into Clarice’s head, but she got under his skin. He protected her from danger even though she was bound by her commitment to bring him to justice, at least until the final twist in HANNIBAL. As for Clarice, she received from Hannibal the respect and admiration she missed from her colleagues and from her early life.” —Dakota Banks, author of DELIVERANCE: MORTAL PATH BOOK 3
“The relationship between Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling has always reminded me of the old school romances of Kathleen Woodiwiss…you know, a rape fantasy. Hannibal’s abduction of Clarice, his attempts to convert her into his long-dead sister, and their eventual romance all point to this. Of course, the Hannibal books are hardly bodice rippers. Still, they have a sort of dirty, perverted appeal, don’t they?”—Joe McKinney, author of FLESH EATERS and THE RED EMPIRE AND OTHER STORIES.
“Because they are such a conjunction of diametric opposites—not just the good versus evil aspect to their relationship, but also young vs old, male vs female, rescuer vs killer, rookie vs veteran, hopeful vs jaded/cynical and so on.”—Joseph Nassise, author of the TEMPLAR CHRONICLES and EYES TO SEE
“I wasn’t a fan of the later books, but what I love about Lecter and Starling in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is that they become obsessed with one another because each sees in the other the potential for their own destruction. They see the challenge and the danger inherent in their entanglement and are attracted to it in a fetishistic way. It’s a pseudo-sexualized version of eternal good versus evil struggles in stories from religion (God vs. Satan), ancient legend (like Set vs. Horus in Egyptian myth), and modern myth (as in so many superhero series).”—Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author of BALTIMORE: THE PLAGUE SHIPS
Hannibal and Clarice—a favorite couple for so many reasons.
Janice Gable Bashman is author (w/NEW YORK TIMES bestseller Jonathan Maberry) of WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, nominated for a 2010 Bram Stoker Award, and managing editor of THE BIG THRILL (International Thriller Writers’ newsletter and ezine).