Would it surprise you to find that some of our most influential figures have never existed? Well, it won’t be a surprise when you think about it. These figures are so ingrained in our psyche we don’t really give them a second thought – to most of us they are just, well, there, and always seem to have been. That says enough in itself as to why they are such influential figures. So just who are these magical people who have played and continue to play such a part in our lives, past present and future?
Santa Claus has to kick off the list of influential figures that have never existed, although he is based on someone real. Millions of children in the Western part of the world know the legend of Santa Claus (or any of the other names that he goes by, such as Father Christmas) who sneaks into their rooms on Christmas Eve to distribute presents in a stocking. Why is he such an influential person? Ask parents of children across the world; the thought of Santa not bringing presents is a much better tool of persuasion than any other I’ve come across!
As a young girl I know that I adored Barbie. Whether it was the Swimsuit Barbie or Air Hostess Barbie, every young girl has craved the doll once in their life. When we are young and impressionable as children, we look to our toys and television shows to guide us in life; as a young woman, I know that Barbie was as much as role model for me as the TV shows that I watched when I was younger.
3 Rosie the Riveter
You might be wondering who Rosie the Riveter is, and why she made it onto a list of important people who never existed. Well if you don’t recognize her name, you probably will recognize her picture. During the Second World War her image was used on posters across the country, inspiring a generation of women to help in the war effort. While her name might not be popular, her legacy has affected the lives of millions of women.
4 Romeo and Juliet
Two of the most important fictional characters in the world are Romeo and Juliet. Despite being created by Shakespeare in the 17th century, their love story has lived on for generations, teaching us all a lot about love and romance. Their story is the basis for nearly every Hollywood ‘chick flick’ that came out in the 1990s, and has created many people’s idea of the perfect relationship. While we might not all fancy dying while still teenagers, we do aspire to having our hearts stolen by the tall, handsome stranger, or the bad boy our parents would never approve of.
5 Big Brother
We have many things to thank literary geniuses like George Orwell for, including creating Big Brother. No, we’re not talking about the mind-numbingly boring reality TV show; we’re talking about the fictional character that observed and monitored the lives of every individual in Orwell’s fictitious – although some would say almost real – 1984. With new details emerging about the role of the NSA and President Obama in monitoring millions of phone calls and emails, it’s no wonder that the idea of Big Brother has influenced so many of us. Despite only existing since the mid-20th century, Big Brother is definitely one of the most influential figures who never existed.
6 Robin Hood
While claiming that Robin Hood is fictional might be somewhat controversial, for the purposes of this list we will agree that he didn’t exist. We all know the legend of Robin Hood: the man who robbed the rich to help the poor. This has become the basis of so-called ‘envy taxes’ – the way that society has emerged to believe that heavy taxation on the most wealthy in society is justified, as long as the money goes to help the rest of society. While tax policy is something that I don’t want to get into, we can agree that Robin Hood’s legacy has affected the lives of generations of people around the world.
You might be wondering why cowboys are listed as not having existed, but bear with me. The reason that cowboys are included on this list is that I am talking about the concept of a cowboy, not the physical cowboys which certainly did exist. Why? Well cowboys are responsible for lots of young children – mainly boys – growing up with certain ideas about morals. Nobody wanted to be the Indians in the Cowboys and Indians game, just as children nowadays prefer to be the Cops rather than the Robbers in the more politically-correct version of the game.
I have been fascinated by the fact that fictional characters can have had so much influence for so many years and on the lives of so many. Can you think of any more influential figures who never existed for real?