A long time ago, when my daughter was 14, she had a homework assignment: Choose six people, dead or alive, real or fictional, with whom you would want to be stuck on a deserted island.
I assumed I'd be one of them. Her brother was, and her godfather, and Mary Poppins and Matafu, a resourceful young boy in a book she was reading, and Doogie Howser, a TV doctor. As she ticked off the names, I was certain that the last person would be me.
But she chose Anne of Green Gables instead because Anne was young and could have babies. "She'd be more useful, Mom." (For months after whenever this daughter needed something -- a ride, a sandwich, help with her homework -- I'd tell her to go ask Anne of Green Gables.)
All of which reminds me of the danger of lists -- a danger evident in a just-published book, "The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived." It is subtitled, "How characters of myth, legends, television, and movies have shaped our society, changed our behavior, and set the course of history."
The authors -- Allan Lazar, Dan Karlan, and Jeremy Salter -- list their Top 10 most influential invented people as: The Marlboro Man (the biggest mass killer), Big Brother, King Arthur, Santa Claus, Hamlet, Dr. Frankenstein's Monster, Siegfried, Sherlock Holmes, Romeo and Juliet, Dr. Je kyl l and Mr. Hyde.
Also on the list of 101 are: Uncle Tom, Robin Hood, Jim Crow, Oedipus, Lady Chatterly, Ebenezer Scrooge, Don Quixote, Mickey Mouse, the American Cowboy, Prince Charming;
Smokey Bear, Robinson Crusoe, Apollo and Dionysus, Odysseus, Nora Helmer, Cinderella, Shylock, Rosie the Riveter, Midas, Hester Prynne;
The Little Engine that Could, Archie Bunker, Dracula, Alice in Wonderland, Citizen Kane, Faust, Figaro, Godzilla, Mary Richards, Don Juan;
Bambi, William Tell, Barbie, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Venus and Cupid, Prometheus, Pandora, G.I. Joe, Tarzan, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock;
James Bond, Hansel and Gretel, Captain Ahab, Richard Blaine, The Ugly Duckling, the Loch Ness Monster, Atticus Finch, Saint Valentine, Helen of Troy, Batman;
Uncle Sam, Nancy Drew, J.R. Ewing, Superman, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, HAL9000, Kermit the Frog, Sam Spade, The Pied Piper, Peter Pan;
Hiawatha, Othello, the Little Tramp, King Kong, Norman Bates,
Mammy, Sinbad, Amos 'n' Andy, Buck Rogers, Luke Skywalker, Perry Mason, Dr. Strangelove, Pygmalion, Madame Butterfly, Hans Beckert;
Dorothy Gale, the Wandering Jew, The Great Gatsby, Buck, Willy Loman, Betty Boop, Ivanhoe, Elmer Gantry, Lilith, John Doe, and Paul Bunyan.
A great list. Interesting. But not complete. There are thousands of "characters" who are equally worthy -- heroic, historic, romantic, comic, controversial, or simply entertaining -- who have endured, though they never lived. Characters whose name alone -- Tiny Tim, for example -- evokes memory, whom we think and talk about, who exist not in the real world but somewhere just out of reach.
And so -- with a nod to the dangers of list-making -- I give you an addendum: 101 more influential people who never were. Scarlett O'Hara, George Bailey, all the Little Women (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy), Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, The Millionaire, "They" ("They said." "They think."), Dorian Gray, the Grim Reaper, Snow White;
The Grinch, Miss Haversham, the Bogeyman, Guinevere, Silas Marner, Willy Wonka, Mother Goose, Ralph Kramden, Big Bird, Betty Crocker;
Peeping Tom, Jessica Tate, Charlie Brown, Dick Tracy, The Bobbsey Twins;
Wiley Coyote, Dr. Kildare, The Waltons, Samantha Stevens, Tony and Maria;
Sam Malone, The Man in the Moon, Ali Baba, Beauty and the Beast, Columbo, Hans Brinker, Dudley Do-Right, Jim Anderson, Bazooka Joe, Dr. Richard Kimble;
Fred Flintston e, Gomer Pyle, Cyrano de Bergerac, Casey at the Bat, Fonzie, Howdy Doody, Lucy Ricardo, The Prince and the Pauper, Beaver Cleaver, The Lone Ranger;
Hawkeye, Joe Schmo, Jane Doe, Sybil, Maverick, Popeye, The Real McCoys, Shane, Lassie, Heidi;
Spiderman, Clark Kent, Jack Bauer, Father Ralph de Bricassart, Annie, Zorro, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Hedda Gabler, Mona Lisa, Tinkerbell;
Ichabod Crane, Ben Hur, Aunt Jemimah, The Six Million Dollar Man, Oliver Twist, Mr. Darcy, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Kunta Kinte, Madame Bovary, The Invisible Man;
Jack and Jill, Jack and Rose, Garp, Pinocchio, Kramer, Evangeline, Rabbit Angstrom, Charly Gordon, Auntie Mame, Eliza Dolittle;
Humpty Dumpty, Holden Caulfield, Dirty Harry, Ethan Frome, Mr. Chips, The Hobbit, Merlin, Kilroy, The Last of the Mohic ans , Lolita, and Lady and the Tramp.
Are there more? Many more. "You know who's not on there?" my friend Anne says. "Caspar Milquetoast and Princess SummerFallWinterSpring and Betty and Veronica and the Pillsbury Dough Boy."
And on it can go -- and will go for as long as there are stories and real people to tell them.
Beverly Beckham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.