Fantasy: Why is the final villain usually the muscle of the army?
This is something that have bothered me for a long time. Usually in fantasy the antagonist is very competent, be it physically or magically. Why is that?
Wouldn't it be more probable if the main villain was accompanied by the stronger character, and that the true villain's power was solely political influence?
At least then you'd have another interesting character, and you wouldn't have to bother with an antagonist that is the best at everything. Not that I think personal power should play a huge role in the first place, but I'd like to see what others think of this.
I get where you're coming from. I would love to read a novel or watch a movie where the villain wasn't necessarily some uber bad ass. Instead he draws power from being able to influence others into taking action for him.
But I guess we've been led to believe that its better to have the focus on one main character, rather than having two or more characters you'd have to write for.
I'm pretty sure there's plenty of examples of what you're suggesting in fantasy fiction.
The problem is that most fantasy readers that I know are disappointed when the main villain isn't a direct physical threat to the hero.
(it's not literary, I know, but I think this example stands) In Fable 2 for instance lots of people--myself included--cried foul when the final boss ended up being a one-hitter quitter who the main hero didn't necessarily have to defeat on his/her own.
“Where the longleaf pines are whispering
to him who loved them so.
Where the faint murmurs now dwindling
echo o’er tide and shore."
-A Grave Epitaph in Santa Rosa County, Florida; I wish I could remember the man's name.