Francis Dolarhyde

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Francis Dolarhyde
Hannibal Tetralogy character
Francis Dolarhyde -- screenshot.jpg
Ralph Fiennes as Francis Dolarhyde in Red Dragon
Created by Thomas Harris
Portrayed by Tom Noonan (Manhunter)
Ralph Fiennes (Red Dragon)
Alex D. Linz (young; Red Dragon)
Richard Armitage (Hannibal)
Voiced by Frank Langella (Red Dragon, deleted scenes)
Nickname(s) The Tooth Fairy
Mr. D
Aliases The Great Red Dragon
Gender Male

Francis Dolarhyde is a fictional character and the primary antagonist of Thomas Harris' 1981 novel Red Dragon.[1] He is a serial killer who murders entire families by shooting them in their beds. He is nicknamed "The Tooth Fairy" due to the nocturnal nature of his crimes, his tendency to bite his victims' bodies, the uncommon size and sharpness of his teeth and other apparent oral fixations. He kills at the behest of an alternate personality; he refers to his other self as "The Great Red Dragon" after William Blake's painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun.[2] He believes that killing people - or "changing" them, as he calls it - allows him to more fully "become" the Dragon.

Character history[edit]

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun – the painting with which Dolarhyde is obsessed.

Dolarhyde's backstory is supplied in the novel and alluded to in the film adaptations. Born in Springfield, Missouri on June 14, 1938 with a cleft lip and palate, he is abandoned by his mother and cared for in an orphanage until the age of five. He is then taken in by his grandmother, who subjects him to severe emotional and physical abuse, culminating in an incident in which she forces him to place his own penis between the blades of a pair of scissors after wetting the bed. Shortly afterwards, he begins torturing animals. After his grandmother becomes afflicted with dementia, Dolarhyde is turned over to the care of his estranged mother and her husband in St. Louis; he is further abused by this family. After his step-siblings smash his face into a bathroom mirror, Dolarhyde hangs his stepsister's cat and is sent back to the orphanage. After being caught breaking into a house at age 17, he enlists in the United States Army rather than serve prison time. While on his tour in Japan and neighboring countries, he learns how to develop film and receives cosmetic surgery for his cleft palate. Despite the surgery, Dolarhyde continues to view himself as deformed and grows a prominent mustache to cover what he thinks is a disfiguring scar.

After his honorable discharge, Dolarhyde gets a job with the Gateway Corp. as the production chief of their home movies division. He also takes up bodybuilding and becomes exceptionally strong; it is mentioned in the novel that even in middle age, Dolarhyde could have successfully competed in regional bodybuilding competitions, and at one point successfully cleans and presses three-hundred pounds.

In his early 40s, Dolarhyde sees the William Blake painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun, which gives voice to his alternate personality. Under the influence of "The Red Dragon," Dolarhyde murders two families in two months, on or near a full moon. (The novel implies that he had killed before that, however.) Dolarhyde chooses his victims through the home movies that he edits as a film processing technician. In the days leading up to a full moon, Dolarhyde kills or injures the family pet and then spends nights in their backyard, watching the moon. On the night of the full moon, Dolarhyde uses a glass cutter to gain entry to the homes, then shoots his victims in their beds before ritualistically posing them around the master bed and engaging in necrophilic acts with the mothers' corpses. He then implants shards of mirror glass into his victims' eyes so he can see his own "transformation" into the Dragon. Rather than see his actions as murder, Francis believes that he is subjecting his victims to a process called "changing" which is beneficial to them in addition to helping him "become" the Dragon. To facilitate the process of "becoming," Dolarhyde travels to Hong Kong in order to have a large dragon tattooed across his back and has two sets of false teeth made. One set is normal for his day-to-day life, while the other - based on a mold of his grandmother's deformed teeth - is ritualistically incorporated into the dragon persona he assumes during his killings. Due to the nocturnal nature of the murders and Dolarhyde's tendency to bite the corpses of his victims with the malformed dentures, the tabloid The National Tattler nicknames him "The Tooth Fairy", a name which infuriates Dolarhyde.

FBI profiler Will Graham is asked to return from early retirement to aid in his capture. Graham had previously captured Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer whom Dolarhyde idolizes, and to whom he sends a "fan letter" describing his murders. Graham visits Lecter in the Baltimore State Forensic Hospital for the Criminally Insane, hoping that the doctor would be able to help identify the killer or at least assist in creating a psychological profile. Following this meeting, Lecter "helps" by sending Dolarhyde Graham's address in code with the note, "Save yourself - kill them all." FBI Agent-in-Charge Jack Crawford intercepts the message in time to warn Graham's family and the local sheriff.

Dolarhyde becomes obsessed with coverage of his murders in The National Tattler and collects clippings about Lecter's arrest and trial, about Graham, and about his own murders. In an attempt to provoke Dolarhyde out of hiding, Graham gives an interview to Freddy Lounds of The Tattler, in which he says that "The Tooth Fairy" is impotent, homosexual, and possibly the product of incest; he also implies that Lecter is offended that the killer considers himself Lecter's equal. The interview enrages Dolarhyde, who kidnaps Lounds, intimidates him into recanting his article on tape, and then bites his lips off. Dolarhyde then sets Lounds on fire and rolls him down an incline into The Tattler‍ '​s parking garage.

Meanwhile, Dolarhyde falls in love with a blind coworker named Reba McClane. The relationship quells his murderous impulses at first, but her presence only infuriates the other part of Dolarhyde's psyche. Desperate now to retain control of himself, Dolarhyde flies to New York, where he goes to see the original Blake watercolor at the Brooklyn Museum and devours it, believing that doing so would destroy the Dragon. This plan fails, though, as his ingestion of the painting only makes the Dragon angrier. In a final effort to save McClane, Dolarhyde attempts to kill himself in a motel bathroom by hanging himself from the shower rod, but the noose breaks before he can successfully suffocate.

Now completely under the thrall of the Dragon, Dolarhyde plans to kill McClane and himself by setting his house on fire with her in it. He relents at the last minute, however, and frees her. Hearing a shotgun blast, Reba feels around Dolarhyde's burning living room and discovers what appears to be his dead body, which is incinerated in the subsequent blaze. However, Dolarhyde actually shot the corpse of a gas station attendant who had earlier offended him, and whom he had kidnapped in order to stage his own disappearance. After the police rescue McClane from the burning house, Dolarhyde travels to Graham's home, where he attacks Graham and stabs him in the face. Graham's wife Molly intercepts Dolarhyde, however, and shoots him dead.

Film adaptations[edit]

Tom Noonan as Francis Dolarhyde in Manhunter.

Dolarhyde has been twice portrayed in film adaptations of Harris' novel: by Tom Noonan in 1986's Manhunter (in which he was called "Dollarhyde"),[3] and by Ralph Fiennes in 2002's Red Dragon.[4] In deleted scenes in Red Dragon, Dolarhyde's Great Red Dragon personality is voiced by Frank Langella.

In Manhunter, Dolarhyde was filmed two different ways; shirtless with an elaborate tattoo covering his upper torso and back (as opposed to Dolarhyde's tattoos in the book, which only covered his back), and with a shirt on thus covering his tattoo. The former was not used in the finished film, partly because the tattoos were considered too distracting and similar to the ones sported by Yakuza. The look, however, appeared on promotional photos for the film.

In the first film, Graham kills Dolarhyde, while in the second, both he and his wife have a hand in Dolarhyde's death, with Graham firing the majority of the shots in a crossfire with Dolarhyde, and his wife finishing him off as Dolarhyde rises back up, even with the bullet wounds.

Cinevistaramascope voted Francis Dolarhyde the #18th Scariest Characters in Cinema with respect to both Tom Noonan's and Ralph Fiennes' respective portrayals.[5]

Television adaptation[edit]

On January 13, 2015, The Hobbit star Richard Armitage was cast as Dolarhyde and appeared in season 3 of the television series Hannibal, beginning in episode 8, "The Great Red Dragon".[6] Dolarhyde was referenced in the series premiere as the unseen murderer of the Marlowe family.[7]


Harris loosely based Francis Dolarhyde on the then-unidentified serial killer known as "BTK" (Bind, Torture, Kill), who at the time of the book's publication was terrorizing Kansas with a series of murders, beginning with the murder of an entire family in their own home. Like Dolarhyde, BTK engaged in necrophiliac acts with his victims' bodies; he also wrote letters to the police alluding to an abusive childhood and being under the control of an outside influence, which he referred to as "Factor X". Harris had consulted with FBI Agent John E. Douglas prior to writing the book, and Douglas had served as a consultant on the BTK case for Kansas police. Harris was so impressed with Douglas that he borrowed aspects of his life story and personality for Will Graham and Jack Crawford.[8]

References in other media[edit]

In the South Park season eight episode "Cartman's Incredible Gift", Eric Cartman fakes psychic powers and pretends to identify a serial killer who has cut off and collected the left hands of his victims. The real killer, present at each crime scene and furious that he is being ignored, kidnaps Cartman in order to subject him to slideshow of his transformation (albeit one of boring vacation slides). When the police arrive at the killer's house to question him, the killer answers the door in his underwear and identifies himself as "God".