Francis Dolarhyde

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Francis Dolarhyde
Hannibal Tetralogy character
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 Dragon

Francis Dolarhyde is a fictional character and the primary antagonist of Thomas Harris' 1981 novel Red Dragon.[1][2]

Character overview[edit]

Dolarhyde is a serial killer who murders entire families. He is nicknamed "The Tooth Fairy" due to his tendency to bite his victims' bodies, the uncommon size and sharpness of his teeth and other apparent oral fixations. He refers to his other self as "The Great Red Dragon" after William Blake's painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun.[3] Dolarhyde is diagnosable with Schizoid personality disorder with strong antisocial and narcissistic features.

Character history[edit]

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

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. He begins torturing animals at a young age to vent his anger over the abuse. 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 and is sent back to the orphanage after being caught hanging his stepsister's cat. After being caught breaking into a house at age 17, he enlists in the United States Army. While on his tour in Japan and neighboring countries, he learns how to develop film and receives cosmetic surgery for his cleft palate. He later gets a job with the Gateway Corp. as the production chief in their home movies division.

Dolarhyde is a bodybuilder and exceptionally strong; it is mentioned in the novel that even in his early forties, Dolarhyde could have successfully competed in regional bodybuilding competitions.

Dolarhyde begins his killing spree by murdering two families within a month after discovering The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun, which gives voice to his alternate personality. He commits both crimes on or near a full moon; it is hinted in the book that he had killed before that, however. He chooses his victims through the home movies that he edits as a film processing technician; it is implied that he selects his victims as matches to his step-family. He believes that by killing people — or "transforming" them, as he calls it — he can fully "become" the Dragon. On a trip to Hong Kong during his army service, he has a large dragon tattooed across his back and had two sets of false teeth made; one of them normal for his day-to-day life, the other distorted and razor sharp for his killings, based on a mold of his grandmother's teeth. The tabloid The National Tattler nicknames him "The Tooth Fairy" for his tendency to bite his victims.

FBI profiler Will Graham is asked to return from early retirement to aid in his capture. Graham had previously captured Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a cannibalistic psychiatrist and serial killer, whom Dolarhyde idolizes. 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, "Kill them all." Dolarhyde is foiled when FBI Director Jack Crawford intercepts the message in time to warn Graham's family and the local sheriff.

Dolarhyde reads The National Tattler, a tabloid, 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 refers to "The Tooth Fairy" as 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 returns to Chicago, sets Lounds on fire, and rolls him down an incline into The Tattler‍ '​s parking garage.

Dolarhyde develops a relationship with a blind female 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 devours the original Blake watercolor, believing that doing so would destroy the Dragon. This plan fails, though, as his ingestion of the painting only makes the Dragon angrier. 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 apparently shoots himself in the face with a shotgun.

It turns out, however, that he shot the corpse of a gas station attendant named Arnold Lang who had previously offended him. Being blind, McClane was fooled when she felt the shattered head of the corpse. Dolarhyde comes to Graham's home in Florida, where he stabs Graham in the face, disfiguring him. Graham's wife Molly shoots and kills Dolarhyde with a gun that Graham had given her.


Dolarhyde's modus operandi is to select a family based on home videos he has access to at his job as a video editor. He selects families in which the mother has blonde hair, because this resembles "the woman clothed in the sun" from the Great Red Dragon paintings. He also picks families with large, wooded back yards, so he can hide in a tree and observe them before the killing. Dolarhyde uses details from these home videos to plan out his infiltration of their houses, i.e. bringing glass knives and bolt cutters to quietly bypass sliding glass doors and padlocks.

Disgusted with his own appearance, Dolarhyde is obsessed with seeing, watching, fixating on voyeurism (which is possibly what attracted him to work in photo development and film editing). Sight is his primary means of sensory input, obsessing over it to the exclusion of his other senses.

After selecting a target family, Dolarhyde will observe them for some time while hidden in a tree within their yard, timing his ultimate attack to coincide with a full moon. The police think this might simply be so he has more light to navigate his home invasion, though they also speculate that it might be some fixation he has on lunar cycles. Dr. Lecter speculates that he enjoys basking in the moonlight outdoors after his murders while covered in blood. A few days before the home invasion, Dolarhyde will discreetly kill the family's pet by stabbing it, leave it where they will find it, then secretly watch when they later bury it in their yard. Graham says this is basically foreplay for Dolarhyde, warming up to the main kill.

On the night of the full moon (give or take a day or two, depending on the family's schedule) Dolarhyde will infiltrate the house. His attacks during the home invasion are not rage-killings but methodically executed. First, he will shoot the family's father dead, to neutralize the main threat to him: he will immediately shoot the family's mother next to him, but in the stomach, so she is incapacitated but can see what he is doing. He will then go to the children's rooms and shoot each of them dead as well: he uses a silenced pistol so the children will not hear their parents being shot. Afterwards, he will drag the corpses of the father and children into the master bedroom and line them up along a wall, like dolls, as an "audience" to watch as he rapes the mother's corpse. To make them seem more lifelike, he will put broken shards of mirror in the family's eye-sockets – which he obtains by smashing mirrors in the house. He makes it a point to smash every mirror in the house, however, more than he needs to take the shards, because he is disgusted with his own appearance.

Dolarhyde wears latex gloves during his kills, and while he takes them off when he rapes the mother's corpse, he is careful enough to wipe his fingerprints from her when he finishes (though he crucially forgot that his fingerprints would also be left on the mother's eyeballs). Despite this attention to destroying fingerprints, Dolarhyde takes no precautions against leaving his semen in her corpse, or his saliva on her – wearing his modified, distorted and sharp dentures, Dolarhyde bites the corpse multiple times, as part of his oral fixation. This allows the police to determine his blood type, though they are baffled at the reconstructed bite model from his teeth marks (not realizing he was wearing custom dentures).

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"), 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 that the Yakuza wore. 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 is set to appear in season 3 of the television series Hannibal, beginning in episode 8.[6]

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".