It’s a great time to be imaginary. The characters that make up this year’s edition of the Forbes Fictional 15, our annual listing of fiction’s richest, boast an aggregate net worth of $209.5 billion. That’s up a stunning 59 percent from last year — and it’s enough cash to give $30 to every (real) person on the planet.
On top of the list is the ancient red-golden dragon Smaug, known by hobbits and dwarves across Middle Earth as “Smaug the Tremendous” and “Smaug the Unassessably Wealthy.” Smaug’s personal fortune jumped 16 percent from last year to $62 billion after wyrm watchers crafted a more detailed analysis of his massive hoard of coins, jewels and antiques.
Fiction’s second-richest character makes his first appearance on the list in 2012, and not without controversy. Diamond mining magnate Flintheart Glomgold (net worth $51.9 billion) stole the title of “World’s Richest Duck” from his arch nemesis (and former list member) Scrooge McDuck when the longtime rivals bet their entire fortunes on the results of an around the world race. Now penniless, McDuck is crying fowl: He says Glomgold cheated, hiring The Beagle Boys to kidnap his nephew Donald and Magica De Spell to ground his zeppelin. He’s sworn to recover his fortune.
Perennial list-member C. Montgomery Burns (net worth $1.3 billion) saw profits at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant surge after he replaced employees with robots, even though the program was cancelled following a cybernetic revolt. Forbes sat down for a rare one-on-one with the controversial billionaire (with a little help from the writers of "The Simpsons").
Other returning members of the Fifteen include: Oil magnate Jed Clampett (net worth $9.8 billion), who dodged disaster after an oil tanker spilled 20,000 barrels of “Texas Tea” in the Gulf of Alaska; and billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (net worth $6.9 billion), who made headlines after crashing the Occupy Gotham protest with a crate of Dom Perignon.
Several new faces also appear among the 2012 Fictional Fifteen, including Tywin Lannister, the Lord of Casterly Rock and grandfather of King Joffrey Baratheon; Robert Crawley, the earl of Grantham; and Lisbeth Salander, who uses her computer hacking skills to catch serial killers and steal billions in cash.
In addition to Scrooge McDuck, five other members of last year’s list dropped off the rankings in 2012, including legendary corporate raider Gordon Gekko, who is awaiting trial regarding his role in the Galleon Group insider trading scandal. One-time billionaire Chuck Bass has been reduced to a common salaryman after losing control of Bass Industries to rival Russell Thorpe, and bitter and protracted divorce proceedings have revealed Jeffrey Lebowski’s fortune to be largely fictional.
To qualify for the Fictional 15, we require that candidates be an authored fictional creation, a rule which excludes mythological and folkloric characters. They must star in a specific narrative work or series of works. And they must be known, both within their fictional universe and by their audience, for being rich.
Net worth estimates are based on an analysis of the fictional character’s source material, and where possible, valued against known real-world commodity and share price movements. In the case of privately held fictional concerns, we seek to identify comparable fictional public companies. All figures are as of market close, April 1, 2012.
Final valuations are calculated with a grain of salt, and a willingness to break our own rules.