Literary Mixtape: Ender Wiggin


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: The miniature hero of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Ender Wiggin.

Much like last week’s mixtape subject, Ender Wiggin has a lot on his shoulders. He was bred to be a warrior, born in the hope that he might be a combination of his two older siblings, harvested for his considerable natural talents and drafted into to Battle School while still a small child. Kid saved the world before puberty — so at least he didn’t have to deal with that disaster during his final battle for the safety of mankind. Not to say that he was angst-free. You try leading armies of your peers in increasingly real and deadly battles against one another, then going back to your room every night to play a twisted 3D computer game that seems to confirm your worst nightmares about yourself — when it’s not coming up with creative ways to kill you, that is. We think Ender would have spent his nights listening to half spacey, sad little boy music, half stalwart warrior songs. After all, he’s probably the most advanced 6-year-old of all time. Here are the songs we think he’d calculate, strategize and defy gravity to.

“Psycho Killer” – The Talking Heads

The Talking Heads were probably not having actual existential crises about whether or not they were cold-blooded killers, but no matter. Ender could use a soundtrack for his.

“A Space Boy Dream” – Belle & Sebastian

Sure, the song’s about going to space. But more than that, it’s about shunting out alone into the blackness, and we can just see Ender lying in bed, looking emotionlessly at the ceiling, listening to this sparse track.

“I Came As A Rat” – Modest Mouse

A perfect soundtrack to an identity crisis if we’ve ever heard one. Not to mention that Ender is the quintessential early Modest Mouse fan. He would have loved the band’s twitchy, oft-anguished, verbose offerings — especially, of course, The Moon and Antarctica.

“Fight Test” – The Flaming Lips

Ender Battles the Buggers. But aside from that, this crowd-pleaser might have been something he played while trying to make friends. For all the five minutes he tried that.

“The Great Elsewhere” – Owen Pallett

This song is so perfect for kids stuck in space stations that we wouldn’t be surprised if it was playing 24/7 in the Battle School elevators.

“Space Oddity” – David Bowie

Because what tormented young astronaut — or tormented young anything — doesn’t have this album?

“Conversation 16” – The National

Matt Berninger’s sonorous voice and this song’s sorrowful lyrics would have appealed to Ender’s steely yet sensitive nature. We see him listening to this song while doing push-ups next to his bed, thinking of Valentine.

“Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” – Warren Zevon

We think Ender would have liked the narrative.

“Young Caesar 2000” – The Mountain Goats

To play the day after he is entrusted with his own planet: “When I was twelve years old / They made me king”

“Roscoe” – Midlake

The wistful tension of this pensive road-trip track could carry Ender through many confused travels.

“Perfect Love” – Marc Cohn

For his months on a raft on a lake, dreaming of what his life could have been like.

“O Superman (For Massenet)” – Laurie Anderson

The woman’s voice alone is like a satellite. This track would be Ender’s go-to for empty nights in space. Plus, the most advanced 6-year-old in the universe would obviously be a Laurie Anderson fan. We’re still trying to nudge some grown-ups in that direction.