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Humbert Humbert is the protagonist villain of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita. He is a pedophile who is obsessed with 12-year-old Dolores "Dolly" Haze, the daughter of his landlady whom he nicknames "Lolita".
He was portrayed by the late James Mason - who also portrayed Phillip Vandamm in North by Northwest in Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film adaptation of the novel. In Adrien Lyne's 1998 adaptation, he was portrayed by Jeremy Irons, who also portrayed Simon Gruber in Die Hard With a Vengeance and voiced Scar in The Lion King
In the novel
Humbert is a middle-aged literary scholar who is sexually obsessed with beautiful little girls, whom he calls "nymphets". It is implied that Humbert's pedophilia is the result of his youthful romance with a girl named Annabel, who died before they could consummate their relationship. As an adult, he observes a "look but don't touch" rule in regard to little girls, as he fears going to prison.
He accepts a teaching position in a small New England town and takes a room in a boarding house owned by a middle-aged woman named Charlotte Haze. When he meets her daughter, Dolores, he becomes obsessed with her and nicknames her "Lolita". He gets engaged to Charlotte just so he can be near her daughter. When Charlotte sends Lolita off to summer camp so they can be alone, Humbert is devastated but is briefly heartened when Lolita gives him a somewhat less an innocent kiss goodbye.
Eventually, Charlotte finds Humbert's diary, in which he details his contempt for her and waxes poetic about his lust for Lolita. Horrified, Charlotte runs out of the house and is struck dead by a passing car. Humbert picks Lolita up at her summer camp and takes her to a motel, intending to drug her and molest her in her sleep. When Lolita tells him that she is not a virgin, however, he takes it as a sign that is acceptable to have sex with her. They become lovers and go traveling cross-country together.
They settle in a small town, where Humbert takes a job as a college professor. He sends Lolita to school but is so pathologically jealous of her that he refuses to let her have a life. Eventually, Lolita tires of him and runs off with Clare Quilty, a local playwright. Humbert goes looking for her but to no avail.
Years later, Humbert receives a letter from a now-adult Lolita asking for money. He goes to see her and finds that she is married and pregnant. She tells him that she left Quilty after he tried to make her perform in child pornography and that she just wants to live a normal life. Humbert finds that he still loves her, even though she is no longer the nymphet of his dreams, and asks her to run away with him. Even though she gently rebuffs him, he still gives her money after finally realizing that what he did to her was wrong.
He then goes to see Quilty, intent on killing him. He reads Quilty a poem he wrote accusing him (hypocritically) of destroying Lolita's innocence and then shoots him dead. He is arrested and later dies in prison after telling the story of his relationship with Lolita to a journalist.