Monday, May 4, 2015

Monday Musings: Princess vs. Dragon Slayer

This is Part 2 in my Characterization Study. Today I am going to share some of my favorite literary heroines. Oh, this list is endless. However, the real challenge for me came, not in narrowing down my list, but in trying to put into words how I feel about heroines. Let's face it, ladies: the feminine ideal is a subject of much debate in our world, with views ranging from the Victorian ideal, to the Amazon woman, to women being little more than slaves to serve their husband's whims.

So, tell me, girls, who are we supposed to be? And more importantly, who does God want us to be?

This is a subject I have studied with much distress over the years. I have been all over the spectrum, trying to find where I fit in the grand scheme of womanhood. Should I be meek and mousy, hiding in the shadows to keep from being noticed? Should I cry out and stand up for myself and fight for what I believe in? How should I dress to best promote my womanhood? Where exactly are we supposed to fit in, ladies, in a world where "women are taking over and men are being told to sit down and shut up?" (I am quoting someone: I think it was my Marmie, but I can't quite remember. So whoever you are, thank you for letting me borrow your poignant words). This issue has been a subject of debate all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Eve took that fruit off the tree and gave it to Adam. God told her, point blank, "you're going to want what your husband's got." She was going to want his position of authority. She was going to want to be stronger than him. Better than him. More powerful than him. And, yes, certainly, she had the capability of taking that all from him, but that is not the path God wanted her to take.

But, I do not believe God wanted her to be abused, to be looked down upon because of her sex, to be told to hide her femininity from the world, to be seen and not heard, to wait on the sidelines while Adam fought all the battles.

I believe God had dragons for Eve to fight as well. Metaphorically, speaking. Let's talk about some of the heroines in the Bible, the most enduring piece of literature in all of history. Let's talk about Deborah, the prophetess, who inspired her people to fight against their enemies and led them into battle. God delivered the enemy into the hands of a woman. Let's talk about Esther, who used her place as a woman to sway the heart of a pagan king and save not only herself but all of her people. What about Miriam, the slave girl, who defied the laws of Egypt to save her infant brother? Look at the Proverbs 31 woman, who not only ran her household but also business affairs. God praised her for her ability to function in the world, providing for her family while running her household. We were not intended to sit idly by.

I love girly things. I like boho, and shabby chic, and dresses with boots, and lacy tops, and cheap but fabulous jewelry. I also love my blue jeans, and my work gloves, and my baseball cap and tennis shoes. My conclusion: I love being feminine, but I want to be strong, too, like Deborah and Esther and Miriam. Conclusion?

I want to be a Princess, but why can't I slay the dragon while I'm at it?

So, here are some of my favorite literary heroines (two from classics and two from modern novels) and some of the reasons why I love them so much.

1. The most obvious is Eowyn, from J.R.R. Tolkien's enduring LOTR series--both from the books and from the movies. I love the fact that this character is both fragile and strong. She wears the most adorable clothes, and at the same time she can handle a sword. One of my favorite quotes, from the movies, is "The women of this country learned long ago, those without swords can still die upon them." I think Tolkien did a wonderful job of handling her femininity, of showing her vulnerability as a woman, but also showing her strength and determination. My absolute favorite scene is when she confronts the Witch-king. No man could kill him. Eowyn's place as a woman gave her the right and the strength to vanquish this foe, with the help of a brave, little hobbit. This was not a feat Aragorn could have accomplished. This task was for Eowyn.

2. Swede from Leif Enger's Peace Like a River. This book was required reading in Advanced Creative Writing in college, and I could not put it down. This book is a treasure trove for writers. Swede is another fragile but strong character. She is only a little girl, but she has to face very grown up troubles in this novel. Watching her struggle with things beyond her, in her funny and wild way, is very heart warming. She is fiercely loyal, so much so that she is willing to excuse her older brother's crimes. Her love of family is unparalleled.

3. Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte's classic story is one of my all time favorites. I cannot tell you the number of times I have read it, nor can I guess the number of times I will read it again. I love this heroine. She is young, and unimportant, and abused and desperate for love and belonging, but she has a strength of character I can only hope to one day emulate. I like Mr. Rochester, but some times I hate him for putting Jane into such a compromised position. I love dark, tragic heroes but in this story, it is the heroine and not the tragic hero that really touches my heart. When she willingly gives up everything she desires because she feels it is the right and moral thing to do, she displays such depth of character.

My final selection is stepping way outside the box here. I hope you can keep up with me. I had a very difficult time choosing my second character from a modern novel. There are so many to choose from: the stubborn Katniss from The Hunger Games, the flamboyant Kale from Donita K. Paul's Dragonspell series, proud Una from Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Heartless, bookish Hermione from Harry Potter...I could go on and on. I finally chose Wanda.

4. Wanda is the main character in Stephanie Meyer's The Host. I picked this book up because I was bored out of my mind and the premise was unlike anything I had read before, and I was pleasantly amazed by the read. This is a science fiction story about a parasitic alien race that invades the earth. However, the story is not told from our perspective, but rather from the voice of one of the aliens. Wanda, as the humans call her, begins to struggle with her role in the universe when she realizes how much the Souls are hurting the people of earth. For the first time, she begins to question her purpose and her future. She is a good, kind character, horrified by all forms of violence, but through the influence of her human host she learns how to be strong and kind at the same time. For you romantics out there, this is one of the most unusual love triangles of all times: two girls, trapped in one body, in love with two different men. It is a gritty story, but so thought provoking. Side note, I did not particularly enjoy the movie adaption of this story--it was one of those "Meh, it was okay" moments. The book, however, I could not put down, and it was long. For those of you who revel in thick novels, this one was deliciously long.

What are some of your favorite literary heroines? Do you agree or disagree with any of my choices? What do you think makes an ideal female character? I would love to hear your thoughts. As a side note, when I sat down last night to finish editing my post for this morning, I noticed that Kaycee over at the Pink Cave posted a similar post about her favorite heroines yesterday! You should check out her blog post. I was delighted to see some overlap!

Join me next week as I delve into the Tragic Character. I am SO ecstatic about this upcoming a hiccuping, sniffling, sobbing sort of way. I hope you'll bring a box of tissues and join me for some of the most tear-worthy characters of all times.


  1. I am loving these posts. Peace Like a River sounds so intriguing, and I'll definitely check it out.

    Regarding biblical heroines: I love the ones you mentioned! Two of my favorites are often overlooked, but I love Leah, Rachel's sister from Genesis, and the aunt of the child king of Israel, who hid her nephew from the evil queen Athaliah. Both women do not say very much, but I love Leah because it is specifically mentioned that God remembered her when she was ignored by Jacob. The names of her children reflect her reliance on God. And, it is from Judah's line that Jesus was born. Regarding the other woman I mentioned: The aunt's actions result in the Jewish line being preserved. Of course, Rahab's story is amazing, too. There are so many courageous women in Scripture.

    Regarding literary heroines: Two of my favorites are the lame princess from Handbook for Dragon Slayers, by Merrie Haskell, and Rose Red from Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I love heroines who face difficult turmoils or insecurities but who show great strength in striving to overcome them.

    Looking forward to your tragic characters post.

    1. Meredith, it always such a pleasure hearing from you. Your comment was such a blessing to me. I've never read Merrie Haskell, but I will have to check her out now!! I'm always on the look out for a new book. I go through them so fast: I usually read a book in one or two sittings. Once I pick it up I can't put it back down!

  2. Eowyn and Jane Eyre are the only characters in your post I'm familiar with (and I read Jane Eyre when I was 12, so I don't actually remember much of it).

    When it comes to heroines, I love Cimorene from Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter, Rose Red, Daylily and Imraldera from the Tales of Goldstone Wood, Eilonwy from the Chronicles of Prydain, and Murphy from the Dresden Files. I'm sure there are others, but those are the ones that spring to mind.

    I'm with Meredith, I also loved the lame princess, and I also loved the main character from Haskell's The Princess Curse (can't remember the heroine's name...) both were quite good.

    I enjoyed your post immensely. I think you've hit a very nice balance on this issue.

    1. Oh I love Eilonwy too...and I will definitely have to check out Haskell now, after two such reviews.

      Finding a balance in the Womanhood issue is the hardest part. For me, it ultimately became an issue of balancing what I felt God expected of me, with what my husband expected of me, with what I expected of myself. Once I reached that point, I became so much more content with myself and my place in this world, because I felt like I could actually live and thrive. I believe that is exactly the place God wants us all to be. Living and thriving.

  3. I tried to post this the other day and it didn't work....

    Tabitha Serannon is my absolute favorite. (Lifesong series, by Greg Hamerton) She is a fabulous heroine with strength, sweetness, fire and imperfections.

    Eilonwy also makes my list, and the third one would be Robin Hood: Lady of Legend... a great twist on an old tale. (Both readers in our house loved it, which is unusual.) :)

  4. Sairu from Golden Daughter became my favorite heroine nearly the moment I met her. She is both dainty and deadly, charming and cunning, tough and cheeky--she wields words and expressions as well as weapons...but in truth, she's a very damaged character, deceived by the rigid expectations of her order that she can only have one very unloved hard life. She's one of the most loveable characters ever...and she doesn't believe she should love or that it's possible someone might fall in love with her. Her journey to restoration is beautiful.

    1. I have not yet had the chance to read Golden Daughter, but the more I hear, the more I want to.