Allison, the fell warrior-princess, drew her sword and advanced on the band of ragged louts confronting her. “You’ll soon feel the fiery claw that is ‘The Tigress’, you cowards.”
The men laughed and doubled-over. “You can’t hurt us!”
Her faced scrunched and a flush rose on her cheeks. “I can’t.”
The leader stepped forward with a grin. “You don’t know how to use that. You can’t be a warrior.”
“No you’re just here, well, for the women to identify with.”
Allison scratched the back of her head. “I am?”
“Sure, now run along and sew or something but try to be serious and well-respected.”
The other ruffians guffawed. “Yeah! And try to look beautiful while you’re at it.”
Allison walked away shaking her head. “I don’t understand, I trained an everything.”
You’ve read it. I’ve read it. It’s a common complaint on internet discussion threads; the female warrior is overdone and become farce. Such characters are written merely to gain and keep women readers but they aren’t realistic – not a reflection of reality in the real world so they can’t be in the fictional world. The complaints go on and often twirl into other complaints about overdone tropes of various sorts. Frequently, one wonders if these people are just tired of the grand trope of fantasy altogether (and my advice would be to read some other genres for a while – or better yet some non-fiction).
But I say, the woman-warrior is welcome in fantasy and should even be celebrated! Why? Well lets examine some of the reasons.
She’s been there all along
Now I’ve heard some people complain that female characters should be a warrior and domestic – it would be unique. Others retort that it’s not realistic and can’t be done. Well, it has been done and it is realistic.
The best example is from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Eowyn is a princess of Rohan who has taken care of her king in his magical dotage. We meet just after she has cared for her brother as he died. When trouble comes, Eowyn is called upon to lead her people while the men go off to war. But, being wearied of her life and finding trouble in her back yard she chooses to take up the sword. And it’s a good thing she does so, because she does what no man can do – kill the Lord of the Nazgul. Tolkien has been accused for years for his sexism in not having more women in the story as well as implying that women shouldn’t fight. But he places Eowyn right in line of danger, giving her, arguably one of the best scenes in the whole trilogy – not to mention a great line. It translated to the big screen well.
But that’s not realistic
What’s that? Still arguing about this trope? It can’t happen? Do you think women can’t and won’t take up the sword when necessary, even coming from a domestic background? Think again because history provides us with a singularly excellent example: Joan of Arc. She was a farm-girl and you can imagine what that life was like – very farm and domestic-like. But after seeing a vision she heads off to volunteer to save France from the English. It’s the stuff of a great fantasy tale. Somehow, my character, Limbreth in The Bow of Destiny, even picked up a few similarities with Joan of Arc.
What’s that? It’s only one example? Wrong again – what about the Amazons (check the part about Sarmatian burials). They’re just a myth? Well, think about that again. Secrets of the Dead had an episode where Amazons were examined as historically real. Apparently they lived in that area of the world and later migrated across the Russian steppes.
Still not satisfied? According to a recent archaeological study, women mayhave make up almost half of Viking warrior burials. Yep, that’s right, almost half. All those Vikings storming the shores of Europe to raid villages and towns had plenty of women in the fray and pillaging. Surprised? I’m not. While woman often have domestic duties in most cultures throughout history, they too need to be momma-bears when necessary. Regardless, there are multiple cultures which recounted tales of the Shieldmaiden.
As for the princess idea, lets put that to rest as well. Ever heard of Boudica? She was a Celtic queen who led an uprising against the Romans. Before the “rebellion” was put down she and her people won several battles against the formidable Roman legions.
So take a deep breath and let’s not get worked up about the trope and whether aspects of how female warriors are portrayed are possible. They are indeed possible, however the character, like all, should be presented authentically as possible.
So there can be shown that women were part of many tales about heroic feats.While the female warrior is historically present in many accounts all the sexy depictions are not. Many of the tales recount that Amazons and Shieldmaidens were dressed as men. What does this mean? Those hot-looking breastplates are not accurate. In fact, breast bulges would not even be structurally sound defensive accoutrements.
The importance to understand is that heroic female characters do belong but should not be cast as sex symbols because those easily become unrealistic. In this case, Martin’s female knight, Brienne, is both realistic and authentic. So I say, “Long live the trope!” But only as long as it fits and is presented well which is what all readers ask of any story.
What fantasy tropes bother you and why? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
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About the Author
P. H. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, AL area where he strongly dislikes yard work and sanding the deck rail. However, he performs these duties to maintain a nice home for his loved ones as well as the family’s German Shepherds. In his spare time, P. H. rides herd as a Computer Whisperer on large computers called servers (harmonica not required). Additionally, he enjoys reading, running, most sports and fantasy football. Having a degree in Anthropology, he also has a wide array of more “serious” interests in addition to working regularly to hone his writing. The Bow of Destiny is his first novel-length title with more soon to come.
Hi, everyone! I’m running late today because I’ve been busy this week with a work and a variety of issues around the house or health issues with the family. But I wanted to let everyone know The White Arrow is currently on Kindle Countdown until the 28th. Here’s a short excerpt from the book which is doing rather well:
Athson rolled onto his side and struggled to his knees. He gathered his belongings and dragged them toward the mule. He touched the animal, and it snorted, then flicked its tail. He leaned against the animal. So weary. But he must go, sickness or not. There was his mother to find. “I’m tired of dreams ruling my sleep and my life.”
“Dreams, eh?” Apeth stepped beside Athson. “Don’t you think you should be resting?”
“I need to find my mother.” He motioned to the cave entrance. “It stopped snowing. The storm’s passed.”
“You’re still sick. You won’t make it far, even with the mule.” Apeth squeezed Athson’s shoulder. “I can appreciate your sentiments. But come back to the fire. Eat something and tell me of your dreams. You can go then, if you like, though I suspect our way lies north for days together.”
The cave tilted in Athson’s vision, and Apeth steadied him. “Need to go.” He caught sight of a star beyond the upper edge of the cave opening. It was bright. He stumbled away from the Withling, his mouth agape. He leaned against a rock as he gazed east in the star-clad night sky. One big star rose over the distant Drelkhaz Mountains, a tail extending in a haze below it. “That looks just like an arrow.”
Apeth gaped at the scene as well. Then he muttered, “An arrow shall Eloch prepare.”
“What?” Athson wheeled toward the old Withling and almost fell over in his weakness. If he had the energy, he’d be angry. Heat rose on his cheeks at the words he’d heard back at Eagle’s Aerie from Zelma. “Where did you hear that?”
Apeth stared at the sight a moment longer, then turned to Athson. “I was there when the words were spoken by Zelma, Howart, and Hastra.” He motioned toward the sky. “This marvel, this wandering star, foretells the coming of Eloch’s arrow for the Bow of Hart.”
Athson tucked his chin. “That bow is worthless.” It hadn’t saved his father, hadn’t killed Corgren. No, he’d chosen the wrong target. “That’s nothing. Just something in the sky. Dreams and prophecies don’t work unless it’s ill fortune.” He grabbed his head. Maybe he should lie down. No. Time to escape Withlings and help his mother. He stumbled toward the mule and his gear but veered sideways.
The Withling grabbed Athson again and steered him back to the fire. “At least eat some venison. You’re still fevered.”
At the fire, Athson sat and struggled to keep his balance while Apeth threw wood on the flames. He shut his eyes as the cave spun slowly around him. The memory of another dream rose:
A figure steps from foggy shadows, but not the cloaked Bane. Instead, he sees a familiar floppy hat that shades the face from clear sight.
The trapper from Afratta offers the sword, hilt first. In the slim light, the edges gleam crimson and blue. “Remember what the edges are for.”
Athson grasps the hilt.
The mysterious man turns to leave and pauses. “Remember, it’s not for him.”
“How did you know about the edges of my sword?” Athson opened his eyes and swayed with his dizziness. A coughing fit erupted, and when it cleared, he said, “I dreamed you told me to remember what the edges are for…” He trailed away for a moment. Should he discuss his dreams? He plunged ahead. No reason to hide anything anymore. He had the Bow of Hart now. “Then you told me how to use it back at Marston’s Station. It—something spoke to me about when, how, to use the sword. I dreamed about it before I got it back, and the edges were the same as I saw. I was told then that they are for justice and mercy. I dreamed you told me the same thing, and then you did. How did you know?”
Apeth handed him some venison. “Athson, I didn’t know what to speak. It would seem you have gifts from Eloch. Tell me, have there been other dreams, maybe visions?”
Athson slouched. This discussion was getting personal. He didn’t want a Withling knowing it. He shrugged. What did it matter? It was all done, and the bow was useless to him except as a bargaining piece. He ate the venison, and his stomach rumbled in answer. “Uh, yes. I have. They come true. The details are so precise sometimes, either words or what I’ve seen or heard.”
The Withling leaned back on his bedding. “Please, tell me more. I’d like to hear it.”
Athson’s eyes narrowed. “Now, why don’t I trust you?”
Apeth sat up and leaned close to Athson, his gaze intense but not threatening, his voice steady. “Why wouldn’t you?”
“Because…” But no others words formed in Athson’s mind. Did he really have a reason? He took another bite, chewed, and swallowed. Why not? “Alright, I’ll tell you.” He related all he remembered from Eagle’s Aerie or visions and dreams, all that had happened on the trail, the sword at Harkey’s Post, other dreams along the way. He spoke of Limbreth and how she appeared in his life out of the vision. He spoke of how they were so distinctly accurate. He included his other dreams outside of Chokkra and how they came true in vivid details.
The Withling merely listened, his eyes fixed on Athson throughout the wandering tale of his prescient dreaming and their accuracy.
Athson finished and ate in silence, and Apeth spoke no reply. The fire crackled in the silence between them.
Apeth pushed himself to his feet and then knelt before Athson. He touched Athson’s head and whispered a word Athson never heard clearly, but it echoed across his mind in a moment that passed like hours.
Wellness covered Athson in an instant like a raincoat donned in a sudden downpour of rain. The cascade of sickness rolled from him. The fever fell away. The dizziness ceased, and his vision snapped into clarity along with his thoughts. Weariness clattered from his limbs like chains from a prisoner. He gasped in delayed reaction to the Withling’s healing.
Apeth Stellin withdrew across the fire and rolled his bedding. “I was wondering why I was withheld from healing you. And now it’s clear.”
Athson stood. “I don’t follow you.”
“We need to move.” Apeth pointed toward the cave entrance past the mule. “That wandering star is a sign. We aren’t the only ones to have seen it. You can bet Magdronu is seeking the arrow. North is our way, but choices lie ahead for you.”
Athson shoved the last of his venison in his mouth and chewed. In his mind, there was but one choice. “I see one way ahead.”
Apeth tugged at the brim of his hat, and his blue-eyed gaze twinkled at Athson. “Oh, you have choices. What to do with the bow. Whether to finish this quest and find the arrow.”
With his arms spread wide, Athson lifted his gaze to the darkened cave roof rising above them. “Don’t you see? There’s no need for choices. Everyone’s dead that matters to me. My father. Limbreth. My companions. I can only see my way to one thing now, and that’s bartering for my mother.”
“That’s a choice to let the curse on you continue to grasp your life, Athson, continue to let Magdronu’s evil control you. You have a choice to stop it.” Apeth stepped close again, intense but not threatening. “As for Limbreth, by your dream, I wouldn’t assume anything about her fate. But there are choices ahead. Will you go as far as Marston’s Station with me before you make your final choice with the bow?”
Athson nodded. “I’ll go that far. I need supplies. But there’s no other choice for me.”
“Oh, but there is. Your dreams indicate something you must face.” Apeth gathered his things and paused in front of Athson.
Athson crossed his arms. “What must I face?”
“That you are gifted to be a Withling, asked to serve Eloch with everything you’ve been given.” The Withling strode toward the mule.
Athson’s head spun anew, but not from fever. Light from the wandering star shone in the entrance of the cave and lit the Bow of Hart where he’d left it near the mule. His anger rose in a sudden shout. “No!”