Monday, June 6, 2011

Influenced by Heroines

by Laura Bickle

There are a lot of writers that I like and admire. But when it comes to inspiration, I always come back to the first fantasy book I read that included a powerful female protagonist. I read Robin McKinley's THE HERO AND THE CROWN when I was thirteen. All the books I'd read before then had been about men. Men riding dragons. Men making war. Men storming castles. The female characters were relegated to two-dimensional backgrounds. They were passive. They hung out in castles and expected to be taken care of solely because they'd sprouted ovaries. Until the guy with the washboard abs showed up to rescue them.

That didn't fly with me. Sorry. Couldn't suspend disbelief that far. Still can't.

Then, I met Aerin, the heroine of THE HERO AND THE CROWN. She wasn't glamorous. She was clumsy. Unmagical. She broke dishes, tripped around the castle, and wished that she was someplace else.  She wasn't popular. She wasn't cool.

But she discovered her talents. She couldn't work magic or embroider nicely. She was, instead, a dragonslayer. Aerin grew into her armor and her role, becoming a legendary hero. She suffered for it, nearly incinerated by a fearsome foe. She survived as a result of courage and endurance, lifting a terrible curse that had permeated deep within her kingdom.

Aerin fell in love...not once, but twice. Neither time with an alpha male. They were both good a hermetic immortal sorcerer, and the other a kind and sorta bookish guy destined to be king. She loved both of them and they loved her. She could choose only one in the end, but it was without a slugfest or angst.

And Aerin has always been, to me, the model of what a heroine should be. She knew independence. She knew duty. She knew love.

And she also ignited my love of the fantasy genre. She showed me what a heroine could be, and I'll always be grateful for that.


  1. Robin McKinley is one of the greatest writers out there. LOVE everything she writes. If the world were fair, she would be making millions. I could do a whole blog post on how each of her books affected me...

  2. She's absolutely brilliant. I've gobbled up her other books over time very greedily, awaiting more!

  3. I read The Blue Sword first of that series (Beauty was the first book of hers I read) and I have loved all of the Damarian stories - shorts, novels, whatever. Hari is still one of my all time favorite heroines. When I think of that book, I don't see the words on the page. I see the desert and the hills and the horses...Sigh. :)

  4. THE BLUE SWORD was amazing - I read that one right after THE HERO AND THE CROWN. Another fabulous heroine, and a totally unforgettable landscape.

    BEAUTY was amazing, too. Sigh. I really should just join the fan club.

  5. The first female hero I encountered in my reading was in the children's book 'Ronia the Robber's Daughter' by Astrid Lindgren. I still love that book. Another book with a strong female lead that I keep rereading is Hasse Simonsdochter by Thea Beckman. It's a shame that the book never got translated to English or I'd be bugging all my friends to read it.

  6. Oooh. I will have to add those to my list, in the hopes that an English translation available someday! :-)

  7. My fantasy-fan card will likely be revoked for confessing I've never read McKinley. ~cringe~

    My first literary hero just happened to be a heroine, and a young one at that. I grew up on L. Frank Baum's Oz series -- Dorothy, Tik-Tok, and Pumpkinhead.

    "Have dog, will travel."

  8. Anne McCaffrey-Dragonriders of Pern, Lessa-Queen rider. I just wished we saw more of her in the later books.

    Did you read SUNSHINE by Mckinley?

  9. I promise not to revoke your card, KAK! ;-)

    Diane P, I adored SUNSHINE. I hoped that it would be the start of a series, but alas...

    One of the masterful things that McKinley does in SUNSHINE...she never describes the heroine's appearance. So we naturally insert ourselves into her shoes. I really admire that technique. :-)

  10. Sunshine is the book I take with me. It's on the boat now. Don't leave home without it.