Lately, I’ve noticed a couple of posts commenting on the state of women in fantasy genre. One of the biggest gripe is that the women are all either damsels in distress or a superwoman type with brains, beauty, and brawn. As a woman, mother, nerd, and former athlete, I decided to toss my sixpence into the pot. Keep in mind that this is simply my own sixpence. (Some spoilers lurking)
First, a little backstory.
I was a late bloomer, relatively speaking, when it came to reading for fun. I was one of those weird kids who read the encyclopedia for fun. It wasn’t until the eight grade when my school librarian decided that it was going to be her mission to find something that I would enjoy reading.
After a couple of failed attempts, she recommended “The Giver.” While the tale immediately enchanted me, it didn’t quite ignite my passion for reading. Something was missing.
Then I came across Terry Brook’s “First King of Shannara“. Here was a tale of magic and adventure. It also had what was missing from “The Giver”: strong, prominent females in the forefront of the action.
Preia Starle was confident, beautiful woman, and an accomplished Elven tracker. She was more than just eye candy. She was an integral part of the quest for the black elfstone and would become a strong queen, the prefect compliment to the newly crowned king. She had it all: beauty, brains, weapon mastery.
Brooks also had the character of Mareth (who was obviously the archetypical precursor to Grianne Ohmsford). She was a powerful druid initiate with a dark past on a quest to discover the truth about her father. She saves the party numerous times including at Paranor, the village of the Stors, and Hadeshorn. She was also instrumental in the creation of the Sword of Shannara. At the end of the book, she walks away from potential greatness for a quiet life with the borderman.
Here in one book, we have examples of two powerful women (one martial and one magic), both of whom, by the end of the book, make choices of note that have consequences on every book in the series.
Had Preia not convinced Jerle to take up the mantle of king and take up the sword, how would the Warlock Lord have been defeated? Alternatively, if she had not participated in the final battle, would Jerle still have faltered?
If Mareth had chosen to embrace druidic life and the mentorship of Bremen, how would that have affected young Allanon?
Both these women were the complete package. Did that offend me as a female reader?
Not in the least bit.
Because frumpy housewives are boring. The genre is called fantasy and that is exactly what I want to read. I don’t want ordinary. I deal with ordinary everyday.
You have the occasional author who will try to overcompensate and create a completely ordinary female main character in an extraordinary setting. The reader is given an unfeasible main character who annoys the reader or is unlikeable.
In short, you get Bella Swan.
So what is wrong with the portrayal of women in the fantasy genre? In my opinion: NOTHING.
So I’m interested to know what’s your take on this?