The other day I was thinking, and I realized something rather fascinating. Heroines in fantasy books (or I suppose it could apply to any genre) can be grouped into the basic categories of three fairytale princesses.
Image from Disney-ClipArt.com
First, we have the Snow White category (think of Disney’s Snow White). Snow White is very sweet, very beautiful, very cheerful, very kind, very thoughtful, very stupid. The things that people love about her, her gentle spirit and perpetually kind manner, are also the things that get her into trouble. She thinks ill off no one and this often allows bad people to do bad things because she’s too trusting. The Snow White genus of heroine is practically extinct now, in favor of the other two categories.
Image from 1901 illustration
There is the Márya Morévna category. Márya Morévna is a figure in Slavic folklore. A warrior queen who defeats an immortal ogre and locks him up in her dungeon. But then one day while she’s out fighting or doing whatever it is warrior queens do on the weekends, her boyfriend goes and lets the ogre out by accident. Márya must then go on a quest to rescue said boyfriend from the ogre. As you have probably guessed, the heroines in this category are what is commonly referred to as “kick-ass.” They are great fighters and they are the sort of young women you don’t provoke if you value your life. The Márya Morévna heroine is at the top of her game and the stories about these heroines usually involve her finally meeting an enemy who is stronger than she is. Kristin Cashore’s Katsa falls into the Márya Morévna category as does Sarah J. Maas’ Celaena Sardothien.
Image from Wikipedia
The third category is the Mulan heroine. Mulan is a character in Chinese folklore who dresses up as a boy to take her decrepit father’s place in the emperor’s army. This type of heroine is the sort who doesn’t know how to fight or use magic or what have you at the beginning of the story, but learns as she goes. The Mulan heroine is usually motivated by survival or the desire to save a loved one. She essentially wants to be left alone, but does what she needs to do. She relies more on her wits than her skills. Shannon Hale’s Ani is a Mulan heroine. The main character of my books, Janir Caersynn Argetallam, also falls into this category.
Of course, these are sweeping generalizations and some characters, like Suzanne Collins’ Katniss, could belong to more than one category. And then there could also be sub-categories within each category, too. Even the two heroines I used as examples for the Márya Morévna group could be divided into “trying to survive and help people along the way” and “went on quest to save kingdom.”
And there you have my random observation of the day. No surprise, my favorite category is the Mulan heroine, but everyone’s different (thank Heaven or life would be very boring!). So what’s your favorite type of heroine?
Originally appeared as a guest post on Book Bite Reviews
I think each of those types have their own strengths and weaknesses, just like people do have both in reality. Because of that, I find it pretty hard to choose a definite favourite out of those categories. I like the ‘kick-ass’ type (for their determination, physical and mental strength, their independence… at least the characters I think of usually possess those qualities), but I also do like Mulan for example a lot (in her case because she is willing and able to learn and develop her skills, she also is determined and she is passionate among other things). As for the first category, I guess Cinderella would fall in there as well? Just saying, because I think her character is easier.. well, likeable as an example for that type of heroine. I personally see her as an example of mental strength and maintaining hope, which would be a reason why, although this type of heroine might seem a little stupid upon first inspection, I still like them, too. Nicely categorized though!
Thank you! And might I say I enjoyed reading your reply. =)
Michelle finch said:
If you have not yet read the original mythology/folk tale of Mulan and the Asian Warrior Women legends. Many have fascinating depth in the female characters. Disneys version want it.
True. Disney does sometimes make characters…less substantial. Though, I have fond memories of Mulan. But it’s been awhile, so I’ll have to watch it again to see how they did.