After a long absence caused by too much work, too many commitments and just a smidgen of lack of enthusiasm for blogging, I’m back (at least for a while) and ready to engage with this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, as set by the Broke and the Bookish……..my top ten literary heroines.
It’s a sign of the historic male-centric nature of literature (or maybe just my own reading preferences) that, whereas a list of ten literary heroes would just trip off the tongue, a list of heroines has given me much pause for thought and contemplation. It probably has something to do with the books I’ve read or, more importantly, not read - for example, I have always tended to avoid the likes of Austen and the various Brontës. I also believe that, unlike the male hero, for whom there is a philosophical template of the central character who faces challenges, whether physical, mental or emotional and who overcomes them by facing them and doing “the right thing”, there seems either to be a relative lack of female central characters who fit this model (at least until recently) or a lack of a recognisable template. In any event and in no particular order, here is my list of literary heroines, at least according to my lights. One note: although I have nothing against her, I’m not including Hermione Grainger on a point of principle.
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1. Matilda. Confession time: Matilda isn’t my literary heroine, she is mini-Falaise’s first real literary heroine. To me, Roald Dahl’s magical little girl is an irritating know-it-all who could do with a good metaphorical squashing. To mini-Falaise though, she is the girl she wants to be. Play-time in our house currently tends to involve her being Matilda, Mrs Falaise becoming Miss Honey, mini-Falaise’s invisible friend, Lavender and me being relegated to Un-named Child in Matilda’s class.
2. Lady Macbeth. OK, I know this is a little perverse as she is generally held up as one of Shakespeare’s villains and she did, after all, egg her husband on to commit regicide but, hey, what’s a little murder between friends? More importantly to my mind, she was an incredibly strong (if evil) female character at the very beginning of the 17th Century, when most female characters would have been passive characters to whom events happened. Not something one could say about the Lady.
3. Mary Poppins. She supercalifragilisticexpialidociously makes this list for two reasons. Firstly, her saccharine sweet screen version both keeps mini-Falaise entertained now and again on DVD and, secondly, her less sickly novelistic incarnation introduced the stuffy Edwardians to the idea that children should, just maybe, be both seen and heard from time to time, in contrast to the views of their Victorian forefathers. To be honest, there are times I wish that genie had been kept firmly in the bottle but, on the whole, it’s a good thing!
4. Mrs Justice Phyllida Erskine-Brown. If you are not an aficionado of John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey books (and if not, why on earth not?), this may be a new one for you. Through the series, the young Phyllida Trant survives the tender mercies of a pupillage with, and later marriage to, the weaselly and wet Claude Erskine-Brown, the outdated customs and views of the English Bar of the ‘70s and ‘80s and a number of court room and chambers clashes with Rumpole to become firstly, a QC, later a Recorder and, finally, a High Court judge. Bright and feisty, she also has the advantage of having been played on TV by the lovely Patricia Hodge.
5. Eowyn. Despite my almost unbounded admiration for him, I can’t deny that Tolkien wasn’t so good on the female character side. Not only are they pretty lacking in number, but they’re not exactly heroine material. Indeed, Hollywood had to spice Arwen Evenstar up pretty heavily for the LotR movies to get any kind of gender balance in there. The shining exception to the Tolkienian rule, however, is Eowyn, the hard-riding, ass-kicking daughter of niece of King Theoden of Rohan. Indeed, so tough is she that she manages to kill the mighty Witch-King of Angmar. Yeah‼!
6. Tinkerbell. She may be a little bit spiteful, a little bit prone to jealousy and a little bit flighty but she’s a spirited little fairy and her loyalty to Peter Pan is fierce. I’d much rather mini-Falaise wanted to emulate her than the prematurely-middle-aged and slightly dull Wendy.
7. V.I. Warshawski. If I’m honest, the heavy-handed ‘80s feminism of Sara Paretsky’s series can get a little much but V.I. Warshawski, Chicago’s finest female private investigator, never gets stale. She’s tough, smart and very independent. In short, she rocks.
8. Lyra "Silvertongue" Belacqua. She’s her own girl, she’s sparky and she can use an alethiometer. She knows what she believes and she’s the star of the His Dark Materials trilogy. We like her.
9. Irene Adler. OK, so she’s not really a heroine. In fact, she’s more of a villain. And she only actually appears in one short story. But, tell me, how cool must the woman be who can gain the respect (and even a little bit of love, maybe?) from the cold and, frankly, pretty misogynistic Sherlock Holmes? So she makes this list - after all, it’s my list, my rules.
10. Thursday Next. Thursday gets the nod for the final spot on my heroine’s roster for managing to keep it all together whilst dividing her life between two different worlds, being a Jurisfiction agent as well as SpecOps, having a pet dodo and keeping her marriage going despite the fact that, for at least part of the series, her husband doesn’t actually exist. She takes multi-tasking to the next level. And she’s pretty cool. And unlike Lady Macbeth, Tinkerbell and Irene Adler, she’s unmistakeably a heroine.