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An Author’s Journey: Women in Epic Fantasy (2, The Positive Side of the Register)

3.14.14 An Author’s Journey: Some Inspirations & Influences, Part 4.10: Women in Epic Fantasy (2, The Positive Side of the Register)

Good Evening, Everyone!

Friday just flew by, & I’m in way too much haste to pour myself a Guinness and start the weekend with Sophia and the kids.  I’ll slow down a bit, though, to continue reflections on what goes into making an “epic fantasy” tale, & I’m in the midst of discussing depictions of females in the genre.

Éowyn & the Witch-King of Angmar (Tolkien, The Return of the King, John Howe)

Éowyn & the Witch-King of Angmar (Tolkien, The Return of the King, John Howe)

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Arwen Undómiel, Evenstar" (Liv Tyler, The Two Towers, New Line Cinema, 2002)

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, “Arwen Undómiel, Evenstar” (Liv Tyler, The Two Towers, New Line Cinema, 2002)

I’m using J.R.R. Tolkien as my touchstone because he popularized/created epic fantasy as we know it, & under Peter Jackson the film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books have really tried to invigorate source material that sorely lacked a consistent feminine presence.  In this attempt to introduce females where little to few existed in the novels, the screenwriters for both film trilogies reflect a movement within the fantasy field of the last 20 years that’s tried to incorporate and build stories around female leads.  Kudos to the subsequent prominence of Arwen, Éowyn, Galadriel, and Tauriel, but I believe there’s still a long way to go!

Marion Zimmer Bradley's, The Mists of Avalon: Morgause, Morgaine, Vivianne, & Gwenwyfar (Joan Allen, Julianna Margulies, Anjelica Huston, & Samantha Mathis, 2001)

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s, The Mists of Avalon; (l-r) Morgause, Morgaine, Vivianne, & Gwenwyfar (Joan Allen, Julianna Margulies, Anjelica Huston, & Samantha Mathis, TNT, 2001)

Tenar from Le Guin's "Tombs of Atuan" (Kristin Kreuk, from Sci-Fi Mini-Series, "Earthsea," 2004)

Tenar from Le Guin’s “Tombs of Atuan” (Kristin Kreuk, from Sci-Fi Mini-Series, “Earthsea,” 2004)

As with many things in life, there’s a balance sheet for the depictions of females in the epic fantasy genre.  On the positive side of the register, I’d have to say that since I was a teenager, there’s been huge inroads into creating female protagonists who truly exist and act on their own merits, and who have realistic relationships with other females, men, and creatures/ situations particular to the fantasy realms.

Evaine MacRorie Thuryn (from Katherine Kurtz, The Harrowing of Gwynned)

Evaine MacRorie Thuryn (from Katherine Kurtz, The Harrowing of Gwynned)

Just to name a few favorites, the main characters I remember reading were I were Meg Murry in Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (1962), Tenar in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan (1971), and Morgaine in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon (1983). (One of the most powerful & fully realized female characters I’ve ever read was Evaine MacRorie Thuryn from Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni series; if you want to see a powerful, tragic character arc, read Kurtz’s Camber of Culdi, Saint Camber, Camber the Heretic, and The Harrowing of Gwynedd!)

Luna Lovegood, Hermione Granger, & Cho Chang (Evanna Lynch, Emma Watson, & Katie Leung, in 2007's Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix, Warner Bros.)

Luna Lovegood, Hermione Granger, & Cho Chang (Evanna Lynch, Emma Watson, & Katie Leung, in 2007’s Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix, Warner Bros.)

Elphaba in Gregory Maguire's "Wicked" (Idina Menzel)

Elphaba in Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked” (Idina Menzel)

My daughter also has brought me up-to-date on some entries into field of the last twenty years, with these girls/young women most prominent:  the lingering repercussions of Elphaba Thropp’s life in Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years, Clary in Cassandra Claire’s The Mortal Instruments series, Lyra Belacqua in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, Hermione Granger in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, & lastly, the exotically deadly female protagonist & narrator of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel books, Phèdre nó Delaunay.

Okay, speaking of females, Sophia’s at the office door with a tankard of Guinness in one hand & glass of cabernet in the other.  Outta here!

Next time: Females in Epic Fantasy (The Negative Side of the Register)…

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