Every Thursday, Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn leads a group of fellow bloggers on “Tough Travels”, a trip through the tropes that populate the fantasy and sci-fi world, using Diane Wynne Jones’ hilarious The Tough Guide to Fantasyland as a guide.
This week’s subject is “A Lady and Her Sword”:
I confess, I haven’t read a few of these. But my wife insisted that if we are talking ladies and swords they needed to be included. So here are a handful of ass-kicking, sword-wielding women.
She’s the Rivan Queen and she’s got a sword. And impractical armor. She doesn’t even know how to use it, but she still strikes an inspiring figure with her flaming red hair, busty breastplate and sword held aloft, as you can see on the cover. It’s enough to inspire all the men of the west to take up arms to defeat the Angarak armies of the East. She even takes a little time to learn what to do with her sword, thanks to her friend Adara.
I haven’t read this classic YA novel, but I was instructed that it must be included. Angharad “Harry” Crewe is an orphan Homelander who is kidnapped by the Damarian king, who recognizes her strong magical potential. She soon proves herself as a warrior linked to an ancient hero, and is given the mythical blue sword “Gonturan” to lead against the evil that threatens her country. I’m spitballing here, but it does have a cool, lightsaber-ey cover, and it won a Newbery Award, so Harry’s got that going for her as well.
Kvothe has a lot of dubious adventures in the second episode of the Kingkiller Chronicles, like learning how to pleasure a woman from a sex fairy. He also learned how to be an expert swordsmen with the Adem – a matriarchal warrior society. Shehyn is the head of the school of the sword tree, where Kvothe trains, and she presents him with the sword “Maedre” when he leaves.
Is there a more famous lady with a sword than Eowyn? Donning armor and joining the battle of Pellenor Fields disguised as a man. She faced down Sauron’s mighty Witch King, who boasted that “no man could kill him.” Good thing that Eowyn wasn’t a man, as she memorably let the Witch King know as she ran him through.
Baru Cormorant isn’t a great swordswoman, but she is a great leader. She inherited her sword from her friend, the sailor Aminata, who presented it to her when she disembarked for her post as Imperial Accountant in Aurdwynn. But the sword, in its ill-fitting scabbard, is a reminder of her friend, her origins and the sacrifices she makes in her quest for vengeance for her parents and her home of Taranoke.
Another entry I was told I needed to include, even if I hadn’t read it. Sabriel is the daughter of the Abhorsen, a necromancer who banishes the living dead using the power of his bandolier of bells and his magic sword, marked with the words “I was made for Abhorsen to slay those already dead. The Clayr saw me. The Wallmaker made me. Abhorsen wields me so that no Dead my walk in life, for this is not their path”. When her father is slain, Sabriel takes up his relics and his place as Abhorsen.
Her sister wanted to be a queen and learn the gentle art of life in court. But even at age nine she was more interested in fighting than sewing. So much that her half-brother Jon Snow gave her a sword as a gift, which she ironically named Needle. Her father Ned encouraged her, hiring the Braavosi water-dancer Syrio Farel to teach her swordplay. And as her family is torn apart and her father beheaded, Arya keeps a running tally of those who will meet their end on Needle’s point.
She’s the only female Jedi I remember. I didn’t even know her name until I looked it up. But she had some cool action sequences during “The Rise of the Clones” and did some nice force pushing. I’d assume she’s prominent in the Expanded Universe, since she seems to be heavily cosplayed and Star Wars geeks always love Twi’lek women.
With the exception of some dubious comics in the 70s, Wonder Woman has always been the archetypal female superhero. Adding a sword just makes her more badass. And it’s a pretty badass sword. True to her Greek mythological origin, the sword was forged by Hephaestus and can slice electrons, and, according to canon, cut Superman. Nice to see it showing up in the Batman vs. Superman promo artwork.
Come back next week when we take a look at “A Well-Traveled Road.”