Tag Archives: The Last Dragonslayer Trilogy

Top 5 – Female characters in children’s fiction

This month’s top 5, an issue  I think is very important – children’s books that get it right when it comes to female characters. As I’m sure a lot of girls will attest to it is disheartening as fuck when the characters who are meant to represent you are always portrayed as wimpy and annoying, relegated to a side character to fawn over the male hero or, even when given the title role, have a character arc that consists of silently putting up with all sorts of crap so that they can win the heart of a rich and handsome man they’ve barely even had a conversation with before. Not that there’s not a place for those stories – there is strength in traditional femininity and for some women finding a husband and starting a family is the most important thing,  and there’s nothing wrong with that – but it’s not true of all women and it shouldn’t be the sole characterisation of all women in literature either, especially that aimed at children in their formative years. So this month I’m going to celebrate a few authors who do something more with their female characters.

Actually, I think these days children’s books get it right more often than adult books when it comes to portraying women as something other than an object to be either won, overcome, or jerked off to. In fact, I ended up temembering so many awesome female characters that I decided to split this into two parts and do a top 5 female characters in illustrated books for smaller children next month.

Most of these books are pretty modern for the simple reason that I avoided the children’s classics that were marketed towards girls like the plague when I was a child precisely because I wasn’t a girly child, and the ‘boys own’ classics I did read didn’t have many female characters at all. This sort of marketing is actually something I would love to see change –  girls should enjoy Robin Hood and Treasure Island and boys fairy tales or Black Beauty without being made to feel abnormal for it. I’m sure there are strong female characters in older books though and I don’t mean any slight by not including the girl from ‘The Secret Garden’ or ‘Little Women’ or whatever – I simply haven’t read those books. I’ve also tried to keep it ‘children’s’ and not cross too far into  ‘teenage/young adult’ – so no Tamorra Pierce here (who does do a good job of portraying women of all personalities as strong, even if I think her plotting and worldbuilding are pretty shit) or Katnis from The Hunger Games (which I haven’t read and don’t really have any intention to). Also not included are any ‘girl disguises as boy’ plots where the reveal is meant to be a big surprise, that’s just spoilery. I’ll have to sneak that awesome heroine in through in another top five instead.

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Musings: Dragons – Puerile or Prejudice?

I realise this is waaay too early to start posting musings and opinions – this blog only has two subscribers so far after all – but nevertheless I read something yesterday that got me thinking. Followed by a long train journey today where I was too exhausted for reading, and I had plenty of time in which to think. So whether anyone is reading this or not – and if you are please comment if you have opinions – I decided to put pen to paper (metaphorically at least).

Now the thing that got me thinking was a passage in Jorge Luis Borges’ The Book of Imaginary Beings – an early ‘encyclopedia of fantastic beasts’ – or a modern version of a medieval bestiary – depending on your opinion (I go with the later).  Unlike most similar encyclopedias I’ve read, Borges treats the creatures he deals with as firmly imaginary and openly discusses their symbolic origins, changing symbolism, and use in fiction. But I’m not writing a review of this book yet (I’m still only on ‘D’ and reading one entry a day), no, what got me musing was this passage regarding ‘The Western Dragon’:

Time has considerably tarnished the prestige of Dragons. We believe in lions as reality and as a symbol; we believe in the Minotaur as a symbol, though no longer a reality; the Dragon is perhaps the best known though also the least fortunate of fantastic animals. It strikes us as puerile, a creature of childhood, and its puerility contaminates the stories in which it figures. But we must not forget that this is a modern prejudice, perhaps inspired by the excess of Dragons found in fairy tales. Continue reading

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