A Quest of Her Own

Essays on the Female Hero in Modern Fantasy


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About the Book

This collection of new essays seeks to define the unique qualities of female heroism in literary fantasy from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in the 1950s through the present. Building upon traditional definitions of the hero in myth and folklore as the root genres of modern fantasy, the essays provide a multi-faceted view of an important fantasy character type who begins to demonstrate a significant presence only in the latter 20th century. The essays contribute to the empowerment and development of the female hero as an archetype in her own right.

About the Author(s)

Lori M. Campbell is a lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Pittsburgh, where she teaches courses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature.

Bibliographic Details

Lori M. Campbell

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 300
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7766-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1763-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
Introduction 4

I. Pathfinders: Empowered Women from Romance and Folktale to the Birth of Modern Fantasy Strategic Silences: Voiceless Heroes in Fairy Tales (Jeana Jorgensen) 15
Neglected Yet Noble: Nyneve and Female Heroism in Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (Kristin ­Bovaird-Abbo) 35
“Radiant and terrible”: Tolkien’s Heroic Women as Correctives to the Romance and Epic Traditions (Jack M. Downs) 55
Female Valor Without Renown: Memory, Mourning and Loss at the Center of ­Middle-earth (Sarah Workman) 76

II. Underestimated Overachievers: Unlikely and Unstoppable Female Heroes
“Weak as woman’s magic”: Empowering Care Work in Ursula Le Guin’s Tehanu (Erin Wyble Newcomb) 95
“Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky”: Neil Gaiman’s Extraordinarily Ordinary Coraline (Melissa Wehler) 111
Dancing with the Public: Alethea Kontis’s Enchanted, Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder (Casey A. Cothran) 130
“This huntress who delights in arrows”: The Female Archer in Children’s Fiction (Zoe Jaques) 150

III. Show-Stealers: Heroic Female Sidekicks and Helpers
Sublime ­Shape-Shifters and Uncanny ­Other-Selves: Identity and Multiplicity in Diana Wynne Jones’s Female Heroes (Apolline Lucyk) 173
A New Kind of Hero: A Song of Ice and Fire’s Brienne of Tarth (John H. Cameron) 188
And Her Will Be Done: The Girls Trump the Boys in The Keys to the Kingdom and Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix (Lori M. Campbell) 206

IV. Unwilling ­Do-Gooders: Villains and ­Villain-Heroes
The Problem of Mrs. Coulter: Vetting the Female ­Villain-Hero in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (Amanda M. Greenwell) 225
“All little girls are terrible”: Maud as ­Anti-Villain in Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Jill Marie Treftz) 248
The Unbreakable Vow: Maternal Impulses and Narcissa Malfoy’s Transformation from Villain to Hero in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series (Sarah Margaret Kniesler) 267

Conclusion (Lori M. Campbell) 283
About the Contributors 287
Index 289

Book Reviews & Awards

“This reviewer cannot find a weak link in this selection, which is all the more important because fantasy literature has often been overlooked in academic circles. One can hope this collection indicates a change in that attitude, or will help to being one about…recommended”—Choice.