From Girl to Goddess

The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend


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About the Book

Many are familiar with Joseph Campbell’s theory of the hero’s journey, the idea that every man from Moses to Hercules grows to adulthood while battling his alter-ego. This book explores the universal heroine’s journey as she quests through world myth. Numerous stories from cultures as varied as Chile and Vietnam reveal heroines who battle for safety and identity, thereby upsetting popular notions of the passive, gentle heroine. Only after she has defeated her dark side and reintegrated can the heroine become the bestower of wisdom, the protecting queen and arch-crone. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Valerie Estelle Frankel teaches English at Mission College and San Jose City College. The author of 90 popular culture books and more than 100 stories and essays, she lives in Sunnyvale, California.

Bibliographic Details

Valerie Estelle Frankel

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 376
Bibliographic Info: appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4831-9
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5789-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi

Introduction      1

Section I: Steps of the Journey      11


1. Whispers in the Darkness: The Call to Adventure      15
The Wild Swans (Denmark)

2. Sleeping Beauty’s Chrysalis: The Refusal of the Call      24
Brünnhild and the Ring of the Nibelung (Germany)

3. All the Better to Guide You With, My Dear: The Mentor      33
Tam and Cam (Vietnam)

4. Dude, Where’s My Sword? The Talisman      44
The Cauldron of Cerridwen (Wales)


5. Crossing Over: The First Threshold      55
Hina, the Fairy Voyager (Samoa)

6. Where the Wild Things Are: Allies and Enemies      63
Ix Chel (Maya)


7. Taming the Beast: The Shapechanger as Lover      73
Tam Lin (Scotland)

8. Unholy Marriage: Confronting the Father      85
Tattercoats (Germany)

9. The Deepest Crime: Abuse and Healing      94
The Armless Maiden (Xhosa, South Africa)

10. “With This Ring…”: Sacred Marriage      . 104
Scheherazade and Dunyâzâd (Middle East)


11. The Endless Summons: Descent into Darkness      117
The Myth of Inanna (Sumeria)

12. I’ll Get You, My Pretty! Confronting the Deadly Mother      127
Coatlicue (Aztec)

13. Ceasefire with the Self: Healing the Wounded Shadow      135
“Medusa” by Louise Bogan (America)

14. The Elixir of Life: Reward      144
The Lion’s Whisker (Sudan)

15. Of Carpets and Slippers: Flight and Return      148
Baba Yaga (Russia)


16. Forever Cycling: Rebirth      159
Changing Woman (Navaho)

17. Apotheosis: Mistress of Both Worlds      . 166
Demeter and Persephone (Greece)

Section II: Archetypes      173


18. Smart Girls Rule! The Adolescent Questor      181
Golden Lotus (China)

19. Don’t Bet on the Princess: The Prize      189
The Tale of Déirdre (Ireland)

20. Mu Lan’s Sisterhood: The Warrior Woman      197
The Rabbit Huntress (Zuni)

21. Sword and Shield: The Warrior Lover      204
Anat and Ba’al (Ugarit)

22. Sisters: Lesbianism in Folklore      212
Bearskin Woman and Grizzly Woman (Blackfoot)

23. The Right to Choose: The Seductress      220
The Marriage of Aphrodite (Greece)


24. The Other Right to Choose: The Thwarted Mother      233
Crystal the Wise (Chile)

25. Strength and Honor Clothe Her: The Wife      240
Isis and Osiris (Eg ypt)

26. Don’t Heroines Get a Break from Those 3 a.m. Feedings?
The Triumphant Mother      246
The Female Shaman (Siberia)

27. Earth and Sea Incarnate: The Great Goddess      254
Pele and Hi’iaka (Hawaii)

28. Divorcing Anima: The Goddess Sublimated      260
Izanagi and Izanami ( Japan)

29. Double Double: The Terrible Mother      268
La Llorona (Mexico)


30. Knives in the Dark: The Destroyer      277
The Birth of Kali (India)

31. Source of All Answers: The Wisewoman      285
The Old Woman and the Devil (Palestine)

32. Mrs. Fox and Her Cronies: The Trickster      295
A Woman of Valor (Persia)


33. Unearthly Guardian: The Protector      303
The Witch in the Stone Boat (Iceland)

34. Coming Full Circle: Rebirth      310
Copper Woman (Nuu-chah-nulth, Vancouver Island)

Final Thoughts      317

Appendix: Aarne-Thompson Folktale Types      319

Notes      327

Bibliography      345

Index      355

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “An extremely useful primer of women in myths and legends….Frankel has done wonderful work in retrieving and retelling these stories”—Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction
  • “Frankel’s book is so enthusiastically written, so thoroughly researched, and so articulately argued…leaves the reader anticipating each exemplary tale, and longing for further discussion”—Mythprint
  • “I recommend From Girl to Goddess highly. Frankel’s truly global choice of tales and her analysis of them is outstanding. It is a book to turn to for deepening one’s understanding of myths and stories about women and their underlying structures”—Mythlore
  • “Explores the heroine’s journey and how it differs from the hero’s by examining women’s mythology from all over the world”—
  • “Gathers stories from around the world representing the heroine’s journey”—Reference & Research Book News
  • “Ever since…my first novel, I have wanted this book”—Romance Writers of America
  • “Frankel draws a connection between the heroines in contemporary fantasy fiction for children and young adults to the heroines from world mythology”—Children’s Literature Association Quarterly