Monday, December 28, 2009

Our Heroes and Self-Rescuing Princesses.

From the time I was very little, I'd developed a particular taste in heroes.

First came Robin Hood. My Great-Uncle used to read me Roger Lancelyn Green's Tales of Robin Hood. I couldn't have been much more than 5. Then came Zorro - old black and white serials shown on TV on Saturday morning. Robin was back when I discovered Errol Flynn, and again when Granada television brought out the magnificent "Robin of Sherwood" series in the 80s. D'Artagnan and the Three Musketeers were another favourite. And Lord of the Rings, of course. I had a very strong obsession with Aragorn long before I ever laid eyes on Viggo Mortensen.

Lots of flashing swords, daring-do and larger than life romances made me a convert for life.

But it wasn't just the heroes I liked to be action packed, adventurous and determined. I wanted the heroines to be the same.

Now I have a daughter I've been introducing her to a concept very dear to my heart - "the self-rescuing princess". Give me a girl who can take care of herself and yet still retain (or regain) the capacity to love. The Xenas of this world, or any other world for that matter. Strong women, women who can solve their own problems, women you can respect, admire and want to be like.

That doesn't mean I want my boys to be any less. I'm an equal opportunities writer. I still want my Robin Hood. I just want Maid Marian to be just as good as he is. And maybe rescue him as well every so often.

Let's face it, there is nothing so attractive in a couple as lovers who have each other's back, who will support each other through thick and thin, who are in fact, a perfect match.

Which takes me back to Robin of Sherwood and Judi Trott's Maid Marian. She started off as the shy and retiring medieval maid, but Marian ended up being as much a part of the gang as any of the others. In fact, she ended up being the heart and soul of Sherwood. And just as able to fight her own ground.

Eowyn of Rohan was another female character who stayed with me from the first moment I met her on the pages of The Lord of the Rings. The aspect of unrequited love, of helpless longing in spite of personal strength, just made her more attractive to me. Her relationship with Faramir develops out of their mutual loss, and their respect for each other. It isn't the grand, passionate drama. It's quiet and subtle, as strong and enduring as they are. It's profoundly moving.

Princess Leia does it too, although when we first meet her she's about to be captured. That doesn't stop her fighting back though. And though she has to be rescued, she very quickly assumes command of the situation, ordering Han around, insulting Chewbacca, and delivering a killer line - "You came here in that thing? You're braver than I thought!". She even turns a bad-boy's head in Han Solo, able to meet him on his own terms, leading up eventually to the glorious lines from Empire.

"I love you.", "I know."

In Return of the Jedi those same lines are spoken, this time with Han leading, as they prepare to fight their way out of another hopeless situation. Those two scenes encapsulate their relationship for me. Strong, supportive, equal.

And of course, more recently, there is Buffy. Not a princess, not really, although... Hey, Chosen One! The whip smart dialogue and mix of comedy and drama sometimes masks the fact that Buffy deals with deep issues, terrible loss and sacrifice, and that she does it herself (or with her friends) without relying on a man (alive or undead) to come swooping in to rescue her. They might try. She generally has things covered.

Where does this leave the hero? Well I have a theory on the heroes for these heroines. In order to match up to a self-rescuing princess, a hero has to be able to accept her as she is. She doesn't need him, doesn't have to rely on him, so the fact that she chooses to be with him is a great compliment. It also means that he has to be man enough to accept it. Relationships in stories like this are a marriage of equals. He matches her, she matches him. She's strong enough to stand her ground. He's strong enough to give her the emotional support she needs while at the same time accepting it from her. Oh, and fight at her side.
There's nothing more sexy than that.
So what do you think? What makes a modern hero work for you? Who is your favourite Self-Rescuing Princess?


R.F. Long always had a thing for fantasy, romance and ancient mysteries. The combination was bound to cause trouble. In university she studied English Literature, History of Religions and Celtic Civilisation, which just compounded the problem.

Her Holtlands Novella The Wolf’s Sister: a Tale of the Holtlands and her novels The Scroll Thief: a Tale of Ithian and the paranormal romance novel Soul Fire are now available from Samhain Publishing. The Wolf’s Mate, sequel to The Wolf’s Sister is due out on 19th January 2010. The Scroll Thief came out in print on 1st December 2009, and Soul Fire will follow suit in May 2010.

You can contact her at her website,, (where you can find out all about her books, read some excerpts and even find her free serial "Old Friends" featuring her very own self-rescuing princess at the moment), or on Twitter (as


Rebecca Royce said...

I love that concept. The self-rescuing princess. Great way to put it.


Beth Caudill said...

My dad used to watch those same black and white movies. I always liked Robin Hood better than King Arthur.

Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite Disney films because Belle saves the Beast and tells Gaston to take a hike.

(I also like Sleeping Beauty but that's for Maleficent and the fairies. Aurora doesn't really do much being asleep and all)

Annie Nicholas said...

I always liked Mulan from Disney. Rescuing her families honor (and her father's life) by pretending to be a boy and joining the miltary. Then she saves the Prince. My kind of woman.

In less cartoonie movies there is Trinity in the Matrix movies. Now that girl can kick butt.

Sandra Sookoo said...

Mulan is my favorite. I'm all for strong heroines, but sometimes, it's okay for a woman to know that the guy is worth something too.

'Course, the female lead in this WIP of mine refuses to let the hero help her. She's different than any I've written and she tires me out. LOL

J Hali said...

OMG Errol Flynn as Robin Hood...loved it! And didn't Maid Marian save Robin and the merry men at least once? Now I've got to see the movie...

Rae Lori said...

That is one gorgeous cover, RF!

You mentioned some of my fave heroes and aspects of fantasy that I grew up loving also. Not to mention some awesome characters! I like that the surge of heroines kicking butt and taking names in the current spec genres today. I'm a huge fantasy romance fan so I'll definitely have to pick up your books!

R F Long said...

Thanks everyone. Glad you enjoyed it. I didn't coin the phrase, sadly, but saw it on a t-shirt I'm still obsessing over! ;)

Mulan is another great example. My favourite Disney heroine of all.

Sandra, I have the same "problem" (in that it isn't a problem at all) with Jeren in the third part of my Holtlands stories, which is my WIP. Something happened to her along the way. My mild-mannered princess from part 1 changed in The Wolf's Mate (part 2) and now, she's getting a little out of control. :)

So glad to hear you like the cover Rae. I saw it and went "Oh YES!"

I... think I'm going to have to go and watch my Robin of Sherwood DVDs again now! *sigh*

Jeannie Lin said...

Great post! I love the phrase "self-rescuing princess" and who can beat those examples?

I have to add my favorite of course; Wonder Woman. A princess and Amazon and super hero. I wanted to grow up to be just like her.

R F Long said...

You write some pretty awesome self-rescuing princesses yourself, Jeannie!