Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rise of the Female Robin Hood

Pinterest
I’ve noticed a trend in Robin Hood literature lately. I first noticed it on Figment, when, out of curiosity, I searched for “Robin Hood.” Basically the results could be divided into two categories: 1) BBC fanfiction and 2) girl Robin Hoods.

One in particular struck me: it was about a girl (assumedly Marian) who has taken on the name of her friend, runs a band, and wears a hood to disguise her gender. The book started out with her finding him in the forest.

This isn’t an isolated case. One of the reasons I dislike Hawksmaid is that it makes Marian the mastermind of plans. Rowan Hood has a version of Robin that I very much like, but apparently the reason his disguises always worked before was because Rowan’s mother protected him. So Rowan has to rescue him. At the end of the first book, Rowan establishes her own band. Even BBC Robin Hood, which I like, has a Marian who dresses up and plays a Robin Hood-like role.

It wasn’t until I saw this picture of my childhood Maid Marian turned into a wanted outlaw that I fully realized this trend. My first reaction was: “cool!”

Then I enlarged it, and it began to disturb me. She looks ferocious. She isn’t with Robin--she is him.

Like that story on Figment, she has usurped his place, and what is he going to do now that she’s controlling everything?

Before I go on, I’d like to address something I imagine those who know what I write are thinking: “Woah, wait, Nai. You wrote a Maid Marian book.”

This is true. I think Marian does need updating. In older stories, she’s often just a bit of a cutesy addition, a typical damsel in distress. Or, if not always a damsel in distress, then she’s underdeveloped (Vivian and Green are good examples of likable but vague Marians).

Lovely Olivia is both rather vague and damsel-in-distressy.
Further, though, I would argue that though Marian controls the POV of my story and is thus the main character, she is not quite the hero. She goes through a character change--one could even say she becomes softer, more feminine. Because of Robin Hood. She wouldn’t have gotten involved in his life if he hadn’t brought her in. He knew from early on what her motives were, and he let her stay anyway. He let her hurt him. I think my readers would agree that Robin is the true hero of Forest of Lies.

My Marian has fire and strength, but she doesn’t attempt to be Robin Hood. Women can be strong without becoming men.

And in this roundabout way, I’ve gotten to the heart of the issue.

Marian has usurped Robin because that is the age we live in. There seem to be two extremes: the raging feminists who want to be treated as men, and the most conservative of homeschoolers who believe girls need to own dolls and play harps. As a girl who likes both cross-stitch and stabbing people (fencing), I don’t think these extremes are necessary.

This isn’t just important in our world, but in our stories, as we build heroic men and women.

Just as Robin doesn’t have to be clonking everyone on the head with quarterstaffs to be a man, Marian doesn’t have to steal his name to be worth something. At the same time, she doesn’t have to always be weaving tapestries to be a woman.

They can be partners. Partners in love, partners in adventure. Equal and different.

Man and woman.

Robin and Marian.
H. G. Theaker
 

7 comments:

Godsgirl said...

*applauds*

I think I might have mentioned this before....
I am so dying to read FoL.

~GG

Hannah said...

Great post--you hit the nail on the head.
Being a girl who likes swordfighting and crochet, who paints her nails and stacks hay bales, I agree with you that there doesn't need to be the two extremes.

Chazak,
- Hannah

Cait said...

A very thought-provoking post.

I definately agree. And there HAS to be a happy-medium between being a raging feminist and playing harps and doing tapestry. So why is it that hard to find middle groud?

When I read, I like a good strong heroine. I love it when she's throwing knives and climbing mountains. But I don't like it when (like you said) "she" turns into a "he". For me, that's not what it's about.

Go heroines who stab people (or fence :P) and know how to sew as well!

Olivia said...

This is a fabulous post. @.@ Especially since I've read FoL and actually know what you're talking about, (!) to some extent.

"Women can be strong without becoming men."
this ^

"Marian doesn’t have to steal his name to be worth something."
and this ^

Awesome post, Nai. Really relevant.

Nairam said...

@GG: Are you waiting for draft IV or something? Because III is on OYAN.

@Hannah: *high-five* :)

@Cait: Marian tends to lean more to the feminist side (she doesn't care that much for sewing in typical medieval heroine fashion [bad Nai]), but she's definitely not male. And she's strong. That's the thing. People don't recognize feminine strength, I don't think. So you either have girls trying to be men to prove their strength, or girls trying not to have strength at all to avoid looking male.

I guess I'm saying there is such thing as "girl power." :P Different girls display in differently (like the age-old girly-girly vs. tomboy that I fall smack in the middle of).

@Olivia: Thank you. :)

LadyPenWarrior said...

Once again, amazingly well said, Nai. I agree very strongly with your perspective, which is why I get so picky about heroines in the kinds of books I like to read (action-adventure with fighting). Glad to know I'm not alone. ^.^

~Penny

Anonymous said...

This. Is. Amazing.

"Women can be strong without becoming men." So, so true.
Like you said in your comment above, people don't recognize feminine strength. They recognize feminiST strength, but not the strength of a strong woman being a woman.
Very, very well put, Nai. Good job! ^_^
~narniahannah!♥

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