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.|
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|